“Dante Crowne will ruin you for filthy hot alphas who just need a little love. Call me, Dante. Call me.”
—Jana Aston, New York Times Bestselling Author
What happens when fire and ice are forced into close proximity?
With the paparazzi hot on her heels, Mandy Bettencourt is desperate for somewhere to hide, and her best friend has just the place.
It’s perfect. No Internet. No phone. A deep bathtub she’s soaking in when HE shows up.
Her best friend’s brother, Dante Crowne. Rich as a cardinal sin and handsome enough to piss off the devil. A man with a reputation for unforgettable bedroom games.
Mandy got an early taste of them in high school–for seven minutes in a closet. She can tell you, the rumors are all true.
Dante knows he’s got a reputation for a lot of things, including a love of solitude.
But there’s a beautiful socialite in his bathtub, and the memory of those seven minutes isn’t inspiring him to kick her out.
So he offers her a deal.
If she wants to stay, she has to work.
If she makes a mistake, she’s corrected with pink hand marks on her backside.
That’s the deal.
Beg for it or leave it.
He’s surprised when she gets on her knees, and he’s even more surprised when she likes the punishment.
The most shocking thing, though, is how much he’s starting to like her.
They can’t stay in paradise forever.
Los Angeles awaits.
But an old nemesis sets his sights on tearing them apart, and Dante may be the one left begging.
**Crowne Rules is a complete STANDALONE. You don’t have to read any of the Crowne Brothers books to pick this up, but you might want to once you’re done with Dante.**
As I scraped the last of the ice cream out of the corners, lightning flashed.
Looking up, I noticed steam curling out of the bathroom door.
Thunder cracked, and the water heater had probably done its job by now.
When the water was so hot I could barely touch it, I plugged the tub and rooted around under the sink, finding a box of squat, white candles and a lighter and a red satin bag of bath bombs. I lit the candles and tossed a couple of bombs into the water, then threw in another for good measure.
When the waterline was near the top, I shut off the faucet.
My phone had been completely useless for miles already, and if there was Wi-Fi in the house, it was off, but I could still play music. I threw together a playlist of songs with a “fuck him” theme, put headphones on, and settled in, letting the line of scalding heat envelop me to the neck.
Arms floating, I let the music take me away, singing along with a song about heartbreak and renewal, unable to hear my voice as much as feel it against the sobbing soreness of my throat.
He broke my heart
When I was so nice
Forget that asshole
I mean it, girl
Forget him twice
I belted it out not to the bathroom tiles, but to the Renaldo in my mind. He was begging to have me back, and I was toying with him, asking, “Why?” Why did he promise to leave his wife only to humiliate me? Turn me into an object of public disdain only to get on his hands and knees and literally kiss my feet?
Not just him, but Caleb, who’d treated me like trash for years, and every guy after him who dumped me and then strung me along so they could dump me again.
In my fantasy, I was telling them about all the other guys I was fucking and how little I cared about any of them. I was walking away from some faceless stud, sated and satisfied and totally unattached. I was never, ever going to get hurt again, and every time I started to cry again, I sang louder.
“No, no, no-no!” I chanted with the music, waving my finger at my imaginary lover. “You ain’t that…”
The lights went out, and I practically leapt out of the tub in shock, sliding my headphones away from one ear. A moment later, I realized what must have happened, and surprise turned to exasperation. Because, of course, this goddamn house couldn’t stand a thunderst—
“Hello?” A man’s voice came from the darkened doorway.
In a crouch, dripping wet, with female empowerment in one ear and his question in the other, I grabbed something, anything, in the dark and came up with a shampoo bottle.
“I know tae kwon do,” I said in the general direction of the voice, standing up to wield the plastic bottle.
“I’m sure.” The lights went back on with a click, and I could see the source of the voice.
Dante Crowne. Gray raincoat glinting with droplets of water, finger on the light switch, looking down at me from the top of Mount Six Foot Four. All the Crowne men had light eyes, but Dante’s were deeper set and the iciest blue I’d ever seen.
“It’s Mandy,” I said, pulling the headphones around my neck and lowering the shampoo.
His gaze followed the poorly chosen weapon and took a circuitous route back upward by way of the naked triangle between my legs, my belly, my breasts. When his eyes landed on mine, there was desire there, but I could tell by the way he tightened his mouth that it was an easily dismissed interloper and not something he wanted to act on.
“Logan said you’d be here,” he said.
He wasn’t going to apologize for scaring me half to death and then checking me out without even admiring the view?
“Well, he didn’t warn me about you,” I said.
Lightning flickered, and I held my reply for the whipcrack of thunder one Samanda later.
“Clearly,” Dante scoffed, looking my nudity over again.
I turned for the towel, catching sight of myself in the mirror. I was splotched in patches of bubble. South America drifted down my hip.
Dante grabbed the towel and handed it to me, eyes respectfully averted. I took it slowly, daring him to look again, and he took me up on the challenge, letting his gaze fall all over my body like a steamer pushed under a dress to relax the creases in every corner.
“Logan sends his apologies, but this house is mine,” Dante said as I wrapped the white towel around myself. “And I need to use it this weekend.”
“Your brother said it was a family house.”
After the one syllable, he turned and left me alone in what was apparently his bathroom.
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ABOUT CD REISS
CD Reiss is a New York Times bestseller. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn’t pick up she’s at the well hauling buckets.
Born in New York City, she moved to Hollywood, California to get her master’s degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere but it did give her a big enough ego to write novels.
She’s frequently referred to as the Shakespeare of Smut which is flattering but hasn’t ever gotten her out of chopping that cord of wood.
If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine.
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