By Kelli Maine
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He steals her away to a deserted island, to the one place she’s dreamed of being-the one place she can’t go. He’s used to buying whatever he wants, but he can’t buy her.
How can she resist the magnetism of his body, the longing ache deep inside her? She wants him to take her-on her terms.
Every attempt he makes to love her only hurts her. How can they go on like this? This is the story of how she was…taken.
Table of Contents
A Preview of No Takebacks
Also by Kelli Maine
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Three months later…
The club is packed. Bodies grind together on the dance floor. There's barely room to move. You catch my eye.
Bass pounds through my body, rushes from my head to my toes, takes the same path your eyes follow. Your dark-eyed stare is flutter-soft on my skin. It raises goose bumps. Makes me flush. My vodka and cranberry-soaked blood runs hot with need.
You smile. Dimples pierce your cheeks. Your eyes flash. I can't resist.
"Rach!" Shannon grabs my arm. She's sweaty from dancing and pulls her blonde hair up off her shoulders. "I'm going." She tilts her head toward Shawn or Shane or Seth—I'm not sure—the guy she met two hours ago.
"How am I supposed to get home?" She drove.
Shannon shoves her car keys in my hand. "See you in the morning." She winks and pushes back through the crowd toward the guy whose name starts with an S.
When I turn from watching Shannon go, you're standing right in front of me. "Hi," you say. Familiarity strikes, but I don't think I'd ever forget meeting you.
"Hi." I fall into your dark eyes and can't get out. They're serious and focused on mine. Looking away would be a crime.
You run a hand through your wavy black-brown hair. Are you nervous? I can't tell. "What were you drinking?" You tap my glass, empty except for melting ice.
"Vodka and cranberry." I take in a thick, damp breath. Dancing bodies fog up the air, make it heavy to breathe.
You shake your beer bottle, indicating its emptiness. "I'm headed to the bar. Would you like another?"
I have to drive Shannon's car home, but I don't want to stop talking to you. I nod. "Please." I'll drink slowly. I'll drive even slower.
I follow behind you, taking in the view of your incredible backside in jeans. A black long-sleeved shirt shifts with your strong, wide shoulders and hugs your narrow waist. You work out. A lot. The body I'm staring at didn't come from luck and a good gene pool.
You glance back to make sure I'm following. When a group of people push between us, you reach out and take my hand. My fingers curl around yours like they're possessed.
We reach the bar. You squeeze between two men. I stand back to wait while you order. I watch you reach into your pocket. A second later, you turn to me and hand me a glass.
"Thanks." I take a deep drink, ignoring my self-promise to sip and make it last. Looking at you, I need all the courage this vodka is offering.
You sip your beer, watching me. An intense magnetism pulls between us. I'm sweating. I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. The vodka is kicking in fast. I stumble sideways. You grip my arm.
"Feeling okay?" you ask.
The room spins and tilts. Black spots swim through my vision. "No. I need to sit." My drink slips through my fingers and splatters on my bare leg.
"I've got you." You put an arm around me and lead me toward the door. "You need some air."
I'm blacking out and coming to, over and over again. This has never happened from three and a half vodka and cranberries before. "I need to get home."
"I'll take you," you say.
"No. I…" The words won't come. They buzz around in the darkness inside my mind searching for the light. I watch them break apart and fade.
You usher me through the parking lot. Open the door of a black car. Put me inside. "We'll be home soon," you say, buckling a seatbelt around my waist.
I try to grip the door handle to get out. My arm won't move. My head lulls on my shoulder. The blackness narrows, leaving a small tunnel focused on the dashboard. Then it closes completely.
No more words.
No more light.
No more sound.
Just like that—I'm taken.
My eyelids are heavy, too heavy to lift. Light glows white behind them. I turn toward its source, and it gets even brighter. I crack my eyes open, peel their stickiness apart. Everything's blurry. Light shoots through my head like an electric shock. I cringe and squeeze my eyes shut again.
My mouth is dry. My tongue, stuck to the roof, is limp and swollen. I swallow, but there's no wetness to quench my thirst.
I open my eyes again, slowly this time, just narrow slits to get used to the light. There's a window. All I see is sky, clear and blue. Where am I?
Panic surges through my chest and squeezes tight enough to make me gasp. I don't remember anything—where am I? How did I get here?
I sit up. Ropes tie my hands to the bed. My heart rate speeds, my muscles quake, my eyes dart around the room and land on you.
