I’ve lost control.
I’m beginning to think I never had it in the first place. For almost half my life, revenge was my only anchor. I lived, breathed, slept, and dreamed it. With that satisfied, I’ve lost my rudder. I’m swimming in a sea of uselessness without a compass.
I go through the motions of running a multibillion-dollar empire, now completely under my control, with the same ruthless efficiency I used to take down my father and stepmother. But making money brings me no joy. It never did, if I’m completely honest. Sure, I like the nice things and security my wealth has brought me. Anyone who claims money and power are completely evil is a fucking liar.
But craving them the way my father did, to the extent that he destroyed the one person I loved the most in the world? Yeah, that needed answering.
He’s paying for it now. I wanted him to get a life sentence. I wanted his life taken away completely the way he denied my mother hers. He got twenty-five years without parole. It’s one of the many things that has the power to unbalance my day. I’ve been told I should learn to live with it. Accept it and move on.
He’s breathing. She’s not.
A little over a year ago, I thought I wouldn’t make it to my thirtieth birthday. I’m twenty-nine now, and that belief still lingers. Months of therapy and two psychologists later, I’ve barely made a dent in plugging the churning black hole that is my mind. The first shrink rapidly concluded after four consultations that he couldn’t help me. I wholeheartedly concurred with that assessment.
The second shrink persevered for a little longer before he, too, wrote me off. To his credit, he didn’t come out and say the words, but I could see it in his eyes. When your shrink stops taking notes and stares at you with barely concealed horror, you know it’s time to move on. Or give up.
I was all for giving up after that. I’m too fucked up. Too broken. Hell, I was the guy who fucked his shrink for years just so he could deliver the justice she ultimately deserved. That probably gives me a lifelong immunity against being helped by those who practice that profession. Maybe I would be better off with an exorcist. Or in a fucking straitjacket. Electroshock therapy?
Fuck if I know.
What I do know is I’m beyond redemption. I would’ve gone as far as to embrace that hopelessness had it not been for her.
Elyse “Lucky” Gilbert.
A five-foot-six, curvy blonde with an hourglass figure and eyes that see too fucking much. A hazel-eyed siren whose sole purpose, possibly oblivious to her, is to keep me from tipping over the edge into my abyss.
Where the need for absolute retribution held me together for the better part of a decade and a half, now it’s her. She’s the reason I live and breathe and make it through my day.
But for how much longer?
I don’t know when I finally accepted that our time together would be shorter than I’d hoped. It was a truth I didn’t want to accept before. And why should I have? I am the selfish, jealous asshole who doesn’t take defeat lightly. But even I have come to realize there are some lines I can’t cross. And dragging Elyse down with me to my ninth circle of hell is one of them. I’m not selfless enough to have released her, though. Not just yet.
Maybe I’m waiting for her to wise up to how broken I am and take the decision out of my hands. Even then a part of me hasn’t ruled out taking her with me anyway.
Something inside me, perhaps the heart she believes I have, mourns the fast-approaching time when that decision will have to be made one way or the other. It would be nice if that mourning were only internalized, though. But no. I don’t fucking take things lying down, remember?
Take tonight for instance. All is quiet around me now. But it wasn’t half an hour ago. Hell no. I focus on the view in front of me, refusing to stare at what is behind me.
The whiskey glass in my hand trembles as I lift it to my lips and gulp a mouthful of amber nectar. The Macallan goes down smooth as ever, but it comes nowhere near soothing my ravaged insides. I drain the glass and wait for a hint of a buzz.
Jesus. Do I have a drinking problem on top of everything else? Who knows? Who the fuck cares?
What was it the latest therapist had recommended?
That I need to find myself. What a fucking joke.
I’m Quinn Blackwood. Billionaire? Yes. Lover? Yes. Useless asshole? Unfortunately, hell yes.
Finding myself isn’t the problem. I know exactly who I am. My problem is never being good enough for her.
I raise my glass again, and I spot the bloody gash on the back of my hand. I didn’t feel it before, but as I stare at it, it begins to sting.
How exactly did that get there? At the beginning or at the end of my loss of control?
My mind weaves in and out as I try to remember. Okay, so I’m wasted. The alcohol is working. So how come I don’t recall getting drunk?
I stop thinking altogether when the buzzer sounds to alert me that my private elevator is on its way up.
I don’t move. I can’t. The thought of her reaches deep inside and paralyzes me. It has from the first moment I saw her through my camera lens. The moment she raised those gorgeous, defiant eyes at me and dared me to resist. Dared me to fall.
Two days she’s been away. I glance down at my watch, and my mouth compresses. More than two days. Fifty-four and a half hellish hours.
For each second the express elevator takes to race up ninety-two floors, my heartbeat accelerates faster. My stomach hollows, and my knees turn to water. My breathing grows noisy and heavy in the silent chaos of the living room.
