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Throne of York by Charlotte Byrd (1)

Chapter 1 - Easton

When I first see Everly…

I’ve been watching her.

I saw her name on the list.

There were others, too, but she stood out.

I’ve never done this before. I never sought out one of the women, let alone approached her.

I pretended that everything that happens here on this forsaken island wasn’t my business.

I thought that if I didn’t get involved, then it wouldn’t be my fault. But that’s not how life works, is it?

You are involved, all of the time.

You make decisions about your values all the time.

What you do or don’t do.

What you buy or don’t buy.

I tried to wash the guilt away. I tried to close my eyes to all the horrors that take place around me.

Even after they took Alicia away from me.

I thought I was in love with her and I wanted to run away with her. Yet, when they took her away from me, I believed them.

I closed my eyes to all the anger, and the hatred, and everything that I knew deep inside of myself to be true.

I closed my eyes to the truth that I felt deep inside of me.

You know that feeling that makes your skin crawl when something bad is about to happen?

You know those little goose bumps you get when you feel like something just isn’t right?

You know that voice in the back of your head that tries to warn you, no matter how nice everything seems to be?

Those are signs you shouldn’t ignore. But I did.

I experienced them.

I lived them.

And they became my mistakes.

Standing here, watching this room full of people talking, laughing, mingling, I realize what I knew all along.

I didn’t need to overhear my father talking to his closest advisor to confirm the truth. That nauseous feeling, those goose bumps down my arms, that sickening feeling in the back of my throat - those were all proof of it.

My father had Alicia killed, and I was too stupid, no, too naive, not to see it.

Is that why I’m here in this room with drapery around the walls and everyone dressed in their black tie best? Perhaps.

I’m here to find her.

Everly March.

I saw her name on the list and something drew me to her.

Her first name, flowing and never-ending, reminds me of a river or a rushing brook.

But her last?

Quick and strong and powerful.

It’s almost as if it brings the flowing water to a sudden stop.

Everly March.

Everly March.

Everly March.

I say her name over and over again. Who are you? And why did you bring me here?

I scan the room in search of her and it doesn’t take me long. I walk by people, leaning in and listening until I hear her name.

I stand a little bit away from her, just enough so that I don’t come off as a creep. And I watch and wait until her date leaves her side.

I finish a drink and get another. I continue to wait.

It is these moments that I return to over and over again, when we are apart.

The shine of her hair.

The snugness of her dress around her hips.

The way she scrunched her shoulders down, either out of shyness, or anxiety, or just to stay warm.

Her high cheekbones and large bright eyes make her face radiate and I find myself drawn to her.

It takes everything in my power to keep my distance. It’s not that I want her, which I do, but it’s more that I want to meet her.

Her beauty is effortless, and I immediately feel the pull of attraction.

But the pull is more than that.

It’s like there’s a gravitational pull around her.

She is the sun and she’s drawing me to her.

When I can’t stand not being close to her any longer, her date finally leaves.

There’s my opening, my chance.

I approach her carefully, not because I’m afraid of spooking her, but I’m afraid of what that would do to me.

“Hello, there,” I say softly from behind.

I see her considering one of the options from the silent auction.

The one she’s looking at is offered by a family friend of my father’s.

“Considering bidding on that yachting weekend in Newport?” I ask.

She turns around and examines me carefully. Her eyes narrow, then relax, and then she gives me a smile.

“Yes, that’s right,” she says with a tinge of sarcasm. “The highest bid is probably around $100,000. So, I’d have to work two and a half years at my current job and save every penny just to match it.”

Of all the ways I’d thought this conversation could’ve possibly gone, this was not it.

I don’t know who I expected to get, but this woman with a strong wit and a sharp tongue was not it.

Her reaction amuses me; it draws me in even more.

I can’t help but give her a wink.

“I’m Easton,” I say, holding out my hand and waiting for the moment when she will finally let me touch her.

The moment is all too brief, unfortunately.

Before I even have a chance to say another word, her date comes back. It’s as if he was waiting, watching.

He wraps his arm firmly around her waist.

She is mine, his body language says. Stay away. Keep away. Get the fuck away.

I look at him and watch as his nostrils flare out.

His eyebrows furrow, his jealousy is about to be pushed over the edge.

I see him getting closer to that edge and I want to push him over it.

I want her to see the coward that he really is.

I want her to see that this isn’t the good kind of possessiveness, the kind that makes a woman feel wanted. No, he is all weakness and he knows it.

“Easton, this is my…friend…Jamie.”

She pauses in the middle, considering just the right description for what he is.

She does not use the word date, but friend.

This does not go unnoticed.