Darkside Love Affair (Darkside Love Affair #1)By: Michelle Rosigliani
Writing this book has been quite a journey, and there is no doubt that the help and understanding of some very amazing people made this story what it is today. I am profoundly grateful to all of you, and I hope you all know that.
To my parents, Monica and Dan, thank you for your patience, understanding, and support. I know I am not the easiest person to deal with when I am immersed in a story, so thank you for sticking with me and believing that I can do it.
To Liz, who has known and cherished the story since the very first moment, when the characters had other names and the plot was slightly different (or completely). Your continual support, friendship, and encouragements are dearly valued. I don’t think I could have done this without you.
To Diana and Lori, thank you for your countless questions and timely feedback. Your input helped me develop this book from a few ideas to a full-blown novel.
To Elizabeth, thank you for taking my words and chiseling them into a better story. Your keen eye for detail and unbelievable suggestions were tremendously helpful and appreciated.
To Damonza, thank you for the awesome cover design. It is everything I wanted, and yet, so much more than I ever hoped for. I simply love it.
Last but not least, I would like to thank all the people who at some point taught me or influenced me to pursue the fascinating world of creating.
And thank you, dear reader, for giving Darkside Love Affair a chance. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I did not believe in Fate. I believed in choices and that in making them, we triggered a series of events that chiseled the path that led to the final curtain. I had devised my outcome, so why was I surprised that it had come to this?
The lights went out, and my long-forgotten nightmares came to life. In the dark, among the falling ceiling and through the chaos that had been unleashed, I fumbled for his touch.
But there were no warm, soothing hands waiting for mine, no tender lips to brush across my forehead and urge me to be brave, nor strong arms to protect me. There were only piles of concrete, broken glass, and splintered wood.
And the flames. They grew thick and merciless and scorched everything in their wake.
The firestorm had taken an ugly, painful form. And from its untamed flames stepped the perverted killer I had been hunting for.
It was he who hunted me now, and he was ruthless.
With eyes full of hatred, he pointed his gun at my head.
Then my world exploded in tiny, scattering pieces.
The black sedan stopped at the curb, and the back door opened to reveal the Armani clothed figure of a man I knew all too well. James Burton did not waste time on loving gestures or false pretenses. With a single detached wave, he ordered me to join him inside the somber luxury of his car.
“Father,” I greeted him rather stiffly as I shut the door and the car rolled into motion. “What was so pressing that it couldn’t wait until Monday?”
Impenetrable brown eyes surveyed me before he pulled a leather dossier out of his briefcase. His motions were curt but elegant, as was the man himself. James Burton had naturally creamy skin, so perfectly smooth that he could have been the envy of the most pampered woman. His features were severe yet unreachably beautiful, with a hint of nobility that only heightened his innate power. His body, even in his mid-fifties, was agile, fit, and imposing.
Reaching for his cigarettes, he placed the dossier in my lap. The small flame of the lighter trembled for an instant before the tip of the cigarette caught fire, and the smell of tobacco penetrated my nostrils. I frowned and massaged my temples, watching the circles of smoke coiling and drifting in the enclosed space of the car.
“I trust you don’t mind,” he replied, remorselessly bringing the cigarette to his lips, then pointing somewhat impatiently to the dossier. “Open it.”
Inside the folder, there was a single sheet of paper that looked like it had been meticulously creased. It was a contract signed with a flourish by Mitch Stewart, the mayor of Washington, D.C. When I finished reading the paper twice, I looked up at my father in confusion.
“Mayor Mitch Stewart hired Burton & Associates to be co-counsel on his son’s case?”
My father nodded with a sly twist of his lips that had me straightening my spine almost defensively.
“Why are you giving me this, Father?”
An unwelcome chill ran up and down my spine when he finally extinguished his cigarette, inched closer, and spoke. I knew by the look in his eyes that I wouldn’t like whatever he had to say.