"You're awake," you say, standing from a leather couch and thumbing a button on a remote to turn off the muted T.V.
I remember you. The club. The drink. "You put something in my drink."
Quickly, I take stock of my clothes. Skirt—still on. Top—still on. Underwear, bra—both in place. My shoes are the only things missing.
"I didn't touch you," you say, coming to the side of the bed and pulling up a straight-back chair. I shift away as far as I can, press my shoulder against the cold windowpane. The bed sits higher than mine at home and it's smaller, narrower. You lean forward and rest your elbows on the mattress.
We stare at one another. Your intense gaze is the same as the last time I saw it—when you drugged me. My chest heaves with the effort of breathing. My heart races. "Why am I tied to the bed?" My voice cracks.
You reach for a bottle of water on the nightstand, twist the cap off and hold it to my lips. "Drink."
I shake my head and pull away. The ropes scratch and burn my wrists.
You smile. "There's nothing in it. I promise."
Your dimples make you look like a nice guy. You're not a nice guy. "I want to go home."
You run your finger underneath the rope and stroke my wrist. "You are home, Rachael."
I try to pull away from you. "Don't touch me!" Sobs roll up my throat and out my mouth. Tears gush from my eyes. "I want to go home!"
You sit back and prop your foot up on your opposite knee, thread your hands behind your head and watch me crumble. Your face is etched with remorse. You close your eyes—I want them open, want you to feel pain and guilt for what you've done to me.
Flames of rage dance in my belly, crackle and roar inside me. I dart for you, thrashing against the ropes. I will kill you. Tear you apart. "This is fun for you?" I curl my feet up underneath me and push against the ropes with my toes. "Let me go! Let me leave!" I manage to get my teeth on a rope and try to chew my way to freedom.
You reach out and grab my shoulders. "Stop. You're going to hurt yourself."
I lick blood from my torn, raw lips. My wrists bleed. I throw myself back onto the pillow and scream at the top of my lungs. I scream until my eyes throb, until my ears pop, until my voice is only a rasp.
You stand over me and stroke my hair back from my forehead. "Rest," you say, and walk out of the room. I watch you leave hating myself for ever thinking your body was something I wanted.
Why did you take me? Is this human trafficking? Will you sell me as a prostitute, a sex slave? My chest aches, and my breath hitches and shakes. I have to keep it together and find a way out.
I run my eyes over the long, rectangular room. A nightstand sits beside the bed and the chair you sat in. At the end of the bed, a dresser is pushed against the wall. The couch and T.V. make up a sitting area on the opposite side of the room with a matching leather chair and a wood table between them. The ceiling is slanted. I'm held captive in an attic bedroom.
You didn't close the door. I'm not locked in. If I could get the ropes untied… Does anyone know I'm missing? My phone. Where's my phone? They can track me that way. Did you take it?
My mom will have a break down when they tell her I'm missing. My dad died last year. Her reaction to losing me to a job offer in Florida a few months ago was bad enough to keep me from taking it and leaving Ohio. She won't make it through this.
Shannon's my only hope, but she left before you bought me that drink, before you took me away. Did anyone see us together? Did anyone see us leave? If they flash my picture on T.V., would anyone know where to start looking?
Maybe that's what you were watching for on T.V. Maybe you're paranoid. "I hope they track you down and lock you in a cell for the rest of your miserable life!" I scream. You don't answer.
I close my eyes and try to think. My only way out of here is you. I have to be calm and rational when you return. What do you want with me?
I have no answer. You didn't touch me. I'm clothed. I'm not hurt. Why did you take me? I stare out the window, like it's written somewhere in the bright blue sky.
There's no clock. I don't know how much time has passed before you return. You're carrying a bowl of soup and a pack of crackers. "You need to eat," you say. "Will you let me feed you?"
I don't want food. I want to be untied. "I need to use the bathroom."
You study my face, considering your options.
"You can't come with me," I say, praying you don't.
"If I untie you, will you behave?" You narrow your eyes at me, threatening. "If you don't, I'll have to come in with you."
You set the soup and crackers on the nightstand beside the bottle of water and sit in the chair. "Rachael, can I trust you?"
What makes you think you can trust me? Do you really think I won't run? "Yes."
You hesitate, dark eyes locked on mine. Am I giving anything away?
Slowly, you reach for the rope and untie my wrist closest to you, then reach across and untie the other. Before you can restrain me, I grab the steaming bowl of soup and throw it at you. It hits your chest, and I dart from the bed.
