Authors: Alexa Sinclaire
Evernight Publishing ®
Copyright© 2015 Alexa Sinclaire
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Editor: Brieanna Robertson
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
To my very own alpha male. Thank you for supplying me with endless inspiration.
Copyright © 2015
It had been five years since Sebastian Stone had seen his father, and looking at the photos that were spread across his desk, he
that he could happily go another five years and even then it would be too soon. The old man looked good for his age, he had to give him that. The photos showed him with a
woman on his arm, his new wife apparently. She was barely a year older than Sebastian. His father had always liked them
Sebastian wasn’t too concerned with the rest of the information in the packet. It would be his father’s fourth marriage, and after the third wife had made a play for Sebastian’s company in some twisted alimony pursuit—despite having never met her stepson and despite Sebastian having no
with his father—he now made sure to find out about the women in his father’s life.
Not because he cared about the women that were technically his stepmothers—for however brief a time they remained married to his father—but because after having his affairs dragged through the courts last time, he was not willing to assume that his father’s mistakes wouldn’t come back to haunt him.
His father’s first mistake had been divorcing Sebastian’s mother. That had ultimately ended with her violent death, and the images of her bleeding on the diner floor were forever edged in Sebastian’s mind.
It had taken another six years of alienation and abuse from his father to
that he couldn’t be trusted, under any circumstances. But losing trust in a parent meant losing trust in everyone else. If you couldn’t even trust the person who had brought you life, who else could you trust? No one was Sebastian’s rule. So far, it had proved him well. The few times that he let people into his life, they tended to disappoint him.
He kept things simple—business was business and there was nothing else. All personal relationships were short-lived, by Sebastian’s doing. All friendships were limited, and he was fine with that. His work was his life.
That wasn’t to say that Sebastian didn’t
he was missing out. The photos of his father proved that, if nothing else. His father was the one man he never wanted to be jealous of, and while there was no denying the fact that Stone
was a scumbag of the highest order, he was also a die-hard romantic. He fell in love at a glance and fell hard, showered his women with passion and money, and rode off into the sunset with them. Until, of course, he fell out of love as fast as he’d fallen in, and that usually happened when his next target came into sight. However, at least the old man felt
Sebastian shoved the pictures away, turning in his chair and looking over the
. He’d have to make a change. He’d have to let someone in at some point. One thing was for sure, though, he had no idea how to start.
Sitting in Dr. Shepherd’s waiting room, Eden Maxwell tapped her leg nervously, checking her watch for the third time. Twenty minutes still to go until her appointment. At least that was twenty minutes away from her mother’s watchful and overly critical eye. Eden had recently started arriving deliberately early to her appointments, just to get some peace from her parents. Her mother ferried her back and forth from the appointments, but never questioned her about how they went. She didn’t just act as a chauffeur for medical visits—everywhere Eden needed to go, her mother shadowed her, making sure Eden didn’t do anything stupid or embarrassing.
Eden thought back to the day six months ago when her on-off boyfriend Joachim Benedict had driven her home from St. Leonard’s. She could still hear her father’s voice—
“How could you do this to us, Eden? Everyone is talking about it. Do you have any idea how hard it is to come back from this sort of thing? This will haunt us for the rest of your life, and for what? A bit of fun?”
“Eden? You ready?” Dr. Shepherd’s voice pulled her back to the present.
“Yeah, sorry, I was miles away.” Eden smiled up at her therapist. When Eden had first walked into his office, she was practically a zombie. Previous therapists had been happy to heavily medicate her and send her home. Dr. Shepherd actually wanted to talk to her and help her recover. After the attempted gang-rape in Joachim’s fraternity house that had been the catalyst for her life falling apart, it was no surprise that Eden was barely able to get dressed in the morning. She’d attempted suicide and then been asked to leave St. Leonard’s. Now she was living with her parents, who held her responsible for everything that had happened to her and, by default, their reputation,
Her bi-weekly sessions with Dr. Shepherd had been the beginning of her true recovery. Eden knew she would never go back to being the girl she once was, but Dr. Shepherd had shown her that she could become anyone she wanted to be. If she would only let herself heal.
“What were you thinking about in there? You seemed so dazed.” Dr. Shepherd never skirted around the issue. It was one of the aspects of his approach to therapy that Eden loved. He never tried to draw her out with teasing questions. Instead, he just jumped right in and got her talking.