“It’s been three months since you were promoted to Junior Partner, and you haven’t had any notable cases yet. Jack Stewart’s case will put your name on the map. That is why I’m giving you this opportunity.”
“Before you say anything reckless,” he went on resolutely, speaking in that tone that allowed little objection, “please appreciate the fact that I am offering you the spotlight, Charlotte. Now it’s time to prove that you deserve this promotion. Imagine the opportunities this success will bring you.”
I had little faith that Jack Stewart’s story would be a successful one because I had little faith in him. It was my duty as a lawyer to listen to my client and reserve all judgment for myself, but defending a man accused of murdering his own fiancée went against each and every one of my convictions.
“I believe Isaac would be a better fit for this case, and you know it.”
“Isaac doesn’t want the case.”
“You mean you talked him into passing on this case so you could give it to me.”
“Let’s make something clear, Charlotte. In my firm, I say what happens, and the rest of you act in accordance.”
“Jack Stewart is accused of murdering his fiancée,” I cut him off, which I rarely did and almost always regretted afterward.
James’s eyes darkened, and his lips pressed into a thin line. I was testing his patience, but that seemed less important when faced with the possibility of losing my peace of mind over an unwanted case.
Being a lawyer had never been my choice, but in time, I had learned to appreciate the benefits such a profession granted and recognize the good it allowed me to do. I had drawn gratification from the many people I had been able to defend, but I had never used my abilities in favor of criminals. I had never dived into that dark aspect of my profession, and I hated that my father forced me to begin now.
“He is innocent until proven guilty, Charlotte. It’s your job not to let that happen. I hope you will make me proud.”
“I don’t feel comfortable accepting this case.”
“There’s really no room for argument here,” he said, emphasizing each word while glancing out the window as if he had already forgotten that I was sitting beside him. “You should be called to D.C. soon.”
It was clear there was no room for argument, but there was no room for any other conversation either.
“Please, stop the car.”
“Don’t be absurd, Charlotte.”
“I’d like to walk, please. Stop the car.”
I climbed out of the car, slamming the door on my father’s commanding plea to come back. He had that annoying way of turning even the most heartrending request into an order, and for tonight, I just wanted to shut him out. He had ordered me enough.
It seemed fitting that such a disastrous day ended with a thorough downpour. Rain-laden clouds rolled languorously on the ashen sky, and thunder echoed somewhere in the distance.
It was unnaturally cold for an early summer evening. The wind was brutal as it slapped me mercilessly across the face. Its chill was feral as it turned my lips into a trembling mess of purple flesh.
I felt the rage of the storm approaching in my very bones, and for a short second, I regretted having traded the warm interior of my father’s car for those cold, dark streets. Hastening my pace and wrapping the flimsy coat tighter around myself, I hoped I would reach the safety of my apartment before the heavens split open.
“Damn it,” I cursed silently when my feet didn’t carry me fast enough.
I was not particularly sensitive, but I was definitely weather-sensitive. When it was cold and rainy, I got headaches, seasoned with joint and bone pains that extended from such an inoffensive, little ache in my left knee, all the way to my faulty spine. Even my muscles felt loaded with a burning kind of tension. The nagging pain plagued me as I hurried down the darkened alley that was the only shortcut to my apartment building.
No more than two minutes passed before I lamented the decision to forsake the main street, adequately illuminated and sufficiently populated, in favor of an isolated, empty alley that was dimly lit and saturated with a bothering reek of sewers.
“Hey, sugar, where are you going?” I heard a male voice coming from somewhere threateningly close.
I tensed but neither turned to see who was calling nor slowed my pace. If anything, I started walking even faster, which earned me their obnoxious jokes. The sound irritated me as much as it awakened self-preservation instincts that I had not been aware I possessed.
Fear pumped a strange current through my blood. I was the prey, so I sensed the danger. They were the predators, so they smelled my fear. And thus, they were incited.
While their laughter reached horrible peaks and the distance between us was eradicated, my heart beat faster, my hands became sweaty and trembling, and my mind throbbed with one single thought. Run.