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Prologue

Ivy

He looks at me with such longing in his eyes that it rips me apart inside. He’s everything I have ever wanted. That’s why it hurts so much to know that he can never be mine. His devotion belongs to another, even if I’m the one he desires. We both live in a shared state of agony, but I can’t ask him to be someone he’s not. He is an honorable man. He gave her his word. Despite what we feel for each other, whatever this is between us can never happen.

I’m about to walk away but he stops me by whispering my name. The yearning in his voice is impossible to ignore, but I can’t give in to him. If he cheats on her, he’ll never forgive himself. No matter what I do, it’ll end up driving us apart. Maybe I should be weak and fall into his arms. At least then I’d have a beautiful memory to hold on to. Is there any hope of a future for the two of us? All I know is that falling prey to this temptation would crush any possibility. I refuse to have him hate me later for the pleasure of having his body consume me now.

He calls me back, pleading with me to remain. No one else is here. The door is closed. He can take me right here on the table. His jacket is already off. My fingers could remove his shirt in seconds, exposing his trim torso. He could be on top of me, fully igniting the fire that is running through my veins. He’s putting himself on the line for me, sacrificing everything he believes in for one stolen moment. It’s not enough, even if it seems like it is. We both deserve more.

My resolve falters when he moves closer to me. My body aches for his touch. To place my lips on his is the only thing I dream about. I can lose myself in his embrace. I never thought I’d feel this way about anyone. We could be so good together. So why does it have to be like this?

His breath catches as he skims his fingers across my face. I close my eyes, unable to look at him. I’ve never wanted someone so much in my entire life. My body responds, craving more. His touch is driving me wild as his hand travels through my hair before resting on my waist. As he draws me against his chest, I struggle not to wrap my arms around him. His mouth is pressed to my ear, urging me to surrender to him. He thinks he’ll always feel like this about me but he’s wrong. The guilt would overwhelm him in the end.

Using every last ounce of willpower I possess, I release myself from his hold. He groans in protest sliding his fingers through mine to prevent my escape. Raising his fingers to my lips, I kiss each knuckle, imploring him to let me go. Slowly, he relaxes his grip as my hand falls across his chest. With tears streaming down my face, I physically push him away from me. The sorrow radiating from his eyes engulfs me. He has to understand I’d never reject him. It’s all because of the circumstances we find ourselves in, but I can already feel him withdrawing from me.

He’s an all-or-nothing kind of guy. If he’s forced to live without me, he’ll cut every trace of me from his life. It’ll be like we never existed, and that’s something I’m not strong enough to handle—not yet.

My legs tremble and the room starts to spin. I’m shut out of his gaze. He squares his shoulders, determined. He knows what he has to do. I hear him swallow as he attempts to keep his emotions in check. I’m making him do something that goes against everything he feels is right. I’m asking him to make what he considers an unforgivable sacrifice.

But I know him. Giving in to his passion is not what’s good for him. He always stands by those he protects. He never shirks his duty or unburdens himself of his responsibilities. He must still have feelings for her. I have to believe that or I will go insane. I want nothing more than for him to be happy even if it’s without me. I need to know he can go on from this. I can’t be the one holding him back.

I can no longer see his face. He’s almost at the door