Lured In (Dark Paradise, #1)

BOOK: Lured In (Dark Paradise, #1)
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Copyright © 2013 by V. R. Avent
All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the publisher or author.
www.vravent.com

Disclaimer:
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Cover Design by: V. R. Avent

ISBN-10: 0-9891341-1-3
ISBN-13: 978-0-9891341-1-8

Acknowledgments

Many, many thanks to Steph and Amy. You girls rock! I love and greatly appreciate you and your red and purple pens. I think one of you even used an orange one at one point. You girls were very generous with those pens. The editing process was very fun for us, wouldn’t you say? It was definitely the cause of many great debates and conversations. Thank you. I also have to thank Erin for her editorial services. The feedback was genuine and invaluable. To my precious, sweet little girl, Zréa, Mommy loves you. You are the gift that keeps on giving. And Daniel, I can’t forget you. Your words inspired me. Thanks a zillion!

Chapter One

“Size eight,” I yelled out in excitement to my best friend, Carmen. We were at the lovely ZAM, a boutique store I frequented often, in the heart of the city. We were shopping for new outfits to wear to Shecky’s, a girls’ night out event. Thursday night Shecky’s was making its way back to DC for the fall event at DAR Constitution Hall, and we were getting ready to attend.

With a big smile, Carmen brought me back a size eight in the chocolate brown strapless dress and complimented me on how great I looked after my recent weight loss. I returned an equally big smile to her because I was proud of my success. I had worked really hard the past ten or so months at reclaiming my life, getting healthier, and losing weight, which had obviously paid off so far. I’d been deeply depressed from my dark past and the years of infidelity and betrayal by my ex-fiancé, Gabriel, and ex–best friend, Karen.

I had met Gabriel, the father of my ten-year-old daughter, Gabrielle, in high school when I was fourteen. He was now a successful and respected big-time international sports agent and attorney. He willingly provided me with child support and covered all of our expenses. Gabe was good looking, an eight out of ten, with a round face and athletic body. He had brown hair, ocean-blue eyes, and naturally tan skin. He had beautiful dimples that he was not afraid to use to his advantage, along with an amazing charm and smile.

I’d met Karen that same year. We had become best friends, and she was one of Gabi’s godmothers. Almost four years ago, a couple of days before my wedding, I had not only found out that Gabe and Karen had been having an affair for years, but also that Karen had given birth to their daughter, Erma, my goddaughter, just two years prior. However, my dim, hellish past even before that had done the most damage to me.

The sheer strapless dress complemented my shapely curves so well that I was mesmerized at the voluptuous reflection in the mirror. Carmen’s mouth hit the floor in astonishment, and I could not stop smiling from ear to ear.

“Damn, girl!” Carmen yelled, grabbing the attention of several other customers and employees. It sent me running back into the dressing room.

I met Carmen in middle school, and we instantly became great friends. Through all of the fucked-up drama in my life, she had always been there. She had always been very beautiful, with an oblong face and soft jawline. She was tall, with long blonde hair and light-blue eyes. She had a slender, curvy frame and pale skin.

Carmen pulled me back out of the dressing room. “Don’t be shy or embarrassed and try to hide that sexy-ass body of yours. Look at you. You look amazing, Abi.”

And she was right. For the first time in years, I had a body that I was entirely happy and comfortable with. My five-foot-nine frame boasted sexy curves with a small waist, toned thick thighs, and a full, round rear. My wavy hair was long and dark brown. My eyes were hazel green.

“I’ll take this one,” I said to Carmen and the store manager. I headed back to the dressing room to change back into my street clothes.

Carmen got the same dress in black, size four. Carmen tried on her dress and was pleased with the fit and look. She looked amazing in it, as she did in anything she wore.

I grabbed a pair of dark pink, open-toe, 2.5-inch heels and a pink clutch to match. Carmen opted for the black open-toe 4-inch stilettos and black clutch. She headed back to the dressing room to change back into her clothes.

After we paid for our items and proceeded out of the store, a tall, sexy, yummilicious vessel of a man came up behind us with a heart-melting, panties-dropping, lustful smile. He had a soft olive complexion; short, curly brunette hair; medium thick eyebrows; and stunning gray-green eyes. His lips were luscious and kissable. His toned, sculpted frame was indeed delectable. He wore blue faded-effect denims with a navy blue button-down jersey shirt with an Italian collar. His shoes of choice were blue suede Collezioni.

