Title: Conflicted Interest (The Conflicted Series Book 1)
Author: Ava Starke
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Sensual Romance
Release Date: February 14, 2017
Hosted by: Buoni Amici Press, LLC.
Theo flies to Athens for a wedding with a plan: stay for the vows, raise a toast, and get the hell back to work. He’s staring down the barrel of the biggest gamble of his career, and can’t afford the distractions of a glamorous city or desirable women; neither of which excite him much anyway.
Until he meets Audrey.
Brilliant, ruthless, and set on conquering the finance world, the young exec would rather be catching a London red-eye, than a mangled wedding bouquet. But when tall, mysterious Theo pulls her onto the dance floor, all thoughts of clients and contracts vanish. The man is intoxicating; his warm touch lingers long after his hands have left her body. They’re from different cities and different worlds—it would never work.
And yet she’s haunted by the brush of his lips against her throat, the delicious press of his body…
But Theo is keeping secrets that could break Audrey’s heart and destroy everything she’s worked for. In this careful dance of power and seduction, has Theo finally met his match?
Conflicted Interest is the first steamy instalment of the sensual contemporary romance Conflicted Series, intended for ages 18+.
This was my first time in Athens. I’d never before had a reason to come, and even this visit was limited to a strict twenty-four hour window. I had tickets for the Turkish team’s football match against Spain the following afternoon in my home city of Istanbul. Wedding or no wedding, this was a match I would not be missing. There were few things I cared for in my life: family; work; football; and, of course, women — predictably, in that order.
The church was tucked just beneath the overbearing hilltop of the Acropolis, a minor player within a much larger scene. Feeling the steam rising from beneath my suit, I stepped into the entryway of the tiny Orthodox enclave and peeked my head in the door to add my face to the congregation.
My mind was wandering, and I imagined how the night would end. Given the last minute brevity of my visit, I hadn’t precooked anything on Tinder, my preferred “dating” app. As a member, I could arrange meet-ups in the days leading up to my trips from anywhere in the world; and that suited my frequent-flier lifestyle perfectly. The application was not without its socially engineered “bugs” though. In London, I had to screen for prostitutes; and in Russia, I once matched with the ex-mistress of a local billionaire who insisted that her former boyfriend had bought her a five million dollar flat in the Khamovniki District of Moscow. Apparently, she was ready for an upgrade. Having far more interesting investments to make, I never heard from her again.
A man couldn’t lose with the app. Either one had a fun hook up or collected excellent cocktail party fodder; and given the grueling travel and difficult hours of my job, I didn’t have time for anything more.
Tonight’s wedding reception party would inevitably go on late. This was more or less the Mediterranean after all; but I was in a state of detox from an intense week of business travel to the U.S., London, Munich, Istanbul, and now this crumbling relic of classical antiquity. I was tired, and it was entirely possible I’d end up in my room asleep before the dancing even started.
An elderly woman tugged at my sleeve, telling me she wanted to inch by me. Stepping aside, I saw the church was painted in white with gold and light-blue accents. Dark, ornately-carved wooden doors created a dramatic scene behind the altar; and large bronze chandeliers with red stained glass hung from the ceiling.
I surveyed the crowd. There were clear distinctions between the locals, probably family, and the wedding couple’s more international friends. I assumed the global constituency was mostly David’s American friends from home, with a smattering of the occasional coworker. There weren’t many young women, maybe fifteen at most — a small pool to pick from.
I redirected my attention to the bride and groom at the front as they walked circles around the altar together. I always found this to be a strange yet amusing custom at Orthodox weddings. Delia, David’s new wife, was beaming with honest joy; and he stood beside her in muted delight. Delia was elegant and statuesque in a long, figure-hugging silk gown. She was a well-known model in New York, and David had scored above his bracket when he landed her as his fiancé. I felt a pang at witnessing their mutual happiness.
My last significant relationship had ended abruptly following my move to Istanbul. I had invited my then girlfriend, Susanne, to move to Turkey with me; but she’d insisted her work in Berlin was too important to her. Nevertheless, I’d really wanted to start a family. At the time we’d been trying for a baby, so we continued on for a few months flying to see each other weekly until I came to the stunning realization that she was cheating on me back home with our neighbor.
It was just as well, since now I questioned whether having a family was even realistic given my lifestyle.
I hadn’t procured anything of lasting importance since; but then again, I was always working. In my thirty-five years of wisdom, love seemed fraught with disappointment.
I’d yet to find a relationship that was worth its intensive investment; and while I knew my energy was better spent at the office, I still held out hope that one day I might find someone who would prove me wrong.
I continued my survey of the little room farther to my right and spotted a row in the back filled with more guests.
Rising from the back corner, she slowly stood up from her wooden seat and signaled to an older man to take her chair. He rejected her proposal and stood taller in his dignity. Smiling, she signaled again to the chair before turning in my direction. In her sky-blue dress and shoes in hand, she made her way toward where I was standing. I wanted her to slide by me as she was sliding past others: the skirt of her dress sweeping their knees as she moved out of the narrow row. She was American; I knew it. European women wore their shoes in church, and they remained for the entirety of the ceremony out of polite obligation.
The straps of her dress were thin and taut against her skin, bracing themselves to hold her breasts in place. I pictured the straps snapping upon the slightest touch. As she passed by me, her shoulder brushed the fabric of my suit jacket. She left out the back doorway as the growing crowd increasingly cornered me into a rear pulpit.
There must have been a hundred people captured inside the small gilded room of spiritual fortification that had a capacity for thirty. I could feel the waves of heat swelling and swirling between the congregation. The ceremony was wilting us all like flowers in a febrile summer; so with no end in sight, I sneaked back out the door to follow her.
Ava Starke is an author, entrepreneur, philanthropist and undeniable feminist dedicated to creating romance novels and serials that help readers find their escape and inspire their sexiest selves. A transplanted-native of Los Angeles, she now lives in South Florida.