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Vengeful Love: Black Diamonds


  Vengeful Love: Black Diamonds

  By Laura Carter

  The final, heart-pounding installment of the darkly suspenseful, sinfully sexy Vengeful Love series

  It wasn’t enough.

  Gregory Ryans was everything I wanted, but he didn’t trust me with the truth.

  When I walked away from him, I should have known Gregory would follow. For a man like him, walking away—no matter the odds—is never an option.

  He’s come to offer me the deal of a lifetime: his heart. All his secrets. Him. Forever.

  But at what cost?

  The past refuses to stay buried. There are things about his family, dangerous things even Gregory didn’t know.

  This time, we’ll have to fight together to save what we’ve built. To show our enemies that love like ours can’t be destroyed.

  I believe that.

  Does he?

  This book is approximately 100,000 words

  Editor’s Note: The Vengeful Love trilogy is best read in order: Vengeful Love, Vengeful Love: Deception, Vengeful Love: Black Diamonds.

  Dear Reader,

  I don’t know about you, but when someone asks me for book recommendations, I first ask them what some of their favorite authors or books are, so I can give them something similar, but different. Taste matching is a pretty common way of getting recommendations for anything, really, from chocolate to TV shows to books, so I decided to do some taste matching with our Carina Press May titles.

  If you love Kristen Ashley…

  Anna del Mar’s contemporary romance may be just up your alley. One of the things I love about Kristen is that she tends to write long, giving us a chance to dive into the characters and relationships, and Anna offers the same great escape. In At the Brink, Josh Lane is blunt, ruthless, intense and exacting; a workaholic driven by internal demons; a man who doesn’t play games, except in bed, of course, where he is always in command. Lily Boswell is trapped in a dangerous situation and Josh has no problem taking advantage of that—to protect her and to get her into his bed.

  If you love Jackie Collins or Sidney Sheldon…

  Remember the awesome sweeping international feel of the ’80s glam romances? The characters were wealthy, they were dramatic, and they were no-holds-barred. Join Laura Carter’s Vengeful Love trilogy as it takes us from London to Dubai in a dark and suspenseful, sinfully sexy tale of love, betrayal and sex. Pick up books one and two before diving into this month’s nail-biting finale, Vengeful Love: Black Diamonds.

  If you love Josh Lanyon…

  You’ll love A.M. Arthur. Both Josh and A.M. are wonderful at sweeping readers into brilliant characterization and developing relationships. In Come What May, the first book in the brand-new All Saints series from A.M. Arthur, we meet Jonas Ashcroft—son of a conservative state senator, carefree frat-boy player, and definitely not gay. But when Jonas meets Tate, he’s introduced to a life he’s never known. One filled with acceptance and sex and a love that terrifies them both.

  If you love Eloisa James or Sarah MacLean…

  The sharp wit of Sarah and the fabulous heroine-centric story lines of both Sarah and Eloisa are some of my favorite things about their historical romances. Amanda Weaver’s Grantham Girls trilogy shares similarities with both and is absolutely delightful. A spirited heiress is determined to land a titled husband, but an undeniable passion with a man from her past threatens both of their futures in A Common Scandal.

  If you love Pamela Clare…

  Suspense, romance, action…what’s not to love about Pamela Clare? Piper J. Drake follows in Clare’s bestselling footsteps with her romantic suspense Safeguard series. Kyle Yeun is a very bad man and way too tempting in all the wrong ways, but mercenary Lizzy Scott needs to keep him alive long enough to provide Deadly Testimony in court even if it means there will be no rest for the wicked.

  If you love Heidi Cullinan…

  Annabeth Albert is an author you should check out. Fun and fabulous, romantic and swoon-worthy. Beta Test is an enemies-to-lovers, opposites-attract road-trip romance that will remind you of all the things you love about male/male romance.

  If you love Linnea Sinclair or Sharon Lee or Steve Miller…

  That’s right, if you’ve been craving a dynamite space-opera romance, then you’ve been missing out on the Chaos Station series by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke. Love in space? Yes, please. Good versus evil? Check. An ongoing romance that sweeps the galaxy book over book? Delivered. Start where the adventure begins in Chaos Station and devour the titles leading to this month’s release, Phase Shift.

  Backlist bonus taste matching:

  If you love Jaci Burton…

  Make sure you’re not missing out on Kate Willoughby’s In the Zone contemporary sports romances.

  If you love Liliana Hart…

  You’ll be enamored with the spunky Lexi Carmichael mysteries from Julie Moffett.

  And if you love the Hitman series from Jessica Clare and Jen Frederick…

  The dangerous hero of Didn’t I Warn You by Amber Bardan is right up your alley!

  As always, until next month here’s wishing you a wonderful month of books you love, remember and recommend.

  Happy reading!

