© Pamela Ann Author Inc. 2015
(CANNOT BE REPRODUCED: share or distribute)
THIS COPY IS UNEDITED AND IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE
I heard my name being called from across the hall. A voice spoken with familiarity, paining me to hear the certain catch in her throat…Isobel… refraining a sigh, I searched for her and felt something directly hit my chest the moment our eyes connected with each other.
Sherry was momentarily still right next to me. Pulling her close, I cut my eye contact from Isobel before whispering softly into Sherry’s ear. “Let me take care of this, I’ll shall be with you shortly, chéri.” She merely gave an understanding nod, and without thinking of my actions, I planted her a chaste kiss on the lips, before granting me a bliss-filled smile then slowly moving away to make herself scarce. The moment she was out of my line of vision, one woman took over, filling me with dread…and all unholy things that I hadn’t felt before. It was rather frightening and humbling at the same time. And yet, with all these emotions threatening my stance, I knew one thing, and confusion wasn’t one of them.
Jealousy evidently etched her beautiful rosy tinted cheeks, and yet that didn’t faze me. I had given this woman a chance…and what did she do with it?
Nothing. Rien. She did not do an utter damn thing…well, not with me anyway.
Jealousy was a vile thing to exist amongst us human beings, and yet it a powerful emotion. One that wrecks havoc in ones mind. The moment it plants itself in your system, there was no way to vanquish it. It simply becomes a part of you. Like breathing. Like living. You become accustomed to it. Naturally.
This woman, I had openly welcomed and she bestowed something ugly in return. Deep down, I knew I couldn’t, shouldn’t blame her for it. The blame lied upon me…knowing quite well enough that the chances of seducing her wouldn’t turn in my favor. But alas, I took a chance, and nothing came out of it.
“Isobel,” I curtly called out to her, wanting to get on with it. Masking my emotions, I became a man of indifference as I graciously waited with an open door that led towards my office.
She scrambled away, moving towards me, seeming confused about my attitude towards her. The moment she was a hairsbreadth away, she threw me an accusing with those powerful violet blue eyes. “Are you fucking her?” she spat the question at me, as if it was the vilest thing she had ever uttered.
Taking a calm stance, I finished shutting the door without glancing at her. Her question wasn’t valid. She knew I had other two women before her, so she shouldn’t even have the gall to sound so accusing at all. Those weeks that I granted her with my all without the other women to distract me was a sole mistake. One I would never relish again.
Bidding time to gather my tumultuous emotions and thoughts as I strolled about the room, before I made myself a drink, all the while I noted how shallower her breaths had become, how her temper gathered on as she watched me with those condemning scrutiny.
I had resorted back to my old lifestyle since Isobel wasn’t prepared to give me what I wanted. I had to…or I would obsess about it. An obsession that I couldn’t afford, wherever and whenever women were concerned. The price was too high of pay. And yet, even though I knew what was at stake, I simply couldn’t resist—tempted to skirt around the bloody situation…merely…dying to taste…to simply savor what it was like to want something so beautiful, something that tugged at my guts, something that burned my heart and set my loins on fire. Isobel had become a weakness…but no more.
No more, I silently screamed in my head.
Divulging the drink with one gulp, welcoming the slow steady burn as it hard against the black granite counterpane. “Would it matter if I did or didn’t?” I threw the question at her, uncaring if the unmasked hurt shone in those eyes I had stared for hours on end.
Even if I was willing to risk everything…she had lied, betrayed me and my trust. She valued me so little that she willingly gave herself away to another man while she was under contract. Even more so, after she had writhed and moaned my named after I showered and worshipped her body with my touch…with my kiss…betrayal was something I couldn’t live with. Once my trust was lost, it was lost forever.
My lack of response in her persistence simply darkened her mood even more. “Are you?” she growled like an injured kitten. “You are, aren’t you? It’s because I’ve been less engaging lately, and you just couldn’t help yourself.”
She was less engaging lately? If at all…did she even notice how I’ve looked at her since? Of course not. Isobel was lost in her dreamy world, possibly recalling her tryst with the rotten man. I had too much pride to show how her actions had simply dented my ego. But then again, she hadn’t cared hopping from my bed, to her past lovers then back to mine. I doubt she even regretted it…because if she did, she’d have done something to make me feel worthy of her.
