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King of Pride by Ana Huang


King of Pride

by Ana Huang

Published by Bloom Books

Book 2 of the Kings of Sin Series


She's his opposite in every way...and the greatest temptation he's ever known.

Reserved, controlled, and proper to a fault, Kai Young has neither the time nor inclination for chaos—and Isabella, with her purple hair and inappropriate jokes, is chaos personified.

With a crucial CEO vote looming and a media empire at stake, the billionaire heir can’t afford the distraction she brings.

Isabella is everything he shouldn’t want, but with every look and every touch, he’s tempted to break all his rules…and claim her as his own.


***


Bold, impulsive, and full of life, Isabella Valencia has never met a party she doesn’t like or a man she couldn’t charm...except for Kai Young.

It shouldn’t matter. He’s not her type—the man translates classics into Latin for fun, and his membership at the exclusive club where she bartends means he’s strictly off limits.

But she can’t deny that, beneath his cool exterior, is a man who could make her melt with just a touch.

No matter how hard they try, they can’t resist giving into their forbidden desires.

Even if it costs them everything.



Genre


 

For all the girls who think smart is sexy.

(And who know the quiet ones are the freakiest).


I mean, with a dedication like that, how could I not devour this book?

Admittedly, I wasn't looking forward to this book. Despite the crumbs that were left in King of Wrath, I wasn't invested enough in their characters to just dive right in.

However.

That dedication?

Yes please.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book.

There wasn't really any high stakes. There wasn't any huge obstacles in their way, except for themselves.

It felt more grounded in reality, I suppose.

Isabelle and Kai are true opposites attract. Their opposing personalities mesh beautifully together. Ana writes their story in a way that keep the characters true to themselves, while opening themselves up to new experiences. The tension, the chemistry between these characters is perfection. It adds so much to the story.

And of course, the sex.

These two are hot.

Kai ... oh boy.


Besides the romance, I found I enjoyed the laid back storyline the most. I mean, yes, Kai is in competition to take over his families company, but it's not life or death. Isabella is trying to finish her book with the added pressure from her family, but otherwise, the biggest obstacle in this story is these two characters getting out of their own way.


King of Pride surprised me. I absolutely loved this book, but I gotta say, after reading who the next couple featured is, I'm happy to leave Kai and Isabelle behind to read King of Greed.



 



 


Kai: “I’m translating the book into Latin.”

He flipped the page and scribbled another sentence without looking up or touching his drink.

Isabella: “Why?”

Kai: “It’s relaxing.”

I blinked, certain I’d heard him wrong.

Isabella: “You think translating a five-hundred-page novel into Latin by hand is relaxing?”

Kai: “Yes. If I wanted a mental challenge, I’d translate an economics textbook. Translating fiction is reserved for my downtime.”


Kai: “It’s date night with Vivian. He made it clear no one is to interrupt him unless they’re dying—and only if every other person on their contact list is otherwise preoccupied.”


Kai: “Stay. Unless you have other plans for the night.”

Another involuntary glimmer of amusement.

Kai: “I hear neon skate parties are all the rage these days.”


Gabriel: “Wonderful. In that case, we’d love to read it. Mom’s birthday is in four months. Why don’t you bring it when you’re home for the party?”

Rocks pitched off the side of a cliff and plummeted into my stomach.

Isabella: “Absolutely not. I’m writing an erotic thriller, Gabe. As in there’s sex in it.”

Gabriel: “I’m aware of what erotic thrillers entail. We’re your family. We want to support you.”

Isabella: “But it’s—”

Gabriel: “Isabella.”

Gabriel adopted the same tone he’d used to boss me around when we were younger.

Gabriel: “I insist.”

I squeezed my phone so hard it cracked in protest. This was a test. He knew it, I knew it, and neither of us was willing to back down.

Isabella: “Fine.”

I injected a dose of false pep into my voice.

Isabella: “Don’t blame me if you’re so traumatized you can’t look me in the eye for at least the next five years.”

Gabriel: “I’ll chance it.”


Mom: “You are a Young.”

My mother’s voice grew stern.

Mom: “Not only that, you could become CEO of the world’s biggest media company in four months. I’ve let you have your fun, but you need to settle down soon. The board does not look favorably on people with unsettled home lives.”

