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Destroyed
Author: Pepper Winters

Prologue

I didn’t believe her when she said she was complicated.

She didn’t believe me when I said I had secrets.

I didn’t understand the truth, even when she let me glimpse behind her mask.

She didn’t understand that I couldn’t live with the consequences.

I thought she was a saint.

She thought I was a sinner.

Too bad we didn’t try to find the truth.

We both paid the price.

We destroyed each other.

Chapter 1

If I knew now what I suspected then, I’d like to think I would’ve done things differently. I would’ve planned better, worked harder, stressed out on more important things. But I was young, naïve, and woefully unprepared for the big, scary world of life.

Now, I looked back on the past with a strange fondness. While I lived it, it seemed hard but now it seemed so incredibly easy. Especially now when the present seemed impossible and the future dire and bleak.

That was...until I met him.

Then it got worse.

“I don’t think this is a good idea, Clue.” The gothic mansion rose from gravel and soil like a beacon of doom. Gargoyles decorated plinths and overhangs; huge pillars soared to at least six stories high. I didn’t know anything like this existed in Sydney, let alone in the rich and exclusive Eastern Suburbs.

My fingers hadn’t stopped twitching for my knife ever since we stepped off the bus and headed toward a residential suburb instead of the party district in town.

Losing ourselves in a rabbit warren of streets, my heart never settled sensing this might be one experience that would end up killing us.

“Stop being such a worrier. You said you’d come. I need my wing woman,” Clue said, her gentle voice edging to stern.

My mouth hung open, gawking at the intricate stonework, trying to see past the grandeur to unveil the tricks of such a place. It couldn’t be real? Could it?

It seemed misplaced—as if it’d been transplanted from a long past century. It sent chills down my spine, conjuring images of insane, broken women and psychotic, sadistic men.

Huge double doors halted our entry. The thick wood, embellished with wrought iron accents in the shape of a fox on a wintry night, cracked open to reveal a black-suited bouncer with oil-slicked hair. His body jammed the doorway like a mountain while his face crossed somewhere between a bulldog and a shark.

His eyes froze me to the spot, capturing us with just one look. His pupils were black as the night behind us and held a cocky glint.

“You better have the password; otherwise you’ll wish you never set foot on this stoop.” His gaze swept to the concrete beneath us. A motto had been painstakingly engraved with a chisel into the stone. It looked hand done and rudimentary, but held a certain threat all the same.

Was that Russian? I couldn’t make out the verse, but I inched to the side in my stupid kitten heels to avoid standing in the groove of letters.

“We were invited by Corkscrew. He gave us a one-night pass.” For the millionth time since I’d showered, donned this ridiculous gold and silver dress, and coaxed my thick chocolate hair into some resemblance of curls and waves, I wanted to throttle Clue.

She was my dearest friend, closest confident, flatmate, babysitter, and non-blood sister, but I wanted to kill her for dragging me out tonight.

Clue and I had history—linked by shared dreams and hopes. We wouldn’t let the other fail. And that was the only reason why I hadn’t knocked her out and dragged her unconscious body back home.

She knew all I wanted to do was return to our crappy two bedroom apartment and avoid the world. She also knew I’d suffered so much in the past few weeks that I’d hit rock bottom, and I had no energy left to fight. Life had effectively pulled the rug, the flooring, and the f**king planet from under my feet. I didn’t want to be here.

But as I grumbled and shed a tear on the couch, hugging my very reason for existence, she swore and cursed me. She reminded me that I might be in a bad place, but she needed me. That life goes on, solutions come, and tragedies happen. I couldn’t change the future by either moping on the settee or dressing up like a hooker and going out with her. And as much as I wished I had a hacksaw in my cle**age, to threaten her to take me home to Clara, I didn’t.

“Corkscrew, huh? What discipline?” The bouncer crossed his arms, raking his eyes over me. I’d lost weight from the stress of the last few weeks, but it didn’t stop me feeling like an over-stuffed sausage in Clue’s slinky dress.

My stomach twisted as I plucked the loaned attire that clung to me like a second skin. A web of lace covered my shoulders, but it couldn’t disguise the sluttiness. My entire figure was on show, complete with perky ni**les from the chill in the evening air.

Damn Clue and her fetishes for blingy, completely impractical clothing. She always forced me to wear the worst one. She said I was too serious; too focused; too obsessed with creating a future where nothing bad from the past could find us.

And she was right.

Clara.

Tears pricked the back of my eyes again, and I swallowed hard. I shouldn’t be here, dammit. What am I doing?

“Muay Thai,” Clue answered, her black almond eyes flashing with pride. Her latest acquisition, who I’d only met once, had successfully swept my commitment-phobic friend off her feet.

I didn’t even know how they met or his real name. And Corkscrew, what the hell kind of title was that?

“Ah, great sport.” The bouncer relaxed a little. “What’s the password then, sugar tits?”

My mouth pursed. I couldn’t stop the flash of fire; protective instincts rose to swell firmly in my chest. “Did you just call her sugar tits?” I’d never been one to stand by while another was ridiculed, embarrassed, or taken advantage of. I liked to think it was a strong character trait, but life had turned it into yet another flaw.

He chuckled. “Well, she has nice tits and she looks as sweet as sugar, so yeah. I did.” His eyes narrowed. “You got a problem with that?”

Don’t do it, Zel.

Clue patted my forearm, and I forced the retaliation from my tongue. My hands clenched, but I stayed silent. Giving him a verbal lashing wouldn’t help us gain entry into this illegal club for Clue to see her man.

Dismissing me, the bouncer looked back at Clue. “Spit out the code or leave. I don’t have time for this.”

Clue cocked her hip, accenting the fluidity of her amazing figure. I had a small flash of awe, taking in Clue’s perfection. Dressed in an equally slutty dress, she sparkled with red sequins. Looking part Geisha, part ninja warrior, Clue was one word: stunning.

   
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