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Twelve Naughty Days
Author: K.A. Linde

 


PART I

 

 

ONE CRUEL WEDDING NIGHT

 

 

K.A. LINDE

 

 

My interpretation of partridge in a pear tree is in regards to “having it all.” A girl who on the outside looks like she has everything, but on the inside, knows that she’s entering an arranged marriage and will never have love. Or will she?

 

 

1

 

 

KATHERINE

 

 

I married the devil, and now, he wanted his due.

Camden Percy tracked me around The Plaza ballroom. There was never a moment when my new husband didn’t know where I was. Like a wolf stalking his prey through the dense, frozen forest. The ending was always the same. The conclusion well past determined.

I’d known what I agreed to. We’d arranged the entire thing ourselves. A contract signed in blood and bound by lies. His money for my body. And as he was the heir to the Percy Hotel fortune, it was a beautiful bargain. Except for the fact that I hated him.

Even though I needed him.

I was the infamous Manhattan ice queen, Katherine Van Pelt. The reigning bitch of the Upper East Side. And yet, I was nearly penniless. My goddamn father had defrauded all of his clients and the IRS. They’d taken everything, except my nearly drained trust fund and Central Park penthouse, and they would have stolen that, too, if he hadn’t given it to me clean and clear before it all fell down around us.

I played the part well enough that few had any idea that I was drowning, but Camden Percy knew. He’d found out. And he’d offered a solution. A cruel bargain—become his wife, have access to his vast wealth at my fingertips, and surrender all else to him.

How could I say no?

Now, I stood in a custom-designed Elizabeth Cunningham wedding dress, my head spinning from the champagne and the ceremony and him.

Him hunting me through the crowd, as if he knew that tonight was the night he could finally pillage his adversary. Tonight was the night that my defenses were all for naught. Tonight was the night when I chained myself to the lion and threw myself into his cage.

He knew. And he was pleased.

Those decadent, dark eyes, highlighted with flecks of gold, shone in the reception lighting. His Savile Row tuxedo held tight to all the muscular lines of him. His perfect lips, ready to roam and ravage … to command. To control.

He was a god among men. Through it all—the wedding, the endless photographs, the reception—Camden Percy held himself above all the rest. Nothing and no one could drag him down from Olympus as he surveyed the peons. And despite how much it infuriated me, I was another one of his mortals. He’d offered a hand to lift me up among the gods, but I wasn’t a god to him. I had every intention of proving him wrong. I was shackled to him, but I would not cower, and I would not beg.

“Darling,” Camden said as his orbit finally collided with mine again. He offered me his hand. “Come here for another picture.”

“Of course.”

With eyes as hard as diamonds, I placed my hand into his. He tugged me closer, drawing me flush against him. A shiver went through me, and he noticed. His gaze drifted down to mine, and for a second, we stared up at one another. I hoped from the outside, as the camera flashed, that we looked besotted. But all I felt in his embrace was a roaring rage.

He leaned forward, brushing his mouth against my earlobe. “Don’t forget to smile. It’s the happiest day of your life.”

I tensed at the bastard’s words, but I’d been a model. I knew how to smile through the pain.

It felt like an eternity. Though it was only a few minutes before I could pull free from him. The wedding planner appeared then, inserting herself seamlessly.

“Timeline is running smoothly,” she said, glancing down at her iPad. “We’re thinking ten more minutes, and then we’ll do the official exit.”

“Perfect,” I said.

“We’ll get it all set up on the front steps of The Plaza. I have the contact for the limo. Do you need anything from me?”

I shook my head. “We’ll mingle until you’re ready for us.”

“I’m on top of it.”

Then, she disappeared through the crowd, preparing everyone for us to parade down the steps of The Plaza, out onto the New York streets beyond, and into our happily ever after.

Camden’s hand returned to the base of my spine. I could feel the heat of him through the lace. I wanted to jump backward, but there was nowhere to go and nowhere to run. Hardly anyone, except my Crew, even knew that this had been arranged. It would look bad if I started rearing back from him rather than running to him. So, I remained poised and kept my eye on the prize.

“Our grand finale,” Camden said casually.

“Happily ever after,” I crooned back at him.

He smiled something fierce and deadly. “The princess finally married her prince.”

“We both know that you’re not the hero of this story.”

“No. I’ve never pretended to be.” His hand tightened on my waist. “But the ice princess isn’t the heroine either.”

“Then we’re both villains. How charming.”

“Could be worse.

I broke for a second, a laugh escaping my mouth. “How?”

My friends looked on from a short distance. There was pity in their eyes. They’d never admit to feeling it, but it was there all the same. They wanted so much more for me. But what I wanted had been stolen from me, and I’d followed through on my end of the deal. So, here I was, with the man of my nightmares.

He drew me in again. His lips falling almost tenderly against mine. I forced myself to give in to that touch. Anything less would break our charade.

“You could be bored,” he growled.

I turned to stone at the words. He was right. For some reason, he knew me enough to know that boredom killed my relationships more than anything else ever had. I had one person I’d wanted my entire life. One person who had kept my interest all these years. Everyone else had just fallen away.

And then there was Camden Percy.

“And,” he said, drawing nearer, “you could not want me.”

“I don’t want you.”

He arched an eyebrow. “Now, now, pet, you’re not a liar either.”

I hated that he was right. I might not be in love with him … but he set me on fire in the bedroom. An act I’d indulged in only a handful of times over our long engagement. Mostly because I hated to admit the desire, even to myself. How could I hate Camden Percy with the fire of a thousand suns and also want him to demand control of my body in the bedroom?

“Showtime,” the wedding planner said before I could respond.

Camden shot me a look of pure power. He’d won that round. Dammit.

“Shall we?”

He offered me his arm, and I took it.

We walked forward through the ballroom and back through The Plaza until we reached the front entrance. The foyer had been cleared for our big exit. Much of the reception had emptied to the steps, and the photographer waited at the end of the stairs to take our picture. I’d planned every single inch of this event. The more planning, the less I had to fake.

“Whenever you’re ready,” the wedding planner said.

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