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Copyright © 2022 Meagan Brandy

 

All rights reserved. This book, or any portion thereof, may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

No copyright infringement intended. No claims have been made over songs and/or lyrics written. All credit goes to original owner.

 

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER ONE

     Delta

 

     The lights above the stage begin to dim, and only once darkness has fallen over the crowd, does the towns newest paradigm slip between the curtains. Dressed in a deceiving, stark white from head to toe, he steps up to the piano, facing away from the crowd as he lowers onto the gold crested bench. 

     His posture is impeccable, as my mother will taunt into my ear the moment the shows over and her comparison game begins. His knees are even with his hips, his feet flat on the floor beneath them. His shoulders wide yet relaxed, his neck long and corded, back sharp and straight as an arrow, like the ones I hear he’s known to aim at your chest, right before he rips the beating organ from behind it. 

     This is the first time I’ve set eyes on the ‘transfer’ who, as rumor has it, is after my title.

     He’s tall, tapered, and from what I’ve learned, treacherous. The white in which he’s cloaked himself in is a trick, to divert the gaze of those around from the dark that pours from his fingertips, roaring around us in the form of tritones and grim gusto’s. 

     It’s wicked and toe curling. 

     It’s manically mesmerizing. 

     Coincidently, I hear that about sums up the man behind the music. 

     His name is Ander Blackwood and they say he’s as filthy as they come. The bastard of a widower with fangs for teeth and claws for fingers. A stubborn, anarchist with a taste for terror.

     Oh, what things we have in common, Mr. Blackwood.

     “Careful, sister,” Alto’s murmur sweeps over me from behind; right as the room erupts in praise. “I hear he’s a psychopath.”

      The corner of my mouth curls up but I keep my eyes on the stage as Ander pushes to his feet, quickly escaping before the lights find him. 

     I run my fingers over my necklace, looking up and over my shoulder. “Come on now, dear brother.” I play along.      “If you want me to back off, you should claim he’s a sweetheart who loves his mother.”

     “His mother is dead.”

     “Lucky him.”

     Alto scoffs, sliding with me as I curl around the corner into the empty hallway. He frowns. “And so, the new ward arrives.” 

     “Let us hope he doesn’t end up like the last one, hm? Fucked, figuratively and well, you know...” 

     Alto’s hand darts out, gripping onto my throat as I attempt to slip past him, but as quickly as he latches onto me, my sweet Alto finds one around his own. 

      It’s no easy feat, but I manage to hold in my smirk as my gaze darts up to meet the man coming to my rescue.

     Hello gorgeous. 

     Ander’s face is stoic, his eyes a deep, dark, vacant brown.

     The fist locked around Alto’s throat is covered in ink, only bits and pieces of his tan skin peeking through. The images disappear beneath the Armani suit he wears, and the golden tips of his slicked back hair shine against the hundred carat golden column two feet from our right. 

     Alto’s hold tightens and I look to find his glare deepened and pointed at me, so I wrap my palm around Ander’s wrist, but he doesn’t let up. 

      Instead, his grip tightens, and he presses his lips against Alto’s ear. “Somethin’ tells me you like to lead, so lead, fuck boy. I’ll follow.”

     Alto’s fingers twitch around me, his eyes darkening, and then he lets go. 

     I do my best not to cough but take a small sip from my glass to hide the need to. 

     He jerks free, whipping around to face Ander, who stands just as tall as he is, and just as broad. They’re near equals in stature.

     Alto says not a word, Anders lifting his chin, a smirk slipping over his lips as he shoulders past. 

     He saunters his way down the long corridor, up and around the spiral staircase leading to the west wing, his new – provisional – home; Alto and I glide toward the center, watching him go. 

     My laughter is low, Alto jerks my way, his gaze narrowing. 

     “Why do I get the feeling that went exactly as you wanted?”

      “Because it did.” My palm lifts, gently cupping his cheek, and he reaches up, covering mine with his own.                “When will you stop seeming so surprised?”

      He pushes into my space, his mouth opening, but promptly shutting when my mother, his third, and final stepmother, bearing in mind his dad is now dead, appears.

      “What’s this?” her eyes sharpen.

     Reluctantly, Alto releases me and we turn to face Alicia Avara – according to her most recent marriage certificate – the former debutant, now washed-up widow, living off the fortunes of her fallen husbands. 

     “We were just discussing the performance. Alto found it to be very ... distasteful.” 

