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Fade

It’s been two years since Lily lost her boyfriend in a random shooting. When a prestigious university extends her a job offer, she has the chance to put her demons to rest and start anew—at least until she meets the school’s irresistible president. Can Lily trust a new man with her love, or will his dark secrets only lead to more heartbreak?

Age Rating: 18+

 

Fade by Haley Ladawn is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

Summary

It’s been two years since Lily lost her boyfriend in a random shooting. When a prestigious university extends her a job offer, she has the chance to put her demons to rest and start anew—at least until she meets the school’s irresistible president. Can Lily trust a new man with her love, or will his dark secrets only lead to more heartbreak?

Age Rating: 18+

Original Author: Haley Ladawn

LILY

“I’m dead, Lily. You have to let me go.”

I was staring at Connor, my best friend, my favorite musician, the love of my life, as two men held a gun to his head.

I tried to make out their faces, but they were shrouded in the dark. Only their mobster outfits, their long trench-coats, and gleaming black sunglasses stood out.

I tried to reach for him…to tell him I loved him…to tell him I would never let him go.

But it was too late.

A moment later, I heard a click and the roar of gunfire as Connor slumped down in front of me. Dead.

They killed him.

Again.

“Every night you will see this,” one of the mobsters growled in his low Italian accent, removing his sunglasses. “Every night you will relive this moment. Until we kill you next.”

He turned and aimed his gun at me.

For a moment, I was sure I could see my assailant’s face.

His rough jaw…his ocean blue eyes…his smoldering looks…how could I possibly be attracted to the man who had killed my boyfriend, who was about to kill me next?

“Sweet dreams, Fiorella,” he whispered.

His finger curled around the trigger, the last noise I heard was a loud BANG and–

***

I screamed. Woken again by the same memory—the worst night of my life; the night I lost everything.

My sheets were soaked through with sweat. How many times had I had this nightmare in the two years since Connor was killed?

Too many to count.

I hugged my bare knees to my chest and rocked myself forward, wiping the tears away with my forearm.

Of course, that wasn’t how it had happened in real life. We’d been on stage in a local dive, Connor playing guitar, me singing, when the lights went out and I heard the gunfire.

I don’t know why I always pictured these two mobsters, talking to me, threatening me, but I guess that was just how my mind made sense of the senseless.

When someone you love is taken from you, it’s like your world has ended.

The hardest part was not knowing who really shot Connor or why. Why would anyone want to hurt someone so pure and good?

All I could think about were those shadowy men with their trench coats and dead-eyed stares. The ones who looked like mobsters.

Why they would have wanted to kill Connor, I had no idea.

But somehow, I couldn’t shake the feeling they were responsible.

Not that it mattered now. I checked the time on my phone screen: 12:03 p.m.

I looked around my messy bedroom, at the clothes thrown everywhere, old plates of food, lipstick-stained wine glasses—a real pigsty.

It was all I could do these days to haul myself out of bed.

But even when someone you love dies, life keeps going, and you have to carry on.

I swung my legs over the side of the bed and made my way over to the bedroom door, my knees and ankles cracking as my legs began to wake up.

I reached the stairs and made my way down to the kitchen, hoping somehow it had been cleaned while I slept, and I wouldn’t find it in the same state as my bedroom.

I was wrong. If anything, it was worse. The smell definitely was.

It smelled like a burnt strawberry Pop-Tart, and there was a good chance that was exactly what it was.

Elisa, my best friend and Connor’s step-sister, promised she would come over soon to give me a hand with cleaning.

Elisa Rhodes was as good a friend as any girl could wish for. Crazy, passionate, and devoted. A real keeper.

With her blonde wavy hair, doe eyes, and her full lips always sporting a wine-colored shade, she was most men’s idea of sexy. Unlucky for most men, Elisa had a boyfriend.

For now.

She was never very good at keeping them.

Connor’s death, we had become extremely close. We each knew what the other was going through.

Though, some days, like today, it was hard to remember that.

Still wearing nothing but a Hello Kitty pajama top I should have thrown away years ago, I filled up a glass of water from the tap, the sink below overflowing with dirty dishes.

I took a gulp, hoping to clear my head.

“Morning, darling!” my mom called, wandering past me into the sitting room in her bright orange dressing gown. “Any chance of getting some of those dishes cleaned today?”

“Yeah, sorry, Mom, I’ll make sure I get to it this afternoon.”

It was at that moment, as I was cursing my luck, a letter plopped through the mail slot.

As I headed over to retrieve it, I recognized the emblem on the envelope:

Santoro Court College! A prestigious, elite private school, and every girl’s dream institution.

