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Beholden

By Madison Michael All Rights Reserved ©

Romance / Romance

Blurb

He’s playing for keeps but is she just playing? When a family scandal topples the haughty Sloane Huyler from her perch at the forefront of Chicago’s elite society, she loses her fiancé, her friends, her reputation and even her family business. No one from her exclusive world wants to be seen with her, much less help. No one, that is, except the self-assured Randall Parker III, who cannot resist the brash beauty - or the challenge. Sexy and self-assured, Randall has been eyeing Sloane for years. Knowing she is a handful, he still craves a handful of her. Although his friends warn him off, he believes he can manage Sloane’s high and mighty ways. Randall assumes that using his power and influence to salvage her reputation will throw Sloane straight into his arms -- and right into his bed. Can Randall out-maneuver the manipulative Sloane? The attraction between the pair is scorching but Randall turns up the heat. Will the icy beauty chill their fiery chemistry when she learns she is beholden?

Prologue

18 Months Earlier

Sloane was floating on air. The evening had been a perfect success. She had been a perfect success.

Of course.

Everyone declared she was the most beautiful woman in the room, and even if she was the modest type - which she wasn’t - she knew it was true. Oh, there were some pretty girls at the Howe Museum gala, some beautiful women, but none of them had her striking features – that alabaster skin, those lustrous sapphire eyes, the lush, kissable lips and that thick curtain of dark hair. She was just pulling the pins out of her hair now, shaking the heavy locks from a tight chignon that had been giving her a headache for the last two hours.

Wyatt Howe IV, her soon-to-be fiancé and chair of the evening’s event, had been devastatingly handsome in his custom tuxedo. They had been a cover-model couple – a power couple – stunning, smart, successful, sought-after. They were leaders in that intimate club of Chicago’s most elite, the movers and shakers who dictated everything that happened in Chicago society. Anyone who was anyone had stopped by to say hello, to be photographed or, at a minimum, to be seen with them.

Sloane slipped off her Jimmy Choos and reached her elegant arms behind her head to slide down the zipper of her Ellie Saab gown. The pale pink confection would have to go to the cleaners now. She kicked it off with frustration and left it piled on the floor like something she picked up last week at a garage sale, not the $8,000 designer showpiece she had ordered months ago. It would never be the same, she pouted. Not that she was planning to wear it again. Sloane Huyler wouldn’t be caught dead in the same dress twice – it just wasn’t done.

Still, that stupid waitress had dropped a salad right down the back of her dress. What an incompetent. Sloane had pretended to laugh it off in front of the guests, acted as if it was nothing. She knew better than to embarrass Wyatt by making a scene in public. Her public persona would never draw that kind of negative attention. There was not a chance in hell she had been laughing. Once they were alone, Sloane had shown Wyatt the nasty temper for which she was famous, telling Wyatt to demand the catering company fire the incompetent, redheaded clutz immediately. The stupid cow was probably already looking for another job.

Boo hoo.

Now, after a few hours to reconsider, Sloane conceded that the server was probably quite capable. In fact, the service had been excellent before the salad disaster. Sloane suspected that the server wasn’t paying attention. It was likely Wyatt distracted her. He had that effect on women. After all, he was considered Chicago’s most eligible bachelor and he was undeniably scrumptious eye candy. Who was she kidding? The man was a serious hottie.

Then again, maybe she was staring at me. I looked damn good tonight. Either way, now she was out on her ass where she belonged. Even if it was a singular slipup, getting fired would teach her not to covet that which she could never have.

Although she demanded that he do it, Sloane was a bit disappointed when Wyatt went to speak to the caterers at the end of the night, abandoning her. She graciously rode home alone in the limousine and let him conclude the evening, but she knew she had just been played. Wyatt was up to something, had his eye on someone. Sloane was sure of it, although she couldn’t put her finger on who the woman might be.