     Her gaze moves between the two of us. “Yes, well, let us be grateful he’s stylistically different from Delta.      Perhaps you two won’t have to compete for solos after all.” 

     Such a clueless woman, my mother.

     Gliding toward her, I kiss her wretched cheek. “Perhaps, mother.” 

     I attempt to slip past her, but before I can, her grip latches onto the satin of my glove, and she pretends to smooth its length. She eyes Alto, and speaks through a clenched smile, never once breaking character. “Keep your distance, son. We wouldn’t want to give anyone the wrong impression.” 

     Alto smiles as he approaches and takes her hand, gently pressing his lips to her knuckles. With his head tipped, he looks up through his lashes. “Not to worry, Alicia. I’ll make sure my place is understood perfectly well.”

     I rub my lips together to keep from laughing and face my mother as she lifts her nose high into the air.

     Alto releases her, his suit stretching across his chest as he locks his hands behind his back, playing innocent. 

     My chuckle does slip then, and my mother’s bloodshot eyes snap to mine. I shake my head with a patronizing sigh. “Level your chin mother. Your dinner is showing.”

     She promptly reaches up, brushing away the hint of powder that didn’t make its way into her nostril, and back to the ballroom I go. 

     As required, I make my rounds, pausing for swift conversations at the head tables. Each one the prestigious benefactors are consuming glass after glass of the finest champagne the estate has to offer. All the while, replaying the shitty hand Rocklin dealt me last week that got her out of tonight’s event, leaving me as the solo ‘Greyson’ to grace their presence. The deal is we always come in pairs, and if it’s your forte, your attendance is required by default, leaving the rest of us to barter for the second seat. Or rather, for the hope of evading the second seat.

     Tonight’s fundraiser being the introduction of our program’s newest musical maniac, my fate was sealed.                 Regardless, had it been a Skeet shooting tournament that called on Rocco, I’d still would have to be here since it’s my lane the man of the hour is here for.

     No way she hit blackjack by luck. Sneaky bitch. 

     Thankfully, the staff begins rolling out the first course of the night, and I’m able to excuse myself.

     As I take my seat at the head of the table, my gaze lifts and directly across from me, sits Ander. 

     He stares right at me, lifting his drink to his lips as a shadow blankets me from behind, and his eyes rise, slowly lowering with the body that claims the seat beside me. 

     Alto’s knuckle glides along my collarbone, and then a champagne flute is held out in front of me. When I accept, the man across the way lifts a single brow.

     I wrap my smirk around my glass. 

     He better be as vile and cruel as they say, or what a waste he’ll be. 

     If he’s not, he’ll never survive this place.

     They don’t call us divine for no reason. Legend has it the women who grace the halls of Greyson Manor were crafted by the Gods but kissed by their enemies. 

     Cunning, in every sense of the word, and we are. 

     But never without reason and only ever with purpose. 

     And mine wears white tonight, hides a flask in his jacket pocket, and likes to hunt for what he hungers. 

     It just so happens my dearest Alto is his flavor of choice, and I ... will be the item in his way.

     They call him a walking nightmare.

     I think I’ll call him mine.

     To play with, that is.

 

     ***

 

     Ander 

 

      Little mama thinks she’s smart, bating a tiger with a taste of testosterone, but all she did was show her hand, and I’ll admit it’s a tempting one.

      Tall and trim, hair like frost and eyes as golden as the column he stood beside. However, greed also shines like gold, and he is full of it. 

     Every ounce that holds him down ... is made up of her, the real prize if you ask the wallows of this world.

     Delta DeLeon. 

     One of the ‘girls’ of Greyson and based on the photos lining the halls of the home I was dropped off at this morning, by far the most enticing.

     She’s elegant, classic in every sense of the word, a pretty little thing, too perfect to be pure. 

     Then again, nothing in worlds like this one ever are. 

     Anyone with half a brain knows where there’s privilege, there’s poison, and this place is no different. 

     Here, beauty is an illusion meant to pull you in and break you down, so that the poison I spoke of isn’t discovered until it’s eating you up from the inside out. You’re a goner before you’ve even realized the bitch got in your head, and a girl like this one?

     She not only gets in your head but knows how to work her tongue around your favorite one.

     Yeah, Delta is far from the innocence she cloaks herself in. 

     Her make up is so soft, you have to wonder if she’s wearing any. Eyes so bright, they blind.

     Soft brown hair pressed down to her skull, and wrapped tight behind her head, as if she dances in pointe shoes, but I hear that’s the gift another Greyson girl possess.

