Windy City Millionaire Devlin Stone is about to discover that love and revenge don't mix.
Fifteen years ago my father went to jail for crime he didn't commit. Now, I'm back to take revenge on the man who sent him there. He believes himself untouchable, and for the most part, he is. His daughter, however, is very touchable and well within my reach.
I remember her as a sweet kid, who took piano lessons from my mother. These days she's a complicated woman, who has a knack for distracting me from my retribution.
She wants to save me. I intend to ruin her. Things are going to get interesting.
The driveway curves as it passes the front of the house, and I spy the open front door. That's weird. I don't see Sammy's red convertible or any other vehicles. I can't imagine anyone is robbing the place. It's been abandoned for quite some time. The previous owners had been driven out by marital problems and mold issues. In another Louisville suburb, I might have been worried about squatters, but the police department in Abbottsville is vigilant about protecting its wealthy citizens.
I turn off the engine and ponder my options. Without the air conditioning running, the car grows stifling in under a minute. Calling the police seems extreme before I check out the situation. I push open my car door and get out. As I set my foot on the first step, a half-naked man emerges from the shadows beyond the doorway. My pulse kicks into overdrive. Sweat-streaked skin glistens in the late morning sun. My mouth goes dry as I take in his wide bronze shoulders and athletic thighs.
“What are you doing here?” He doesn’t wait for my answer before pummeling me with a second question. "Are you following me?"
Following him? Well, no. But he'd definitely be worth chasing after if I did that sort of thing. For a long moment, lust and confusion keep me rooted in place while humidity slicks my nose, making my glasses slide down my face. Who the hell is this guy? If I could unglue my eyes from his abs long enough to check out his face, I might find out.
“I’m here to drop off some tile and flooring samples for Samantha Robbins…” My voice trails off as he sets his hands on his hips, unconsciously applying downward pressure to his faded running shorts. The action bares more of his lean, muscled torso. Awareness flares to life, strong and unbidden. I wrestle the sensation into submission, but it's stronger than anything I've faced in a really long time. “They’re in the back of my car.”
Something about his voice tickles my subconscious. As I focus on why, I’m at long last able to tear my attention away from his body. I suck in a breath when I recognize him.
Even as the thought surfaces, my mind short circuits again. His strong cheekbones and chiseled mouth inspire a storm of illicit cravings. When I ran into Devlin at Kathryn’s party, he’d been cold and aloof. Today he hums with magnetic, crackling energy that sparks a thrilling chain reaction inside me.
“Tile. Granite. Marble.” I sound as if I’d sprinted the five miles from the design store. I'm dizzy and short of breath. “Samples.”
Long masculine fingers burrow into black-as-sin hair. Freed from its careful styling, the length almost obscures the temperamental violence simmering in his dark brown eyes.
“Why are you bringing them?” he asks.
"Sammy's my aunt."
Whatever had sparked his annoyance fizzles and dies. “Fine. Just set everything in the foyer.” His tone carries no inflection whatsoever.
He pivots and vanishes into the house. The abruptness of his departure puts an end to our conversation. From somewhere in the neighborhood comes the roar of a lawn mower and the buzz of a leaf blower. Heat creeps up my legs from the paving stones beneath my feet as I retreat to the Volvo to get the samples. Step by cautious step I advance onto the front porch. White paint flecks off the stout wooden door flanked by narrow sidelights.
Common sense shrieks at me to do as he requested and dump the samples inside the front door. I can't explain why, after I set everything down, I advance further into the house. Decay and disuse swamp my senses. The house is a lot worse off than I imagined it would be. Unrelenting heat gives way to the cloying press of dust as I shuffle forward a few steps. After the bright sunshine, my eyes take a moment to adjust to the home’s dim interior.
