Coming in hot! I know y’all have been asking a lot of questions about Book VII and I have some answers for you. If you love romantic stories and you’ve been enjoying my interracial romance stories in this series, keep reading. This is a billionaire romance for bwwm romance fans that I think you will love… Keep reading for the excerpt.
Romance Novel Excerpts: Book #7 Parisian Billionaire Brotherhood
“I’ll give you whatever you want. Anything. I’ve got money… I’ve got—”
“Shut up, Aumont. We don’t want your money.”
“What do you want then?”
The brute pressed his knife to my exposed chest and slid it down my skin, splitting me open like a plum. I felt the hot blood streaming down my face before the pain, but when it came, it was fierce and I couldn’t help but scream. Sweat pooling across my back and face poured down my skin and as the salt traveled into the wound, I screamed. Pain blazed through me and I ground on my molars hard, causing the brute to laugh louder. He was taking way too much pleasure in this.
“Speak up, Jean-Luc. Where is he?” He rasped.
“That’s what you want, then?”
“Yes. Among other things.”
“Your people should have told you that I don’t know. I haven’t spoken to him in months.”
“You’d better open up —”
“Looks like you’ve already done that for me.”
The brute landed a whack against my cheek. I guess I deserved it for the lip. I scowled, my brows pinched together and my tongue heavy in my mouth, searching for the next scalding phrase I could send his way. The brute already had me tied up, he’d already electrocuted me, shoved my head under water until I couldn’t breathe and when that wasn’t enough, he made his move with the knife, carving into my flesh like I was coq au vin.
The brute let me bleed as he stood against the wall of my prison, his back against the wall.
“Want a smoke?”
I didn’t respond.
“Sorry. Your hands are tied.”
He laughed at his own joke. I stared straight ahead, vowing that once I was out of these shackles, if I made it out of this building alive, I would kick his ass, I would use every dollar I had to make this bastard pay. What was he doing all this for anyway? For Rémy? If he thought torturing me, or any of the members of our band of brothers would do anything to find Rémy, the brute would find himself mistaken. He’d figure that out soon, whether or not he managed to kill me in the process.
Killing me wouldn’t help things, anyway, no matter how much the brute believed violence would solve his problems, the truth was, the universal problem solver wasn’t the silver, serrated blade of a knife, but cold hard cash, something I didn’t lack for. I couldn’t even blame the Russian for my predicament. He’d tried his best to live up to his part of the deal. It wasn’t his fault that I’d been a smidge too late and been taken on this detour.
He lit his cigarette and puffed a couple of times, igniting the craving in me despite the fact that I’d quit for over ten years. That was the problem with France, all of Europe really, you couldn’t take a bloody step without walking straight into a plume of heavy tobacco smoke and feeling the itching at your neck. The brute clomped over to me and blew smoke in my face, expecting me to recoil or cough. I maintained control, staring him in the eyes and concealing a smirk as I fantasized about the ways I would ruin him once I got out of the chair. The brute was oblivious.
“Now, Jean-Luc, we’ve wasted enough time, don’t you think?”
“Yes, I agree. Unhand me and we can stop wasting it.”
“Hasn’t your smart mouth landed you into enough trouble?”
“Nothing my wallet couldn’t get me out of.”
“Quiet, you idiot.”
He puffed again.
“Tell me, where can I find Rémy. I know the lot of you have off-shore holdings in the colonies.”
“The colonies? It’s 2019, mate.”
The brute didn’t appreciate the way I mocked him. He scowled and approached my arm, hovering the lit cigarette over it so my arm hair singed and filled the room with that thick, pungent burning smell. He lifted the red tip just before pressing it into my arm. I didn’t flinch, ignoring the threat. Blood continued to spill from the slice he’d made in my chest. Just a flesh wound. But it would get worse if I couldn’t get to my doctor to treat it in time.
“Talk,” the brute growled.
“Let me give you some advice. If Rémy doesn’t want to be found, he won’t be. He’s wealthier than all of us, with over $10 billion in holdings. He’s cheated you, and he’s a sorry bastard for doing so, but I’m forced to wonder if there’s more than one reason your deal fell apart.”
“Right. You think I’m a madman, innit?”
“A madman? No. I mean, would a madman kidnap a grown man, slice into his chest and hold him prisoner?”
