Home > Fallen Foe (Cruel Castaways #2)

Fallen Foe (Cruel Castaways #2)
Author: L.J. Shen

The roofs are different in Portofino.
Flatter, wider, older.
The pastel-colored buildings sprout from the ground, so tightly cramped together you couldn’t slide a toothpick between them if you tried. The yachts in the harbor are docked neatly and equally spaced from each other. The Mediterranean Sea glitters under the last persistent sunrays as dusk begins to fall.
I lounge on the balcony of my hotel suite overlooking the Italian Riviera, watching a ladybug spinning backward on its axis, like Venus, on the marble banister.
I flip the ladybug, helping it find its footing, then take a sip of my white wine. Tonight’s menu is perched in my lap. The wild boar ragù appears to be the most expensive option, which means I’m bound to order it, just to watch the idiots from accounting sweating into their risotto plates when they realize this conference is going to cost them much more than they planned to spend.
Corporate events are where good ideas go to die. It is a well-known fact any trade secret worth whispering will not be aired during a formal company event. Valuable market information, like a weapon, is traded in the back alleys of the industry.
It isn’t my workplace that brought us here. In fact, I have no workplace to speak of. I am a lone wolf. A quantitative trading consultant paid by the hour by hedge fund companies to help them sort through the conglomerate of potential investments. What to invest in, how much, and how to keep up with the annualized returns their clients expect of them. My friends often say I’m like Chandler from Friends. That no one has any idea what I actually do. But my job is pretty straightforward—I help rich people get even richer.
“Just trying on this new dress,” a feminine voice purrs from behind the balcony door. “Shouldn’t be more than ten minutes. Don’t drink too much. You’re barely civilized for those tux-wearing cookie cutters while sober.”
After frisbeeing the menu to a nearby table, I pick up the book next to me and flip to the next page. Brief Answers to the Big Questions, by Hawking.
Since we are located on the top floor of the resort, I have a direct view to virtually all the other south-facing balconies overlooking the harbor.
This is how I notice them at first.
A couple, two terraces down from us.
They are the only ones out, soaking in the last rays of the setting sun. Their blond heads bob together. His hair is corn yellow. Hers is titian, a mixture of gold and red, like scorched desert sand.
He is wearing a sharp suit. She, a burgundy dress. Something simple, cheap looking, almost tarty. A call girl? Nah. Wall Street hedge fund tycoons invest in expensive-looking dates. The type with a built-in designer wardrobe, red-soled heels, and private school manners. Pretty Women only exist in fairy tales and Julia Roberts movies. Not a soul in Manhattan values charm, honesty, and quirkiness in women.
No. This is a country bumpkin. Perhaps an ambitious local who found her way into his bed in hopes of earning a large tip.
The couple is sharing a peach and sticky, juicy kisses. The nectar seeps down their lips as he feeds her the fruit. She grins as she nibbles on the fruit’s flesh, her gaze holding his. He kisses her hungrily, and she bites on his lower lip—hard—before his mouth rips from hers to murmur something into her ear.
The girl throws her head back and laughs, exposing the pale, long column of her neck. I shift in my seat, my book covering my ever-growing erection. I’m not sure what turns me on more. The peach, the woman, or the fact that I’m officially a voyeur. Likely, all three.
The man dips his head and licks a long trail of the nectar, not letting a good opportunity go to waste. They are leaning against the banister, his body pressed against hers.
Something passes between them. Something that makes the hairs on my neck prickle. Whatever these two are enjoying is something I don’t currently have.
I am not a man accustomed to unattainable things.
“Have you tried the white yet?” The glass door whines open. I snap my gaze toward the person the voice belongs to.
“Too much anise and truffle, right?” My date sneers and pulls a pout. She is still in her bathrobe. How many hours does one need to put on a damn dress?
I take a gulp of the wine. “Tastes fine to me. We’re going to run late.”
“And you care about tardiness since . . . ?” She arches a brow.
“I don’t. But I am hungry,” I supply flatly.
“Play your cards right, and I might be your dessert.” She smiles devilishly, peppering the gesture with a wink.
I swirl the wine in the pristine glass. “No dessert, no date. This is quid pro quo, and I’m not known for my philanthropic notions.”
She rolls her eyes. “Can you at least pretend to be bearable?”
“Can you pretend to like me?” I shoot back.
She gasps. “Of course I like you. Why else would I be with you?”
“I could think of thirty-three million reasons.” That is my net worth before my impending inheritance.
“Christ, you’re crude. My mother was right about you.” She slams the glass door in my face.
I place the book on the table, redirecting my attention to the couple on the balcony. They’re still at it, making out without a care in the world. He wraps her hair around his fist, tugging, lifting her face, and kisses her hard. Their tongues swirl together erotically. She cups his cheeks and grins, grazing her top teeth over his bottom lip. My cock strains again. She is completely his, I can tell, and that blind conviction she belongs to him, how comfortable she is belonging to another human, makes me want to screw her brains out just to prove a point.
No one is yours, and you belong to no one. We’re all just fallen foes trying to survive this universe.
He drags his mouth down her neck, cupping her breasts, pushing the pebbled thing toward his lips. The edge of her pink nipple pokes from her dress. When his mouth reaches the valley between her tits, she remembers herself.
She pushes him away, panting. Maybe she knows they have an audience. If she’s waiting for me to be embarrassed, she better get comfortable, because that’s not about to happen. They’re the ones dry humping in plain sight. I’m just a man enjoying his pretentious glass of wine on a lazy summer day.
The glass door opens again, and Gracelynn Langston reemerges, this time in a black, sequined chiffon dress. An Akris piece I bought her the day after she crawled back into my bed for the thousandth time this decade.