Cold burrows into my marrow. My self-preservation to seek out warmth has my feet inching toward a roaring fire in a grand room lavished with furniture and rugs. This place is huge, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. We live a minimal life with only the true essentials. Everything else is considered an indulgence, and that’s sinful. Apparently.
A graze scorching with pain to my knee makes me wince, the torn material of my dress rubbing against the broken skin. “Hello?” I call out, inching closer and closer to the roaring orange glow of the fire. Shadows dance down the walls as footfalls sound just outside the room I was deposited inside by the man who said he was security.
“Look what the tide washed in,” a deep rumble booms across the room.
My hand wraps around my waist to ease the nerves.
“This is private property. Do you want to tell me what it is you’re doing docking here?” The voice steps into the light, stealing my breath.
He looks like a man from the stories Clara used to tell me at night when I couldn’t sleep. Dark probing eyes seek me out, making a quiver of excitement and fear ripple through my body. Powerful arms fold across a broad chest covered in clothes I’m not used to: formal wear, a suit.
He has a confidence about him that commands the space he’s dominating with his size. He’s taller than me by a comfortable foot and a half. As he edges closer, the urge to run away sends a rush of energy to my legs. “Do you speak?” He narrows his dark orbs on me, bringing a hand up to loosen a tie around his neck.
Moving toward a table set out with bottles full of liquids, he asks, “Drink?”
The dryness of my throat aches. A longing to quench a thirst I hadn’t realized I had has me nodding and pushing a meek, “Yes, please,” past my lips.
The quirk of his lips doesn’t go unnoticed as he pours amber liquid into two glasses and hands me one. His fingers brush mine as I accept the offering, sending a spark over my skin. My eyes fixate on the contents of the glass. There are two mouthfuls at most. Maybe he can’t spare more. I smile a thank you and lift the glass, taking a sip.
A harsh burn explodes over my tongue, making me gag. “Oh God, what is that?” I choke out, holding the glass out to give it back to him. A harsh laugh barks from his lips, making my stomach dip.
“You’re one of them, aren’t you?” He steps toward me, closing in around me like a predator would prey. I shuffle back, bumping my hip against a couch.
“One of who?” I frown.
“Cult Island.” He scoffs, snatching the glass from me and throwing the contents into the fire. It hisses and snaps, flames jumping out in retaliation. “I should have guessed by what you’re wearing.” He smirks, his eyes lazily roaming down my body, making a blush bloom on my cheeks.