Kai: “Didn’t one of the board members find his wife in bed with the gardener? A married home life sounds more unsettled than an unmarried one.”


Isabella: “Let me guess. You both also took piano lessons growing up, along with violin, French, tennis, and Mandarin.”

Kai’s lips curved.

Kai: “Are we that predictable?”

Isabella: “Most rich people are.”

I shrugged.

Isabella: “No offense.”

Kai: “None taken. There’s nothing more flattering than being called predictable.”


Isabella: “So I was right about all the lessons. Predictable.”

The words came out more breathless than I’d intended, but I masked it with a bright smile.

Isabella: “Unless you also have some exciting hobby I don’t know about. Do you tame wild horses in your free time? BASE jump off the top of that tower in Dubai? Host orgies in your private library?”

Embers smoldered, then cooled.

Kai: “I’m afraid not.”

Kai’s voice could’ve melted butter.

Kai: “I don’t like sharing.”


Sloane’s brows dipped in a frown.

Sloane: “Dumplings in an erotic thriller?”

Isabelle: “Just because it hasn’t been done doesn’t mean it can’t be done.”

My February deadline loomed ever closer, and I was willing to try anything at this point.

Vivian: “Perhaps one of the characters can choke on one,”

Vivian suggested, seemingly unfazed by my morbid take on her husband’s romantic gesture.

Vivian: “Or they can lace the dumplings with arsenic and feed them to an unsuspecting rival, then dissolve the body with sulfuric acid to hide the evidence.”

Sloane and I gaped at her. Out of the three of us, Vivian was the least likely to hatch such diabolical ideas.

Vivian: “Sorry.”

Her cheeks pinked.

Vivian: “I’ve been watching a lot of crime shows with Dante. We’re trying to find a normal hobby for him that doesn’t involve work, sex, or beating people up.”


Isabella: “But this is state of the art,”

I argued, shaking the dildo.

Isabella: “You’re one of Romero’s most trusted reviewers!”

Unlike Vivian, who softened her feedback with encouraging words, Sloane specialized in scathing evaluations that dissected each product down to the bone. This was the same woman who wrote multipage critiques of every romantic comedy she watched; her capacity for preempting strangers’ hurt feelings hovered somewhere in the negative thirties. On the flip side, if she said she liked something, you knew she wasn’t bullshitting you.

After more cajoling, threatening, and bribing in the form of a promise to watch every new Hallmark rom-com with her, I convinced Sloane to continue her reign as Belladonna’s most feared and revered tester.


Isabella: “Hi! You’re early, but that’s okay because the movie just finished. You know, the male lead kind of reminds me of you. Super grumpy with daddy issues and a perpetual frown—until he finds the love of his life, of course.”

Actually, the male lead had been a cinnamon roll, but I liked to poke fun at Dante whenever possible. He was so serious all the time, though his disposition had improved dramatically since he married Vivian. A flush crawled across his sculpted cheekbones and over the bridge of his nose. At first, I thought I’d annoyed him so much he was having a heart attack right there in the hallway, but then I noticed two things in rapid succession.

One, Dante’s gaze was fixed on my right hand, which still held the prototype toy from Belladonna.

Two, he wasn’t alone.


Isabella: “We were testing this,”

The guys’ eyes widened, prompting a hasty clarification.

Isabella: “Not on each other. Just…in general. To see how many speeds it has.”

Dante shook his head and rubbed a hand over his face. Meanwhile, the corner of Kai’s mouth twitched, as if he were constraining a smile. A bubble of laughter cascaded over my shoulder. I dropped my free hand from the doorknob, turned, and glared at Vivian, who’d returned from the bathroom and was watching me flounder with far too much amusement for a supposed best friend.

Isabella: “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me I was still holding this,”

I said, waving the dildo in the air. Dante let out a choked noise that landed somewhere between a sputtering car engine and a dying cat.

Isabella: “Friends don’t let friends answer the door with phallic accessories. Don’t come running to me if your husband keels over from cardiac shock.”


Kai: “How many speeds does it have?”

The drumming stopped. Isabella turned, confusion stamped across her features.

