Dance With the Devil

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Summary

Aria Cassidy thought she had it all. She had her bakery and her best friend by her side. She attended lavish events and had the privilege of running her own business. After a chance encounter with a mysterious stranger, she suddenly felt like something was missing from her life- or someone. Lucian De Angelis was one of the city's most sought after bachelors. He had everything a man of his status should have including his pick of women. But it wasn't just any woman that caught his eye, he couldn't seem to get the petite brunette out of his mind. But why should he get her out when he could just take her instead?

Genre:
Erotica / Romance
Author:
ShalaM
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
30
Rating:
4.9 49 reviews
Age Rating:
18+

Chapter 1

I WAS RUNNING LATE again.

Aria Cassidy was usually never late. Normally I would be up at five, be in the bakery at five thirty and have my scrumptious muffins in the oven by six, just in time for my dependable morning customers. It was now five thirty and I was still getting ready, having slept terribly during the course of the night.

I applied the final touches of mascara and surveyed myself in the mirror. My green eyes were large in my petite oval face, giving me the appearance of a fairy, as a young customer had told me once. My dark brown hair had a slight wave to it and was cut in layers down to the middle of my back. Side swept bangs framed my face. This was all Chad’s doing of course. He insisted that I adopt the current trend as my busy schedule never allowed me the time for my own hair maintenance.

I sighed. Unlike my best friend, hair maintenance was not on my priority list. I quickly pulled the thick length into a high pony tail and fastened it, before clipping up the bangs so they would stay off my face. Finally satisfied with my appearance, I took my denim clad form over to the kitchen where I spotted my bag sitting on the counter. Grabbing it and my keys, I hurried out the door, securing it safely behind me.

I took the two flights of stairs quickly, which led me towards a door that led to the sidewalk. A quick turn to the left and I was at the front door of my pride and joy, “The Cinnamon Bakery and Cafe”. I could never tamper down the thrill that coursed through me every time I walked through the doors, knowing that it was all mine -small and barely surviving, but all mine nevertheless.

The light was already on, indicating that Dana, my only waitress who also doubled as the cashier and my assistant, was probably already in. Harry, my other employee, who was old enough to be my father, did odds and ends around the café and also cashed if need be. He didn’t get in until seven when the rush usually started.

I unlocked the door to the café, and locked it behind me again. Straight ahead of me was the display case which already had an assortment of cheesecake slices, which I had made the night before in the chilled case section as well as various trifle. Just to the right of the display case, against the clear window facing the side walk was the cash register and coffee station which emitted the intoxicating scent of freshly brewed coffee. I couldn’t resist walking over and pouring myself a cup before passing the four square tables opposite the display case and heading on back to the kitchen.

I pushed through the swinging door and saw Dana sprinkling some fresh blueberries into the batter she was mixing.

“Hey boss!” She greeted as she glanced up at me and continued her mixing without missing a beat, “I came in and noticed you weren’t down yet so I started on the muffins. I hope that’s ok.” She looked up again and I could see the hesitation in her eyes.

I waved a hand dismissively and took a long swallow of my coffee before I responded.

“I know you’ve seen me do it at least a dozen times, you’re good to go.”

I leaned back against a cupboard and sipped on my coffee as I took a minute to myself before I got started. I observed her, feeling like a proud mama. Dana was nineteen and attended the local community college, majoring in literature. She was taller than I was which we constantly joked about and her hair was bright red and spiky, in stark contrast to her alabaster skin. She had a nose piercing and always wore bright red lipstick. I secretly wished I could be as outgoing as she was. She was literally the first person who answered my waitressing ad and I loved her instantly in her spontaneous interview.

I polished off the last of my coffee and sighed audibly, resting the cup in the sink.

“That coffee was fantastic. You keep this up and you’ll have me sleeping in more often!” I teased as I picked up an apron from the counter and tied it on.

She gave me a quick grin and started scooping batter into a greased muffin tin, while the oven behind her preheated.

“I’ll get started on the donuts.” I told her, reaching for a bowl.

“The dough’s already done.” Dana informed me with a smirk, pointing to a covered bowl behind me, “Just to cut and fry ’em up.”

I raised my eyebrows at her surprised.

“Are you trying to take my job?”

She frowned and stopped mid task suddenly serious.

“I know you’ve been working non-stop for the past couple weeks trying to keep the bakery going, boss. Harry and I can see the dark circles under your eyes. I just want to help out more.”

Great. My staff thought I looked like a zombie.

I couldn’t help it. I walked over and hugged her tight.

“Thanks hun. You and Harry do more than your fair share around here. I can’t ask you to do more than that. I already don’t pay you guys enough!” I could feel the sob in the back of my throat and swallowed it down. I would not cry- at least not until I was all alone.

This business was my life. My dad died when I was four and my mom was now remarried and lived in Germany with her new husband. We were never close. As soon as I turned twenty five, I got the money my dad invested for me and started the bakery. Now with the two malls opened up nearby within the past year, business had slowed down considerably, even in this popular commercial area. It seemed like people felt more inclined to walk through the malls than down the shops on the sidewalk. I was barely covering my mortgage and ensuring my staff was paid on time as it was.

I pushed away from Dana.

