The Rules, page 1
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More Stories by Delaney Diamond
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Terri Slade learned the hard way to play by her own set of rules. Rule number one, maintain control. Rule number two, never fall in love. Then she met Gavin Johnson and broke both her rules.
Gavin Johnson has lived a charmed life full of adventure. In Terri he thinks he’s found a kindred spirit and even considers settling down. But when the truth about her past is revealed, their perfect relationship falls apart, and Gavin’s left to wonder if he ever really knew her at all.
by Delaney Diamond
Copyright © September 2015, Delaney Diamond
This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental. No part of this e-book may be reproduced or shared by any electronic or mechanical means, including but not limited to printing, file sharing, and e-mail, without prior written permission from Delaney Diamond.
Three years ago
She shouldn’t have come. She should be long gone by now, on a plane to the other side of the country, but had been unable to leave Georgia without seeing the conclusion of the trial. Terri Slade sat in the back of the crowded courtroom and listened to the judge hand down the sentence.
Five years. They only gave him five years. Not nearly enough time for the havoc he wreaked on the lives of unsuspecting victims. The scams he perpetrated generated millions in a criminal enterprise, in which he was the CEO, COO, and CFO. The effects of his illegal activities would ripple through the state for years to come.
The judge pounded her gavel, finalizing the sentence for Talon Cyrenci, and then he was being led toward the exit in an orange jumpsuit in between two deputies. Terri’s eyes followed him, wary tension vibrating through her body.
He’s handcuffed. He can’t hurt you.
Suddenly, his head turned, and those evil eyes zeroed in on her in the back row. His jaw tightened when their gazes met and the icy green stare caused her to freeze on the wooden seat. She tilted her head higher, unwilling to cow to his intimidation tactics, even as the knot in her stomach betrayed the fear his very presence evoked. At the last moment, before he stepped through the door to exit the courtroom, the expression on his face changed. His thin lips upturned into a mocking smirk and a promise entered the depths of his eyes.
She recognized the look. It was one that she’d seen directed at men who had crossed him. Oftentimes, the look had been directed at her, and the meaning made the cold sweat of fear trickle down the back of her neck.
She was going to pay for what she’d done.
Gavin Johnson rolled down his pants leg when the doctor finished the examination. The past couple of months he had rested in Seattle, healing from broken bones after a rock-climbing accident in the Andes mountain range of Argentina. Today the door to freedom edged open, and once the doctor confirmed his complete rehabilitation, he was going on the road again.
“So doc, what’s the word? Am I free man?” He hopped down from the exam table.
“A bit anxious to get out of here, are you?” Dr. Amee, one of the country’s leading orthopedic specialists, observed Gavin over thick glasses from his position on the rolling stool. The older man’s salt and pepper hair lay swept back from his broad forehead and a wrinkled face which remained in a perpetual frown, no matter his mood.
“A little bit. I need you to confirm everything is fine and I’ll be on my way.” Gavin rubbed his palms together, anticipating good news.
His family had made such a stink about him remaining in Seattle after the accident, he acquiesced and did as they asked—no, demanded. They insisted he stay at his mother’s house, but he compromised by renting a three-story mansion not far from hers on Lake Washington.
Dr. Amee stood. “You’re fine. The broken femur repaired itself very well, your ribs are fine, your ankle—”
“Yeah, yeah. We’re done, right?”
The doctor sighed. “Yes, Mr. Johnson. We’re done. But are you done?”
“What do you mean?” Gavin knew exactly what the doctor meant. The question hinted at the same cautionary words he’d heard for years.
That’s so dangerous.
Don’t take so many risks.
He heard the pleas but didn’t know how to do what they asked. The adrenaline rush of extreme sports and endurance-testing competitions made his heart race and mind go blank, sending him into a drug-like state where he felt suspended in the middle of time and space. Nothing else came close to giving him the same high.
“Your mother is very concerned about you.” Dr. Amee watched Gavin from beneath bushy, furrowed eyebrows.
“You know how parents are. You’re a parent yourself.” Gavin flashed a grin, already contemplating the next adventure. He might fly to Dubai for a fortnight to spend time with his favorite Middle Eastern prince. That guy knew how to party, and Gavin was ready to get back on the party scene.
“You’re free to go, Mr. Johnson.” The doctor’s disapproving tone mimicked the discontent of a parent rather than a doctor.
Gavin shook Dr. Amee’s hand and bolted from the exam room, the weight of stagnation lifting from his shoulders. On the way out, he said goodbye to the receptionists and once outside, donned sunglasses and lifted his face to the sun.
Hours later, a driver dropped Gavin off in front of his younger brother’s building, on the corner of Virginia and Fourth Avenue in the heart of Seattle. He’d called ahead to let him know he was coming by. He took the elevator to the penthouse, and when he stepped into the vestibule, used the key card to let himself into the deluxe condo. Immediately, inconspicuous speakers emitted the sound of stringed instruments to greet him.