“You’re too fuckin’ cheeky, mate.”
“Right, and you Brits don’t like that, do you…”
“If you won’t give me Rémy, perhaps you can give me someone else.”
“I doubt we can find a way to negotiate here.”
“I think we can. I want Ollie Cook.”
“You know him, don’t you?”
“I know he doesn’t want to be found right now, and as such, no one is going to find him.”
The brute grunted and squeezed my cheeks, hurting the jawbones I ground together moments before.
“Tell me where he is.”
“He’s not in London anymore,” I gasped, giving him a sliver of information to keep him from killing me quickly.
“I figured as much. But I didn’t ask you where he isn’t. I asked you where he is.”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t believe that.”
“You don’t have to believe it.”
AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I screamed internally as he outed the cigarette on my arm. The pain and the smell of burning flesh floated up into the air. I didn’t cry out but the sweat pooled from my brow and the intense pain surged through me, pulsing through the small circle on my arm. I tasted bile in my mouth and then blood and then my mind slipped out of the room and I fell unconscious.
When I woke up, I was still in the room, but unhanded from my shackles. The room was quiet with only the sound of a leaky pipe somewhere in the dark basement.
“HELLO?” I called out, getting no response. Blood congealed around the open wound on my chest. My mouth was sandpaper dry with only the faint taste of bile left in my mouth and second hand tobacco smoke plugging up my nostrils. I was free enough at least. I got up, despite the cramping in my legs, which didn’t work as well as they used to in my twenties, and I walked over to the door which was cracked open just a few inches. Failing to get information he needed out of me, the brute had left.
The abandoned house in the Latin quarter appeared nondescript from the outside, a typical townhome except for the fact that it was on a street where all the houses had been abandoned due to a fire that swept through a few months back. I stepped into the kitchen. The bloody knife the brute had used lay on the table, splattered blood around it. Moving around had split my wound open again and standing in the small kitchen, I ripped my shirt off and wrapped it around my chest. I opened the pipe and a few trickles of water sputtered out. Not enough to wash my face, and definitely not enough to clean the wound on my chest. I’d need to call the doctor for that.
I picked up my phone, wincing, sweat still dripping down my brow as the pain of the open wound ripped through me again. Voicemail. Fucking bastard.
“Rémy,” I spoke in French of course, but for expedience, I’ll translate for you, “You bastard. The brute just paid me a visit and he’s looking for you. I can’t stay in Paris like this — Claude didn’t survive his encounter and I don’t know why the brute bothered to leave me alive. If you’re getting this, contact him. Or contact Ollie. For fuck’s sake, get in touch with someone who can make this problem go away.”
I threw my phone at the wall when I was done. My last plea to Rémy was all I could muster up. If the imbecile didn’t pay me any mind by tonight, I’d have to make my move. My assistant, Katja, had warned me that I’d be the next target on the brute’s list and I assured her that beneath the disguise offered by exclusive clubs and my general reclusive lifestyle, the brute wouldn’t be able to find me.
I’d been dead wrong. The worst part of it was that the brute was just a henchman. A warning shot so to speak. Well, I considered myself warned. Thank goodness I got Vasily’s assistance before I ended up dead in a ditch somewhere. I stumbled out into the street, bloody and looking a mess.
A woman, tight bun, thin red-painted lips and a sharp nose flashed me the scowl that makes French women oh so endearing. I looked just as bad as I felt then. I smiled in return and she hurried down the street like I was a madman and not one of the richest men in Paris. I pulled my second phone out of my pocket — the private line, untraceable, and very temporary and called Louis.
“What do you want, boss?”
“I need the jet, Louis. It’s go time.”
“D’accord. Are you going to say good bye to Helen?”
“The girl at your penthouse.”
“Shit. I forgot about her. Can you break up with her for me?”
“This is the third time this week, Jean-Luc.”
“Louis, this is what I pay you for.”
“The last one threw a vase at my head…”
“I promise, you’ll be well compensated,” I replied, agitated because of the pulsing wound on my chest and the blood that had started to seep out again. I suspected that I’d lost a bit too much blood because my head started to feel woozy. I needed medicine, not another argument with Louis about my hook ups.
“D’accord. Meet at the airport in twenty.”
“Send a limo.”
