He lives under a golden spotlight.
I’m shackled to a past that must stay hidden.

Omar Solomon is the king of the comeback.
Ten years ago his career as a star athlete ended in injury and scandal.
He may have traded in his cleats for Gucci loafers, but he’s been as victorious in the boardroom as he was on the pitch.

He returns to London, wealthy, influential, and powerful beyond measure.
And he spends every weekend in the pub where I work.
A law student with a night job and a dark past,
I’m hardly the type of woman a man like him would notice.

Or so I thought.

When he offers me a no-strings-attached affair,
I forget all the reasons I should say no.
He’s straight out of my dreams—
with a body and a mouth made for sinning.

Our passion turns my gray existence into a vibrant, colorful life.
But it has an expiration date.

When his time in London is over, we will be, too.
And it will be for the best.
Because he can never find out who I really am.

But my Mastermind has set his sights on a new goal: me.
And this time he’s playing for keeps.

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Excerpt: The Mastermind
By Dylan Allen

Excerpt: The Mastermind

From Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Dylan Allen comes a new story in her Rivers Wilde series. THE MASTERMIND is out now and you can read an excerpt below!

“Congratulations, Juliana,” a hushed voice whispers in my ear, sending wafts of beer and cigarette smoke into my nostrils.

“Conrad?” I turn my head to look over my shoulder, smiling at him for the benefit of everyone else at the table where we’re gathered to celebrate. But my palms grow so damp I don’t dare lift my glass to quench my suddenly dry mouth.

I stand to face him, suddenly grateful for the heels I’ve been cursing all night when they make us nearly the same height. He’s bulkier, grittier, harder than when I last saw him more than four years ago. The beard covering the lower half of his face is so full it obscures his mouth. But the mayhem in the eyes of this ghost from my past life is nothing new. I keep the smile in my voice and on my face, but my eyes are shooting daggers. “What are you doing here?”

He returns my smile with an excited and equally insincere one. “I was passing by and happened to look in the window and saw you and thought, that looks a lot like Juliana. I took a second look, and holy shit, it is you. After all these years, it felt like fate. I had to stop and say hello.”

My stomach plummets to my toes, and I have to focus to keep my breaths from coming faster. “Of course you did.”

He smiles at the table of people behind me, and I wish I could throw a cloak over them and make them disappear. “We’re in the middle of a celebration.” My voice is harsh, even to my own ears.

Beside me, Reena clears her throat. “Jules? Is everything okay?”

I glance at her and nod. “He’s just a friend from home. Give me a minute.”

I’m sure her parents will think me rude not to introduce them, but I don’t care. I’d rather that than give him any more information than he might already have.

I grab his arm and lead him out of the restaurant and into the icy cold evening. I wrap my arms around myself instinctively, but the frigid temperatures barely register as I face the barnacle I can’t seem to scrape loose.

“How did you find me?”

“Luck. Purely. Literally I was walking down from the Tube and saw you going into a gate, dressed in robes and all, so I followed.”

“What do you want?” I snap.

He runs an assessing eye over me, pulls something from his pocket, and unfolds it. It’s the program from this evening. Cream, trifold. That explains the sensation I felt during the ceremony. I thought he was in a prison two hundred miles from here. Clearly, I was wrong. Dread and resignation settle at the same time.

“I thought you still had a year left on your sentence.”

“Good behavior pays off. Who knew?” He grins, flashing his teeth, the deeply pointed canines gleaming sinisterly under the harsh outdoor light.

“Juliana Quist, eh? Nice. I didn’t know they let offenders become lawyers. But I guess that’s why you changed your name? So you didn’t have to tell ‘em? Clever.”

He’s dressed impeccably in a pin stripe grey suit and black wool overcoat. His Chelsea boots gleam, and the gold signet ring on his pinky glints in the same harsh light.

I remember when he wore ragged, threadbare clothes. When his hair was stringy and disheveled, and dirt rimmed his fingernails. He’s come a long way from the boy he’d once been, when no one wanted him around. I’ve come a long way from the girl who thought my neighbors were unkind and selfish to turn their backs on him.

I don’t know how I didn’t see the malignancy of his intent. That I thought he was my friend and trusted him with precious things that he’s used against me ever since.

I thought I was finally free of him when he was arrested four years ago. But here he is, armed with everything he needs to destroy this fragile new beginning.

“How much will it cost me to get rid of you?”

He frowns and touches his chest. “Ouch. I thought we could catch up first. I’ll come back to yours. We’ll have tea—”

“I’ll give you fifty thousand pounds right now. I will buy a plane ticket to anywhere you want to go, tonight, and you will never bother me again.”

“I was going to ask for ten, but fifty sounds much better.” He puts his hand out. “We have a deal.”

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