Disclaimer: The following copyrighted info may contain spoilers.
“I got married young,” I blurt out once Francesca and I are settled into lounge chairs, positioned halfway between the house and the stable. From this position, we have a clear view of our charges, but are far enough back to let the girls play in peace.
In my hand is a glass of wine, while hers rests untouched, balanced on the arm of her chair. Lacking her restraint, I drink deeply as my eyes trace the contours of Vadim’s silhouette, visible from here.
“I was too young,” I add, lowering my voice for my audience of one. “So young, I had no idea who I was or what I even wanted out of life. I let the thrill of belonging to someone completely shape me. In the end, it almost destroyed me. But, you don’t want to hear about that,” I add with a forced, hollow laugh. “Listen to me, babble on about nothing. How are things on your end?”
“Good,” she says. But her brown eyes trace mine, too damn alert. Aware. There’s something in her expression that makes me squirm until, helpless, I find myself desperate to spill more.
“You’re not afraid?” I ask. “Of marrying Maxim?”
She averts her gaze from me and lifts her glass, taking a sip. “I was,” she confesses after swallowing. “I was terrified as hell.”
“But?” I prod, already halfway through my glass. Thankfully, I brought the bottle, leaving it perched against my calf.
She frowns. “He gets me better than anyone. And I may be young, but I’ve been through a lot. He gets me.”
I’m instantly drawn to the unapologetic nature in her tone. No bullshit, I suspect. No love-blind sugar coating. Just raw honesty.
He gets me.
“Does Maxim know you’re here? I have to say that I’m surprised you came over.”
A hint of unease slips into her weary grin. “He’s out of town,” she says. I remember the conversation I’d overhead a few days ago between Vadim and Milton—Maxim was in Russia apparently, dealing with some kind of business disruption. “I told him Ainsley, and I were going out today—but I didn’t say to where. Ainsley’s been begging me for the past two days, and Lucius promised to cover for me. We have about an hour before we need to head back, though.”
Lucius, I suspect, is the kind, older man who allowed Magda and I onto their property the other day. And his sudden leniency most likely has everything to do with the former’s charms. I look over to find her relishing in the attention from both her father and her new friend—a different girl from the surly, brooding figure who came here just over a week ago.
“Is there a reason you’re thinking about marriage?” Francesca asks, her tone gently probing.
With another sip of wine and a sigh, I relent. “Yes. There is a reason. A twenty-four-carat reason.” I’m eyeing the fake engagement ring on my finger, but who knows what Vadim would spring for as the real deal. Something obscenely expensive, I suspect, and the thought of it terrifies me. Denying him terrifies me. As afraid as I am of the potential downfalls, I’m quickly realizing that I don’t want to lose him. Not like this.
Because as volatile as his mood has been these past twenty-four hours, something tells me that one culprit is behind the shift. Irina. She said something to set him on edge, making him jump to a hasty marriage as his only solution.
“But I’m not ready,” I admit out loud. “I’m not.”
“And if Dima is anything like Maxim, you feel like you don’t have a choice,” Francesca says softly.
There’s lingering pain in her voice, alluding to a wound that I suspect is every bit as deep as the one festering in my heart at the moment. Sadly, I tilt my glass as my gaze finds the sole cause of my torment. “I’ll drink to that—”
“But,” Francesca adds without lifting her glass to her mouth, “You can’t have a relationship built on just one person’s rules. There has to be a give and take…” She trails off, her gaze fixated somewhere in the distance. After a few seconds, she shakes her head and sighs. “I don’t think you should let anyone pressure you if you aren’t ready. You’ll only lose yourself in the end.”
“It’s not that,” I say, feeling some need to defend Vadim from the picture my dancing around the subject is creating. “It’s just…”
I’m not sure just what point I’m trying to make. To avoid the subject entirely, I down the rest of my glass as the girls scamper around the paddock.
But the niggling, defensive feeling won’t leave. Finally, with a sigh, I’m forced to confront it. “I lost myself once,” I admit. “I swore to myself I’d never let it happen again.”
Francesca eyes me simply, her gaze conveying more maturity than her age should allow her to. “Then don’t,” she says, as if it’s that easy.
But in the realm of Vadim Gorgoshev, I’m not sure that anything truly is.
* * *
The second, Francesca and Ainsley leave, Vadim helps Magda cool down and stable Dasha while I watch from the safety of my lounge chair. Together, we finally return to the house, and I sense an even firmer boundary settling between us.
An ocean of emotional distance separates me from Vadim as we file into the kitchen, and he heads to the fridge, presumably to make dinner. He doesn’t look my way once, his shoulders rigid, his warm tone solely reserved for his daughter.
“Spaghetti?” he suggests to her while rummaging through various cupboards.
“Okay.” She nods in agreement, clutching her riding helmet to her chest.
“I’ll get it ready. You go get washed up, oui?”
“Okay!” She dutifully sets off, and I don’t even realize I’m following after her until his voice reaches me, a cautious rasp.
