By Alexis Hall
Read by Joel Leslie
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around February 13, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
Be careful what you wish for . . .
Once upon a time there was a totally ordinary boy who fell for a cold, beautiful prince. Only it’s not a fairy tale, it’s my life. The prince is a billionaire called Caspian Hart. And we’re trying super hard to live happily ever after.
He’s everything I want, need, and can’t resist: a man who looks like a god and bangs like the devil. Except he’s still got his rules and he’s still got his secrets . . .
But if there’s one thing Caspian’s taught me it’s that you should never settle for less than you’re worth. And I’m worth his trust. I have to show him that I see him. That I’m not afraid of his passion, or his power, or his past. And that I won’t settle for less than everything.
Love is merely a madness; and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do; and the reason why they are not so punish’d and cured is that the lunacy is so ordinary that the whippers are in love too.
—As You Like It, William Shakespeare
Fifteen years, Arthur. And sometimes I still can’t quite believe you’re dead. Your son is so like you in some ways—passionate, obstinate, ambitious—and in others not at all. He has such dark needs. A twist of sexual cruelty as integral to his nature as gold through marble. You would not have understood him. Not the way I do. To you I was nothing but an experiment, an impulse of fondness and alcohol, cast aside for that doe-eyed whore you married, relegated to the ranks of mere friend. But Caspian is mine in ways you could never be. We made him together. Your final gift to me. My reward for half a lifetime of unregarded love.
I did not plan what happened between us. But he came to me, the rage and grief in him an irresistible reflection of my own. He thought he wanted to punish you, but all he truly needed was to mourn. I, however, had needs too. I will admit that manipulating your son into bed is hardly an accomplishment worthy of my abilities. Nor any true testament to my taste. But what are rules to men like us? Petty middle-class limitations placed upon those with the capacity for greatness. And, Arthur, he has your eyes. Blue as forever.
He was so enticing. So young and restless and full of pain. It was not like loving you at all. It was far superior. He was everything you could have been, were you only less hidebound, less conventional. Less excruciatingly kind. And what are you now? Nothing but an absent father. When I am his teacher, his lover, and his friend. Of course, he has his dalliances. It does him good, I think, to test the limits of the ties that bind us. And, as the loosed hawk returns always to the hand of its master, so will Caspian to me.
Ah, but sometimes he tries my patience. I offered him a gift—the perfect subject for his desires—and he uses him like a secretary. Nathaniel Priest should have been a passing folly. Instead he nearly ruined what I gave so much to create. And now this boy. This boy of no consequence.
While I would infinitely prefer Caspian to return of his own volition, perhaps it is time to remind him where, and to whom, he belongs. Of course, I would never stoop to an instrument as blunt or as unreliable as force. Rather, I am the loving vivisectionist of Caspian’s soul. I have shaped and reshaped him with incalculable cuts, and I can bring him back to me whenever I will it. All I have to do is show him who he truly is.
So I had this totally crazy dream. I dreamed I met a billionaire called Caspian Hart and he kind of liked me. Well, liked me enough to put me up in a ludicrously expensive London flat but not enough to trust me, talk to me, or spend any time with me. A sufficiently self-esteem-tanking level of liking that I ended up running back to my family’s place in Scotland. But, also, a sufficiently something level of liking that he wound up following me. And telling me a bunch of things which made me realize that not only did my level-of-liking scale need serious recalibration, but I liked him enough to give it another go.
Except, oh wait, that wasn’t a dream.
It had really happened.
And there was Caspian himself, tucked into the corner where the bed met the window, watching the distant sea. He was pale in the cool, blue-tinted morning and a little tousled—that one wayward lock of his fallen free again. The smile he gave me, as I emerged from the duvet, was slightly shy, as if he wasn’t sure how to greet me.
“Good morning.” I stretched with abandon, spine arching, toes uncurling. “Did you sleep okay?”
“I’m fine. I saw the sunrise.”
“Really?” It was a little hard to imagine. Or maybe not? He was probably the only person I knew who would have the patience to do something like that: watching and waiting as the light cracked wide the night. Lonely, though. With me snuggled and oblivious right there beside him. “Um, maybe you should have woken me? Or…I don’t know. I might have been grumpy.”
