By Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
You’re asking me to…love you?” asked Mia.
He slowly scratched his thick black stubble. “I suppose I am.”
What if you were asked to love the one man on earth you couldn’t trust, you feared, who betrayed you at every turn? Could you do it to save the people you hold dear?
Mia Turner is ready to give it all—her body, her heart, her soul—to the mysterious, ruthless billionaire who holds all the cards to saving her family. But when this dangerous, sinfully sexy man, simply known as King, demands something more, something horrifying, Mia will be forced to face the impossible truth about their lives.
Sometimes the truth brings salvation. And sometimes the truth breaks you.CHAPTER ONE
Sex with a ghost. Sex with a ghost. Am I really going to do this? I stared into my champagne glass, my hand trembling as I focused—tried to focus, anyway—on the delicate bubbles fizzing to the surface. It was all I could do to keep from getting up and running from the nearly empty restaurant or stealing yet another look at my date. His unsettling, raw masculinity nearly undid me every time, despite knowing that his exterior was a façade.
How did I get myself into this?
“Miss Turner,” he said in that deep, dark, disapproving tone, “look at me.”
I knew I had to face this situation head-on, so to speak. There would be no running away.
You can handle it. Hell, I’d endured a heck of a lot worse these past few months—physical threats, being kidnapped, watching my brother get murdered; however, my mental armor wore thin.
Doesn’t matter. You’re in the home stretch now.
I finally willed myself to gaze across the table at the imposing, exquisite, and dangerous man, his sleek muscular body draped in an expensive tux.
I listened to my heart beat exactly three times and then sucked in a shallow breath, willing my heart to continue pumping.
The way the candlelight danced over his finely sculpted cheekbones, chiseled jaw, and sensual lips mesmerized me. I couldn’t help it. Then there were those dark lashes and his thick, wavy black hair that fell just behind his ears, and…Well, let’s just say his appearance made it easy to forget who he was: an ancient, dead king cursed to roam the earth for eternity. His modern camouflage wasn’t simply exquisite; it was flawless.
Sweat began to trickle down my spine beneath my little black dress, forcing me to shift in my seat. Breathe, Mia. Breathe.
“Stop the incessant fidgeting, Miss Turner, and tell me how you like the champagne.” He stared unblinkingly at me with his icy gray eyes.
Trying to project an air of calmness, I casually brushed my crazy blonde waves from my face and picked up my menu, finding sanctuary from my thoughts on page two. “Um. The champagne is good. I like it.”
Idiot. Even I, with my whiskey palate, knew this was a five-hundred-dollar bottle of fermented grape juice fit for the gods.
Or a king.
Able to hear my thoughts, he smirked, and two tiny but deep dimples puckered in his stubble-covered cheeks. “Do you know what you’d like to order?”
“Not really.” I didn’t normally eat this sort of stuff—quail egg sushi rolls with a ginger plum reduction, or wild sea bass with a lilac honey glaze. It sounded pretty good, but for one hundred dollars a plate, I didn’t feel right rolling the dice on my menu selection.
You’re going to have sex with King tonight, and you’re worried about what to order?
“That is exactly right, Miss Turner.” He pinned me with his cool eyes. “Ordering the wrong dish isn’t the end of the world. Sex on the other hand…” He scratched his unshaven chin. “I expect my order to be perfect. Or there will be consequences.” He flashed a wicked little grin.
“Stay out of my head,” I said.
“Let us cut the crap, Miss Turner. I can hear you. I can either pretend not to, or we may both simply acknowledge that this is a fact. If I pretend, however, I will not be gaining any…” he reached for the words, “yards. Yes—yards with you.”
“So we’re playing football now?” I supposed the sports metaphor felt appropriate. He wanted to win and would mow down anyone who got in his way. Right now, he needed to win me. All of me. Why? I’d get to that in a moment.
“No. Our game is far more serious than that.” He dipped his head a notch and gazed hungrily across the candlelit table, pushing my body temperature up ten more degrees despite my effort to ignore the hold he had over me.
“The game of life,” I muttered under my breath.
“Greater than that.”
What could be bigger than life? I wondered.
