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Contemporary Romance, Dark Romance, Romantic Suspense

Deceptive Truce

Book 3 in the Bay Ridge Royals

Life has been a series of exquisite disasters…

Do you ever lie to yourself? I do. Making friends has been the cruelest choice I ever inflicted upon myself. I like to say I don’t regret it, and for the most part that’s true.

I resent it.

I despise him because he left me behind, following another battle in this war we’ve been waging. I thought we were partners, best friends, allies, and that he would always have my back as I’ve fought to have his.

I hate her because she’s perfection and everything he’s ever wanted, untouchable, brilliant, and capable. Yet, I want her too. Need her. Still, she gave herself to someone else.

Telling myself one taste would have to be enough, even when I knew it never could be, is just another deception I sold myself on this trail of disaster.

No matter what I do, I’m not enough for them, for my family, for this world we inhabit. Now—alliances are shifting, and our enemies are closing in.

I know the difference and I know I need to leave them to face it all on their own. That’s the choice I should make. That’s the choice I have to make.

Or at least, that’s the newest lie I tell myself.

Deceptive Truce

Book 3 in the Bay Ridge Royals

Deceptive Truce


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More than a year prior…

“When does Andrea go back to school?” I’d shown up at Der Sonne at first light, hangover intact, and thank fuck the Benedict cook had the best morning-after remedies ever. She’d sat me down, fed me breakfast, then given me the hair of the dog in my coffee. It was definitely hitting the spot.

Instead of answering me, though, Lainey spared a glance up from her phone to the maid, who was clearing away plates from the breakfast table before refilling her coffee. I didn’t say anything; I was just waiting it out. Once we were alone however, she cut her gaze in my direction and gave me the most baleful look.

“The maid doesn’t give a shit,” I reminded her. “None of them do. You’re the one who cares. Not them.”

“That’s not the point.”

I fucking loved it when she’d scold me, more for the tone of voice and the attitude than anything else. She made prim sound so damn sexy. “It is the point,” I continued, soaking up the chastising look. “But we can argue about it later. How much longer is she here on break?” Because until Andrea returned to Colfax Academy, and got the hell out of New York, Lainey wasn’t leaving.

And as long as she was here, she was going to have me permanently at her side. I didn’t trust the king, or whatever the hell Adam was doing. He was alive—that was something—but the king had tried to have him killed. So he’d made a deal with O’Connell, and they were letting Adam “play dead” though the family hadn’t acted like they knew anything.

Made sense. Lainey didn’t know anything except that Adam wasn’t returning her calls or messages. A complaint she’d shared with me because Andrea had asked, but she didn’t have any answers for her sister.

“Tomorrow,” Lainey finally relented, and I nodded. That was what I thought. “She leaves first thing in the morning. I will take her out this afternoon, then dinner tonight at Waltham Corners.” She made a face. “I suppose you’re going to want to come to that?”


“Adam’s not there, so how do we explain you?” She flicked another look at me from beneath her lashes. “Unless you can reach out to him…”

As fishing attempts went, it was an excellent one.

“I spent more time at Adam’s place growing up than I did at my own. I don’t need an excuse to be there. Besides, Harper likes sticking it to my dad when I’m around and seeing if I’ll leak any info on their latest acquisitions.”

It amused me. They were supposed to be business allies, but I didn’t doubt they’d knife each other in the back in a red-hot second. It also worked for me and Adam to play them off each other, so I’d keep doing it now.

Her nose wrinkled, and I leaned over to cover her hand on her coffee cup with mine. “I can’t tell you where he is.”

I couldn’t even if I knew. He didn’t want her to know, or he would have told her himself. The fact he confided in me rather than her—well, I’d always kind of reveled in that. But I wasn’t in the loop this time. So I had one job, and she was sitting right next to me.

“It’s fine,” she said after a long moment. Her gaze held on mine for another second before she cut it away. It was so not okay. “He is old enough to make his own choices. So, dinner tonight at Waltham Corners and I’ll say goodbye to her there. She will probably message me in the morning when she’s on her way.”

“Sounds good. Do you have anywhere else you need to be today?” Because I’d kill for a shower and a nap.

Eyebrows lifted, she shrugged. “I thought about getting together with Tally, but she messaged yesterday saying she was off to the Cayman Islands. Impulse trip.”

Probably with her latest conquest. Though I rather doubted her ex would care to know she’d hooked up with his father. Wasn’t sure how much Lainey knew on that, so I left it alone. Tally Marlowe was Rockston’s younger sister and his problem. Not mine.

“Then take the day and pack your bags.” If she didn’t have other plans, we could make our own.

“Excuse me?”

“Pack your bags,” I told her as I drained my coffee. It really was dialing back the pain in my head and easing the tension in my neck and back. “We’ll head to the airport in the morning.”

“Where are we going?” The question made me smile. And that’s all I did, grin at her rather than answer. “Ezra?”

“Don’t worry, Kotyonok,” I teased, giving her ponytail a gentle tug before I pressed a kiss to the top of her head. “You’re going to enjoy it.”

“What am I supposed to pack?”

Better fishing attempt. But no, I wasn’t telling her anything. The more information she had, the more likely she was to try and change things. I’d agreed to New York only because she worried about Andrea.