In front of me, the unparalleled view of New York City she loves so much—the hundred-million-dollar view that made her cry when she first saw it—ceases to exist for me. My every sense is poised for the sound of the front doors opening. For the sound of her. For the sight and smell of my everything.
At some point I brace my free hand on the solid glass wall when my knees threaten to give way. I shake my head at the fatalistic simplicity of it all.
This is why I can’t have her.
This is why I can’t let go.
The door opens. Shuts. She walks into our apartment. Into my life once again.
A raw, savage joy fills me at the sight of her reflection in the window. But that joy is in fierce battle with the unrelenting anarchy that tells me I won’t survive this war raging within me.
Her gaze finds mine for a long, solid second. I’m here, it says. I’ve come back to you. Still, I remain where I am. Desperate. Watching. Craving. Her stare slides over me, sizzling between my shoulder blades and over my back, over the ass she loves to sink her nails into when I’m balls deep inside her. My weak-as-fuck legs. My bare feet.
Back up again.
Her fingers twitch at her sides, and she inhales greedily. Her eyes attempt to tell me she’s missed me as much I’ve missed her. But I know that’s not true. She will never know the true depth of what I feel for her. How can she when I’ve been afraid to plumb the depths of it myself?
She inhales audibly. The sound transmits straight to my cock. I’m hard as steel before she exhales.
Then her gaze moves away from me.
Through the glass’s reflection, I watch her take it all in, the carnage that is an outward reflection of the churning inside me—the smashed lamp, the cracked bust of some sculpture I’m sure I paid an insane amount of money for. The shattered screen of the high-definition TV on the wall, and the Tang Dynasty vase that caused that carnage. The spike sticking out of the coffee table.
I have no recollection of how that particular one got there but I remember the sting of its sharp edges when I threw it. That’s why my hand is bloody, I recall now. Breath locked, I wait for her reaction.
Condemn me. Rip me to pieces.
Her eyes return to mine as she steps over broken glass. She doesn’t make an effort to right anything in the room. Instead she drags the strap of her purse over her shoulder and drops it on top of the shattered furniture along with her overnight bag. The black velvet blazer she’s wearing comes off, and I get an eyeful of the red crop top she’s wearing with figure-hugging jeans.
Without stopping, she heads across the room for me. I ball my fist against the window, the glass in my other hand shaking like a fucking baby’s as I watch her.
She stops when she’s inches behind me. In the reflection, I see her exhale again. Her breath washes over my bare skin, attempting to breathe life into me.
“Quinn.” Her voice is low, husky. Unflappable.
I shudder at the strength in it. At the strength of her. At times I envy it. Her life hasn’t been easy. She’s been through so much, lived for years in a nightmare that would break most people. She even risked her life multiple times for her baby sister. And yet she stands tall. Proud. Strong.
I look at her and want to weep. She’s a fucking mountain. She’s too fucking good for me.
“Quinn, look at me,” she says. Only then do I realize my head is bowed, my forehead pressed to the glass. I lift it, and our gazes connect again.
She’s so breathtaking. Jesus, her beauty is beyond any words I can find.
“Are you all right?”
“No, I’m not fucking all right.” I turn around on noodle-weak legs. My back crashes against the glass wall as I point a finger at her. “I’m the same as I was when you left on Friday morning. A goddamn fucking mess, Elyse.”
Her caramel-blond hair slides over her shoulders as she shakes her head. “No, you’re not.”
I growl and toss the whiskey glass away. It cracks on impact with the floor. I catch her wince, and I’m not even sorry. The need to fill my hands with something else, with her, is so strong that I jerk back around and brace both hands on the wall.
She steps up to me and lays one hand on my back. My whole body shudders at the power of her touch. It’s a potent flame that fires me back to life, charges every dead thing inside me. My addiction to it, to her, roars into an unquenchable inferno.
“Do you want to talk about it?” she ventures.
“Why would I want to do that? It’s your fucking fault. You shouldn’t have let me go. You had the power to stop me from going to see Dr. Freeman. Instead what did you do? You sent me to that quack. And for what? To heal?”
“Quinn, that’s not fair—”
“Fuck fair. I told you I don’t need another shrink. Especially one who only wants to talk about Maxwell Fucking Blackwood. I only need you! Why can’t you get that through your head?”
Her hand drops from my back. “Okay, you need me? I’m right here,” she murmurs.
My gaze snaps to hers in the glass. She’s holding her arms away from her body. It’s not a full come-get-me stance, but there’s a challenge in there, enough to draw my attention from the fight I’m itching to have.
Slowly, I turn around, my cock tenting my sweatpants. My hungry gaze roves over her face. A few drops of the brief April shower outside must have caught her between the street and the foyer. Droplets of moisture cling to her long lashes, a few resting on her cheeks. My tongue thickens with the need to lick them off her. My eyes dip lower to linger on her luscious mouth.