“The eternity of death,” he replied to my thoughts with a curtness that needed no explanation. He was, after all, dead and had been for over three thousand years, searching for an escape from the cruel, horrifyingly painful curse cast upon him by his unfaithful wife, Hagne. Hagne had been a Seer of Light like myself with the ability to see people’s energy. Sometimes I saw imprints left behind by objects, too. Obviously, I suspected Seers were capable of much, much more—case in point: Hagne’s curse—but I’d never know. I was the last Seer. Which was why King had an interest in me far beyond anything casual. And if I were to be honest with myself, a part of me, the part that lived in the darkest recesses of my mind, wanted him back.
“Do you plan to answer me this evening, Miss Turner?” King asked.
I pushed my mind away from any thoughts of sex and tried to focus on the conversation. “H-h-honesty. What else? If you can’t stop hearing my thoughts, there’s no point in pretending.”
He smiled in that sexy, sinful sort of way that could melt a woman’s panties off her body—like it or not. Yeah, he was powerful.
“I meant, what dish will you be ordering? I already knew you would choose honesty. You’re not one to advocate lying.”
He was right about that. I couldn’t tolerate dishonesty. Which was why I struggled with what was to come after dinner. Why did he insist on making sex part of our new “deal”?
King leaned in. “Mia, how many times must I explain this? The Artifact will allow me to bring back one life, just one. Do you want your brother returned to you or not?”
I looked toward the panoramic view of San Francisco, the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge off in the distance. “You know I do.”
Long story short, Justin had been murdered. And while some might argue whether he’d deserved to die, at the end of the day, he was family. My family. And returning Justin to my parents was the only way to make my family whole again. But to bring him back, I needed to break King’s curse. To break his curse, we had to get a hold of the Artifact—a rock that King’s ex-wife had used to bind his curse. To break the bond between King and the Artifact, a Seer had to undo it.
That’s where this all got weird. Utterly and truly weird. According to him, the bond could only be broken with love.
Yeah, pretty damned strange. Definitely complicated.
However, I’d spent a lot of time thinking this one over. If Hagne used hate to create his situation, then it only made sense that the opposite energy would undo it. Sort of like an antidote.
Now, how breaking King’s curse would translate into a dead person—any dead person—returning to life? That was where things became even stranger. He claimed that once his curse was broken, the Artifact would allow one life to be brought back as a sort of “do over.” King had obviously planned for his life to be the lucky one, but he’d made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. In exchange for ending his torment, he would allow my brother to return in his place. This meant that King would cease to exist, but in the end, we’d all get something we wanted. The only trick now was getting a hold of the elusive Artifact. And…I sighed, I have to find a way to open my heart to him in order to deliver “the antidote.”
Easier said than done.
“Not difficult at all,” King said. “You must simply put your youthful, spirited mind to it.”
I made a little huff. I may only be twenty-six—a baby in his eyes—but I know hearts don’t follow the mind; it’s the other way around.
He tisked in disagreement. “There, you see. A sign of your youthful naivety; your mind is far more powerful than you give it credit.”
“My mind is busy trying to accept that either way I’m screwed.”
“I should hope so, Miss Turner.” He cocked one dark, silky brow. “After all, is that not why you are here with me tonight? For the screwing?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. Funny. “You know what I meant, King. You’ve backed me into a no-win situation.”
He knew the answer. He was too smart not to. But he wanted to hear me say it. He liked watching me squirm.
“If I successfully find a way to…” I swallowed, “love you, then your curse will end and you’ll…”
“Cease to exist?”
I nodded. Yes, I’ll get to enjoy the heartbreak of caring about someone and losing him.
“Ah. But you will get your brother back in my place.”
“Yes.” But if I don’t break your curse, I lose Justin. There was no right in this equation. There was no easy out or perfect ending. A Greek tragedy in the making.
“I cannot argue,” he said casually, seemingly uninterested in my heart-wrenching dilemma. “It is quite the predicament.”
I looked at him and forced myself not to react to his indifference or to his exquisite masculine shell that made my body want and need things it shouldn’t.
“I have a question,” I said. “Are you just using this as an excuse to sleep with me?”
“Perhaps.” His voice dropped an octave. “But if you are to love me, then we must become acquainted. And I assure you, the gift of…” he paused, “fucking is one of my finer qualities. I fear, perhaps, my only fine quality. Why not begin with our best attributes forward?”
