Francisco Castille, the exiled Duke of Linares, knows his duty. Even in modern times, the line must continue. So he’ll marry and produce an heir.

Yes, a wife will fit into his well-ordered life.

Instead he ends up with the brilliant pianist Isabella. Strong. Spirited. And highly disobedient. She rebels against every custom and every rule, threatening his careful balance.

Francisco never backs away from a challenge.

Isabella never bows down to anyone.

This scorching hot battle of wills may leave both of them broken.

Every 1001 Dark Nights novella is a standalone story. For new readers, it’s an introduction to an author’s world. And for fans, it’s a bonus book in the author’s series. We hope you’ll enjoy each one as much as we do.

Book Type:

Contemporary Romance

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Excerpt: Finale
By Skye Warren

Excerpt: Finale

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Skye Warren comes the next installment in her North Security series. FINALE is out tomorrow, but you can read a sneak peek below!

Lace itches along my arms. A corset restricts my breathing. Garters dig into my thighs. I’m held together by yards of lace and ribbon and satin.

My father appears at my side. He smiles in that real way that crinkles his eyes. “You look beautiful, Isa. I’m so proud of you.”

He means it. This is what makes him proud. Not streamlining Bradley Hotel operations. Not overhauling our financial systems. It’s this. Marrying well.

That’s what makes him proud.

After Francisco left the building, I ran the numbers again. I called the banks again. I rattled the cage of every investor we know, but no one had that kind of liquid money to invest. And so I made the phone call to Francisco, the one he knew I would have to make.

“Thank you, Daddy.” He’ll never know what it costs me to say that. To swallow my fear and my pride. I studied comportment alongside my multiplication tables. Not one of the five hundred people in the cathedral will see the abject terror vibrating inside me.

His cufflinks are gold. I gave them to him on his birthday three years ago. I wonder if that’s why he wore them today. Or if he wore them because they have the Bradley Hotels logo on them. That’s his life. His baby. It’s also the reason I’m walking down the aisle in Paris, France, in the country that will be my new home. Francisco owns his own private plane. He travels extensively, but his home is a chateau in the countryside.

“You’ll be a good wife to him, won’t you?” His expression is odd. Concerned, even.

“Of course,” I say.

“Of course,” my father repeats, looking relieved. “You’ve always been a good girl. And he’ll be a good husband to you.” The last sentence is muttered, almost to himself. As if he’s trying to convince himself that it’s true.

Someone calls to him—I don’t see who—and at that moment my brother appears at his side. He’s unrecognizable from the man he was in that meeting. There’s no bluster, no fight. “You look beautiful,” he says, and then he pitches his voice lower. “Don’t do this. You don’t have to do this. Not for Bradley Hotels. We’ll find another way.”

The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. “I’m about to walk down the aisle.”

“Don’t.”

“Why not?” There are a thousand reasons not to back out. My family’s reputation, for one. The business I’ve worked so hard to save. But I find myself leaning closer to my brother.

“I should have stopped this.” Guilt darkens his expression. “I shouldn’t have been such an asshole in that meeting. I’ve heard things about this guy, Isa. Crazy things. That he’s controlling. That he’s a freak. And if I don’t try to stop you—”

“You can’t stop me. This is done.” I give him my most confident smile. Francisco said some things during our private meeting. He used the word submit. At night you submit to me. If that’s what my brother is afraid of, then it’s not important enough to risk the collapse of the company. A hundred thousand jobs. I’ll trade my body for a hundred thousand jobs.

Even if a knot of fear is forming at the pit of my gut.

“He might—”

The wedding planner interrupts him. She flits around us like a butterfly, making little tweaks to embroidered gauze over my skirt, the tendrils of blonde hair around my face.

Natalie. Her name is Natalie.

She’s murmuring into her headset, so it takes me a moment to realize she’s talking to me. “Are you ready?” she says in a whisper-yell.

I give her my serene smile. I learned it from my mother when I was five years old. Practiced it in front of the mirror with Estee Lauder lipstick on my lips. It’s not only Bradley Hotels on the line. If we were to fail, my younger brother and sisters would suffer. Robin is old enough to take care of himself, but the rest are still in middle school and high school. “Of course.”

Robin nods, defeated. “You look beautiful,” he says again, and then he goes to take his place inside the sanctuary. My dad ends his conversation and turns back to me.

Natalie beams at me. “You’re the calmest bride I’ve ever seen.”

It’s not the first time she’s told me that. Cake tastings and flower samples. Every inch of this wedding has been planned and purchased. It’s the event of the season.

The lights dim in the alcove, the way they do before the opera.

It’s our cue. Electricity moves through the air. It makes the hair on my arms stand up. I hear the muted opening strains of “Canon in D.” A door opens, and we emerge into the main hallway. The flower girl goes first. A distant cousin. I’ve met her twice. Then my bridesmaids. Most of them are family friends. I’ve known them forever, but we don’t hang out. My actual friends, the ones from college or people who work at the shelter—they’re in the audience. They warranted an invite, but not this particular honor.

My mother picked out the wedding party. My father picked the venue.

And my new husband commissioned the dress.

“Shall we?” my father asks, his lips curved like we share an inside joke.

What would he say if I told him no?

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