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Mine To Take

Nine Circles #1

St. Martin's Press

First in a brand new series featuring the members of the Nine Circles Club—friends bound together by power, secrets, need…and the love they will find and stop at nothing to keep.

Passion always comes at a price.

Gabriel Woolf is unstoppable. A ruthless businessman, he has perfected the art of revenge. Ever since his mother’s death, Gabriel has harbored only one wish: To take down the man who ruined their lives. But all bets are off when he meets his father’s step daughter, Honor St. James. Beautiful and innocent, she is everything Gabriel never knew he wanted—and now there’s no turning back…

Is her desire worth the risk?

Honor wasn’t born yesterday. She knows that Gabriel is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, willing to cross any line to get what he wants…herself included. But Gabriel’s passion for Honor—in spite of her connection to the man he hates the most—cannot be denied…and the feeling is utterly mutual. Can Gabriel be trusted? The only thing she knows for sure is how he makes her feel. And she can’t keep herself from coming back to him, over and over again…


 

Excerpt: 

Honor shivered as the hard winter cold slid icy hands up her legs, the pavement slippery and wet beneath the heels of her black Louboutins.

She drew her coat tighter around her, but even the expensive wool didn’t seem to have any effect against the biting cold.

The street was crowded with traffic and people hurrying home after a long day at the office and at first, Honor didn’t notice the long black limo parked just along the entrance to her building. At least not until a man in a chauffer’s uniform stepped in front of her. “Ms. St. James? Ms. King has sent a car for you.”

Honor stopped, glancing at the limo in surprise. The windows were tinted, hiding whoever was inside completely from view. “Oh,” she said slightly nonplussed. The pub wasn’t very far away and she hadn’t expected a lift. “That’s very kind of her.”

The chauffer pulled open the door for her and stood there, waiting.

An odd foreboding went through her as she stared into the dark interior of the limo, one that had nothing to do with the cold. As if once she got inside, she’d be taken away somewhere against her will, never to return.

Are you crazy? It’s just a car.

Irritated with herself, Honor shrugged off the feeling. Yes, that’s exactly what it was. Just a car to take her to a meeting. A thoughtful gesture by the Void Angel CEO. No big deal.

Smiling at the chauffeur, she got in, the warm interior of the limo a delicious contrast to the icy evening air.

But it wasn’t until she’d sat down on the plush leather seat that she realized she wasn’t alone.

And it wasn’t Eva King in the car with her.

A man sat on the opposite seat, long legs outstretched, arms folded. He wore a pair of faded blue jeans, worn at the knees, a black T-shirt, and a battered black leather jacket.

A workingman’s outfit, completely at odds with the obvious luxury of the car.

But the male wearing it was not in any way an average workingman.

He was tall, his head almost brushing the car’s ceiling, his legs taking up most of the room in the space between them. Powerful, too. She could tell by the breadth of his shoulders and the way his leather jacket pulled tightly across them, and the cotton of his T-shirt stretched over the contours of his chest. There was something rough about him, something brutal. An aura of menace that, along with his appearance, should have been intimidating.

But Honor wasn’t intimidated. She knew him.

He was Gabriel Woolf, infamous owner of Woolf Construction, one of the biggest and most successful private construction companies in the country.

Yet that wasn’t the only reason she knew him, why every time he appeared in the media she’d stop whatever she was doing and watch. She knew him because he’d been the teenage boy standing next to her brother nineteen years ago. The day her mother had finally tracked Alex down and dragged Honor along to convince him to come home. The last time she’d ever seen the big brother she’d once adored with every breath in her body.

She’d never, ever forgotten.

Catapulted suddenly back into the past, Honor completely forgot about the meeting she was supposed to go to, about where Eva King was and why Gabriel Woolf was here instead.

“Where’s my brother?” she demanded before she could stop herself. “Where’s Alex?”

Gabriel’s eyes were very dark, in stark contrast to the deep, tawny gold of his hair. There was a brutal beauty to his features. God, she still remembered his face from all those years ago—even then he’d seemed hard. And when she’d looked into his eyes, all she’d seen was anger. It prowled around inside him like a caged animal. Back then it had frightened her.

Now she could sense it still, colder, hungrier, but this time it didn’t scare her because he wasn’t the only one who was angry.

He didn’t move. Just stared at her. “Nice to see you too, Miss St. James.” His voice was deep, lazy. A deceptive voice, the note of sensuality of it, the thread of heat, completely at odds with the cold look in his eyes. “It’s been a while.”

Honor folded her hands on top of the briefcase in her lap. “Nineteen years to be exact and you didn’t answer my question.”

“You want to talk about your brother now?”

“Knowing he’s okay would be something.”

He studied her with an oddly detached kind of focus, as if he were looking at the results of an experiment he’d just conducted. It made her uncomfortable. “Yes, he’s okay.”

