Authors: Dori Lavelle
Table of Contents
Amour Toxique Book 1
By Dori Lavelle
Midnight Scent (Amour Toxique Book 1)
Copyright © 2016 by Dori Lavelle
All Rights Reserved.
Cover Art: Dori Lavelle
Editor: Leah Wohl-Pollack
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the internet or any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
I find the love letters in my new dorm room, left behind by a previous occupant.
They're meant for someone else, but the words speak to me. They slide off the page and wrap themselves around my body, touching me in places I never knew existed.
I'm falling in love with each word, unable to stop myself.
And I don't even know his name.
Until they tell me.
His name is Judson Devereux. They say he’s toxic. Falling for him will be a mistake.
I want to believe them. I want to walk away. But the words refuse to be erased from the invisible parts of me.
I'm hooked on the scent of his poison. It’s bad for me. It could kill me. But I’m in too deep.
*This series contains sexual content, dark themes, and violence that could trigger emotional distress in readers.*
The light from the flickering candles enflames her copper hair. Some men are turned on by legs, a great ass, or boobs. Not him. Nothing puts his groin on fire like a gorgeous red-head. He can make himself come just staring at those fiery strands of silk.
She's sitting ramrod straight, her chocolate doe eyes on him—accusing, threatening, hating, and loving him—all in the same glance. That doesn't stop him from wanting to be with her, to bury himself into her flesh every night. She needs time, he assures himself as he loosens his tie. They’ll have a perfect marriage again. He’ll make sure of it.
He regards her uneaten baked Dijon salmon. “You're not eating,” he says.
“I told you I wasn’t hungry.” Her soft lips twist into a sneer that only enhances her beauty.
“Fine. Let’s forget dessert.” He dabs his lips with a monogrammed napkin. “Go upstairs. Have a relaxing shower. You’ll find something nice on the bed for you to wear. I'll be right up.”
She pushes her chair back and stands without objection. That's my girl, he thinks, watching as she glides up the winding staircase to the master bedroom.
As soon as she disappears up the stairs, he orders the help to clear the table while he goes into his office to make some calls.
Twenty minutes later, he’s called some of his business managers and partners across the globe, and signed the important documents his assistant had left on his desk.
Before heading upstairs, he stops by the wine cellar and picks out a bottle from his vintage collection. He takes his time ascending the stairs, his pants tightening with each step.
A grin spreads across his face when he pushes open the door with a shoulder.
The sight that meets his eyes is as heart-stopping as he expected—only not in the way he'd hoped.
This has to be a fucking joke, he thinks. He blinks once, then twice, but the image is clear as day. His wife’s pale, naked, lifeless body is dangling from the crystal chandelier.
He doesn't have to check her pulse to know she's gone. He feels it in his gut. Her eyes are empty and red-veined as they stare back at him. Her mouth is parted in a silent scream. Her body sways from side to side. The only thing still vibrant with life is her red hair.
His numb fingers unravel and the bottle of wine hits the natural stone floor. It shatters and bleeds out in time with his heart.
There's a note on the carpeted floor below her body.
It’s over. My love for you is dead. Forget me.
The fifth soggy photo hits the bottom of the trashcan, making a wet slapping sound as it lands on top of the others. Another memory come; another memory gone. None that I care about.
As I continue to go through the open album, searching for more water-damaged photos, my roommate, Chelsea Anderson, walks to my side of the dorm room.
Chelsea, a photography student, is a curvy African-American woman with curly, jet-black shoulder-length hair and an easy smile. Her outgoing nature makes her my perfect opposite.
At twenty-one, Chelsea is two years younger than me, but brings so much more to the table in terms of life and college experience. Claiming to be an old hat at romance both good and bad, she’s determined to help me find my perfect match. She has her work cut out for her, since men are not on my agenda. My only plan was to get as far away from Boston and my stage mom as possible, and pursue my dream of becoming an interior designer.
Chelsea and I hit it off the moment we met at the end of August, and were inseparable during new student orientation. She’s my best friend in Oaklow. Oaklow, the place I plan to start again.
The second I flipped open a random catalogue in a travel agency and laid eyes on the breathtaking university town in South Florida, with its narrow, palm tree–lined streets, whitewashed and red-brick houses, and vibrant yet laid-back culture, I wanted to be there. At first I felt ashamed to be starting university later than most, but Chelsea has helped me fit right in.
