Ari Daniels didn’t count on her whole world tumbling down around her in a mess of shredded promises, broken love, and unbelievable heartbreak. Alone and stricken with grief, she shouldered the blame and eventually closed her heart off, refusing to open it for another. After all, anytime she tried, guilt and regret were waiting in the wings to remind her how painful it was.
A bet and one steamy night with a stranger force Ari to confront all she’s been hiding behind. She tries to move on, but he refuses to stand down, wanting what she is terrified to give—herself. This man may very well destroy her in the end, especially when it’s clear he has his own demons.
What happens when two broken souls come together, finally allowing themselves to believe in the beauty of love … only to have to fight harder than ever to keep it.
His eyes get hard for a beat before his features smooth back out. “Yeah, beyond sure. No one to pass this shit down to, and even if there was, I wouldn’t be givin’ someone ideas of materialistic bullshit if I did. More to life than all this shit.”
“Okay, well, in that case …” I cough, not wanting to fight with him about our views when it comes to expensive wants versus needs. Last time I tried to argue the benefits of learning to care for and value something you work hard to buy, I had a black eye for almost two weeks. “In that case, I’m prepared to offer you a lump sum as a buyout for the whole collection, but I also want to mention, again, that consignment would be a more lucrative approach. Our buyout is just a standard percent of resale value, but consignment would allow us to mark up each to give you a larger profit.”
“Told you, babe, want it gone. I don’t give a shit about making it more lucrative. Look around you, hardly hurting.”
“Still, it’s my obligation to make sure you’re informed.”
“Consider me informed.”
“Okay … so I can offer a tentative amount of three million. I would need more time to inspect each item in depth for any defects that could affect the value and also to research a few pieces I feel may be limited editions so that could also affect the value. Meaning that amount could go up or down, but I wouldn’t expect it to be less than two point five or more than four point seven-ish. I wouldn’t need but maybe five days tops, and I can come during the day if that works better for your schedule.”
“You get this gone in two days, and I’ll take one mil.”
My whole body jerks back as if I had been slapped, staring at him like he was absolutely insane.
“That’s absolutely insane,” I tell him, voicing my thoughts.
“No, that’s me not giving a shit and wanting it gone so I can get out of this place and sell it and all this shit some hand with care placed around each room. Woulda left this shit in and sold it with the house, but for some reason I’ll never understand, you’re here, and I still just want it gone. You don’t need five days when I’m taking a two mil hit, babe. That would waste your time and mine, and I’m not a huge fan of wasting my time. Way I see it, you win, and I get a cold mil for some shit I didn’t buy nor care about. So you get this shit outta here, and all I need is that.”
“Thorn, I can’t in good conscience accept that.”
“Then dirty that conscience up and laugh your tight little ass all the way to the bank. Don’t give a shit as long as it’s gone, and I don’t have to do anything to make it that way.”
“This is insanity.”
“Insanity would be tossing it all at the Goodwill drop-off. I’m making money. You’re making money. Only thing sweeter than making money is doing it while I’m getting my cock wet, and babe, that only happens when my stock rises at the same time my cock does.” He steps closer, and I back into the island, my chest burning as I hold my breath. “Course, never had four mil worth of shit to sell to a woman who makes my cock rise without even trying.”
“Thorn,” I whisper, placing my hand against his hard chest with the intention of pushing him back. Only, the second his warmth burns through his shirt and hits my skin, I can’t move an inch.
“Ari,” he mocks, his eyes bright.
“I, uh, the paperwork …” I close my eyes and focus on my breaths and the words my mouth can’t seem to form. When my heart slows enough that I won’t die of a heart attack right here in heaven, I look back up at him. “You’re breaking my brain, Thorn. Please step back so I can think clearly without my body trying to die on me.”
The corners of his eyes crinkle as he continues to gaze down at me, but he does step back. My arm falling down to my side.
“As much as I wish I could have this room cleared out for you tomorrow, it will take at least until late Monday. I’ll need to meet with you beforehand to have some legal paperwork signed for the sale due to its size. But my lawyer is an old family friend, so I can have that by tomorrow around dinnertime, if you wouldn’t mind meeting me to take care of that. I won’t be able to get the cashier’s check until after those are signed, so late Monday is the best I can offer you.”
“Want this shit gone, but it’s hardly a hardship to wait a few more days if that means I’ve got a few more opportunities to try to make you want me as much as you want this shit around you,” he says, his deep voice thick with desire.
“Good heavens, you don’t stop, do you?”
“Not unless you beg, babe.”
“I think it’s best we went back to keeping things professional, Mr. Evans.”
This time, it isn’t a ghost of a smile on his lips. Oh, no. Not this time. If I thought he was handsome before this moment, I was a fool. Because Thorn Evans giving you his full, unhindered smile and a gaze so thick with unspoken promise as it washes over you and creates a fire of the desire you already felt … well, that expression on him turns him from sinfully hot to heart-stopping and irresistible instantly.
“It would take me five minutes to get you to beg me for it, Ms. Daniels. Admit it.”
Offended at the thought that I’m easy, I narrow my eyes. Finally. At least anger is an emotion I’ve had plenty of practice dealing with. “I’m not sure what kind of women you’re used to, but I promise you, I am not that type of woman.”
“Maybe three,” he oddly says, ignoring me.
“Three, what?” I snap.
“Minutes, sweetness. Three minutes and you’d be begging me for all this shit and my cock.”
My mouth flounders, and I gasp.
“Though, pretty sure I could get that in less than a minute and get you doin’ all the work while I watch from my back.”
My arm is up, palm cracking against his cheek before I have the ability to do anything to stop it. “I think we’re done here.”
I walk around him, ready to find my way out and let him find someone else to take all of this off his hands even if it kills a little part of my lux loving soul. When his hand curls around my bicep—not painfully, but firm enough to make me stop—I look over my shoulder with a frown. For a man who was just slapped, he looks almost gleeful.
“One minute, Ari. Give me a minute and if you aren’t ready to beg me for it, when those sixty seconds are up, you can take this shit and not give me a penny for it.”
Walk away, Ari. Walk. Away. No amount of money is worth being some man’s whore.
Spinning away from his hold, I jerk my arm free and step toward him with a roll up to my toes, getting my face as close to his as I can. His scent overwhelms me. The subtle notes of his cologne fog my rational thought, making me drunk with need, and I sway slightly before correcting myself.
“Thirty seconds,” I retort, my jaw tight with stubbornness.
I’m not sure who I shocked more—him or me. I have my answer, though, when I see victory flash in his eyes. Oh, my God … what have I done?
“You’re on,” he agrees, his eyes alight with the promise backed up by his devilish grin.
I nod, incapable of anything more. I stand there in shocked silence as he takes my phone, his thick fingers moving quickly over the screen. I vaguely hear a chime from his pocket and before I can so much as blink, he’s handing me my things.
“Tomorrow, I’ll text you. Paperwork first, then you beg.”
I gulp, jerk my head in what I hope resembles a nod of agreement, and then … I flee.
Harper is a NEW YORK TIMES, WALL STREET JOURNAL and USA TODAY bestselling author residing in Georgia with her husband and three daughters. She has a borderline unhealthy obsession with books, hibachi, tattoos and Game of Thrones. When she isn’t writing you can almost always find her with a book in hand.