If okay could be applied to a lifestyle as dissolute as Alex’s was reputed to be. “Where is he?” she demanded again.

“What makes you think I know?”

“You’re his friend, aren’t you?”

“And you’re assuming that why?”

Because once, nineteen years ago . . .

That doesn’t mean they’re still friends now. Also, do you really care that much about Alex?

He’d left her. Left her and her mother alone after Daniel St. James’s suicide, and hadn’t contacted them. Not once. So no, she didn’t care.

With an effort, Honor made herself relax. “I’m probably assuming a great many things, actually. Sorry, I don’t usually make demands of strangers in cars.”

“Not so much a stranger since you know who I am already.”

“Yes, well. You’re pretty recognizable.” Honor lifted one hand and leaned across the space between them, holding it out. “Nice to meet you once again, Mr. Woolf.”

For a second Gabriel stared at her hand held out like an olive branch as if he didn’t quite trust it. Then slowly he unfolded his arms and enclosed her hand in one of his. “Likewise, Miss St. James.”

Her breath caught as a wave of heat washed over her skin at his touch, her heart suddenly racing. She had to fight to keep the reaction from showing in her face.

Damn, was that what she thought it was? It had been a while since she’d felt anything like sexual attraction to a man, so she couldn’t be sure.

Honor pulled her hand away, trying not to make her shock too obvious. “And that’s as good a question as any to start with. I thought I was supposed to be meeting with Eva King.”

Gabriel leaned back against the seat, folding his arms again. “You were. I’m a friend of Eva’s. She passed on a few details regarding your quest for investors and I decided I was interested.”

Not expecting it, Honor blinked. “You’re interested in Tremain Hotels?”

“Yeah, I am.”

“But . . . why?”

His dark eyes were watchful as if he was gauging her reaction. “I’m in the construction business, Miss St. James. And green construction is the way of the future. It’s where the money’s at. Of course I’m interested.”

For a minute Honor didn’t quite know what to say. She’d been expecting to meet Eva, not the man she’d forever associate with Alex’s disappearance from her life. But this was a good thing, wasn’t it? If he was as interested as he claimed, then having a company like Woolf Construction as a backer could only be an asset.

And perhaps she might be able to get a bit more information about Alex from him, too. Not because she wanted to make contact—no, he’d burned that particular bridge a long time ago—but something she could take back to her mother, who’d found his abandonment particularly hard to take.

“You look surprised,” Gabriel said.

“Of course I’m surprised. I wasn’t expecting you.”

“You’ll get over it.”

Honor shifted in her seat. “What about Eva then?”

“Don’t worry about her. She’ll be involved with the tech side of things. But I’m going to be handling everything else.”

There was something about the way he said it, so arrogant—so confident—that instantly got her back up. Annoyed and trying not to show it since he was a potential client after all, Honor folded her hands back on her briefcase again. “I see. So, I take it we’re not going to be meeting in the pub then?”

His eyes had taken on a strange glitter. “That wasn’t Eva’s plan. That was mine, but right now I’ve changed my mind.”

Honor found herself gripping her briefcase tightly, a strange little twist of fear curling in her stomach. “Oh?”

“Yes. I think we need a little bit more in the way of privacy.”

“Mr. Woolf—”

Abruptly he sat forward, a sharp movement that made her heart beat fast. “Are you afraid of me, Miss St. James?” The words were soft, but there was an underlying roughness to them that Honor found almost menacing.

Her fingers felt cold against the warm leather of her briefcase, the edges sharp, digging into her knuckles.

Gabriel Woolf. What did she know about him? The rough-edged CEO of Woolf Construction. The man she’d watched over the years—not with any conscious intent, but she’d been aware of him nonetheless. Was he a man to be afraid of?

Oh, there’d been rumors about him, about how he’d gotten the money to start his company so young, especially when he’d grown up on the streets. Rumors that he’d been a drug dealer at some point, with gang links. It was a well-known fact that he’d been the president of an outlaw motorcycle club, a fact the media loved to play up. But he’d never had any charges brought against him, nor did he ever answer questions on the subject.

Yet even without those rumors, he was rather frightening. Tall, clearly muscular, and exuding such a sense of a cold, powerful, tightly leashed anger, he was like a coiled spring. Or a loaded gun ready to go off at the slightest touch. So yes, maybe she was afraid of him. And, for some reason, also fascinated by him.

“No,” Honor said. “I’m not afraid of you.” She’d learned a thing or two when it came to dealing with powerful men, the kind of men rife in the world of high finance. One was to never admit to fear.

Gabriel’s dark eyes didn’t leave her face. “You’re in a strange car with a strange man going fuck knows where and you’re not afraid?”

Was he trying to intimidate her? Put her off? He was out of luck in that case. Because the second lesson she’d learned was to never back down.

“No,” she repeated. “Should I be?”