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All of Me (Confessions of the Heart #2)
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A stand-alone forbidden romance…
People call me callous. Arrogant. Ruthless.
But Grace is off limits. Most people would even say forbidden.
And even with the threat of losing everything, I don’t know if I can stop myself from having her again…
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A chilly breeze twisted through the intense blue sky.
A warning of the coming winter.
A cold, quiet whisper.
His voice twisted with seduction as he murmured the words close to my face. “I warned you who I was.”
Incapable of love.
Maybe I’d been the fool who hadn’t believed him. The one who’d seen more in him. Something better than the powerful, callous man who stood in front of me right then.
I hugged my arms across my chest as if it could shield me from the brutality of his words. As if they could protect me from the truth I should have seen all along.
“No, you’re wrong. You’re so much more than that. I know you are. I’ve seen it.”
“You only saw what you wanted to see.”
“You told me you loved me. I trusted you. I trusted you with everything.”
“And look what that got you.”
A gust of wind whipped through. The spindly branches of the ancient oaks hissed and howled, sending a tumble of dead, dried leaves across the ground.
It stirred the chaos that raged inside me.
I don’t believe you.
I don’t believe you.
My spirit screamed it while my mind struggled to accept the reality. The truth that he could hurt me this way.
It ripped and tore at my insides.
A grief unlike anything I’d ever felt.
Hope scattering like the leaves.
“How could you do this?” I forced myself to look up at his beautiful face.
Too beautiful. Too mesmerizing. Too dangerous.
“How could you, when you know what is at stake? When you know how badly I need you? I trusted you.” The last raked from my raw, aching throat.
As raw and aching as my heart.
He reached out and brushed his fingertips down the side of my face.
A stark contrast to the wickedness that blazed from his soul.
Then his voice twisted with that dark, bitter hatred—hatred I was sure was completely directed at himself.
“You shouldn’t have.”
“Ian, my good man.” Kenneth Millstrom clapped me on the back. “How are you tonight?”
As I shook the hand he extended, I kept myself from scoffing at the way he’d phrased his greeting.
Grin and bear it.
“Terrific, Mr. Millstrom. How are you?”
“Better than you can imagine.”
I let out a low whistle as I edged back, still shaking his hand as I took in his appearance.
“Look at you. Are you trying to make the rest of us look bad? Leave some ladies for the rest of us, why don’t you? It’s hardly fair.”
The guy was in his late fifties and stuffed into his tux. He was also the senior partner in my firm, so that meant I had my nose shoved so far up his ass I was surprised I hadn’t convinced myself that the sky had turned brown.
But a man had to do what a man had to do.
I had one singular goal. And I’d do whatever I had to do to reach it.
Kenneth chuckled. “Ahh . . . no need to worry, son. My Sally is plenty for me. I’ll leave the rest of these young things to you.”
One thing I had to say? Dude loved his wife. I didn’t get it. But whatever.
He took a sip of his champagne before he lifted his flute and gestured around the packed ballroom. It took up the entire top floor of the posh, historic hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.
It was where our annual gala was being held, the fundraiser a mecca for Charleston’s elite year after year.
“So, what do you think?” he asked.
My eyes scanned the room.
People mingled in gowns and suits and tuxes.
Voices lifted and laughter loud.
Pretension so heavy there was no air left in the glitzy room.
Sucked dry by the people parading around in their pompous best.
There they all were, acting like they actually cared about what they were raising the money for when, really, they were only there for the sake of being seen.
I hated this bullshit.
But it didn’t really matter what I felt, did it?
I sent Kenneth my best counterfeit grin. “It’s fantastic. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday night. You’ve outdone yourself this year.”
“You think so?” he asked, just begging for the affirmation, chest puffing out, meaty palm clutching his flute.
So yeah. I was laying it on thick.
But the thing was? I was right there. So close to getting what I wanted that I could actually taste it. A sweet, frantic desperation that danced on my tongue and spun through my insides. Fingers itching to finally possess the prize.
I learned at a young age that I was the sun. It was up to me to make the world gravitate around me.
If I wanted something, I reached out and took it. Made it mine. I didn’t wait around to stumble upon something good. For something to fall into my lap or for some good fortune to come my way.
I worked for it. Gave it whatever it took. What was it they said? You can’t win if you don’t play?