Isabella: “What?”

Kai: “Your test at Sloane’s house.”

The memory of her answering the door with that ridiculous pink toy in hand pulled at the corners of my mouth.

Kai: “How many speeds does it have?”

Although I disapproved of Isabella’s distressingly common lack of propriety, part of me was charmed by it. She was so completely, irrepressibly herself, like a painting that refused to be dulled by time. It was enthralling. Color glazed her cheekbones and the tip of her nose. Unlike Vivian’s refined elegance or Sloane’s icy blond beauty, Isabella’s features were a bold, expressive canvas for her emotions. Dark brows pulled together over eyes that sparked with defiance, and her full, red lips pressed into a firm line.

Isabella: “Twelve,”

she said, her tone sweet enough to induce a cavity.

Isabella: “I’m happy to lend it to you. It might help loosen you up so you don’t die of a stress-induced heart attack before age forty.”

I’d much rather have you loosen me up instead.


Kai: “Thank you, but on my list of items I’d never borrow, adult toys rank at the top,”

I said, my placid tone a deceptive shield for the storm brewing inside me. She shifted to face me fully. Her skirt slid up, baring another inch of perfect, bronzed skin. My blood burned hotter, and a muscle flexed in my jaw before I caught myself. Who wore skirts without tights in the middle of an unseasonably cold October? Only Isabella.

Isabella: “What else is on the list?”

She sounded genuinely curious.

Kai: “Socks, underwear, razors, and cologne.”

I rattled off the answers, keeping my eyes planted firmly on her face. Those expressive dark brows hiked higher.

Isabella: “Cologne?”

Kai: “Every gentleman has a signature cologne. Pilfering someone else’s signature would be considered the height of rudeness.”

Isabella stared at me for a full five seconds before a burst of laughter filled the car.

Isabella: “My God. I can’t believe you’re real.”

The throaty, unabashed sound of her mirth hit me somewhere in the chest and spread like melting butter through my veins.

Isabella: “If that were the case, fragrance brands would go out of business left and right. Imagine if every product only had one customer.”

Kai: “Ah, but you’re overlooking an important part of what I said.”

The arch of my brow matched hers.

Kai: “I said every gentleman, not every person.”

She rolled her eyes.

Isabella: “You are such a snob.”

Kai: “Hardly. It’s a matter of comportment, not status. I meet plenty of CEOs and aristocrats who are anything but gentlemen.”

Isabella: “And you think you’re an exception?”

I couldn’t help it. A wicked smile touched my lips.

Kai: “Only in certain situations.”


Isabella: “Ex-girlfriend?”

Isabella asked as we walked to our table.

Kai: “Childhood neighbor.”

Isabella: “Future girlfriend then.”

A small arch of my brow.

Kai: “That’s quite a leap to make.”

Isabella: “But I’m not wrong. She seems like the type of woman you’d date.”

Isabella took her seat next to Vivian, directly across from me. Her words contained no judgment, only a stark matter-of-factness that rankled more than it should’ve.

Kai: “You seem quite interested in my love life.”

I snapped my napkin open and laid it across my lap.

Kai: “Why is that?”

She snorted.

Isabella: “I’m not interested. I was just making an observation.”

Kai: “About my love life.”

Isabella: “I’m not sure you have a love life. I’ve never heard you talk about women or seen you at the club with a date.”

Kai: “I like to keep my private life private, but it’s nice to know you’ve been keeping such close tabs on my alleged lack of female company.”

My mouth curved, an automatic response to her adorable sputter before I wrangled it into a straight line. No smiling. No thinking anything she does is adorable.

Isabella: “You have an overinflated sense of your own importance.”

Isabella canted her chin higher.

Isabella: “And FYI, the private life excuse only works for celebrities and politicians. I promise there are fewer people interested in your paramours than you think.”

Kai: “Good to know.”

This time, my smile broke free of its restraints at her tangible indignation.

Kai: “Congratulations on being one of those lucky few.”

Isabella: “You’re insufferable.”

Kai: “But imagine how much more insufferable I’d be if I were a celebrity or politician.”


Felix: “Well, if you change your mind, let me know. I have single friends.”

That pulled a genuine smile out of me.

