·Love should be a choice made by the heart...not the government.
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The heartbeat in my ears thrummed louder. I'd never received a red envelope—a request for an interview—one for my possible assigned genetic link: mate. If I listened closely, I heard the surreal sound of my normal life skidding to a halt and felt the tentacles of The Program reach for me, leaving the edges of my dreams to fray until they disappeared.
Jesse leaned over the railing from above. "You coming? We'll only be gone a couple hours, tops, and I swear I won't dump your bony ass overboard." I chomped the corner of my lip, debating. What harm can come from a boat ride? I climbed the stairs, standing toe-to-toe with him. "Two hours. And my ass isn't bony."
Inside my chest my heart stilled; my lungs quieted and sealed just enough air to keep me from fainting. Jordan's fingertips tapped my skin delicately as they moved, almost bashful, along my jaw and wrapped the back of my neck. His lips barely brushed mine, but the spark in the kiss was undeniable—a witness to my soul that a crucial shift in my life just happened.
Jesse drew me closer, his arms a warm shield of armor. "She's not moving an inch closer to you, jackass. I won't let you touch her again with your filthy hands." "Going to keep your brother's mitts off her, too?" Sam smirked. "That's right, you can't. Marli's his 'government issued' property. He can do what he wants with her—things you can only dream about, loverboy."
Jordan's expression hardened, his eyes so cold I shivered when he stared through me. He started for the front door. "So you're walking out on me?" I waited, hoping he'd take me in his arms and ravage my mouth with kisses full of need; tell me he'd never do such a thing. He didn’t. "I think some time apart is needed for both of us."
Tony Peterson's timbre changed to a dangerous resonance. "Miss Davis is not your concern. I will do everything in my power to ensure this transaction succeeds. I can't trust my son to carry through on his own. This is business." My heart smacked my ribs. I was a business transaction? A commodity to be wagered? Tested?
The knife blade danced on the gravel when the assailant dropped it, but when Jesse's body collapsed over it, the pinging stopped. A haunting sound rippled in the air. Half cry, half scream—the shrill resonating through the stillness before falling silent. It took a few seconds for me to connect the wailing with my screaming, as my mind and eyes tied back together, staring at my trembling hands covered in blood—Jesse's blood.
Jesse took my hand. "He must have spent his entire trust fund on this rock. Such a beautiful 'trap.'" I chewed my lip, not realizing I'd curled my fingers around his hand. "Is that a 'yes give me freedom, Jess,' or 'hang on tighter because I've really screwed up?' I can do both, you know." "Why are you being cruel?" "I'm being honest." He leaned closer. "Jordan loves you, I get that. I do too, which we all hate, but the fact is, I can give you what Jordan can't. Freedom."