Prologue

Ivan


She loves to dance.

Her small body moves with the dark beat of the bass as I throw back a shot of vodka. There is no burn when the liquid warmth hits my tongue and melts down my throat. I clench the glass because I can’t put my hands where I want them.

The seductive curve of her waist as it cascades to the flare of her hips… I watch transfixed when they move side to side. Side to side. Her body is like the pendulum inside a grandfather clock, and I can’t look away.

The music is deafening, but if she were to simply whisper my name, I would be at her feet, begging to touch what I shouldn’t, taste what doesn’t belong to me, run my hands along the sweet innocence she taunts me with. An innocence I shouldn’t want but crave. Something so pure and untouched like nothing I’ve ever known before.

Slamming the glass down on the bar, I’m both disappointed and relieved when it doesn’t break. Maybe the cut of the glass could cool the feelings I have pulsing though me but I doubt it. Not with her. I’m not sure anything ever could. I would welcome a pain that’s greater than my ache for her. For there is nothing more powerful than the spell she has me under.

I’ve been hired to protect her.

But as I push away from the bar and walk towards her, I can’t help but think that perhaps someone should have protected her from me.

Chapter One

Penelope

I lean up against the wall in the hallway, trying to determine what’s being said inside my mom and dad’s office. I’ve been standing out here for over twenty minutes and can’t make out a word. In fact, I’m not even sure they’re speaking English. I saw the man who came to have a meeting with them shortly after dinner. It was odd because my parents never bring their work home. The moment my eyes met his, something funny happened inside me. He stole the breath right out of my lungs, something no boy had ever done before.

It might have to do with the fact that he was far from a boy. That beast was all man, maybe even something more. A man who looked like he could kill someone with the flick of his wrist. And the weirdest part—how could someone who looked so menacing draw me in? Call to something deep inside me. Something that I didn’t even know was there until I saw him.

My parents run the entire security and protection division for one the top companies in the world, so I’ve been around a lot of people who look deadly. My sister and I have whispered that we think at one time our father worked undercover for the government. At least that’s what Pandora, my twin, thinks. I believe her, because Pandora notices everything. You can’t get much past her.

This guy seems dark and deadly, from his eyes that are so brown they’re almost black, to his jet-black hair that’s been buzzed short. It looks like he doesn’t have the time—or the inclination—to do anything with it. The way he walked in and how he held himself makes me think he doesn’t give much thought to how he looks. Someone like him doesn’t care what others think, and that kind of confidence is sexy. It’s different than what I’m used to with the boys at school. That difference draws me to him.

I caught sight of tattoos that ran along his knuckles and hands before disappearing under his coat. Then they peeked out again, up around the collar of his jacket, making me think that most of his big body was covered in ink. And the man was big.

He wasn’t like most of the men who work for my dad. They look like they could take you in a fight, but they’re always clean cut and in suits. Not this man. I don’t know what it was about him, but I was drawn to him instantly.

He isn’t my normal type, not that I really have a type at all. I’m only eighteen, so I’m not sure I’ve decided that yet. The boys I talk to at school would fall under the preppy category, but that’s pretty much every guy there. It’s private and caters to kids with some of the richest parents in New York City. No one there is running around with tattoos covering their body.

“Not this one, Penny.”

I jump a little at my sister’s soft words. She’s standing next to me with her back against the wall as well, as if she’s been there the whole time.

“How do you do that?” I whisper at her. Jesus. Everyone in this freaking house is like a spy or something. They move around like cats, never making a noise. When I move, people don’t normally miss me coming. I’m loud and pretty clumsy.

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