Diamonds in the Dust (Diamonds are Forever Trilogy #1) by Charmaine Pauls
A DARK MAFIA ROMANCE
Men like us, we see things.
We do things, things that make us unfeeling.
That’s the price of power and money, of living la belle vie and running the French mafia. Then she came along like a pretty wildflower pushing through the cracks on a dirty pavement – fragile yet resilient, a breath of beauty among the filth. She was supposed to be just another job, a nameless person I was to pluck from her life and hand to my brother, nothing but a pawn in the gamble of our diamond business.
There’s a psychological label for men like us.
We lack empathy and guilt.
We do things to have what we want, things that make flowers wilt.
Excerpt Diamonds in the Dust by Charmaine Pauls
His tone is gentle, one you’d use trying to coax the truth out of someone. “Why were you still a virgin?”
“I was waiting for the right man,” I say like it doesn’t matter.
He nods, a silent acknowledgment of understanding. There’s no remorse in his voice when he says, “No man can be more wrong than me.”
I’m shaking violently when he picks me up, sheltering me against his chest. He carries me inside and easily closes the door balancing me in one arm. He goes to the bathroom and lowers me onto the rug next to the bath. I wrap my arms around myself, shivering as I watch him open the tap to let the water run warm. The petals and candles are gone. The bath has been cleaned. Housekeeping came in while we were having dinner.
The bath is only a quarter full when he slips his palms under the jacket and brushes it off my shoulders, carelessly disregarding the expensive garment crumpled on the floor. He picks me up and puts me on my feet in the bath. Taking a jar of bath salts from the edge, he empties the whole jar in the bath and scoops water into the jar that he empties over my shoulder.
The warmth dispels the cold. My skin contracts with goosebumps. He refills the jar and drains it over my other shoulder. He does the same with my front and back, and then he crouches down to soap a sponge. He starts at my waist, dragging the sponge from my hip to my thigh before squeezing out the sponge and letting the soapy water run down my calf. Meticulously, he washes me, stroke by gentle stroke removing the blood and the cold.
The bathroom is warm, but I’m still shivering. When the bath is half-full, he turns off the water and guides me to lie down. Twisting my hair in a knot, he trails it over the edge of the bath. The water stings between my legs, but heat envelopes me, melting the last of the bitter frost under my skin and calming my shivers. All the while, he continues to bathe me, washing away the remnants of our coupling in a strangely humble way as if I’m the princess and he the servant.
When my skin starts to wrinkle, he pulls the plug and takes my hand to help me out of the bath. Draping a fluffy towel around me, he dries my body. When not a patch of wetness is left on my skin, he leads me back to the room and makes me sit on the loveseat while he strips the sheets off the bed, leaving the duvet. Folding it back, he looks at me in silent command.
I’m spent. My fight is cold. I get up without arguing, dropping the towel at the side of the bed before getting in. Turning on my side, I face the wall. He gets in beside me, flicks off the lamp, and spoons me from behind with an arm he throws over my stomach to anchor me to him.
Our breathing is quiet. We’re both awake, but neither of us speaks. Light from the streetlamps falls through the window into the room. It plays over the walls, creating a shadowed reflection of the free world outside.
After a long while, he says into the darkness, “If I had the time, I would’ve made you fall in love with me first.”
At the words, I stop breathing.
They’re meant to be a consolation, but they’re stunningly cruel.