Their love tethers them together.
Julia Marshall has been in love with her brother's chief of security since the moment she first met him at sixteen. Believing he would never feel the same way, she left to attend college abroad, but now she's back, and the intense way his eyes devour her whole tells her she was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Brandon Stone has been in love with his boss's little sister for years. Letting her leave to study abroad was the hardest thing he ever did. For three years, he faithfully waited for her. Now that she's returned, nothing will stop him from claiming her…forever.
Content Warning: this book contains an over-the-top alpha who's waited for his woman for three long years, and hot, steamy sex scenes.
"What now?" I ask him.
His forehead creases into a frown. "I don't understand what you mean. You're back now. For good," he emphasizes. His arm tightens around me more.
I revel in the possessive hold but remain silent. Brandon's face crumples, and his hold on me tightens even more, his fingers digging into my side.
"No, you…I can't… You can't be thinking of leaving again." His eyes are desperate, pleading with me.
Despite the uncertainty of the future, I can't bear to see Brandon in distress. I rush to reassure him. "Brandon, no. I won't leave again. I was just thinking of the future. James has offered me a job with his company, but I still haven't decided if I want to take it. And then we haven't told James anything about us. Not that there is an us—"
His low growl stops me from going further. His arm around me is constricting my breath. I put my hand over his at my waist and squeeze gently. He immediately lets go and moves his hand upward, tangling his fingers in the strands of my hair.
"There is an us. There was always an us." His voice is like steel, unyielding and firm.
I want to deny his claim. Insist there wasn't an us before I left because he made us wait. But denying him would mean denying my feelings too, and I've been in love with him since I was sixteen.
"There is a lot we need to talk about, Brandon. So many things."
"Just tell me it was worth it," he says. "Three years without you. A thousand days of trying to breathe without your light surrounding me. I did it for you, Julia. Tell me it was worth it. Tell me you lived."
I can't deny the years apart made me stronger. I always knew I loved Brandon, but I needed to live life without him to see I didn't simply need him with me. I wanted him, with every breath in my body and every beat of my heart. I chose him.
"It was a beautiful experience, yes." I press closer into his embrace. "I missed you sometimes," I tease lightly.
He crushes me into his arms, his mouth resting at my temple. "I missed you every day. Hell, every second."
I trail my fingers down his broad back. He shudders against me. "We could have talked on the phone every day. If you had told me how you felt before I left." My voice is still teasing, but there is a gentle rebuke in it. I always wondered if he would ever call. But he never did.
He nuzzles the hair at my temple. "I couldn't, Julia. Please understand that. If I had heard your voice on the phone, I would have gotten on the next available flight and come to you."
A thought suddenly occurs to me. I push slightly away from Brandon's body curved around mine, my smaller frame completely engulfed by his. He protests the move, raising his head from where he was nuzzling my hair to look at me.
"What about you? How much living did you do while I was gone?" I ask him.
He draws back, his expression one of shock. It quickly turns to disgust. "You think I could touch anyone while you were gone? You think I would betray you like that?"
My heart softens in the face of his ferocity. Of course I believe him. I saved myself for him. Why would I think he wouldn't do the same?
"You think I could even look at someone else after I had seen you? Your innocence. Your beauty. Your light. Since the first day I saw you, I haven't even thought about anyone else. You take up all the space in my mind. My heart."
His words make me feel dizzy with love, but it's the glint in his eyes that sends a tremor of lust down my spine.
"And you know what that means?" he asks in a low tone.
I mutely shake my head, my tongue turning leaden as heat builds between my legs.
"It means you owe me five years. I couldn't touch you when you were sixteen, but you knew you were still mine, didn't you?" His hand makes a fist in my hair, tugging my head back, exposing my neck. "You knew I owned you when you were doing your homework on the couch, knowing I was watching your every move. You knew you were claimed when you would come downstairs at night in those skimpy, little shorts you wear to bed. Drinking water so slowly. Swallowing in front of me."
He bends down and licks a long, slow line up my throat. I moan, and he does it again.
"That's right. You owe me five years of being mine. And I always collect my due."