Echo:A Dark Billionaire Romance

By: A Zavarelli

He dragged his eyes back to me. “It’s funny, isn’t it?”

“What is?”

“How you and I can almost relate at this moment. I didn’t expect that.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

His fingers came up to linger near my face, but he stopped himself before he could touch me.

“Brayden,” he said. “You can feel him slipping away.”

My knees buckled as the floodgates of pain and guilt opened up inside of my chest. I tried to grab onto the railing, but the stranger wouldn’t let me. He pulled me into his arms, stroking my hair as he pressed my face against his chest.

It was an intimate act, and I didn’t know him, but at the moment it felt right. It felt like exactly what I needed. I shuddered and squeezed my burning eyes shut, trying to stay strong. I promised Brayden I wouldn’t cry today, and I’d broken that promise several times already.

The stranger tipped my chin in his hand, forcing my gaze to his. And when those gunmetal blue eyes connected to mine, my resolve washed away. Tears flooded my cheeks as pain threatened to swallow me whole.

His hand found my back. An instinctive gesture of comfort that caused him to second guess himself. He hesitated, but because I was sad and feeling reckless, I leaned a little closer.

His grip tightened when I paused to inhale the scent of his cologne. Notes of amber and cinnamon floated up from his skin, calming me in an unexpected way. It reminded me of what I always thought a Christmas morning should smell like. With a normal family gathered around the fireplace singing carols together as they drank their eggnog. I bet this man had some of those Christmases. He looked like he might have.

“How do you know Brayden?” I asked.

He frowned, but didn’t answer. Then he grasped my face in his hands, surprising me when he leaned down and pressed his lips against mine. It was unapologetic, and not even a little bit hesitant. I whimpered, and he groaned.

A thousand volts of electricity shot through me as his hands jerked my body closer. The ferocity of his kiss choked the breath from me and left me wondering what it would be like when he got his hands upon the rest of my body.

My lips parted as I gasped for air, and he took it as an invitation. His tongue delved into my mouth, tasting me completely. I only managed to remain upright by clinging to his shirt. His skin burned beneath the thin material, and mine felt like it was on fire. My head spun, and I seemed to have lost all control of my body. His touch was the only thing I could feel. The only thing I wanted to feel.

What was happening? I was a lust-struck girl who was using her grief as an excuse to be reckless. What was his excuse? I didn’t care. I wanted him to kiss me. And when I felt the hardness of his arousal against my stomach, I wanted him to do a whole lot more too.

But in typical Brayden fashion, he picked that moment to come ambling out the side door. Embarrassment flooded over me and I tried to break away from the mysterious stranger, but he held me tight in his grasp. Brayden paused mid-stride, his eyes narrowing dangerously as he took in the sight before him.

Feeling awkward and uncomfortable, I shot the man a pleading glance to let me go. His fingers fell away from my face with an obvious satisfaction as he swung his gaze to my brother.

Tension thickened the air as Brayden crossed his arms over his broad chest, his eyes flicking between me and the stranger. He played the role of an over-protective brother often, but this… this was something else.

Hatred flared in his eyes and a smug grin appeared on the stranger’s face in response. I looked between the two men, trying to understand what wasn’t being said. The breeze kicked up and the windows on the trailer rattled beneath the weight of it.

“Brighton, go back inside the house,” Brayden ordered.

I glared at him and crossed my arms in stubborn refusal. “What’s going on? He said he was your friend.”

Brayden looked at the man again and scrubbed a hand through his hair in obvious frustration. “He is.” He spoke through gritted teeth. “But you don’t need to be hanging around with him like this.”

This was Brayden’s generic excuse whenever it came to a guy I liked, but this time there was something more to it than that. Before I could ask, the man beside me straightened. He dipped his head and pressed his lips to my ear, unable to hide the smile in his voice when he spoke.

“Don’t worry, Brighton. We’ll meet again soon. Perhaps I could teach you how to play the game?”

I didn’t even have time to respond before he spun on his heel, the gravel crunching beneath his shoes as he walked away. My hands ached as I watched him go, and even the weight of Brayden’s disapproving gaze couldn’t alter that.

The saddest part was he never even told me his name.

Chapter One

~Five Years Later~

“God, this cannot seriously be happening.”

I stared at the letter through bleary eyes. This was it. The pièce de résistance. I wouldn’t be able to recover from this.

“Hey, Brighton!” Nicole called out as her fancy pink sneakers came into view.

I swiped at the tears trailing down my cheeks and shoved the letter into my bag. Looking up at her with what I hoped was a smile, I saw her frown.

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