- READ AN EXCERPT
Book 3 in the Quantum Series
The third installment and thrilling conclusion in the New York Times bestselling Quantum series by M.S. Force.
He’s a sexual dominant. She’s sworn off sex. There’s no way they can make a relationship work—or can they?
Flynn and Natalie’s destiny is sealed in this riveting conclusion to the initial Quantum trilogy. When Flynn pushes Natalie to her absolute limits, will she fall deeper in love or run away from him forever?
From Hollywood to Las Vegas, Flynn and Natalie’s whirlwind love affair has it all—romance, passion, steamy hot sex, relentless paparazzi and a murder that could be their undoing. Flynn is a dirty-talking hero who puts it all on the line for the woman he loves, who leaves no desire unfulfilled, who will do anything it takes to protect what’s his…
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“I can’t fucking believe she left me.” I pace the length of Marlowe’s deck in Malibu, the million-dollar view of the Pacific completely lost on me today. I feel like my heart has been ripped from my chest and run over by a Hummer. Natalie is gone, and the pain is excruciating. “She actually left me. She promised she never would. She made promises to me, Mo.”
“Flynn… You need to calm down.”
“Calm down? How do I calm down when my wife has left me?”
“I’m afraid you’re going to have a heart attack or something. Your face is all red, and you’re sweating.”
I rub my chest, feeling as if I might actually be having a heart attack. “What am I going to do, Mo? Tell me what to do.” I’ve told Marlowe only that Natalie caught me in a lie and left.
She looks at me for a long moment before she breaks eye contact and gazes out at the endless ocean. “I don’t know. This is a tough one.”
I flop into the chair next to hers, only because I’m exhausted and despondent and can’t pace anymore. I can’t imagine an hour without Natalie, let alone a week or more. That’s how long she said she needed to “think” before she’ll call me. A week. It feels like a lifetime.
“I broke a window at my house.”
“This morning after she left.”
“Did you tell someone so it can be fixed?”
I shake my head. The window has been the least of my concerns, what with the fucking FBI showing up about five minutes after Natalie left for the airport.
Marlowe picks up her phone and places a call. “Addie, it’s Marlowe. Flynn is here, and there’s some stuff going on. He asked me to tell you he broke a window at his house earlier. One of the big ones in the back of the house. Could you call someone to come by to fix that for him?” She pauses. “Let me ask him.” She holds the phone out to me. “She’d like to talk to you.”
I’m tempted to say no. The only person I want to talk to is Natalie, but that’s not possible. I extend my hand for Marlowe’s phone. “Hey.”
“What’s wrong?” As my faithful assistant for the last five years, Addie can tell with one word that something is very wrong. “I got a call from the pilot that Natalie took the plane you were supposed to take to Mexico to Colorado—by herself—and she’s not answering her phone.”
So she went to see her sister Candace. I’m not surprised. I’m also reminded that the FBI has my phone, and until I get it back, Natalie has no way to call me. I will fix that first thing in the morning. “I, um…” I don’t want to say the words out loud. If I keep saying it, that makes it real. “Our plans changed.”
“Okay… So what’s wrong?”
“Natalie and I… She… We… She’s gone back to New York by way of Colorado to see her sister.”
“Why? For how long?”
“It’s a long story, and I don’t know.”
After a pause, Addie says, “What can I do for you?”
“See about getting the window fixed?”
“Already done. I sent a text from my computer while we’ve been on the phone. I’ll go over there to meet the workers.”
“I don’t know yet.”
“I’ll be here when you figure it out.”
“Flynn… Don’t let her get away. No matter what, do not let her get away.”
“I won’t.” But as I say the words, I’m petrified that she’s already left me for good.
“So what did the FBI want with you this morning?” Addie asks.
“How do you know about that?”
“They came to the office first.”
“Apparently, Rogers’s wife told the officers investigating his murder that I was threatening him, and he feared for his safety.”
