As the Duke of Becktonas, I have it all. But it"s nothing without her.
Second in line to the throne of a beautiful island nation, I have my pick of the sexiest women, fastest cars, whatever my heart desires.
What I want is my freedom " so much that they call me The Runaway Duke. Some call me The Duke of Debauchery. Both are correct.
When Iliana walks into my life, with her little llama t-shirt and big green eyes, it"s only supposed to be one night. But the fates think differently and cross our paths in the most unexpected way.
Now, as outside forces attempt to tear us apart, I don"t want to run.
But is it safe for her to stay"Books by Author:Jessica Blake Books
"You"re stressing again, Squeaks."
Of course, I was stressing. I"d just packed my entire life into ten cardboard boxes. Well, what was left of my life after the massive online moving sale I"d just conducted, not to mention the physical yard sale I had on the front lawn of my apartment complex.
It hurt my soul to sell for pennies what I"d purchased for dollars, but I"d wanted a clean sweep, so clean sweep was what I"d gotten. Now" so little was left that I felt almost forlorn. Almost like my ten boxes defined who I was as a person.
"I"m not stressed," I told Jennifer, deciding not to remind my best friend for the eight hundredth time that nobody called me Squeaks anymore. Except her. "I"m just sort of amazed that my life fits into less than a dozen moving boxes at this point."
Jennifer was wearing tiny shorts and a tinier top, and with all my might, I wished I could fill out a halter top like she did. I glanced down at my running shorts and llama t-shirt and shrugged. I was pretty comfortable with who I was at this point, all five-feet, two-inches of me. Well, one-and-a-half inches according to my numbers-nerd doctor, but I thought she just liked to torture me.
Hence, the name Squeaks, short for Pipsqueak. I hated and loved it at the same time. I hated it when other people tried to use it, but I loved that it was part of the secret language between Jennifer and me. It"d been that way since we were six years old.
"I"m still low-key mad at you for this," Jennifer said as she heaved up another overfilled trash bag and headed for the corner outside. The poor trash guys were going to hate me in the morning. At least I wouldn"t be around to hear their salty language from three stories above.
Another moment of panic set in as I looked around my comfy little apartment and sighed. I was going to miss this place so much. San Diego too. I"d lived there for the past five and a half years as I climbed the ranks through San Diego State, first with my Bachelor of Fine Arts and now as I closed out the Master of Fine Arts degree I"d receive after spending the next semester abroad.
"You"ll forgive me after your month-long summer on the beach," I tossed back. "I hear those do wonders for grudges."
Jennifer hadn"t been happy about me leaving, but because she was my best friend, the other half of my heartbeat, she understood.
The past eight months had sucked. The boy I"d been with since my junior year as an undergrad had up and dumped me long distance. He was a D-league baseball player somewhere outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and instead of having a conversation like an adult, he sent me a text message letting me know that I was holding him back. Even now, I snorted at the memory. Happily, I"d gone from heartbroken to pissed off in record time.
In addition to listing all of my faults " being a cold fish in bed filled the number one slot " Dustin had also requested I ship all his clothing and belongings to him, and once I"d learned he needed his things to decorate a new apartment he was sharing with his new girlfriend, I"d happily obliged. Oh, sure, I sent his beloved possessions in cardboard boxes just like he"d asked, along with a few cloves of peeled garlic in each box.
And all I"d gotten for my efforts was a poop emoji in response.
My only regret was that I hadn"t been able to see the cheating asshole"s face when he opened his things and got a face full of steaming garlic.
"These beaches better be all you"ve made them out to be," Jennifer groused as she stomped back through the door. Her stick-straight black hair was bound up in a bun on the top of her head, and her forehead was shiny with sweat. I knew my best friend hated to sweat, so seeing her nearly overheating for me made me smile.
Ride or die, they said. Yep, that was us.
The plan was for me to finish my schooling in Cassia, a small island country in the Mediterranean, near Greece. But first, I"d spend a few weeks in various parts of Europe, traveling abroad for the first time before settling down for the last part of my degree. I"d never traveled alone before, and I was nervous, but more excited than anything.
I had a deep, personal connection to Cassia and was lucky enough to have a distant relative who actually remembered me. Well, who remembered my father. To my surprise and delight, my great-aunt was opening her home to a virtual stranger, letting me live with her for the rest of the year.