Vinemont’s fingers pressed into my waist hard enough to leave bruises. I didn’t protest, hoping Cal would enlighten me on the rules.
“I’ll handle it,” Vinemont said.
Lucius cut his gaze toward his brother and then back to Cal. “I’m sure Sin will give me all the details.”
Cal nodded and grabbed a cocktail from a passing waiter with a tray. “He better.” He toasted to nothing and no one before downing his drink. “Now let’s have some fun.”
It was done. Even though I pulled her close to me, even though I wanted nothing but her, she was no longer mine. Her scent, her skin, everything about her had sunk even more deeply into my bones since she’d returned. And now, I’d lost her.
Cal leered and pulled Brianne away to a nearby sofa. No doubt he would drug her again. I toyed with drugging Stella to make this night seem more transitory, less sharp edges, but I couldn’t. She deserved to see it, to feel it all. I couldn’t save her from it any more than I could save myself. We would all have to play our parts, damned as they were.
“Vinemont.” Stella’s sharp tone cut through my thoughts. “You’re hurting me.” Her green eyes were luminous with each flare of light from an adjacent strobe. I eased my hold on her waist, though I didn’t want to. I wanted to pick her up and run with her. I couldn’t. I was just as shackled to the Acquisition as she was, and now Lucius had unwittingly wandered into the same trap.
“Let’s get a drink.” Lucius took her hand and led her away, farther into the room.
I followed. I didn’t intend to let her out of my sights no matter what my fool brother had done. Her leg showed through the slit with each of her steps, giving me a chance glimpse of the dark fabric covering her tender flesh at the juncture of her thighs. I didn’t care if Lucius claimed her, I still owned her, especially there where I’d already tasted. My cock grew hard at the memory of her spread before me, her soft moans and the frantic movement of her hips. I wanted it again. I hadn’t been able to think about anything but her for quite some time.
We wound through the crowd, halted by several people who wanted to shake hands. At least the music was too loud for chit chat. A wide bar was set up along the back wall, and servants poured, rolled, or razored into a line any substance imaginable. Lucius shouted out a drink order and leaned down to take a line. Stella’s eyes widened as he snorted it and then pinched his nose. He smiled and handed her the straw.
She eyed the lines of coke.
I knocked the straw from her hand. “Lucius, I’m warning you.”
She glared up at me. “I’m a grown woman, Vinemont. I don’t need your permission.”
“You already have mine, Stella. Go ahead.” Lucius handed her another straw.
“I don’t need your permission either. Jesus!” She turned and peered over my shoulder before the ghost of a smile graced her face. “You two do me a favor and go have a pissing contest with Cal. I see someone I know.”
She brushed past me, her flower and citrus scent wafting over the smell of lust and liquor. Who could she possibly recognize?
She maneuvered through the dancers and shook her head at a couple of eager gentlemen. Her destination reached, she stopped in front of one man in particular. He turned. Gavin from the ball.
Lucius handed me a drink as we watched her. “Who the fuck is that?”
“Want to fuck him up?” Lucius downed his drink and motioned for another, the coke already speeding up his movements.
“That’s against the rules.”
Lucius laughed. “Guess you’ll have to tell me all of them now.”
I took a drink, the bitter flavor hitting my tongue just right. “I will.”
He studied me before following my gaze to Stella. “You know the difference between you and me, Sin?”
“I know of several.”
Lucius smirked and leaned against the bar. “I can do what needs to be done to her. I can win this. I can make her cry, make her hurt, leave her in a bloody heap, and never look back. I can win this for us. The Vinemonts can rule it all again. But you…” He drained another glass. “You can’t. That hot pussy of hers has got you on your knees. That’s why it needs to be this way. That’s why it’s a good thing she chose me. I’ll break her and become Sovereign. You’ll see.”
As if it were that simple. As if all he had to do was make her cry, make her bleed. I shook my head. I let Lucius talk despite the acid that roiled in my gut. That’s all it was—talk. I’d seen the way he looked at her when he thought no one was watching. I’d hated him for it, for his desirousness that edged on something more.