Isabella: “You’re the only brother I know who would willingly set up their sister with a friend. Also thanks, but no thanks. I would rather die.”

I shuddered at the thought of sleeping with anyone who was associated with a family member in any way. I was a firm believer in the separation of church (the sanctity of my sex life) and state (surveillance from my mother and overprotective brothers).


Kai: “I don’t know what you mean. I simply reminded him of the club rules, per my duty as a member of the managing committee.”

A smile edged onto my lips.

Isabella: “Taxing work.”

Kai: “Positively grueling. But I try my best.”


Isabella: "You two are perfect for each other. You’re both so…proper.”

Kai: “You say that like it’s an insult. Where I come from, propriety is a virtue, not a vice.”

Isabella: “You mean the Rupert Giles school of life?”

Isabella wrinkled her nose.

Isabella: “I can only imagine.”

I couldn’t contain a grin.

Kai: “A Buffy reference. Why am I not surprised?”


Kai: “So we’re on a tradition basis now. I’m flattered.”

Isabella: “Don’t be. I have traditions with everyone, including my oversexed neighbor and the barista at my local coffee shop.”

Isabella’s dimples flashed at the quizzical tilt of my brows.

Isabella: “Whenever my neighbor disrupts my sleep with his activities, I blast Nickelback and sing along off-key until I kill their mood. Usually takes about ten minutes. I like to think I’m doing the women a favor because their moans do not sound real. There’s nothing worse than performing vocally without getting paid in the form of orgasms.”


Isabella: “Oh my God,”

I breathed, all ill-advised lust forgotten.

Isabella: “You’re bored.”

Normally, I’d be offended because hello, I was excellent company, but we’d barely talked all evening. His boredom had nothing to do with me (I hoped) and everything to do with two hours of mind-numbing classical music. Kai’s mouth pressed into a straight line.

Kai: “I am not. This is delightful.”

Isabella: “You’re such a liar.”

Laughter bubbled from my throat, drawing glares of condemnation from the table next to us. I ignored them.

Isabella: “You just checked the time.”

Kai: “Checking the time isn’t a direct correlation to boredom.”

Isabella: “Yes, it is.”

I’d checked the time no less than a dozen times since Hina’s performance ended. Who could blame me? No dancing, no talking, no song requests. I might as well be in church, for Christ’s sake.

Isabella: “Admit it. You’re not enjoying yourself.”

Kai: “I will do no such thing.”


Isabella: “Come on. Live a little, Young. I promise it won’t kill you.”

Kai: “No, but you might,”


Kai: “This activity wouldn’t happen to be illegal or illicit in any way, would it?”

Isabella: “Of course not.”

I placed a hand over my chest, insulted.

Isabella: “I’m offended you would even ask. When I participate in illegal activities, I do it myself. I’m smart enough not to involve coconspirators.”

Another, even wearier sigh.

Kai: “Fine.”

Kai slipped on his coat.

Kai: “But if it involves glow-in-the-dark anything, I’m leaving.”


Kai eyed the warehouse’s black metal front door like it was infested with cholera. Someone had spray-painted three giant boobs on it, along with the word Titz in fluorescent yellow.

Kai: “How charming.”

Isabella: “It is.”

I shrugged off my disappointment at his lack of response to my next time remark and typed the security code into the keypad. A second later, the door buzzed open.

Isabella: “You know what they say. Third boob’s the charm.”

Kai coughed into his fist. If I didn’t know better, I could’ve sworn he was hiding a laugh.


I laughed with delight when he spun me out, then pulled me back in. He was actually a pretty good dancer once he removed the stick from his ass.


Kai: “That’s it, love.”

Gravel transformed Kai’s soft words into a rough command.

Kai: “Be a good girl and come for me.”


He threw an exasperated stare my way.

Dante: “I’m trying to help you, asshole. The least you can do is listen. Isn’t that why we’re having this meeting?”

We’d arranged a brainstorm in his office over lunch. Outside our weekly boxing matches, where we had free rein to pummel each other as much as we liked, we often consulted each other on business matters. Granted, I couldn’t take his advice half the time because his solutions bordered on illegal, but it was nice to have an objective third-party sounding board.