  ~Angela James

  Executive Editor, Carina Press

  Dedication

  For Sam

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Epilogue

  Chapter One

  Gregory

  Heavy rain blasts my face as my feet pound the path through St. James’s Park. It mixes with sweat and saturates the light grey hoody pulled over my head. I run across Blue Bridge, the impressive sight of Buckingham Palace to the left, Big Ben and the London Eye to the right. But even if I could see through my wet eyelashes and the January morning darkness, I wouldn’t care for the view of the buildings, just like I don’t care for the dead trees or the lifeless lake beneath the bridge. I stopped caring a long time ago. For more than twenty years I’ve concentrated on justifying my existence, finding a purpose, the reason I’m alive. The only building that’s come close to becoming meaningful is my office block because until three and a half months ago, all I had was power and money.

  Three and a half months ago, I found my reason to live. I found the reason blood runs through my veins, the reason my heart beats. Now she’s gone.

  Each day, I extend my running route and I lengthen the time I spend in the gym when I get back to the apartment. I stay in there, beating the shit out of the punch bag, until Jackson forces me to stop. I keep running and punching u
ntil my mind is crushed by a lack of oxygen and my body is physically drained. For those final ten minutes, just before I stop, I have nothing left to give, my mind and body are numb, but my heart pounds in my chest and it’s the only fucking way I know I’m still alive.

  I used to have nightmares when I was a child, the kind of nightmares that make a boy piss the bed. Countless nights, I came close to dying in my subconscious. That’s the thing about your fucking consciousness, it always takes over just before you fall from the cliff, get hit by a train or get beaten to death by your father. It always wakes you up. No matter how much you want that train to smash straight through you, your consciousness wakes you up like it’s doing you a fucking favour. It’s not. It wakes you up into a living hell.

  Three and a half months ago, I started to believe in dreams, not nightmares. That dreams could exist where you don’t come close to dying every night. Where you don’t want to die. Then that dream turned to a nightmare, slowly, surely, the way it was destined to do. Five weeks ago, that’s when I saw the train coming at me down the tracks, racing towards me. When I realised she couldn’t take anymore. That I’d mounted enough of my shit on her. That I’d broken her.

  Oh, baby, there’s so much more, trust me.

  When Scarlett took that call and when she got on that plane, I willed my subconscious to let the train hit me. But it didn’t. After thirty years of nightmares, I woke to the worst version of hell yet. And I only have myself to blame. I shouldn’t have dared to dream. When she walked into my boardroom, I should’ve let her be.

  I didn’t, and this is my penance. This is what I deserve. I let myself taste goodness and now the black I see every day is a darker shade.

  I don’t see another soul as I run the loop of St. James’s Park then along the tree-lined path between the grass verges of Green Park and into Hyde Park. I run right, passing the finery of The Dorchester hotel and the murmurings of morning traffic, then further into the park’s centre, lapping the lake, taking the webbed path on routes to nowhere until I give in. Then I work my way back through the parks, across Westminster Bridge and along South Bank—dead because the tourists are still sleeping—back to the Shard.

  Amy is already in the apartment, preparing to make breakfast. I nod in response to her smile but I keep my music drumming in my ears and move straight to the gym room off the lounge. Jackson halts his reps on the leg-press and stands behind the punch bag. He holds the bag ready whilst I peel my soaked jumper from my torso and let it pool on the floor. Then I start nailing the bag, blow after blow, not missing a beat of the track playing through my headphones.

  “Greg, enough.”

  “Hold it still,” I growl.

  My fists land again, a hook with my right, an uppercut with my left, then Jackson lets go of the bag. I pummel every bit of temper and frustration into the blow as my shin impacts with the bag and sends it swinging hard left.

  As my back slides down the gym wall and my legs give out in front of me, Jackson hands me a bottle of water and I finally take the plugs from my ears.

  “This’s gotta stop, kid.”

  My teeth clamp down on the rim of the bottle and my jaw clenches as I glare at Jackson in an attempt to deflect the speech I’ve received at least once in each of the last five weeks.

  “What’s done is done, Greg. You made the choice.” He hovers over me in sports shorts and a vest.

  “I know I made the fucking choice, Jackson. I don’t need to hear it. It was the right thing to do.”

  “If that’s true, why do you feel like shit? You’ve never been like this over a woman.”

  I’ve also never moved one into my apartment and thought about her every minute of every day.

  I take another swig of water and wish it was an acceptable hour to replace it with Scotch. “It’s what she would’ve done. She would’ve done the right thing. Maybe I learned something from someone for a change.”

  Jackson shakes his head and flicks a towel over his shoulder. “If it was the right thing to do, kid, quit beating yourself up over it.”

  With that, he leaves the gym. This is what he’s started doing. This dramatic effect thing. Drops a statement like that then pisses off, leaving me to dwell on it. What’s more fucking annoying is that he’s ruined those only ten minutes in my day when my body is too drained to think.

  * * *

  “Pop your bottom down on that stool, I’ve made scrambled eggs and smoked salmon.”

  It’s hard to be a dick with Amy, she doesn’t deserve it. I manage something close to half a smile and a mumbled thanks. Christ, I need to get a grip. It’s the group’s Annual General Meeting today and I need to put on a show. The group is doing well, I’ve seen the results. Something concrete I can rely on.

