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Twenty-two year old Faren Mitchell hears the two words that change her abbreviated life forever. They're so final Faren decides she has nothing to lose by seizing every remaining moment of what life has to offer.
Until Faren collides with a motorcycle ridden by billionaire Jared McKenna.
Even the dark secret of her past and catharsis as a physical therapist can't save Faren from the sexual spiral that waits for her in the arms of a man who commits to no one. When circumstances force her to get a second job as an exotic dancer, Faren never imagines how close that choice will bring her to the brink of a new reality she is unequipped to handle.
Faren Mitchell keeps the secret of her second job from the one man who could see her through some of the darkest moments of her life. She doesn't want Jared “Mick” McKenna for the billions he's amassed, but for the one thing she's never given any man: her innocence.
Mick's guilt over the injury he inflicted fuels the beginnings of something more; a sexual consumption of each other that neither were anticipating. When Faren's actions don't match her words, Mick suspicions are raised. His feelings turn to ones of protection after Faren is mugged and he can't reconcile his desire for her with the reality they now find themselves in.
As Faren's bucket list grows, so does the danger that surrounds the choices she's made. Can she take what she needs from Mick and also secure her mother's life? Or will the truth she has weaved between the lies doom them both?
Faren collapses, narrowly escaping discovery upon hearing traumatic news delivered by Thorn. When Thorn becomes her uneasy accomplice in the deception of Mick, Faren decides she needs to come clean with the truth. Shelving her pride might be the last thing she wants to do, but as facts and actions continue to contradict one another, her hands become tied in the lies she creates to survive.
Faren only needs one last lap dance to erase the final debt that hangs over her mother's head like a cloud of doom. But when Ronnie Bunce circles closer to Faren and threatens the last sanctuary she possesses, circumstances unravel to reveal lies that run deeper than she knew.
Can Faren and Mick consummate their passion before her deceit is discovered? Or will the last dance be the ultimate loss?
New Adult: Dark, Romantic, Suspense
“You gonna live?” Kiki asks, confused by my hysteria.
“For now.” My ribs are killing me.
“Anyway, listen up.”
I do, the remnants of my laughter ghosting my lips.
“Next time he plays hero, try saying thank you.”
“I don't think he knew he was saving me, Kiki.”
“Huh,” she grunts, slurping her Coke down to melting ice and pushing it away. “All I'm saying is, can you work it for once, Faren?”
Work it. I don't know… that seems like it's all I've ever done.
Kiki slides a card my way. It reads simply: Thorn. My thumb moves over the black glossy letters embedded deeply in the cream cardstock. Small numbers float beneath the name.
I look up and she says, “Take it.”
“Do you do it?”
Kiki smiles then admits, “Not anymore.”
I know her secret, and now she knows mine. All of it in its miserable glory. “That's how you got the penthouse?”
“Yeah.” As she remembers something from a while ago, her gaze drifts far away. “The Black Rose is great money, but this money”—her eyes peg mine—“is outstanding money.” I pause when I see the shadow in her eyes.
Neither one of us say what we're thinking. If I can keep this gig for maybe a year? Maybe less time if I can stomach four days per week instead of three? I could have my debt paid off and only have the monthly to consider. It's too lofty a possibility to hang my hope on.
Yet... it shimmers there, just out of reach.
I grab for it.
“He punishes me tenderly. Each kiss erases the hurt of his words. A man could never speak an apology as perfect as the one he makes with his mouth.”
“This is going to sound awful because you know I think you're a little hottie, but”—her eyes apologize—“he can have any hot piece of ass he wants. Experienced tail.”
“I know.” I shrug with a small, sad laugh. “I don't understand it either. The more he knows about me, the more he seems determined to have me.”
“And?” Kiki says.
Truth time. “And I want to let him.”
Kiki stands, and I do too. She walks over and hugs me, some five inches shorter than me. “You don't have to do this, Faren. You want an anonymous guy to take your virginity? Done. You want to quit the laps? I'll give you the money. You want me to make an anonymous call to the cops and let them know their local high-end pimp is wanted for attempted murder?”
Her eyes hunt in mine so deeply I feel as though she's mining my soul.
“I'll do anything to make this better.” Kiki cups my face and swipes the lone tear that tracks down it, pulled by gravity, eased by her finger.
“Tell me what I can do. Because, god damn, you don't want love mixed in the witch's cauldron here.”
I'm so overwhelmed by her generosity, I can't speak. The lump in my throat chokes me. Our eyes lock.
“Don't tell me you're falling for... Mick?”
I say nothing.
I don't have to.
“Oh shit, honey...”
Kiki wraps me in her arms as I sob. The pity party's begun, and she’s crashed it. Just like I knew she would.
What are friends for?
“... You might be dying, Faren... but don't stop living....”
Mick's expression darkens.
“I'm not a hooker,” I say.
That rides the line of lying.
Have I had intercourse during a lap?
Have I done everything but that?
And I did it for the money.
I think of my mom, how it was before Ronnie and I bite my lip. That long ago memory is a bittersweet whip of velvet inside my mind.
“We're not accusing you of prostitution,” Tagger says.
“You’d better not be.” Mick’s voice sounds like a growl, and I barely resist looking at him.
Tagger grins, seeming to love his role of authority.
“She's not your wife, Mr. McKenna. You really don't have any rights here. In fact, you being here is wrong on a lot of levels.”
Tagger turns to me. “Do you feel threatened, Miss Mitchell?”
“Of course!” I answer immediately.
“Do you feel threatened by Mr. McKenna?” he clarifies.
My eyes shift to Tagger’s as I remember Mick slamming me against walls and doors, pinning my wrists above my head while he assaulted me with his lips.
I take too long responding, and Mick looks at me.
“No, I don't feel threatened by Mr. McKenna.”
Mick's shoulders relax, but there's a question in his eyes that I don't want to answer.
Tagger closes the distance between us, and Mick tenses again.
I would love to understand the animosity between them, but I keep my mouth shut.
Tagger’s arm stretches out, and I flinch. Habit.
His eyes tighten at my reaction. “I won't hurt you, Miss Mitchell.”
I've heard that before—about a hundred times when the cops came and Ronnie talked to them.
He could be very convincing.
I imagine he had his own stockpile of George Washingtons.
Tagger’s hand opens, and his card sits inside. “Take it.”
I pluck the card out of his hand and slide it into the front pocket of my scrubs.
“Humphrey has promised to get your door repaired within twenty-four hours, but until that happens, you'll need somewhere safe to stay.”
“I said she's staying with me,” Mick says with finality.
I'm so not staying with him.
Too many secrets to hide.
“Right.” Tagger looks at me, unconvinced.
I blush from his look that brims with assumptions. He's getting a mental image of all the slut suits on my bed along with nightly humpfests with Mick.
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About Marata Eros:
Marata Eros is the author of over forty titles, including her NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling novel, A Terrible Love. Marata writes a variety of dark fiction in the genres of erotica, fantasy, romance and science fiction. She lives in South Dakota with her family and enjoys interacting with her readers.
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