“Aren’t you out in the country?”
“No. Latin Quarter. Long story. Call my city driver.”
I hung up and set the phone down on the sidewalk as I waited for my car. I’d miss Paris. Sure, I loved the islands, but there was no place like home. I must have fallen asleep for a few minutes, leaned up against a lamppost because the next thing I heard was the horn to my limo and my driver getting out, a concerned look furrowed across his black caterpillar brows.
“Merde! What happened to you?”
“Long story. I need the doctor and I need to meet Louis at the airstrip.”
“Oui. I heard.”
He got me into the back of the limo and I passed out until we got to my doctor’s private office. After a lecture about last minute appointments, she disinfected and bandaged my wound, impressed by the fact that I didn’t make a sound as she dabbed my cut with alcohol. It was deep, but still only required a few stitches. We only had ten minutes to make it to the strip, which meant we’d be late. Louis would have to deal. The doctor tried to get answers out of me, but she was safer the less she knew. I told her as much despite her disapproving scowl. I was well accustomed to drawing these looks from people. When I arrived at the strip, Louis was red and fuming at my lateness. I brushed him off as he handed me everything I needed.
My real passport. My fake passport, for evading the authorities. A Louis Vuitton duffel bag of clothing and my newest Rolex. Keys to my flat in Eden Village. A briefcase with €78,000. I’d get a new one hand-delivered to me by courier after a month, but that was enough that I could lie low in my new country for a while before attracting any attention. Ideally, I’d attract no attention at all.
“Is everything okay, boss?”
“Be careful. We’ll do our best here to find Rémy.”
“If he wanted to be found, we would have found him already. It’s my turn to disappear.”
“You’re sure it’s the right thing to do?”
I ripped open my shirt, and revealed the wound to Louis. He winced.
“Stay out of trouble, Jean-Luc.”
But somehow, trouble always seemed to find me.
Apt #82 Eden Village
Trois Ilets, Martinique
I picked up smoking again when I couldn’t stop the dreams of the brute carving his blade into my chest. After three weeks on the island, my chest wound had mostly healed, but without the pain medication, I was still in pain most of the day. At least on the island, I could keep to myself and endure the excruciating healing process without board meetings and business lunch with the advisors.
After the first 80 days, I no longer felt any pain, but I had a thick scar that rose above my flesh in a jagged reminder of what I’d experienced my last night in Paris. I got used to the people who would come and go from the resort village too. Most of them were old, rich, and retired French people. The tourist off-season meant that about half of the flats were occupied. I often mused about the numbers on a village like that, fantasizing over the millions and billions of dollars of potential beneath the surface of the sleepy town as I puffed on a cigarette and bid Bonjour to Monsieur Benoit and his Madame, a short hunched over woman with thin drawn on eyebrows and lips that were far too red.
From the resort village, I could walk down to the beach, which I did each morning before the sun was up, when the fishermen dragged in nets and the waitresses set up the chairs along the length of the beach and the smell of sea air and ti ponche seemed divinely inspired to make you forget your troubles. Under other circumstances, I would have enjoyed Martinique more. My circumstances meant I wasn’t quite like the other visitors. I was more of a prisoner — a prison of my own making, to be sure — but a prison all the same. While I attempted an indulgence in pure leisure, I couldn’t help but keep one eye open and expect that paradise would experience an interruption.
After a morning at the beach, and after indulging in a breakfast of baguettes, duck paté and jam, I wandered throughout the neighborhood, stopping to have conversations with a rasta-man Timothée who cut the grass at the neighbor’s two-story old French colonial Caribbean home. I’d never bothered to meet the man inside. Island wealth was different from ours, older and less welcoming. I preferred the company of Timothée, who welcomed a cigarette and a chat about the weather or Macron, neither of which he had anything good to say about.
My mornings were slow by design, and for the first time in my life, I began to come untethered from the stress of Paris and the immense burden of my life’s condition. I admit, I had the French penchant for excessive cynicism. Once in a while, at Eden Village, I would catch the conversations of visiting Americans or Canadians, and try to study their harsh English, that got caught in your throat like a fruit pit. Hearing English at all was rare, so I soaked up those moments to practice the language, especially since I no longer had meetings with American associates to keep my skill fresh. The last Americans at the resort had left ten days ago — a couple named Kylie and Martin, every bit as irritating and loud as you would expect, with arguments that caused the rest of the French residents at the resort to whisper amongst themselves about the unruly couple. When there were no Americans, the resort was peaceful.