But why were they sending letters to me?

“Mom…?” I began, following her into the living room with the letter in my hands.

“Yes, darling?”

“I’ve got a letter…”

“That’s a bit unusual nowadays, isn’t it?” my mother teased.

“It’s from Santoro Court College,” I replied, still stunned, my eyes unmoving from the emblem on the envelope.

“Santoro, really?” my mom answered, her high-pitched response mimicking my own surprise. “You didn’t tell me you’d applied there!”

“That’s because I didn’t,” I mumbled, confused as I tore open the letter and read quickly. “That’s strange. It’s not about enrollment. It’s an interview for an internship there.”

“An internship?” my mom asked, even more surprised. “I didn’t realize you were looking for employment.”

“I told you, I’m not! I wasn’t! I…”

I didn’t know what the hell was going on. Ever since the shooting, I’d mostly stuck to myself, staying in the safety of my home, doing remote work and digital odd-jobs.

The idea I would have to venture out into the real world…it was scary. But also exciting.

Why had Santoro Court College given me an interview for an internship I hadn’t even applied for? I intended to find out.

LILY
Elisa, Guess what
ELISA
what?
ELISA
come on! spit it out.
LILY
I’ve got an interview for an internship at Santoro Court College!
ELISA
ELISA
OMG Lil that's amazing, that place has an awesome reputation.
ELISA
why didn’t you tell me you applied????
LILY
I didn’t apply! That’s the weird thing
ELISA
ELISA
spooky!
ELISA
when is it?
LILY
Tomorrow at 2
ELISA
Good thing I’m free
ELISA
I’ll come over and make sure your hair isn’t all over the place as usual
ELISA
P.S. wear the red bra we bought last week, can’t hurt your chances

“Hi, I’m here for the interview. The one at two o'clock.” My voice shook slightly as I spoke to the receptionist, already feeling like an imposter before the interview had even begun.

Did they think I was someone else?

Why had I, Lily James, been invited to interview for an internship at one of America’s most prestigious schools when I hadn’t even applied?

And the building! With its dark wooden fixtures, Renaissance paintings, and overbearing statues, it was without a doubt one of the most lavish places I had ever had the pleasure of being in.

I smoothed down my skirt nervously, wondering when the last time I’d washed this one was.

“Excellent! You're right on time. The elevator is over there in the corner, Mr. Santoro's office is on the eleventh floor—you can't miss it!”

The drop-dead gorgeous receptionist flashed me her perfect smile, and I made my way toward the elevator doors.

Mr. Santoro… So, that was the name of the man who was about to interview me.

But why me? Still, I did not know.

I stepped inside and thumbed the number eleven. Top floor.

The doors slid shut, sealing my fate.

I let out a nervous breath and checked myself in the mirror.

To give her credit, Elisa had done a brilliant job. My hair looked amazing, tied up in a serious bun, and my cleavage…

Well, as long as Mr. Santoro was straight, I stood a pretty good chance.

A high-pitched ding announced the elevator had reached its destination.

I took one last deep breath and stepped out, trying my best not to trip over in my heels.

I should have just cut my losses and worn pumps.

An extra three inches wasn’t going to get me the job!

The receptionist was right—you couldn't miss Mr. Santoro's office. We were in the eaves of the college, and there was only one door on the eleventh floor.

A gold plaque on the door read:

Elliot Santoro, President.

I knocked, the sound of my knuckles echoing through the empty hall.

Nothing. No response, only silence.

Just as I was about to check if I had gotten out on the right floor, an answer:

“Are you just going to wait outside?” The man’s voice reverberated through the closed door with the force of a lion.

What kind of man could make such a noise?

I couldn’t shake the feeling that coming here had been a giant mistake.

Even so, I drew myself tall and entered the lion’s den.

When I saw the man who stood before me, my jaw hit the floor.

He was a stack of muscles, and tattoos, and surging masculinity. Six-foot-five easily. With coffee black hair, and deep blue eyes.

Eyes that reminded me so much of my nightmare…

As if the man before me was the man responsible for killing Connor, for haunting my dreams, for making my heart break into a million pieces…

And, strangely, making me wet at the same time…

Was this man.

But that couldn’t be possible, could it?

The man who stood before me looked more like a mob boss than a college president!

He’d clearly just finished a workout. Sweat stained his grey Adidas tracksuit, and his muscles bulged. It was hard not to be intimidated by his form.

“Hello, Mr. Santoro, I’m Lily.” I could barely get the words out.

I was still in shock from the incredible good looks of the Adonis who stood before me.

