Pretentious. Arrogant. Condescending. Cruel.
All words I'd used to label him. Exactly what I'd always believed he was. All that changed one spring morning when I realized I didn't know the man behind the facade at all.
Angry. Desperate. Broken. Mine.
All words I'd use to define him after I interfered. Once our eyes locked, I was all in. There was no turning back. He tried to push me away, but I refused to let him go. I was determined to save him. What I didn't expect was that he would save me, too.
I was so close to ending my misery. Mere seconds away. Then she stumbled upon our argument, and I changed my plans. She wasn't supposed to be there. She knew too much. Even with my entire world burning down around me, she wouldn't walk away.
I've always been on my own. No one had ever fought for me before. Why should anyone start now? But she did, no matter how much I tried to stop her. I knew I was nothing, unworthy of her, but she was persistent. Once she got under my skin, I couldn't let her go, because where I end, she begins.
About the Author
Michelle Dare is a romance author. Her stories range from sweet to sinful and from new adult to fantasy. There aren’t enough hours in the day for her to write all of the story ideas in her head. When not writing or reading, she’s a wife and mom living in eastern Pennsylvania. One day she hopes to be writing from a beach where she will never have to see snow or be cold again.
Read an Excerpt
"Eve, dear, will you please bring me the Winston file?" Risa asks from her office.
"Sure. One second." Pushing my feet along the tile floor, I wheel my chair to the filing cabinet on the wall opposite my desk. I find the file and take it in to her. She's sitting behind her mahogany desk with her head down, concentrating on what's in front of her. The light floral scent of her perfume fills the room. She thanks me before I return to my desk.
Clarissa, aka Risa, is my boss, and we work in her home. I only travel with her on occasion. Mostly, I can do everything from here or from my apartment when she's away. She's a business development consultant. Risa provides businesses with insight on how to gain efficiency in their overall operations and improve their customer service. She helps to develop and deliver customized training content, so the companies she's contracted with can train their employees. I'm here to keep her organized.
After spending two years in community college to become an executive assistant and bouncing from job to job for three years, I finally ended up with her. I've been working for Risa for a year and really enjoy it. The job is fast-paced and never dull. Plus, working in her home means I only have a short commute since we both live in the same town. Although, Risa lives on the wealthier side, while I'm clear on the other side in my one bedroom, one bathroom apartment.
Risa gets on a call and I close her office door to give her privacy and so she doesn't hear me working. My phone rings constantly. She doesn't need to listen to me talking while she's trying to have a videoconference. The next two hours are spent with me fielding calls and trying to respond to emails. Risa is highly sought after in her field, and thus, only takes on higher profile clients who can afford her steep fees. She pays me very well, but I have my own debt to try and get myself out of. Namely, student loans, a car loan, and a credit card I use when I need to. I'm not deep in debt, but I do have bills.
The doorbell to Risa's home rings. That's one of the downfalls of working in someone's house, especially when the office is located right off the massive entryway. The home is huge and sound travels. I try to ignore it as it chimes again, but it's a little difficult, considering the way my desk is set up. I can see out of the office and notice anyone who comes into the house.
Risa's housekeeper/chef/all-around amazing woman answers the door. I groan when I see who it is. Parker. Of all the guys in town, he has to show up. Of course, his eyes land on me the second he's in the door. He smiles and walks over. His long-sleeve, hunter green shirt is tucked inside khaki shorts. He's lean but not skinny. Muscular. I guess he's attractive, well, to some. Not me.
"Eve, fancy seeing you here." He props his ass on my desk.
"I know. Especially given the fact I'm here five days, if not more, a week when Risa is, and sometimes when she isn't." I take one of my steno pads and swat him with it. "Get the hell off my desk." He jumps up but doesn't go far.
"What's the matter? Don't want Risa to see you talking to me?"
I give him an evil grin. "She'd tell me to hit you harder." Risa loves all her son's friends, but when they start interfering with work, they need to go. If she saw him bothering me, she'd show him the door. It's one of the things I love about her. No time for bullshit. When she's working, which is almost always, she's very focused.
The sound of heels hitting wooden stairs reaches me. Another bonus of being off the entryway; I get to hear every person who walks up and down the steps leading upstairs. God, Parker needs to get the hell out of here. I have zero interest in seeing whatever skank is coming down the stairs. I'm stuck. I can't exactly leave, plus there's nowhere for me to go unless I hide in the bathroom. I've done that repeatedly in the past, though, I'm not in the mood to do it today.
Then I see her ... and him. Her bleached blonde locks are a stark contrast to his jet-black hair. In heels, she's almost as tall as he is. Tight skirt, tighter shirt, boobs barely staying in. I will never understand what he sees in the women he brings home. He's only with these women for a quick fuck and nothing more.
They stop in the doorway. "Evie," Cy greets in his deep voice. He's still the only one who calls me that. Never Eve.
Even after all these years, his voice still does something to me. Back in high school, it used to send a chill of fear down my spine but also drew me in when he was close. Now, it makes me shiver with want, then hate myself for thinking about him that way. He's still an arrogant asshole. He might have grown up, and physically matured very nicely, but I can't forget the way he treated me. Those scars are always with me, making me doubt myself and my self-worth.
