Free Stuff & ‘Toughest Deal’ Chapter 2

Hey everyone,

This month feels really chaotic and the world feels like a garbage fire again so I wanted to give away some stuff, so FYI ASTERION and KISS OF THE BLOOD PRINCE are going to be Free on the 23rd of November in all Kindle stores.

In other fun news, ‘Toughest Deal’ is also finished and gone to the editors to begin the polishing process. I’m planning on releasing it in the first week of January. I’ve also started planning out my final bits of ‘Deepest Cut’ which is so exciting I can wait to start writing it.

And because I love you, and we all need some dopamine, here is Chapter Two of ‘Toughest Deal’ to get you excited to be jumping back into this world (hehehehe omg this book).

***

Chapter Two

Julian Burbank had been twenty-five years old when he realized he liked beautiful, ancient objects more than he enjoyed being a gangster.

He’d had the revelation quite suddenly while beating the life out of a mercenary a few years younger than him. The cocky little shit had offered to help him kill the gang he was indebted to for a split of whatever was in their safe.

Julian had gotten rid of the shitty gang members he despised, and gained equity, to start his new life in one bold move. Silas Edgeworth had been his dearest friend ever since.

It was because of the Edgeworths that he’d recently been in Istanbul and embroiled in violence and magic and intrigue. Julian had returned to England after Gadal’s head exploded so spectacularly, and for the first time, he was finding life incredibly dull.

One couldn’t learn that magic existed and see it being used without it changing something fundamental inside of them. Now, everything and everyone that he thought he enjoyed wasn’t enough. 

The real problem was, for the first time in his life, Julian wanted something he couldn’t buy, barter, or beat into submission.

He had money, beautiful possessions, a list of equally beautiful casual lovers that would cater to his every whim.

None of it was satisfying because none of it was Altun Baruk. She was a venomous forbidden fruit he longed to taste at his own peril and had been denied. She had become a killer combo of fascination and obsession for him.

The one time they had eaten alone together, Julian had been so entranced by Altun he had offered her anything he owned in exchange for a single night with her. She had smiled indulgently at him, and told Julian he had nothing she wanted.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Julian had set about trying to find something to get her attention. Julian’s exceptional talent was when he fixated on having something, nothing would stop him from getting it. If he needed to discover an impossible object to get Altun into his sphere once more, he would do it.

In fact, he might have already. The object burned in his pocket like a dirty secret, waiting for him to whisper in Altun’s ear.

Julian pulled his attention away from the sorceress of Istanbul and back to the small, softly spoken Italian man in front of him. He wore wire-rimmed glasses and a finely tailored suit. His employer had a Veronese painting that he wanted Julian to appraise.

“You would have to come to Florence yourself,” the man was saying. “My employer doesn’t like his art leaving his house. We would pay for all of your expenses for the trouble.”

Julian rubbed at his chin, considering the proposal. Maybe a trip to Italy would help alleviate the malaise he had been suffering from. Julian was tired of his world being in black and white, and Italy always had a way of…

Voices rose from outside of his office doors. It was quite the feat because Julian not only had a decorative wooden door, but an inner security door made of steel. Cressida, his receptionist, was squeaking in a raised and panic voice with enough volume to cut through both of them.

“I do apologize, signor,” Julian began, when the inner door blew open. His world flooded with color as his obsession walked in.

Altun was as radiant and luminescent as an exotic spider. She was wearing an emerald green velvet wrap dress that clung to her dangerous curves, and a black cape jacket. On anyone else, it would have made them look like a Bond villain. Altun looked like a Byzantine queen. She glanced down at the owlish man, who visibly shrunk inwards.

“Get out of my chair,” Altun demanded. The man scrambled out of the office as Cressida came in.

“Mr. Burbank, I’m so sorry, she just—” she began, her pretty face pink with frustration.

Julian held up a hand. “Enough. Please shut the doors. I’ll deal with her.”