“Beautiful indeed,” he commented, referring to the word “Beautiful” that both Carmen and I had on our T-shirts. He had the most incredible voice I had ever heard. It was low and deep yet sensual, sexual, and domineering, which made my body quiver just hearing the words come from his beautiful mouth. His eyes were big, focused, and definitely burning with desire. Their smoldering gray and beaming green sparkled with mystery and adventure. He smelled incredible, too—like some kind of oak or other wood, musky and lightly sweetened, yet warm, elegant, and sophisticated.

Carmen looked at the hunkalicious man and said, “Thank you; so are you.” She blushed with a huge smile.

I gave him a gentle smile and darted my eyes and head slightly down to my left, as if to say thank you, even though I knew he was likely speaking to Carmen.
Damn…he is fine as hell and smells damn good
, I thought.
Mmm.

“I’ll be over here,” I said to Carmen, to allow her a moment of privacy with Mr. Sexy. As I began to walk away, I noticed his eyes piercing me but thought nothing of it. Moments later Carmen returned, smiling, devilishly, from ear to ear.

“He invited us out tomorrow night to that exclusive lounge, Sens.”

“Us?” I asked.

“Yes, us.” She grabbed hold of my left elbow as we walked down Massachusetts Avenue.

Later that evening we arrived at DAR Constitution Hall a little before 8 p.m. Well-dressed women and different vendors advertising everything from clothing and jewelry to fragrances and beauty products filled the room. We got our cocktail drinks and were making our rounds when Carmen’s phone rang. She answered the call pleasantly enough, but the conversation soon escalated to an argument.

“Are you kidding me?” She was exasperated, with a look of violence in her eyes. “Whatever,” she yelled into the phone.

Carmen ended the call and looked at me apologetically. I knew what it was without being told, as Carmen was forced to endure the same drama I did with my daughter’s father.

Matt had called Carmen to tell her that she needed to come and collect their daughter from his home because he had to take care of an imperative out-of-the-blue business deal for one of his major clients and good friend. A deal he had to make happen.

“Dammit, Matt,” she cried out, shaking her head as we made our way to the exit.

Matt and Carmen had a four-year-old girl, Megan, who was the pride and joy of both their lives. Matt and I had been close friends since we’d attended Georgetown together. He was one of a very, very short list of men I could trust to be near me. My mom and dad wanted me to study medicine, and I had originally wanted to be a doctor, just like my dad. However, those dreams remained dreams. Matt had studied law, and I had studied business, then economics, and finally health care administration and nursing. I loved the fields health care administration and nursing until we had started discussing sensitive issues that were constant reminders of my past. Subsequently I had quit that, too, and then school altogether after completing my second miserable year. However, some good had come out of my years at Georgetown. During a campus event I had introduced Carmen and Matt to each other. Since that day, whether they admitted it or not, they had been head over heels in love.

We arrived at the huge monogrammed brass gates at Matt’s luxurious mansion in Chevy Chase. Carmen leaned over me from the passenger’s seat and swiped an electronic key. Once past the gates, I thought we had driven into heaven. The driveway was huge, with beautifully paved marble stone, and there was an enormous wrap-around pond. Carmen used her key to let us inside Matt’s home.

Hmm. She never told me she had easy access to Matt’s home.

“Ah, Ms. Owens.” Matt’s driver and personal assistant, Randall, greeted us when we walked in.

“Randall, you look amazing,” Carmen said as she hugged him.

“You, as always,” he replied.

“This is my best friend, Abigail. Abi, this is Randall. Without him, Matt will crumble.”

He smiled in response. We exchanged pleasantries and proceeded through the foyer and into the living area, which had cathedral ceilings. Randall escorted us into Matt’s office.

“Carmen, I am so sorry for cutting your evening short, but this is an issue that requires an emergency meeting at ten thirty tonight. It’s a huge merger deal,” Matt managed to get out in one breath before Carmen could rip him a new one.

Carmen went over to Matt’s bar with fire in her eyes and poured herself a drink. Before she could give voice to the argument she’d been composing since we left Shecky’s, Matt noticed me.

“Oh my God! Abi?”

“Hi, Matt. How are you?” I answered with a pleasant smile.

“Abi!” he said again, giving me a once-over from head to toe.

“I know. She looks amazing. Doesn’t she?” Carmen temporarily forgot her anger.

“You look really good, Abi. I am so happy to see you. What’s it been, two, two and a half years since I last saw you?” Matt approached me with his arms outstretched, wordlessly requesting an embrace.

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