“You threatened him with legal action, not physical harm.”
“Which is what I told Vickers.”
“Was he satisfied by that?”
“I guess. He went away. For now. I gotta say, Addie, I have a bad feeling they’re trying to pin his murder on me.”
“Let them try. We all know you didn’t do it. You’ll bury them.”
“I didn’t do it, but I wanted to.”
“Wanting to is a long way from actually committing murder. Did he say when you’ll have your phone back?”
“He said it would be sent to the office sometime today.”
“I’ll get it to you as soon as it arrives.”
“Don’t give up, Flynn. Whatever happened between you and Natalie, you can fix it. You guys are the real deal. You can’t give up.”
I cling to her assurances that it can be fixed, but I’m not at all certain that’s the case. “I fucked up bad, Addie.”
“She’s crazy about you. Whatever happened, you have to remember that.”
“I’ll be over to let in the workers to fix the window, and I’ll get you the phone as soon as we have it.”
“I’m at Mo’s now, but I’ll be home later.”
“I’ll see you then. Hang in there, okay?”
“Okay.” What choice do I have? Natalie hasn’t left me with any alternative but to wait until she’s had time to wrap her head around what happened this morning. I end the call with Addie and hand the phone back to Marlowe.
“She found out about the BDSM, didn’t she?” Marlowe asks. I consider Marlowe my “fourth sister,” but she’s the only “sister” who knows about the BDSM.
“Yeah. Fucking Valerie told her. Can you believe it?” I want to find my vindictive bitch of an ex-wife and kill her every way I can think of.
“And then I made it worse by lying to her about it when Valerie had already told her where she could find the room in my house. So she knew I was lying.” I’m up again, pacing the deck. “I did it for all the right reasons, Mo. You’ll never convince me otherwise. There’s no way she could handle that side of me after what she’s been through in the past, so I tucked it away and chose her over the lifestyle.”
“What was your plan for when you couldn’t hide it from her anymore?”
I start to reply, but she holds up her hand to stop me. “It’s not a choice, Flynn. It’s who you are. It’s who you’ve always been, and you’ve already ruined one marriage by trying to be someone other than who you are.”
“This was different. Natalie isn’t Valerie.”
“No, she isn’t. She’s made of much better stuff. Valerie could only dream of being a fraction of the person Natalie is.”
“So what’re you saying?”
“If you can’t be yourself with her, Flynn, truly and completely yourself, she’s not the one for you. We’ve all tried to have relationships outside the lifestyle, and they’ve ended in disaster because none of us can deny who and what we are. You know this.”
“I love her, Mo. I love her like I’ve never loved anyone. I love her more than I love myself, which is why I left the lifestyle for her. I still believe it’s the right thing for her.”
“But is it the right thing for you? You matter in this relationship, too.”
“She matters more.”
“Flynn… Come on.”
“I gotta go.” Suddenly, I can’t stay here and pace anymore. I feel like a pent-up tiger who needs to bust loose and roar from the rage and fear that have overtaken him.
Marlowe follows me inside. “Don’t go. You shouldn’t be alone right now.”
“I can’t sit still. I gotta do something.”
“Please don’t do anything you’ll regret.”
“What could be worse than lying to my wife and driving her away?”
“A lot of things.” She gestures to the Ducati that’s parked in front of her house. “Like wrapping yourself around a telephone pole or driving off the Pacific Coast Highway.”
I kiss her forehead. “I won’t do either of those things. I promise. Thanks for listening.”
“Call me later and let me know how you are.”
“I will.” I drive off, determined to keep my promise to be careful, but I’m half-tempted to aim for one of the steep cliffs that line the PCH. If I’ve lost Natalie for good, I’d rather be dead than be forced to live without her.
After crying all the way to LAX, I get on the plane that was supposed to take Flynn and me to Mexico for our honeymoon. The security guys with me won’t hear of me flying commercially, which is just as well since my credit card is nearly maxed out anyway.