“I should help her get ready,” I say, practically running for the stairs. Magda looks surprised when I enter her room, but like the princess she is, she promptly points to her closet.
“I want to wear my pink pajamas,” she declares, and like a good servant, I rush to obey.
As she showers, I lay out the clothing on her bed. The moment she reappears, I make a show of fussing over her, helping her towel dry her hair and braid it.
“You took a very steamy shower, you lobster,” I tease, running my hand over her scalp. “You’re still boiling.”
“Can you teach me to swim tomorrow?” she asks, her eyelids heavy.
“Sure,” I say, oddly touched by the request. At least someone wants me around. “As long as it’s not too cold out. Maybe we can go out on the boat, too?”
She holds out her tiny hand, raising her pinky. “Promise?”
Chuckling, I curl my own pinky around hers. “Promise. Now let’s go eat.”
Clutching the newly restored It to her chest, she bounds downstairs for dinner.
But I don’t follow right away. Instead, I retreat into the bedroom and strip my own clothing. Then I enter the shower and linger until the water runs cold, and my shivering serves as a cover for my own silent sobs.
Get a grip, Tiffy, I try to tell myself. You’re a bad bitch, remember? Stop second-guessing yourself!
But that’s all I seem capable of doing while in the realm of Vadim Gorgoshev. Second-guessing. Fearing. Doubting. Questioning.
Something that can feel this damn good, and yet hurt this damn much… It can’t be real, can it? Let alone healthy?
I haven’t decided by the time I finally leave the shower and slip into a robe. The second I take a step over the threshold to the bedroom, however, I stop short, my gaze fixated on the creature watching me from the edge of the bed.
He’s stripped his shirt, wearing just his slacks, his hair mussed like it is only when he’s been tearing through it ruthlessly. Dark, his eyes track my every movement, hunting me with a predator’s intensity as I tentatively take a step. Then another.
Still holding my gaze, he rises to his feet. His eyes blaze anger, but as they trace the low neckline of my robe, the lids lower, his lips parting. My heart hammers in response, and I don’t shy away from his gaze, even with the tension simmering between us.
Lust is the one language we speak that transcends all others, and I’m so desperate for a connection…
It’s like I lose control over my body. Myself.
With Jim, sex was always used as leverage. Or as a reward, if I’d jumped through various hoops and pleased him enough to deign indulging me in the moment.
With Vadim, sex is wild. Untamable. Communication. It is the only way I seem to be able to understand him. In groping, hungry touches the second I come close enough. In a fierce, mind-melding kiss that renders me defenseless against him.
Hungrily, he grasps my hips, twisting around to shove me onto the bed. His gaze intent, he mounts the mattress after me. Hooking his fingers beneath my hips, he flips me onto my back, easing my legs apart before I can protest. This angle robs me of any leverage, forcing me to buck into him. Chase him. Crave him.
I shiver as he enters me, thrusting deep, taking what he can and battering down any resistance I may think to put up. His chest cages me in, his hands crushing me flat, controlling the pace. Angle. Everything. Mindless, I rock against him, letting him stretch me to my limits. Take me beyond them. Leave me quaking on the edge of sanity and then watch me fall.
This isn’t over, I sense, even as we both gasp out in relief. Just a reprieve. A truce.
The real war is only beginning, and when he finally withdraws from me, spent, he collapses with his back to me, his shoulders rigid.
I go limp, panting against the sheets, my thoughts scattered, body still burning alight. If I had the strength to move, I would. Run far, far away—put distance between us any way I can.
Physically at least, because emotionally, we might as well be on different planets.
A desperate divorcee on the hunt for some no-strings kinky fun.
A brooding, sexy billionaire with a penchant for manipulation and mind games…
What could possibly go wrong?
Brother of the fiercest crime lord in Fair Haven, Vadim Gorgoshev has survived horrors most men couldn’t imagine in their nightmares—and he’s learned to thrive in the chaos.
But the master of control meets his match when a fiery redhead crosses his path.
Will the obsessive Vadim maintain the upper hand or will the reckless Tiffany turn his world upside down?
With Vadim’s control stretched to its breaking point, he aims to turn the tables by enacting Tiffany’s wildest fantasies—whether she wants him to or not.
The harder she finds it to resist him, the more she becomes swept into his growing family, forced to reassess her previous boundaries.
But when Vadim’s past comes back to haunt him, the chaos threatens to ignite their budding relationship…
And destroy it for good.
When a ghost from Vadim’s past returns to haunt him, he resorts to his worst instincts—putting his relationship with Tiffany to the test.
With no end to his paranoia in sight, Tiffany is forced to decide once and for all whether to conquer their shared demons together…
Or protect her heart by walking away for good.
Vadim’s books are a new trilogy in the Club XXX world. Vadim’s trilogy can be enjoyed without first reading Maxim’s trilogy or read as a continuation to Maxim’s series.