Merde. There was no point in any of this. Barking a dry cruel laugh, I shook my head, wondering if she saw how wounded I’d been. “You’re one to talk. You’re the one who broke one of the rules. The first rule, in fact.”
Her once indignant face turned into confusion, horror before mortification settled in. “You read the letter,” she gasped in shock. “You’ve known all along.”
Of course I did…and what a day that was. I kept telling myself that she was innocent and I wasn’t worthy of her at all…but nevertheless, the betrayal ate at me. So much so that I was slowly pulling away from her, gradually and steadily, until I knew I could fully let her go. I’m sure in her own world of confusion, had she given me a little attention, she’d notice the difference. But she hadn’t…there wasn’t much to be said but continue on where I thought would suit us best, by being apart.
“Hugo…” her small pleading voice did something to me, but when she tried to come towards me, I had to take a step back, needing space from her. I simply didn’t trust myself to have her so close to me.
“If you’re thinking of voiding the contract—” she started saying, merely granting me a glimpse of where her train of thought was going.
“I’m not,” I harshly interjected.
She blew out a breath, relieved that she wasn’t going to be paying a price for her betrayal. “God, thank you so much,” she rushed out saying before she mindlessly ran up to me, surprising me as she wrapped her arms around my neck before giving me a passionate kiss.
Her kiss was so unexpected that my ears started to ring, as if to warning me that I was in danger of making a fool out of myself again. Steeling myself against her, I slowly took hold of her arms before backing away from her latches. “Please, don’t insult me, Isobel.” I harshly grunted out, unveiling how her recklessness didn’t go unnoticed.
“Hugo, you should’ve said something…” she was getting choked up, and as much as I fought with myself to comfort her, my anger prevailed. “All this time—every night you held me—yet you never uttered a word about it.”
“What was there to say, Isobel?” I calmly asked her as I recalled how I painfully aware I was of her each time she slept next to me, aching to be with her, and she unperturbed, ignorant about this wretched desire I had for her. “You made your decision, and I just had to regard that.” There were a lot of women that could take her place, one that would value what I would give them in return. Isobel was young and in love with another man. It was best she get on with her life, wherever that may take her.
“I’m sorry. You’ve been so kind to me, even though you have every right to do as you pleased, but you were generous enough to give me freedom to choose and make decisions.” She was gazing at me like an injured deer, wanting some comfort, wanting something from me…
I was tempted to touch her, but before I did so, my mind flashed something despicable before my very eyes… Isobel, naked, laughing and giddily happy as she let her lover touch her…fuck her until she was out of her wits.
Batard! Grounding my teeth together, I effortlessly strolled towards my desk, needing to be away from her so that I could think clearly. Reaching into the second compartment drawer, I took out the envelope that’s been sitting on my desk, dauntingly waiting for the right time to dispense it. Yesterday, tomorrow, today, it didn’t matter. I had made up my mind and since she was already here, right now was as good as any. Time to the cut the strings and be free from each other.
“I meant to give this to you at a later time, but now that you’re here, I think this is as good as any,” I said, barely glancing at her.
She looked pale and nervous, as if she as waiting to be sentenced. Clearing my throat before going towards her to hand her the envelope. “This is for you.”
“What’s in it?” she asked in a small, frightened voice before taking it into her hands. She took it as if she was holding a diamond that had a bomb attached to it, drawn and fascinated and yet knew that it was a thing that would end something beautiful.
“Open it and you’ll see.” My eyes lingered on her hands that clutched my last gift to her. Even though I was dealing with her rejection of me, I knew that she still needed me to help her in some certain aspects of her life. I was letting her go, but not without making sure that she was going to be okay, that she wouldn’t need her father or to be under any other man to dictate her future. Her life. It was a gift I hoped she’d appreciate. And in some perverted way, it was a way that she won’t ever forget me.
The moment she opened it, horror and confusion ran across her beautiful face, shaking her head as if she didn’t understand why I’d do such a noble thing after what she had done to me.
I had wondered the same thing for quite some time, but I knew in my heart that if something was to happen to her, I wouldn’t forgive myself. So if I could simply prevent any of it with a kind gesture, then my conscience was clear. I didn’t want to look back years from now and wonder what had happened to her. I needed to make sure that she’d at least succeed in life…and I had no doubt in my heart that she will. She had it in her…motivation…the hunger and thirst for a better life.
