Chasing Serenity (River Rain #1) by Kristen Ashley



Suddenly, he appeared wounded.

Suddenly and genuinely.

This did not make me pause.

Truth told, I didn’t care that he had pictures of me nude, or sold them. I had a great body, I was proud of it, and his work was amazing.

This was about something else.

Something far bigger.

It was the promise broken.

The betrayal.

Uncle Corey a lot of the time could be creepy (these times when he was around Mom).

But the man was a multi-billionaire tech czar.

Which meant he was no idiot.

So he gave great advice.

Every time he gave it, I stored those little gems so I could take them out and polish them when the time was nigh.

Obviously, with one of those gems, the time was nigh.

“Get that painting back and destroy the rest, or pay me, Pierre, those are your choices,” I summed up. “Now, it’d be easier to do this,” I motioned to the suitcase, “if you went off and got a coffee.”

He stared at me, thrown, angry, hurt.

What he didn’t do was go and get a coffee.

I sighed and then got down to business, taking my time and making perfectly sure I got everything because I wasn’t coming back.

At the door, I decided it might be uncool just to sweep out, even if it would be dramatic and what I wanted to do.

Thus, I halted, turned to him and said softly, “It’s been fun.”

He stopped sulking (what he’d been doing the entire time I packed), and the hurt dug deep in his hazel eyes.

“Fun?” he whispered. “It’s been fun? Chloe, mon cœur, you’re the love of my life.”

I studied him quizzically because that truly perplexed me.

“How can that be?” I asked, genuinely wanting to know.

“How can that…how can it… How can it be?” he asked in return. “Have you not been here,” he tossed his arm out to indicate the flat, “with me for the last six months?”

“You lied to me,” I stated flatly. “And you don’t lie to someone you love.”

His head snapped like I’d slapped him.

“Good-bye, Pierre,” I said.

And with that, not looking back, not knowing that I’d never see him again, but even if I did, I knew I wouldn’t care, I left.

And checked into The Ritz.





Judge





Five years later…



“You have no direction.”

Judge sat opposite his girlfriend of the last year and a half, Megan, and said nothing.

She did.

“I need a man with ambition. Drive. Who knows what he wants and goes after it, works for it, fights for it.”

Judge remained silent.

“Judge, are you listening to me?” she asked, though she didn’t wait for him to answer, probably because he was staring right at her, and he was doing it hard, so she had to know he was listening. She carried on, “I mean, I’m sorry. This is rough. But you always say we need to be honest with each other. And this is me being honest.”

That got him talking.

“Right then, let’s be honest, Meg. Really honest. What you’re saying is, I’m not going in the direction you want me going. My life goals aren’t what you want them to be. I know what I want, you know I do. I know who I am, you know that too. It’s just that those things aren’t what you want. Am I right?”

Her face twisted. “No man wants to hike for a living.”

Okay.

Now he was getting pissed off.

“After all this time together, is that what you think I do?”

She shifted on her barstool.

She knew what he did, and she knew that was bullshit.

And…

Yeah.

Barstool.

They both lived in Arizona. But he lived in Prescott, she lived in Phoenix, a two-hour drive from each other, so it wasn’t like they were living together or even saw each other every day.

Though, they were exclusive and had been for over a year. He went out of his way to make time for her, get to Phoenix to see her.

Meg?

Not so much, but to be fair, her job didn’t allow her to.

Still, not so much.

She was a reporter for a local station. She was aiming to sit behind the desk as an anchor, and after she achieved that, she wanted to move on to bigger and better things.

Or, he should say, stand on the set and talk at a camera, something he did not get why it was the thing. Judge thought when newscasters did that they looked like the awkward folks at a party, standing around not knowing who to talk to. It was his opinion, when you listened to the news, you needed to trust that the person giving it to you was taking it seriously, not gabbing while waiting for a tray of hors d’oeuvres to be passed around.