Your reflexes are fast, and mine are slow from being drugged. Your fingers wrap around my arm and yank me back against your wet chest. One strong arm wraps around my shoulders and holds me in place. "That was my fault," you whisper in my ear through clenched teeth. "You're not ready to be untied yet."
You spin me to face you and grip my shoulders. Your dark eyes bore into mine. "Do you need to use the bathroom?"
Hate wells in my chest. I glare back at you then spit in your face. Your fingers squeeze. Your thumbs could crack my collarbone. You close your eyes and breathe out hard. "Get in the bed." You shove me, and I fall back into it.
I grab the ropes before you have a chance, and we grapple with them. You press your forearm into my chest and pin me to the bed. I bite your shoulder. The ropes slide through my fingers and burn like hot liquid as you pull them from me.
I'm tied again. We pant for breath, winded from our struggle.
You collapse back in your chair and shove your fingers through your wavy hair, exasperated. Did you think this would be easy? "Don't look at me like that," you say, and stand to strip off your shirt. Blisters are already puffing out on your smooth chest. My teeth pierced your shoulder. I run my eyes down over your defined abs and turn away as heat pulses through me.
I can't think about you like that. I won't. You're holding me prisoner in your house. What is wrong with me?
I let my eyes roam back to you. This might be my only way out. "Would you untie me to let me touch you?" I whisper.
You study me with a blank expression. "When you touch me, it'll be because you want to, not because you want me to untie you."
A growl, like an animal, rips up my throat. "I will never want to touch you. Never!"
You ignore me and slip your jeans down over your hips. "I'm going to go wash the soup off. I'll be back, and then we'll try to feed you again."
I watch your bare feet pad out of the bedroom, willing my eyes to stay away from any other parts of your body. Why do you care if I eat? You kidnapped me.
A shower turns on somewhere down the hall. I hear you step in and slide a curtain closed. Something thuds, like a plastic shampoo bottle set down on a ledge. It doesn't take you long to come back with a towel wrapped around your waist, dark curls wet and glistening on your head.
You stand next to the bed, your low-slung towel level with my eyes, and open the drawer to your nightstand. After shuffling around inside, you take out a small white tube and rub some kind of ointment on your chest over the blisters.
"What do you want from me?" I ask. My voice is filled with defeat that's slowly taking over my heart. "I'll do whatever you want." Tears trickle down my cheeks. "Just let me go home."
You bend down and rub your thumbs across my cheeks collecting tears. "I told you, Rachael. You are home." Your warm lips press against my forehead. "It'll be good."
"What do you mean?" I whisper, afraid to ask, because I already know the answer. My lips tug down at the corners and quiver. You're never going to let me leave you.
You sit beside me and run your fingers down my cheek. "You've always been the person holding everything together haven't you?—for your mom when your dad was sick, after he died, for your brainless roommate."
I can't breathe. I can only stare at you. "How do you know about me?"
Your eyes trail over my face. "I know." You stroke my hair and stare deep into my eyes. "You're always the strong one, aren't you? But who takes care of you, Rachael?"
"I take care of me." I shift my head away from your fingers. "I don't even know you. Were you stalking me?"
You grin, like I'm a little girl asking a silly question. "I offered you a job. You couldn't take it. Your life wasn't your own. Now it can be."
Your voice. Your face. That's it—I know you. "We video chatted. You're…" I shake my head in disbelief. You can't be the clean-shaven man in the business suit I spoke to.
"Merrick Rocha, CEO, Rocha Enterprises." You smooth the crease between my eyebrows and laugh at my shock. "You made a lasting impression on me, Rachael, and I don't like to be turned down. I needed to find out why you didn't come work for me."
How can a respected, beautiful man be entirely crazy? "So you kidnapped me?"
You flinch at my words. "I'm detaining you until you choose to be here."
My mind races back through everything you've just told me. "But, how does that make my life my own?"
You frown and look away from me. "You want to be here. I know you do." You leave the bed and cross the room to dress. I don't watch. I stare out the window.
Mr. Rocha, real estate mogul and owner of Rocha Enterprises, kidnapped me. My mind tries to make sense of it, but it spins in endless circles. You want me to choose to be here with you. It defies logic.
I think back to my video interview with you. It was the third interview. The two prior had been with a human resources manager. You were impressed with me. I was attracted to you.