“I didn’t want to wake you. You looked, frankly, terribly cute.”
I looked what now? I wrinkled my nose, unimpressed. “Cute in a way that makes you want to do bad things to me?”
He crooked a finger and—after a second of OMG, will I taste of mornings based hesitation—I dived under the duvet, surfacing again between his knees. He wrapped his arms around me, hauled me up, and kissed me, not roughly exactly, but without mercy. Prizing my mouth open like the lid of a treasure box and taking possession. These simple caresses infinitely preferable to whatever drug I’d taken with Ellery in London. No feverish ecstasies but a deep, heavy, and all-consuming bliss. A spell to turn me to butter.
He was smooth and silken against me—his hair surprisingly soft, though I could also feel the wicked tightening of his nipples and the hot pressure of his cock. He smelled of warmth, if that was a thing that was possible. A cozy, sleep-clinging scent of skin, with only the faintest trace of sweetness from his cologne. This unexpected nakedness that was just him.
He made a low sound at the back of his throat—almost a growl—and flipped me. I went gladly, though the bed made a godawful telltale creaking as I landed on my back amid the pillows and rucked-up sheets. I wasn’t even sure Caspian noticed, let alone cared, as he came down on top of me.
I’d been kissed and delightfully manhandled enough by him that I had a pretty good notion of what he might like. So I stretched my hands over my head. Giving him my surrender. The safety and the dark thrill of it.
His eyes glinted. Turned stormy.
And he reached up, dragging a finger from my wrist to my shoulder, making me very aware of that line of pulled-tight skin, all exposed and unprotected and held that way by nothing but the desire to please him.
As he settled between my thighs I couldn’t help arching my spine and tilting my hips, making very, very explicit all the places of my body I was up for yielding.
“God, Arden.” I was always suspicious of the phrase ground out when I saw it in books, but it seemed to apply to Caspian’s words right then. Especially if you also took into account what he was doing on top of me. “You’re such a…”
“Wanton?” I offered, tightening my calves around him.
Tease. My cock gave an eager jump.
I loved this kind of talk but it was tricky. There were lines in my head even I didn’t properly know how to navigate. And I’d found asking people to call me names tended not to go so well. It seemed to make them either act weird or get nasty. Neither of which I was into.
But tease…that was lovely. Made my toes curl with the naughty delight of being bad.
And Caspian said it just right too.
In this sexy-angry way.
As if being a tease was something wicked, not something wrong.
I was already swooning slightly—because of that, and also because his cock was pressed right against the warm, tingly space beneath my balls. But then he twisted a hand in my hair, yanking my head back, and my overthrow was complete.
The breath shuddered in my throat.
The fear was animal, instinctive, and so very sweet.
He leaned down even further and licked a long, wet stripe up my trembly, stubble-speckled Adam’s apple.
I made a sound.
I guess you could have called it a whimper.
His teeth found the tender places under my jaw. Playful little nips that didn’t really hurt so much as spark.
And then he pressed his open mouth to the side of my neck and—
Oh oh oh.
Something at once familiar and surprising about that damp suction and the blunt edge of his teeth: pleasure with a hot heart of pain.
It was sufficiently sanity-consuming that I forgot myself, moaning shamelessly as I curled my palm around the back of his neck, holding him to me. That strange and glorious push-pull of yes-no-doitharder.
My skin was as fiery-achy as my cock by the time he drew back.
He stared down at me, mouth red and eyes wild. “What the hell am I doing?”
“Um.” I touched my fingers gently to the throbbing circle he had left on my neck. “Giving me a hickey, I think.”
He winced. “I’m so sorry. I’m not some brutish adolescent. I don’t know what came over me.”
It was the teeniest bit ridiculous.
Caspian Hart—billionaire, sophisticate, chess grandmaster—and me with what was probably a glowing red-purple bruise. The proud teenage symbol for “getting some.” Which, embarrassingly enough, I’d missed out on when I was an actual teenager, on account of being literally the only gay in the village. And English to boot.
