Torn (Lords of the City #1)

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BOOK DESCRIPTION

Noah Stafford wants me. All of me.

Sleek and formidable, Chicago is an empire, controlled by the men and women who rule from the upper floors. Beneath grey skies, there’s an order to the city, but when office hours are over, a scorching heat pulses within its walls that has nothing to do with the sun.

An adventurous and quirky graduate from Milwaukee, I’m unexpectedly offered a job interview at Stafford Scientific after a sabbatical in the jungle steals my heart. I never expected to meet Noah Stafford, the billionaire founder. Dressed in a sharp designer suit that flaunts his ripped muscles, Noah draws me to him with a power I’m unable to control. But there’s a problem.

With his sandy blond hair and impossibly bright green eyes, Noah has a face I can love… because I already have. I’ve fallen for his twin brother, Corey, a rebel who lives on the edge. Torn between the two, I must decide to follow one brother’s rules, or run wild with the other.

When I’m looking into the same face, the same eyes… same heart… how can I choose?

 

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Thailand

“S
uch power,” I breathed, watching as an elephant pushed aside a heavy boulder with its trunk, employing a strength I didn’t know it possessed.

Sweat dripped down my back in the sweltering heat, soaking my navy-blue tank top. Though the inferno of the jungle made it almost impossible to move, it was a day to explore, to run wild. My only restraint was the ponytail holder that held the long waves of my chestnut hair back, exposing the flesh of my shoulders, tanned by the blazing sun.

I was in Thailand, backpacking my way through the inheritance my grandma left me. It had been her dream to travel, not mine. But she had raised me, so I wanted to honor everything she would have done with the money had she not been confined to a wheelchair the last years of her life. As much as I loved my grandma, I’d rather be home, in the cold of Milwaukee, putting my Masters in Environmental Science to use, preferably at one of the breweries along the lake, ensuring the fish didn’t become as inebriated as the overexcited brew hoppers.

I hope you can receive postcards in heaven, Grams,
I thought.

Traveling may have been in her honor, but I was enjoying myself, especially now. Somewhere between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, I’d joined a group of trekkers in search of a herd of migrating elephants. We’d found them, but we kept our distance, observing the playful beasts from the safety of the lush trails.

“Do you admire power, Imogen?” a man asked, his voice as deep and rugged as the valley we wandered.

“I admire elephants,” I said, refusing to face my companion, keeping my focus on the herd in the distance.

“It would appear so,” he said, fingering the tiny plush elephant I’d tied to the strap of my rucksack, a cute trinket I picked up outside Bangkok.

It was
him,
Corey, the criminally hot recluse who had joined our party a few miles back. With the legion of tattoos that ran across his strong arms and ripped chest, I was convinced he was an actual criminal. Beneath his sandy blond hair, his eyes were bright green, a fusion of the jungle around us and the sun above, but they were reckless, full of sins he would never confess.

He’d stuck close to me since emerging from the bushes to greet us. I was nervous around him, nervous about the mystery that surrounded his sudden arrival, and nervous about the way my body woke when he was near. It didn’t help that he was shirtless, his tattoos exposed for all to see. Being on vacation ignited me, made everything more tempting. The sun. The fruit. Corey.

I swallowed. With him near, the day had gotten impossibly hotter, but I didn’t trust him. “And how do you feel about elephants, Corey?”

“They’re beautiful creatures. I appreciate beautiful creatures.” He kept his gaze steady on me, studying me with his bright green recklessness.

I didn’t let it sway me. “Beautiful enough to kill?” I asked, unable to hide my suspicion.

“No,” he claimed, unfazed. He wasn’t the type of man to be taken aback by accusations. He was his own pack, fearless and unrestrained. He didn’t play by anyone’s rules. He wasn’t easily admonished. “I’m not a poacher.”

I wasn’t convinced. “So you just happened to find us in the jungle?”

He smiled, as if we were playing a game of wits. “You weren’t exactly exploring new territory. You were following a well-marked path.”

“Exactly. We were on the trail, but you weren’t. You came from the bushes. What were you looking for out there?” I demanded, irritated by his nonchalance. I didn’t consider myself a confrontational person, but when it came to protecting the elephants, I could rip the horns off the devil.

“Maybe I was looking for you,” he teased. “A goddess. Phra Mae Torani, the lovely one who drowns demons with her detachment.”

“Don’t flatter me,” I snapped. “Tell me the truth.”

“Or what?”

I lowered my voice. “Or I’ll tell everyone here about the gun you slipped into my rucksack when I set it down to rest.”

Corey remained undeterred. If anything, he seemed to be impressed. “So you’ve got brains behind those hazel eyes.”

“It doesn’t take brains. I saw you. You were quick, but you weren’t discreet. Tell me why you’re here. What is the gun for? Do you plan to hunt the elephants for their ivory?”

They were brave words to speak to a tattooed maverick with a deadly weapon, especially one as sinfully gorgeous as Corey, except that now I was the one with the gun. He had given his power to me, and that power was safely stored in my rucksack.

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