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Dark Desire

Surrender Series - Book 5

Lauren Smith

Contents

Important Author’s Note

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Epilogue

The Gilded Cuff

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Other Titles By Lauren Smith

About the Author

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2021 by Lauren Smith

Cover design by Cover Couture

All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher constitutes unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

ISBN: 978-1-952063-64-0 (e-book edition)

ISBN: 978-1-952063-64-0 (trade paperback edition)

Important Author’s Note

Dear Readers,

Within these pages, there are topics that can be hard to read about. Elena, the heroine, is a survivor of two months of sexual assault and captivity. Those events are not part of this story. (They are only referenced in inner thought or dialogue.) Elena suffers from nightmares and trauma stemming from that past. If you do not want to read about a heroine who overcomes these traumas, then do not read on. If you wish to see how she conquers her fears and finds love again, then keep reading.

Why did I choose to write this? Because I am a survivor, like Elena. My situation was nothing compared to hers, but it is a part of my history, and I know many women out there have experienced similar situations of harassment or worse. I believe women can overcome these traumas, but I am by no means saying it is easy. However, I believe the power of fiction gives writers and readers the chance to explore topics that can be uncomfortable but important. I assure you, this book has a happily ever after for Elena and her hero, Dimitri.

What you should know about this book: Elena, the heroine, had a previous interest in BDSM before she was sexually assaulted. Dimitri is a dominant alpha male, but he fully respects her decisions and her choices. In no way is this book intended to suggest that sexual assault victims will be drawn to BDSM, nor does it suggest that the only way to overcome the trauma of sexual assault is by having a romantic relationship.

Please remember, this is a fictional romance novel, and everyone’s ways of overcoming trauma are different. Elena’s choices work for her character. She is in charge of her timeline of recovery, and Dimitri fully respects that she is the one who decides if and when she is ready to have intimacy with a man again. I do not intend to make light of sexual assault trauma or to romanticize it. Dimitri does not use violence against Elena, nor does he try to push her boundaries for his own desires.

Writing a book like this has been on my mind for many years. I met Elizabeth Smart a few years ago when she visited my hometown to give a speech. I had the greatest honor and humbling experience of meeting with her privately after her speech, and I had a chance to speak with her and also hug her. She exuded warmth and love, and I began to cry upon embracing her. She was strength and life, beauty and courage all at once.

The lesson I learned from her that day has stuck with me: assault survivors don’t have to remain victims the rest of their lives, and they don’t have to be defined by their trauma. This doesn’t mean that the trauma wasn’t horrific or that it ceases to matter after you overcome it. But it does mean that you aren’t inevitably trapped within it, and you can regain your courage to live the life you deserve to live.

As a writer, my gift is being able to reach people through the power of my stories. I hope Elena’s story touches you. I also hope you enjoy Elena and Dimitri’s romance, the story of two souls who feel lost and find each other. They say time heals all wounds, but I believe that love is the greater healing force, especially love for oneself. So as you read each chapter, take a moment and remind yourself how wonderful you are, how amazing you are, and that each day you are alive on this earth, you are a gift to someone, including yourself.

With all my love to you, dear reader,

Lauren Smith

April 2021

Prologue

Maine - Twenty Years Ago

Clutching her pregnant belly, soaked in blood, a young woman stumbled into the emergency room as night fell outside the rural hospital. She could barely breathe as rolling waves of labor pains threw her body into spasms. It felt as though two giant hands were trying to rip her body apart. Everything felt heavy, and she couldn’t move, couldn’t even walk another step.

“Help! Please—help me . . .” She collapsed, her hands braced against the wall as two men in scrubs rushed toward her. Nurses? They had that efficient, pragmatic air about them. Sweat poured off her skin, dampening her bloodstained maternity dress. The instinctive need to push was so overpowering that she whimpered and dug her nails into the arm of the nearest man as he helped her stand.

“Save my baby,” the woman pleaded. “Please . . . don’t let anyone find me . . .” She relaxed in the hold of the strong nurse who was holding her upright. This place was safe—these people would help her.

If she could just hold on, stay alive a little longer, then

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