“Stop. We both know you’re exaggerating,” I argued. “And before you go there, I’m not talking about the sex.” I was, however, talking about his “finer qualities.” I’d learned that King was sporadically capable of incredible compassion. A leftover from his pre-curse days, I supposed. What I would’ve given to know that version of him—King with a heart. This King was ruled by his obsession with the Artifact. He’d lied, manipulated, and bullied me into doing things just to get closer to it, which is why the man couldn’t be trusted when it came to that damned rock.
Yes, I planned to play this out very carefully.
“I am worse than you could ever imagine,” he said. “You will see for yourself soon enough.” He looked toward the doorway where the waiter stood at attention. It was eerie to see the five-star restaurant overlooking the city empty. Like we’d shown up too early. In reality, it was ten o’clock at night, and King had reserved the entire place just for us.
“Yes, sir. What may I bring you?” asked the waiter.
King handed him the menu. “I’ll have the steak Diane. Rare. She’ll have the same.”
“Very good, sir.” The man scurried away.
Steak? I was leaning toward a salad, something that won’t make my stomach bulge out while we’re—I swallowed—having sex.
King chuckled at my thoughts. “You’re beautiful, Mia. And I am looking forward to showing you how much I mean that.” He sipped his champagne. “By the way, the steak will help you keep up your strength. I am ravenous in the bedroom.”
My spit stuck in my throat as I pictured the two of us, our naked bodies writhing together on the large bed of whatever luxury penthouse suite he’d procured for the night. King was beyond gorgeous. He was every woman’s sexual fantasy—large, hard, and lean—but on the other side of the coin, sleeping with a ghost. A dead man—
“Enough.” King slammed his fist on the table.
I jumped in my seat. “I can’t help how I feel.”
“You’ve touched me before. You’ve wrapped your hand around my cock. You didn’t seem to notice any difference then, so stop behaving like—”
“Don’t. Don’t speak to me like I’m your dog, or your woman, or your wife, or your anything.”
“Oh…” He chuckled. “But you will be.”
“My wife, that is.”
I blinked. Did I hear him correctly?
“Yes. You did,” he responded.
“I never agreed to that.”
“You agreed to give me redemption and freedom from my hellish existence.”
“Marriage is out of the question.” And it had nothing to do with what I’d agreed to. In fact, I was seriously beginning to doubt his argument for having sex, too.
“You think you have a choice in the matter?”
“Yes.” I always had a choice.
“Wrong. You will fuck me tonight. Then you will marry me, love me, and end my curse.”
My jaw dropped. “You’re seriously commanding me to do those things?”
“What the hell do you think?”
I think you’re insane.
“I don’t give a fucking hell what you think. You’ll do as you are told, Miss Turner, because that was always our deal.”
I was about to retort when a poignant question entered my head: Why all this fuss masked in a flurry of threats and bullying? Because shocking me was one of his classic moves. The bastard is planning something.
Tugging on his silver cufflink, King glared from across the table. “You dare question my integrity? We have a deal, and I never welsh.”
“But we’re not talking about just any deal, are we?” An uneasy something built inside my stomach. King was manipulating me like a rat in a maze. That was how he operated—always in control, even when he made you feel like you were driving. But you never were.
Okay. Perhaps I needed to retreat and rethink the terms of our arrangement. I agreed to end his curse, but the “how” was open for interpretation, especially given that I needed to feel some sort of affection for the man in order to do it.
I took a deep breath and willed myself not to be swayed by his raw, backbreaking sensuality. “King, I’m sorry, but I’m not doing this tonight.” I stood and placed my napkin on the table.
“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he growled in a menacing tone that rattled my rib cage.
“I’m not falling for another of your mind games. If we’re going to break your curse, it’s going to be on my terms. Mine.”
He slowly rose from the table, a predatory look in his silvery eyes. “I don’t think so.”
I shook my head at him. “You can’t bully me into feeling something for you. If you want this to work, you’re going to have to accept it.”
I turned toward the door, feeling goddamned proud of myself. I’d stood up to the ancient, powerful king without becoming tongue-tied. I said exactly what I’d meant to say and—
I felt a pull on my arm, and my body flew through the air, landing with a crash onto the table. Our champagne glasses tumbled to the floor, as did the candle and silverware.
He pinned me by the neck, face down. “Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to, Mia? Huh? A man who gives a shit what you think or want?”