“Ivy, I think we deserve a break, don’t you?” Chelsea raises an open bottle of champagne and two clear plastic champagne flutes, then slumps onto our black-and-white striped couch. She crosses her legs. I’m surprised at her outfit today—a classic red plaid top over taupe linen shorts with a drawstring and elastic waist. Her go-to clothes are jeans and a t-shirt, unless she’s going on a date.
“Sounds good to me.” I slap the heavy album closed, breathing in the musty smell it releases into the air, and drop the whole mess into the trash. I rise from the floor and sit next to Chelsea on the couch.
The golden blond liquid crackles and fizzes as Chelsea pours it into the tulip-shaped glasses. She hands me one and it cools my palm instantly.
“Thanks.” I lean back, watching the bubbles rise to the surface before bursting, and revel in the fruity bouquet of aromas.
“To hell with burst pipes. To us.” Chelsea taps her glass against mine and takes a sip, briefly closing her dark eyes. “I hope you didn’t lose all your modeling photos. Though, does it even matter? You’re all over the Internet. You can always print them out again.”
“I don’t care about those photos.” I sip my champagne, washing away the bitter memories of my modeling days.
Chelsea and I shared a different dorm room before—until we were flooded out. On the positive side, we’ve been rewarded with a killer view. Our previous room faced the street, which was lined with the local post office, a few cafés, the Pansy Blooms flower shop, and the small Costas grocery store. Our new abode overlooks the Dunkin Hall gardens, and if I squint enough, I can make out the distant sea. Sometimes I can even fool myself into believing I hear the crashing waves.
Nothing calms my mind like the sea.
The sound of wind chimes fills the air. We both turn to look at my phone on my desk, tucked away underneath my loft bed. My own little personal space. Chelsea has personalized her side of the room by hanging her three landscape photography posters on the wall above her bed.
“Are you going to get that?” Chelsea drains her glass and pours herself another.
I shake my head. “Nope. I don’t think it’s important.”
Chelsea shrugs. “I can’t believe you’re not pissed that your modeling photos are damaged. I would be.” She glances at her thighs, then back up at me with a resigned sigh. “But I don’t think I have to worry about that in my lifetime.”
“Modeling isn’t as glamorous as you think.” I blink at the slight dizziness brought on by the alcohol. “It was nothing more than a job for me. A career I was forced into.”
“You baffle me. Who wouldn’t enjoy getting dressed up for a living and smiling for the cameras… oh, and having hot guys drool over you.”
I slide a hand through my wavy red hair and rest an elbow on the arm of the couch. “I admit, there are some models who enjoy being in the limelight, being admired by strangers. It wasn’t for me.”
Chelsea’s breath—a mix of booze and minty mouthwash—sweeps my cheek as she leans into me. Curiosity has turned her brown eyes from weak tea to dark chocolate. “I’m sure you had so many guys hitting on you, though. Look at you, even in that crappy man shirt, you look camera-ready. I wish I could hate you right now.”
I lower my glass onto the varnished mahogany coffee table. “There were several interested guys.”
More than several
, I want to add, but I bite my tongue. What does it matter? “Not the kind I was interested in.”
“Have you ever dated a famous person?”
I smile. “Jason Singer. Ever heard of him?”
“The actor?” Chelsea blinks furiously. She places her glass on the table next to mine. Stories from my rejected life of glamor excite her like nothing else.
“He’s like the best thing since sliced bread. God, I grew up wishing I could lick his dimples.”
We both crumple into laughter.
I pull my legs up and underneath me on the couch. “He certainly likes to think he is.” Since I came to Oaklow, I held back a lot of details about my previous life—the life that suffocates me just to think about, the life I wish would dissolve into the past and remain there. Maybe it’s the champagne or the comfort of Chelsea’s presence, but I open up. “You know what? Jason was an experiment. One that flopped.” Truthfully, I wanted to see what the big deal was.
“No.” Chelsea’s eyes widen. “Come on, spill the beans. Did he suck at kissing or something? Don’t you dare leave any juicy bits out.”
I laugh until my eyes water. “I’m going to have to disappoint you,” I say when I catch my breath. “There aren’t any juicy bits. We only went on two dates. The kiss killed it for me.” A shiver runs down my spine at the memory. The moment Jason pushed his too-big tongue into my mouth, I almost gagged. I knew then, even with my lack of experience, that there had to be more to kissing than choking on someone else’s tongue. “Trust me: he’s not all that.”
“That’s a damn shame.” Chelsea returns to her champagne. “He looks so delicious on TV. He looks… he looks like he knows how to use his stuff, you know.”