Tales of Darkness & Sin by Pepper Winters

CHAPTER ONE


Briana





The helicopter’s blades stopped.

A cold chill prickled my skin as I stepped from the helicopter, my sandals sinking in the soft sand. With the sun high, the torches surrounding the landing pad and lining the path were unlit, yet their presence was like breadcrumbs indicating the direction for us to go. From the depth of the foliage, a man in a light suit appeared.

“Welcome to Malaking Kuta.”

I’d been told the translation meant fortress. It was a fortress protected not by stone walls but by miles of sea complete with rip tides and currents guaranteed to keep boats away.

The man came closer and offered a nod of his head. When his eyes looked up, they were on me, scanning me from my painted toenails to my dark brown hair, lingering too long on my breasts, visible in the neckline of the dress Curtis had chosen. Yet, when our welcoming party spoke, I wasn’t addressed.

“Mr. Kidwell, Mr. Knapp was happy to receive your call.” He gestured toward the path. “Follow me.”

“I don’t know about this...” I whispered after the man had turned. “He seems...slimy.”

Immediately, Curtis’s hand went to the small of my back, leading me forward. “He is, but I’m here.” Curtis’s lips spoke near my ear. “Bri, you can do this.”

I inhaled, nodding with the knowledge that I’d promised to do what I could.

How was I to know what he would ask?

How could I know a place like this truly existed?

We moved forward, our guide leading us from the landing pad along a winding path to the group of main buildings we’d seen from the air.

With each step we were surrounded by paradise, from the tropical air filled with floral scents and sea breezes to the crystal blue sea of the South Pacific, glistening in all directions of this private island. After we’d flown for nearly twenty hours in an airplane, we’d boarded a helicopter. Leaving what little bit of civilization could be found, we’d flown by helicopter, watching through the windows as water overtook the world.

Finally, we arrived.

Despite the balmy breeze, I couldn’t shake the unease caused by Curtis’s request, the way the man stared, or perhaps from my decision to oblige in this farce.

Two days ago, Curtis and I were in our luxury penthouse in the cool and harsh world of Detroit.

With the slivers of sun shining through the dense foliage, my body tried to persuade me to enjoy the warm air and din of waves lapping a nearby beach. However, my mind was awhirl with what was at hand.

To say that our lives—or Curtis’s—were in flames would overstate the more concentrated concern that Curtis’s company, the one he inherited from his father, was in a low smolder. The markets were in peril and given the correct conditions, his corporation would ignite, causing total annihilation. It was a future he was willing to risk anything to save.

Anything.

Anyone.

Me.

I stilled as the palm trees thinned, looking out at the endless miles of sea.

There was no turning back.

“Mr. Kidwell, Ms. Pierce, this way,” the man leading our way said. “Mr. Knapp is waiting.”

Well, at least he knew my name.

What choices did I have if I refused to go forward?

Back to the helicopter.

No. The sound of its engines roared overhead as it left the island.

Could I convince Curtis there was another way?

No. Mr. Knapp was waiting.

Mr. Knapp was the man Curtis believed would be his savior in this time of trouble.

I reached for Curtis’s hand. “I’m not sure I can do this.”

My fiancé’s dark eyes simmered with emotions too many to differentiate. Together they created a boiling concoction that had only cooled enough to touch since my agreement to this scheme. He lifted my hand, bringing my knuckles to his lips. “I wouldn’t have asked you here if I thought anything would happen. You know that, Bri. Tell me you know.”

For only a moment, his gaze disappeared as his kiss brought warmth back to my flesh.

“How can you be certain?” I asked.

“Booker Knapp has a reputation.” Curtis’s eyes closed as the cords in his neck tightened.

With my hesitation, I was pushing him and I knew it. Nevertheless, I deserved more information. Now that we were here, I wanted reassurance.

“A reputation...?” I allowed the rest to go unsaid, hoping Curtis would give me more than he already had.

A few years ago, Curtis made the bold move to take controlling interest in the family empire, purposely leaving his brother in the wake. It was a coup of sorts. The two brothers had an uneasy relationship.