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By: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff


Until last week.

No more revenge. No more fountain of youth. Whatever hold that lagoon had in this world had been broken the moment I renounced my vows. Now, those who were the oldest were aging fastest. Like our sins, time was catching up.

“Please, Uncle,” Luke spoke quietly, for my ears only, “reconsider taking your vows again. You can restart the lagoon. We can go back to the way things were.”

“No,” I said, “with or without Stephanie, this has to end. It’s gone on far too long, caused too much pain.” My words sounded strong and rational, but on the inside my heart was in chaos. Why would she leave? Yes, I was a sinner. I had done unforgivable things. But my love for her changed me. From the moment we met, she opened my eyes to the dark price we were all paying for our youth.

“Our lagoon,” Luke argued, “has given thousands of people a second chance at life. In some cases, like yours, it’s given third or fourth chances. And I don’t know about you, but I feel we’ve done some good with those chances.”

I gave him a stern look and shook my head. We’d defied nature and every law of the universe by living so long. We had played god by deciding who, from the pool of those pirates’ descendants, would die and who would live.

“No. No more. It’s over.” I looked away.

“Then you’re a fool. Because you’re letting all of us—your family—die for a woman who did not love you.”

“I’m ending this because it’s wrong,” I snarled, feeling his sharp words cut deep. “I will not allow another innocent person to end up as accidental fodder for the lagoon simply because they share a bloodline with those vile murderers.”

“It wasn’t your fault that Stephanie’s sister died. The lagoon has a mind of its own.”

“That is exactly why it was my fault,” I said. “Because I knew that. And I failed to keep Cici safe.” Cici, Stephanie’s sister, had been a guest about five months ago. She had wandered into that water and was taken. But it was my job to know exactly who was on our island and ensure my staff properly screened everyone.

I failed.

I destroyed Stephanie’s life and lied to her about what had happened because I was a selfish bastard and didn’t want to risk having her hate me. “I am to blame because I am in charge. This is my goddamned island.”

“It was an oversight by a lazy employee. You cannot blame yourself for not knowing Cici and Stephanie are related to those fucking men.”

I looked away, choosing to guzzle down my drink instead of debating the point further. I fully understood the consequences of my choice to shut down the lagoon and hadn’t taken the decision lightly. It would impact everyone connected to it. We would all age, some a little faster than others, but everyone had still been given extra time beyond their natural lives. Just not as much time as they wanted. However, what was I to do? This couldn’t go on forever. It wasn’t right.

“Are you certain you won’t reconsider?” Luke asked.

No way in hell would I retake my vows and try to bring back the lagoon. “I am.”

“Then let us get on with the party.” Luke walked away, the festive crowd blind to our interaction. They only saw the illusions I’d created here on this island. The fantasies, the luxury, the wealthy guests engaging in the most sexual and romantic of experiences ever dreamt. But the few who truly knew what this place was and the sacrifices required, they were not celebrating tonight. Because the real party was over.





CHAPTER TWO





Stephanie


I’m a dead woman, I thought as the car rumbled down the highway with me gasping for air in the trunk, proof that Warner Price was the sort of man you pissed off once and only once. Lucky me, I managed to piss him off twice. Which was why when this car stopped moving, my life was over.

Looking back, I now knew how foolish I’d been. Or maybe I’d just been mad with grief. My sister, Cici, had gone on vacation and disappeared. When I got the news, I crumbled—unable to eat, sleep, or leave the house. I couldn’t imagine anything more devastating than losing her, but as the months dragged on, it was the not knowing that nearly did me in. Who took her? Why? Is she still alive, waiting for help? No. She has to be dead because she’d never leave me.

The vicious mental circles were unrelenting, which was why I hadn’t been right in the head when I borrowed one hundred thousand dollars from Warner to buy a ticket to the exclusive and very secret island resort where Cici was last seen. And I was downright insane when I agreed to find out as much as I could about the island and its owner as payment to Warner, who would use the information to “acquire” the island for his particular needs—drug trafficking, money laundering, whatever. Since the off-the-grid island didn’t belong to any country, it was the perfect home for a mobster.

Long story short, however, my plan to seek justice for Cici fell apart the moment I met James Rook. He was beyond beautiful and charming and had a way of making me believe anything, even the fact that he was an eccentric billionaire instead of a monk. He convinced me that hearts do mend and made me so, so happy. For a brief moment.

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