Culmination (Clandestine Affairs #3) - Tessa Teevan

THAT DAY IN THE coffee shop never should have happened. Coming close to Gabriella, meeting her in person for the first time. None of it had been part of the plan. She had not been part of the plan. I was only supposed to watch from afar, my eyes the only part of me with permission to seek her out. It wasn’t enough. Everything about her had drawn me in like a moth to the brightest flame.

It’d been that way for months, ever since I’d first laid eyes on her at her parents’ funeral. For the first time in my life, I felt empathy. I felt someone else’s pain. It was foreign, unfamiliar, and I knew I’d have to keep my distance or I could not be held responsible for my actions.

It worked.

Until it didn’t.

I’d never ventured into the coffee shop before that day. The Daily Grind. Puns in company names made my teeth hurt, and on principle, I wouldn’t patron such a place. Instead, I’d park across the street, watching her through the window. She came to this same spot every day on her lunch break from her menial job. Always alone. No one ever approached her, a surprise in the beginning.

After all, with her chestnut hair, delicate and fair skin, and big, rounded chocolate eyes, Gabriella Latham turned heads.

It only took a day or so for me to find my answer: The woman made herself unapproachable. As if it were a ritual, she always claimed a corner table, facing the window and away from all other customers. She kept her head buried in her computer, headphones typically in each ear, her pretty head bobbing to whatever music she enjoyed. And she didn’t remove the headphones until she was in her car. The only person she ever spoke to was the barista when placing her order.

Day after day, I watched. I waited. And with each day that passed, the more I longed to hear her voice. See her eyes up close. Run my fingers along smooth, pale skin.

Until the day I could take it no longer. I couldn’t merely watch. I needed to be an active participant in the game she had no idea we were playing.

The moment I first spoke to her, she rewarded me with large, expressive brown eyes. The way she drew her eyebrows together in confusion was endearing. Her cheeks flushed with a pink tint, and then those eyes shamelessly traveled the length of me.

Gabriella was checking me out. And she liked what she saw.

The rest, as they say, is history.

I threw out the invitation to meet that night, not expecting her to show up. By God, did she show up. She was seduction in blue silk, the material hugging every inch of the delectable curves she typically kept hidden. The skirt rode high up creamy thighs I found myself desperate to get between.

Gabriella’s devastatingly, gorgeous looks made her alluring, indeed. Yet it was her shy grin, the way she nervously nibbled on the side of her lower lip as I made my way to her, that ultimately caused my cock to awaken.

The intention of taking her home crossed my mind, which I tossed away. She’s not that kind of girl, I told myself. So imagine my surprise when Gabriella proved me wrong. The first of many times she’d do so over the next couple of years. I found it adorable. Like our own little cat-and-mouse game. One she’d never win. One she’d never give up.

I didn’t make love to Gabriella that night. I didn’t fuck her.

I took her. Consumed. Possessed. Devoured.


I marked her. I made her mine. No longer would she be alone in this world. The one person she would have was me.

She would be mine—only mine.

And for two years, she was.

I kept her under my protection, far from Father’s grasp, much to his great dismay.

He wanted her gone.

I simply wanted her.

The fool believed my insistence that she was a means to an end. Always one to believe in the adage keep your friends close and your enemies closer, the old man approved of my change in tactics.

For two years, Gabriella was mine and no one else’s. I basked in her utter devotion, savored her beholden affection, and fell in love to depths I’d been unaware I possessed.

She was my life.

She was my future.

She was my everything.

I’d been lying to myself. I didn’t own Gabriella. She owned me.

It was the most terrifying realization.

And the most thrilling.

I’d been ready to give my life for her.