You said you didn't even need to consult anyone else for an opinion and offered me the position of project manager right then. You offered to fly me to Florida on the next plane out. I told you I would need to discuss the offer with my family, and called you the next day to decline after my mom freaked at the thought of me leaving town.
It was my dream job overseeing the renovation of a historic hotel in Florida's Everglades with a multi-million dollar budget at my disposal. After years of architecture and design classes, working as an intern for pennies, my day had arrived only to be shot down.
I snap my head to look at you. "We're at Turtle Tear Hotel, aren't we? In the Everglades."
You pull a soft, white t-shirt down over your chest and smile. "I told you, you're home." You step toward the door.
"Wait!" I call after you. You turn and face me. "Why like this?" I tug at my ropes.
You shrug. "I didn't know how else to do it." Your eyes are tormented. "I'm not really a kidnapper, Rachael."
"Then let me go."
Your head drops. "You'll try to leave."
"I don't understand. Why me?"
You don't answer, just shake your head and leave the room.
You untie my right hand to let me eat. I raise the sandwich to my mouth and take a bite. Peanut butter and grape jelly.
"I hope it's okay," you say. "I can make something else if it's not."
I've resolved to act like your best friend in the world until you let me loose, and I can get the hell out of here. "It's actually one of my favorites from when I was a kid. I loved PB&J's all warm and gushy from my lunchbox."
"You want another?" You gesture toward the bag of bread, jar of peanut butter and squeeze bottle of jelly on the nightstand.
"Yes, please. I'm starving."
You laugh and reach for the bread. "You should be. You haven't eaten in over two days."
I gasp and choke. You pat my back and grab the bottle of water. I chug it and cough a few more times. "How long was I out?"
"Since Friday night. It's Monday afternoon."
I drop my sandwich and grip your arm. "You have to let me call my mom. She'll be having a nervous breakdown by now."
You take my hand and hold it between both of yours. "She's fine. I've taken care of it."
"What does that mean? You've taken care of it?" I'm squeezing your hand, holding on for dear life.
You tuck my hair back behind my ear. "Don't worry, Rachael. I've taken care of everything. She's not worried about you."
Thoughts race through my head. I grasp for them, but they slip through my fingers. "What did you do to my mother?"
You pick up my sandwich and hand it to me. "Please, Rachael, do you think I'd hurt her? I told you, everything I did, I did for you. I told your mom that your plans to join me here were sudden and you would be in touch soon. Now eat."
"She believed you? That easily?"
He grins, a dimple studs his cheek. "I can be charming and persuasive."
I didn't know my mom could be charmed or persuaded by a man. I take another bite. My throat is constricted, and I'm sure I won't be able to swallow. You pick up the T.V. remote and turn it on. "Any preference?"
I shake my head and wash down my sandwich with a huge amount of water. "Can I see the hotel?" Maybe I'll locate a phone or a vehicle I can steal.
You meet my eyes, considering. "Okay. You seem calm now. It's not like you can go anywhere. The only way off this island is by helicopter. You don't fly, do you?"
"Fly?" My head instantly aches. "No, I don't fly." With my free hand, I gesture to my bound wrist. "Why am I tied to a bed if I can't get off the island?"
"So you couldn't hurt yourself." One side of your lip quirks into a bashful smile. "Or me."
"Hurt you? You're a lot bigger and stronger than me."
"I was afraid you might go crazy."
I can't do anything but stare at you and blink. "You abduct me and you were afraid I might go crazy?"
You bite your lips, trying not to laugh. "I never said I was good at this. It's my first time. You have to cut me some slack."
I can't suppress a sharp laugh. It surprises me as much as it does you. "Other than tying my wrists, you suck at this."
You thread your fingers through your hair and rest the palms of your hands on your forehead. "I should have never done it. I'm sorry. It was impulsive and stupid." You let your hands fall and lower to your knees beside me. Your fingers work quickly to untie my bound wrist. When it's free, you hold my hand and look in my eyes. "I didn't know how to get you to come with me."
I can't shake the feeling that you're way ahead of me—that your feelings are more than two people who were attracted to each other in a bar one night. "How long have you been watching me?"
You take a deep breath and look down at my hand in yours. "Since about a week after you turned down the job."
I pull my hand from yours. Your touch isn't welcome. "Three months. That was three months ago."
