Fragile Crystal: Rubies and Rivalries (The Crystal Fragments Trilogy) (29 page)

“Are you sure?” he asked. “This looks like too good an opportunity to miss. That bitch is clearly up for it...”

“Go back!” Maria’s eyes flashed in temper so that, with a peevish expression, he turned and left the room, his buttocks tensing as he walked in the leather chaps.

“Quite a catch,” Daniel said, lifting his face towards Kris as she leaned across and kissed him. The perspiration on her breasts was beginning to dry and she grimaced at her own sweatiness.

“I need to go and bathe,” she told him. When she shot a glance towards Maria, the other woman clearly saw the look of triumph in her eyes and clenched her jaw. “You two need to talk.”

Maria felt her chest constricting as she saw the younger woman stagger from the bed and walk towards the bathroom. She was so... inelegant, so gauche, and yet the easy swagger of her hips as she walked, her buttocks red from where they had been mauled and slapped, spoke volumes of her superior power.

“Why are you here?” she asked once the bathroom door had closed.

“I would sack Maurice, if I were you. Five hundred Euros and he was willing even to book us a room next to yours. I would expect my own PA to hold out at least for ten thousand.”

“You expect greater loyalty from your staff?” she sneered, fighting back the tears in her eyes.

“No. I expect better negotiating skills. You shouldn’t fire him for selling you out, just how low the price was.” Daniel stood and walked towards the chair, reaching for the robe that hung from the back. As he came closer to her, Maria felt the heat from his body and she flinched—more in fear at her own desire for him than anything else.

He paused as he pulled the robe across his shoulders, leaving the front open so that she could see the lines of his body, not as clearly defined as the boy’s next door, but with a bulk to them that indicated greater surety of himself. “I should have guessed it would be here,” he told her, “although it surprised me when I found out. Have you been coming here ever since...?” He left the question unfinished.

She nodded. “Once a week, when I can. It reminds me...” It was her turn to stop, and she shrugged.

He looked at her thoughtfully. “He seems a good enough man.”

“Man?” she said scornfully, and now the tears were hot and bitter in her eyes. “We both know what he is, and what he can’t be. You shouldn’t have brought that whore here—”

He slapped her, once, a sharp blow across the face that stung and immediately stopped her tears and self-pity. She looked at him glowering for a moment, wondering whether to claw at his scarred face, still red from his exertions. Instead she turned on her heel and began to walk away, but he grabbed her wrist.

For a second she struggled against him as he took both of her arms and forced her backwards into the chair, pushing her downwards. She kicked out, connecting her boot with his shin and making him grunt, but he was too strong for her and easily made her sit. She was ashamed as she fell backwards, her coat opening, that between her thighs was hot and sticky, her mind full of memories of when he had been forceful before. Her shame was even greater, however, when she looked down to where his cock, thick but soft, swung between his legs.

He placed himself on the edge of the bed, those strange eyes of his not leaving her face. From the bathroom they could hear the sound of water flowing.

“Why did you come here?” she asked.

“It was Kris’s idea, actually,” he said. “When I told her about our rendezvous here—”

“So she knows all our secrets?” Maria spat out the words.

“The ones I can be bothered to remember, yes.”

That stung more than the blow to her face. “And does she know everything about you?”

“She will, as much as we both want to know about each other.”

“I thought when you were in love you shared everything. That’s the cliché, isn’t it?”

Daniel’s face darkened at this, but instead of reacting he folded the robe across the front of his torso. “We both have a past. That’s not important any more.”

“Oh, but you have so many secrets, don’t you, Daniel Stone? Does she know what you get up to in New York? Does she really know why you don’t touch alcohol anymore, how many people were drunk that night...?”

Daniel’s eyes were flashing with anger now, and Maria paused fearfully for a moment. Yes, she thought. Hit me. Please. But instead he looked at her glowering for a few seconds until the emotion drained from his eyes.

“I shouldn’t have slapped you,” he said. “That was wrong of me. You always knew how to provoke me, though.” He laughed ruefully. “You were one of the very few who could make me lose control.”

Her heart swelled up at this. “I could... again,” she whispered.

He shook his head. “I trusted you,” he told her, quietly.

“You wanted me.”

“No,” his voice was firm, low. “I trusted you. Foolish really. It was though I had been blinded by a spell, a glamour. Whenever anything went wrong you were there, always consoling, always eager to please. I never entirely understood what happened, with the... others. But it was you, wasn’t it. You were the poison.”

Maria said nothing, but simply glared at him.

“I needed people around me I could trust. I needed you to help me...”

“Oh, you poor, big man,” Maria blurted out scornfully. “Are you frightened now? Is the founder of Stone Enterprises losing his way? I hear Roth’s closing in.”

His hand clenched into a fist in his lap and her heart leaped up for a moment, but though he ground his teeth as he looked at her he held his temper.

“I made a mistake,” he said at last.

“Does she know how bad it is? Does she have any idea what’s going on? She came to me, you know. She was asking about Monaco. That would be Riffaterre, wouldn’t it?”

“She’s worked out some things. She’s not as stupid as you think.”

Maria sneered at this, her exquisite features ugly as she looked at him. “Why don’t you take what Coletraine offers and fuck off? Find some quiet spot where you can enjoy the few millions they leave you with that whore of yours?”

Again his fist clenched, but he said nothing. “You were feeding them information, weren’t you. How much did they pay you?”

Her heart stopped at that. “No,” she whispered. “Nothing.”

