Exclusive excerpt: Black Hearts by Karina Halle

Coming tomorrow is Karina Halle’s newest novel, Black Hearts – the first of a standalone duet whose second installment, Dirty Souls, releases March 17th. So excited to share with you an exclusive sneak peek into the book!

About Black Hearts

For Vicente Bernal, truth is all he’s known. The son of an infamous drug lord, Vicente was born to help run the family business, which means he’s been raised on a throne of sordid pasts and dirty laundry, violence and pride. But when Vicente stumbles across someone he’s not supposed to know about – a woman from his father’s checkered past – he sets out to California to find her behind his father’s back.

What Vicente doesn’t expect to find in San Francisco is Violet McQueen, the woman’s twenty-year old daughter. Beautiful and edgy with a vulnerability he can’t resist, Violet tempts Vicente from afar and though he promised himself he’d stay away from her, curiosity and lust are powerful forces. Besides, Vicente has always gotten everything he wants – why shouldn’t he have Violet too?

Soon his wants turn into an obsession, one that sweeps Violet into his games as they fall madly, deeply in love with each other, the type of first love that can drive a person mad.

But it’s a love with tragic consequences.

Both the truth – and the lies – not only threaten to tear them apart, but threaten their very lives.

Someone has to pay for the sins of the fathers.

And they’ll be paying the price with their souls.

Excerpt

He’s watching me carefully, his eyes gleaming dark in the low light. He lifts the camera up to his face and suddenly I feel his gaze magnified through the lens.

But he doesn’t take a picture. There’s no click. He’s just observing, bringing the focus in and out, the lens in and out.

Oh, god. I’ve never felt so on display before and I’m fully-clothed. I feel like he’s reading me, sorting through the layers, trying to reach the bottom. He doesn’t realize he won’t like what he finds.

I let out a shaky breath and bring my attention back to the cityscape outside the large windows, trying to relax. “Is this all you want me to do? Just sit here?”

He doesn’t answer me at first. Just keeps watching. Like he’s waiting for something and I don’t know what it is.

“How do you feel?” he asks. “Right now.”

“Right now?” I repeat. My veins feel hot, warming my body from the inside. My cheeks have to be flushed red. “I feel…stupid.”

“And?”

“And? Well. I don’t know. I want to finish the champagne.”

“Then finish it.” He comes closer, the lens still at the forefront. I’ve never felt such scrutiny before, never been the subject like this.

I pick up the glass and drink the rest of it, holding it between my fingers, feeling the cold fragility of the stem. I try and concentrate on that feeling instead of everything else that’s going on.

“How do you feel now?”

“Buzzed,” I admit. “Better. But I still don’t know why you’re not taking any photos.”

“Because I don’t believe in wasting shots. I’m waiting.”

“For what?” I ask thickly. He’s shooting on fucking digital.

“To see you.”

I rub my lips together nervously, watching as a low cloud skirts the top of the Transamerica Pyramid. “You don’t see me?”

Again he doesn’t answer. He puts the camera down gently and walks over to me until his thigh is pressed up against my arm.

My breath stills in my throat. I slowly raise my head to look up at him, trying to steady myself so I don’t fall backward onto the armchair.

He reaches down and carefully runs his fingers across my collarbone, soft like feathers, until his hand slips behind my neck. He holds it gently, firmly.

I can barely breathe. Not because he’s choking me, but because the feel of his palm at my neck is rendering me incapable of anything. Any thought. I’m just here and he’s here and I’m feeling everything sink into my skin.

“There,” he murmurs, his voice so rich and low that it coats me from head to toe. “This is you. No thoughts. No inner world. No voices. Just you. Here with me. This is the you I want.”

“You want?” The words leave my lips in a whisper.

Si,” he says. His hand goes up to the base of my ponytail and his other holds the back of my head still as he slips the elastic band through my hair until its cascading loose over my shoulders.

I have to admit, I feel better with it down, almost like it’s armor.

He then crouches until he’s just below me and reaches for the hem of my dress, slowly raising it above my leggings.

“What are you…?” I start to ask but then realize there’s no point.

“I want to see all of you,” he says softly, his eyes meeting mine as he brings the hem of the dress to my waist.

I should ask him what time dinner is. I should tell him things are getting out of hand. I should probably stop him.

But I don’t want to.

I want things to get out of hand.

I’m scared to death of everything that’s happening.

And I’ve never wanted it more.

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