Today he's wearing a black t-shirt, which is tight over his muscular arms and a little loose in the stomach. I know from seeing him in nothing but shorts that he is chiseled perfection. Broad chest, powerful arms, rock hard abs, which lead to the sinful V of his waist. Perfection I have no business admiring. My body is a traitor to my mind, as are my eyes. I can't change the way I react to him and believe me I've tried.
He leans against the doorway and crosses one ankle over the other while his arm is thrown over his slut's shoulders. The khaki shorts he's wearing are like Parker's, only Parker doesn't fill them out the way Cy does.
When my eyes reach back to Cy's, I notice his eyebrow is cocked at me in question. He doesn't say anything about me checking him out. Ever since I started working for his mom, he stopped being a dick to me. Stopped talking to me almost altogether, as a matter of fact. He'll say my name in greeting or a singular word here or there, but that's it. Don't get me wrong, he's still a colossal douchebag, but I'll take minimal words instead of the bullshit he used to pull with me in high school.
I flip him off. He barks out a laugh then nudges his flavor of the day toward the front door.
Parker winks at me and says, "See you later, sexy."
Cy's head whips around to give Parker a hard glare. I ignore it and respond, "Only if by later you mean when you're daydreaming of me with your hand wrapped around your dick."
"Damn straight," he laughs. Cy shoulders him, pushing him out of my office.
Years have gone by and I still can't figure out Cy. The time between graduation and when I started working for Risa, I never saw him. Then my dad got a job transfer to Florida. I had the choice to move with them or stay here and take over my mom's job. I chose to stay. I'm not completely sure why. Yes, I know the area, having lived here for years, but there is nothing holding me here with my parents gone. Yet, here I am. There was something in my gut telling me not to go. Luckily, I had enough money saved to put a deposit down on an apartment.
Risa emerges from her office. "Did I hear Parker?"
"Then Cy must have been here as well."
"Yeah, he was."
"I wish he would find someone nice and settle down. It's time he stopped bringing home a different girl every night. He's never had a serious girlfriend."
"Never?" I ask. I would have thought at some point he would have been with the same woman for longer than a couple of days.
"No. I don't think he's found her yet. Or, he has and doesn't realize it." She gives me a pointed stare.
"Oh, no you don't. You know I wish him no ill will, but that is never going to happen."
"I've seen the way he looks at you."
I laugh. "You mean with utter distaste?"
"No, it's something else entirely. He only does it when you're not looking. Like he's cataloging everything about you. It's very intense." She turns to go back into her office. "I've asked him about you, but he immediately shuts down. Maybe you'd have better luck talking to him."
"Maybe a unicorn will knock on my door and ask me to ride it to a faraway land," I mutter.
"What was that?" she calls from her office.
"Don't forget you have a call in fifteen."
"Thanks for the reminder!"
I spend the rest of the day nailing down her itinerary for her trip early next week. She's going to California for five days and always likes to see a list of her meetings in advance of her leaving. I go over my own checklist to make sure I've got everything arranged, from car services to flights to the hotel reservation. I like to do this days in advance, so if changes need to be made there is time.
Risa begs me to stay and have dinner, since she knows there is only something frozen waiting for me at home. After repeatedly telling her I can't, I give in. There's no use arguing with her. I don't have a clue why I try every time she invites me to stay, which is usually twice a week when she's home and not traveling. Hell, even when she is traveling she tells me to drive over here for a home-cooked meal. With my parents far away, it's nice to have someone looking out for me. Someone to make sure I'm not wasting away, eating a three-dollar meal from the frozen section of the grocery store.
We take a seat in their large dining room. There's a long, wooden table that seats eight. Risa sits at the head while her husband, Everett, takes a seat at the opposite end. He's not always here when I stay for dinner. More times than not, he's working late. He smiles warmly at me and makes small talk. He's a partner in an accounting firm. I think they've been married fifteen years or so. She doesn't share his last name. Risa had already been well into her career when they married, and she didn't want to change her name. She kept the last name of her first husband, who was Cy's father. He died when Cy was three years old. I always wondered how Everett felt about that. Did he care that his wife didn't share his name? Then again, times have changed, and women don't always take their spouse's name.
Dinner is being served when Cy walks in. He pauses for a moment when he sees me. It's not the first time we've eaten dinner at the same table, but it's certainly not common. He's absent more than Everett.
"Well, isn't this cozy?" Cy sneers at no one in particular as he takes a seat.
I ignore him and start eating. The faster I swallow all this food, the faster I can get the fuck out of here. While I eat, I focus on the off-white wallpaper with its subtle swirls. That or the crystal chandelier overhead. Anything really except Cy. Never him. Not while I have Risa on one side of me and Everett on the other. The tension in the air is palpable. It's like I'm in the middle of one gigantic time bomb, waiting for it to explode.
It's well known that Cy and Everett don't get along. I've heard enough from my mother, when she was working here, and the tiny amount I've picked up since I've been employed. They fight and it's the kind of arguments where there is yelling, and it makes me uncomfortable. My parents never fought loudly. When I misbehaved, I would get a stern talking to. That was it.
