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Embrace The Dark (Her Elemental Dragons Book 5)

By:Elizabeth Briggs

1


Hannah


Only a desperate woman made a deal with the devil—and I was on my way to ask him for a favor.

I couldn’t help but wring my hands while we went up, up, up in the elevator. Generic club music played softly in the background as I stared at the sleek mirrored walls and dark silver buttons, trying to avoid looking at the two imposing men either side of me. There was no escaping them. They filled the entirety of the space with their broad shoulders, thick necks, and well-pressed black suits, barely leaving me room to suck in a breath. They were hot as hell, just like everyone I’d seen in The Celestial Resort & Casino, but scary enough to make me wonder if coming here was a huge mistake.

Who was I kidding? Of course it was a mistake. But it might be the only way to find my best friend.

The elevator dinged, signaling we’d reached the penthouse, and when the door opened, I let out the breath I’d been holding. More models-turned-security guards stood outside a big, black, shiny door. As I stepped out of the elevator, that black door was thrown open and a man in a disheveled gray suit rushed out. His wide eyes were full of something like panic or fear, and he jostled hard against my shoulder as he tried to escape.

“If you’re smart, you’ll turn around and run,” the guy yelled before one of the muscular guards grabbed him by the arm and dragged him toward the elevator. He didn’t even struggle, and soon the elevator door shut him in, barely droning out his last word. “Run!”

I swallowed hard but steeled myself as I headed for the open door. Each footfall felt like one step closer to my doom. I glanced between the guards perched on either side of the door, but they barely acknowledged me as I walked through. I’d already gotten approval to speak with Mr. Ifer from a man in a suit downstairs, so I supposed they were expecting me.

Just inside the door was a small foyer with a huge painting of stylized black wings spread wide on a pure white canvas. I knew little about art, but found myself staring up at it, drawn to the way the brush strokes looked like angry slashes.

I shook myself and continued down the hall, along black marble floors with a touch of silver veining in them, and entered a large living room. The sight of expensive, black leather couches and a grand piano made me freeze. I’d expected to meet Lucas Ifer, CEO of Abaddon Inc and the rumored mob boss of Las Vegas, in his office, not his own home. Momentarily stunned by the sight of it all, I took in the backlit mirrored bar along one wall, the large, sleek fireplace across from it, and the floor-to-ceiling windows on the end with an impressive view of the Las Vegas Strip, not to mention the infinity pool on the balcony.

The man I’d come to see leaned with his hand on one of those large windows, staring out at his domain like a brooding king. Or a kingpin, maybe. I could only see his profile, but it was striking enough to make my heart miss a beat. I cataloged him while I waited for his attention to land on me, as I didn't dare disturb such dark, dangerous perfection. An impeccable black suit framed broad shoulders and tapered down to narrow hips, before hugging a perfectly rounded ass. Sunlight kissed short, thick hair that looked almost black except for highlights of rich, chocolate brown. Below that, perfectly trimmed dark stubble accentuated a chiseled jaw, leading up to the cheekbones of a god.

Whatever I’d expected from the man they called “the devil” in hushed whispers, it had not been this.

“Come to ask for a favor?” His voice washed over me with a delicious British accent that somehow made his words sound both smart and sensual. “As you saw, it didn’t go so well for the last fellow. Then again, he tried to renege on our bargain. I trust you won’t do the same.”

His words rolled off his tongue like sex and sin, but also reminded me why I was here. I shook my head a little to clear my thoughts and to snap out of the daze he’d put me in. “Yes, I am. Here for a favor, that is.”

He turned from the window to face me, and the light and dark played over his face in the most beguiling way I’d ever seen. The full force of his presence hit me in the gut like a fire bursting into life from the strike of a match. Forget the men outside—they were nothing compared to him. I actually forgot how to breathe under the weight of those eyes, an emerald color I hadn’t realized was humanly possible until today. And that mouth…dear lord, was that a mouth made for sinning. I could already imagine it whispering naughty things in my ears before his lips left a trail of lust down my skin.

Something about him was familiar too. I searched my limited memory for a time I could have met him, but surely I would’ve remembered someone this remarkably gorgeous. No. There was no way we’d met.

