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Cruel Fortune (Cruel #2)
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Lose yourself to the dark and glamorous underbelly of the Upper East Side in the second book in USA Today bestselling author K.A. Linde’s new billionaire romance Cruel Trilogy.
I finally have everything I ever wanted–fame and fortune and literary success.
Only one problem: I lost my muse.
He was tall, dark, and handsome. Broody, enigmatic, alluring, and right for me in every way.
Until he wasn’t. Until I lost everything.
And I can’t lose it all again. I’ll do anything to keep it.
Even seeing him again.
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Penn — One Year Earlier
I rushed out of the small Charleston airport and straight to the empty taxi line. I jerked open the door to the first cab, tossed my bag inside, and then followed in a hurry.
“Where to?” the cab driver leisurely asked. As if he had all day.
But I didn’t.
“Montgomery Gallery on King Street.”
“Oh, you know the Montgomerys?” he asked with a cheery smile as he slowly merged into the nonexistent traffic. “They’re good people.”
“We’re acquainted,” I told him.
Though I wanted to tell him to put his foot through the pedal. I’d just flown almost a thousand miles, I hadn’t slept in three days, and I was in an almost-manic state of urgency. I didn’t want to wait another half hour to get into the city and finally see Natalie.
It was bad enough that I’d let her walk out of my life after she found out about the bet. Three days had been long enough for her to go on thinking that I didn’t care for her. That she was only a bet. That I wasn’t going to man up and make this right.
She was probably face-first into a container of icing. And I hated—hated—being the one who had brought her that pain. I should have told her about the bet long ago. Long before she had to eavesdrop on the information and come to her own conclusions about the whole thing.
Because none of this had been a lie for me. I’d only entered the bet as a joke. I wanted to spend time with Natalie, and I wanted my friends to stay out of it. Then, when Katherine had gotten serious about the whole thing, it was too late. It never should have gotten this far.
Now, here I was, in her quaint, seaside Southern town, desperate to make amends. I couldn’t let Natalie slip through my fingers. And I wouldn’t go down without a fight.
I tapped my foot impatiently as we drove down King Street. It was beautiful in a completely different way than New York, but I could hardly appreciate it. Not now. Not like this.
“All right,” the cabbie finally said, pulling over. “That’s Montgomery Gallery right there.”
“Thank you.” I handed him money for the fare with a generous tip and all but vaulted out of the car.
I saw the Open sign in the large floor-to-ceiling window to the gallery and burst through the white door. The space had a generous display of artwork on large pillars and lining the room. Thankfully, it was empty of people. Only one woman stood at the back. She turned to greet me and then stopped.
“Penn?” Amy Montgomery, Natalie’s best friend, asked in surprise.
“Where is she?”
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to win her back.”
“Penn…no,” she said with a shake of her head. “You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t do this.”
“Where is she, Amy?”
Her body went rigid, and she crossed her arms over her chest. “Are you even listening to what I’m saying? Natalie doesn’t want to see you. You should go home and live a life of abject misery, like you deserve.”
“You’re right. I should, but I can’t. She has to know how I feel.”
“Does she?” Amy asked. “Or do you just want to force your feelings on her? Have you even thought about what she’s going through right now?”
“Of course I have. That’s why I’m here. We need to talk. We need to clear the air. I can’t let her go on like this, thinking that she means nothing to me. When she means everything to me.”
Amy’s eyes were like fire. “You bet on her, Penn. I told her to have some fun with you and not let her heart get broken. And, now, she’s back here because you did exactly that. I warned her from day one that you were trouble. I know exactly the kind of guy that you are, Penn Kensington. I’m not going to stand back and let you fuck with her heart some more. Get the fuck out of my gallery and stay away from her.”
“Amy, that’s enough,” a soft voice said from a back door that I hadn’t even noticed. “I’ll talk to him.”
“Nat, no. Let me handle this,” Amy said.
“It’s okay.” Natalie patted Amy’s arm. “He came all this way. I can at least hear what he has to say.”
“Don’t believe a word of it,” Amy hissed low.
She stepped past Amy and finally moved into my line of vision. She was dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt. Her feet were bare, and her hair was tucked back into a slick ponytail. I’d never seen her dressed like this before. Normally, she was completely boho or dressed to the nines. This was…subdued. She wore no makeup, not that she needed it. But I could tell there were circles under her eyes, and they looked puffy, like she’d been crying recently.