An all-new secret baby, age gap, forbidden romance in Claudia Burgoa’s Paradise Bay Billionaire Brothers series is out this week, and you can read an excerpt right here.
“Move on,” they say.
“It’s time to start your own life,” they insist every time we talk about the past, the present, and what can be a disastrous future. As if they know what’s best for me.
“We’re not disappointed, but you should’ve trusted us,” they claim, but they should be thankful I protected them.
It wasn’t that simple.
The moment our father died, leaving five underage teenagers at the mercy of our cold-hearted mother, I was forced to make countless gut-wrenching decisions. I shielded them from the soul-crushing pain of despising their own mother, sacrificing pieces of myself in the process.
Aslan and Gatsby, my triplets, can say anything. But at the end of the day, I made the best decision for all of us.
“You’re welcome, fuckers,” I mutter under my breath, lifting my glass in a bitter toast. “To you, Mother. May you rot on this earth and never rest in peace.”
I tilt the glass to my lips, relishing the burn of the amber liquid.
“Bad night?” the woman sitting two barstools away from me inquires, her voice gentle yet laced with curiosity.
I shrug one shoulder, not looking at her. I’m not here to hook up with a stranger. I just need to have a drink or two and forget all about my family. Could I do it in my apartment? Nope. I live in the same complex as one of my younger brothers—Caspian. He’ll probably barge into my place, demanding I finally reveal all the secrets I’m harboring.
It’s not the time.
The buzz of a phone pierces the air, drawing my attention to the woman on my left. I shoot her a judgmental look as she answers it. Shouldn’t she excuse herself and go outside to take the call?
“Hey,” she mumbles, her voice soft and cautious. “Any news?”
She closes her eyes briefly, her body caught in a mixture of nods and shakes. The captivating aura she exudes strikes me suddenly. Her features are a fusion of classic beauty and modern sophistication. Long, delicate lashes that seem to dance with every blink frame her expressive, dark, and hypnotic eyes.
Those eyes hold within them an enigmatic depth, an endearing spark of wit, and a subtle hint of sadness that speaks to an inner vulnerability.
Her full lips curve into a half-smile, evoking the poised grace of a ballerina and the mischievous charm of a wicked witch. Yet beneath the surface, there’s a sense that her heart carries the weight of an untold story. Her chestnut hair cascades down her shoulders in soft, tousled waves, a rich shade that seems to catch the light and hold it captive.
“Thank you for the update. Tomorrow I’m heading there, unless you find out something different.” She speaks in a hushed tone, her words laced with apprehension.
“Bad night?” I echo her earlier question, curiosity gnawing at me.
She glances at me, her hazel eyes shimmering with unshed tears. “Difficult,” she admits. “It’s been a difficult year.”
An inexplicable urge to erase her sadness washes over me, as if I could offer her solace. But what can I offer? I’m empty inside. Still, I can’t stand to see the sorrow that plagues her soul, a feeling all too familiar to me.
A sudden surge of empathy fills me, as if her pain is resonating within my own chest. I can’t help but want to reach out to her, to offer her a brief escape from her troubles. After all, we’re both here in search of solace. And maybe, just maybe, we could find it in each other’s company.
“Look,” I begin, my voice soft but earnest. “I can’t promise to fix anything or offer you any profound wisdom, but… would you like to try and forget, for at least one night? Together, we can find a momentary escape from our difficult lives.”
Her gaze meets mine, the guarded walls around her eyes beginning to lower. She searches my face, weighing her options, her trust hanging in the balance. The silence between us stretches, thick with anticipation.
Finally, she offers a small, tentative smile, and the faintest flicker of hope ignites within her.
“All right,” she agrees, her voice barely above a whisper. “Let’s forget together, even if it’s just for tonight.”
We raise our glasses in unison, sealing our unspoken pact. Tonight, we’ll forget our troubles, lose ourselves in conversation, and, for a fleeting moment, find solace in each other’s company.
* * *
“It’s casual,” I hear her mumble as we walk toward the elevator of her hotel room. “One-night stands are no big deal. You need this. Take a chance.”
Since she’s having a conversation with herself, I don’t interrupt, but as we step into the elevator and the doors slide closed, I say, “We don’t have to do it.”
“Guilt,” she says. “My grandmother used to guilt trip me about… well, everything. I’m in the middle of a crisis, and what am I doing?”
“Forgetting for one night,” I murmur, my heartbeat quickening as I step closer to her. Our eyes lock, an electric connection sparking between us. Heat radiates from her body, the warmth enveloping me like a comforting embrace.
As I take her by the waist, her hands instinctively slide up my arms and around my neck, her fingers grazing the hair at my nape. My breath catches in my throat, a mix of anticipation and uncertainty coursing through me.
“Let everything go,” I whisper, our faces mere inches apart. I’m aware of every breath she takes, every beat of her heart. In that moment, I surrender to the vulnerability that comes with letting someone in, even if just for one night.
I lean down and capture her lips with mine, initiating a slow, sensual kiss that speaks volumes about the pain we’re trying to bury beneath this moment. There’s no intimacy, just roughness and raw emotions that meld together. They create an unspoken bond of mutual desire and understanding.
She responds immediately, opening her mouth to me, granting me access to the unexplored depths of her soul. Our tongues dance together, tasting and teasing as we lose ourselves. We are two strangers, precariously balanced on the delicate tightrope of desire, a thread of longing tethering our bodies together.
The world around us dissolves gradually, blurring into insignificance as our troubles retreat into the shadows. Every breath we take is infused with desperation, a silent plea for solace and connection in the midst of the pain we’re trying to forget.
In this fleeting moment, I find a semblance of refuge in the arms of a stranger.
The kiss is a journey, a momentary escape from the pain and uncertainty that plagues our lives. As our lips move in harmony, I find solace in the comforting warmth of her embrace. My inner turmoil fades, at least momentarily, as I cling to the fleeting connection between us.
There’s no hope for anything but letting myself forget that I’m Lysander Spearman and my life is a fucking shit show.
As we continue to lose ourselves in the intoxicating depths of the kiss, something shifts within her. She suddenly stiffens in my arms, her fingers clutching at my shoulders, as if trying to anchor herself to reality.
With a sharp intake of breath, she withdraws, her eyes wide and exposed, mirroring the whirlwind of emotions swirling inside her. It’s as if the weight of the world has come crashing down, obliterating the delicate refuge we had discovered in the tender warmth of our embrace.
“I… I can’t do this,” she stammers, her voice trembling. “I’m sorry.”
She steps back, creating distance between us. Regret is etched into her face, the sadness returning to her eyes. Just now, I realize that no matter how hard we try to forget, sometimes the burdens we carry are too heavy to escape, even for a single night.
“It’s okay,” I reassure her softly, the ache in my chest growing. “You don’t have to apologize.”
She offers a weak, apologetic smile, but I can tell the momentary connection we shared has been severed, a wall of self-preservation replacing it. It’s at this very moment that the elevator doors slide open, and she sighs with relief. With a final, lingering glance, she turns and walks away, leaving me standing alone, the echoes of our fleeting escape surrounding me.
As I watch her retreat, I can’t help but wonder if it’s possible for either of us to ever truly forget the pain that haunts us, or if we’re doomed to carry these burdens alone, searching for solace that remains just out of reach.