I smile as I pass the sign indicating that Eden is only forty more miles. Seeing the name of the town, Eden, my mind recalls the book of Genesis from the Bible. The Garden of Eden. Snorting, I picture myself as the serpent who enters the garden and tempts Eve to eat from the forbidden tree of life. Yeah, that's definitely me, a serpent. My blood is tainted with evil. His evil.
Spotting a gas station, I pull in, needing to fuel up one last time before I make it to the town. As I open my door to step out, my phone begins to ring. I flick my eyes to the doc holding my phone and feel my body stiffen. My body freezes in place on watching the name of the person calling— Caine Heart. Not being able to move, I just sit, staring as it continuously rings, fire blazing through my veins as it sends anger and pain right through my chest.
"Demetri Ivanov and his daughter Yelena will arrive this week. This must go good, son." My father says, his back facing me as he stares out his office window.
I close my eyes, holding back the curse that wants to slip through my lips. Getting into bed with the Russians is probably the worst thing my father could do.
"I know you don't like them, but I've told you before that uniting our families will make us more powerful and our future will be set for life as well as my future grandchildren." He voices as I open my eyes and stare at him.
He turns to look at me, "I have one last lesson for you to learn." He walks over to the liquor cabinet and begins pouring two glasses of scotch. "The one lesson I've been waiting to teach you, for when the time would come. It's time son." He grabs the glasses and hands me one.
"When you're the boss—This family's leader, you must always put the family's future ahead of your own selfish wants and desires. The world today has taught most men to be weak and selfish beings." I watch him as he rounds his desk and takes a seat. His eyes jerk up and lock with mine.
"You will marry that girl and you will put a baby in her within the first year of your marriage. That's what seals our fate, for the future of our family depends on it." I open my mouth to protest but he holds his hand up to silence my protests.
"This isn't a choice Damien. It's a fucking order." Growling, he lets his body lean in his chair, tilting his head back. Smoke expiring from his mouth as he puffs his cigar, eyes filling with amusement, as he continues to stare.
"Don't tell me you don't want to marry her because you don't love her." He chuckled. "Do you think that's how it works in this family? That you must love to marry?" He asks rhetorically as he laughs.
"Isn't that why you and mom married? You were in love with her, right?" I ask, placing the glass to my lips to hide my anger. Of course, the bastard doesn't love her. The bruises on her body and the way he speaks to her prove my theory. Love does not exist.
His eyes scrunch as he glares, "Of course I was in love with her. We may not have had an arranged marriage, but marrying her was for my family's benefit just as well. She birthed me my firstborn son, and has helped me raise him as well." He grumbles.
Clearing his throat, "As a boss, love, and happiness don't come from your own selfish reasons. Love and happiness come from securing our family and future generations. If you marry Yelena, well, it will ensure that our family will grow in money and in power. See, that son should be your happiness." I nod my head once and watch as a smile spreads across his face.
"Good, now go and make special arrangements for your future bride. You need to make a big impression on her and her father." He winks, pulling the glass to his lips. Standing up and placing the glass on the desk, "Yes Father." , I speak audibly before turning away to walk out of the office.
I may not agree with my father about the Russians but he's right about one thing, I must always put my family's future ahead of my own wants and desires. Even though I don't want to marry that bitch nor any other female for that matter—but if there's one thing I've learned growing up under his rules and training, is that his orders are final. In a couple of months, I'll be a husband and then I'll take my position as the boss of the family.
I come unglued on coming back from the memory of my conversation with my father. Seeing his call has stopped, I grit my teeth. Fucking bastard has the balls to call me. I shake the angered thoughts and step out of my truck to fill up my gas tank. Only forty more miles. Tonight, my roommate and best friend, Cole, and I have to meet up with a man and hopefully land a job that will open doors to help lock down our future plans. The job is nothing new to me. In fact, it's something I've been interested in and have been involved in since I was sixteen.
Almost an hour later, I arrive at the small town, following the directions Cole had given me. He had informed me that his home wasn't too far from the outskirts of the small town. I pull to a stoplight and scope out my surroundings. The town seems quiet and peaceful. Not as populated as my hometown.
My eyes land on a bookstore. My mother's beautiful face flashes before my eyes. My mind drifts to the memory of the last conversation I had with her.
"The plane arrives in an hour, Damien. Yelena's father and men are expecting you to meet them at the gates. Don't fuck this up." my father growls. "Yes, father," I say, and end the call.
I walk towards my room to get ready and to do as my father asked. Just about to walk past the study, I glance inside and stop as I see my mother. She's curled up in one of the chairs, head bent down, smiling as she reads a book. Leaning my body up against the door frame as I watch her face glow with happiness. "Must be a good book to make you smile like that." I raise a brow.
She looks up to me with watering eyes, giving me her beautiful smile. I feel my lips pull up to form a genuine smile. I don't get to see her smile like this often. "Indeed, it is." She clears her throat, then takes a sip of the wine she's holding.
"What's the name of it?" I ask pulling myself from the door frame as I take small steps inside the room. She pats the chair beside her, indicating me to take a seat. I take a seat and watch her pat my hand. "One of my favorites, Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin." She admits.
Snorting, "Why are you reading that girly shit again?" I ask laughing. She rolls her eyes playfully. "Do you have to be so crass, Damien? You know, I'm still your mother and you're not too old to still have your mouth washed out with soap" she informs me with a smirk o her lips.
"This is a beautiful and romantic story. If you would read the book yourself you would see why it's one of my favorites." She cocks her eyebrow playfully. I shake my head. "Why would I want to read about love and romance?" I ask. "Love is not real. People think it is when in fact they just confuse it with lust and desire."
