“Remember?” he repeated, grinding his pelvis against her.

She clenched her teeth and silently thanked God for her heavy skirts. “No.”

He continued on as if he hadn’t heard, which in his case was entirely possible. She’d never been around a man more in love with the sound of his voice. “Now you’ve had the opportunity to gain some experience—” He nuzzled the side of her neck and she jerked her head back. “—give me, I mean, us another chance.”

Another chance to embarrass her? Another chance to tell her that if she would just let herself go during sex it would be better for them both? Not that he hadn’t made it pleasurable. He’d just acted like it was her fault she didn’t orgasm as soon as he wanted her to, and her amazingly naïve self had tried harder to please him.

Rose hated this self-berating. The constant self-doubt and mental abuse she heaped on the woman inside of her. But she was entirely grateful that something had kept her from telling him just how inexperienced she was. Heck, he would have probably taken out a front page ad in The Gazette. However, he’d barely noticed, only taking her discomfort to mean that he was extremely well-endowed. Self-centered ass**le.

Her cheeks heated, and the large chandelier began to sway in the middle of the room as he turned her in time to the music.

“No,” she said, her voice only a whisper.

“Let me make it up to you.”

Rose stared at Jason. The only way he could make it up to her would be to start practicing law in Antarctica. She cleared her throat. “No.”

Jason’s eyes narrowed through the slits in his gray mask. He wore all shades of gray, some venturing into white, like he was the good guy. “Spreading your legs for Romanov makes you too good for me?”

“Yes.” No matter how much Sasha had hurt her, she wouldn’t let Jason get the last word or make her feel bad.

“Yes. No.” He squeezed her shoulder and she winced. “Are those the only two words you know?”

He’d always hated how quiet she was. According to him, it didn’t let him get to know the real her. More like it didn’t help him find her weaknesses as fast. She clamped her lips together, knowing she was irritating him even more by not speaking.

“Oh, I forgot, big words weren’t a requirement to get your G.E.D.”

Fury bubbled at his mocking words, and something wicked sprang to life inside of her. “You have the smallest penis I’ve ever seen,” she heard herself say.

The words seemed to echo around the room just as the band played the last chord. A few people gasped while others laughed. She let a small smile dance on her lips, not caring if any of the locals guessed her identity.

“Is that Rose Holland?”

“Well, if anyone should know about penis size, it’s a Holland.”

“Take it back,” he ordered.


The purple-haired butterfly tapped Jason on the shoulder. “I won’t be available tomorrow night. Sorry.”

“Fuck you.” He stalked off, leaving Rose in the middle of the dance floor.

She wanted to give a little cheer as she carefully navigated her way through the astonished crowd, finding the nearest unoccupied corner and sinking gratefully into a convenient bench shrouded in black. She looked for Gabriel, but he was nowhere to be found.

“Do you think if I disembowel Everett and hang him by his entrails, everyone’ll think it’s a part of tonight’s celebration?”

She turned to face the owner of the seductive voice and her heart beat in a choppy pattern. The plain black mask did little to diminish his looks; it only enhanced the way his hair glittered in the light and the mesmerizing green of his eyes.

“You heard?” Of course he heard. The entire ballroom heard what she said.

“I should’ve snatched you away, but I didn’t want to cause a scene.” A glimmer of humor and admiration entered his eyes. “Got a bit of the devil in you tonight, eh?”

“Why would you want to snatch me away?” she said, nervously licking her lips.

“Because I’m jealous as hell.” He rubbed the back of his neck, the gold chain around it gleamed and for some reason she couldn’t ask for it back. “I’m jealous of every smile, every laugh…every touch. I’m jealous of every man who’s not me.”

“But you said that you didn’t care if I’d had a hundred lovers.”

“I was mistaken.”

She pursed her lips and stood. “Meaning you lied to me. Again.”

“Meaning I was trying to get a point across.” He shoved his hands into his pockets. “Dammit, woman, you drive me insane.”

“By expecting the truth from you?”

“By expecting the best of me.” Taking his hands out of his pockets, he tenderly cupped her face. “I’ll always fall short.”

She turned her head and his hands fell away. “Let me be the judge of that.”

“I don’t want to fight.”

Sasha was the opposite of Jason, the perceived hero. Jason was a great lawyer, a public defender. While Sasha was a man dressed in all black, a villain trying desperately not to be the hero while doing his uncle’s bidding. A villain desperate to keep his mother safe. Something she’d neglected to remember when his betrayal had cut her heart into tiny pieces until nothing remained.

“What do you want, Sasha?” she asked quietly.

He took one of her hands and bowed over it. “May I have this dance?”

“But there’s no…” Her words died away as the band began again, playing one of those silly little love songs. Her favorite. “How did you know?”

“I texted Skye a few days ago to ask.” A rueful smile tilted his lips at the corners. “I wanted to make it special for you, even if you weren’t my date.”

The ice that had recently formed around the hollow where her heart had been began to melt as Sasha waited patiently for her to make up her mind. Unable to help herself, and because she wanted the memory of Jason’s hands on her to be wiped away, she moved closer. Laying her head on his chest, she pretended that this morning never happened. That they were still a team, working together to save her land and his mother.

“Rosebud, please listen. You don’t have to say a word—mostly because I don’t want you shouting out the size of my manly parts,” he said, and she bit her lip to keep from laughing. From crying. “But I’m sorry. I did help with the back taxes scheme. One of my uncle’s attorneys looked over every piece of information about you and your family. She was the one who found the discrepancy. Honestly, I thought it wouldn’t come to this. That, with my plan, Nahalah Industries would withdraw funding and everyone would leave you alone. Including me.

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