He's master of the game.
Zac Rutherford is one of the most powerful and sought-after men in New York's private club scene. Masterful and demanding, he attracts beautiful women willing to surrender to his every whim, every desire, and every command. But Zac is in love with one woman, and one woman only. She is his true passion-and sole obsession. A glorious angel in the flesh...who refuses to be touched by any man.
She doesn't play by the rules.
Eva King owes her life to Zac. Seven years ago, he rescued her from darkness. Still, in spite of her attraction to Zac, she refuses to allow any man to touch her body, let alone her heart. But when a dangerous enemy from Eva's past reappears, Zac is the only one who can save her-if she's willing to bare her soul, shed her inhibitions, and surrender control...to him.
The Nine Circles series is:
"Sexy, emotional." -Laurelin Paige, New York Times bestselling author
"Sinfully sexy" -Opal Carew, New York Times bestselling author
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
You Are Mine
By Jackie Ashenden
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2015 Jackie Ashenden
All rights reserved.
"Can I buy you a drink?"
Zac Rutherford turned his attention from the heaving dance floor packed with scantily clad bodies.
There was a woman leaning on the bar next to him. A brunette with a full, red mouth and pale skin. She looked like Snow White. Except Snow White wouldn't be wearing a red leather dress with cut outs on the sides to emphasize the curve of her hips, the hem so short if she bent over he'd be able to see her panties. If she was wearing panties that was, and he was pretty sure she wasn't.
No, she definitely wasn't Snow White. And he was no Prince Charming. He wasn't even the Huntsman.
He was the dragon in the cave that ate virgins for breakfast.
The woman smiled at him then looked down. A submissive looking for a Dom for the evening. Limbo, New York's finest and most exclusive BDSM club, was full of them.
Perhaps a couple of months ago he would have been tempted. Hell, perhaps even a year ago he would have taken her up on the offer and not even thought twice.
But not now.
"I'm sorry, love," he said, regretfully. "Not tonight."
Her face fell. He had a reputation in BDSM circles — the Gentleman Dom they called him — for being exceptional when it came to psychological mind-fuckery, and some subs loved that more than a good beating. It was also an added turn-on for them that he hadn't been seen in the club for months, and they all wanted to be the one to lure him back.
Sadly for them it wasn't going to work. He'd been here only an hour and already he wanted to leave.
"Oh," she said. "You sure I can't change your mind?"
Perhaps if she had long white blonde hair and silver gray eyes. Wore black and liked to call him an asshole. Perhaps then ...
No. Not even then.
Zac shook his head. "I'm afraid not. But thank you for the charming offer. I'm sure there are many Masters here tonight who'd jump at the chance for a drink with you."
She blushed, pouting prettily. "Thanks. But I was kind of hoping ..."
He reached out, took her chin in his hand and gave it a gentle pinch. "No, love. And we'll leave it at that. Understand?"
She responded instantly to the undercurrent of iron in his voice, her gaze lowering. "Yes, sir."
"Good girl." Zac released her then gestured to the barman to fill up her glass. The least he could do was buy her another drink. Manners were important, and he wanted to show her that he was flattered by the offer. No more than that though.
Turning away from the bar, he began to make his way to the exit of the club. Scantily clad people all moved out of his way, responding instinctively to his authority.
On a stage near the dance floor a scene was in progress, a sub tied to a post in the process of being whipped. The Dom supervising the scene, a guy he knew vaguely, paused and raised an eyebrow at him, gesturing with the whip. Obviously an invitation. Zac shook his head and continued on toward the club's exit.
Christ, this visit had been futile. He hadn't been even remotely interested in either the pretty sub or the whipping scene. What the hell was wrong with him? He'd hoped to be tempted back into renewing his Limbo membership, but far from being tempted, he couldn't wait to leave.
Nodding to the club's doorman, he stepped out into New York's early March chill, with snow heaped on the sidewalks and a cold bite in the air. Pulling his overcoat tightly around him, he headed across the street to where his car and driver waited.
So much for that. Perhaps he should give up on the idea of finding out just where the bloody hell his libido had gone.
You know where it's gone.
And that was the problem, wasn't it? He knew exactly where it had gone. It was worshipping at the temple of Eva King. His angel. Which meant that sooner or later, if it didn't get any sustenance, it was bound to die of hunger.
Something stirred in his gut. Probably anger. Zac ruthlessly crushed the emotion as he pulled open the car door and got in. Anger was never advisable and certainly not when it came to Eva.
"Where to, Mr. Rutherford?" Angus, his driver, asked.
"Home I think, Angus."
As the car pulled away from the curb, his phone vibrated in his overcoat. He took it out and checked the screen.
Second Circle. Now. You're late.
It was from Gabriel Woolf, his friend and fellow member of the small group of misfits and loners who'd banded together years ago and who now called themselves the Nine Circles club. After Dante's Inferno, naturally.