Kylie and Martin shipped back off to South Carolina, and then the resort was quiet again, and I considered myself free to go to the community pool which sat between the two largest apartments on the complex — the three bedroom in #34 and the four bedroom in #14. The wooden pool chairs on the water’s edge were unoccupied since the sun had risen too high for the mothers to bother with taking their pale children out to the pool. I could do without the screaming and the stench of sunscreen anyway.
I stripped down to my speedo and sat on the chair, enjoying the sun on my sculpted ab muscles. Us French folk don’t have the American lust for sunscreen, and I enjoyed the sun’s gentle kiss against my exposed biceps. I was reminded of my summers in Santorini with a beautiful girl on the edge of my yacht. Who was the last girl? Helen? Or maybe I’d taken Sabine. I could never keep track of girls like that.
I closed my eyes, thinking for once that I could allow this freedom and appreciate my exile for what it was, even if I had no choice in it. Then, I heard an American voice in such high pitched, piercing English that I nearly fell off my chair.
“DON’T YOU DARE PLAY WITH ME DEMETRIUS.”
“YOU CRAZY ASHANTI, Y’HEAR THAT? YOU CRAZY!”
“CRAZY? YOU THINK I’M CRAZY? SO BE IT THEN—”
I would have simply closed my eyes and prayed for their hasty departure from the village, but then I heard the woman shriek, the type of scream you get from an animal that has been backed into a corner and has no escape. She screamed — and I leaped out of my chair instinctively and rounded the corner to apartment #75, where the argument took place. The man had grabbed her hand and twisted, but the woman, Ashanti, didn’t appear to be a hapless victim when I turned the corner. She pulled off her high heel and started to wallop the bastard who made the mistake of trying to hurt her.
“ASHANTI STOP YOU CRAZY ASS BITCH.”
“YOU THINK YOU CAN HIT ME AND GET AWAY WITH IT? HELL NO, NIGGA! HELLLLLL NO!”
Her boyfriend hadn’t anticipated the woman fighting back. I fought off a smirk, a twisted response considering, but I figured that the woman had everything under control when Demetrius crumpled to the ground and raised his hands over his head, pleading for her to stop walloping him with the sharp end of her stiletto. She was small, around five feet tall, and curvy like these new models. Her skin was perfect, sepia brown without a blemish in sight and her hair… It whipped back and forth as she fought Demetrius off.
“YOU GET OUT OF HERE. IT’S OVER DEMETRIUS. IT’S OVER.”
“FINE! JUST STOP HITTING ME!”
She tossed her stiletto to the side and gave Demetrius a large kick in his side with her bare foot. I noticed her toenails, painted white and perfectly manicured. Demetrius scrambled away and once he’d rounded the corner, he ran for his life. Ashanti turned toward me when she was sure he was around the corner.
“What the hell are you looking at?”
“I heard you scream. I came to make sure you were alright.”
She looked me up and down with a pissed off look in her eye. Her brows knit together and she folded her arms, popping out one chocolate brown hip and pouting her full lips into an expression that told me I was going to get a tongue lashing unlike any I’d ever received before. Bobbing her head from side to side and gesturing with her arms, she said, “What makes you think that I need you to handle myself?”
I grinned. She didn’t like that response. I didn’t care. She was damned sexy with that frown on her face. I had to taunt her, tease her, see if I could turn that silly little pout on her face into a smile.
“What’s your name?”
“Why do you care?”
“Because, we are neighbors. And I’m Jean-Luc.”
I avoided telling her my last name lest it bring about recognition. I stuck out my hand. She glared at it for a moment, before good manners took over and she stuck her hand out. Her handshake was surprisingly firm for a woman with such soft, delicate brown hands. I stopped myself from kissing them. She’d probably wallop me if I tried, anyway.
She relented eventually.
“That’s a beautiful name. You do not find many women named Ashanti in France.”
“Is that where you’re from?”
I thought better of revealing too much about myself. Trusting too easily had never worked out well for me in the past, and it would be just like the brute, or any of my enemies to tantalize me with a beautiful woman. Seeing that I wouldn’t take the bait and answer her question, she scowled at me again.