“Trent, where are you?” he called, strolling to the kitchen.
“Be right there.” Trenton appeared—light-skinned with green eyes—the physical opposite of Gavin. He wore a pair of aged jeans, leaving his tatted arms and back exposed.
His girlfriend’s dog, a black and brown Yorkshire Terrier, trotted out beside him.
“How’re you doing, Angel?” Gavin asked the dog.
She barked and wagged her tail before plopping down next to the wall.
“What did the doctor say?” Trenton asked.
Gavin spread his arms wide and grinned. “I’m done. No more therapy or checkups necessary.” He opened the refrigerator and flicked his eyes over the offerings on the shelves. “What do you have to eat in here?”
“Nothing much. Half a sandwich I picked up from Aldi’s Market and leftover Thai.”
Gavin glanced at his brother. “Do you eat at that place every week?”
“Almost.” Trenton rested his back against the wall. “Alannah will be here any minute. You should stick around. She’s cooking tonight.”
“No, thanks. You and your wife together are nauseating.” Trenton and Alannah weren’t really married, but they might as well be.
Trenton laughed. “After all those years of teasing me about her, and now we’re together, you’re mad?”
“I’m not mad, but did you have to move in together? I’m still trying to figure out how you convinced sweet, nice Alannah to move into your condo to ‘save money’ while she goes back to school.” A weak argument if he ever heard one.
Trenton’s face broke into a mischievous grin. “We were together all the time anyway. It made sense.”
“Uh-huh. If you say so.” Gavin lifted the sandwich from the refrigerator and peeled back the paper. Roast beef on rye. He sniffed it. “I’ll take this,” he announced, and took a bite.
“Throw me a beer.”
Gavin tossed a can of their family’s Full Moon brew to his brother and grabbed one for himself.
The music came on again, indicating someone had entered the condo. The dog jumped up and started dancing around, and Trenton’s face transformed into a big grin when Alannah appeared.
Gavin couldn’t deny Alannah was a cutie, though, with her freckles and sweet smile. But recently she’d transformed from a quiet, conservative woman into a confident hottie. Today she wore her long hair in a high ponytail, had a yoga mat tucked under an arm, and wore pale pink yoga gear that hugged her slender curves.
Right behind her, another woman, dressed similarly, followed. This woman practically burst out of her exercise clothes with a video-vixen body—a veritable gift from the gods to his eyeballs. Her breasts strained against the top, large and hefty enough to overflow in his hands if he cupped them. Her legs, which looked as sturdy as columns, were clad in black yoga pants.
Not too tall, not too short, she moved with effortless grace, hips swinging from side to side in a way that made his loins heavy and his mouth water. An eye-catching woman. Her brand of sex appeal inspired the average man to make bad decisions—like hand over his heart and empty his wallet. Fortunately, he was not average.
“Hey Gavin, how are you?”
Alannah’s bright smile rivaled Trenton’s as she sidled over to his brother.
“Hey, Alannah,” Gavin muttered. He watched as Trenton enfolded her in his arms and they kissed, loud and long, as if no one else was in the room and they hadn’t seen each other this morning. “Don’t mind me. I’m just here for the food.”
“Sorry.” Alannah giggled, blushing. “I’m being rude. This is my friend, Terri Slade. Terri, this is—”
“Gavin Johnson.” Terri extended her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
A smooth, cool voice slipped into his ears, containing a hint of sultriness that sent a shiver down his neck.
“The pleasure is all mine.” He took her hand. Slender fingers touched his, and a tingling sensation suffused his palm.
Terri looked him directly in the eyes, as though challenging him. She had a firm handshake, but extremely soft hands and white-tipped, manicured nails. Everything about her seemed well put together. Ebony hair pulled back into a short French braid, arched brows above dark brown eyes, full lips, and a honey-brown complexion with a fine dusting of makeup.
And her body…Gavin stifled a groan, unable to resist making another sweep of her build, and bit into the sandwich. Chewing slowly. He tried not to stare, but it was nigh on impossible when she had curves galore, just the way he liked his women, with hips, breasts, and meat on her bones.
“You staying for dinner?” he asked.
“No. Hanging out for a bit, then I’m heading home.”
“Make sure you guys are out of my kitchen when I come back out so I have room to work,” Alannah said, picking up her dog. “Come on, Terri.” Both women headed down the hall.
Gavin watched them disappear, Terri pulling up the rear and her heart-shaped backside swinging like a clock’s pendulum in the most provocative way. What a beautiful view.
Trenton chuckled. “Come on, man.” He dropped onto the black sofa in the living room and propped his feet on the ottoman.
Gavin sat in the matching chair and glared at his brother. “You no good…you’ve been holding out on me.”