  I’m arrogant about business because I’m good at it. Corporations, investments, innovations, markets. I just get it. I’m always ten steps ahead so even if I get set back two paces, I’m still better than the next guy. Regardless, my board and my shareholders, they expect Gregory CEO today, the other Gregory, the version of myself I rely on to mask everything else.

  “These are good, Amy.”

  She smiles and flicks her dark blond ponytail. She loves a compliment. She’s one of those people you have to envy. She has a simple existence. She doesn’t have huge aspirations. She cooks and cleans for me, looks after her children—I’d stake money on the fact she’s a good mother—takes care of a husband who does something manual, a hearty, butch-type job that requires tough skin. Amy doesn’t want anything more than she needs. And she’s happy.

  After placing my cutlery at six o’ clock and scrolling the three emails that have landed on my Blackberry in the time it took me to eat scrambled eggs and drain my coffee, I nudge my plate towards Amy and lift a foot to the rim of my breakfast stool. Laces tied, grey trousers adjusted, white shirt cuffs tweaked to lie just lower than the cuff of my blazer, I’m ready to perform.

  “Hold the phone, mister, what would you like for dinner?” Amy calls.

  Hold the phone. For the first time in days, I genuinely smile. It was the night of the hunt, Opening Meet of the season—another thing I got wrong. Scarlett was pissed at me for ignoring her all night, for buttering up Adriana to get to her husband, the private equity investor Francis. Then Williams’s sister, Charlotte, nearly went to bed with some arsehole and I swear I could’ve killed him, would have, if Scarlett hadn’t put those damn beautiful eyes in front of me. She was reeling from everything that happened when I found her sitting on the four-post bed in our room. It killed me seeing her like that again, a mess because of me. But just like every time I screwed up a saying, she couldn’t resist giggling when I said, “Hold the fort.”

  “It’s hold the phone,” she said. I knew it was but after the first time I got one of her English sayings wrong and she laughed like an angel, I just kept doing it. And she giggled every time, the sweetest sound. Even when she was angry, I could break her by being all goofy and getting the saying wrong. It became a sort of addiction. That sound, her giggle, could melt me, still can.

  “Whatever you like, Amy, surprise me.” I really couldn’t care less.

  “Alright, hunny, have a good day.”

  * * *

  Lawrence, as Chairman of the AGM, declares the meeting quorate. Leaning forward over his tan leather document folder—designed for him by my mother—he wiggles those goddamn varifocals that he really ought to have given up on by now, and draws a tick next to item number one on his agenda. He has a slightly larger information pack than the other twelve directors around the table, including me. Christ knows what extra stuff he has in there, it’s probably packed out with blank pages, but the AGM is his big event. Batman has a cape, Spiderman shoots webbing, Lawrence has stacks of paper. God help any man who stands in the way of Lawrence and his agenda.

  “Agenda item number one, previous ye
ar’s performance and financials, one January 2015 to thirty-one December 2015. Mr. Ryans?” He lifts his specs to rest on top of his head and looks up at me. I’ll never understand why people do that, like they’re standing on the deck of a yacht, Monaco sun blazing down, and the varifocals are a shaded pair of Tom Fords. Lawrence is in the boardroom of GJR Enterprises in the middle of London City and it’s raining outside.

  Sipping coffee is a good tool. It creates a pause, short enough and legitimate enough to not appear rude but long enough to let every other man—and one woman—at the table know that this is my show, agenda or no agenda. Coffee cup slowly and purposefully back in its place, I sit taller in my leather chair and undo the middle button of my grey suit jacket.

  “Good morning all. It’s good to be around one table. I want to begin by expressing my gratitude for what’s been another strong year, in a market that’s still recovering. Turnover and EBIT have increased across the group year-on-year. Gross profit is up in all but one company but net profit is down in two subsidiaries.”

  I nod once to Williams who sits to the right of me, looking sharp in a navy pinstripe but for that mass of intentionally messed up dirty-blond which is going to have to go. A daddy-to-be can’t look like a student. Having said that, nor should a man of thirty-two years.

  One glance and a nod is all it takes, Williams and I work like a well-oiled machine—most of the time. He clicks on the projector. There’s no need to close the black blinds across the floor-to-ceiling windows because London’s ominous sky is providing us with all the darkness we need, but he does turn off the lights with his multifunction remote.

  A blue and orange graph depicting the gross profit of all companies in GJR Holdings Limited is displayed on the blank white wall on the opposite end of the board table. I dip my head once more and Williams clicks to the next slide, a close-up of the two companies with falling net profit from last year.

  “GJR Communication Solutions seems as good a place to start as any. As you know, this is primarily a vehicle for research and development.” I gesture to Mark Flemming, a stereotypical Scotsman with red hair and freckles. A stocky chap but untoned—reminds me of Hamish in that Mel Gibson movie, Braveheart. Looks completely wrong in a suit. Much happier behind a desk in a pair of jeans and a thick check shirt developing new software, or lying on his back fixing up a new machine. “Mark, you can fill in the detail when we work round the table but suffice to say, last year was one of generation. Profit won’t be realised on our latest project before quarter four this coming year, at best. Mark, when we come to the agenda item I’d like you to outline for the group the timetable and projections for sale of the new software.”

 
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