Friday, October 3, 2014

The Sinner's Bargain by Claire Contreras

We're celebrating the release of The Sinner's Bargain by Claire Contreras! We have an excerpt and some teasers to entice you, so be sure to let us know what you think!

Author: Claire Contreras
Age group: Adult
Genre: Dark Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Najla Qamber


Being pulled in different directions, Amara must choose what she wants to believe and whom she'll trust.


The squeak of the bedroom door opening alerted Amara  of his presence. She’d learned to sleep lightly, always expecting his unannounced visits. Squinting her eyes as unwanted light from the living room seeped in, she propped herself up on her elbows.
“What now?” she croaked, as Colin’s figure approached her bed.
He thought it was his prerogative to visit her at any time he liked.  According to him, he could do with her as he pleased. He hadn’t touched her, though. Even after a full week, he still hadn’t touched her. She wasn’t sure if she should be upset or thrilled about that, but the uncertainty didn’t last very long. Amara had bigger things to worry about, like her mother’s health and the fact that she still had to go to Wicked, Méchant’s American company, without Colin finding out.
It wasn’t the fairytale she’d dreamed up for herself when she’d imagined being with him again…probably because she wasn’t with him at all. It felt more like she simply existed in his world, but nothing more.
 “Just checking to see if you’re still here,” Colin responded, as he reached the foot of the bed and sat down heavily.
“Where would I go?” she asked, leaning up on her elbows to look at him. Even though she couldn’t see him clearly in the dark, she saw his shrugging movement.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure what women who sell their bodies for money are in the habit of doing,” he said. His tone was lighter now, but still had a bite to it that made her cringe.
“Maybe you should go home and ask Molly.”
Colin was quiet for a while. “Why did you do it? Why didn’t you ask me for help if you needed it?”
Amara sighed and plopped back onto her pillow. She could smell the alcohol and cigar smoke on his breath. The only time he wasn’t hostile toward her these days, was when he was drunk,  often enough now, especially at night. She probably didn’t owe him an answerit’s not like he actually caredbut she spoke nonetheless.
 “Things aren’t always what they seem, Colin. You of all people should know that.”
He shook his head, exhaling loudly. “We used to tell each other everything, Amara.”
 “Not everything. Not really.”

 “I did.”
“Amara! Get in here!”
The sole of her left foot hadn’t even left the elevator floor before she was greeted with an order from Colin. She would have cringed, had she not known him; had she not already been dealing with his turbulent bipolar-like attitude for the past week and a half. Old Colin wasn’t this way. Old Colin, pre-Méchant Colin, was always calm, cool, collected and rather calculating, but never hot and cold like new Colin. As Amara lowered her purse-inspired briefcase to the floor beside her chair and walked over to his office.  His back was to her, affording her a view of his well-dressed backside clothed in a navy pinstriped suit and white dress shirt.  Although new Colin was a pain in the ass, he also made her a little hotter, if that was even possible, than old Colin.
“Good morning,” she said, stopping just inside the threshold of his office.  Amara rested her hand on the doorway and leaned into it as she waited for him to respond.
He scowled at her as he turned around. “You didn’t cancel my appointment with Mr. Winters for two o’clock.”
Her eyes jumped on a couple of items in his office, as her mind replayed yesterday before landing back on his angry gaze. “No. You had an appointment with Mr. White at two, I canceled it like you asked, and Brandon replaced it with an appointment with Mr. Winters.”
“Why would he do that?” he growled.
She shrugged in response.
“Okay, okay,” he said, repeating a silent mantra as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “Okay.” He looked up at her as if he found a solution. “I hope you’re hungry because you’re going to a cake tasting today.”
She blinked at him. “Excuse me?”
“I was supposed to go try cakes at two o’clock. Molly’s going to hound me—my mom is going to hound me—so you’ll be doing it for me.”
“Excuse me?” she repeated raising her voice, not for lack of hearing.
“You heard me.”
“I did, and I’m waiting for the punch line.”
He looked at her, face completely still, unmoved. His body was tight, she could tell from the way his jaw twitched and his hands were bunched up by his sides. Amara knew he wasn’t kidding, but she was hoping he would take it back. How could he want to purposely hurt her? He knew it would.
“Does it look like I’m joking?”
She blinked to fight the tears she felt coming. Amara knew he could be mean, but she didn’t expect him to be this insensitive. He had to know it hurt her to come to terms with the wedding, and a cake tasting was practically sealing the deal. Her gut was telling her to speak out; her mind was telling her to accept it and move on; and her heart was shredding apart.  Through her turmoil, Colin watched her through narrowed eyes.
“Colin, I can’t,” she said, finally. Her voice was small. It matched the way she felt perfectly. 
“Why not?” he asked, cocking his head to one side as he crossed his arms over his chest.
A million reasons flickered between them, beginning as small speckles of light and building into a bigger fire, a wild conflagration, with every moment their eyes searched the other’s. Amara’s heart accelerated and lodged into her throat until she felt like she was going to choke on the intensity of her feelings for him.
Light tears began to fall, unable to stay behind the wall she’d built for them. “Because as much as it kills me to joke about your impending wedding, as much as it hurts when we discuss Molly and I pretend it doesn’t, seeing cakes, trying cakes, picking out flavors… that would make it real, Colin. Don’t you see that? You know me better than anybody else.”  Can’t you see me breaking? She wanted to scream, but held it back. Barely.
For the first time since she’d gotten back to New York, she saw something other than distaste in his eyes. There was a shattering pain now that mirrored hers. Colin stood and slowly rounded his desk. She forced herself not to reach out to him as he stopped in front of her. Amara could smell him —could almost taste him from this proximity—but she kept her hands at her sides, waiting. Colin reached out, his fingers softly skimming down the sleeves of her white blouse, down her arm, until he reached the bare skin of her wrist.
“It is real, Amara,” he whispered.
Her eyes traveled up his perfectly pressed white shirt, to the spot where his collar was open, the knot on his tie already loosened, and finally his eyes, his intense, chocolate eyes. 
“I know, but you don’t have to rub it in my face every chance you get,” she said, finally gaining control of herself.
Colin dropped his hand from hers and laughed, his shoulders shaking in dry disbelief as he  looked away from her. “I feel like a string puppet, being pulled in all different directions. I don’t have a choice. What don’t you understand? I have to get married. I don’t have to like it, I don’t even have to like her, but it’s something I need to do. I wanted it to be you, and you threw it back in my face. And you have the audacity to stand here crying?”
“Why? Why do you have to get married before your birthday?” she asked, annoyance clear in her voice.
Colin turned away from her to stand behind his desk again. Clutching the sides of the polished mahogany, he leaned forward with narrowed eyes. “Because this company is riding on that, Amara. Because Lotus is riding on it. Because three of four of the companies my dad left behind in his will are dependent on whether or not I get married. If I do, I remain the majority share holder in them.”
Amara licked her lips and placed her hands on the other side of the desk, mimicking his stance. “And if you don’t?”
Colin didn’t answer right away, his eyes wandered from her full lips to her defined arms, her red nails, and back up to her eyes. “If I don’t, my uncle takes my place.”
“Benjamin? Would that be so bad?” Her voice was soft, belying the way her heart raced from the way energy crackled between them.
“It would be for Lotus, Mara. It would be for my mom, probably for my future,” he said, his voice losing its pretense.  And just like that, they were only Colin and Amara again, as they were before life got messy and smeared its shit all over them.