“You’re lying. Not that it matters, in any case.” He stood up in front of her, his hand reaching. “I want it back.”

She looked up at him, and her eyes were frightened now, imploring. His face was as masklike as any that she had ever worn, his eyes dead as he looked down on her, the scars across his brow and cheek as though they had been carved from stone. She began to shake her head. “No,” she said. “Please, leave me that at least.”

“You’ve worn that bloody ring like it was a fetish. How long has it been? Seven years?”

“I’m sorry,” she said, and her head fell forward. She looked pitiful and a sob escaped her lips, but Daniel was unmoved.

“I didn’t think it would cause any harm,” he said at last. “It was... a sign of my generosity, or so I thought. It took her to make me see that some things you can’t buy.”

When Maria lifted her head again, her face was caught in a rictus of hate and self-pity, tears falling from her eyes. “Don’t mention her! Don’t you fucking dare!” Her voice was loud enough now for Kris to hear everything. “She doesn’t know anything! She doesn’t know how much I love you!”

“Actually, you’re the one who doesn’t know anything. You’ve... you’ve seen how she gives up everything. It’s not like... it’s not like anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

“No!” screamed Maria. She began to stand but he placed his hands on her shoulders and forced her back down. “It was nothing like we shared!”

The look of contempt on his face was more brutal than anything else he could have done. He shook his head slowly and then said: “You... you were always calculating what would happen next, what it was worth, how you could take advantage of it. Why am I even telling you this? Give me the ring, Maria.”

“You’ll have to take it from me,” she howled, slapping away his outstretched hand. “I won’t give it to you.”

He stood there, immobile, irresolute. “Are you going to hit me again?” she sneered.

“I wouldn’t give you the pleasure. Let’s say you’re right. Let’s say that I lose to Coletraine, to Roth and the others. That still leaves me with enough to buy Malan and Bucher a thousand times. Where will you go? You’ll be ruined—I can promise you that.” His outstretched hand clenched into a fist once more, and as he threatened her she felt terror rising inside her.

The fingers uncurled once more. “You can give it me now, or I can start to fuck your future in a way that even you won’t appreciate.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” she hissed, but already the fight was leaving her, her green eyes flickering from side to side as she searched for any signs of pity in his face. “Michel would—

“Michel doesn’t give a fuck about anyone other than himself, you know that. The same goes for Bruno and Madeline. Give me the ring, and I promise you—I
promise
—that you’ll never hear from me again.”

For several moments Maria sat in silence, her head bowed. She had begun to cry freely now, frightened of what this meant. When she looked up, she saw with a shock Kris standing in the doorway to the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her body, her short dark hair wet and matted against her head.

“Let it go,” she told Maria. Her eyes showed the pity that was missing from Daniel’s steely gaze.

“Fuck you!” she said, snot coming from her nostrils as an explosion of air burst out of her mouth, her tears streaking her mascara down her face. Kris nodded and bowed her own head as she returned into the bathroom.

But there was still Daniel, unbending, relentless. “She’s right. You have to let it go. It’s been destroying you for years.”

Choking on her own tears, Maria’s chest rose and fell as she looked up at him, silently pleading with her eyes. Then, finally, she slowly began to turn the ring on her finger, slowly drawing it off. At last it came free and she stared at it, watching the light glittering crimson and scarlet in the depths of the ruby, the gold shining more dully where it had pressed against her fingers.

“The first time,” she said. “The first time in over eight years.” She stretched out her hand and hovered her fingers above Daniel’s palm.

Then she opened them and let the past fall away.

 

 

Fractured Crystal: Sapphires and Submission

M. J. Lawless

 

The first part of the Crystal Fragments trilogy.

 

What was broken can be made whole.

 

Somewhere along the way, Kris Avelar’s life has taken a wrong turn. The promises she made to herself as a young artist have all been unfulfilled and, after yet another disastrous love affair, she has run away to find herself, and perhaps her ability to create, in isolation far from the city.

Her desire to be alone, however, is nothing compared to that of the stranger she meets: Daniel Logan. Tall, handsome, but also scarred by more than the marks which line his face, his attempts to push her away only inspire her to greater curiosity about him - a curiosity that will lead to dark and forbidden desires as she enters his private world.

When he suddenly disappears she is left feeling that perhaps she is destined to always be alone. Then she discovers that Daniel Logan is also the urbane, charming founder of Stone Enterprises - and that his own plans for this young woman will involve her complete submission to all of his appetites and ardour.

 

 

 

Refracted Crystal: Diamonds and Desire

M. J. Lawless

 

The third and final part of the Crystal Fragments trilogy.

 

Purity comes in the darkest colours.

 

At last, Kris Avelar realises that if she is to be all she wants to be in life, then there can be no one else for her other than Daniel Stone. With the demons between them laid to rest, she is at last ready to submit to everything that he wants, and to become the woman that he needs most in the world.

Yet behind their perfect bliss Kris is troubled by suspicions that Daniel has not been completely honest about some of the dealings that he has engaged in, and that while she has found sexual fulfilment with him there remain dark predators on the edges of their lives who are waiting to circle in and destroy everything that they have.

When Daniel is taken away from her, on the run from his own dangerous past, she sets out to find him and to show that while everyone else will turn against him, she is determined never to let him down—or let him go. It is at that time that she discovers that her own submission, what she has thought of as a weakness inside her, is actually the source of her greatest strength.

 

To be published by Black Orion Press, Winter 2012.

 

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