King's Men Excerpt
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
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THE MORE TREACHEROUS THE LIE…
Ten years ago, Snowy Hollings did the unthinkable: she betrayed the love of her life.
Now, when her family's fortune is decimated overnight, the popular socialite is in for a rude awakening: you reap what you sow.
…THE HARDER THE FALL.
Mysterious newcomer Blake Lorenz despises everything that Snowy Hollings stands for--and he's determined to destroy her piece by piece.
When all is said and done, this ruthless corporate king will stop at nothing to torment the redheaded beauty.
She had it coming, after all.
And, when he's through, she'll be lucky if there's anything left to ever make whole again. ____
This story contains dark, disturbing subject matter not suitable for those under 18 years of age, including mentions of sexual abuse, child abuse, and eating disorders.
I catch sight of myself in a mirror hanging from the wall, which throws my appearance in stark relief. I look so pale against these dark walls. Red rims my swollen eyes—the evidence of too many tears to disguise. No matter. I’ll use the pathetic weakness to my advantage.
Turning toward the narrow hallway, I start forward only to feel my heart crawl farther up my throat with every step I take.
When I finally glimpse the club’s interior through an arched doorway, the air escapes my lungs and my resolve melts into a puddle at my feet. There’s no way in hell I can do this.
Apparently, a woman spreading her legs in Bolles means more than the obvious imagery; it means entering a room where at least fifty of the world’s most powerful men sip from crystal glasses while being served liquor by women wearing bits of lace and silk. It means capturing the attention of men who balance a priceless antique ring on one finger and an eager hostess on the other.
It means more than just sex. A woman in Bolles needs to be willing to spread more than just her legs to command attention here.
She needs to spread open her fucking soul.
And you can, a part of me insists. I only need to think of Ronan fighting for his life in a hospital bed or of Hunter drinking himself into oblivion.
My choice becomes clear; there isn’t one. I’m a goddamn Hollings.
Blinking pricking heat back, I hone my gaze over any likely suspects. Surprisingly, I don’t recognize some of the men. Others…
That’s James Marsten in the corner, oil magnate and an old rival of my father’s. Would he pay for the privilege to humiliate Forrest Hollings from the grave? If he won’t, then the man across from him might. My father negotiated a deal that netted him a huge loss once. My innocence might make a fitting revenge. Or…
I start forward, craning my neck to better survey my options. I barely make it over the threshold before someone grabs my forearm. Hard. A gasp escapes from my throat, but before I can turn to see my assailant, they drag me through an open doorway I didn’t notice.
It leads into a small sitting room furnished with black leather armchairs overlooking a lit fireplace. Then I’m let go to stagger to the center of the room, and I whirl around and find a figure chilling enough to stop even my heart in its tracks. Just as quickly, it surges to life again, hammering so fiercely that I can feel my pulse in every fiber of my being.
“You don’t belong here,” Blake Lorenz tells me, his eyes narrowed.
God, I hate how effortlessly he straddles that painful line between familiar and terrifying. Those eyes belong to me, realer than any memory. But the expression is one from a nightmare. Not even in my wildest terrors could I ever imagine my Brandt so…twisted.
Dressed in a navy suit and a darker tie, the man cuts an imposing figure against paneled wood. My mouth waters and my spine tightens, though I don’t know why. Not attraction, I don’t think. Maybe it’s instinct. I’m in a proverbial den of lions, but this man is something far, far worse.
“What are you doing here?” he demands, feeding me each word slowly, as though he thinks I’m an imbecile.
“Why does it matter?” My voice comes out stronger than I could have expected. My chin juts defiantly in the air while, inside, I flinch at how his jaw clenched in response.
He doesn’t enjoy being challenged. Do I have what it takes to keep doing so?
My heart taps out an answer in frantic Morse code: Hell no.
“Your family’s influence doesn’t extend as far as you believe, Snow.” A dangerous smirk tilts his mouth. He deliberately clipped my name to unsettle me.
And he has. My fingers tremble. Knitting them into fists is the only way to hide the vulnerability.
“Did you buy the club too?” I wonder only to remember that he did. A sudden realization strikes and I’m compelled to voice it. “First, our business. Then our house. Now, this club… It’s almost like you’re attempting to emulate someone, Mr. Lorenz.”
His head cocks to the side. “Oh? And who would that be?”
Every nerve in my body warns me to tread carefully. No matter what, it’s pure insanity to utter one name. “My father, Forrest Hollings.”
Blue eyes flash like a whip, and I regret my stupid slip of the tongue.
“Never compare me to him,” he commands in a hollow tone.
“Why?” I counter, once again toying with a dangerous possibility. My eyes tell me that this stranger is nothing like the Brandt I knew. But my heart? It’s always been a foolish thing. “I don’t remember you”—at least not the name Lorenz—“but whatever you have against my family, it almost feels…personal.”
A wry smile shapes his mouth, more alarming than his various scowls. “Oh, but this is personal. Your family has made more enemies through the years than you can keep track of.”
“That’s true,” I say hoarsely. “But I can’t help feeling as though you don’t just hate my family.”
“Oh?” A black eyebrow cocks into the air. “And who would I hate?”
His cold utterance of my name provides a clue.
“Me.” Suddenly breathless, I grapple for air. “It feels as though you hate me.”
He laughs, but it’s quick and fleeting, and it doesn’t reach his eyes. They smolder. “That’s a very selfish statement to make. After all, one might assume that every one of you Hollings has plenty of sins to atone for.”
I can admit as much. Had I only his words to go on, I might believe he feels the same—but he glows vengefully at the mere mention of my family. He ignites when he speaks of me.
“If I did hate you,” he adds deceptively softly. “It wouldn’t be your family’s ruin I was after. Your stocks, your holdings, even your home wouldn’t satisfy me.”
He pauses expectantly. It’s like he wants me to goad him on. To prod. To give him a reason to taunt me further.
I resist for two seconds—but crackling firewood taints the air. Orange flames reflect off his hollow gaze. I can almost see myself in them, slowly burning alive.
“What would you want?” My words rise to a mere whisper.
“I wouldn’t be satisfied with your family’s ruin.” He takes a step forward, catching me off guard. Laughing, he takes another. One of his hands captures the ball of my chin when he’s close enough. He roughly tilts my head to the side, surveying me from the newer angle.
I stiffen but allow the contact. A part of me understands the unspoken rules; here, he holds all the cards to both my doom and my salvation.
“If I truly hated you, I’d want you broken,” he confesses before letting me go. Narrowed eyes notice how I shudder in the wake of his touch. “I’d want you a shell of who you are. I’d want you quivering in the palm of my hand. I’d want you in pieces. Are you in pieces?”
Breathless, I shake my head.
“I can’t hear you.”
“There’s your answer, then.”