The end of Fate’s Demand
With a chaste kiss, one that left my own essence on my lips, Rett pushed the chair back to the table and returned to his seat.
My hands shook as I reached for my glass of wine. The red liquid quivered as I brought the glass to my lips. After consuming a generous portion, I stared beyond the candles to the man now casually dining upon his meal. A forkful of shrimp and an oyster on a cracker—it was as if we hadn’t just…My head shook as I found my voice. “Let me get this straight. Ross made you a deal regarding me?”
Rett dabbed the napkin at the corner of his lips, the same lips that had just brought me to ecstasy—twice.
“After both an in-depth conversation with your friend and my own diligent research, I contacted Mr. Underwood again and offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse.”
My head shook. “You can’t make deals regarding people. It doesn’t work like that.”
Amusement again danced in his dark orbs. “My dear, the deal is done.”
“Why do you think I’d go along with this?”
Lowering his fork to the plate before him, Rett sat taller and took a breath. “You are a marked woman.”
I had to wonder if he was referring to what we’d just done.
Everett Ramses went on. “Your brother wants you dead.”
I sat straighter. “Kyle died in the accident with our parents. He’s been gone for over four years.”
“No, my dear, Kyle O’Brien is very much alive. He’s bided his time and now believes he can claim New Orleans. However, to achieve his goal, he must overcome two obstacles.”
“Me,” Rett said, leaning back in his throne-like chair and reaching for the arms, “and you.”
“What do I have to do with any of this?”
“Kyle, your adoptive brother, is claiming that his stake to the city rests on the notion that he is the child Jezebel North gave up. You see, he’s proclaiming that he is the true heir of Isaiah Boudreau.”
The reality of Rett’s words settled around me in a fog.
“My brother is alive and wants me dead?”
“He knows you’re here, in New Orleans.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means you will stay with me. I will protect you, and once you’re legally Emma Ramses, you will be untouchable.”
I stood, no longer able to sit still. Cool air flowed under my skirt, a reminder I was nude beneath.
“This is ludicrous. I should just go back to Pittsburgh.”
“No,” Rett said definitively. “I have had you under protection there since I first learned.”
“There were people watching me?”
“That is done. Your home is in New Orleans.”
My hands went out, coming back to slap my thighs. “And do what, Rett? My life is in Pittsburgh.”
“Your education and dream is to be a writer. There is no better place in the world than here, but most importantly, you will be my wife.” When I didn’t respond, he went on, “I have men waiting to escort us away from this restaurant.”
“Away, to where?” I asked.
“To my home. It’s very safe.”
My gaze darted to the door and back. “And if I say no? If I just leave?”
Rett gestured toward the door. “You won’t, but as you are my future wife, I prefer not to hold you captive against your will.” He shrugged. “I will, but I’d prefer you cooperate.”
I tugged at my lip with my teeth as I contemplated all that had been said. “What will happen if I leave?”
“If you walk through that door alone, you will be vulnerable, not only to Kyle but also to his men. You may succeed in making it to the courtyard or possibly the sidewalk beyond; however, I can unequivocally say that…one more step would mean certain death.”
Rett gestured toward the door through which I’d just threatened to leave. “You won’t,” he said, “but as you are my future wife, I prefer not to hold you captive against your will.” He shrugged. “I will, but I’d prefer you cooperate.”
The sound of Rett’s deep voice rattled through my mind. His dark stare met mine even as my eyes closed. My pulse raced with the memories of what he’d done, what I’d allowed him to do to me. Lingering in a place between pleasure and pain, my core remained twisted with the understanding that in a matter of a few hours or less, I’d put aside all I’d known—all that I had heard with my own ears and seen with my own eyes—for the words, no, for the demand of a man who somehow scattered both my body and mind.
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