One Summer of Surrender(7)

By: Jess Michaels

She was here in a room with him. Anger rose in him, betrayal and confusion mixing to a toxic level. He swallowed hard and found his voice.

“What the fuck are you doing here?”

Chapter Two

Elise’s heart was racing so fast that it felt like she would collapse. She stared across the room and couldn’t believe what she was seeing. This was a dream she’d had so many times that she wished she could pinch herself now to prove it wasn’t real.

Only she knew it was. Lucien was here. Just a few feet away from her. And he was so utterly beautiful. He was tall, impossibly tall, with thick, dark brown hair and eyes the color of rich molasses. He had a strong jaw and full lips that she had pictured moving over hers a thousand times in the three years since she’d seen or touched him last.

“Answer me,” he snapped, his hard, harsh, broken tone shattering the spell between them. “What the hell are you doing here?”

As he asked the question a second time, he started across the room toward her in long, certain strides. He looked like a bull racing across a paddock at an intruder, and she should have been afraid. But she wasn’t. Not even a little. She stood her ground without effort and sucked in a long whiff of his scent as he crowded into her space and all but pinned her to the door behind her.

“What do you think I’m doing here?” she managed to ask, pleased she could talk at all, let alone sound as cool and detached as she somehow did.

His jaw tightened, the muscle along it twitching, and she had a powerful urge to lean up and kiss him there, feel him move beneath her lips. But she didn’t do something so foolhardy.

“Why?” he finally shouted.

Before Elise could answer, the door behind them flew open and Vivien raced in, a guard behind her.

“What is going on in here?” she cried.

Lucien glared at Elise one last time, then pushed past her toward Vivien. “I could ask you the same bloody damned thing, Vivien.”

Elise remained facing away from them, but flinched at his anger and his familiarity with Vivien. He was here, after all, and he had obviously been looking for someone to take. Not her, of course, not her. But someone.

“Isn’t this what you wanted?” Vivien asked.

Elise spun around to see his face when he answered her. It twisted in pure horror. “Is that what she told you?”

Elise gasped. “No!” she burst out. “I had no idea it was you I was being led to meet.”

Vivien nodded. “I didn’t tell her a thing, nor did she ask for you. But I assumed…I assumed…”

“What?” Lucien fumed, raising his hands in animated fury. “Why in God’s name would you assume I wanted this?”

Vivien lifted both eyebrows. “You showed up here after over a year, on the very night your former fiancée did. I assumed you were hoping to match with her. The coincidence—”

“Is just a coincidence,” Lucien snapped.

Rejection stung every part of her, but Elise lifted her chin as he turned to look at her at last. His dark gaze flitted over her and his pupils dilated.

“Get out,” he growled

Elise wrinkled her brow. “Are you speaking to me?”

He shook his head very slowly. “Not you. Vivien—get out.”

Vivien folded her arms and let out a bark of laughter. At her side, her guard stirred, but she held up a hand to still him. “I beg your pardon?”

“Get out,” Lucien repeated, this time softly, almost gently.

“I shall not,” Vivien said. “I don’t trust you won’t…well, you’re very angry, Stenfax.”

Elise stared at him. He was, indeed, very angry. It all but pulsed through his every fiber. But she still wasn’t afraid. Not in the slightest. Nor did she want to escape that anger. She deserved it, after all. What she had done to him deserved anger and revenge and a great deal else. She had already served part of her penance in a desperately unhappy marriage.

Perhaps this was the rest.

“It’s all right,” Elise said, casting a quick side glance at Vivien. “You may leave us.”

Vivien looked between her and Stenfax. She flitted her hand and the guard stepped from the room, though Vivien remained. “Are you certain?”

The answer to that question was no, but Elise nodded regardless. “Yes.”

Vivien shot another look at Stenfax, then inclined her head and backed from the room, drawing the door shut behind her.

Lucien was silent for what felt like a lifetime. His nostrils were flaring and his hands were fisted at his sides. “I would never lay a hand on you in violence, ever.”

She nodded slowly, thinking of his history. Even if she didn’t know what his sister and her former best friend Felicity had endured in her marriage, she knew him well enough to trust what he said was true.