“Okay. Great. Now what do you want?”
“Only to ensure you are okay and that this Demetrius character isn’t bothering you.”
“I can handle Demetrius. Trust me.”
She popped her hip again, bouncing on it with frustration. Her accent was decidedly American, Southern but different from most of the Southern accents I’d come across. Her voice was more sonorous, like a melody on the breeze of her breath.
“If he bothers you again, I’m in apartment 82.”
“So what? You tell me where you live and you think that I’ll drop by or something?”
“No. I only told you in case you needed my help.”
She didn’t trust me or believe that I didn’t have an ulterior motive. Smart woman. It was impossible for me to look at her full lips and those bulging dark brown thighs without my mind wandering down the dark alleys of lust and desire. I winked at her, and she didn’t take kindly to that, her scowl deepening.
“Are you going to just stand there and look at me like some kind of creep?”
“Not at all.”
Yet I didn’t budge. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. The fact that it was making her squirm made the entire situation that much more pleasurable. She played tough, but I knew I could melt her in my arms, bend her to my will, have her whispering my name. I didn’t buy her bad girl act at all. She attempted to push past me and I stepped into her way.
“Not so fast. If you expect me to keep an eye out for Monsieur Demetrius, I’ll be expecting payment.”
“Payment? Have you lost your damned mind?”
I grinned, flashing the straight white smile that had never failed me before with the ladies, many of them more formidable femme fatales than Ashanti.
“It’s not much, really. You go to dinner with me on the beach Friday night, I protect you for any intruders.”
“Like I said, I can handle Demetrius.”
“Don’t come running to me then,” I warned.
“Trust me, I won’t. Rude ass Frenchman…”
She muttered the last bit under her breath thinking I wouldn’t hear. I smiled as she pushed past me and walked away. I could handle her “no”. It wouldn’t take me long to change her mind. The island — especially Eden Village — was too small for me to avoid running into her again. I snuck back onto the porch of my tiny apartment and pulled out the wooden beach chair, perched between two large palm trees. I closed my eyes, settling in for another deep midday tan. Perfection. And now I had someone else to keep me occupied.
I let my image of her fleet across my mind as I lay there. The heat tickled my abs, and my muscles which had nearly crisped to a golden brown. My hair started to lighten up from the sun too, making me look like the awkward nineties kid all over again. Ashanti. Hm. She had that idiot boyfriend of hers hanging around and that might be a problem. Chicks like that had a tendency to be on and off again with the same guy. If I wanted to get her attention, I’d need to let her see what a little punk that guy was. And then, I’d swoop in. My fantasy went a lot more detailed than that. You don’t usually get girls with such perfect cocoa skin and thick bodies like that in Paris. Women there think the skinny smoker look is a way to get the guy’s attention. Not me. I’d given up on Kate Moss types years ago…
I must have fallen asleep, because I woke up to a sunburn across my chest and Ashanti’s voice booming across the resort village once more. I never understood how shameless Americans were about broadcasting their personal problems to the public at the top of their lungs. She grew louder, and I heard Demetrius complaining again, whining really. I sighed and returned inside where I could slough off my sunburn under a cool shower and then head to bed. My scar ached from too much sun exposure.
Ashanti wouldn’t be with that prick very long, I could tell. Still, that didn’t stop her from screaming at him at the top of her lungs, forcing me to obsess over the fact that she was still there with him, and that meant their night would probably end in them making up. And no matter how short-lived that would obviously be, I was still bothered. Yeah, whatever.
The idea of a total dick wasting his opportunity with her pissed me off. Eventually their arguing subsided and I tried to get some rest. I couldn’t sleep for long. Knowing that Rémy and the Brute were out there, sleep had evaded me every night in Trois-Îlets. I wandered out of the apartment after tossing and turning and walked down to the shoreline of the village with my khaki’s rolled up, white linen shirt unbuttoned so I could feel sea breeze against my hairy chest. I allowed my bare feet to grind against the pavement. The beach was close — a two minute walk from Eden Village if you moved at the island’s pace. I moved on Parisian time and arrived much faster at the water’s edge. I reached into my pocket for a cigarette, but I’d forgotten them inside.
