Authors: Clara Bayard
Tags: #clara bayard, #seduced by danger, #new adult, #sexy billionaire bad boy, #female protagonist, #racy urban, #steamy romance, #hot alpha male, #prostitution, #serial, #philadelphia
By Clara Bayard
Copyright © 2014 by Clara Bayard
Get a first look at New Releases on my
All grown up and all alone...
Amanda Devlin steps of an airplane to an exciting future after her college graduation. But within minutes her dreams are dashed and her life is thrown into confusion and fear. Her sister is missing. A suspicious man seems to be following her.
Her only hope is a scrap of paper...
When she finds her sister's apartment ransacked and the police are reluctant to help, Amanda latches on to a single clue - a mysterious phone number.
The number leads her to a private club like nothing she's ever seen before. The only thing more shocking than the wealth displayed there is the club's true purpose.
...And a man she barely knows.
As she embarks on a dangerous journey, her only ally is sexy young billionaire Trey Heller. He’s her guide and her greatest temptation as Amanda enters a world of sex and danger to save her sister. Their attraction is undeniable, but his true intentions are unknown.
Stepping off the plane felt like more of an important moment than the graduation ceremony itself. Here I was, starting my new, adult life. College degree complete, ready to enter the world as…something. But more importantly, it was my chance to contribute. Pay my sister back for everything she'd done for me. Make up for all the sacrifices she’d made to get me here.
What I didn’t know – couldn’t know – is that I’d never be this way again. Never approach anything with the same open-hearted, naïve promise. My life was about to change more than I could have imagined, and I’d never be the same girl. She was about to be transformed by lust and violence, pain and desire.
But with no clue about what my immediate future held, I was proud of myself and excited. I smoothed down my hair, stepped around a family struggling to wrangle all of its members on the jetway, and entered the airport. I followed the signs to baggage claim, waited anxiously with everyone else, and then finally located my single suitcase, mature and capable, nervous and excited.
I dialed Kat's number to let her know I had arrived, but it went right to voicemail. Maybe there wasn't great service outside the airport. I thought I remembered her mentioning that sometime. So after sending her a quick text so she could find me, and sat down on a low, uncomfortable bench to wait.
It was interesting to watch the other passengers from mine and other planes go through the process of leaving. The businessmen who all seemed to have identical tiny bags, streaming past the rest of us to waiting cabs and cars. The giddy tourists who looked even more confused than me. There was the family I'd seen on the plane. They had so much stuff I couldn't believe it. Five people and dozens of bags. Must have cost a small fortune to bring all that junk. What a waste.
My eyes slid past them, continuing to scan the crowd. There was a line of men in suits holding tablets with names on them. Must be the modern equivalent of those signs I remember seeing in movies. Always looked so glamorous, the idea of having a driver waiting for you.
Then, as my gaze fell to another man in a suit slightly to the left of the drivers, a place inside me went cold.
He was tall and muscular, arms bulging weirdly under the jacket of his suit. He had light brown hair cropped close to his head and a wide, flat face that was just off from attractive. The man wasn't doing anything particularly strange, but something about him creeped me out. I hugged myself and shivered, trying to peek at him without calling attention to myself. But, I was sure he saw me. And for some reason I felt like he'd been watching me first.
That was stupid, of course. I wasn't cute enough or ugly enough to make strange men stare. Especially ones in nice suits. Unless I had something weird stuck to my hair, it must have been all in my mind.
Still, I was uneasy. I tried Kat again and got her voicemail again. I checked the time on my phone and frowned. My plane had landed over a half hour ago, right on schedule. It didn't make sense that she wasn't here.
“Dummy, she's probably waiting outside,” I muttered to myself. Her phone might have died. And since I didn't want to sit here any longer anyway, might as well go looking for her.
I wrestled with my suitcase a little, dragging the half busted handle up so I could roll it. Both wheels squeaked and tried to move in opposite directions and I almost tripped over the bag.
Once I got a job buying a new suitcase was high on my list of priorities. “Every adult needs proper luggage. Something you can trust to take you where you want to go,” my father used to say. The stained, faded bag I tugged more than rolled certainly didn't qualify.
Outside, the air was cool, and I was overwhelmed by noise. Car doors and trunks slamming. People yelling. Tires squealing. A little boy crying.
I looked up and down the line of cars sitting by the curbs, but didn't see a familiar one. Kat's lime green Mini Cooper was hard to miss. I walked a few yards in one direction and then back in the other, really unsure what to do.
“Do you need a taxi, Miss?”
The man who'd spoken startled me and I jumped. “What?”
“Sorry,” he said, kindly.
I looked up at him and smiled apologetically. “No, it's my fault. Too busy thinking to pay attention.”
“No problem. Do you need a taxi?” He was tall and dark, very skinny under the puffy brightly-colored jacket he wore. “There's a cab stand down there.” He pointed at a roped off area where a line of people waited.
“No,” I said, finally. “I'm waiting for a ride, but she's running late I guess.”
“Ah, okay. Well, if you need to page someone, head down to the cab stand. There's a booth there where they can help you.”
“Thank you so much.”
“No problem.” He smiled and patted my on the shoulder. Probably thought I was feeble minded or something.
Looking at his chest, I saw his airport ID and that his name was George. That calmed me a little and I was about to explain my silly behavior when I spotted the man from inside. The one who'd creeped me out. He was strolling casually down the sidewalk, but his eyes were intently fixed on me. I bit my lower lip, scared.