I’d made up for it at university—although, now I thought about it, while I’d occasionally been bitten (with varying degrees of conviction), I’d never received an actual, one hundred percent genuine, bona-fide hickey.
Turned out, I was oddly glad it was Caspian.
And I liked—more than liked—that he wanted to mark me.
Unfortunately, he was looking a little bit traumatized about it.
“No, no,” I said quickly. “It was lovely.” I twisted my head helpfully. “Do it again.”
He laughed, and kissed the bite so that it lit up like a flare and made me gasp. “I think I might have been wrong when I called you a tease.”
“I’m not a tease?” I just about managed not to pout but I couldn’t keep the disappointment from my voice.
“I think perhaps”—he’d gone all husky again—“you’re worse.”
I brightened. “Coquette?”
He didn’t answer. Only tongued at a wildly sensitive spot beneath my ear.
“Uhh.” I swallowed. “Minx?”
He shook his head.
“T-tart?” It was getting increasingly difficult to think of, well, anything. But every suggestion sent a pulse of whiskey-rough arousal through me.
“Worse,” he whispered.
And, God help me, it felt like a caress. Like a compliment.
I tried to breathe and realized I was already panting. “Um…”
His eyes had that “all the better to eat you with, my dear” gleam as they found mine. Pinned me as surely as his body. “What are you, Arden?”
I wanted to say it so badly. Have him brand me with it like a badge of honor and sexual freedom.
But I was sort of…scared and squirmy at the same time. In case it wasn’t true. Or it would be different outside the safety of my head.
“Arden.” There was a low note of warning in his voice this time. It sounded so deliciously dangerous that I nearly came.
And then—bam—whatever was holding me back wasn’t there anymore.
Broken or yielded or simply vanished.
“I’m a slut,” I gasped out. “Am I a slut?”
He slid a possessive hand up the naked underside of my thigh. “Yes. Yes, you are. A very depraved, wayward little imp of a slut.”
“Oh god.” I squirmed frantically. “W-what happens to…slutty little imps?”
“What do you think happens to slutty little imps?”
My tongue flicked across my lips and, wow, they were dry. Almost as if every spare ounce of fluid I possessed had already leaked out my cock. “Do they…do they get punished?”
Which was when he rolled away. Taking all his heat and strength and the promise of erotic cruelty.
Before I could panic or complain, he covered his face with his hands and gave a deeply gorgeous groan. “Get dressed, Arden. I need to get you to London. I need to get you to London right now.”
“Might take a while. Trains are really ropey at the weekend.”
“Then it’s fortunate I have a plane waiting at Inverness.”
“You have a—” Of course he did. “Oh wow. But we’ve still got to get to Inverness.”
“I hired a car.”
“You can drive?” I blurted out.
He gave me a reproving look, softened by the hint of amusement in his eyes. “And I can tie my own shoelaces too.”
Being whisked to London in a billionaire’s private jet made such a ludicrous contrast to my miserable, lonely, to say nothing of lengthy, journey up.
But I guess that was life with Caspian Hart. And life without him.
Despite our eagerness, it actually took a while to get on the road because Mum made us breakfast.
And sex was all very well but pancakes.
Caspian went for the lightest sprinkling of sugar and a twist of lemon juice. While I went for syrup. And cream. And strawberries. And chocolate. And—okay, yes. Everything. I went for everything.
I couldn’t help but notice the way he was watching my lips.
It’s possible they were a little bit glisteny.
He was looking all tormented by the time I was chasing the last swirl of syrup from my plate with a fingertip. And I seriously hoped I was going to pay for this later.
It didn’t take me too long to pack on account of the fact I’d been living out of my suitcase since I got home. Then we said our goodbyes to my folks and headed to his car.
It was this silver hatchback thing. Very “family of four on a daytrip.” So unlike his fleet of billionairemobiles.
Caspian must have noticed my amusement because he explained somewhat grumpily, “This is what was available in Inverness.”
“You didn’t think to get chauffeured up in comfort?”
“And have an audience for what could very likely have been a futile twelve-hundred-mile round trip?”
