She ignored Hunter, Sam, and Devon, exhibiting balls bigger than all three of them. Petar stood beside her, his stance protective.
Persephone tipped her chin higher, refusing to cower and flail. At that moment, soaked as a rat and well on her way to pneumonia, she was mercilessly beautiful, and I knew exactly why I always chose to look at her older sister whenever we were in the same room.
Emmabelle didn’t blind me.
Didn’t consume me.
Didn’t move me.
She was just another woman packed with mannerism and entitlement, existing loudly, unapologetically, desperate to be seen and acknowledged.
Persephone was pure and noble. Bare of pretense.
“Your offer.” Her voice was silky and sweet as pomegranate. “I accept it.”
I was going to punch a wall.
No, not just a wall. All of them. Reducing my Back Bay Jacobean mansion to nothing but dust.
She is accepting an offer that’s no longer on the table.
Her cheeks reddened, but she refused to budge, nailed to my floor, a pool of water forming around her.
Having her felt almost too easy at that moment, yet entirely impossible.
“Persy, I—” Hunter rose from his seat, about to rush over and help his wife’s friend. I pushed him back down by his shoulder, pinning him on the chair to the wall with force, my eyes still fixated on her.
“You know why I like Greek mythology, Persephone?” I asked.
Her nostrils flared. She didn’t take the bait because she knew I’d tell her, anyway.
“The gods have a history of punishing women for hubris. You see, fifty-five hours ago, I wasn’t good enough to be your husband. It took you longer than we’d agreed to get back to me.”
Her mouth fell open. I’d outed us in front of all our acquaintances without as much as a blink.
“There was a storm.” Her eyes flared. “Trains were down. I had to ride my bike in the rain—”
“I’m bored.” Dropping my head to the headrest, I grabbed a shiny apple from one of the fruit assortments and rolled it in my hand. “And you’re late. That is the essence of the situation.”
“I came here as soon as I could!”
Her shock was replaced with anger now. The two steel marbles of her eyes shimmered. Not with tears, but with something else. Something I hadn’t seen before in them until tonight.
My father’s words echoed in my head—marry someone manageable. Someone who wouldn’t ask for too much.
Minka seemed docile, adaptable, and desperate.
Persephone, on the other hand, asked for the unthinkable—love.
“Already proposed to someone else.” I sank my teeth into the Envy apple, its nectar trickling down my chin as our eyes remained locked in a battle of wills. “She accepted immediately.”
The room filled with silence.
All eyes were directed at me.
This wasn’t a power trip.
This was a full-blown act of humiliation.
I didn’t want Persephone Penrose.
She wasn’t good enough for me.
Even if she were, what good would come out of it? She wanted all the things I didn’t.
A relationship. A partnership. Intimacy.
I wasn’t Hunter. I wasn’t capable of loving or even liking my wife. Tolerating? Possibly, and only if we reduced our communication to once a month. Besides, the day my brother married Sailor Brennan, I’d almost let Persephone die of poisoning just to avoid being in the same room alone with her.
I’d been seconds away from devouring her.
From sinking my teeth into her firm, round ass.
From grinding myself against her tits until I came in my pants from the friction.
And now I was hard in a room full of people. Terrific.
My point was, Persephone was too messy, too complicated, and too much a temptation for me to yield to. Minka was the right choice. My mind would never drift to Minka unprompted.
“You proposed to someone else,” she echoed, stumbling backward.
“Minka Gomes.” Sam stuck his seventh cigarette that hour to the corner of his lips, fully committed to get lung cancer before the night was over. He lit it up, puffing away. “We’re trying to figure out where he found the poor thing. Ring a bell?”
“I’m afraid not,” she said quietly.
“Dodged a bullet. Kill’s too cold, too old, and too set in his ways for a nice girl like you. Not to mention, I have my suspicions about his preferences in the sack. Light a candle for Miss Gomes next time you go to church and thank your lucky stars. They definitely aligned tonight.” Sam puffed a ribbon of smoke directly in her direction, making her cough.
I wanted to kill him.
“Persy.” Hunter stood. “Wait.”
She shook her head, mustering a dignified smile.
“I’m okay, Hunt. Totally fine. Please, get back to your game. Thank you for your time. I hope you enjoy the rest of the evening.”
She turned around, her steps brisk and even. Petar shot me a disgusted look, then turned around and chased her.
Hunter was about to run after both of them, but I grabbed the collar of his shirt and nailed him back to his seat again.
“Finish the game first.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” my brother roared. His Guinness tipped over. The black stout hissed as it spread across my Persian carpet. “You went around Boston proposing to women—one of them my wife’s best friend—and you want me to finish the fucking game? Fine. Here. Whatever Kill wants, Kill gets.” He slammed his cards over the table. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go fix this shit.” He pointed at the door. “The last thing my pregnant missus needs is a pissed-off friend. Swear to God, Kill, if you pulled something on this girl…if you somehow got her pregnant to make sure you have an heir…”
I flipped his discarded cards over, ignoring his hysterics.
He had a full house.
Hunter was wrong. I didn’t always get what I wanted.
He was marrying someone else.
I was a few hours late, showing up at almost midnight, looking and feeling like a rag doll that had been left in the mud for the past century, and he didn’t even give me a second glance.
What did I expect?
You expected him to treat you as more than just a womb for hire.
But that was my first and hopefully last mistake regarding Cillian Fitzpatrick.