Gripping a paper in her shaky had, her eyes rimmed red, grateful and shocked at my generosity. “You paid my tuition? What’s with this bank account with all this money in it?” she shook her head in bewilderment. “I’m confused,” she barely uttered the word before something caught her eye, a piece of heavy weight paper on the very bottom of the pile, a deed to a flat in London, fully paid and with her name glaringly attached to it. “What the bloody Hell is all this, Hugo?” She choked up saying, as tears threatened to spill over her face.
Something glowed inside me. “You’ve fulfilled the contract, Isobel.” I knew I did the right thing. Letting her go to live her life was the right thing to do.
She shook her head, not agreeing with me. “But it’s only been about two months… I don’t understand, Hugo.”
I doubt she ever will. I couldn’t grasp it myself…but I knew this must be done. Striding over to the floor to ceiling glass wall that overlooked the majestic French Riviera and it’s heart-stopping beauty, I took it all in before expelling a slow steady breath to address her. “You’re free to leave.” The words hung in the air while I heard her take a sharp breath before pushing myself to finish what I was trying to say. “Let’s put this behind us. It’s time to stop the games and get on with our lives. If you have any problems, contact my secretary for anything you need—food, money, school. There should be a card in the envelope with her contact number. You can reach her anytime for whatever you need.”
This was for the best. There was no turning back now.
“B-b-but…” she stuttered as she tried to gather her thoughts, letting my final words sink in. “After all this—what we shared—you don’t even want to stay in touch, do you?”
At least, I could say that she knew me too well to know that yes, I had no qualms in cutting communication with her. What for? So she could fill me in with her love life? I think not. The torture must end here.
“Why?” she demanded, as if I had slapped and insulted her when I didn’t respond to her question.
“You were forced into this. Now, you’re free.” I merely shrugged, not wanting to see her and her tear-stained face. Was I scared to do so because something might shift inside me and I’d change my mind? Yes…even though I was saying my goodbyes, the fire she had lit inside of me still burned willing and true. I couldn’t risk falling back into her beauty, entranced by her naiveté and enchanting smiles that made my heart speed a little faster. Instead, I regarded the sea below me, steeling myself as I tried to find the stillness inside me amidst the chaotic mess that was threatening to come out of me like a shaken champagne bottle ready to combust and break free from its cork. “Why question any of this? You’re free to go, Isobel. Why are you even here, spouting off questions when you should’ve run out of here, packed the rest of your things in the villa, and caught the first flight out of here?”
Silence filled the air, and the moment she spoke again, I felt like she gutted me alive. “You said you wanted me.”
“Everything’s changed.” Wanting and desiring her will never ebb away…it will forever be a battle for me…I acknowledged that long ago.
“How about if we stay in touch?” her light suggestion went unanswered; as a result, she pressed on with the caveat, “As friends?”
She wanted to stay friends? What an absurd idea. “I don’t think that’s possible. I choose my friends wisely, and since trust and loyalty isn’t really your strongest suit, I’ll pass.”
“Hugo.” Desperation laced her voice. “You can’t just let me leave like this. We need to talk… please.”
“You’re wasting precious time, Isobel. Besides, this is a working day for me; I don’t have time to spare.” From the glass reflection, I could see her tears started to spill freely of her face. Each tear tore me apart but I knew what I had to do. I never knew the meaning of hard goodbyes. Well I did now.
Nervously wiping her tears away, she gave me a pleading look. “Why do I feel like this is goodbye?” she whispered in a small broken voice.
“Because it is.”
“So that’s it? You got bored with me and now you’re ready to have Sherry and Chantel or whomever you fancy take my place?” she lashed back, obviously needing a reaction from me.
But I remained still, not wanting to have a duel with words. Not only was it hard not to soothe her worries away, but it was better not to say anything all when I have nothing to offer her or even try to argue my point in dismissing her from her contract.
My apparent detachment seemed to have incensed her some more. “Answer me, damn you!” she screeched at me.
Expelling a ragged breath, my nostrils flared as I gathered my bearing before I finally had the courage to spin around and face the woman I once adored. There was merely half a second when I was tempted to gather her into my arms so she didn’t have to feel wretchedly guilty about what she had done, but thank heavens that maddening urge had fleetingly left me the second my eyes caught the envelope she still had clutched. “I have to go. My plane’s waiting,” I cautiously informed her, not wanting waste any more time trying to dispel me from my decision.
