This time he’s playing for keeps.
The Mastermind, a standalone novella set in the Rivers Wilde World from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Dylan Allen and 1,001 Dark Nights is now available!
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.
**Every 1,001 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.**
He cuts through the crowd of people in glamorous garb, crystal cut tumblers or fragile flutes in their wildly gesticulating hands. Yet they seem to move just as he wants them to so that he doesn’t need to turn sideways to accommodate his broad shoulders or taper his remarkably long strides.
Long strides that are bringing him straight toward me.
I barely have time to spin around before he’s right behind me.
“Scotch on the rocks,” he tells the bartender when he slides onto the empty barstool next to me. I disguise my gasp as a cough, place a hand on the bar to steady myself, and stare straight ahead.
The young man nods and grabs a glass. “We’ve got Macallan 18 for the masses, but I’ve got a bottle of Craigelachhie that might be more to your taste.”
“I don’t really care, whichever,” he responds in a voice that’s not rude but doesn’t match the adoration in the server’s. Undeterred, the young man leans forward across the bar and lowers his voice to a loud whisper. “I know you’ve been gone a while, but I’m still a huge fan, Mastermind. Can I snap a selfie?”
To my surprise, Omar doesn’t rebuff the bartender. “Only if you promise you won’t post it for a bit. No one knows I’m in London yet, and I’d like to keep it that way for just a few more weeks.”
I watched an interview from very early on in his career when he was asked about his dislike of public availabilities.
He explained that he understood it was part of the job. So he did it. “I play for the love of the game, and if I had my way, I wouldn’t do any interviews at all. I don’t even know why you want to interview me. I say everything I need to out on that pitch. I get it. I had sports heroes, too. But when they fall off the pedestals you put them on, you swoop in and eat them alive.”
That interview would prove prescient when he left Chelsea years later. The press tore him to shreds for sitting out an entire season, leaving as soon as he became a free agent and basically abandoning London, his fans, and his team.
He still doesn’t talk to the press regularly, but he doesn’t leave their accusations unanswered. He became his own press secretary and posted videos on social media pushing back on false headlines. And when they lost interest, he started sharing his private pictures. And sued newspapers that used his images without his permission.
I watch the exchange between him and the bartender out of the corner of my eye and am giddy that the wickedly sweet dimple is as deep as I’d imagined. And God, I want to lick it. One day, my pretty.
This has to be a sign. He’s so far out of my league, I shouldn’t be able to see him. And at the pub, I wouldn’t dare approach him.
But here I am, close enough to see and touch. And I look good tonight. I’m glad I took special care to send my most fashionable friend off.
The bustier I invested in makes my otherwise unimpressively small breasts look their very best in the very low neckline of my scarlet red minidress. It’s hugging every inch of a body that even CrossFit and a vegan diet couldn’t kill the curves on.
The lighting in this ballroom sets off the healthy glow of my bare legs, shoulders, décolletage, and back that is courtesy of my homemade sugar scrub. It leaves me smelling like a tropical garden at midnight.
Liquid courage and my heels give me height and confidence that override my nerves, and I shoot my shot.
“Do you want to dance?” I ask loudly so there’s no way he won’t hear me.
Those wolf eyes slant down to look at me, unblinking, the smile he’d given the bartender long gone. There’s no flicker of recognition, but there’s no mistaking the interest as he stares at me. He’s never done more than look past me at the pub, so I don’t know why I’m disappointed that he doesn’t recognize me.
“Excuse me? I didn’t hear you,” he says when he finally speaks. His voice. It’s deep, smooth—no gravel but a lot of bass. And is there anything sexier than an American accent? I smile as widely as I can manage, the punters at the Effra call it my traffic stopping smile. Then I break my golden rule and repeat myself. “Would you like to dance?”
He doesn’t return my smile, and when he turns to look at the dance floor, that scowl reappears. “I don’t dance,” he comments without looking back at me.
I follow his gaze. “Childhood trauma on the dance floor?” I ask with a teasing grin.
His lips tug up a little, but he doesn’t smile. “No. General observation. People look ridiculous when they dance.”
I can’t deny that. But I shake my head in disagreement. “They’re having fun, not putting on a show.”
He shrugs. “That’s not my idea of fun. Like I said, I don’t dance.” He reaches into his jacket pocket, pulls out his phone, and glances at it. He gives me a quick, stiff smile. “I’m sorry, but I have to take this call.” He doesn’t sound sorry at all and doesn’t wait for me to respond before he walks off.
“Ouch,” the bartender drawls, and I want to glare at him and tell him I didn’t ask for his feedback. But he’s so right I can’t be mad.
“I know,” I groan.
“For what it’s worth, if I wasn’t working I wouldn’t have said no.” He grins, and I wish I was attracted to him instead of Omar.
I smile gratefully and take the refill he hands me. But a few sips of it while swaying by myself to a song I’ve never heard before only makes me feel worse.
I put my glass on the tray of a passing server and head to the coat check to collect my things.
About Dylan Allen
Dylan Allen is a Texas girl with a serious case of wanderlust.
A self-proclaimed happily ever junkie, she loves creating stories where her characters chase their own happy endings.
When she isn’t writing or reading, eating or cooking, she and her family are planning their next adventure.
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