Stained (The Monroe Trilogy Book 1)

By: Cynthia Dane

An Alpha Billionaire Romance


The Monroe Trilogy #1







Prologue



Damon Monroe was not a fan of his father’s private parties. When they weren’t stuffed with old, boring men who could only talk in code, they were the over-patronizing weirdos who wormed their way in when Russell Monroe was drunk on enough brandy or high on enough dust to not give a fuck about who he associated with behind closed doors.

In truth, Damon avoided these parties. Yet his gut told him to come home for a week that summer, a week in which he, for once, had no other plans booked. Princeton was his current mistress, having been admitted before he reached the age of majority and already working on two concurrent majors that made his advisor fan himself in exhaustion. That summer was dedicated to an internship at one of his father’s friend’s companies. Until then, however, Damon was free to do as he pleased. After returning from a sojourn to London – a man might want to study abroad at Oxford, after all – Damon wandered home. Or as much as he could call his father’s three story penthouse in the middle of a bustling regional city home, anyway.

He wasn’t old enough to rent a car, but he was old enough to know premium whisky when he saw it. A scantily clad server carrying a tray full of shots wandered by, enticing the young master Monroe with more than a shot. Maybe later. He waved the woman off after having his shot. Nice. Both the shot and the girl.

The lounge was full of the types Russell Monroe didn’t usually consort with. Either the master of the house was gone for the weekend, or he was in one of his two-day hazes in which he recreated Victorian opium dens. Probably. A fortune-teller looked up from a sofa and grinned in Damon’s direction. He knew she was such a person from the trinkets on her flowing, gauzy robes.

“I knew you were coming, Mr. Monroe,” she said with a French accent. “Gabriella at your service. Care for a reading?”

The man she had been speaking with excused himself to join a game of billiards. Acrobats who lost bets had to perform tricks upon a priceless Persian rug. Animal tamers traded bawdy stories at the open bar, each one more grotesque than the last. Women in nothing more than their underwear came and went from an adjacent study. My father’s study. Damon looked away. None of his business.

“I’m not much for parlor tricks, sorry.” Damon looked for the exit. At this rate he would stay the night in his old room and be out of there after breakfast. With any luck, he would trade some greetings with his father.

The woman clicked her tongue. “I assure you I do more than parlor tricks, Mr. Monroe. I am a teller of genuine fortunes. I don’t claim to consort with spirits, but I am able to read what is in the air, and tell your future from your aura and how it interacts with my mediums.” She drank from a flute of champagne. “So! What’s your fancy? I’ve got tea leaves and Tarot cards at my disposal.” When Damon didn’t bite, she continued, “You like art, yes? My cards are one of a kind. At the very least, allow me to show them to you. Drawn by a master artist from the south of France.” She smiled. “My brother.”

Damon sat on the couch across from her, an antique coffee table between them. “Fine. I’ll take a look.”

Smiling, the fortune teller pulled a leather satchel out of her large bag. Inside was a deck of Tarot cards. That certainly is unique. Not that Damon had seen many Tarot decks in his life. The only time his father let such deviances into his home was when he was in a stupor.

The art was classically Dutch, with references to Rembrandt and Vermeer. Every card contained an illustration of the subject matter, acted out by a myriad of men, women, and cherubs in various stages of undress. Damon perused them, making the occasional comment. He was about to lose interest when Gabriella snatched them up to shuffle.

“Let me give you a complimentary reading, Mr. Monroe. What’s your poison? Wealth?” she chuckled. “No, you don’t need any help with that, do you?”

Damon was unresponsive.

“Health? Those are the two things people ask me about me the most.” She paused. “Those and love.”

He didn’t want to admit that his ears perked, but they did. Love, huh? Thus far in his short life, Damon had been unlucky in such things. Oh, he could sleep with most women he fancied, but it wasn’t the same as having his heart plucked like a well-used lute. It wasn’t cool or gentlemanly in his circles to admit a lust for love. Just lust. It didn’t help that his father was always shoving would-be marriages of convenience in his direction. “Don’t have to make any decisions until you’re finished with your schooling,” Russell had reassured his son more than once. “Just make sure that if you find the one, she’s of the right breeding.” His father was always going on about “the one.” Damon would know her when she saw her, of course.

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