Vin Cortland is the crowned prince of Deception High. He is beloved by his subjects and ruthless with his enemies.
We used to be friends, once. Not anymore.
It’s no secret that he hates me, but only the two of us will ever know why. And the guilt of what I’ve done makes me hate myself more than he ever could.
Except love and hate are two sides of the same coin and both will make you burn.
Then he comes to me with a proposition: one fake marriage in exchange for enough money to finally escape this town and leave the past behind me. The offer is hard to refuse and Vin isn’t the type to take no for an answer.
I want to know why me, but I won’t ask for his secrets when it means revealing my own.
He is the best and worst thing that has ever happened to me.
My savior and my destruction.
It’s a deal with the devil.
I’ll let him take my body and my hand in marriage.
The only question is whether or not he also gets my soul.
Necessary Cruelty is a standalone, enemies-to-lovers romance with an HEA and no cliffhanger. Lords of Deception is a New Adult series of standalone romances featuring drama, angsty sensuality and Alpha males who will be brought to their knees. This book is intended for mature readers.
The thin curtains covering the window let in enough of a glow from the floodlights outside that I can just make out the figure sitting at the desk chair in the corner of my room.
For a moment, fear tightens my throat and steals my breath as I reorient myself to the present instead of dreams about the past. The fear only lasts until my vision adjusts to the darkness enough that I can tell who it is sitting there.
As if there is more than one person that it could be.
Vin watches me come awake with an expression that isn’t visible in the dark, but I know he has a scowl on his face. Wood creaks in the silence as he shifts his weight, but he doesn’t say anything.
And neither do I.
Grandpa is long asleep, not that he would be capable of mounting the stairs to come to my rescue. And I know Zion hasn’t returned from wherever he goes at night, because the noise he makes coming in the house would have woken me up.
Vin and I are never alone at school. He either has the other Vice Lords with him, or he avoids me like the plague. At least, it feels like he avoids me. But I can’t ignore the fact that he always seems to be around anytime the rules are broken. One time, Liam Connelly grabbed my elbow and tried to pull me into a broom closet, knowing I probably wouldn’t open my mouth to protest. Vin was there before Liam even had the chance to close the door behind us, breaking my would-be rapist’s jaw badly enough that he required corrective surgery.
But that has always been one of the rules: no one else gets to touch me.
I see a flash of white in the darkness, and I know it’s the note Jake had my brother pass me at lunch. Vin leaves it on the table as he stands, seeming to loom over me even though he is still across the room.
He circles the bed like a shark in the water, scenting blood. But it’s his scent that permeates the room, a heady mix of wood-smoke and bergamot with just the barest hint of oleander. Always, with the fucking oleanders. I have the feeling he rubs himself down with them just to mess with me. That scent will stay here, tainting the air, long after he leaves.
It’s been so long since the last time he showed up here like this that I almost had myself convinced we were done. But the two of us are like two meteors on a collision course in the darkness of space, destined to collide in a spectacular display of destruction.
In a moment of fancy, I wonder if it’s jealousy or possession that has brought him here tonight, after months of staying away. Realistically, I know the reality is both simpler and more complicated than that. He is here because he can’t stop himself from coming.
He wants me in a peculiar and twisted way, but he also might wrap his hands around my throat and squeeze the life from me, something he has threatened to do more than once in the past.
His presence here is inexplicable, because there isn’t any explanation required.
Vincent Cortland does whatever he wants whenever he feels like doing it. That is the way it has always been.
Everybody talks about destiny like it’s some wondrous thing that must be written in the stars. Really, destiny is just the inevitable result of your decisions rushing up from the future to blast you in the face. If you jump off a cliff, hitting the rocks below becomes your destiny. You’re accelerating towards destiny in a free fall, and at that point there isn’t any stopping what has to happen next.
Just because something is your destiny doesn’t mean it won’t destroy you.
I fold my legs in front of me and wrap my arms around my knees as my gaze tracks his movements in the dim light. He paces like a caged predator in a zoo, desperate for a way out. I don’t say anything as I continue to watch him. This always plays out the same way, and I figured out it’s better to be patient a long time ago.
Vin crawls into the bed without asking for permission, and I scoot over to make room for him. He lies on his side on top of the blankets behind me while one hand wraps around my waist to haul me back against him. His open hand rests heavily against my stomach, forcing me down with pressure that is just on the wrong side of too much.
Spooning is supposed to be a romantic thing, but he manages to turn it into a punishment. That has always been a talent of his, taking something good and twisting it into a thing that I both love and loathe.
We lie together in the dark until our breathing is in sync. I try to take slower and shallower breaths, because I hate that it is so easy for our bodies to become a perfect match. But there isn’t any use trying to fight it. Our chests rise and fall together, his breath tickling the back of my neck as he exhales.
An hour passes in silence, but neither of us have fallen asleep. Every place his body touches mine burns. My muscles are clenched and taut as he forces me back against him, but his proximity compels me to relax even as I wish it wasn’t the case.
Our hearts might be at war, but our bodies have a mind of their own.
I only wear a t-shirt to bed most nights, maybe throwing on a pair of sweatpants when it gets particularly cold. Pajamas are a luxury I simply do not understand. I can’t imagine spending money on clothes that I never wear outside the house.
The hand that has been still on my stomach this entire time shifts to my hip, stroking down the bare skin of my exposed thigh. His lips touch the back of my neck, so softly it makes me want to cry.
But I won’t call it a kiss, refuse to even think that word. Despite everything, despite my fear, the one thing we never do is kiss.
Vin Cortland doesn’t kiss anyone.
She lives in Indiana with her husband, two children, two cats, two dogs and partridge in a pear tree (okay not really!). She doesn’t enjoy long walks on the beach because the sand gets everywhere but can often be found binging Netflix and drinking wine from Kroger.
Necessary Cruelty is her debut novel.