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Satin Princess by Nicole Fox



Satin Princess by Nicole Fox PDF

Author: Nicole Fox

Publisher: Independently published

Genres:

Publish Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN-10: B0B67XKNMZ

Pages: 454

File Type: Epub, PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

“You’re shaking.”

No shit I’m shaking, I want to say. The video is still playing on a loop in my head. Anton’s hands around his own wife’s throat…

And then the disappearing picture that followed. The one that showed the blood. Endless blood matting Marina’s silky blond hair. So much fucking blood.

I glance at Chris. He’s still watching me. I’m not even sure he’s been looking at the road for more than five seconds in a row since he picked me up.

“I’m fine,” I sigh.

“You keep saying that.” His tone is drawn tight with worry. “So why don’t I believe you?”

“Chris…”

“What happened?” he interrupts, undercutting the sensitive, patient vibe he had going when I first got into his beat-up Ford.

It’s been his car for as long as I can remember. I was with him when he made his first payment. That was almost eight years ago now.

My eyes burn and my throat feels tight. Is it the pregnancy that’s making me nostalgic? Or is it the knowledge that I’m about to leave all this behind? My life, my friendships, all the memories that are contained in old Fords and first apartments?

“J, you’re really scaring me,” he says, pumping the brakes when all I want is for him to slam on the gas and get me out of here. “Did he do something?”

“No!” The answer comes out harshly. I give Chris an apologetic look. “He didn’t do anything to me.”

“Then what—”

“I just… I realized I was in over my head.”

“I still don’t understand.”

Someone honks loudly behind us, and I put my head in my hands, hoping to stave off the headache I know is imminent.

“We need to find a cheap motel somewhere remote,” I tell him.

“A cheap motel? You have an apartment.”

“I can’t go back there. It’s the first place he’ll look.”

“My place then?”

“That’s the second place. Besides, I’ve already involved you in this mess just by calling you.”

“So the ship has already sailed on involving me,” he points out. “We might as well go the whole nine yards and avoid getting hepatitis from some shithole La Quinta in New Jersey.”

He puts his blinker on and makes a left, heading in the direction of his apartment.

“Chris, please,” I say urgently. “A motel, any motel. There’s that sketchy-looking place right off the bridge in Queens. Next to that purple high-rise?”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Please. We’ll talk more when we get there,” I plead. “I just need some quiet now.”

He mutters something under his breath, but I’ve already stopped concentrating on Chris. My head feels like it’s about to explode.

Then the shrill ring of my phone slices through the moment of silence.

“Is it him?”

I shake my head. “No, it’s Freya.”

“Oh. Then just ignore it.”

I shoot him an annoyed glance. “How would you feel if I ignored your calls?”

“That’s different.”

“No, it’s not. Freya’s my friend, too,” I argue. “And she’s worried about me. She has been since I agreed to work in Anton’s home. Just like you.”

He gives me a grudging sigh of acceptance, but doesn’t offer anything more.

“Freya?” I say, picking up.

“Everything okay with you?”

It feels like a leading question. Especially given that my earlier text to her was unnecessarily chipper.

“Um… sure.”

“I knew it!” she cries.

“What?”

“Something is up. That text felt off.”

“What was off about it?” I ask. Dammit, I’ve got to get better at lying.

She ignores me. “Am I right? Did something happen?”

Oh, something happened all right… “It’s a long story.”

“Are you still in his house?” she asks.

“No, I left.”

“Are you heading to the apartment then?”

I glance at Chris. He’s changed directions again, which I’m hoping means he’s taking me to the motel like I asked.

“Uh, no. Not exactly.”

I hear movement on the other end of the phone. “Wherever you’re heading, I’ll meet you there.”

“Freya—”

“You’re my friend, Jessa. You made this alien city feel safe, and I won’t ever forget that. Let me be there for you now.”

I actually get choked up hearing her say that. Helping her drunkenly navigate her way to her apartment really meant that much to her? It felt ridiculous to expect anything in return for basic human kindness—quite literally the least I could do—and yet here she is, willing to rush to my side at a moment’s notice.

“I’ll drop a pin where I’m headed.”

“Thank you,” she sighs.

We hang up, and as I set my phone down, I realize I’m shivering. The heater in the car is on, but I’m still shaking like a leaf in a hurricane.

This is gonna be fine, I tell myself. Everything is gonna be fine.

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* * *

Half an hour later, Chris pulls up at the motel. It’s even more rundown than I remember.

The walls are painted a faint shade of Pepto-Bismol pink that somehow makes it even more depressing. Everything looks faded like an old photograph.

“Jess,” Chris says, ducking down and staring at the motel through his windshield. “Are you sure?”

“It’s perfect,” I say firmly, climbing out of the car.

I follow a sign that points toward the “Foyer.” That sounds a little uppity for a place like this, and sure enough, it turns out to be a little bit of a euphemism. To be more accurate, the sign should probably say something like “Shitty Little Folding Table Crammed in the Front Hallway with a Smelly, Balding Man Seated Behind It Browsing Porn on His Phone.”

“Good evening,” he drones without looking up. “Welcome to the Last Resort Motel. How may I be of service?”

Last Resort Motel. Jesus. Even the name of the place is depressing. “One room please.”

He glances up at me for the first time and then does a double take. “You want a room?”

“Uh, yes.”

He gives me a thorough once-over that makes my skin crawl and then pulls a key down from the wall of rings behind him. “Sorry,” he mutters. “You’re a different sort than the type of guests we usually receive.”

I suppose that’s what passes for a compliment around here. Sighing, I pull out my purse. “How much?”

“Forty dollars,” he says. “How many nights will you be staying with us?”

“Just the one,” I say.

He nods and accepts the cash I fork over. Then he hands me the key and offers me a toothy smile that’s missing a few teeth.

