A Standalone, Dark Romance
I was told that dreams were our heart’s desires. My nightmares, however, became my obsession.
His name is Michael Crist.
My boyfriend’s older brother is like that scary movie that you peek through your hand to watch. He is handsome, strong, and completely terrifying. The star of his college’s basketball team and now gone pro, he’s more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than me.
But I noticed him.
I saw him. I heard him. The things that he did, and the deeds that he hid…For years, I bit my nails, unable to look away.
Now, I’ve graduated high school and moved on to college, but I haven’t stopped watching Michael. He’s bad, and the dirt I’ve seen isn’t content to stay in my head anymore.
Because he’s finally noticed me.
Her name is Erika Fane, but everyone calls her Rika.
My brother’s girlfriend grew up hanging around my house and is always at our dinner table. She looks down when I enter a room and stills when I am close. I can always feel the fear rolling off of her, and while I haven’t had her body, I know that I have her mind. That’s all I really want anyway.
Until my brother leaves for the military, and I find Rika alone at college.
In my city.
The opportunity is too good to be true as well as the timing. Because you see, three years ago she put a few of my high school friends in prison, and now they’re out.
We’ve waited. We’ve been patient. And now every last one of her nightmares will come true.
At this point, I’m pretty much speechless. So I don’t know if this review will make a lot of sense, but I hope to convey exactly how much I freaking looooved this book. It was dark, twisty, sexy (ooooo was it sexy!), and it evoked an array of emotions at every crazy turn.
Michael is sort of like those car crashes that you drive really slowly past and with gawking eyes; you know it isn’t healthy to stare, to look, but you just can’t help it. Erika can’t explain why she has such a deep longing to be with Michael, but she can’t stop that tug inside of her. When he’s near, she’s aware of every movement he makes, every breath he takes. Growing up living closely with his family has allowed her many opportunities to watch, want. But, see, they have a complicated history. A love/hate dynamic that borders on unhealthy. Both sides have twisted and twirled around each other like smoke intertwining in the wind for many, many years. The temptation that she posed to him was astronomical. His little brother’s prospected wife…a rich family more geared towards setting up what’s smart rather than what actually works. She doesn’t want the one her own age, she wants Michael, even though he’s always ignored or belittled her. Two similar souls destined to find one another, but torn or kept apart at every turn whether by their own actions or not.
This story was everything. It was dark, wild, and passionate. It was twisted at times, but it never lost me as a reader. I was reading so fast at one point that my kindle’s prospected time to finish the book was cut in half. I couldn’t stop gawking at this car crash, and I had, had to know what was going to happen. I desperately wanted their story to complete, to see them accept each other. Erika was intensely strong and skillful. She was never pitiful or the victim. She wasn’t one to back down from a challenge or show herself weak. Michael may be the one used to playing the games, but she held the ultimate power. There will be times Michael won’t be appealing, but I insist you keep reading because he is just…he just is.
I’ve been a huge fan of Ms. Douglas since Bully first came out, and she’s continually grown as a writer. This is out of the norm of what she usually writes, but she wrote it so incredibly well. This took a lot of thought and skill to weave this story together, and make it so that we loved each character (minus a few here and there). She did it, though. She impressed me again with her ability to captivate. At this point, I think it’s incredibly safe to say this is her best work yet. I absolutely loved it, and hope that she ventures down the dark romance path again.
Resting my cheek against the surface, I swallowed the tight lump in my throat as the thumping against the wall grew faster and faster.
There was someone over there. In the empty apartment.
Holding up my phone, I dialed the office downstairs but got no answer. I knew there was a night manager named Simon Something-Or-Other, but I didn’t think many people were on duty at night. He must be away from his desk.
I continued listening, wondering if I could ignore it and just wait until morning to ask the manager about it, but the further down the hall I travelled, the louder it got until I was standing next to the rear entrance.
Opening up the door, I peeked my head into the hallway, holding the heavy steel exit open just enough to inspect.