“My dad. I was thinking about how he referred to the attack as ‘fun.’ Like what had happened was something I wanted and then regretted. And how I guess that’s because that’s how my dad saw me, as a girl who never knew how to do anything but have fun. He was always so concerned with
me in line, making sure that I wore the right clothes, had the right friends, said the right thing. God, he was so pleased when I started dating Joachim. And then after all that, I messed it up anyway.”
“You got into St. Leonard’s, so surely you knew how to study. That took more than just having fun and doing what your dad told you to do.”
“Let’s be honest, Dr. Shepherd, we both know that even with my straight As, it was really my father’s name that got me into St. Leonard’s.”
“Fine, but you still kept your average high during your time there. That had nothing to do with your family’s money. You seem to keep falling back into the same trap—insisting on viewing yourself the way that others have falsely described you. Your father blames you for what happened, for being a party girl. That’s his problem, Eden, not yours. Your job isn’t to prove to him that it wasn’t your fault. Your job is to believe it wasn’t your fault. That’s for you, no one else.”
“Easier said than done when my mom is constantly reminding me how hard it will be to get married with my new reputation.”
“Ah yes, your mother, the inimitable Stepford wife.”
Eden snorted and then threw back her head and laughed. “See, Dr, Shepherd, this is why you’re the best. You get it.”
“Yes, well, we’ll see about that. Speaking of future relationships, how are things with Joachim?”
Eden dropped the smile from her face and groaned. “I don’t know. We talk every day, he’s excited about graduating and moving to New York. He tells me how much he’s going to miss me. We went to the movies this weekend and he held my hand. It felt so weird. I know he wanted to kiss me, but it’s just too much…The thought of him…”
“What exactly is too much? The thought of being physical with another man? Or is it just Joachim?”
“I think it’s both and it’s more than that. I mean, if this whole messed up time in my life has shown me anything, it’s that I always do what
want me to do. I’m always the good girl. Sure, I used to drink at parties and stay out late, but really, I wasn’t that bad. It’s nothing compared to what most girls my age are doing. And sometimes, Joachim just feels like another thing I go along with because it’s the
thing to do. Because it keeps my parents happy, because Joachim is the golden boy and is now going to graduate and be some hot shot lawyer and probably end up on one of those eligible bachelor lists. And I see my life with him and all it has is 2.5 kids, a white picket fence, me in an apron after spending all day
charitable events and waiting for him to come home so we can have the perfect dinner I’ve cooked, and then after downing two martinis. We’ll have safe, mediocre
and go to sleep.” It felt good to get it all out, although she felt guilty for actually saying it, as if she was betraying Joachim, especially after he had been such a good friend to her.
“You mean you see a life without passion.”
“God, I make Joachim sound like he’s such a stiff and he’s not. But, yeah, there’s no passion between us. I want to see stars when he kisses me. I want a life where I’m not constantly looking for a way out, thinking there might be something better elsewhere.”
“I don’t think that’s too much to ask.” Dr. Shepherd’s voice has lost its joking tone and the way he was looking at Eden made her feel like she was getting close to something, close to figuring out something about what she needed to recover.
“I feel stupid wanting that. I mean, look at what happened to me. How I can still believe in fireworks during
and happily-ever-afters? Life isn’t like that. My life has always been mapped out for me and now I’m
that I want something else.”
“Yes, Eden, your life now, the way that you are living, is not like that and will never have passion and fireworks and happily-ever-after. Unless you do something drastic. Unless you change the way you are living. You’ll find the passion in your life when you start letting yourself believe that you can have it.”
“How do I do that?”
“Ah, Eden, that’s the answer we’re all looking for. But I think you know where to start.”
Eden looked at him incredulously. It was not the answer she was looking for.
“Alright, let’s start small. Do you want to go back to college?”
“Yes, but not St. Leonard’s. Not anywhere in Boston. In fact, scratch that, New England is off the table.
, another continent would be preferable.”
“Okay, next—do you want to keep studying for your business degree?”
“No, it’s just another thing I was doing for my dad.”
“Okay, wasn’t your minor in
history? Why can’t that be your major?”
Eden nodded. Dr. Shepherd was on to something.
By the time her mother had parked the car in the garage and finished her lecture to Eden about making sure she found a suitable moving gift for Joachim, Eden had already started making a plan to get her life under control. Dr. Shepherd was right—she was never going to be the girl she used to be, but she could become someone else. Someone who wasn’t going to have her life planned out for her, someone who wasn’t going to be haunted the rest of the her life by the events of one horrible night, someone who would have the passion she’d always dreamed of—no matter how scared she was to try and find it.