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Inferno Series #3

Inferno Part 3: Flame

Inferno Part 3: Flame

Romantic Suspense, Dark Themes

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Heat Level

🌶️🌶️🌶️🌶️ - At least two intimate scenes, explicit language with a variety of sexual acts.


billionaire romance, celebrity chef, Italy, Rome, Vacation Fling, Secrets, Betrayal, Hidden Identity, Age Gap, Alpha Hero, Dominant Alpha, Escaping a Killer, One Night Stand, Runaway Bride, Protector hero, Single Dad

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My life has always been a series of carefully constructed roads.

Always the passenger, never the driver.
Always the puppet, never the master.
Always the pawn, never the queen.

Except with Dante. He makes me feel like a princess, a goddess, a queen...

His queen.

We met in the clouds.
We bared our souls in the clouds.
We fell in love in the clouds.

But is our love deep enough to survive the return to earth?
Is our faith true enough to weather even the most violent of storms?
Is our hope strong enough to outshine the darkest of days and bleakest of nights?

Dante made me believe in the power of fate. I need to trust that fate won't steer me wrong now.

After everything I've been through, one thing remains certain...
Fate can be as arbitrary as the flip of a coin.

Inferno: Part 3 is the third installment in T.K. Leigh's epic romantic suspense saga of secrets, lies, and betrayal. Continue Dante and Ellie's story today.
  • "An epic age gap romance that lights the pages on fire."

  • "Romance, mystery, angst, and a sexy Italian Billionaire. What more could you want?"

  • "HOT with a capital H!"

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Inferno Chapter One

In Greek Mythology, a person’s destiny was supposedly ruled by three Fates, or Moirai, named Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. They controlled each mortal’s thread from birth to death, ensuring each man’s fate would follow its prescribed course without any interference.

Centuries later, people still believe in this basic concept, that each person’s destiny is predetermined, that there is no such thing as coincidence, that every event in a person’s life was planned before they were even a blip on the ultrasound.

For the first twenty-eight years of my life, I’d insisted there was no such thing as fate. That most people used fate and the idea of a higher power, whether it be God or something else, to alleviate accountability for all life events, both bad and good.

Until I stepped foot on that airplane headed toward Rome, I’d viewed fate as something for the dreamers in life, not someone as practical and pragmatic as myself. I had no idea the next week would drastically change this outlook.

* * *

An overhead announcement snapped me out of my daydream, a man with a thick Italian accent indicating we were starting our initial descent into Fiumicino Airport. Glancing around the first-class cabin, I rubbed my clammy hands on my jeans, my heartbeat quickening as I felt the plane gradually leave the safety of the clouds in favor of the uncertainty of the ground.

For the past twelve hours, I tried to forget what I’d done, wondering whether I made the right decision in flying halfway around the world so I’d be as far away as possible when the shit hit the proverbial fan. It was something entirely out of character for me, but I was tired of acting in accordance with everyone’s expectations.

“A little more wine before we land?”

I glanced up at the lanky, somewhat flamboyant flight attendant standing in the aisle, a bottle of red wine in his hand.

Si, grazie,” I responded, using the little Italian I knew.


I held out my glass and he filled it, not spilling a drop, despite the few bumps the plane encountered as it prepared to land. My eyes focused on the obscenely large engagement ring still sitting on the fourth finger of my left hand. I felt like a failure. As I was so often reminded, my father didn’t raise failures. No doubt my parents had already made some excuse to Brock and his family for my absence from my own wedding, for having literally left him standing at the altar, waiting for a bride who’d already skipped town when she should have been walking down that aisle.

It didn’t matter that I was their daughter. They’d gladly throw me under the bus to remain in Brock’s family’s good graces. They wouldn’t care that I’d walked in on him fucking another woman in the home we’d shared for the past three years, in the bedroom I’d decorated, on the bedding set that was an early wedding present from my grandparents. They’d turn it back on me, saying if I put more effort into making him happy, he wouldn’t have felt the need to go elsewhere.

Our marriage was simply a power play, merging two of the most predominate Republican families in California…the daughter of a longtime United States Senator to Brock Kennedy Harrison, a rising star in the California Republican Party and member of the House of Representatives, not to mention son of the current Commissioner of the FDA. I began to wonder if the whole marriage was simply a way for Brock to increase his approval rating. I certainly wouldn’t put it past him…or my parents.