She scrunches her brows, "Did you just say love is not real?" Her tone seemed shocked. "Yes, I don't believe in love," I admit. Her playful expression slowly disappears and a sad frown takes its place. "Oh son, that's a sad thing to believe," she says in a soft tone.
Placing her wine on the table beside her she looks back to me. "Damien—sweetheart, why don't you believe in love?" She asks, closing the book. I shrug looking away from her face. How can I explain to her without hurting her feelings? How do I say watching my father mentally and physically hurt her my entire life is what taught me that love doesn't exist.
I feel her hand touch mine, causing me to look back at her. "Be honest with me. Is it because of one of your friends?" She asks. I swallow the lump that feels lodged in my throat as I look towards the woman who raised me. The only woman who cared for me. I slowly shook my head no, and let out a rough breath.
"Tell me, mom, why do you read books like that? The ones with love and romance—the ones that put such a beautiful smile on your face?" I ask as I watch her eyes well up with tears. "If you yourself believe in love, then tell me what does it feel like to be in love."
She smiles as a tear slides from her eyes and squeezes my hand. "Love is a feeling that is hard to explain. Love is pure. It's beautiful, ugly, and blissful. It can feel thrilling and scary, yet warm and comforting." She wipes the tear that is slowly sliding down her cheek, looking off in the distance.
After a few moments, she shakes her head softly and looks back at me. "You may not have felt that yet, but one day you will. You will meet someone who makes you feel those emotions and more. You'll feel a need to do anything and everything to make them happy and safe."
I nod, lifting my lips to fake a smile. I stand and bend down, placing a soft kiss on top of her head. "I love you, momma. Let's hope you're right. Maybe I'll feel that after I marry Ivanov's daughter. " She sniffles and looks up to me. "What do you mean when you marry Ivanov's daughter?"
I pull myself up and give her a reassuring smile. My father must not have told her. "Yes, in a couple of months I'll be marrying Yelena." She begins to shake her head, but I kneel down and grasp her shoulders, rubbing them in a soft manner.
"No mom." I shake my head, "I am fine with it. Father ensures it's what the family depends on for our future and future generations ahead." I glance at my watch and notice the time, I pull myself up and run a hand through my hair. "I need to get ready before I'm late picking them up at the airport. We can talk about this later, mom."
Hearing a horn blare, I'm pulled from the memory and notice the light is green. I roll the window down and stick my hand out, signaling I'm going to the guy behind me.
As I drive towards Cole's home, I think about what my mom had said about love. I grip the wheel tightly, grinding my teeth. If love truly does exist, I'll be damned if I fall into its grasps. No way in hell will I allow a woman like my mother have me turn them into a zombie-like she was. She wasn't the same woman she had been before my father came into her life. The pictures from her past that I've stared at so many times didn't have the same woman I was raised by.
I spot the mailbox with the number 1999 and pull the truck into the driveway. I spot Cole's car and relief hits me. I'm finally here. I smile, ready to start the summer off with a bang as I climb out of the truck. I wonder if his mom's home. I step up the stairs, setting the duffle bag on the porch. I knock a couple of times and wait a few moments and then knock a bit harder, so he can hear it.
The door opens, and my eyes jerk up to the person who answers. Chocolate pools stare back at me. My lips part as I feel air suck into my mouth. They're so gorgeous, it feels as if they stole my very breath. Christ. I notice how her silky dark brown hair blow from a small humid breeze that's barely blowing. My eyes glide down her body and my mouth becomes dry. She's fucking gorgeous. I'm sure this can't be the girl Cole's been conflicted over. He said she had blonde hair.
I mentally shake the desire to fuck her sexy ass and notice she's eye-fucking me as well. I pull up my lip to form a cocky smirk as I clear my throat to grab her attention. Her eyes pull back up to my face and I watch as her cheeks slowly turn a beautiful shade of pink. Pulling my sunglasses off my face, "Is Cole here?" I asked, slipping the sunglasses on top of my head. Her eyes jerk to mine and I hear a faint gasp fall from her voluptuous lips as they slightly part. Fuck, I wonder what she tastes like? What I wouldn't give to see her cheeks pink and flushed like they are as I fuck her mercifully.
"Yeah, uh, just a second, COLE!!!" she yells, as she continues to stare at me. Hearing footsteps I look behind her and spot Cole. "What?" Cole asks, right before he stops behind her.
I jerk my head once as he spots me. "Oh, hey Damien." Cole greets as he pushes her aside, smacking my shoulder. He smiles as he gestures for me to come in. "Come in," he says. I step through the doorway and hear a throat being cleared.
"Um, hi. Who is this Cole?" the gorgeous girl asked as she smiles up at me. I look to Cole and notice him wince. "Oh yeah, right. This is Damien Heart, and Damien, this is my sister Ray."
Holy fuck. This is Ray? Fuck, I can see why he's so protective over her. I cut my eyes to Ray, "Damien is a close friend. He roomed with me up at the dorms. He's going to stay in the guest room for the summer." Cole explains to her. Why hasn't he told her? I assumed she already knew since he's been home an entire week.
"Nice to meet you, Damien." she softly says, as she gives me a small smile. Shit, she's the innocent little sister I've heard so much about. She turns around and starts walking away. Fuck just look at that fucking body. I feel an elbow jab my rib and I blink my eyes a few times, "Yeah uh, same." I mumble as I watch her disappear into a room.
Shit, what the fuck just happened?!