Kai: “No. I simply missed your cheerful, optimistic personality.”

I lifted my water in a mock toast.

Kai: “You brighten my day.”

Dante: “Fuck off.”

He snorted, but a shadow of a smile played over his mouth.


Kai: “If that was all it took to scare him away, he doesn’t deserve you. If you’d left with him, you would’ve had to endure two minutes of assuredly unsatisfying fornication on a dirty mattress without a bed frame, so you should thank me. Given how he ran off, I doubt he could find enough rhythm to clap along to a basic nursery song, much less make your night worthwhile.”

Isabella’s jaw unhinged. She stared at me for a long moment before dissolving into laughter.

Isabella: “Wow. Fornication? Who talks like that?”

Kai: “Am I wrong?”

Isabella: “I wouldn’t know. Like I said, you scared him off before I could confirm how—”

Her sentence broke off in a gasp when I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her to me.

Kai: “Do you think you would’ve enjoyed your time with him, Isabella? Would you have screamed for him like you did for me when I had my fingers buried inside your sweet little pussy? When you rode my hand until it was soaked with your release? I can still hear your cries, love. Every damn second of every day.”


Kai: “Go upstairs and tell your friends you’re leaving.”

I curled my hand around the back of her neck, my voice so low and dark I hardly recognized it.

Kai: “You have five minutes, sweetheart, or you’ll find out firsthand that I’m not always the gentleman you think I am.”


Kai: “Isabella.”

I forced a swallow down my throat.

Isabella: “Yes?”

Kai: “Shut up and let me kiss you.”


Kai: “Shh.”

Kai’s voice was soft, almost gentle in contrast with the merciless way he fucked.

Kai: “We don’t want someone to come in and see your sweet little pussy getting wrecked by my cock, do we?”


Kai: “Of course. I couldn’t very well have someone walking in on us.”

Isabella: “Because photos of the Young heir engaging in carnal activities at a bar would put his CEO candidacy at risk.”

Kai: “No. Because if anyone saw you like that, I’d have to kill them.”


Kai: “You’re right. I’m sorry. But I thought you knew.”

This time, I was the confused one.

Isabella: “Knew what?”

Kai: “That there’s no going back after this.”

His admission was a warm breath on my skin.

Kai: “You should’ve never let me take you, Isabella. Because now that I have, I won’t be able to let you go.”


Isabella: behold, a future bestselling author working hard

My smile ticked up another inch.

Kai: I see that. Your hands must be tired from typing on your invisible keyboard.

Isabella: first of all, brainstorming is working too, judgy mcjudge

Isabella: second of all, i’ve come up with an incredibly detailed sex scene that i was going to tell you about

Isabella: but since you’re being so rude, i’ll keep it to myself

Heat raced to my groin, but I marshaled my emotions into a neutral expression.

Kai: Perhaps you should spend an equal amount of time on proper punctuation and capitalization. I’ve heard they’re necessary skills for writers…

Isabella: …

Isabella: how dare you

Isabella: im texting you not writing a college thesis

Isabella: and yes i removed all the punctuation on purpose

Isabella: i hope it triggers you :)


Kai: “Interesting. I figured you’d be a Pomeranian girl.”

Isabella: “Because I’m adorable with great hair?”

Kai: “No, because you’re small and yappy.”

Kai’s smile graduated into a laugh when I swatted his arm.

Isabella: “Be nice, or I’ll sic Monty on you.”

Kai: “Quite a threat, but I’d be more concerned if he were a viper instead of a friendly ball python,”


Kai: “It’s not that bad,”

Kai said with another laugh.

Kai: “There was a session on scope diversification and consolidation that was quite illuminating.”

My nose scrunched with distaste.

Isabella: “I can’t believe I’m having sex with a man who uses the term ‘scope diversification and consolidation.’ Is this what dating in New York has come to?”

A wicked grin stole across his face.

Kai: “You weren’t complaining when you were screaming my name just a few nights ago.”


Isabella: “Don’t tell Viv and Sloane, but you’re the best houseguest I’ve ever had. Two-hit wonder. Ten out of ten recommend.”


Isabella: “I’m here with my brother. He’s…somewhere.”

She waved a hand around the room.

