L.J. Shen’s newest novel is an emotional, arranged marriage romance with teeth and claws, and I’ve got your exclusive sneak peek! Although this book can be read as a standalone, we first meet Cillian Fitzpatrick, Hunter’s older brother, in The Hunter, so reading this series in order is recommended.
A knock on the door snapped me out of my trance.
“Pers?” my older sister, Emmabelle—Belle for short—crooned from the other side. “The ceremony starts in twenty minutes. What’s taking you so long?”
Well, Belle, I look shockingly similar to a Cheetos, both in color and complexion.
“You better get your ass in gear. Our girl has already puked in the limo’s trash can twice, cursed the groom like a pirate for not eloping in Vegas, and one of her acrylic nails is playing Amelia Earhart.”
“How do you mean?” I shouted back through the suite’s door.
“It’s disappeared. Hopefully not in her hairdo.” I heard the grin in my sister’s voice. “Oh, by the way. Can you bring Hunter’s ring if his brother doesn’t show up to take it? Technically, it’s Cillian’s job, but he’s probably in the gardens, skinning a female employee and making fashionable coats out of her flesh.”
My stomach clenched at the mention of his name.
“Roger that. I’ll be there in five minutes.”
I heard my sister’s heels clicking as she left, heading back to the waiting limo.
I glanced around the room.
How can I make this stupid rash go away?
Mentally snapping my fingers, I looked around for Aisling “Ash” Fitzpatrick’s purse, finding it on the bed. I rummaged through it, flicking away Band-Aids, a Swiss knife, and a thumb-size makeup kit. She must have Benadryl and antihistamines. She was a Girl Scout, ready for any occasion, be it a rash, a broken nail, a World War, or a sudden pandemic.
“Bingo.” I tugged a skin-soothing ointment tube from the diamond-studded Hermès. I scrubbed the lotion on my skin, pleased with my drunken self, when the door behind me flung open.
“Five minutes, Belle.” My eyes were still glued to my blemished arms. “And yeah, I remember, Hunter’s ring…”
I looked up. My jaw slacked as the rest of my words shriveled back into my throat. The ointment slipped between my fingers.
Cillian “Kill” Fitzpatrick stood at the door.
Hunter Fitzpatrick’s older brother.
The most eligible bachelor in America.
A stonehearted heir with a face sculpted from marble.
Attainable as the moon, and just as cold and wavering.
Most important of all: the man I’d loved in secret since the first day I’d laid eyes on him.
His auburn hair was slicked back, his eyes a pair of smoky ambers. Honey-rimmed yet lacking any warmth. He wore an Edwardian tux, a chunky Rolex, and the slight frown of a man who regarded anyone he couldn’t screw or make money out of as an inconvenience.
He was always calm, quiet, and reserved, never drawing attention to himself yet owning every room he entered.
Unlike his siblings, Cillian wasn’t beautiful.
Not in the conventional sense, anyway. His face was too sharp, his features too bold, his sneer too mocking. His strong jaw and hooded eyes didn’t harmonize together in a symphony of flawless strokes. But there was something decadent about him that I found more alluring than the straightforwardness in Hunter’s Apollo-like perfection or the Aisling’s Snow White beauty.
Cillian was a dirty lullaby, inviting me to sink into his claws and nestle in his darkness.
And I, aptly named after the goddess of spring, longed for the ground to crack open and suck me in. To fall into his underworld and never emerge.
Whoa. That last mimosa really killed whatever was left of my brain cells.
“Cillian,” I choked out. “Hello. Hey. Hi.”
So eloquent, Pers.
I peppered my greeting by scratching my neck. It was just my luck to be alone with him in a room for the first time ever while looking and feeling like a ball of lava.
Cillian ambled toward the safe with the indolent elegance of a big cat, oozing raw danger that made my toes curl. His indifference often made me wonder if I was even in the room with him.
“Three minutes until the limo leaves, Penrose.”
So I did exist.