Altun’s burgundy painted mouth quirked in a way that said she very much doubted it. Cressida let out a small huff of anger before slamming the doors behind her.

“Very mature. Are you sure she’s old enough to be legal? Might want to check that before she tries to fuck you,” Altun said sweetly.

“She can try all she likes, but I don’t fuck employees, love. Drink?” Julian got out of his chair and poured them both a scotch. He needed to do something other than stare at Altun’s golden brown skin and vicious eyes.

Altun was the kind woman that only got more alluring as they got older. She didn’t have a flashy beauty, like Cressida’s unlined, youthful radiance. Altun carried herself with the confidence of someone who was truly comfortable in their own skin and knew how to wield her physicality like a weapon. It was like comparing bubblegum vodka to a rich, smokey scotch.

Julian loved scotch. The more rare and aged, the better.

“I have to admit, Burbank, I thought your office would be a lot more extravagant than this,” Altun said, crossing her legs. Her dark eyes took in the bookshelves, the safe, and the few expensive paintings he had on the dark gray walls.

Julian passed her a crystal glass of scotch. “I’m not stupid enough to keep the good stuff in such an obvious place.”

He could smell her perfume; pepper and blue lotus and the cloves from her spicy little cigars. It was sharp and sensual and utterly unique.

Julian sat back behind his desk, needing the barrier between them. She sipped the amber liquid.

“What can I do for you, Baruk?” Julian asked.

Altun’s gaze sharpened. “Do you still have it?”

“You’ll have to be a little more specific, love.”

“Dee’s necklace,” Altun replied. She leaned forward and placed her glass down on the edge of his desk, giving him a tantalizing view straight down the front of her dress. “Do you have any idea what it truly is?”

Julian knew, but he still shrugged. “Enlighten me.”

“It could be John Dee’s fourth seeing stone. He claimed the stone was left for him by the angels and was one of his most prized possessions. Show it to me, and I’ll tell you if it’s authentic,” she replied.

“Hmm, I bought it because I thought it was pretty.”

Altun’s smile widened. “No, you didn’t. Stop playing coy and show me.”

Julian reached into his pocket, pulled out the red box, and placed it on the desk in front of her. Altun opened it and stared at the necklace. After a long moment, she tentatively placed a finger on the stone. Her face shifted, her eyes glassing over. She shuddered and snapped the box closed.

“It’s genuine,” she said, and drained her drink. She got up and poured herself another one. “Fuck. Do I want to know where you found it?”

“Probably not. The guy was like a hundred years old and didn’t want to part with it, but his manor needed a new roof more than a magus’s trinket.”

Altun walked back over to the desk and leaned against it with her hip. She sipped her drink. “Was this bait for me or for Dee?”

Julian leaned back in his chair. “Couldn’t it be both?”

“It would be better in my hands than hers,” Altun said. She tilted her head, studying him. “You’re not a charity, so what you want for it?”

“My asking price is still the same, Altun.” Julian looked her over from her black high heels to her glossy dark curls. He smiled his shark smile. “Twenty – four hours with you. Anything goes.”

Altun looked at the fine gold watch on her wrist. “I’ll give you one hour.”

“Deal,” Julian said quickly. Her mouth popped open in surprise.

“What?”

“An hour, starting now.” Julian got to his feet and strode over to his office doors. He opened them and said to the people in his waiting room, “Sorry, something has come up. Cressida? Hold my calls. I’m not to be disturbed for the next hour.” He shut the doors again and locked both of them.

Altun was staring at him like he was crazy. If only she knew.

Julian pulled out his phone, set a timer, and placed it on the desk. He took off his suit jacket and hung it neatly over the back of a chair.

His smile was vicious and triumphant. “I know exactly what I’m going to do with you.

***

Ooof Julian and Altun are fucking FIRE in this book, I’m not even exaggerating a little bit. If you havent ventured into this world yet, you can check it out right here.

Don’t forget to tell your mates about the free days, and make sure you’re being kind to yourself and others,

Alessa xx

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