He frowned. A meeting? Now? No one had informed him about it. A strange time for it too, at eleven at night. Then again, maybe they'd had a breakthrough with unraveling the mystery of who was behind one of the most notorious underground casinos in New York. Who'd had a man shot and a boy brutalized. Who'd torn the St. James family apart. And who, perhaps, had tried to get a particular piece of videotape destroyed.
A piece of tape that still hadn't given up its secrets no matter how many times he'd watched it.
Zac stared at Gabriel's text for a moment then typed a reply. I wasn't aware there was a meeting.
Another couple of seconds and a response came back. Eva didn't tell you?
Once again anger stirred, this time not so easily dealt with. So Eva had called the meeting, had she? And hadn't told him. Eva, who almost never did anything or went anywhere without him.
Eva, who was apparently hiding something from him.
Zac sent back a curt reply. I'll be ten minutes. Then he put his phone into his pocket and settled back in his seat. "I've changed my mind, Angus. Second Circle. Immediately. And don't spare the horses."
Angus didn't. And precisely ten minutes later, they were drawing up outside Alex St. James's club, the Second Circle, where the Nine Circles members held their regular meetings.
The doorman inclined his head as Zac approached, pulling open the doors with alacrity.
Zac nodded an acknowledgment then stepped inside, heading straight for the stairs that led to the club's private rooms.
He ignored the slow burn in his gut, the one he usually associated with anger. Clearly Eva hadn't informed him about this meeting for a reason, but by God it had better be a good one. She always told him first whenever she had something to share with the others. At least, she always had.
He didn't want to think about what that might mean.
Zac pushed open the door that led to the Nine's favorite room and walked straight in, kicking it shut behind him.
The room had a warm, luxurious feel to it, with wood-panel walls, tall library bookshelves, and subdued lighting. A couch stood before a roaring fire, flanked on either side by two leather armchairs, one currently occupied.
There was a silence.
Zac didn't speak, nor did he look at anyone but Eva.
She stood by the fire, her small, fragile figure dressed in her usual uniform of black skinny jeans and black Doc Martens, Iron Maiden T-shirt, and leather biker jacket. Her hair, the color of pure white snow, was pulled back in a messy ponytail, strands of it hanging around her face. Her eyes were a pure, crystalline charcoal gray and met his, full of her usual prickly defiance.
He could feel his body already beginning to gather into yearning, like she was a compass point he turned to no matter where he was. A feeling he was starting to hate since it would never, ever go anywhere.
Eva, his beautiful angel, the girl he'd rescued nearly naked and broken and bleeding from the side of the road one night seven years ago, had never given him one sign, not a single one, that she felt anything for him beyond a twisted kind of friendship. And that rendered her untouchable.
He wouldn't push himself where he wasn't wanted. Ever. Especially not with her. Her past had damaged her beyond repair, or at least beyond his ability to help. A fact that ached like a piece of broken glass lodged deep in his soul.
Pity his body didn't seem to be taking any notice. It wanted her with a single-mindedness that bordered on obsession.
Luckily he'd gotten very good at ignoring it.
"Sorry I'm late," Zac said, directing this to Eva as he put his gloves down on a nearby table and shrugged out of his overcoat. "I was unavoidably detained."
She lifted her chin. The look in her eyes told him she knew he was angry she hadn't told him about the meeting and that she didn't care. But then she never did. And the way she constantly challenged him was part of her charm, part of his fascination with her.
"You haven't missed anything," Gabriel said. "At least not yet." He was sitting in a chair near the fire, his long legs extended. A pale, exquisite woman sat in his lap, black hair and blue eyes, perfectly dressed in a pencil skirt and blouse. Honor, Alex St. James's sister and Gabriel's lover, a new member of the Nine Circles.
On the couch sat her brother, one shoulder heavily bandaged from the gunshot wound he'd taken the previous week. Alex had only just come out of the hospital and looked like it too — shadows under his blue eyes, a pallor to his skin. Beside him, her hand on his thigh, sat his Russian bodyguard, Katya Ivanova. Another new member.
Really, it was getting far too crowded in here.
Zac nodded a wordless thanks to Gabriel for informing him of the meeting then walked over to the couch, slung his overcoat over the arm, then leaned his hands on the back of it, staring at the fine-boned woman standing in front of the hearth, the fire leaping at her back.
"Do go on, angel," he said levelly. "Don't let me interrupt you." But if you think I'm not pissed off about this you're mistaken.
The shrug she gave him was almost imperceptible to anyone but him. I don't give a shit whether you're pissed off or not. Aloud she said, "Okay, so where was I? I think I mentioned I've got a team at Void Angel dedicated to investigating this apparent human trafficking link Alex and Katya discovered at Conrad's Four Horsemen casino? Well, I've also been reviewing the security footage we got from him." She jammed her hands into the back pockets of her jeans. "And I think I may have some information."
Tension crawled along Zac's shoulders, stiffening his spine.
"Nothing," she'd said to him as they'd sat there, going over and over the tape Alex had gotten from Conrad South — casino owner; erstwhile member of Alex's father's mysterious Seven Devils club; rapist; and, as they'd lately found out, murderer. Footage taken at the Lucky Seven casino nineteen years ago, when Alex had been assaulted by the man.
