Home > For 100 Reasons (100 Series #3)

For 100 Reasons (100 Series #3)
Author: Lara Adrian

Chapter 1

 

Paris

 

I tried to warn her that I wasn’t a good man.

From the very beginning, I told her she deserved someone better. Now, she knows it’s true.

Selfish, ruthless bastard. That’s what I am, what I always have been. I’ve never made a secret of that fact. Never apologized for it, either. Hell, it’s the only way I know how to survive.

When I see something I desire, I don’t waste time waiting for it to land at my feet. I reach for it. I take what I want, by fair means or foul. And more than a year ago—when I caught my first glimpse of Avery Ross—what I wanted above anything else was her.

For the past five months, she’s been mine.

Long enough for me to realize how incredible she is. Long enough for her to turn me inside out. To make me forget what it was to crave any other woman but her.

Christ, what have I done?

In a few short months, this beautiful, broken, infinitely brave woman has made me want something I’ve never had nor ever dreamed I would need.

Now, she’s gone.

I feel her absence as if a piece of me has been ripped away from my body. And the worst of it is I have no one to blame but myself.

On a snarled curse, I slam my palm on the steering wheel of my Mercedes AMG GT as the traffic ahead of me on A1 out of Paris creeps at a virtual standstill. A slim opening appears beside me on the freeway. I seize it, grimacing as I make a reckless dodge through the clogged rivers of compact cars, taxis, tourist vans, and delivery vehicles that stand between me and the Charles de Gaulle Airport.

“Go, damn it!” I lay on the horn, furious. Desperate to keep moving. I have to reach her before she’s gone for good. “Out of my fucking way!”

Zig-zagging past the slower moving vehicles, I gun the 450-plus horsepower engine and roar over a brief space of open highway. A few hundred yards ahead, that gap closes up. Another goddamned standstill. Fuck it. I veer onto the concrete shoulder, speeding along it like a man possessed.

In truth, I am a man possessed. I have been ever since I set my sights on Avery.

Her face haunts me as I navigate the congested traffic heading toward the exit for the airport. All I can see is her tear-filled green eyes looking up at me in shock—in despisement—over the way I’d betrayed her.

You set everything up, Nick! You took my life apart piece by piece until you had me in your hands. In your bed.

All true.

I couldn’t deny anything she’d said back at my flat where we made love only a couple of hours ago. Nothing I said could make her understand. I don’t know if she’ll ever forgive me. In a handful of seconds she went from loving me to hating me. As she’d shoved past me, determined to leave, I told myself I had earned every bit of her scorn, every bit of this pain.

And when she ran from my place with her purse and passport in hand, into a taxi that sped her away, I told myself the fairest thing to do—the only right thing—was to let her go.

Yeah, fuck that.

Since when have I treated her fairly? Since when have I concerned myself with doing the right thing by her?

I’ll be damned if I’m going to start now. Not when she’s the one person in this world who means anything to me. The only woman I’ve ever truly loved.

I swerve in to the airport entrance and race for the departures terminal. A French policeman shouts at me as I leap out of the car and leave it unattended at the curb. Ignoring the sharp whistle and the barked orders to stop—first in French, then in English—I run into the busy terminal and head directly for the AirFrance ticket counter. If Avery intends to fly home to New York City, odds are she’s found an available seat on one of the frequent nonstops taking off from this hub.

The first-class line is a dozen deep with customers who scoff and grumble and curse at me as I bypass all of them to reach the counter attendant. She gives me a wary look, her gaze darting over my shoulder where the police officer continues to shout at me.

“Sir, you cannot jump the line. There are other people waiting—”

“I need to find someone,” I tell her, my voice low and tight with urgency. And, yes, desperation. “Please, I need your help. It’s important.”

“You there!” The officer’s call sounds nearer now. And he’s pissed. “Monsieur, I am speaking to you.”

I glance back and see that the disruption has attracted the attention of a pair of uniformed French soldiers. Maroon berets and green camouflage move in from posts at the other end of the ticketing area. The situation is escalating quickly.

I’m sure I look unsettling, even dangerous or unstable, especially given the current state of unease in the world. But I don’t have time to deal with anxious security patrols or aggravated cops. I need to find Avery and keep her from getting on that plane. Hell, I’ll search the whole damned airport if that’s what it takes.

“Monsieur!” The shout comes from one of the soldiers approaching me from behind now.

“Ah, fuck this.” I pivot in front of the counters and head for the security line.

People move out of my path like a receding wave, wary looks and whispers left in my wake. Children drawn close to their parents as I pass. I’m causing a scene, probably on my way toward an international incident, but I don’t care.

I duck under a length of security tape just as a firm hand latches onto my arm. “Sir, I wouldn’t do this if I were you.”

The largest of the French soldiers holds me in an iron grasp. His partner steps in on my other side, while a third blocks me from the front. Their faces are stern, all three gazes unblinking and prepared to take me down.

Each second I’m delayed here is a second closer to losing Avery. When I speak, it’s through gritted teeth. “Let me go. I have to get through.”

“No, sir.” The mammoth in front of me shakes his dark head. “You’ve gone far enough.”

I know there’s no getting past these men, nor their guns. I’ve already lost. I’m too late to make Avery listen, even if she somehow granted me the chance.

On a roar, I fight against the hold on my arm. I wrench loose, fueled by fury and a sawing ache in my chest that’s too big to be contained.

It explodes out of me on a growl. My fist flies at the same time, connecting with the soldier’s jaw in front of me. His head rocks back on his shoulders, but only for a second.

When the hammer of his answering blow smashes into my face, I savor the pain. I’ve earned it after all. And for the briefest moment—before my vision goes dark and the hard concrete floor comes up to greet me—I tell myself that Avery deserves this chance to fly away and escape me.

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