I still wasn’t sure if it was terrifying or reassuring that you could have all the beauty, wealth, and power in the world, and still be uncertain about a boy. But, then again, if you were a total dick to the boy, you probably deserved to be uncertain.
Anyway, it had all worked out: happy endings ho.
We dropped off the car at Inverness and headed into the airport. When Caspian had told me he had a plane waiting, I hadn’t quite realized what it would be like. What it meant to be a man who owned a private jet.
The terrifying value of his time.
Time he was currently spending with me.
It was an overwhelming thought. Knocking me silent as we were whisked across the concourse and then ushered into a plush private waiting room.
I had just enough knowledge of cars to be able to recognize status vehicles when I saw them, but private jets were completely beyond my sphere of experience. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you the difference between a Gulfstream and a Bombardier if my life depended on it.
So all I could really say about Caspian’s, as I gazed at it through the viewing windows, was that it looked like a plane. With wings and engines and wheels and everything else you’d expect.
In barely a handful of minutes, our passports were checked in the most cursory fashion imaginable. And then we were let out onto the runway, me dragging along my entirely disregarded luggage. If I’d ever fancied terrorism or drug-dealing, this would have been a fantastic opportunity.
The chill hit me almost immediately, sharpened by the rough edge of the wind. I shivered and Caspian wrapped his coat about my shoulders. It was probably a demeaning sort of gallantry that I, as a liberated twenty-first-century man, should have resisted. But I didn’t feel demeaned. I felt cherished. And the thought made me blush.
“Why don’t you ever have a coat?” he asked.
“Do you have some objection to dressing for the climate?”
“I have an aesthetic one.” I had a duffel coat Mum’s girlfriend Hazel had found in a charity shop, but it made me look, and smell, like an aging yak with personal grooming issues.
“Come on.” Caspian took my free hand and hurried me across the runway.
All around us the sky gleamed. His palm was warm and his fingers were strong. The wind was making carnage of my hair. It was hard for me to hold on to the idea that this was normal life for Caspian. When it felt so utterly surreal to me.
As we boarded, it was “Good afternoon, Mr. Hart.” Someone took my case. And then I was led into a space that would have impressed me if it had been a hotel. Tastefully decorated in shades of brown and cream and gold, it was essentially just a living room—soft carpets, sofas, cozy armchairs, a wall-mounted flat-screen—except it flew.
It motherfucking flew.
Only the windows, and something about the heavy quality of the light, betrayed the fact we were on a plane.
I must have had an “I don’t think I’m in Kansas in anymore” look on my face because Caspian steered me gently into a chair. He was telling me useful things about where the bathroom was and what to do in case of an emergency but I was too dazed to really take it in. Words like office and conference room and master bedroom kept shooting past me in bullet time.
Although I definitely perked up at bedroom.
Soon enough, we were trundling down the runway. The world smearing a bit as we picked up speed. I’d once mentioned to my friend Nik that I had no idea how planes went from being on the ground to being in the air. So he’d told me. The bastard. And that had taken some of the fun out of it. But this was still my favorite part of flying: the moment just before takeoff, when what was about to happen seemed absolutely impossible.
I loved the tilty feeling in my stomach, the instinct to hold my breath. The way you could sort of sense somehow, in the responses of your own body, the unimaginable, unbelievable grace of all that metal.
“Are you all right?” Caspian asked. “You aren’t afraid?”
“You know, maybe you should have checked before we got on the plane.” He looked so horrified that I took pity on him. “I’m fine. It’s just…I’m not used to this literally high-flying lifestyle.”
There was a slightly weird pause.
And I found myself almost wishing we were back in the relative normality of a hired hatchback, or in my family’s home, where we’d found this…I didn’t know what to call it…this ease. This burgeoning sense of an us.
I’d liked being so close to him. Having so much of his attention. And I’d liked the secretive parts of himself he’d seemed willing to share with me—things I’d previously only glimpsed, or suspected, or hoped for. The Caspian Hart who played chess. Who was antisocially competitive. Who washed the dishes. Tickled my feet.
Right now, though, he was nowhere to be seen.
The man sitting on the sofa in his private jet seemed so far out of my league as to belong to an entirely different sport.