Isabella: “I lost him a while ago, but there’s plenty of wine and snacks to keep me busy.”

Kai: “I see that.”

Amusement edged out my surprise. Her free hand carried a plate piled so high with hors d’oeuvres it resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Kai: “Are you sure you picked up enough food, love?”

A faint wash of pink edged Isabella’s cheeks and the tip of her nose.

Isabella: “As a matter of fact, no. I was just about to get more when someone got in my way.”

Kai: “How rude of them.”

Isabella: “Very. No one has manners these days.”

Kai: “A sign of our imminent societal collapse, no doubt.”


My chin tipped down while hers canted up, bringing our eyes together. We didn’t speak. We didn’t touch. And yet this was the highlight of my night.


Kai: “I didn’t say you could pull back.”

His voice carried a preternatural calm.

Kai: “Keep sucking, Isabella.”


Kai: “Swallow every drop. That’s it.”

His fingers tangled in my hair.

Kai: “You look so pretty on your knees with your mouth full of my cum.”

I moaned. A tiny beacon of pride glowed in my chest, and it was only after I swallowed thoroughly that I sat back on my haunches.

Kai: “Good girl,”

Kai murmured, smoothing a hand over my head.


Isabella took a morose sip of the sugar-laden drink.

Isabella: “Is it that bad?”

Yes. I was fairly certain that the usually sweet dish wasn’t supposed to be so…salty. But while I operated on a general principle of honesty, wild horses couldn’t drag this particular truth out of me.


Isabella: “How are things with Xavier?”

I needed a distraction, or I’d spiral into a wasteland of productivity. Nothing blocked my creativity more than creeping self-doubt.

Isabella: “Is he still alive, or have you murdered him and stashed his body in the trunk of your car?”

Sloane: “Alive for now, but ask me again in twenty-four hours. I’m one irreverent quip away from hacking him to pieces with a butcher’s knife. It’ll be bad PR for me, but I can spin it. He’s insufferable.”


I flipped the pages noisily while I wrangled my runaway emotions. The pressure in my throat eased as I stopped on the second to last item.

Isabella: “Engage in frequent and rigorous sexual activity when feeling stuck,”

I read aloud.

Isabella: “Orgasms stimulate creativity, among other things.”

I slanted a suspicious look at Kai, who returned it with an innocent one of his own.

Isabella: “Huh. I wonder who came up with that one.”

His grin spread as slow and molten as warm honey.

Kai: “No need to wonder. It’s scientifically proven, my love.”


Kai: “But I haven’t shown you the best part yet.”

Isabella: “This isn’t the part where you whip out your dick and try to seduce me on the beach, is it?”

Kai: “Darling, if I wanted to seduce you on the beach, you’d already be screaming around my cock,”

Kai drawled, his casual tone at odds with his dirty words. Heat crawled over my cheeks and tugged at my stomach.

Isabella: “You have quite a high opinion of your skills.”

Kai: “It’s the inevitable outcome of sustained, raving feedback, I’m afraid.”


Isabella: “Kai Young, a secret romantic. Who would’ve thought?”

Kai: “It’s the dinosaur erotica you gifted me for Christmas. It’s opened my eyes to a whole new world of romance.”

Isabella: “Shut up.”

I laughed, then paused.

Isabella: “Did you really read it?”

A grin stole over his lips.

Kai: “You’ll never know.”


Isabella: “If this is the result of dino erotica, expect more Wilma Pebbles in your future.”

Kai: “Good. I’ve already finished translating the first into Latin.”

My eyes snapped to his laughing ones.

Isabella: “Are you ser—”

He cut me off with a kiss, and the rest of my words melted beneath the insistent heat of his mouth.


Felix: “Do you want to explain to me why you—the Young heir—are running around New York City with my little sister when you could have any woman you want?”

Because she’s beautiful, smart and funny. Because seeing her smile is like watching the sun rise, and being with her is the only time I feel alive. No other woman compares.

Kai: “The fact you have to ask, proves how much you undervalue her.”


My mother’s lips thinned.

Mom: “It’s not about the wealth. It’s about suitability. She—”

Isabella: “Don’t you think Kai should be the one who determines the suitability of his partner?”