You nod, but won't look me in the eye. You're ashamed. "I didn't peek in your windows or anything like that. I respected your privacy. Nobody has ever refused a project manager position at Rocha Enterprises. When you told me your situation and turned down my offer to relocate you and your mom…" You let out a long breath, and your eyes finally crawl to mine. "My intention was to convince you—in person—to take the job. But after I got to you, after I found out what kind of woman you are, I knew there was nothing I could say and no amount of money I could offer to change your mind. I got desperate."
I stare you down, want to make you flinch under my hard gaze. Your eyes hold steady on mine, up for the challenge. "What kind of woman am I?"
You lift your chin a little more. "Smart, but I knew that from our phone conversation. Beautiful, but a lot of women are." You reach up with a shaky hand and brush my cheek. "Kind and loyal. Caring. Loving. Selfless." You smile watching your fingers trail across my skin. When you meet my cold eyes, your hand falls and your smile falters. "The kind of woman who could have everything she wants if she would only take it for herself. But she won't. That's why I brought you here."
I make a fist, squeeze it tight and pound it against my knee. What were you thinking? "Take me on a tour of this place. I can't think about this anymore."
I was right. You are keeping me in the attic. It's the only part of the hotel that's habitable. Plaster crumbles off the walls. Chipped and broken tile litters the floors. You lead me to the grand staircase. It sweeps in a wide arc from the third floor down to the entryway.
I place my hand on the top of the railing. "That's not secure," you say, putting an arm around my waist to keep me from falling over the side.
"This is mangrove root, isn't it?" I ask, bending to slide my fingers over a twisted wooden baluster.
Your serious, focused gaze is back, appraising me. "Yes. Local to the area. This railing was installed
"During the recovery from the Okeechobee Hurricane in nineteen twenty-eight." I run my hands over the soft, worn wood. "There wasn't much money to rebuild, so they used what they had on-hand."
When I turn back to you, your hands are tucked inside your jeans pockets, and there's a smug smile on your lips.
"What?" I ask.
"My method for getting you here couldn't have been worse, but I knew this place had worked its way inside you like it has me." You run your hand along the railing, stopping beside mine. "Nobody knows its history like you. After our interview, I knew you were the only one I could trust it to."
"What made you buy it?" I take a step down, and you follow beside me. "It's falling apart, there's no access to the island. It'll take a miracle to make this place operational again."
"It doesn't matter. Look at this place." You stop and open your arms wide taking in the soaring ceiling with thick wood beams and colorful peeling Spanish murals of trees, lakes, birds and turtles. "Tell me you don't feel it."
I do feel it. It's magic. Life throbs outside the long, shuttered windows. Tendrils of tender green vines snake through cracks in the foundation, sneak in under doors and climb up window frames. "I feel it," I whisper to myself. But you hear me.
"I knew you did," you whisper back. "Do you know how it got its name? Turtle Tear Island?"
"No. That's the one piece of history I couldn't dig up." I spent hours and hours prepping for my interview with Rocha Enterprises. When I first started researching the historic hotel, I fell instantly for its rustic charm. Turtle Tear was the only place to vacation in the twenties if you were wealthy. Even celebrities stayed on the island for their summers.
I found black and white pictures online of women in cocktail dresses sitting on the tiled patio under the shade of ancient flowering trees. I could almost hear the circular fountain in the center of the patio trickling with water when I stared at the photo. I printed a few pictures and carried them in my day planner until I turned down the job.
"There's a legend," you say starting down the stairs again, "that Ponce de León while searching the Everglades for the Fountain of Youth took a Native American lover and kept her on this island. He promised her when he found the fountain, they would marry, and they'd have children together." You stop to make a point. "I've read theories that Ponce was obsessed with finding the fountain to cure his impotence."
- "...an interesting, exciting, heart-catching take, and certainly one I'll add to my "What to Read After Fifty Shades" list."—Maryse's Book Blog
- "I love the banter between Rachael and Merrick throughout the book..... some steamy scenes that will not leave you disappointed."—The Indie Bookshelf
- "I loved this book! And seriously, I am shocked about it...This book was a definite winner for me. After Fifty rating: 5/5 for sure!"—My Keeper Shelf Blog
- "If you are a fan of Christian Gray, or Gideon Cross you will develop a fondness for [Merrick Rocha] as well. Broken, kind, lost, sexy as all get out, and a little dangerous..."—Bookish Temptations
- On Sale
- Jan 8, 2013
- Page Count
- 256 pages