Glancing to my right, I saw a door just like mine. And then I heard a woman’s high-pitched cry ring out around me, and I started breathing harder.
And then there was another cry. And another, and another, and…
Was she having sex? My mouth fell open as I tried not to laugh.
Oh, my God.
But I thought the place was supposed to be empty.
I stepped out, knife in hand—just in case—and walked quietly down to the other door, glancing up and seeing small security cameras along the wall, probably installed when the apartments were built.
Pressing my ear to the door, I listened, still hearing the thump, thump, thump of something hitting the wall, and the girl’s breathy cries over and over again.
I folded my lips between my teeth, covering my smile with my free hand.
But then the woman cried out. “No! Ah, oh, God! Please!”
And my face fell, hearing the fear in her voice. The short, shrill screams were now different. Panicked and scared, and her cries sounded struggled. My mouth suddenly went dry as I stood there listening.
“Ah!” she cried out again. “No, please stop!”
I backed away from the door, not finding it funny anymore.
But then something hit the door from the other side, making a loud thud, and I scurried backward. “Oh, shit,” I gritted out under my breath.
I shot my head up to the cameras, now wondering if they fed to Security downstairs or to whoever was inside the apartment. Did they know I was out here?
I spun around and dashed for my door, grabbing the handle and trying to twist it.
But it was locked. “Dammit!” I mouthed. Fucking thing must lock automatically.
Another thud hit the door, mere feet away from me—so close—and I darted my eyes over to it, my breathing turning fast and painful.
I pulled on the door handle again, twisting and yanking, but it didn’t budge.
Another thud hit the door, and I jerked upright, dropping the knife.
I dived down to pick it up, but just then I heard the other door swing open, so I bolted down the stairwell, hiding behind the wall and forgetting about the knife.
Screw this. Whoever was coming out of the vacant apartment was definitely someone I didn’t want to meet. I dashed down flight after flight, a cry lodged in my throat as fear gripped my chest.
A pounding echoed above me, and I spared a quick glance upward, seeing a hand sliding down the railings as whoever it was jumped flights of stairs.
Oh, my God. I raced down, one flight after the other, a drop of sweat gliding down my neck. The pounding was getting closer and closer, my legs about to give out as my exhausted muscles worked as fast as they could. I gasped, seeing the door labeled LOBBY. I yanked it open and burst through, looking behind me once again to see if he—or she—was behind me.
But then I slammed into a wall, and I let out a small cry as hands gripped my upper arms.
I looked up and exhaled a breath, seeing Michael Crist towering over me, his eyes narrowed.
“Michael?” I breathed out, frozen in confusion.
“What the hell are you doing?” He arched a brow and set me back, away from him, and let go of my arm. “It’s after one a.m.”
I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Why was he here?
He stood in front of an elevator, a different one than I had taken this morning, dressed in a black suit, looking like he’d just been at a club or something. A young brunette stood next to him, beautiful in a tight, navy-blue cocktail dress that fell mid-thigh.
I suddenly felt exposed, dressed in my silk sleep shorts and black tank top, my hair hanging about, probably in tangles.
“I…” I looked over my shoulder again, noticing that whoever had followed me down the stairs hadn’t come out the door yet.
I twisted my head back, looking up at Michael. “I heard something up on my floor,” I told him.
And then I shook my head, still confused. “What are you doing here?”
“I live here,” he shot back, and I immediately recognized that ever-present intolerant tone that he always used with me.
“Live here?” I questioned. “I thought you lived in your family’s building.”
He slid a hand into his pocket and cocked his head, looking at me point-blank like I was stupid.
I closed my eyes, expelling a sigh. “Of course,” I breathed out, realization hitting. “Of course. You’re the one who lives on the twenty-second floor.”
♦ABOUT THE AUTHOR♦
Penelope Douglas is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Fall Away series.
She dresses for autumn year round, loves anything lemon flavored, and believes there is too much blood in her Coca Cola stream. Or too much Coca Cola in her blood stream. Or…
You know what? It doesn’t matter. She loves Coke. Now you know.
She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and daughter.