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Magnate (Acquisition #2)
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Lucius Vinemont has spirited me away to a world of sugar cane and sun. There is nothing he cannot give me on his lavish Cuban plantation. Each gift seduces me, each touch seals my fate. There is no more talk of depraved competitions or his older brother – the one who’d stolen me, claimed me, and made me feel things I never should have. Even as Lucius works to make me forget Sinclair, my thoughts stray back to him, to the dark blue eyes that haunt my sweetest dreams and bitterest nightmares. Just like every dream, this one must end. Christmas will soon be here, and with it, the second trial of the Acquisition.
Full disclosure: This book is a dark romance with elements of slavery, violence, BDSM, and super-hot sex. It is the second book of a trilogy and ends on a cliffhanger. If you’re good with these caveats, enjoy.
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The sun’s rays floated through the clear water, shining on me in dappled waves. My lungs burned. They’d been burning for a while, ever since I’d dived down to the bottom and forced myself to stay. I could almost see the edge of oblivion hovering in the distance, the darkness submerged here with me. The tile beneath my feet was a pattern of tangled vines, all emanating from the dark green ‘V’ in the center. The same one that graced the back of my neck.
I winced when I remembered how I got the mark. Not because of the pain it took to get it, but because of the man who had given it to me. The man with a matching one over his heart. Sinclair Vinemont. Another bubble of air escaped. My last. It wobbled this way and that before it floated to freedom.
The burning grew until my vision blurred. I propelled myself upward and broke the surface in a burst of speed. I sputtered and took in huge gulps of life. Grasping the side of pool, I coughed until my breathing calmed, my heart settled, and the water quieted. It was only moments before the surface became a smooth mirror again, reflecting the blue sky above. Nothing had changed. Would anything have changed if I’d stayed beneath the water?
I shook the thought from my head and swam to the stairs. Once out of the pool, I dropped onto my chaise and lay back. The sun was high, beating down, yet somehow failing to dissolve the humidity that hung in the air. Winter in Cuba was a lot like Louisiana in summertime, hot and bright. But there were differences.
An acre or so of verdant grass surrounded the pool patio. Palm trees dotted the lawn here and there, offering a small bit of shade from the unforgiving sun. Beyond the grass was nothing but an impenetrable wall of green—sugar cane.
I scanned the horizon. The fields stretched out around the Vinemont plantation for as far as the eye could see, a wave of emerald disappearing into the horizon. The tall, slim leaves danced on the breeze. Whenever the wind hit just right, the smell from the nearby sugar plant would sweep over the estate, encompassing me with a lingering sweetness that I didn’t feel. Just like the sun bathed my skin, drenching it in warmth that never penetrated any deeper.
I turned my head to the side, away from the open sky and toward the classic Spanish style mansion. The stucco was a muted pink and the roof consisted of neat rows of brown clay shingles. It was three stories of rooms upon rooms that were a mix of modern and antique. I leaned back on the chaise, water sliding from my skin and dripping to the fabric. Even with my shades, the sun was unbearable. I closed my eyes and willed the warm light to infuse something into my heart—some flicker, some sign of life.
But when I closed my eyes, I glimpsed Vinemont’s blue ones. He was always there, hidden inside, waiting for me to close my eyes or fall asleep. In my dreams or waking, I saw him. I clamped my eyes shut tighter, trying to erase him. It never worked. I hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in the two weeks since I’d left Louisiana.
Lucius had followed me that night—the one when my world shattered and Vinemont was the cause—back to my room. He’d promised me escape, a chance to leave the world of Acquisitions and pain. But he didn’t promise me for how long. I sighed and shifted, the raised scars along my back sliding against the damp fabric.
I kept my eyes closed, even though Vinemont was there, his dark blue eyes always piercing through to my heart, the one he’d destroyed. The warm sun and light breeze lulled me to sleep under Vinemont’s watchful gaze. He followed me down into the abyss. A whip in his hand, but a loving touch along my cheek. His whispers were in my ear, promising me pain, pleasure, and so much more. He ran a hand down my back, his fingertips caressing the lines of suffering he’d embedded there. I let out a soft moan when he brushed his lips against my neck.
I wanted to put my palm to his face, to look into his eyes and feel that surge of heat, but my hands were bound. I struggled against the manacles. He smiled without warmth. Cruelty lived in his eyes, his mouth. I shivered. But not from pure fear. And that was the worst part—I always wanted him. Even when he visited me with a whip, with vicious words, with pain, I wanted it all. I wanted him.
Vinemont’s gaze darkened, what little light was in his eyes snuffed out.
He reared back with the whip. My breath caught in my throat.