Hidden Page 12

EXCERPT – MerMadmen

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All RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2015. Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

CHAPTER ONE

 

With a terrified gasp, twenty-nine-year-old Liv Stratton’s eyes flew open. Oh God, where the hell am I? She slowly sat up, her eyes searching the dark room for an answer. A large black rectangle sat on the wall ahead—a television. Off to the left, a dark hallway faded into blackness. To the right, drawn curtains covered an entire wall. Nothing, not even the cool air wafting over her bare breasts, seemed familiar.

Wait. Bare? She glanced at the sheet covering her naked body from the waist down. Oh, crap. Did I go home with someone? But that wasn’t like her at all. She didn’t do the drunk “hookup thing.”

She shoved her hands into her tangled long hair. Think, think, think. What’s the last thing you remember? But it was all a blank.

Hugging the sheet to her body, she sprang from the king-sized bed and whipped back the velvety white drapes. In the distance, beyond a patch of dark rolling hills sprinkled with lights, she spotted dozens of shimmering skyscrapers clustered around one tall structure shaped like the queen on a chessboard.

The Space Needle? She’d lived in Seattle the last few years, while doing her PhD in sociology at Washington State, so she knew the building well. But how did I get—

Her mind began filling in the blanks with images of her parents’ anniversary party at their favorite restaurant in Wrangell, Alaska—her hometown. But how did I get here?

“Miss Stratton,” said a deep, velvety smooth voice behind her.

Liv yelped.

In the darkened doorway across the room stood the large, menacing silhouette of a man she thought she’d never see again. He was a man of unspeakable beauty, dangerous as hell, and he’d once saved her life. But that didn’t mean he was there to do it again. The last time they’d met, he’d made it clear what he thought of her: not much.

“Roen, what am I doing here?”

Wearing what looked to be a white dress shirt and dark slacks, he began unbuttoning his cuffs and rolling up his sleeves, like a man preparing for a little dirty work.

Liv would’ve stepped back, but back meant into the window.

“Why do you think you’re here?” he asked, his voice exaggeratedly slow yet overtly menacing.

Given your tone? Can’t be good.

Liv cleared her throat. “Did you really bring me here to play guessing games?”

“You speak bravely for someone so frightened.”

“Who said I’m frightened?” she responded.

“I can see it on your face.”

So he can see in the dark now. It wasn’t a surprise given so much about Roen had changed. Once upon a time he’d been just a man. A billionaire who owned one of the world’s largest shipping companies. Even then, however, his cutthroat tactics and icy heart had been as infamous as his looks—Sexiest Man of the Year. Regrettably, he’d only become more strikingly handsome. His caramel brown hair alone, with streaks of gold and chestnut, qualified him for the category of unspeakably beautiful. And those eyes. Lord, those eyes. A vibrant green with gold rings around the pupils. Every time he looked at her, his raw sexual energy left her feeling defenseless. At least, that’s what she remembered thinking the last time she’d seen him with the lights on.

Liv tightened her grip on the sheet around her body. “Fine. I’m terrified, but can you blame me? I have no idea how I got here, and the last time we spoke, you told me to crawl back to my pathetic life. I also believe your hand was raised to slap me.”

“How could I forget?” he said in an amused, sadistic tone. “You didn’t flinch.”

“Guess I’m not so weak after all, am I?” That had been what he’d called her: “weak,” a trait he clearly loathed.

Roen laughed and crossed his thick arms over his chest. No doubt about it, the man’s size was menacing—broad shoulders, hard muscles covering every inch, and six-six-ish in height. Yeah, he definitely looked like he’d grown an inch since she’d last seen him. Of course, grown men didn’t usually get taller, but according to Roen, he and his men weren’t exactly human. Then there was that water they drank to make them stronger. It dripped from the walls inside the giant cavern on the island they called home. The water, however, wasn’t simply water; it was so much more. Just like that crazy island wasn’t an island.

“I never would’ve hit you.” He shoved his hands into his pockets as if holstering his weapons. “Nor did I mean those words. I was upset that day and had every right to be.”

Maybe he did. She had broken a pretty big promise not to speak to anyone about his new home or its people, but all that was in the past now, and Liv desperately wanted to move on with her life. Or, more accurately stated, move on from him. Exactly like he’d asked.

If only my heart would let me.

“Let’s cut the crap. Tell me why I’m here,” she demanded.

Roen gestured toward the bed. “Why don’t you sit down?”

Liv didn’t budge.

“I insist,” he said in a stern tone.

She wished he’d flip on the lights so she could see his expression more clearly. It might clue her in on what he intended to do to her. In his new world, the laws regarding a woman’s place, purpose, and rights were fairly clear. And they were barbaric.

Liv shook her head no.

“Liiiv,” he growled.

“Uh-uh.” She shook a finger at him. “You don’t get to tell me what to do. We are not on your island. And even if we were, I’d still tell you to pound sand. So whatever you have planned—whatever goddamned reason you brought me here, you can expect nothing but a fight from me.”

Despite being all the way across the room, she felt the tension and heat radiating from his body. It made her skin tingle with the awareness of how much she missed his rough hands on her body. No one’s touch compared to Roen’s. No man compared to Roen.

Don’t, Liv. Don’t open your heart to him again. It didn’t end well last time.

“I’m not here to hurt you, Liv. I’m here to warn you.”

“You brought me all the way to Seattle, stripped me down naked, and put me in your bed, to warn me?” She didn’t believe that for a moment.

“You can’t go back to the island, Liv. I can’t protect you this time.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” She’d barely escaped with her life from that hellhole, and Roen knew it.

“Fucking listen to me, woman,” Roen yelled, his voice a booming roar that bounced off the walls, hitting her from every direction. “They are coming for you. Don’t let them take you back!”

“What are you talking about?” Liv’s heart galloped inside her chest.

Roen’s head snapped up toward the ceiling, listening to something. “It’s already too late.” He looked back at her. “Fight, Liv. Kill them if you have to. But don’t let them get you on that island.”

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