Book cover of “The Carrero Contract: Finding Freedom“ by L.T.Marshall

The Carrero Contract: Finding Freedom

  • Genre: Romance
  • Age: 18+
  • Status: Completed
  • Language: English
  • Author: L.T.Marshall
Camilla Walters and Alexi Carrero embark on the final installment of their trilogy. Love confessions hang in the air and yet a fog of mistrust and confusion clouds the way. So much has passed and yet so much still to resolve. Danger still lurking in dark corners, threatening her life and all she is building. A mafia-based enemies-to-lovers tale ... 

Chapter 1

“What?” Everything in me halts to some weird frozen moment, suspended in time, and my manic panic calms instantly to surreal numbness. One questioning word jerked out of me in response to his statement.

Standing in the lift facing him while he holds the doors wide, only feet apart and so close to escaping, I can almost taste it. Tears stop, and my body stills. I openly stare at him in complete shock. Brain stuttering on his words and unable to react whilst in a state of disbelief.

I cease my noisy breakdown and hold very still. Breath paused, emotion idling while I wait. The hysteria of a moment ago fades to this eerie silence between us as I pause for an explanation, an expansion of his sentence. Of meaning to him saying the word love, to me, of all people.

He can’t love me. It makes no sense.

He hates me.

He hurts me; he always has.

But he told me he loves me and will do anything to keep me.

My brain is melting. I don’t know how to process any of this.

It must be a game plan. This is who he is—a manipulator. He is a cruel, sadistic devil, and he doesn’t love. He could never love me. He shunned my confession of the same thing not so long ago. This can’t be real.

I lean back against the lift wall heavily to steady my sudden lead weight of a body and jelly legs and give myself space to try to process some of this. I can’t believe we have come full circle, and here we are again.

In the same apartment where I poured out my soul at his feet, he pushed me away into the cold and lonely solitude of a broken heart, where I put a gun to my head and tried to ease myself of the pain he inflicted. This place where he shunned my love. He now has the nerve to tell me he loves me. If that isn’t some sick twist, I don’t know what is.

I’m almost afraid to breathe. It’s like his words have stopped everything around us and between us, and even time itself is hovering in some suspended alternate reality.

Alexi looks panicked, eyes on me widening as he glances away down to his feet nervously and then back at me hesitantly, swallowing hard. The atmosphere fills with his trepidation and consumes the air around us. I don’t know how to feel, but the delay seems like an eternity, and the waves of his emotion are upping the tension of every ticking second.

Waiting for him to lie again and cut me down over and over. That’s what this is, surely? A well-planned devious manoeuvre. To crush my soul again.

I don’t know why he needs to keep hurting me. It’s agony. A form of torture, and I wonder if this is all part of another sick move. I don’t know what I ever did to him that was so bad he needed to destroy me this way.

“I said…” He clears his throat finally, an awkwardness overcoming him, and he can’t seem to keep still. Nervous energy overtaking, moving almost in a fidgeting manner as he inhales heavily, almost willing himself the courage he doesn’t feel.

This is not the Alexi I know, and it only deepens the knot of something large and painful growing in the pit of my stomach.

Fear maybe. Anxiety? Anger?

This is a glimpse of someone entirely new. It’s a far cry from the self-assured manipulator I know and hate. A side he keeps well hidden from the world, and I don’t know if it’s even real. A side throwing me off-kilter, and I’m suddenly faced with a stranger and a head full of doubts and chaos threatening to choke all oxygen out of my body.

A rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck. Knowing I’m about to be mowed down in another Alexi head fuck. I should run. Go. Not wait for a reply, but my feet won’t move, and I hold my body still in anticipation. My dumb heart is clinging on by one thread that maybe it isn’t a lie.

Stupid pathetic girl.

I should know better.

It’s always a lie.

My heart races, clinging tightly to the things in my hands for some sense of grounding in reality. Hurting myself with my shoes and bag only remind me I was running away to save my sanity. I shouldn’t have stopped.

But like a fool, I am here staring at him, holding my breath and waiting… endlessly.

Tick, tick, tick.

A new kind of agony.

“I love you.” He says it huskily, softly, with less conviction, more haste and apparent fear. Three little words that steal my air with a pain so intense it feels like he has stabbed me in the chest.

His voice is lower and raspier, as though he struggled to get the words out a second time, and he cannot look me in the eye as confidently as he did. Eyes finally coming to rest on mine, and for the first time in all the months I have known him, Alexi looks scared and so very young. He looks like those words are terrifying, and he reveals the most crucial secret he has harboured for a lifetime.

It has the same effect as punching me in the throat unexpectedly, and I try to shake it away, frowning at him while my insides bleed out and my head is filled with foggy confusion. My whole body prickled with cold shards of dizziness.

Shell-shocked. Thrown, I have no clue how to digest these foreign words from the devil’s tongue. Lie or no lie? Believe or don’t believe?

“Why are you saying that to me?” I reply desperately. Voice strained and raw. All the stilled emotions are coming back in force all at once, in a tidal wave, and I’m so overwhelmed with a dozen conflicting feelings. Trying to pull apart my tangled confusion.

I need to figure out what angle this gives him or why he is trying for this instead of letting me leave. If there is more to his games, I have re-opened that door.

I should never have had sex with him. I knew it would change everything once more. Start another round of his specific kind of cruelty. This is how he gets his kicks.

“Because I mean it… I…” He sighs through his words heavily, still acting like a completely different man. One who is almost shy and awkward and not him. Not Alexi Carrero by any means.

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