“I won’t remember your name,” he responded, with a strong Italian accent and a dismissive wave. “What are you here for?”

I should have been offended. I should have turned and walked out the door without looking back. But I was frozen.

The man possessed me with his eyes, checking out every inch of me, from head to toe.

His blue eyes lingered on my breasts for what seemed like an eternity.

Elisa had been right about the bra.

Normally, it would have thrilled me for a man who looked like him, with his distinguished jaw and broad, heaving frame, to look at me for so long.

But with this man?

With this man, it was impossible to feel comfortable. His eyes burned into mine with the intensity of a fire.

“I’m here for the interview,” I told him foolishly.

His lips stretched into a smirk.

“Good,” he said, cocking his eyebrow, looking dangerous but also sexy as hell. “Let’s get started.”

And with that, Elliot Santoro stood up, took off his shirt, and began to step toward me.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

ELLIOT

It was time to see what this girl was made of.

As I stood up and began to strip, I watched her stare, her cheeks flushed, her mouth agape, and reveled in the reaction I had on her.

Women always reacted this way to me.

When you’re 100% man, what can they do but salivate at the mouth, and beg for a taste?

I flexed my strained muscles.

Having a gym space installed in my office was the best decision I’d ever made.

How was a man supposed to run his business if he kept on having to take time out to get down to the gym?

Of course, the other University Presidents I’d met over the years were mostly pipsqueaks and dweebs.

They weren’t running more than one business at once.

They knew nothing of danger…of crime…of death.

Unlike yours truly. In my line of work, intimidation was half the battle, and a man always needs to be at his ripped best.

It comes with the territory.

The redhead stood there, staring as I moved toward her. She had a nice rack, but I wanted to see what else I was working with.

As I moved closer, I took in every one of her curves, appreciating the view. I couldn’t wait to see what she could do with them.

“Mr…Mr. Santoro?” she stuttered like an idiot. “What’s going on?”

I loved when they played coy.

She was about to find exactly what was going on.

“Cat got your tongue?” I asked, smirking.

I looked forward to seeing how she responded next.

The game was just beginning.

LILY

Clearly, this was not going to be a normal interview.

I had come to Elliot Santoro’s office with a million questions.

What was this internship exactly?

How much would I be paid—I was low on cash and could seriously use some—and were benefits included?

Most importantly, why had I been invited to interview without even applying?

But at the sight of him stripping, all my questions disappeared. I was too shocked and, if I’m being honest, impressed to formulate a coherent idea.

Mr. Santoro was a beast.

He had muscles in places I didn’t know you could have muscles, and his whole body was covered in a light sheen from the workout he’d been doing.

He pulled his top up and over his mountainous shoulders, and I felt my heart skip a beat.

I tried to focus on making a good impression for the interview that was about to happen—if that even was happening.

But, seriously, when a man like that begins to strip in front of you, it’s hard to keep your mind straight!

The sheer size of the man was frightening. I tried not to make it obvious that I'd been staring and glanced around his office.

It was clear, business was only a small part of the room I was in.

The rest was built for pleasure.

To one side there was a shiny new gym, complete with a state-of-the-art treadmill and weights equipment. To the other, leather armchairs, a billiards table, and a mahogany-topped bar.

How on earth does this guy make his money?

“Miss?” His thick Italian accent caressed my ears, reminding me he had completely dismissed the fact I had a name.

I turned back to Mr. Santoro and felt the temperature in the room rise up a notch. Whereas a second earlier he had just been topless, now, he was down to only his briefs.

Calvin Kleins. Good taste.

The fabric hugged his perfectly formed thighs and glutes. I pretended not to notice his mouth-watering bulge.

“Yes, Mr. Santoro?” I replied, trying to appear as calm, cool, and collected as possible.

His figure may have been inviting, but his demeanor was anything but. Everything behind his eyes was sinister and cold.

“I’m a little sweaty and need to freshen up. Stand by the shower so we may begin.”

“You mean…the interview is going to happen while you’re…?”

Before I could say another word, he dropped the Calvin Kleins down to his ankles.

I overpowered my innermost urges and kept my eyes above the danger line.

He turned around and stepped into a small glass shower in the corner of the gym area.

The steam, thankfully, obscured his manhood.

“Must I repeat myself? Come closer,” he ordered.

This was beyond unprofessional. If I was being honest, I knew this was a lawsuit waiting to happen.

How a man of power like Elliot Santoro thought he could get away with this kind of behavior in these modern times…it was mind-blowing.

Still.

I wasn’t leaving.

