Excerpt Merciless

MERCILESS EXCERPT

CHAPTER ONE

 Liv Stratton stumbled through the dark cave, her eyes desperate for the comfort of daylight ahead, her blue T-shirt and khaki shorts dripping with water.

No. Fuck no. This can’t be happening. She stopped and stared into her shaking hands. But she didn’t see flesh, fingers, or palms. There were only two empty hands that moments ago held her very own beating heart.

Is this really happening? Is any of this real?

She pressed her pale hands above her left breast. No heartbeat.

Oh, God. She never saw this coming. And for all her degrees and smarts, her twenty-nine years of life were no match for this ancient bitch of an island. It could see five thousand moves ahead.

Liv wiped away her bitter tears. This was the island’s plan all along. It had always been about this.

 

 

~~~

 

Three Days Earlier

“So what’s it going to be, Liv? Are you or aren’t you going to fuck me?” Shane, a complete cutthroat bastard with deep green eyes, shaggy jet-black hair, and the smile of a psychopath on holiday, stared from across the rustic-looking dining room table while Liv shifted in her chair. She had no clue how she’d gotten to Shane’s secluded beach house of terror, but she knew he’d been planning to kidnap her for a while. His house had been meticulously gussied up in honor of her arrival—fresh paint, recently varnished floors, and new carpet in the hallway. There was even a modern-looking glass chandelier hanging above the table.

“Did you really think redecorating would make me forget everything you’ve done or what you really are?” she snarled over her plate of untouched…whatever-the-hell food it was. Yeah, he’d cooked her dinner. Psycho.

“Just the opposite.” His signature sadistic smile flickered over his lips. “I want you to always remember how I killed the man you love and stole you away. Never forget, human, what I’m capable of and why you should obey me.”

Oh God…Roen. Liv felt her heart cracking in two. The moment she’d woken up here, Shane proudly told her that Roen had drowned in the ocean—all Shane’s doing. But her soul refused to believe he was dead. It wasn’t possible.

Was it?

“You’re an animal,” she hissed.

“No. I am a merman.” He leaned back in his chair, smugness oozing from his face. “What have you done for the world lately?”

Like all mermen, Shane had a superiority complex. Yes, his kind was seductively beautiful, a feast for the female eyes. And despite calling themselves “mermen,” they were nothing like the creatures found in legends with tails and scales. But Shane thought himself to be some sort of god. He cared for nothing and no one. He feared nothing and no one.

Of course, Roen, the man she loved more than life itself, was a merman, too, but he had the kind of soul that instantly made a woman overlook his tough heart and menacing vibe.

He can’t be dead.

Liv straightened her back. “Unlike you, Shane, I don’t hurt people to get what I want. But I could make an exception.” She glanced down at the butter knife next to her plate.

“Now, Liv,” he warned with a restrained growl. “I asked you a question. I expect an answer.” Would she or wouldn’t she open her legs for him?

“Does asking for my permission to be violated make you feel better about yourself, Shane? Just wanna know. Because that’s what you’re doing here. You’re basically asking me to choose between sleeping with you and dying.”

“Liv!” he barked.

She glanced toward the window, noting how a bit of sunlight still showed through the off-white curtains. She had to make her move before nightfall.

“Is it yes or no?” His menacing frame hunched forward in a threatening manner with elbows planted and hands tightly squeezed together, fingers laced.

Her answer was “never.” No. Wait. Make that never-fucking-ever. As in…lasting peace in the Middle East, Justin Bieber joins a monastery, and Trump shaves his head kind of never-ever. She would never open her legs for him. She would never bow or grovel either. And given that this “man” believed he and she were destined to fuck, procreate, and then repeat as many times as her body would allow, well, that led to only two wonderful outcomes: Kill him. Or die trying. Because no one was coming to save her.

Not this time.

Thanks to Shane, everyone thought “the maids” had ended her. No, not the kind of maids who leave a mint on the pillow. These were ravenous mermaids that lived in the waters surrounding El Corazón, the island where Shane’s people were from.

Liv brushed a few sticky, dark strands of hair out of her eyes. Her skin and hair were still covered with salty dried seawater from her little near-death swim.

“Shane?” Liv reached for her wineglass and began circling the tip of her finger over the lip, feigning composure. “Can I ask why you chose me?” She really didn’t give a flying crap about the why; she only needed to buy time to think. She’d only been awake for a few hours and had no clue where the ever-living-merman-hell she was other than on some remote island—something Shane’d also mentioned when she’d first come to. And from the way he was dressed—jeans and a thick cream-colored sweater—she assumed they were somewhere isolated and north. Probably upper Alaska. Or Siberia? Because mermen didn’t get cold easily, and unless she’d been unconscious for more than three weeks, they were still in July. Of course, to add to her confusion, he’d given her only a white tank top and some skimpy khaki shorts to wear. In any case, they could be anywhere in the world.

“Who gives a fuck? Now, enough!” Shane slammed his fist on the table. “Answer my damned question so I can get on with either fucking you or killing you.”

“Yes, okay. I’ll do it,” she blurted out, staring into his eyes, desperately trying to hide what was happening inside her—rage, devastation, despair. Roen can’t be dead. He can’t be. “I just need a second to freshen up.”

“I’m a merman. I don’t care about fresh. I just care about pussy.”

She wanted to spit in his face. Everything about Shane disgusted her, including his choice of words.

“I have to pee, Shane.” She lifted a brow expectantly, and he answered by jerking his head to the right.

