RAPTURE & RUIN by Julia Sykes
Release Date: September 14
Genre: New Adult/Mafia Romance
Tropes: Enemies to lovers/Virgin heroine
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Max’s dark eyes narrowed. “Stay away from Nikolai Ivanov.”
“You can’t tell me what to do!” I declared, indignant. How dare he tell me who I could and couldn’t date?
He leaned toward me, imposing the full weight of his menace. His sensual lips thinned as he hissed a warning, “I can, and I will. You don’t want to believe there are monsters around you, even when they’re in plain view. Nikolai might look pretty, but he’s every bit as monstrous as I am.”
I pushed into the heat of his anger, my burning frustration mingling with his. “Well, guess what, Max? I don’t think you’re a monster at all. I think—”
“Stop talking, Bambi.” The low command was hot against my lips, his barely contained rage and pain teasing over my skin in a tingling wave.
“I told you not to call me Bambi,” I hissed right back. “You can’t tell me who to date, and you can’t tell me what to believe. You might not like it, but I’ve seen you, Max. You’re not a monster. You’re—”
My tirade was smothered when his mouth clashed with mine. For a moment, I froze, stunned by his heat and raw ferocity. The low growl that made my belly quiver rumbled against my lips, hungry rather than enraged.
Shocked, I sucked in a gasp, and his lips molded to mine. The heat of my frustration turned molten, rolling down my spine like warm honey. My hands lifted to his chest, but when I touched the hard, rippling wall of muscle, I didn’t push him away. My fingers twined in his shirt, clinging on to him for support as my head began to spin.
The kiss was feverish and rough, our battle of wills descending into something purely primal and fierce. His tongue, which had issued so many sharp retorts and scathing rebukes, surged into my mouth, seeking to tame mine. I met him with ferocity of my own, refusing to give him an inch.
My mind went hazy, anger morphing into raw aggression I’d never felt before. It had a ragged edge of need and hunger that drove me to a frenzy. One of his huge hands cupped my nape, his fingers sliding into my hair to trap me in place. He deepened the kiss, seeking control.
Suddenly, my fingernails were biting into his corded arms, and my teeth nipped at his sensual lips. He let out a purely masculine sound that rumbled straight through me to quiver in my core. Something pulsed inside me, and my need turned into a greedy craving for more. I’d lost track of where I was, who I was. My senses were entirely consumed by the feel of his tongue against mine, his salt-kissed leather scent, and the low, hungry sounds we exchanged on each ragged breath we shared.
Keeping one hand in my hair, his strong arm was an iron band around the small of my back, pulling me closer and caging me. The heat that pulsed deep inside me surged, and I melted against him. Whatever wild, primal thing inside me that had driven me to this fierce madness finally surrendered to his strength and masculine will. Giddiness fizzed through my veins, crackling through my body. I allowed myself to drown in it, becoming drunk on the heady rush of his ruthless kiss. I opened for him, allowing him to claim me more deeply.
He groaned against me, taking everything I offered and demanding more. My head spun, and my fingers tingled where they curled into his flexing muscles. Finally, he pulled back, allowing me to breathe. I swayed toward him, not ready to end this thrilling madness that we shared. I didn’t want to think; all I wanted was to feel his mouth on mine, his strength locking me exactly where he desired.
His fingers tightened in my hair, and little sparks of awareness danced over my scalp as he restrained me from demanding more. His forehead rested on mine, our lips so close that the pulsing inside me intensified to an aching throb.
“Allie…” He rasped my name, and I shivered at the feel of it sliding over my skin in a hot wave of need.
I leaned into him as much as his grip on my hair would allow, and my brow brushed over his. The odd sensation of his too-smooth, scarred skin barely registered; I wanted his mouth on mine again, and I didn’t care about his scar. Thinking about the mark of his pain made my heart clench, and my hands left his arms to clutch his shoulders. I might as well have tried to pull a granite statue closer.
As soon as his ruined brow touched mine, he stiffened in my hold. After a heartbeat of stony stillness, he recoiled from me as though I’d burned him. His strong arms released me, and he wrenched himself from my much weaker grasp as he surged to his feet.
I swayed, shaky in the wake of our intense kiss and his abrupt withdrawal. One big hand closed over my shoulder, steadying me for a moment. He jerked away almost immediately, reeling back and crossing his arms over his chest. I stared up at him, my jaw slack with shock.
He towered over me, a dark shadow. Every muscle in his massive body seemed to have locked up, and his face was twisted in a horrific scowl. He glowered at me, and white flames flickered over his black eyes.
“Max?” My voice was small, and he flinched at the sound of his name on my tongue.
“Go inside,” he bit out.
I blinked rapidly, struggling to get my brain to work in the aftermath of his decimating kiss. “But—”
“Now,” he snapped.
I wasn’t sure what I intended to protest, but the whip of his command jolted me to my feet. His jacket slid off my shoulders, and he caught if before it hit the ground. I fumbled for my keys in my clutch, and I braced one hand on my door to steady myself. Max didn’t offer me support this time.
My stomach dropped to the pavement, and I didn’t understand why. The giddiness that’d flooded me sparked into jitters, leaving my fingers trembling and my mind an addled mess. For some reason, my lungs tightened, and my eyes stung. The molten honey that’d pooled in my belly soured, making my insides squirm.
Max’s dark presence at my back teased over my skin like a physical touch, drawing a shudder from my chest. I couldn’t bear to look at him. My neck locked up tight, refusing to turn and face him. All the hot defiance that’d driven me to a frenzy cooled to an icy chill, and my flesh pebbled.
My key finally turned the lock, and I bolted into the sanctuary of my home. Automatically, I slid the deadbolt into place behind me before lurching forward. I moved through my foyer and into my living room as though drunk, stumbling slightly as I kicked off my high heels.
I glanced out the huge bay window, my eyes drawn as though by a magnet. My dark protector was gone. Max had melted into the shadows, disappearing into the night.
“I am a monster out of your worst nightmares.”
Max Ferrara is a madman and a monster, but it’s not his scarred face that makes him a beast. He kidnapped me and tied me to a chair in his basement. He asked me crazy questions about my father, the mayor—insane ramblings about how my dad worked with the Russian Bratva to destroy his Italian Mafia family over a decade ago. Max thinks I know something about this conspiracy, but he’s wrong; my dad is a good person.
Once he lets me go, I’m determined to prove to him that my father is innocent. I have to put a stop to his misguided vendetta. But the deeper I dig for evidence, the more dangerous my life becomes.
Max tells me there are other monsters lurking in the dark, and he intends to protect me from them. Whether I want him to or not.
The scariest thing? I’m starting to think that Max Ferrara might not be so monstrous, after all…