“It’ll be a long flight, so try to get comfortable,” he said.
She turned to look at him, her eyes growing with her response, “How am I supposed to get comfortable?” her look said. She wasn’t sure if he would hear her if she spoke so she hoped the look was enough for him to understand.  Her jaw tightened when his hand brushed against her face as he tapped the button beside her ear that she could press to speak. 
“How long is the flight?” she asked.
He gave her a small smile. “Shorter than a commercial flight would have been.”
Amara breathed out, annoyed at his evasive response. “What do you think your boss wants to talk to me about?”
“I guess we’ll find out together.”
Her eyes flashed back to his icy blue gaze. “You really don’t know?”
 “They don’t tell me everything.”
“That makes two of us,” she responded, facing forward again. She rolled her eyes when she heard him chuckle.
“Have you found anything on Colin?”
Amara tensed at that. “Why are you so interested in Colin? He’s just a regular guy. He’s not like you; he’s not involved in weird shit that gets people killed.”
“Maybe so, but it’s always good to have something that somebody wants just in case,” he said with a shrug. Philip reached under his seat and took a green apple out of his bag, offering it to Amara first, which she thought was ironic in a laughable way and annoying at the same time. She merely shook her head.
“You mean for blackmail? That’s why you always want to find out information on people. You might as well just say ‘get my information on this person so I can use it as blackmail.’”
“That’s not really how it works,” he said, taking a bite of the apple. The sound of his chewing was unwelcome in her ear. “I file information, and if later on I need to use it for something, I do. I have what Colin wants most right in front of me, and he knows it. He snuck past me once, but that was only because he had help, and I think Samuel and I have reached a mutual agreement that he fucked up in the matter.”
She looked at him again, but this time he didn’t meet her eyes, he kept his eyes forward, ignoring her. Amara didn’t notice when the helicopter began to leave the ground and was surprised when the voices in her ears told her they were on their way to the capitol. As she turned away from Philip to look out the window she wondered, if anything happened to her, would it all be over? Would the sultan’s people go after her mother, or was Amara the goal? She wasn’t a prizewasn’t specialshe was just a girl in her early twenties who was trying to do the right thing. She wasn’t sure what that was anymore.
“If I hadn’t been stupid enough to take the hit for my dad’s problems, would I still be here?” Her voice was small, the thought escaping her lips before she thought about speaking it.
“Your dad was only the beginning. You made it easier for us to get to you, but no, Amara, the reason for you being here is not that. We would have had to go after you sooner or later. If they had reached you first, you would be dead.” Amara looked at him, begging him to continue. “They would have used you to get what they wanted, and then they would have killed you.”
“Isn’t that what those men will do now, if they find me?”
Philip’s silence answered her.

If you haven't read the beginning of Colin and Amara's story, grab The Devil's Contract now!

Author: Claire Contreras
Age group: Adult
Genre: Dark Contemporary Romance
Cover Design: Najla Qamber
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Claire Contreras graduated with her BA in Psychology from Florida International University. She was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Miami, Fl, where she currently resides with her husband, two boys, and two American Bulldogs. 

Life is short, and it’s more bitter than sweet, so she tries to smile as often as her face allows. She enjoys stories with happy endings, because life is full of way too many unhappy ones.

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