“We’ll be landing in Roma in thirty minutes,” the attendant’s accented voice cut through my thoughts.

I gave him a small smile and brought the wine to my lips, then looked out the window, the June sky clear with a few clouds. Below the plane was nothing but miles and miles of pristine ocean.

“Business or pleasure?” a smooth voice asked over the dull roar of the engines. 

I remained in my own little dream world, imagining what it would be like to marvel at Michelangelo’s masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. To see the Trevi Fountain. To wander through the gardens at Villa Borghese. 

“I said, business or pleasure?” that same voice asked once more, with more force this time.

I turned my head, my gaze falling on a man I guessed to be in his late thirties sitting across the aisle, a cocky smirk on his face. His deep chestnut eyes narrowed on me as he raised his own glass of wine to his full lips, his thick hair matching the darkness in his gaze. Being the fiancée — former fiancée — of a man who took personal hygiene to the extreme, I had grown accustomed to his clean-shaven face, not one strand of hair out of place on his precisely groomed head. I thought I preferred it. But as my eyes raked over this complete stranger, his five o’clock shadow and slightly disheveled hair refreshingly sexy, my skin heated.

“A bit of both,” I answered, straightening my posture.

Neither choice seemed an appropriate answer for why I’d decided to hop on a plane to Rome. There were plenty of other options. I could have booked a flight to Fiji, or the Maldives, or Vietnam — three destinations at the top of my list. Italy had never even been on my radar. Perhaps that was why I chose it, thanks to my best friend’s prodding and encouragement. Perhaps it was my subconscious telling me it was time to start over, to become the Ellie I always wanted to be before my parents had molded and groomed me into someone I didn’t even recognize.

“You?” I asked, wondering how I hadn’t noticed this man until the twelve-hour flight was nearly over. Then again, my mind had been a bit preoccupied. I’d boarded at the last possible minute, then proceeded to consume two glasses of champagne prior to takeoff. By the time the plane had hit its cruising altitude, enough alcohol flowed through my veins that the panic of what I’d done was momentarily forgotten.

“Same.” He leaned across the aisle. “I like to include a bit of pleasure in all I do.” Raising his eyebrows, he licked his lips.

I inwardly groaned at his arrogance. If all Italians were like this, I had a feeling my trip would be very short. 

“Where is your fiancé?”

His question caught me off guard. “What?”

He gestured to my ring. “Why isn’t he with you?”

“Oh.” I blinked repeatedly. “He’s not my fiancé,” I responded, flustered.

“I thought—”

“I couldn’t go through with the wedding,” I interrupted. I didn’t know why I felt compelled to explain myself, especially to a stranger, but I couldn’t stop the words from rolling off my tongue. “Instead of showing up at the church, I skipped town and ended up on this flight. I haven’t been able to take the ring off just yet.”

“Sorry to have brought him up.”

I gave him a terse smile, then faced forward, assuming our brief conversation was at an end.

“If you ask me,” he continued after a brief pause. I snapped my head to my right. “He’s a fool for letting you slip out of his hands.”

I studied him with a furrowed brow. “What makes you say that? You don’t even know me. I could have some weird habits no man in their right mind would be able to put up with. Like not putting my clothes in the hamper or forgetting to run the dishwasher.” I chewed on the inside of my cheek, recalling two heated arguments Brock and I had gotten into over those exact things.

“I could be wrong,” he said smoothly, “but I don’t think that’s the case. I’ve been known to be a pretty good judge of character.”

“Based on just two minutes of conversation across the aisle of an airplane we’ve both been on for nearly twelve hours?” I smirked, lightening my expression. “I didn’t know jet lag could produce such riveting dialogue.”

“You just said it yourself.” A smug look crossed his face. He appeared to be surprisingly awake and composed, despite it being the end of a rather long flight.

I briefly tore my gaze from him, surveying everyone else in the cabin. Eyes drooped. Travelers ran their hands over weary faces. Coffee was consumed as if we were on a lifeboat and it was the only source of sustenance. Despite the comfort of flying in the first-class cabin with flatbed seats, nothing compared to a soft bed to stretch out in. Regardless, this man appeared refreshed, like he had just spent the night in the most luxurious bed known to man. I surmised he must travel often.

