Love Me Later is the debut book from author Libby Rice. I’ve been excited about this book for months after Libby told me the premise. Holly got to review the book and loved it. If you missed her review you can see it here. So we are really excited to share a snippet from the book with everyone.
A gust of Atlantic wind bristled over Scarlet’s exposed legs, and she shivered through a dose of longing for her college condo on the West Coast, all sunbaked tile and terracotta warmth. She sped up, moving as fast as her three-inch heels could navigate the patches of inky ice glinting on the sidewalk. One block down and another to go. As she clipped along, clenching her pepper spray in a bloodless fist, she chastised herself for being careless, muttering inane observations about the area in an effort to fill the silence. The empty words simply misted into the ether.
Panting, she considered removing her shoes for a mad dash. Instead she slowed, then went still, listening to make sure her heels didn’t mask sounds she needed to hear.
The street appeared empty. Nothing but stoic warehouse fronts, their corrugated doors flickering in the light of a few buzzing street lamps. No movement. Not a hint of sound. She hadn’t thought it possible for New York City to fall silent. The calm only bred agitation.
Relief bloomed at the sight of familiar red paint. She sucked in the deep breath her shallow rasps hadn’t allowed and skated across the parking lot, grappling for her driver’s-side door, congratulating herself on the simple, but rare, act of walking to her car unaided.
Heavy footfalls sounded out of the eerie quiet. Before she could react, a rough shove between the shoulder blades slammed her chest first against an old Ford pickup parked in the next space. Rough edges dug into her ribs.
A gloved hand spun her around, and she gazed up into the blinding beam of a flashlight. Disoriented, Scarlet saw nothing beyond a glowing orb rimmed with absolute blackness.
But she could hear, and worse, she could feel. The man leaned in close and spoke in a gritty, unrecognizable whisper. “Throw the fucking vegetable spritzer.” She soundlessly ditched the pepper spray. “The bag, too.” She tossed again.
Gripping the slick, oily edges of her courage, it dawned on her to struggle… to call out. Fight. Go for the eyes. Had Lissa and Matt and—please God—Ethan, walked this way?
The guy must have sensed her mental rally because he reached up and squeezed her jaw below the ears, using the leverage to crack her head against the frozen window of the truck, hard. “Good girl,” he said, compressing her small face in his hand. “What else?”
What else? The light above focused in and out… in and out, through a lens she couldn’t control. She blinked, then forced a squint. Still nothing.
The pain in her face receded to a terrible numbness before he shifted his grip to her chin and forcibly turned her face to the Maserati. “See the pretty car, Empress. What else?” His free hand went to her pockets, skimming over her hands before jerking a bracelet from her wrist.
Empress. “Ethan?” she choked. “Don’t.” Tears leaked from beneath closed lids. Not him.
“Not used to this, are you, Empress? You’re used to the win, like me.” His voice was guttural. “Perhaps this time you’ve strayed too far from Daddy’s penthouse.”
He grazed a fingertip along the shell of her ear. The almost-gentle caress was her only warning before a sharp, malicious agony flooded the side of her face. She cried out. Her mother’s diamond earring moved into her blurred peripheral vision. It shimmered with a trace of blood that gleamed in the glow of the flashlight. Muscles locked, her every nerve ending awaited his next move. The sting came fast when he ripped the other locking stud to freedom.
Whimpering in the aftermath of the excruciating pain, she kept her gaze downcast, staring dully at the familiar jeans in the murky fringe of light. Like before, Ethan’s too-light attire didn’t prevent him from putting off waves of heat. Only now, his warmth didn’t comfort.
That kiss. The embrace beneath the awning. They’d been worse than lies.
Though the light never faltered, his hand again momentarily left her face. This time, harsh steel took its place. Saying nothing, he slid the flat side of a freezing blade across her cheek and down her throat. Then, slowly, he began to slice the buttons along the seam of her coat.
Scarlet clenched, bracing for the violation that would come next. But Ethan didn’t cut away any more clothing. Once the buttons were gone, he used his knife-hand to nudge the edges of her coat outward. Scarlet relaxed imperceptibly. Too soon.
“This will hurt, Empress,” he said softly. “A little pain to show I always win.”
He kissed her cheek as the knife punctured her party dress and kept going… slowly… until it bottomed-out deep within her lower abdomen. Working an airless scream, Scarlet almost convinced herself the adrenaline would mask the pain, but a clenching misery hit as he extracted the blade with jerky movements.
She murmured Ethan’s name one last time before her world slipped away.
Relief eased Ethan’s balled fists when he didn’t see Scarlet or her Maserati in the lot. Probably halfway back to paradise by now. Yet a vague sense of foreboding remained.
Despite her absence, he loped forward across the expanse of lined pavement, which was empty save an old pickup and a beat-up Toyota sedan. Nothing out of place. At the other end, he turned his tired ass around, heading for the subway.
He saw her hair first. A bright stream of blonde, too beautiful to touch the filthy pavement, streamed out beneath her shoulders. She lay crumpled on her side beneath the passenger door of the truck he’d ignored.
Like a shot, he charged for Scarlet’s prone form. A few steps out, he bent and scooped up a petite canister. Rolling the cold metal in his palm, he recognized a lipstick-sized mace spray. He winced, feeling the aluminum give in his fist. Like her, the package was shiny and colorful and, unfortunately, fragile. Purple, of all things.
Shoving the spray into his pocket, he crouched next to her, blood pounding at his temples. Icy sweat froze over the long slide down his face, becoming part of the frigid landscape.
She might be fine, a run-of-the-mill carjacking, and she hit her head.
But her little body curled into itself. Reaching out, he hovered a hand over her slumped form, then pulled away. Bruises marred the pale skin of her face and jaw, but otherwise he couldn’t gauge her injuries. Too much black. Keeping his touch feather light, he brushed along her chest and stomach, the only side he could access without shifting her torso.
Jesus. Blood-stained fingers wavered in front of him. A lifetime of transferring the fear in his mother’s eyes to the coward who’d put it there, and he’d let this ethereal beauty go it alone. He might as well have done the damage himself.
He tucked her coat inward to block the wind. “Hold on, Empress.” She couldn’t hear his strained plea, but the appeal gave him hope, let him pretend she’d grant his wish. Fumbling for his phone, he managed to dial 911, clutching her chilled fingers while he talked to dispatch.
Huddling beside her, he wrenched himself under the truck to curl around the slope of her spine in a silent offer of warmth. Of comfort. And he waited, the whole time stroking the sunshine of Scarlet’s blonde curls and praying to a God he didn’t believe in that she’d be okay.
Scarlet Leore enjoys a glittering existence amongst society’s elite. Ethan Blake is a prizefighter knocking his way through school, counting on his winnings to bankroll the dreams that won’t fit in a boxing ring. When the two meet, neither can deny the instant attraction that wells between the hulking fighter and the heiress who is miles and millions out of his league. But a vicious attack leaves Scarlet physically and emotionally battered, and for Ethan, her allure crumbles along with the rest of his life after she accuses him of wielding the knife.
Years later, Scarlet has abandoned the high life for that of a hard-working lawyer, while Ethan has clawed his way to the pinnacle of a business empire. Drawn into his world of high-stakes tech mergers, they dance to a tune of revenge, desire, and finally, redemption. But their world won’t tolerate an attorney falling for her client. They’ll need more than lust and forgiveness. They must bridge the chasm of a tormented past to understand who they are today. Only then can they forge a future in the face of the resurging enemy who once tore them apart.