Deciding the best course of action is to focus strictly on my food, as not to catch anyone's gaze on me, I take bite after bite. I'm almost done. Only two pieces left. Two perfectly cooked pieces of prime rib. Too bad I'm so uncomfortable I can't enjoy it.
"Stop it," Cy growls. My head snaps up as I look at him across the table from me. With my eyes on him, I know he's not watching me. No. It's Everett he's warning.
"I don't know what your issue is, but I suggest you calm down," Everett tries warning him back, but by the look of Cy's face, there's no way he's going to relax.
"Do it again, and we're going to have a problem."
Everett places his napkin on the table and pushes his chair out. Before he can stand, Risa speaks up. "That's enough from both of you. Stay seated in those chairs, and eat your dinner. We have a guest, remember?"
Everyone shifts their focus to me. Oh, hell no. I shove the last piece of meat into my mouth and chew like I never have before. With as much politeness as I can muster, I place my napkin on the table, thank Risa for dinner, and bid everyone a good night.
I practically run from the dining room. When I reach my desk, I grab my purse and make the short dash to the front door. I'm out of it in seconds, not wanting to make the walk to the garage. I wanted to be outside as fast as possible.
Four steps from the house and I hear the door open behind me. So fucking close. I don't turn around. I honestly don't want to know who it is. My car is calling to me, and the road in front of Risa's house has never looked so good. I keep walking, ignoring whoever it is.
"Evie, stop." Son of a bitch. Cy came after me? Really? Risa couldn't have held his ass in the house until I was safely down the driveway?
My feet stop at his voice, although I don't turn toward him. I stay staring down at the pavers — the path which will lead me to my Jetta. So close and yet so very far. Should I respond to him? No, I'm not the one who has something to say.
He walks around me until he's standing less than a foot from me. His black hair hangs on to his forehead. He brushes it back, giving me unrestricted access to his crystal blue eyes. In all my twenty-four years, I can't remember seeing eyes so beautiful on anyone. I send a silent thank you to whomever created Daylight Savings Time. If it were winter, I wouldn't have been able to see him so clearly, since the sun sets far sooner. He quickly averts his eyes.
"I just ..." he starts, then rakes a hand through his hair. "He shouldn't have ..." Why is he having such a hard time completing a sentence? Also, this is the most he's said to me in months. I wait for him to continue; however, he's far too upset to do so. He keeps looking around me, out to the street, behind him, anywhere but my face as he shifts his weight from one foot to the other.
"I really should be going." I'm not sure what else to say. Cy and I don't talk. We don't have conversations, and this is awkward as hell.
He nods but doesn't step off the path. Okay then. I move to step around him. At the same time, his hand reaches up to gently catch my arm just below my elbow. I tense as chills race up my arm. His eyes are focused on the ground behind me. "I'm sorry."
It takes a second for me to compose myself. The chills are still there; my hair stands on end where his fingers gently hold my arm. "You have nothing to be sorry for."
He drops my arm as if I'm toxic and takes a step away. "I do."
Despite his retreat, I stand in place and don't run to my car. "It was only dinner. It's fine." It wasn't fine at the time, and none of this is fine right now, but I need to say something to end this awkwardness. I'm not sure which is worse. Whatever the hell happened at dinner, or standing outside with Cy.
"That's not the only thing I'm apologizing for," he whispers.
The meaning of his words slams into me with the force of a freight train. I'm transported back to high school. Back to every horrible moment I had, thanks to him. My heart starts to race as panic sets in.
When I can finally form words, I open my mouth but he's gone. That's my cue to get in my car and try to figure out what the hell just happened.
It's Friday and thank fuck for that. Risa leaves tomorrow for California, which means I get to work from home next week. No Cy. No Everett. No craziness. Well, to be fair, everything has been quiet since dinner the other night. I haven't seen either of them and I'm grateful. Just Risa and I. Or just me, for that matter. I came back from picking up her dry cleaning and dropping off mail at the post office to find she's not anywhere to be found. There's nothing strange about that, though. It's her home. She sometimes disappears, and I just keep plugging away. I have plenty to keep me busy.
I'm flipping through the mail I picked up at the post office when I hear shouting. Then, more shouting. I lean to the right a little to try and get a glimpse of what is going on, but I can't see anything. Maybe it's just Cy and Everett fighting again. All I can make out is a male voice. Everett comes home sometimes for lunch, since he doesn't work too far from home.
"I'm done, Risa. He's beyond spoiled!" Everett yells. I lean back in hopes of no one seeing me trying to eavesdrop.
"Where are you going?" she cries.
"Don't leave. Not like this," she pleads with such emotion in her voice. I've never heard her sound like this before. Instantly, I'm worried.
He doesn't respond. The next sound I hear is a door slamming in the distance. He must have left through the garage. Risa sniffles then runs back through the house––her heels clicking quickly over the tile floor. I get up from my desk and follow her. Something happened. Maybe I can help. Or maybe I'm just being nosy and want to know what's going on.
Excerpted from "Where I End"
Copyright © 2017 Michelle Dare.
Excerpted by permission of Michelle Dare.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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