Fuck, her mouth.
Those gorgeous lips have done every depraved sexual act I can think to demand of them, and she’s more than delivered. And yet the craving has never dimmed by even a fraction. It never will. I know that now.
Now fully caught in her spell, my slavish eyes drop farther down her body to her chest. Her full breasts are molded perfectly by the soft cotton, her delicious nipples standing to glorious, defiant attention.
No bra. She probably took it off in the elevator. She knows how much I love her breasts. She also knows just what these past two days without her has done to me.
Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve allowed my loss of control to manifest itself like this. Good thing I own a lot of real estate and have a few dozen apartments to choose from when the need arises.
Still, I wonder if this is it. Will this latest exhibition of my insanity be the last straw?
My gaze flits past her for a tense second to the chaos behind her. Shit, the baby grand piano she loves is sitting lopsided. One of its graceful, spindly legs is broken.
I return to gauge her reaction. I open my mouth to say fuck-knows-what but she tilts her head, one eyebrow hiked. “I guess you don’t need me that much, huh? Maybe I’ll go take a shower.”
She takes a single backward step.
I lunge, grab her by the waist, and lift her clean off her feet. “Fuck you,” I snarl at her, even as my hands get busy exploring the smooth, warm, naked flesh that is the mere tip of my obsession-iceberg.
She responds with a gratifying, full-body shudder as she wraps her long legs around my waist. “Yes,” she breathes fervently against my mouth.
My hands slide beneath the waistband of her jeans, beneath the straps of her thong to grip her ass. Even as I pull her against me, she’s tightening the vise of her legs, grinding her sweet pussy against my desperate cock.
“Fuck you,” I say again, this time with less venom, more begging.
Her fingers pull at my scalp as her own desperation rages. “Yes. Please. Now, Quinn,” she whispers in my ear.
I give her plump ass another squeeze before I travel upward to attack the zipper of her top. It’s one of those full-length ones that hold the back together. When it parts, I glide my hand down her spine, the feel of her skin like the first hit of a Class A drug.
Her hands release me long enough to lean back and rip the top down her arms, fling it away, and grant me the first glimpse of her tits.
Holy Christ. I fill my hands with the magnificent weight of them. Since the first time I took her, the feel of her pussy around my cock has had the power to render me speechless and turn me into an utter mess, but Elyse’s breasts come a very close second in the addiction stakes.
I pass my thumbs over the erect, dark pink tips, my thick tongue already salivating in anticipation of a taste. I squeeze them between my fingers and am rewarded with a long, sweet moan that draws a spurt of precum from my cock.
I swing us around and brace her high against the wall until her breasts are level with my mouth. Her fingers frame my jaw, the tips tunneling into my hair. Her grip is strong enough to get my attention. My gaze flicks up to hers, my nostrils flaring at the fire in her eyes.
“Two fucking days,” I snap. The storm of my rage is far from dulled. I don’t want her to attempt to soothe it. Not with talking at least.
Her gaze drops to my mouth. She licks hers. The sight of her pink tongue dragging across her plump lower lip, leaving a wet trail, achieves the inevitable rabid response. A feral growl rips from my throat at the need reflected in her eyes.
She wants to kiss me as much as I want to devour her mouth. But our kisses don’t belong in this moment. From the first time I tasted her lips, we’ve both acknowledged our kisses are special. Sacred, even. I don’t take them for granted, and I don’t take them in anger.
It’s not easy to deny myself any part of her, albeit temporarily. But I drag my gaze from her mouth, back down to her breasts. Her grip tightens for a charged second, her eagerness for the taste of my mouth on hers a temptation she fights, too, before she’s arching her back, offering me what I crave.
I wrap my lips around one perfect nipple. One taste of her and sublime bliss shoots into my bloodstream. Saliva fills my mouth and washes over the nub that is the center of my joy.
God, how is it possible that she tastes even better than the last time I had her?
I suckle harder, lashing my tongue over her responsive flesh, and glory in the sexy little whimpers that jump from her throat.
She punctuates the exquisite sounds with jerky rolls of her hips and an ever-tightening grip around my waist. My cock is fully lodged against her cunt, every movement against the underside of my stiff dick an electric zap to my senses.
I feast on her breasts until pleasure saturates my every cell. Waves of electricity flow through me, and I’m stunned by how alive I feel. But I know this isn’t me. This is all Elyse. Her life force. Without which I’m a useless husk.
When I’m in danger of suffocating from the intensity of it—or, hell, coming in my pants just from suckling her breasts—I trail a long line of kisses up to her throat, along her jaw to her ear. I bite the lobe none too gently and absorb her shuddering.
“Fuck you,” I plead in hoarse desperation.
“Fuck me.” She gives me permission.