It was their only lead to solving the mystery of who was behind the Lucky Seven and who had given the order for Alex and Honor's father to be killed and made to look like suicide. Why Honor's stepfather, still in a coma, had been shot. And why Alex had been warned off digging too deeply into the doings of the Seven Devils by a mercenary he'd met in Conrad's own casino.
So, Eva had lied to him. It would have surprised him if he hadn't guessed that already. If he didn't know her the way he did, every expression, every inflection in her voice. He always knew when she was holding back or when something scared her, and that day, watching the tape, something had scared her. And he'd hoped, he'd really hoped like he always did, that she would come to him with it.
You always hope that and yet you are always disappointed.
Story of his whole bloody life.
"What kind of information?" Alex asked, leaning back against the couch, his hand covering Katya's where it rested on his lap.
Eva rocked on her heels. She was nervous, Zac could immediately tell. No, more than nervous. He recognized the tilt of her chin, the rigid cast to her shoulders, the cynical amusement in her eyes. Eva wasn't nervous, she was scared.
Instantly he straightened. "Sit down, Eva, and I'll get you some tea."
"I don't want any fucking tea."
Oh yes, she was scared all right. Was that why she didn't want him here? Christ, what had she seen on that tape? Unease shifted inside him.
"Say what you have to say then," he ordered. "Now." The quicker she said it, the quicker they could get on to sorting what it was that had scared her.
The quicker he could get on to finding out who'd brutalized her all those years ago.
The quicker he could shoot that fucker in the head.
Eva's gaze remained on his. "Last time I checked, you weren't my boss. Which means I'll tell you whenever I'm goddamned ready, okay?"
He didn't react to the aggression in her voice — she always got belligerent and pissy when she was afraid. Merely held her sharp, silver stare. Waiting.
"I recognized the guy who was guarding the bathroom door," she said flatly. "I've seen him before."
* * *
Eva's fingers curled in the back pockets of her jeans. They were cold no matter the fire burning at her back, but then again, her hands were always cold. She could never get warm, no matter where she was.
And now she felt colder still.
None of the others would know the significance of her confession — she'd never told anyone about her past and she never would — but Zac would know. Which was why she'd wanted to tell the others without him here. She didn't want to see the flare of knowledge in his familiar golden eyes. Or the glitter of anger on her behalf. The anger that made her so fucking tired. That made leaving behind what had happened to her impossible.
But someone had told him to come, and so here he was. She would just have to deal with it.
So she braced herself and stared at him, and sure enough, there it was, the understanding. And close on its heels, the rage. It burned like a banked volcano in his eyes, a heat he never let out because Zac never let anything out. She'd never met a man so completely in control of himself, which was why he was her one and only friend.
He was the only person she ever felt utterly safe with, a fact that both annoyed her in the extreme and yet formed the entire foundation of her present life.
Oh yeah, there was a reason she was in the fucked-up billionaire's club. She was probably the most fucked up out of all of them.
"What do you mean you've seen that guy before?" Alex sat forward, frowning. His blue eyes were so sharp. Too sharp. "Where? How?"
Eva's jaw tightened. "I'm not telling you where or how. Don't ask, don't tell, remember? All you need to know is that I recognize him. He's hired muscle. And the last time I saw him was around seven years ago."
Alex's frown deepened. "Well, what the fuck does that mean? We need context, Eva."
Beside him, Katya gave Eva a narrow look that Eva returned unflinching. She respected the hell out of the Russian woman, but no one was going to make her say anything she didn't want to, ex-military or otherwise.
"No you don't." Her fingers curled tighter in her back pockets. "All that matters is that he's hired muscle and if we can track him down, we might be able to find out who he was working for back then."
"We don't need to track him down for that. He was working for fucking Conrad, obviously."
"But do you know that for certain? Everything we've discovered so far points to involvement that goes deeper than Conrad South, Alex. Perhaps this guy wasn't working for him at all."
Alex's gaze was sharp as a sword. "Yeah, which is why we need context."
A silence fell in the room, the fire at her back crackling in the hearth the only sound.
"He's right, Eva," Gabriel said at last. "Context would be extremely fucking valuable here."
She shifted her attention to the other man in the armchair, Honor St. James sitting in his lap like a queen on a throne. His arm was around her waist, his hand resting loosely on her stomach, and there was something proprietary about the hold that Eva found deeply unsettling.
She ignored the feeling. Honor clearly welcomed the attention and seemed to enjoy having such an obvious claim stamped on her. It made Eva shudder, but if the other woman was happy, then that was her business. "I'm afraid you're not getting any context, so if you're expecting more you're shit out of luck."
Gabriel's dark eyes glinted. "Tremain is still in the hospital and Honor's life is possibly still under threat. Daniel St. James was murdered. Whoever is behind this is in all likelihood involved in drugs and human trafficking, and yet all you're worried about is your fucking privacy?"
Excerpted from You Are Mine by Jackie Ashenden. Copyright © 2015 Jackie Ashenden. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.