Arrogant Master

By: Winter Renshaw

PROLOGUE




BELLAMY



“When are you going to take me home to meet your parents?” Cortland’s hand glides into places it doesn’t belong. His hot breath evaporates into fog as he whispers into my ear. I wish we were anywhere else but the backseat of his Kia. “Your father’s going to love me.”

I tug on his arm until his hand is free. I don’t want him talking about my father while he’s about to be knuckle-deep inside me.

“What’d you stop for?” The baffled expression on his chiseled face is a problem for me. “I thought you liked it when I–”

“Not in the mood tonight.” That’s what he gets for bringing up my prudent, strict, devout father who would marry me off in two seconds flat if he knew I were in the backseat of a boy’s car when I’m supposed to be at Bible study.

I stare into his impossibly gorgeous green eyes. Even in the dark they shine like two polished emeralds. His greedy hands lunge for me once more, but I block his move, crossing my forearms like some kind of flesh-toned barricade.

“You should take me back now. It’s getting late.” I inject my tone with a saccharin apology in an attempt soften any case of blue balls.

Cortland’s shoulders fall. He pushes a steady breath through his nostrils. “Was it something I said?”

Yep.

“I just don’t want to get caught. We shouldn’t do this anymore.” I take the virtuous path, hoping that a faith-based argument will hold some weight with the son of an AUB quorum member. Besides, it’s time I break up with Cortland. Not that he’s my boyfriend, but I’m sort of bored with him and the thrill of sneaking around is now yawn-inducing.

And I think he’s falling for me, which wasn’t supposed to happen.

I don’t do romance and love and boyfriends, and he gave me a Valentine’s Day card last month. This day was going to come sooner or later. Now’s as good a time as any to end it.

I’m going to miss those lips, and the things he does with his tongue and the way his weight and warmth felt against my body in the cool of the night under the shade of dark. Our compatibility starts at physical and stops short beyond that.

It’s been fun, my handsome Cortland.

“You’re right.” He reaches for my hand, sandwiching it between his and holding my gaze as if he’s about to utter some kind of profound truth. “We need to make this right, Bellamy. We need to stop fooling around. It’s been, what, five-and-a-half months now?”

I wasn’t counting but okay.

“I have a confession.” His words stop my heart like the pause of a clock right before a bomb’s detonation. “I’ve already met your father.”

My mouth dries, prohibiting me from uttering a single word for a moment. “Um. What?”

He reaches for my face, cupping my jaw in a moment that might be tender to anyone else but me. “It’s time I make you mine. I want to be sealed to you.”

He has to be joking.

This isn’t the green-eyed, blond-haired guy I’ve been holding make out sessions with every Wednesday for the last five months, the one constantly uniformed in Sperry Topsiders, gingham button downs, and khakis with creases down the legs.

This is an imposter.

“Cortland.” His name comes from the most guttural part of me. “What did you do?”

“Relax.” He laughs. I don’t. “I just told him I was interested in courting you. He has no idea that we’ve been…”

His eyes drift to the hint of skin peeking out from the top of my unbuttoned blouse, and he wears the satisfied, stupid grin of a man replaying his glory days from the highlight reel in his head.

“Oh, God.” I exhale and then gulp in drink after drink of cool, spring air. “What did he say?”

“We went out to lunch. He wanted to get to know me. I told him we met at Bible study. Told him who my father was.”

My stomach twists hard, a balled knot lodging itself under my ribcage. I know where this is going. My father couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect suitor for his twenty-two-year-old daughter. My mothers haven’t shut up lately about the fact that I should be married by now, and my father stopped silencing their commentary several months back.

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