The inside looks like a B-movie set. The only things missing are screaming teenagers and a maniac with a bloody knife. Cobwebs span the gaps in the staircase spindles. A tarnished chandelier hangs like a bad omen above the two-story foyer. Neglect shows in the faded wallpaper and dusty wooden floors. I taste mold in the air, stronger now as the fresh air dissipates.
A board creaks beneath my foot, the sound loud in the heavy silence. I freeze, listening. In my mind I hear the faint tinkle of piano keys. Happy birthday to you. I’d played it as an accompaniment to the crowd gathered to celebrate a fourteen-year-old boy’s special day. My first performance on the piano in front of an audience.
I look around for Devlin, but the house has swallowed him. Directly in front me stretches a long hallway with doorways that open left and right into the empty dining and living rooms. I remember Josephine Stone’s graceful hands splayed across ivory and black keys and her patient smiles. Her dark brown eyes, framed by the longest lashes I’d ever seen. I’d loved sitting next to her on the piano bench and staring at those lashes, all the while wondering why my mother’s weren’t as pretty.
Memories lure me to the left. The living room walls, now papered in some hideous flowered print, seem to absorb what muffled light slips past the fraying drapes that cover three large windows. Footprints mottle the dusty oak floors. I advance into the room and stumble as my toe catches on a buckled board.
“My mother loved this house.” Despite its low pitch, Devlin Stone’s voice echoes powerfully through the large, empty room.
I spy him standing in the doorway leading to what had been the music room. Thankfully, for my peace of mind, he’s donned a gray Notre Dame T-shirt. He might not be less daunting fully-dressed, but he’s certainly less distracting. A bottle of water dangles from his fingers. I tell myself to leave. He’s made it clear that he doesn’t want me around. But then his gaze flows over me and I find myself lured into the room by what I glimpse in his expression.
“It used to be so beautiful,” I say.
On my first visit, I’d run through decorated rooms heedless of the antiques and delicate pastel figures that tempted a little girl to touch. My mother’s sharp tone had beckoned me to her. I’d flinched when her fingers had bitten into my shoulder in a silent command to behave.
“She’d be pretty appalled that someone painted the trim and the fireplace aqua.” I don’t know why I’m still talking. Maybe I’m hoping my attempt at levity will inspire the glint of the mischief that had once been an integral part of his youthful expression. But his features remain mired in grim lines. And like a damned fool, I keep babbling. “Don’t worry. By the time Sammy’s done, it will be a showplace.”
Everything sensible warns me to get the hell out. Instead, I hear myself asking, “How’s your mother?”
“She died a year ago.”
“I’m sorry.” Thinking to offer comfort I take a step in his direction. He turns away so abruptly that I feel foolish. “She was such a wonderful person. I missed her a lot after you moved away.”
He strides past me, crossing to the windows. I flinch as he tears the curtains open with a clash of metal against metal and sunlight floods the room. His action sends dust whirling through the air. I throw up my hand to block the light, blinking away moisture. As my eyes adjust, I locate the man who remains cloaked in shadow.
“Is there something you want?” There’s a snap in his voice that screams irritation.
“No.” My own temper rises at his rudeness. “I’m just trying to be nice. Our families were close once.”
“Close.” He fills the word with derision. "Do you really expect me to act friendly toward you after what happened fifteen years ago?”
I shake my head in confusion. What is he talking about?
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I know things got awkward between our families. I was so upset when my mother refused to let me continue my piano lessons after what happened with your dad.”
“Piano lessons?” He gives a short mirthless laugh. “You really have no idea what your father did.”
I’m almost afraid to ask. “What did he do?”
“He uncovered the documents that led to my dad being arrested for embezzling.” Devlin glares at me. “Thanks to your father, my dad died in jail.”
About the Author
Voracious reader with an overactive imagination, chocolate addict, lover of fancy cocktails and tasty edibles, sucker for adventure movies and any music with a beat.
When not writing, Caitlyn loves to connect with her readers for whom she's extremely grateful. Join her VIP list to stay up to date on giveaways and exclusive offers.