“Yes?” the airport attendant asked.
“Are there police officers here?”
His eyes widened. “Are you worried about your friend picking you up? I'm sure she's on her way. It can take quite a long time to get through traffic this time of day.”
“No. Um…I saw a man inside and he was staring at me. He's out here too, and still doing it.”
George's face went serious instantly. “Don't point or even look at him, just tell me what he looks like and where you see him.”
It was hard to keep my eyes from flitting over, but I managed it, giving him a description as best I could.
“Have you ever seen him before?”
I shook my head. “Never. I haven't even been here since I was little. The only person I know in Philly is my sister.”
“Is it possible she sent him?”
“I don't think so. She'd tell me.”
“All right, come with me.” He took the handle of my bag and led me away. We walked down towards the cab stand, right past the man from inside. He glanced over at me and then George briefly, and turned and went back inside the baggage claim area. I saw him lifting a cell phone to his ear and saw his lips moving. I couldn't hear him, but from the expression on his face, he wasn't happy.
“That was him?”
I nodded. “Do you think I'm crazy?”
“No,” George said, softly. “He's probably a run of the mill jerk. The kind who like hitting on pretty girls and don't care how weird they come off.”
I blushed and looked down, letting my dark hair cover much of my face.
“But just to be safe, I'll wait with you until your sister arrives, okay?”
“I'm sure you have better things to do, Sir.”
“Please, call me George. And I don't have better things to do. I got two daughters around your age and I'd hope someone would look out for them, too.”
“You're very welcome.” He sat my bag against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. “So, tell me what brings you to the city of Brotherly Love.”
“Oh, of course.” I grinned. “I graduated from college two days ago. I'm moving here to stay with my sister while I find a job and everything.”
“Well hey, congratulations. That's a wonderful thing. I'm sure your whole family is so proud of you.”
The familiar ache filled my chest. “My sister, Kat, is all the family I've got. Our parented died a long time ago.”
“Oh sweetheart, I'm so sorry. You girls must be so strong to take care of each other like that.”
“Kat is. She's done everything for me.” I looked away wistfully, eyes scanning the cars for hers. She'd sent me a picture of her sitting against the hood, her blond hair glowing in the sunshine against that silly little car. Said she'd bought it from someone at work who was moving and had to sell fast. I didn't really understand how a cocktail waitress could afford something so nice, even used, but Kat had a way of making things work. Getting good deals. Ways to keep things going when it seemed hopeless.
“I bet you're stronger than you give yourself credit for,” George said.
“I hope so.”
We stood there silently for a while and then George's jacket let out a blast of static. He reached inside and pulled out a walky-talky. He pressed a button and muttered something I couldn't understand. A static-filled voice replied and he sighed.
“I'm sorry, but I have to go.”
“I can call someone to come wait with you, or you can go inside to the security desk.”
“No, no. The man is long gone I bet. And I've got all these people around. Like you said, my sister will probably be here any minute.”
He frowned for a moment and nodded. “Be careful, okay? And if you see the guy, don't talk to him. Don't hesitate. Call for help right away.”
“All right. The booth there can reach me if you need anything.”
“Thank you, George.”
“You're welcome. And congratulations again.”
I smiled and shook his hand. My fingers looked so tiny against his bigger hand. But his shake was gentle and his smile was kind as he bid me goodbye.
Half an hour later I was still standing in the same spot, and beginning to panic. I'd called Kat so many times that now my phone was running low and I had no idea what to do. I'd wandered and paged her and texted and even sent her an email. But she didn't show up or get back to me. Something had to be wrong. Kat would never ever leave me handing like this. If she'd been unable to meet me she would have said something or found someone else to meet me. Terrible thoughts ran through my mind and I began to cry a little.
But as the first tear slid over my chin I grunted and swiped at it angrily. I wasn't the same weeping little girl anymore. I was an adult with a college diploma and I could sure as hell take care of myself without crying.
After looking in my wallet I figured I had just enough cash to get a cab to Kat's apartment. I remembered the address and so I went over to the now short line and waited to find someone to drive me.
Within minutes I was sitting in the back of a light blue car, my suitcase in the trunk, listening to the driver provide a play by play report of a sports game from last night. Apparently it hadn't gone well for the home team and he was pretty irritated. The mindless chatter calmed me in a weird way and I half listened while looking out the window.
Kat and I were both born here. Our parents, too. Mom once told me that members of our family from both sides had come from Ireland around the same time and both ended up in the same neighborhood for generations. We used to tease that Mom and Dad were probably related somehow and eventually there'd be a big scandal. Dad joked that being inbred would explain why we kids couldn't remember simple things like closing drawers and putting socks in the hampers.
Sometimes the good memories are more painful than the bad ones and I was suddenly breathless with grief.
Kat had warned me about this. That important events and dated would be hard. Things our parents should have been around to witness, be a part of. It didn't make the pain go away, but it did soothe me a bit.
As the cab made its way up into the city proper, I craned my neck to see everything of my new-old hometown.
The river to the right and the bright business of the city to the left distracted me. The skyline was different than I remembered. More skyscrapers filled the air.
Traffic was heavy and the cab crept slowly forward, but I didn’t mind. It was nice to have a quiet and unhurried reintroduction. After years in a smaller town and four on campus, the city was a lot to take in. Its vibrant hum harmonized with my own nervous energy and I found myself lowering the window and pressing my face into the rush of air that swept by. My hair escaped from its messy bun and blew into my eyes, making me laugh.