Two of Flynn’s security personnel, Josh and Seth, have insisted on accompanying me, even though I told them it’s not necessary. They tell me they’re under orders, and it’s not up to me.
Great. Since I’m apparently stuck with them, I decide to ignore their hulking presence as we prepare for takeoff. I try to stay focused on the fact that I’m going to see my sister Candace for the first time in eight years. If I think about Candace—and only Candace—I can breathe. If I allow myself to think about Flynn and the scene at his house this morning, my chest begins to ache, and all I want to do is cry.
I’ve been away from him only a few hours, and I already miss him like I haven’t seen him in a year. Still, I did the right thing. I refuse to be in a marriage that’s based on lies. He’s lied to me for weeks. He married me without telling me he’s a sexual dominant. The hard part is, I understand and even appreciate why he did it.
He was thinking of my painful past as a sexual assault survivor. He was deeply affected by the episode on our wedding night when he pinned down my hands while we were making love, triggering a flashback from the assault. I screamed and cried, and he was right there with me through it all. I love him. I love every minute I’ve gotten to spend with him, even the difficult ones.
But I can’t bear that he looked me in the eyes this morning and lied to me after I’d already uncovered the truth about his sexual desires, thanks to a heads-up from his spiteful ex-wife. I’m more confused than I’ve ever been. My heart is crying out for him, but my better judgment tells me I need this break to figure out how to deal with what I’ve learned about my husband without his overwhelming presence influencing my every thought.
Tears roll down my cheeks, and I immediately wipe them away. Though I trust the security personnel Flynn has hired, I’m wary now of what even the most consummate professionals will do for a buck. I can’t afford to be seen crying such a short time after I married Flynn. I can’t do that to him, so I struggle to maintain my composure.
I try not to think about the last time I was on an airplane with Flynn and how we made love in the private plane’s bedroom. This time, I’m sitting alone with only Fluff on my lap to keep me company.
The flight to Colorado is turbulent, and the flight attendant isn’t allowed to get up to tend to us. I can’t help but think about holding hands with Flynn on bumpy approaches into Teterboro and LAX, his nearness calming my anxiety. I have no such comfort now, so in addition to being heartbroken, I’m also petrified.
By the time we land at Fort Collins-Loveland Airport two and a half hours later, I’m a certified disaster area and in absolutely no condition to see my sister for the first time in eight years. But nothing will keep me from her now that we are finally in the same place at the same time.
Josh and Seth position themselves in front and in back of me, which makes me feel ridiculous. No one will recognize me in the airport, because they aren’t expecting to see me here. Why would they? My life with Flynn has taken place in New York and LA, not Colorado.
I’m nauseated from the rocky flight and the fact that I haven’t eaten anything since last night, not that I could have eaten even if I tried. The thought of food makes me feel worse.
Fluff is losing her mind with excitement as we get off the plane, and she pees right on the tarmac.
We walk up a flight of stairs and into the quiet airport, my heart beating faster with every step. Any moment now, I’ll see Candace, who promised to be waiting for me at the airport when I arrive. This whole thing was thrown together via a series of texts while I sobbed my way to LAX after leaving Flynn’s.
I plan to return to New York tomorrow to rejoin my life already in progress, but I can’t wait any longer to see my sister, thus the stop in Colorado. An escalator delivers us to baggage claim, and there she is. My baby sister is all grown up and gorgeous at nineteen. I forget about my heartbreak and the mess my new marriage has become and run for my sister.
She throws her arms around me, and we hold each other for a long time, both of us sobbing. My very first thought is she still wears the same perfume she favored at thirteen, and the familiar scent only enriches this long-overdue moment. By the time we pull apart, her face is blotchy and red. I can only imagine what mine must look like after weeping for hours. She’s got hazel eyes and long auburn hair, the same color mine used to be before I changed my appearance. The chubby cheeks she had the last time I saw her are long gone, replaced by the well-defined cheekbones of a grown woman. She’s stunning, and I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in my life.