Surely, that said something about him or me or the world we lived in. I wasn't sure. But I knew I needed the money and I had a high tolerance for fuckery.

The dominant male kind or otherwise.

I could put up with a little old-fashioned power play. But I was going to stand my ground.

“I feel more comfortable standing here, Mr. Santoro,” I said. “Would you mind telling me what exactly this internship is? What will be expected of me?”

“A bit of this, a bit of that,” he said, scrubbing himself. “It’s mostly secretarial in nature. About serving me. Personally.”

I had an idea what he meant by serving him personally.

And no way was I signing up for that.

I might only be nineteen, with no skill set other than a great voice I never used anymore, but I was not about to be some President’s plaything.

No matter how good looking this man might be, I was not about to give in to my lustful urges and forsake my dignity. Especially given the fact I was still a virgin.

I had saved myself for Connor. And now that he was dead and gone, I didn’t know who I was saving it for.

But I knew one thing–the man who looked like he might’ve been responsible, at least according to my dreams, would not be the one.

He turned off the showerhead, and an eerie silence filled the room.

“So?” he finally said, as he wiped the face off the glass, revealing his steely eyes staring right into mine. “Are you interested?”

It also cleared a direct line of sight to his nether regions. I managed to look away just in time.

But even in the periphery of my vision, I could see what the man was packing.

That is one hell of an instrument.

I swallowed, feeling perspiration start to prickle at my scalp.

“I, uh, I would need to know more first,” I stammered. “The salary. The benefits.”

“There are plenty of benefits…”

Elliot Santoro moved out from behind the shower cubicle, beads of water running from his hair down his chest, past his glistening stomach, and dripping onto the floor.

“And plenty of money if you perform your services well,” he continued, causing the beat of my heart to quicken.

Now, I knew for certain: he expected me to be some sort of sexual servant. This wasn’t an interview. This was a come-on. And the strangest one I’d ever experienced.

“I’m not that kind of girl,” I said, clenching my fists.

“We’ll see about that,” he said, smirking. “Maybe there is more to you than meets the eye.”

“I doubt there is anything more to you,” I retorted, sounding braver than I felt. “Easy to trap a girl in your fancy office and force her to do what you want, isn’t it?”

His eyes flashed with venom as the veins on his throat and forehead bulged. Clearly, he wasn’t used to women speaking to him that way.

But just like that, it was gone. He swallowed his rage and let out a faint chuckle.

“Force is a funny word,” he said. “People often mistake it with applying pressure. You are more than welcome to walk out right now. You could have five minutes ago. But you stayed. Why?”

He had a point. I froze as he wrapped a towel around his waist and sat down in his office chair, examining me closely.

“I was waiting for the interview to begin,” I said, feeling stupid.

“It began the moment you stepped through that door. But you knew that already, didn’t you?”

He continued to look me up and down like I was parked on a used car lot. I glared back, not even vaguely in the mood to be ogled like a piece of meat.

I finally broke the man’s hypnotic spell and grounded myself.

“Thank you for your time, Mr. Santoro,” I gritted out through my teeth. “But I don’t think this is the right fit. For either of us.”

With that, I turned and made my way over to the door. No matter how good this job might be, nothing would make it worth having to work for a man like this.

A man who was all man, sure, but one with zero decency.

My hand brushed the door handle as I felt him move. For a man of his enormous frame, he made barely any sound. He must have been incredibly fast and light on his feet.

But I felt him.

The air around us moved as he moved, as his expensive liquor-and-cigar scent…even after a shower…filled my nostrils.

He didn’t lay a finger on me, but stood close enough to feel his breath on the back of my neck.

I knew all that separated us were my clothes and his towel. It was exhilarating and terrifying at once.

“You give up so easily,” he growled. “Don’t you know, working for me requires stamina?”

“I just said—”

“Look at me, Fiorella.”

Fiorella. That word. Why did it sound so familiar? Why did it sound so good coming off his tongue as he stood directly behind me?

His bulge gently pressing up against my ass, making me want to roll my eyes back and moan and…

Stop it, Lily, I ordered myself. Get it together.

I slowly turned to stare into his gleaming eyes. “I know you are afraid to say it. To even admit to yourself. But you want this job. You want to be corrupted. To see what it’s like to work for the devil. Don’t you?”

The man was magnetic, irresistible, bringing me to the brink of Hell itself…and, fuck, did I want to give in to him.

But how far was I willing to fall?

He grabbed my chin and brought his lips near mine. “Well?” he asked, only an inch away. “Are you going to stop me?”

Could I stop him?

Could I stop myself?

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

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