My Rolex, the only true luxury I’d brought down to the island hung on my wrist, the solid gold reflecting off the water. Any man on this beach could cut my wrist off and end up with enough money to live well for the rest of his life.
The waves lapped at the tips of my toes. I kept walking along the shore in the darkness punctuated by the glowing eyes of a few young men who walked the beach late at night like I did. Aside from us few, the beach was empty.
A young caramel skinned man enveloped in a cloud of pungent green smoke offered me herbe and I declined, watching him disappear with hunched back and gangly arms stuffed into his pockets. He sang some new shitty French rap under his breath to himself and I smiled to myself as I stared out on the horizon. The lights on the water made me briefly reconsider the housing I’d chosen before I went into hiding. Maybe a yacht like one of those would have been better. But then I would have never met Ashanti — my new obsession.
I turned around, vainly hoping that for some reason, she’d be out at 3 in the morning. Instead, I saw Demetrius on the main road, walking away from Eden Village and cursing to himself under his breath. I watched him from the beach, content that he wouldn’t see me, nor would he be looking. He was out again, which either meant he’d been kicked out or he had somewhere else to stay. Maybe tomorrow I could find out more from her. I supposed I could follow him, but if he recognized me, I would only draw attention to myself and repeat my usual habit of getting into more trouble than my ass could reasonably handle. I left the shoreline and continued my late night walk up the beach. The line of restaurants quickly turned into a few houses, smaller than any I’d ever seen. Entire families lived there.
I unhooked my watch and left it on the doorstep of the first little house I came to. A line of clothing airing out in the breeze crossed in front of the porches. Cracked concrete steps gave way to a plywood balcony, stained with chicken shit from the two roosters that clucked around their house, providing the family with eggs and in a pinch, food. I turned around and walked home toward Eden Village. Screw Paris. Screw the Brute. Screw Rémy, who’d hung me out to dry.
When I got home, I could barely sleep. Again. In the morning, I made myself an espresso and wandered out to the poolside again, hoping to catch a glimpse of Ashanti — even if the chances of running into her were slim. To my displeasure, she didn’t appear out of her apartment all morning. That fool Demetrius had probably kept her up all night. Getting bored with a morning of lounging, waiting for that sweet brown-skinned thing to walk down here and give me something good to look at, I returned to my apartment. I wasn’t used to slow lazy mornings common on the island. At times, when I was particularly lonely, I missed Paris mornings. The smell of cigarettes. Croissants better than the ones here. Katja pulling the blinds open to my perfect city view.
Today I had to find something to do aside from waiting for Ashanti to possibly walk by. I walked down to the beach and stripped down to my trunks, small and red, that hugged my body. I swam across the bay for a mile and then swam back. By the time I arrived back on the shore, I’d worked up a nice sunburn on my back and chest. Families dotted the beach crowding around large umbrellas or beach towels. I sat at the beach side restaurant and ordered one ti ponche. And then another one. And then another one. By the time I was properly drunk and had made conversation with a Quebecois who sat on the beach with his family, I decided to return to Eden Village before I made a fool of myself.
I slept off the drinks, waking from my excessively deep slumber long after dark due to a loud thud outside. The elderly couple in #34 had already enjoyed their last cigarette for the evening and their lights were off. I rushed out to my porch, hoping to find the source of the sound. Shit. I stepped out without turning on a light, careful to pull my glass sliding door open quietly so whoever was skulking about wouldn’t hear me. I saw the black figure crawling towards Ashanti’s apartment. Perhaps it was nothing —
Then again, the shadow did remind me of that boyfriend of hers.
The figure rose to his feet and I saw what he was holding. A gun. A bloody big one that looked semi-automatic. Where the hell could someone get a gun like that on an island like this? This was France, not America. I held my breath, wondering what on earth I should do. He approached her door and peered in through the window. Her lights were off. Maybe she was asleep. Maybe I could slip back inside and turn my lights on, scaring him off. This man had a gun, but I knew his type well. He was nothing like the Brute. Demetrius was a coward. He’d scare easy. I stepped back, careful not to creak the floorboards on my apartment’s porch. My breath escaped my lips slow and heavy.
Demetrius rattled the handle to Ashanti’s door. Her upstairs light flickered on. He rapped on the door.
“Ashanti? Come outside. We need to talk.”
I had to move.
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