“What do you mean?” Trenton asked innocently.
“Terri!” Gavin said in a fierce whisper. He took a sip of beer and then set the can on the table beside him. “What in the hell is wrong with you? I’ve been here for months and you never introduced me to all that fineness?”
Trenton shrugged. “I didn’t think—”
“No, you didn’t think. At all. Your head is so full of Alannah, you forgot about me.”
“She doesn’t run in our circles, and I already hooked you up with several women since you’ve been here. What happened to Sharon?”
“She’s crazy.” Gavin stuffed the last bite of the sandwich into his mouth and dusted crumbs from his hands. “She’s ready for marriage and kept dropping hints. When a bridal magazine ‘accidentally’ fell out of her shoulder bag, I knew it was time to move on.”
Trenton chuckled. “She always did have a thing for you.”
The women came back with the Yorkie scampering behind them. The three of them entered the kitchen, and he leaned toward Trenton.
“What’s the deal with Terri?”
“She and Alannah are good friends. They’ve known each other a couple of years.”
“Don’t act like you’ve never slept with two friends.”
“We’re talking about Alannah.”
“Right, right, Mother Theresa. I forgot.” Gavin sipped his beer.
“I’m not talking about her personality. I’m saying I wouldn’t sleep with one of her friends.” Trenton shot him a glare like he couldn’t believe Gavin suggested such a thing.
“If it’s that serious, why don’t you just marry her then?”
“Maybe I will.”
Gavin’s gaze jetted to his brother’s unsmiling face. “Are you serious?” he whispered.
“Thinking about the future, that’s all.” Trenton shrugged and his eyes gravitated to the kitchen where Alannah was removing pots and pans in preparation to cook.
“Listen, I love Alannah, okay. She’s a great woman, but don’t rush into anything. You’re still young, and there’s plenty of ass out there.”
At almost thirty-three, Gavin didn’t feel anywhere near ready for marriage, and he was two years older than Trenton.
“I’ve had plenty of ass,” Trenton said drily. He swigged his beer.
Gavin stared at his brother. “So you’re saying you’re done?”
“I told you that already.”
“I thought you were just saying that. You know, basically she’d be your main woman, but on the side you’d still have…” His voice trailed off at Trenton’s vehement head shaking.
“She’s not the main one. Alannah is the only one.”
Stunned, Gavin didn’t know what to say at first. “Okay, then,” he finally managed. Trenton had clearly lost his mind, but he doubted the monogamy decision would last. “So what’s the deal with Terri?”
“There’s no deal. She’s a friend of Alannah’s.”
“What does she do?”
“Works at a salon doing nails or something.”
“She got a man?”
“I think so.”
“I sense you’re holding out on me,” Gavin said. “What’s the problem? Is she a nice girl or something? Cause I don’t like the nice—”
“No, she’s not nice.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
Trenton sighed and rubbed a hand back and forth across his head. “She’s Alannah’s friend. Don’t cause problems for me.”
“Don’t worry, little brother. I won’t.”
Trenton glanced at the kitchen to ensure the women weren’t paying attention and they weren’t, busy talking and laughing as Alannah prepared to cook. “You better not,” Trenton said in a low voice. “Cause when you’re gone on your next adventure, I’ll be the one stuck here in the dog house.”
Gavin laughed and shook his head. “Everything will be fine. I won’t mess up your perfect little relationship. You and Alannah can remain blissfully living in sin, all right?”
Trenton shot him a dark look but didn’t respond, and Gavin’s eyes strayed to Terri, the kind of woman not easily overlooked, no matter the setting.
He had to get to know her better.
With Gavin right behind her, Terri stepped into the elevator, anticipating her date with a hot, fragrant shower before slipping into bed to get some rest. The work grind started again in the morning. After working a long day, the last thing she wanted to do was exercise, but Alannah convinced her to take yoga a couple times per week. Admittedly, it could be rather relaxing after a long day.
She hadn’t been the least bit surprised when she said goodbye and Gavin chose the same moment to leave and offered to ride down with her. She knew he had been checking her out in the way she always knew a man was checking her out. She sensed it. The weight of a man’s stare was tangible and easily recognized.
Gavin didn’t hide his interest at all. He surveyed her from across the elevator, a small smirk on his lips, arms crossed, and back to the wall.
Terri met his gaze without flinching and the smirk shifted into a sexy smile. His cognac-colored eyes, startlingly light against his dark brown skin, brightened, but a subtle shrewdness in them made her very aware of her own body—in a way she never cared when other men watched her.
Other author's books:
- Deeper Than Love (Brooks Family Book 6)Princess of Estoria (Royal Brides Book 2)More Than a Mistress (Latin Men Book 5)A Passionate LoveJust FriendsThe RulesHere Comes TroubleA Hard Man to Love
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