I grunted in agony as he pushed my arm behind my back and ground my neck into the table. “Get off, King!”
“Sir?” the waiter asked, obviously wondering what the noise was all about.
“Leave!” King barked. “Or I will kill you.”
“Help!” I screamed.
“Uhhh…Call if you need anything, sir.” The waiter disappeared into the kitchen.
Sonofabitch wasn’t even going to lift a finger for me?
“Don’t go! Help,” I screamed again.
“I’ll help you, you fucking bitch.” King pressed my neck harder into the table with one hand and began shoving my dress up with the other.
I felt the hem pass my hips, exposing my black lace thong. I’d put it on tonight, anticipating I’d have the nerve to follow through.
“Shut the fuck up. I should have done this the night we met.” He shoved down my panties, and I couldn’t believe he was doing this. The evil fucking bastard would never find salvation from his curse, but perhaps he’d never wanted it. A man who truly wanted love would never do this. Never.
“Don’t, King. Or I swear, I’ll—”
“What? Curse me again, you bitch? You cannot hurt me now because you are nothing,” he roared.
I flung myself up from the bed, covered in sweat, panting and crying. Oh my God. Oh my God. I clutched the pink pajama fabric covering my chest, my head swiveling from side to side. I wasn’t in any restaurant, nor was I being violated—thank God. I was lying on a bed in King’s palatial estate in Crete.
“Nice dream, Miss Turner.”
In the corner, King comfortably sat in a leather armchair. He wore faded jeans and a white linen shirt partially unbuttoned and exposing the tan chiseled planes of his pectorals. A wicked smile occupied his full lips.
I felt my face turn rage-red. “You…you…”
“Don’t blame me.” He held up his palms as if surrendering. “That was all your twisted little brain. I merely observed.” He leaned back, smothering a smile. “However, I must admit, you have a dirty, dirty mind.”
If I could kill him with my bare eyes, I would. God, I hate you.
He laughed, his chest and shoulders shaking as his head tilted toward the sky, before he returned his unapologetic gaze to my furious eyes. “Then we have our work cut out for us, don’t we, Miss Turner?” He stood and strolled casually toward the door of the master suite and then stopped right before twisting the handle. “I’ll see you downstairs to discuss the real terms of our new deal. And so we are clear,” he narrowed those stunning, pale gray eyes, “sex, even your scandalous version—as tempting as it may be—won’t be part of it. I know how disappointing that must be, but I’m sure you’ll get over it.” He flashed a wicked, cocky grin and left.
I growled out a breath toward the closed door. Sonofabitch. As if not sleeping with him was some great loss. And how the hell could I help what I dreamed? Clearly my brain was letting off steam, my dream a metaphor for how I felt ruinously cornered by the situation.
I sighed, knowing that feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to solve a thing.
Just stay focused, Mia. Keep your eyes on the prize. Getting my brother back was all that mattered, and my new ruthless outlook on life—compliments of living in King’s world for a few months—would help me do that.
Don’t forget who you’re dealing with: the goddamned devil. A devil who knew how to push every single one of my buttons, and had.
But you’re not that same girl anymore.
No. I wasn’t.
And this time, I was playing for my own prize.Check out the author's website for excerpts from the book.
About the Author:
Mimi Jean Pamfiloff is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of Paranormal and Contemporary Romance. Her books have hit the Amazon and B&N top-100 lists multiple times and have been #1 genre sellers around the world. Both traditionally and independently published, Mimi has sold over 500,000 copies since publishing her 1st title in 2012, and she plans to spontaneously combust once she hits the one-million mark. Although she obtained her international MBA and worked for over 15 years in the corporate world, she believes that it’s never too late to come out of the romance-closet and follow your dream.
When not screaming at her computer or hosting her very inappropriate radio show, (Man Candy on Radioslot.com!), Mimi spends time with her two pirates in training, her loco-for-the-chili-pepper Mexican hubby, and her rat terrier, DJ Princess Snowflake, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
She continues to hope that her books will inspire a leather pants comeback (for men) and that she might make you laugh when you need it most.
HE AUTHOR WILL BE GIVING AWAY:Mimi Jean will be awarding two signed complete sets of The King Trilogy plus a paperback copy of Accidentally Over, the finale of the Accidentally Yours series to randomly drawn winners via Rafflcopter.