Yet… I knew him somehow. Instinctively, primally, deep in the core of my being, he felt like something I… It was right on the tip of my tongue. The thought I couldn’t grasp before it slid away. I refocused, but it was no use. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Maybe I knew him from before the accident? Seemed unlikely, and surely if he knew me, he’d say something.

I realized I was staring and jerked my gaze away, out over the view. Las Vegas in the daytime wasn't nearly as impressive as at night, when the city was lit up as if some preschoolers had sprinkled giant tubs of glitter over an expanse of desert. Even so, the bustling city against the backdrop of the mountains in the distance momentarily took all of my focus, giving me a second to gain my bearings again.

“Tell me your name,” Lucas said.

His voice, that accent, my god.

“Hannah.” I finally met his eyes again. “Hannah Thorn.”

“Hannah.” My name rolled off his tongue like a sip of expensive Scotch. I shook my head and blinked away the thought. I didn’t drink. Why would I think about the smooth burn of a drink I’d never had?

He tore his eyes from me like it was difficult for him to do so. Almost as if he was drawn to me as much as I was to him. A fanciful notion, and one I immediately dismissed as he walked behind the bar.

“Drink?” Lucas held up a decanter and a crystal tumbler that sent a rainbow of light shards bouncing around the room.

“No thanks. I don’t drink.”

He hummed low in his throat, a sound of dissent. “Pity. We could have a lot of fun if we got drunk together.”

He reached for different glasses and shoveled ice into them. Three perfect cubes hit the sides of the glasses with a chinking sound. Then he grabbed a jug of clear liquid from under his counter, and I held up my hand in the universal gesture for stop.

“I meant it. I don’t drink.”

“And I don’t give alcohol to anyone who isn’t a willing recipient.” He picked up his glass and took a big swallow of the contents. “Sadly, just water.”

He held the second glass out to me. As I wrapped my fingers around it, our hands brushed against each other, and the fire in my gut erupted again, sending heat all over my body and down to my core. The feeling that I knew Lucas redoubled, like a memory just outside my grasp, or a word on the tip of my tongue. And with it came a rush of desire so strong it took my breath away.

His gaze intensified. Did he feel it too?

“Sit.” Lucas gestured toward the black leather couches.

I perched on the edge of one and held my glass in both hands, my grip tightening as my nerves stretched thin. Anxiety wound in my chest and mixed with the desire pooling between my thighs, making me feel light-headed. I glanced at the nearby piano, trying to bring my emotions back under control. This was all too big. Much too big. What the hell was I even doing here?

Lucas sat on the couch across from me and spread one arm along the back. He rested an ankle on his knee in the perfect picture of poise and calm control. “Now, how can I be of assistance?”

I took a deep breath, trying to channel some of that calm control for myself, even if I only pretended. I was perfectly happy to fake it, even if I would never make it. Not around someone so disarming.

“My best friend is missing,” I blurted out. Way to fake poise. “Her name is Brandy Higgins. She was staying here, in this hotel, for a conference, but she never came home. I tried to find her myself, but I haven’t had any success, and when I went to the police they were dismissive. Especially when I told them she’d been staying here.”

“You must be a very loyal friend. Very few are brave enough to ask me for a favor.” He looked at his drink and shook the ice around in the glass, the sound it made almost musical. “The rest are extremely desperate. I wonder, which one are you?”

I glanced down at my hands, but then forced myself to meet his eyes, trying to channel bravery along with my desperation. “Both. Brandy is more than a friend. She’s like a sister to me, and she has a little kid and a sick mom at home counting on me to find her. I’ve been living with them ever since her divorce to help out, but if she doesn’t return…” The thought was too terrible for me to consider. I straightened my spine and stiffened my shoulders, shoving my anxiety into a tight ball in my chest as I faced Lucas with determination. “I heard you’re called the King of Las Vegas, and that nothing happens here without you knowing about it. I figure if anyone can find Brandy, it’s you.”

I didn’t mention the other rumors I’d heard about him, like the fact that he was basically a mob boss who ran the city, and how people referred to him as the devil in nervous whispers and behind locked doors. Even the police seemed afraid of him.

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