“Down the hall. First door on the right. And don’t try anything, landlover. There will be no second chances if you do.”

She rose from the table, determined not to allow even one inch of this nearly seven feet of solid muscle to frighten her in any way.

As she headed for the bathroom, she again noticed the home’s eerie combination of new furniture and fixtures mixed with Shane’s very “special” woodworks—a two-foot-tall carved mermaid sitting on a small lopsided handmade table at the end of the hall. Wow. That personal touch of his is about as warm and fuzzy as a cracked molar.

Once inside the bathroom, she flipped on the lights, shut the door, and blew out a frantic breath. What the hell was she going to do?

Her eyes took in the small bathroom. It too had been spruced up with new-looking fixtures and gleaming white tile. Please tell me he went the extra mile for my comfort and stashed a knife in here. She paused for a moment, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror.

Holy crap. She’d once been stuck in a life raft for ten days, dying of starvation and dehydration. Even then, she didn’t look this bad. Her long dark hair was matted, her usually pale face looked ghost-white, and the whites of her brown eyes were red like she’d been swimming in a chlorinated pool without goggles.

I look like hell. She also looked like a woman at the end of her rope with nothing left to lose.

She yanked open the medicine cabinet. Crap. Empty. She then checked underneath the sink, finding only a bar of soap and a roll of toilet paper. Dammit. He’d “human proofed” the bathroom. Her only hope was to get back out there, grab that butter knife, and plunge it somewhere soft—his throat, his stomach, his cheek—to distract him long enough so she could get outside. From there, she didn’t know what she’d do. If they were truly on another island, she’d have to find a way off it.

She looked up at the ceiling and said a silent prayer. Whatever happens, please let my family be okay. Please let Roen be okay.

She flushed the toilet for appearances’ sake and yanked open the door, half expecting Shane to be standing there waiting with a scowl, but he wasn’t.

Cautiously, she walked down the hallway, back out into the dining room. When the table came into view, Shane was not in his seat.

She swiveled on her heel, listening for him. Where had he gone?

Who cares? Run for it. She bolted through the dining room toward the living room, where she assumed she’d find a front door.

She took two steps into the next room and was tripped from behind, sending her flying into the wood-plank floor. She landed right behind the couch—an overstuffed blue thing.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” Shane snarled, right before he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her back to the dining room.

Liv kicked and clawed at his hands. “Fucking let me go!”

“Get your ass back to that table,” he roared, shoving her toward her chair.

She reached for the butter knife and quickly twisted around, taking a swipe at him. Shane instinctively jumped back, but the moment he realized what was in her hand, he began to laugh.

“You think you can hurt me with that?”

“It’s worth a shot.” She panted.

Slowly, with an amused look in his eyes, he dipped his head. “Do it, you fucking little cunt. Take a crack.”

“Okay.” She lunged, knocking him off his feet, but he reached out and took her down with him. She landed right on top of him with her knee wedged between his thighs. She went for it, thrusting upward. He let out a painful groan, but it didn’t stop him. He rolled on top of her, rage spewing from his green eyes.

“I’ll fucking kill you.” He reached for her neck, and in that moment, Liv remembered the first time she’d met Shane. She’d been near death after being shipwrecked and floating on that life raft. From the moment he spotted her and pulled her raft to shore, he’d treated her like an animal. He hit her, he nearly drowned her, he punished her for disobeying because he believed she was his property. Then Roen came along and changed everything. He’d fought for control of the island just to save her and set her free. If Shane won now, it would mean that everything Roen had given up to save her life meant nothing.

“No,” she growled as Shane began squeezing her neck, “I’ll kill you!” She jammed the knife into his left eye.

He fell to the side, screaming in agony as blood poured from the socket.

Liv was about to run for the door when a sobering thought hit her. Mermen generally carried water from their home island that healed them almost instantly. Actually, it healed anyone instantly. Except for her. She was resistant to the water somehow—it took a whole heck of a lot of it to have any effect—and she was immune to the mermen’s powers of influence over humans. But the point was, Shane was vulnerable right now. And he likely had some of that water with him. If he got even so much as a few drops, he’d be as good as new in seconds.

And then he’ll kill you.

Liv swallowed down a sour lump in her throat, knowing what she had to do.

Show no mercy.

Liv quickly jumped on top of Shane and straddled his torso. With the entire weight of her body, she pushed the knife in. Shane fell limp.

“That’s what I’ve done for the world, you asshole.” Liv jumped up and away from Shane’s lifeless body. “Oh, God!” I killed him. I killed him. She instantly hated that her life had led to this moment. She, a woman who once believed that love made the world go round, was now a killer.

Get a fucking grip, Liv. You have to get the hell out of here. Her heart began raging with the need to get to Roen. He can’t be dead. He can’t be… Shane had to be lying.

Or maybe you just don’t want to believe it. An image of Roen—that silky caramel brown hair, that strong jaw, those fierce eyes—flashed in her mind. Her heart ached to see his face again. Even if it cost her life.

You can’t give up hope. He has to be alive. There was only one way to know for sure, of course; she needed to return to El Corazón, the one thing she never thought she’d want. Easier said than done because it was an island that couldn’t easily be found by humans.

And you are stuck on a romantic getaway with Shane’s body.