by Giana Darling
Publication date: October 26th 2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
He arrives all dressed in black. Diamond cufflinks. A watch on his tanned wrist that cost more than we would ever see in a lifetime of work. He carries a single red rose for my mother.
Months later, Tiernan Morelli lays red roses on my mother’s grave. That same day, he tells me that he is my new guardian.
I should have known from the very start that he had more in common with the thorns than the rose. Now I know the truth: I’m a pawn in his dangerous game of revenge. I was too young and naive. Now it’s too late to save myself from his clutches.
Now I belong to him.
“Have you ever heard of personal space?”
I blinked, momentarily mute and dumb, the sight of him dominating every other one of my senses. So it took me a second to realize he was insulting me in a voice dripping with poisonous disdain.
I blinked again as my mouth dropped into a shocked “O.” “Excuse me?”
One inky brow rose, thick and slashing so that he had a perpetual expression of aggravated contempt. When he spoke, it was slow and overly enunciated as if he were addressing an imbecile.
“Per-son-al sp-ace.” One tattooed hand, the one with the shiny watch, gestured dismissively between our bodies, his knuckles brushing my chest. There was a tightening to his flat mouth that made me wonder if it was as accidental as it seemed.
My nipples beaded beneath my hoodie, but the fabric was too thick to betray me.
Anger sparked through my blood like a delayed fuse, heat racing out from my heart to set my entire body on fire. I didn’t move back. In fact, I took one daring step closer and fisted my hands on my hips. My head was forced back at an awkward angle to maintain eye contact with the tall beast of a man, but I didn’t care.
This jackass was not going out with my mother.
I bared my teeth at him. “If this is how you normally greet your girlfriend’s family, it’s no wonder you were still single when you met my mother and it’s even less of a wonder why you’ll be single again after tonight.”
A slow grin, somehow more vicious for its calculated movement, claimed his handsome face and made it acutely beautiful. “You are operating under the assumption that Aida cares enough about your opinion to end our relationship because you’re embarrassed I caught you making a pass at me.”
My mouth flapped open, then closed. I felt like a fish out of water, gasping for breath. Never in my entire life had I faced such a rude, horrible man.
“Making a pass at you?” I almost stomped my foot in outrage and just managed to resist the urge. “You show up at our doorstep and speak like this to a teenager? What kind of man needs to put down a little girl in order to make himself feel big, hmm?”
“At least you acknowledge you are a little girl,” he said with faux pride. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t give a single fuck what you think of me. I’m dating your mother. Not you.” His pale gaze, a green so light they glowed almost unnaturally, seemed to burrow into me. Past my dark blue eyes straight into my brain, reading my thoughts like an X-ray machine read bones. “Though, it’s obvious you wish things were different.”
Outrage crackled in my chest, my lungs steaming with it, my ribs creaking as they threatened to cave in on the fiery rage in my heart.
I was a fairly good-looking girl though I knew I was no Aida Belcante. Still, enough of her boyfriends had hit on me when she wasn’t looking. They cupped my ass while I reached for a cereal bowl, complimented me lecherously at the pool, watched me walk to my room when I came out of the shower. They were all the same, eager for some woman to make them feel like a king. So, his comment rankled me more than it should have.
I’d dealt with innumerable men in my mother’s life, but never someone like him.
A demon in a suit more expensive than three months’ rent.
I gathered myself, rising to my full five-foot-three height as I pinned him with a look I wished ardently had the power to kill him.
“I wouldn’t date a jackass like you if you were the last goddamn man on the planet.”