Home > Own Me (Masters of Corsica #1)

Own Me (Masters of Corsica #1)
Author: Jane Henry

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

 

Fabien


Her name is Nicolette.

Gray-green eyes as soft as velvet.

Rosy red cheeks and a heart-shaped mouth that—

“Fabien.”

I look up at my mother from my steak, fork and knife poised in each hand.

“Are you listening at all?”

I'm not used to eating with other people. This is the first time I've come back to my childhood home in three months.

“He’s doing it again,” Thayer mutters.

I work alone, I work long hours, and I work in quiet, unless I need to call in backup.

Except when I come home.

Today, though, my mind is a million miles away because of the security footage I saw before I joined them for dinner. They think I’m focused on work.

I’m not interested in eating. I’m interested in the woman with the delicate but proud features, and an abundance of dark curls that grace her shoulders. The woman with eyes both intelligent and strong but curious and compelling enough to make me wonder… how easily would she submit to me?

The woman I’ll buy.

“Fabien. Please. This matters. Did you hear a word I said?”

“I heard a few,” I say in protest. “Something about… wine, and appetizers, and a live band for Antoine’s wedding.”

“What’s on your mind?” Maman asks curiously.

I will own Nicolette.

I’ve already sent a message to Gwen to cancel Nicolette’s clients for the rest of the night.

I definitely can’t tell her that. I won’t tell anyone. I don’t need anyone to stand in my way because I will have this woman no matter the cost.

“Crunching the numbers?” Thayer asks. “Where are we profit-wise?”

“Boys, if you’re talking about what I think you are…” Maman begins with a wince.

“Twelve million.”

“Compared to last year’s numbers, the tight business we run in Corsica’s booming, thanks to an influx of tourists,” Thayer says.

“It’s about damn time. Given that it’s one of many businesses we run, we’re in a good place. And if your plan to expand works, we could double our profit in two years’ time. The plan’s contingent on many factors, though.”

“Slipping under the radar?” Thayer supplies.

The ancient buildings and cobblestoned streets of Corsica, under the shadow of majestic mountains, aren’t the only things that are outdated. Hard to imagine the laws still prohibit paid prostitution. Brothel-keeping and pimping carry the heaviest sentences of all.

Goddamn Puritans.

Why people think sex should be so carefully guarded remains a complete enigma to me. Sex, like food, is meant to be consumed, and healthy humans hunger for it. If we’re honest, my job, then, as the owner and proprietor of La Maison de la Vallée Cachée, the most high-end gentlemen’s club in Corsica, means I’m basically no different than a restaurant owner.

“Fabien. We lost you again.”

Maman releases a belabored sigh and pinches the bridge of her nose. I watch as she places her knife and fork down so she can give me a look best saved for an errant child. “Fabien.” She repeats my name, this time pouring a wealth of guilt into each syllable. “You’re the eldest. You should know better,” she chides. “Thayer, tell him, please.”

I take a large bite of steak and grind it with my teeth. Maman’s the only person on the planet I allow to admonish me without consequence.

“She wants you to get a date,” Thayer says. “No bouncing around the wedding venue like a damn ball in a pinball machine.”

I don’t bother to hide my look of disgust. “Really? That’s the best you can come up with?”

His eyes snap to my mother, then back to me. “In polite company, of course.”

“Of course.” I look back to Maman. The woman has the patience of a saint and a spine of steel, a lethal combination in our circle. Tonight, I notice bags under her eyes I haven’t seen before. I wonder if she’s sleeping well. She hasn’t been, not since my father died. Five years is a long time to go without sleep.

I don’t date. I take what I want.

I want Nicolette.

I will own her.

“I don’t want anyone to talk, Fabien,” she explains. “I’m just so tired of people talking.”

“Why do you care?” I shrug, take another bite of steak, and chew and swallow before I continue. “People talk no matter what you do. No matter what any of us do. And if anyone talks about you, they’ll answer to me.”

“And me,” Thayer chimes in.

“Yes, yes,” Maman replies. “I’ve no doubt that my sons will defend my honor to the death, and I thank you. Where’s Lyam? He said he’d be here.”

“Haven’t seen him,” Thayer says, cutting his steak methodically into neat little squares before he eats.

Maman sighs. “But there’s more to it.”

“Is there?” I continue to eat my dinner, but I’m already mentally on my way to Corsica tonight.

She goes on about her sister’s bragging about her sons’ engagements and marriages and the insidious implication that the three of us will never marry.

“Why do you care what Marguerite thinks about us?” Thayer replies. Of the three of us, Thayer most resembles my mother. They share the same dark blue eyes, olive complexion, and thick, wavy black hair. But as alike as they are physically, they couldn’t be more different personality-wise. Thayer’s known as Le Sauvage, The Savage, a nickname he’s earned by being one of the most ruthless in our number. My mother, on the other hand, was never cut out for our lifestyle. She’s far too tender.

“You shouldn’t give it another thought. We don’t.”

“I know,” she continues, barely hiding a grimace. “And that’s part of the problem, isn’t it?” Shaking her head, she looks heavenward. “Why? Why couldn’t you have given me one daughter? Just one?”

“Touché, Maman,” Thayer says.

“I ask so little of you,” she continues. “All I want is for you to bring dates. That’s it.”

“When’s the wedding?” I ask. I don’t give a shit about details like that.

Maman looks pained. “This weekend.”

“Ahhh,” Thayer says with a smile. “You don’t want them talking about our business in Corsica. Admit it, that’s what you’re worried about.”

Maman flushes, the color adorning her high cheekbones as if she just came in from a winter storm.

“Ah ah,” Thayer chides. “You just completely gave yourself away.”

“And what if I do? Is it a crime to ask your sons to attend a family wedding with dates to keep the loose lips from yammering on and on?”

We do love to tease her.

“It’s not a problem, Maman,” I finally say, when I really do fear she’s taking us too seriously. “I’ll make sure Lyam and Thayer get dates. I’ll get one of my own.”

Thayer’s eyes narrow on me, but the quirk of his lips warns me ahead of time. “Planning a trip to Corsica, then?”

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