“Have a fabulous stay.”

I bite my tongue to keep from saying, Somehow, I doubt I will.

Chris looks distinctly uncomfortable when I walk back outside and find him standing next to the door. We have to walk up two flights of stairs to get to my room. I’m spared a view of the apocalyptic-looking purple high-rise condos across the road, but in return, I get an eyeful of a vile dumpster that hasn’t been emptied since the Clinton administration.

I close the curtains the moment we enter the room. Then I bolt the door shut.

The place is just as underwhelming as I expected. There’s a single bed pushed up against one wall with one cigarette-stained bedside table. A door to the right leads to what I assume is the bathroom.

I’m not ready to view the guaranteed horror show that is the shower, so I collapse onto the bed and stare at the ceiling. The only silver lining is that my headache has receded somewhat.

I feel the bed sink with Chris’s weight. He’s right next to me, his hand grazing against mine. The narrow bed doesn’t offer much room.

“Okay,” he says. “I think it’s time you told me what happened.”

“Maybe we should wait for Freya. I don’t think I have the strength to repeat the story twice.”

He pushes himself up on his elbows and looks down at me. “How bad is this, Jess?”

I blink and two tears squeeze out of the corners of my eyes. “I was wrong about him, Chris. I… read him all wrong.”

“What did he do to you?”

“That’s just it. He did nothing to me. In fact, he’s been lovely to me.”

Chris looks both confused and annoyed. “I don’t—”

“He killed his wife,” I blurt out.

Chris stares at me with wide eyes, and I realize that saying the words out loud is the final nail in the coffin.

“He told you that?” he asks incredulously.

“No, I… found out.”

“How?”

More tears spill over. I can’t even focus long enough to concentrate on his question. “I was so sure, Chris. So stupidly sure he didn’t do it.”

“Why?” he asks, looking at me with a searching expression. “You saw him kill a man right in front of you. Is ‘wife-killer’ really such a stretch from that?”

The opening to confess is right there. But I can’t bring myself to admit that I’ve watched him kill more than once.

“That was different. They were both dangerous men in dangerous situations.”

“What does that even mean?”

I shrug. “It’s the underworld.”

The words leave my lips naturally. Only after I say them do I realize that I just mimicked him. The beautiful man with the intense gray eyes and the ability to destroy me without even trying.

He’s miles away and corrupting me still.

It’s the underworld?” Chris repeats incredulously. “Jessa, you need to go to the cops.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?” he argues.

“Because it won’t make a difference. He’s too powerful, too connected, too… everything.” I pause, then add, “And anyway, even if I could go to the cops, I wouldn’t.”

Chris looks ready to strangle me. “Why the hell not?”

“Because… I love him.”

I didn’t mean for it to be a big declaration. I didn’t mean to say it at all. I’ve barely come to the realization myself, so I shouldn’t be making grand announcements.

The moment I say it, though, it feels like the air gets sucked out of the room. Chris goes deathly silent.

The clock on the wall ticks.

Ticks.

Ticks.

“Are you gonna say something?” I ask when I can’t take his silence any longer.

“I will. As soon as I figure out what the fuck to say.”

“It wasn’t something I could control.”

“Actually, it was,” he says, sounding angrier than I’ve heard in quite some time. “It was the very fucking definition of something you could control, Jessa. If you’d returned his fucking phone at the beginning, this could have been avoided. In fact, if you’d just declined his offer to work on his boat like a normal girl would have, we wouldn’t be here at all.”

I sit up a little. “A ‘normal girl’?”

He doesn’t back down. In fact, he doubles down. “You’d just discovered that your fiancé was cheating on you. On your wedding day, no less. And instead of dealing with your emotions, you decided to avoid them completely and rebound with the most dangerous man you could find.”

“It wasn’t a rebound—”

“The fuck it wasn’t!” he snaps.

“You really think you’re in love with him?”

I nod. “I know it.”

“You barely know him.”

“I don’t have his fucking Social Security number memorized, so I can’t possibly love him? Is that it? Is that a prerequisite to falling in love?” I seethe. “Since you seem to be the expert and all.”

He’s about to say something snarky, but he reins it in. Instead, he takes a deep breath and shifts position so that there’s a little more distance between us now. “I’m sure he’s an expert at convincing women that they’re in love with him,” he says carefully. “But you’re too smart to fall for that, Jess. I know you are.”

“Don’t do that,” I snap. “Don’t make me feel like trusting my feelings makes me less intelligent. That’s not fair.”

“You know what’s not fair?” he asks. “It’s not fair that you keep making one terrible life decision after the next, and I’m expected to show up for you but keep my opinions and my advice to myself.”

His words strike a nerve, which of course means that he has a point. Usually, I’d argue, but I don’t have the energy today. “I’m sorry. But I wasn’t lying before. This will be the last time.”

“I doubt that very much.”

I take a deep breath and lay it all out there. “I’m pregnant, Chris.”

His eyes go wide and his shaking hand goes perfectly still. I imagine I looked similar when Anton gave me the news.

I reach out and take his hand in mine. It’s hot to the touch. “This time, it’s going to be different—because it has to be, Chris,” I say gently. “It’s not just me anymore.”

He doesn’t say anything for a long time. Then finally, he leads with one whispered word. “Jess…”

“Didn’t think I could make a worse life decision than falling in love with a Bratva don, did you?” I ask with a shaky laugh. “Guess you underestimated me.”

“Jess…”

“Please,” I beg. “Stop saying my name like that.”

He takes a deep breath and exhales softly. “I don’t know how to help you this time.”

“That makes two of us,” I say, grasping his hand tightly.

He returns pressure after a moment. “You can’t stay here, can you?”

“No,” I whisper hoarsely. “I can’t.”

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