“Come on! Enough with the mushy stuff.” I sniffed, starting up the deep fryer for the donuts. “Customers will be in soon.”

**

Lucian De Angelis surveyed the streets below him twelve stories down, his hands tucked in the pockets of his navy blue suit exposing the crisp white shirt under it. He had long since removed his matching tie, which was now carelessly thrown on his desk. The case he was working on was getting complicated. Not only was his client lying to him, but he had a feeling Ivan Francovich was into some really nasty, really illegal stuff.

He ran a hand through his jet black hair, messing up the normally tidy waves that hung slightly over his forehead and down the back of his collar.

A knock on his door had him turning his head sharply.

“Luc.”

Aidan Callaghan, Lucian’s best friend and business partner walked in and took a seat. Aidan and Lucian had met in law school and after working in separate firms for a few years, decided to start up their own law firm “Callaghan and De Angelis”. Where Lucian was dark, Aidan was fair, from his blonde hair to the color of his skin.

“Did you even go home last night?” Aidan asked him, leaning forward to clasp his hands together. His light grey eyes took in Luc’s unruly appearance.

Lucian sighed.

“Francovich is giving me hell.” He took his seat behind his desk and leaned back, his blue eyes sharp despite the lack of sleep.

“No sign of the missing daughter?” Aidan queried then, leaning back as well.

Lucian picked up a pen and tapped his notepad where a series of notes were scribbled.

“My sources tell me that not only is Francovich a big player in the human trafficking ring, but that he sold his own daughter as well.”

Aidan’s back stiffened.

“We have to let this go Luc. Give the police the information. This is not what we do.”

Lucian sighed and nodded. Aidan was right of course. There was not much they could do at this point except share what they knew with the police. Hell, they specialized in corporate law. Francovich had initially come to them when his business was under investigation for money laundering and while that was still a stretch for them, they took the case having been referred by a mutual friend.

“Are you going to the Greenwood Museum Charity dinner thing tonight?” Aidan asked, pretending to be nonchalant as he switched topics.

Lucian raised a dark eyebrow.

“Clearly you already know that I am. Cat told me she asked you and you refused her.”

It was Aidan’s turn to sigh.

“Luc, I love your sister as if she were my own-“

Lucian let out a short laugh.

“You certainly don’t look at her as if she were your sister.” He cut in.

Aidan frowned at him.

“It won’t work. I’ve told her that a million times. She just doesn’t listen.”

“That’s because she’s in love with you. She always has been.”

Aidan fidgeted in his chair.

“Alright I’m done. I won’t interfere.” Lucian said standing and reaching for his tie. He had to admit, it was entertaining to watch his sister, Catarina and Aidan cross paths. It was the only time he ever saw his best friend get nervous and confrontational. He knew Aidan was in love with her. He just hadn’t admitted it to himself yet.

“Are you coming tonight?” Lucian asked him as he deftly re-tied his tie.

Aidan grimaced.

“I wasn’t planning on it but I told Cat I was already going with someone else.”

Lucian laughed.

“Your grave pal.”

**

The morning rush had died down and the display cases were more than halfway empty. I closed the cash register with a click and watched as Dana refilled the coffee mugs of the remaining two customers in the shop.

Thinking I could use one myself, I went to the coffee station to fill up a mug of my own.

My cell started ringing then, the voice of Will I Am and Britney blaring loudly. Not only was the song catchy, but I was guaranteed to hear when my phone rang amongst the din of the café.

“Hello.” I balanced the phone between my ear and shoulder while I filled the mug.

“Good morning gorgeous.”

I smiled instantly.

“Hey Chad, you stopping by for breakfast?” I asked, walking back to the kitchen with my mug.

Chad Whitcombe was my best friend and favorite person in the world. We met at college when we both started studying business then Chad dropped out to study medicine instead, which we both realized was his passion. He was now well on his way to becoming a successful surgeon raking in more money than I could ever dream of having.

“I would stop by more if you agreed to let me become a silent partner.” He chastised, his voice was playful yet I could tell he was serious.

I rolled my eyes and put my mug down on the counter. Chad knew my situation with the bakery and always insisted on helping out.

“You know I can’t take your money.” I told him. It was an age old argument for us. I was sure he thought he was wearing me down. When in truth, it was the opposite.

“It won’t be like that. It will be a loan, Aria.” He tried again, “You can pay me back every penny whenever you want to.”

I knew he would never take any money from me so I changed topics.

“How’s Royce?” I mentioned the name of Chad’s current boyfriend.

“Ugh. I don’t think that’s going to work out.” Chad said drolly. “He wants us to go out more in public. You know how I feel about that.”

I nodded to myself, knowing he couldn’t see me.

“Chad, it’s going to have to happen someday.” I told him, “You can’t keep this a secret for much longer. Not if you want to be happy.”

“I’m not ready yet, Ari” He sounded so sad, “Which is why I wanted to ask you to come with me to a charity dinner thing I’m going to tonight.”

That was Chad. Using me as his escort to any social functions so as to ‘blend’ in.

“Chad..”

“I’ve already bought your dress!” He gushed, “You will look incredible in it. You have to say yes.”

I sighed knowing I was going to give in yet again.

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