Entice:Eagle Elite Book 3By: Rachel Van Dyken
“And get stabbed in my sleep? Or worse yet? Feel like shit because I’m the only thing keeping Mil from marching down to a money lender — or even another family — and asking a favor.”
Nixon sighed. “You don’t have to sacrifice your own happiness just to keep the peace.”
The air was thick with tension as we both fell silent. Because we both knew the ugly truth. The one time I had decided not to sacrifice my own happiness, I had made a gargantuan error, a lapse in judgment. I had allowed Trace, the love of my life, to slip through my fingers and land firmly within Nixon’s grasp. Shit, I was still holding onto the idea that it had all been within my control. My fault. It was my fault.
“Nah, man.” I shook my head. “I think I’ll finally choose someone else over me. Besides, she only needs protection and money for a year. I can do anything for a year.” Inebriated, that is.
At that exact moment Mil came storming into the room, color high. She wore a short white cocktail dress and threw her bouquet at my face. “You’re late, jackass.”
I caught the bouquet with a grimace and gently set it on the table next to me, while Mil’s eyes sent a seething glare from me to Nixon and back to me. I itched to run in the opposite direction, those eyes, Mil’s eyes, they saw too much, she knew too much.
Nixon choked out, “Famous last words.”
I was doing the right thing? Wasn’t I?
Not how I pictured my life going.
It was always Trace I’d seen at the end of the aisle — not a sworn enemy — and not the first girl I’d slept with in my entire life. Not my dead best friend’s stepsister.
Not the future I had planned.
Not at all.
I had to hand it to her though, she looked really pretty, the type of pretty that guys like to stare at but are afraid to touch. She was scary pretty, terrifyingly so.
Her pitch-black hair was curled in loose waves around her face, her naturally tan skin brought out her bright blue eyes, and her sharp cheekbones were decorated with something pink and shimmery.
So maybe looking at her wouldn’t be that awful.
But talking to her was a completely different issue. I’d probably end up chopping off my own ears by the time the marriage was annulled. Either that or begging Nixon to shoot me, not that it would be the first time I’d stared down the barrel of a gun with him smiling on the other end.
“Well?” I slowly held out my arm. “I hate to keep my future bride waiting.”
Mil rolled her eyes and took my arm.
“Did you just hiss?”
“Depends.” Her bright blue eyes met mine. “Did you just call me your future bride?”
“Um, yeah?” What else was I supposed to call her? Satan?
“Then I hissed,” she said, nodding. “It’s a business arrangement, Sleeping Beauty.”
“Am I ever going to live that down?”
“Getting drunk and passing out on your own bed just because a girl rejected you? Probably not. Think of me as the yin to your yang, the ointment to your cut, the—”
“I think I get the picture.” I held up my hand. “Let’s just get this over with.”
Mil gripped my arm. “Ready for the honeymoon, eh?” She slowly licked her lips and winked.
Holy hell, I was going to end up on Dateline. I was going to end up strangling my bride — in bed, and not Fifty Shades-style.
I tried to keep the shaking at a minimum. After all, I was a mafia boss now, and a female one at that. The suits, as I liked to call them, could smell fear from a mile away, and I had a few hundred of them witnessing my death march toward matrimony.
It was the only way.
Chase knew it, I knew it. I would be the first woman to take hold of the De Lange family. One of the only two female bosses, and I was only twenty. Funny, I’d never thought life would end up this way.
My brother, my last remaining family, was dead. All that was left were a few aunts and uncles, who were either in prison or in hiding, and some cousins I hadn’t spoken to in years. It was me. I was left to pick up the pieces of our heritage and I had exactly no money to do it. Which left me with one option.
He probably hated me as much as I hated him, but marriages could be based on a lot worse, and at least I respected him. I’d known it wouldn’t end well when I’d seen the way he looked at Tracey, Nixon’s girlfriend. But you can’t help who you love, right? Years ago, I thought I loved Chase, but I’d also been sporting a side ponytail and thought Twinkies were one of the four basic food groups.
“You sure about this?” Chase whispered in my ear. My grip on his hand tightened. His breath caught against my face, making my knees feel weak. “You can just say no. You don’t have to break off my hand in the process.”
“Sorry.” I cleared my throat and repeated, “Sorry.” Only in a stronger voice the second time. That scared little fourteen-year-old was gone, and in her place, a woman who had been forced to grow up way faster than should have been necessary. A woman who single-handedly had been given the responsibility of redeeming her family name — the same family name she’d helped destroy.