He crooked a finger at me and I shuddered with a kind of fearful longing. “Come here, Arden.”
He said it softly but there was no doubt that it was a command.
And I suddenly remembered that I loved this side of him too. That it was all part of him: the playfulness and the arrogance, the kindness and the cruelty. That he wasn’t really remote at all, if you knew how to reach him.
If you weren’t afraid.
I found myself eyeing the expanse of carpet between us, filled with the oddest compulsion to crawl.
I imagined the rub of the fibers beneath my palms. The ache in my knees. The way he would watch me, the hunger flaring in his eyes. And when I got to him I would push his legs apart and—
Oh, fuck imagining.
I slid off my chair and dropped to the floor. Making sure to arch my back, raise my arse, bowing my body in supplication. Invitation.
Caspian’s reaction was way better than any fantasy. The gasp he uttered sounded almost shocked. And, God, the look on his face. Desire and this terrifying gratitude. As if I’d given him something wonderful.
Maybe it should have been humiliating. Crawling to someone’s feet. But, honestly, I felt sexy as hell. Very aware of myself: the roll of my shoulders, the curve of my spine, the shapes I could make, sensuous and brazen and all for him.
Caspian was shaking when I got there. His head thrown back, lips damp and parted to admit his harsh, unsteady breaths.
I rubbed my cheek against the inside of his knee, then up a little higher. The denim was rough but he was hot, hot, hot underneath. And he smelled amazing. Not a trace of cologne left. Just his skin and the promise of sex.
Before I could get much further, his hands closed around my upper arms and he yanked me into his lap. His mouth was frantic against mine. His passion unrestrained to the point of need. Making me squirm and whimper and surrender. Leaving me bruised and breathless and dizzy on pleasure.
He shoved a hand into my hair, pulling hard enough to melt me. “Tell me again. What are you, Arden?”
“I’m a…I’m a slut.”
“No, you’re not.” He pulled harder. Pain this time, but so good, so sweet.
I moaned helplessly, confused and blissed out and sensation lost. “I’m not?”
“You’re my slut.”
I garbled something along the lines of yesyesyesoyesplease.
“And what happens to my slut?”
I opened lust-heavy eyes. Stared deep into his. Found words. Important words. Put them in a sensible order. “Anything you want.”
He pushed me gently to my feet. My legs had apparently gone all shaky.
“Strip,” he told me.
I couldn’t help glancing toward the front of the plane. When I’d offered anything he wanted, I hadn’t quite realized he’d take it right now.
“We won’t be disturbed.”
He sounded certain but I couldn’t shake the mental image of a horrified air hostess—did you get those on private jets?—finding me all naked in the middle of her day job. I liked performing for Caspian, exposing myself to him, but exhibitionism was not my thing. In fact, even the idea of casting some stranger in the role of nonconsenting voyeur was wang-wiltingly embarrassing.
Oops. I must have been lost in my own head. “Um. Yes?”
His eyes met mine, pale in the silvery light that filled the cabin, and softly gleaming. “Will you trust me?”
It was the last thing I’d expected, somehow. I guess I’d thought he’d command me. Force me even. And I probably wouldn’t have minded. But I had no defense whatsoever against…against being asked. It was neither plea nor demand but God, it was intoxicating. And it slipped between the edges of my heart, twisting it open like an oyster.
“Yes,” I whispered.
The moment I said it, I knew I meant it.
And suddenly I found myself thinking about the story of Sir Gawain and Lady Ragnelle. Not that I was hideously cursed. Or that we were being forced into matrimony because the King of England had made a deeply spurious promise to some random woman he met in the woods.
But still. Caspian had given me my sovereynté.
And now I was ready to surrender it to him.
My hands were unsexily damp as I peeled off my T-shirt and it was only when I was wriggling my jeans down that I remembered shoes were a thing I was wearing. So I had to stop, with everything bunched around my thighs, and hop about for a bit. By the time I was finally done I was all warm and flustered and pretty much the opposite of attractive.
And so…so naked.
- On Sale
- Feb 13, 2018
- Hachette Audio