In the Nine Circles Club, there’s a fine line between pleasure and pain, sin and salvation, heaven and hell. And it takes one bold pair of lovers to cross it…
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.
“Seven years, Eva. Seven years I’ve done everything you wanted. I’ve kept my distance. Respected your boundaries. Been your friend and asked for nothing in return.” He met her gaze. “But now I’ve come to collect.”
Her jaw was tight and it was obvious she was struggling to contain her breathing. “Collect what? Jesus, since when did our friendship become a damn transaction to you?”
“Since the lives of our friends were put in danger.”
Color crept into her cheeks. “Yeah, okay. Look, I can find the identity of that guy no sweat. It won’t take long.” Her throat moved as she swallowed. “In fact, why don’t you take me out to the island? You can protect me there while I investigate.”
Of course she’d go for that option. Of course she’d expect him to fall in line, like he always did. “What do you think I am? Your tame housecat? Do you think you can order me around to suit yourself?” He held her gaze, letting the mask of the gentleman slip a little. Letting her see the beast he was inside. “I’m not your fucking pet. And the sooner you understand that the better.”
Anger flared in her eyes. “I’m not stupid, Zac. I know what you are.”
He watched her, studying the delicate architecture of her face. He’d been learning Eva King for years, and he knew all her expressions, all her moods, all her little gestures. “I’m not sure you do. You only see what I let you see. And I’ve been protecting you for a very long time.” He leaned forward, noting the almost imperceptible flinch she gave at the movement. “And I know you’re not stupid. What you are is scared.”
“Bullshit.” That anger burned bright, as if he’d personally insulted her. Her fingers flexed on the glass as she pushed herself away from the windows. “I’m not scared.”
It was a low move because he knew she hated being told she was afraid. That she’d react to it. Nevertheless, it was true.
He put his elbows of his knees, linking his fingers loosely. ‘“Then if you’re not scared, tell me what happened. Tell me how you know the man in that video. And why you’d get a personal email warning you off. We need the background, angel. We need to know those connections.” He paused. “Or are your friends’ lives less important to you than your fear?” Another low blow, but he’d push her, stoke her anger. That was preferable to her being afraid.
The color in her cheeks deepened. “No, of course not.”
“So tell me. I won’t ask again.”
“Oh Christ. You’re not my damn father, Zac, so quit telling me what to do.”
She was stalling, that much was obvious. Which meant he was going to have to push her again and this time go further.
The time had come for him to stop protecting her from himself.
Slowly, he got up from the chair and rose to his full height.
Her head tipped back as she tracked the movement, and he caught the fleeting apprehension that crossed her face. Then as quickly as it had appeared, the expression vanished, her usual sarcastic, prickly mask firmly back in place.
“I think,” he said gently, “that it’s time someone told you what to do more often. And that you should listen.”
“Or what?” She was operating on sheer bravado now, he could see it. “Are you trying to intimidate me? Is that what you’re trying to do?” She took a step toward him, then another. “Nice way to treat your friends, asshole.”
All the color had leached away from her face now, her cheeks pale as ashes. Her eyes glittered, fear bright in them despite her tough words.
That was the problem with his angel. She was a fighter; it was her greatest strength. Yet it was also her greatest flaw. Because she didn’t know when to stop. That sometimes there was more strength in surrendering than in fighting.
You can teach her how to do that.
Oh, yes. He could. There were so many things he could teach her if she’d only let him. But of course, she was never going to let him.
Zac took the last step, closing the distance between them, getting right into her personal space. He wasn’t touching her, but they were only inches apart. It was a tactic he used to intimidate and overwhelm. To assert his authority, his dominance.
Because if there was one thing Eva King had to learn it was that he was the one in charge now. Yes, her anger was preferable but her fear was also a useful tool, and use it he would. To break her.
It wasn’t something he relished doing; it was necessary in order to protect her and the lives of their friends.
Bullshit. You do get off on it. The Dom in you wants the challenge, it always has.
He ignored that thought, crushed the reflexive surge of desire as her eyes widened at his nearness, as she held her ground in front of him. Good Christ, she was nothing if not brave.
He’d never been this close to her before since she didn’t like to be touched. So close he could feel the warmth of her slight body, see the quickened beat of her pulse at her throat, smell the sweet, subtle scent of the jasmine and vanilla body lotion he knew she favored.
Desire rolled and stretched out inside him, lazy and hot. Fuck, she smelled delicious. It woke all the urges that should have been awakened by the sub in Limbo days ago but hadn’t.
Not a good sign. Because as much has he wanted to, he wasn’t here to dominate her. She wasn’t ready even if she’d shown an interest in him. And she’d never shown an interest. Not once.
No, he couldn’t satisfy those urges. Information any way he could get it, that’s all he was here for.
“Are you challenging me?” Zac murmured softly, looking down into Eva’s white face. “Because if you are, you’re making a mistake. I’m not a man you want to challenge.”
Her chin came up, courageous to the last. “Yeah and why is that? What are you going to do? You can’t force me, Zac.”
He smiled and deliberately let the mask of the gentleman drop. “Oh I won’t have to force you, angel. There are ways and means, and believe me, I know all the ways. I can make you want to give it to me.” He let his smile turn savage. “I can make you want to give me everything.”