“It’s been a long flight,” he continued. “You don’t need to talk to someone to learn about them.”

“I find it helps.”

He shrugged. “For some people.”

“But not you?” I lifted a brow, leering at him with slight disapproval.

“In my line of work—”

“What is it you do exactly?” I interrupted.

He studied me, his hooded eyes unnerving in the way they seemed to rake over every inch of me, piercing me. I’d been with Brock for ten years. I’d never so much as fantasized about another man. Now that I didn’t have my parents looking over my shoulder, telling me how to behave, I actually found myself peering into this man’s mysterious eyes with intrigue and perhaps a bit of longing.

“That’s not important,” he answered after much thought. “Suffice it to say, it’s part of my profession to anticipate people’s wants and needs, to be able to read them by just one look.”

I lowered my voice. “Are you a gigolo?” The combination of his words and rugged confidence left me no other option but to think that.

His heated expression turned jovial and he chuckled. The lines around his eyes wrinkled with amusement. I couldn’t remember the last time I had such an easy, unstilted conversation with another man. With Brock, most of our discussions revolved around how the Democrats were ruining our country. I never got too involved. After one particularly tumultuous argument, I’d learned to simply keep my political opinions to myself. I had a feeling my father would disown me if he found out I had secretly campaigned for a Democrat in the last presidential election.

“No, definitely not a gigolo.” His scruff voice cut through my memories. “But thank you for your vote of confidence, Miss…” He paused, lifting his brows.

“Eleanor. Ellie.”

“Dante.” Smiling, he held his hand toward me.

I reached for it and he clasped his fingers around mine. His skin was rough, warm, inviting. They were the hands of a man. Hands that didn’t have a problem getting dirty. Hands that didn’t go for a spa manicure on a weekly basis.

Dante turned my hand over and raised it to his mouth, planting a light kiss on it. “Piacere di conoscerti,” he murmured against my skin.

Piacere di conoscerti,” I offered in response, barely able to speak through the strange sensations flowing through me as I savored the feel of this man’s — this stranger’s — lips on my flesh.

The old Ellie would have ripped her hand away and berated him for acting so brazenly. But the point of this trip was to bid farewell to the old Ellie. For the past decade, perhaps even longer, I’d been a hostage in my own life. I refused to crawl back home, beg forgiveness, and try to piece my life back together. I’d made my decision and I intended to stand by it. I deserved a new start. Hopefully, Italy would give it to me.

“Are you okay, Eleanor?” Dante asked, noticing my bereft expression.

Pulling my hand from his, I gave him a forced smile. “I’m fine.”

I stared straight ahead, the feel of his eyes on me burning my flesh, flustering me. He had this confidence and self-importance about him. Culture and custom taught us it wasn’t polite to stare after you reached a certain age. Dante didn’t appear to have paid attention during that lesson in his early years. As unnerving as the feeling of his eyes on me was, I found myself enjoying it. It was a welcome change to finally have the attention of a man, instead of simply being an afterthought, an armpiece to increase approval ratings.

“So…” I cleared my throat. “If you claim to be such an expert on reading people without so much as having any sort of discussion, tell me what you think you know about me.”

He pinched his chin, his fervent gaze disarming. I couldn’t help but feel he was able to strip away all the layers and see me for who I really was, even though I wasn’t quite sure who that was myself. I raised my glass to my lips, swirling the wine around my mouth.

“You’re sheltered,” he said after much thought. “You’ve been living in the shadows for so long, you’re unsure of whether you’re doing the right thing by breaking the chains that have kept you bound for years…and not the good kind of chains,” he added with a lascivious wink. “You were scared to get on this plane back in Los Angeles, but you were even more scared to stay.” He lifted a brow.

My jaw grew slack at his astute assessment. I wondered if he’d been watching me since I arrived at the gate, nervously pacing, debating whether I should even board the plane.

“Am I right?”

I straightened my spine, as I always did to make it appear I wasn’t intimidated. It often worked against my opponent in the courtroom or during negotiations.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth,” I responded in a strong voice, avoiding Dante’s eyes. This man was a stranger, yet he saw me with more clarity than anyone else in my life ever had.

How was that possible?

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