After years of on again, off again dating, she had learned to agree to Wyatt’s every request. She was there when he wanted her, didn’t whine when he wasn’t available, asked for little, offered much and turned a blind eye when he sowed some wild oats. She made sure she was the perfect girlfriend so he would realize that she would be the perfect wife. After the years she had invested in catching him, Sloane made sure he had nothing to complain about. She wouldn’t give him any excuse to walk away. Ever.

She had played hostess at his fundraising event perfectly, charming people into opening their wallets wider while helping him promote his real estate business and his philanthropic goals. If things had gone her way, she would have ended the night with him pumping with adrenaline, pumping hard into her to unleash the force of it or proposing marriage. She would have been happy either way.

Wyatt was a little unpredictable though, no matter how ready and willing she was. So here she was, alone again, when he should have been warming her bed. He did quite a good job of it, she had to admit, and so she was sincerely disappointed not to have him with her. She didn’t actually miss Wyatt, but she did miss the sex. She wanted to seal the deal already and get the big ring.

Other that that, life was just about perfect.

Sloane had a job she loved as an executive in her father’s consulting firm. She had parents she sincerely enjoyed spending time with who were still living in the gorgeous lakefront home in which she had grown up. Her weekends were filled with family visits, tennis games, and events at the country club hobnobbing with family friends.

Sloane had anything and everything that money could buy. In addition, she was well educated, well connected and well heeled. She had the right friends, lived in the right neighborhood, volunteered with the right organizations and committees, dined at the right restaurants, had the best seats at the right plays and concerts and any day now, she would be engaged to the right man.

Wyatt Lyons Howe IV was arguably Chicago’s most sought after bachelor. He was CTO of a huge real estate conglomerate. His father owned it currently, but it would all be his someday soon. He was gorgeous and hunky. She liked him, she liked most of his friends and all of his family. He was brilliant, if a bit geeky, talented with a hockey stick and with his other stick as well. Sloane considered their sex life adequate. Wyatt could be a lot of fun in bed, but the passion just wasn’t there. Both recognized that occasionally they were just going through the motions.

Still, he was witty and even better connected than she was, so she could overlook anything that wasn’t perfect, including his slightly straying eye and unwillingness to commit – so far. He was old money, with all the cache and manners that construed. Their families were friends and everyone anticipated that soon they would marry. It was expected and although Wyatt had not yet presented her with the nine-carat ring she had been eyeing, he also didn’t refute their future together when anyone alluded to it. She could wait. After all, being his wife would open the few remaining doors where she desired entrée.

At 29, Sloane knew that she would have to worry about tying him down in the next few years but she was in no hurry. He may be a catch, but he didn’t make her heart race. She could look at him dispassionately and patiently. The prize was worth it. Sloane understood that she would be the envy of everyone once she married him, making her half of the most prominent couple in Chicago.

Scrubbing off her professionally applied makeup and running a brush through her lush mane of hair, Sloane slid into the short La Perla nightgown she had left out earlier. It was barely there, just a whisper of material, designed to arouse Wyatt. She thought about grabbing a tee shirt instead, but the nightgown felt so decadent against her skin that she wore it just to indulge herself.

Catching a glimpse of herself in the full-length mirror as she moved to slide between the sheets, Sloane knew she looked stunning and seductive enough to bring any man – even Wyatt – to his knees. She liked the image of him there before her, on his knees, making her feel incredible. She would go to bed slightly - not unbearably - dissatisfied. She was too tired to take care of things herself.

Wyatt should only see what he is missing. I would have him eating out of my hand, or better yet, eating out of my….

Sloane’s last thoughts as she fell into an undisturbed slumber were how lucky she was. She would marry Wyatt sooner, rather than later, and then she would have attained her every heart’s desire. She would have a handsome, sexy and dutiful husband, a challenging career, perfect children, influence, prestige and tons of money. She would go to the Alps and Aspen for the skiing, Saint Bart’s for warmth in winter, Milan and Paris for the fashion shows.

Within a year, she prophesied, she would have everything she dreamed of – the perfect life she deserved.

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