Fluff is spazzing out, demanding my attention. I pick her up so she can see her Aunt Candace, whom she seems to remember. “I hope your place allows dogs.”
“It doesn’t, but we’ll sneak her in.”
“Um.” The rumble of a deep voice reminds me I’m not alone. “You’re not going to her place,” Seth says. “We’ve got reservations at a Marriott in town.”
“I’ll be staying with my sister.”
“No, you won’t.”
I want to snap back at him that he can’t tell me what to do, but he’s only doing his job. My anger needs to stay focused on Flynn and not on his messenger. To Candace, I say, “How do you feel about a night at the Marriott?”
“Sounds good to me! Let’s go.”
Candace doesn’t own a car and has taken a cab to meet me, so she comes with me as the security guys lead us to a pair of black SUVs. They must order them in bulk, as they seem to be everywhere I am lately.
“What’s up with all this?” Candace whispers, gesturing to the security guys and the SUVs.
“My husband. He’s paranoid about security.”
“I sort of hoped he might be with you,” she says with a silly grin that lets me know she’s a fan of his work. Who isn’t?
“He couldn’t make it this time.” I have no intention of ruining my reunion with Candace by airing out my marital troubles.
“Bummer. I can’t wait to meet him.”
Because I’m not sure now that’ll ever happen, I don’t say anything. The thought of never seeing him again makes my whole body ache.
“What’s wrong, April?” Candace asks when we’re settled in the back of an SUV and heading for the hotel.
I force a smile for her benefit. “Nothing’s wrong. I’m thrilled to see you.”
“Even though we haven’t seen each other in a long time, you’re still my sister. I took one look at you and knew something is very wrong.” She takes hold of my hand. “Let me help.”
“My baby sister isn’t a baby anymore, is she?” I’m saddened to have missed so many years with her and Livvy.
“I haven’t been since a monster attacked my big sister and ruined all our lives.”
It has never once, in all the years since I last saw them, occurred to me that what happened to me ruined their lives, too. “I pictured you guys going on like nothing happened.”
“That’s not how it was. We were heartbroken. Nothing was ever the same without you.” She covers our joined hands with her other hand. “I’d like nothing more than to be close to you again.”
“I’d like that, too. More than you could ever know.”
“Talk to me, Ap— I mean, Natalie. Talk to me, Natalie.”
“You can call me April. It’s okay.”
“You’ve made a whole new life as Natalie. That’s who you are now, and I want to respect that. Livvy does, too.”
“She’s so grown up, too. I can’t believe how amazing her grades are and that she has her pick of colleges.”
I sigh, realizing I can’t hide my torment from my sister. “Flynn and I are taking a break.” I keep my voice down so only she can hear me.
“You just got married!”
“Believe me, I know.”
“What could’ve gone so wrong so fast?”
“He kept something from me. Something important. And then when I found out about it and confronted him, he lied to me.”
“Oh damn. Wow. You guys looked so happy on TV. I watched every second of the SAG Awards. I couldn’t believe that was my sister on national TV!”
“It was a very exciting night.” Recalling Flynn winning two Actor awards, making love in the limo on the way home and then eating In-N-Out burgers and fries in Hayden’s living room brings me to tears again. The weeks I spent with Flynn had been the sweetest time of my life, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do without him.
“So is it over, then?” Candace asks tentatively.
“I don’t know.” I don’t know anything other than he lied to me, and I had to get away from him to get some perspective.
“Well,” she says after a long pause, “if he’s making you stay at a hotel, I assume he’s paying, so we might as well take full advantage. I have to work tomorrow, but I don’t care. We can stay up all night watching movies, sleep in and order room service.”
Candace’s cheerfulness and upbeat personality are a balm on my wounded soul. Her plan sounds heavenly, and it’s just what I need.
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