“Surprise me,” I told her and when she frowned, I smiled. “Or don’t. I can always surprise you. I’m gonna nap. Don’t leave without telling me.”

“Ezra…” she called, but I headed out of the dining room and outside toward the guest house on the far side of the open garden. Leopold Benedict didn’t let anyone stay in his home. He didn’t give a damn who we were. The staff had the guest house set up for us whenever anyone visited. That was where I’d slept all week.

I texted the bodyguard to let him know he was on watch until I got up. Dolion Karagiani hadn’t come cheap, though he was highly recommended, reliable, dangerous, and capable of acting with extreme prejudice in defense of his clients. All things I wanted where Lainey was concerned.

* * *

Twenty-four hours later…

The car took us directly to the plane at the airport. I’d kept an eye on my inbox and messages throughout the night and into this morning. Lainey was quiet, her distraction absolute. Her attention had been off since we left dinner the night before. She hated saying goodbye to her sister.

I didn’t have siblings, only cousins. Most of the ones I had any kind of a relationship with were nuisances. I liked maybe one or two tops. Andrea, however, meant the world to Lainey and I didn’t pretend to understand it. She was so much younger than Lainey. Almost as younger as Lainey was from me.

Me and Adam both.

So maybe I could get it. Didn’t matter whether I understood it or not. She was upset, and I didn’t like it.

Not at all.

“Are you trying to lull me into a false sense of security to try and get out of me where we’re going?” The comment pulled a flicker of a genuine, albeit brief, smile from her.

“Feeling neglected?” It wasn’t quite a tease. The drollness in the comment did entertain.

“Suspicious,” I countered, and that got me another grin. “You aren’t usually this cooperative. So I wanted to get a feel for how long it would last?”

Her snort was as inelegant as it was perfectly her. “Don’t get attached,” she informed me. “I just supposed you weren’t planning on telling me anything, so why exert the energy.”

“Because it’s fun,” I teased her. “You try to provoke me, and I tell you no and give you shit. Then you get exasperated and we go for round two.”

“That sounds terribly predictable.” She mused, tapping a perfectly manicured fingernail against her lower lip. “Not sure I care to be predictable.”

“I would call you many things, Kotyonok,” I assured her. “But I’d never say terrible.”

Her soft laugh was exactly what I was going for, so I let it go. The car pulled right up to the plane. I didn’t wait for our driver, letting myself out and scanning the area as I slid my sunglasses into place. When I held out my hand, I half-expected the battle to begin now. Not that she indulged me. Instead, she just slid her palm across mine and I helped her out of the car.

Without protest, she walked with me toward the steps leading up to the private plane. No arguments fell from her lips as she took the steps one at a time, with me a half-step behind her. The heels she wore did fantastic things for her figure, and as much as I wanted to enjoy the effect, I was more concerned by her cooperation.

On board, the flight attendants greeted us and took her jacket, as well as offered her a drink. Then me.

“Coffee would be lovely,” was all she said as she made her way over to a seat. There, she buckled herself in and crossed one leg over the other. I watched her with a kind of morbid fascination. Not a single word of disagreement, no requests for more information, and not even a dismissive look or sharp glance.

“You shouldn’t frown like that, Ezra,” she murmured, as she opened her phone again. “Your face might stick.”

“What are you up to?” I asked, dropping into the seat opposite hers. I could have taken the one next to her, but as it was, I just wanted to drink in the sight of her. I was missing something here and I didn’t know what it was, exactly.

“Me?” She blinked at me, her eyes almost too wide, too innocent. “What do you mean?”

Then, the staff was there with the requested coffee and also brought orange juice. “We’ll be serving breakfast after takeoff. Do you have any special requests?”

“No,” I told her before Lainey could answer. “I sent the requests over last night.”

“Yes, Mr. Graham,” she said with a polite smile before heading back to the galley.

Around us, the engines were warming up and luggage had been brought on board. Lainey had packed two suitcases. Neither was very large. She also had a single purse and was dressed business casual, which left her legs on sweet display.

“Still no questions?” I asked, catching her watching me.

“It’s driving you crazy that I’m not asking, right?” She glanced down at her phone and the corner of her mouth lifted. I couldn’t deny the fact that some genuine excitement threaded through me.

“So, you’re torturing me on purpose.” I leaned back in the seat and stretched out my legs.

“Maybe,” she murmured, shutting off her phone before lifting her coffee cup for a sip. “Maybe not.”

Exasperation chased delight through me as she watched me over the rim of her coffee cup. “You’re going to drive me mad.”

“Not a long trip.”

Well… she wasn’t wrong.

“And you’re really not complaining.”

No. I wasn’t. In fact, as the outer door was sealed and locked, some of the tension tightening my muscles began to let go. It was the most relief I’d felt in months that hadn’t involved alcohol.

“You’re still not going to tell me anything.” She finished the last by taking a sip of her coffee as if to punctuate her sentence.

“Nope,” I agreed and tilted my head back so my eyes were half-closed. In a few moments, we would be taxiing on the runway, then we would take off. We would be in the air for the next sixteen hours, give or take.

Flying as far away as I could get her.

If I had my way… maybe we would never come back.

end of excerpt

Deceptive Truce

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Deceptive Truce
Deceptive Truce

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