Isabella cut in. She smiled at the flare of surprise on my mother’s face.

Isabella: “I’m Filipino Chinese. I speak English, Tagalog, Hokkien, Mandarin, and Cantonese. I’m surprised you didn’t think of that, given all your education and breeding.”


Isabella: “It’s funny. You want Kai to run a Fortune 500 company, yet you treat him like a child who can’t make his own decisions. How do you reconcile those two things?”


Felix smiled.

Felix: “The point is, you’re on the right track. You’ve started your book, which is more than what a majority of the population has accomplished. It might seem like we’re quote, unquote ahead of you, but we’re also older. We have more life experience.”

He pinched my cheeks.

Felix:Baby ka pa lang.” You’re just a baby.


Kai: “I want this done cleanly. No blackmail, no skirting the law. I don’t want a single illegal activity traced back to me.”

Christian: “If you insist.”

Christian Harper’s smooth drawl flowed over the line.

Christian: “I have to say, it’s been a while since I’ve dealt with someone who has such inflexible morals. It’s almost refreshing.”

Only Christian would utter the word morals with such potent disdain.


Isabella: “I’m never going to stop being me, Kai, and I don’t want you to stop being you. So how can we be together when we belong to separate worlds?”

Kai: “By building one of our own,”

Isabella: “That’s unreasonable.”

Kai: “I don’t care. This isn’t about reason. It’s about love, and there’s nothing reasonable about love.”


Kai: “You think you’re broken, but I wish you could see yourself the way I see you. Smart. Strong. Beautiful. Imperfect by your own standards but so wonderfully perfect for me.”


I’d never fallen in love before her. Once I did, I did it the way I did everything else. Completely. Totally. Irrevocably.


A small sob bled through and soaked the night.

Isabella: “You idiot,”

she said, her cheeks wet with tears.

Isabella: “You had me at condoms.”

Relief had the weight sliding off my shoulders. My body sagged, and the hands strangling my lungs loosened enough for a laugh to break free.

Kai: “I’m not surprised. You do have a special fondness for condoms, especially of the—”

Isabella: “Kai.”

Kai: “Hmm?”

Isabella: “Shut up and kiss me.”


Isabella: “Syzygy is not a word!”

Isabella slapped a hand against her thigh.

Isabella: “You totally made that up.”

The corners of my mouth twitched.

Kai: “I’m afraid Merriam-Webster disagrees.”

Isabella: “Yes, well, Merriam-Webster is a bitch,”


Dad: “I realize this must come as a shock.”

My father cleared his throat. At sixty-two, he was still trim and fit thanks to regular tennis games and a red-meat-free diet.

Dad: “But your mother and I are, uh…we’re…”

Mom: “Oh, for God’s sake, Edwin. I hope you’re more eloquent when you’re pitching clients.”

She faced me again.

Mom: “Your father and I have resumed a romantic relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean we’re getting back together, since sexual—”

Kai: “Stop right there.”

I held up my free hand. The word sexual leaving my mother’s lips was enough to make me want to bleach out my ears.


Isabella: “That went way better than expected,”

Isabella said as we started a new round of Scrabble.

Isabella: “It’s amazing how much sex can loosen someone up.”

I nearly spat out my drink.

Kai: “Are you trying to traumatize me? That’s my mother you’re talking about.”

Isabella: “Sorry, I thought you were already traumatized from seeing your parents in bed—”

She broke off with a squeal of laughter when I pulled her toward me and pinned her to the ground.


Isabella: “No. Absolutely not. You’re not allowed to ruin her by translating her into Latin.”

Kai: “I hardly understand how that would ruin her. I can translate Wilma Pebbles, but I can’t translate Ruby Leigh? You love both of them.”

He hadn’t done many Latin translations lately because he was so busy at the office. The work of a CEO never ended, especially not after the DigiStream acquisition, and its integration with the Young Corporation had taken over his life for months. Fortunately, it’d gone as smoothly as he’d hoped. I guess he had time to indulge in his hobbies again, but I refused to let him touch my favorite author.

Isabella: “I do love both of them, but I only let you translate Wilma so I can watch you struggle to find the right phrase for dinosaur dick in Latin.”


 

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