Isobel immediately became distraught. “I’m not ready to say goodbye,” I threw at me, meaning every single word of it. “I feel like there’s more to say. Don’t leave like this. Please.”
She took a lover.
She took a bloody lover while she vowed and promised not to do so! No. No! I will not allow her back. Especially not after she had carried on about her time with me as if she hadn’t betrayed me at all. I could not forgive her for not. “All you’ve ever wanted is your freedom to go back home, to your friends.” She acted thoughtlessly with little conscience to the promise she made to me. She valued me so little that she took a chance…and that simply had showed how little she regarded me. There’s nothing left to be said. “You’re free from any contractual obligations,” I curtly pointed out, highlighting her glorious freedom. “What more do you want, Isobel?” I had granted her more than she had ever dreamed of, she should walk away with her head high and leave me be. Why was she so adamant about keeping in touch and not ready to let go? She took a chance and now that chance had a price to pay…with me leaving. How hard was that to comprehend?
“I want more time,” she openly begged with voice and with her eyes. “I know I’ve been distant and temperamental. It’s because of Damen—” she tried to reason with me but the very mention of his name set me on a verge of madness. How dare she said his name to my face. Merde! “That’s enough, Isobel.” I almost screamed at her. My cool composure was threatening to crack. I must leave before I make a fool of myself.
“But I’m not ready to go—”
“Please, I’m begging you.”
I stepped as close to her as my restraint allowed me before staring into those beautiful depths of her for the last time. “No. This is it, Isobel.” My eyes noted her face as if studying a beautiful painting…I would never forget this face…these eyes that reached into my soul, I shan’t forget. “This is goodbye.”
Goodbye ma belle…my eyes momentarily softened the second it connected with hers.
More tears pooled her eyes, persistent. “If I wasn’t in love with him, I could’ve given you what you wanted the most, but I can’t betray my heart. I hope you can see that. I’ve already caused enough damage that I’m not sure I can repair,” she sobbed with anguish. “Please forgive me. I wish I had given you a chance.”
She stared at me with tears slowly steaming down her face as I languished by her heartfelt words. Her blinding beauty…and how closely I was to happiness. How she was the only woman I felt like close to coming home to. That feeling of pure bliss and that false feeling of security…Isobel had granted me that. For a time, she truly did. And I would never forget it. Maybe it’ll be the closest thing I had with the real thing. Who knew anymore?
“Am I ever going to see you again?” her question broke into my thoughts while I pensively gazed at her.
She desperately needed hope, that whatever it was we had nurtured between us that it simply wasn’t over. But I wasn’t one for false pretenses and there was no point in beginning today. As much as I adored her, I would not bestow her that false sense of promise just to comfort her. “We end here, Isobel. We won’t be seeing each other again. I’ll make sure of it.” Unexpectedly, I surprised myself when my thumb reached out to brush against her luscious bottom lip. How often did I nip and suck on this? Desperately wanting her…all of her? Countless of times, I had distractedly ached for her.
“Hugo,” she cried out, almost pressing herself against me, as if an invitation to take what I wanted from her. My resolve was slipping but the thought of her letting Damen, her lover, freely take what she had denied me made the burn sear deeper into my soul. What she did couldn’t be undone, I had no part in it. It was all her, now she must reap the rewards of her actions.
Gently glancing at her, I gave her a painstaking kiss on her forehead, sealing everything she and I had together. She deserved to be happy. Even if it wasn’t with me, she deserved it and them some. “Never let your father, or anyone for that matter, dictate your fate again.” It took every ounce in me to give her an encouraging smile but I did so without breaking. “Go on, ma belle, follow your heart.” Without another glance, I spun around to leave, heading towards the door and the future that awaited me.
For such a little time, she had marked herself in my life in a way that it granted me a gift as well as leaving me curse. It was a gift that made me open myself to someone, fogging my mind with thoughts of happiness that I had never thought of achieving, let alone experience with anyone.
But as they said, all good things must come to an end. And so I must live on and carry on with my life as if this one particular woman hadn’t came in my life in such a whirlwind of a fashion, breaking my barriers unbeknownst to me.
RELEASING APRIL 14 2015
AMAZON IBOOKS KOBO BARNES&NOBLE