     This one’s earned the title of best musicians of our time, but that’s only because this place eliminates the competition, or so the halls have whispered. 

     So, who the fuck had my chains cut and how in the hell did I end up here?

     Why am I here?

     I could destroy her perfection without even trying, but maybe that’s the point.

     Maybe ... I was brought here to show the queen of the west wing she’s not as precious as she thinks. That she’s not untouchable to the men beyond the bubble she was brought up in, and that the toy she likes to play with can be stolen in a snap, if I decide I want him.

     I’m a fucking nightmare compared to the nobodies who have marched this mansion. 

     But none of that matters. 

     The only thing that does, is making sure I don’t fall asleep and wake somewhere else. So, that means I’ve got to find the coffin with my name on it and drive the nails in it myself ... after I find out who I’ll have to lock inside it, of course. 

     I know there is one or else I wouldn’t be here. I’m always the fall guy, but this time looks different. This time, the place I’m in is like no other I’ve seen before. 

     This isn’t ritz and glamour with a scent of blackmail. 

     This place is an empire hidden behind bull shit, and the only ones allowed inside the kingdom, are the ones who discover it. 

     Shouldn’t be too hard. This place was built a hundred years ago, and just tonight there was no less than a dozen preppy princesses lingering along, just dying to whisper the world into the ear of their Chancellor’s – who the fuck ever he is – new ward.

     I’ll find a truths worth the trouble.

     I always do. 

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER TWO

     Alto 

     My knuckles run along Delta’s thigh, slipping beneath the pleated skirt, and wrapping around the clasps of her stalking’s. 
     “Are these the ones I picked out?” I whisper in her ear. 
     Her only answer is to uncross her knees, her body scooting further forward on the seat. 
     “You wore them for me, didn’t you?” My palm presses higher, my fingers curving with the shape of her skin until I’ve reached her warm, slick center. 
     Her chest rises, and then, as gracefully as ever, her arm does to. 
     “Ms. DeLeon,” our professor calls on her.
     I burry my grin in my free hand.
     “Recourse allocation is the best practice,” she answers, tilting her hips the slightest bit to allow me inside. 
     “Wider,” I whisper, she sits up straighter, my teeth clenching as I press into her pussy, and her knuckles curl over her closed laptop. “There you—”
     “Nah, I don’t think so,” is spoken loudly into the room, and all heads turn toward the newest member of our program, whose shadowy eyes are locked on Delta. 
     “Please, share your views with the class,” Delta speaks with a smile, her left hand falling to my thigh and squeezing.
     His face remains blank, and it doesn’t leave hers as he cocks his head to the side, the thick veins of his neck bulging with the small movement. 
      I glare, my fingers pressing deeper.
    Ander slouches further. “Recourse and allocation calls for strategy. It’s meant to maximize effectiveness of what you’ve got at your fingertips.”
     “It’s called careful, full proof planning. Guarantee your success rather than bidding on it like a fool.”
     His eyes snap to mine, darkening. He licks his lips and my hand twitches, deepening my frown. 
     “Should we not, sometimes, try something new and see what comes of it?” he lifts a brow. “What’s the point of meeting
needs just because we know exactly how to do it, because we’ve done it over and over and over again.      How is a repetitive cycle maximizing the action when something new might just be next level?”
    He glides his left palm over his right, slyly caging both his pointer and middle finger with his others before rubbing his palms together. 
     Delta’s pussy squeezes me then, and my lip curls. 
     Ander smirks and sits back in his chair. “Or maybe I’m wrong.” He sits back with a smirk. “Please, teach. Continue, I imagine the climax is coming.”
     Delta’s heady chuckle follows, and my head jerks toward hers, but she’s not looking at me. 
     She’s looking at him.
     “For that,” I breathe, tearing out of her as her eyes snap my way. “You don’t get to come.” 
     Her mouth opens, her brows caving, but I’m already standing and on my way out the door. 
     Blowing a hard breath out my nostrils I shove through the lavatory door and kick over the trash can before I roll my sleeves up, shoving my hands under the sink, but before the water sensors pick up on the movement, my wrist is gripped, and I’m spun around. My back’s shoved against the mirror. 
     My eyes fly up, crashing with Anders.
     “What the—” I growl, gripping him by the blazer and shove him back, but he’s got better leverage and holds me still. “Get the fuck off.”
     “Dying to, fuck boy.” His leg darts between mine to keep me from moving forward as he wraps his hand around my wrist that’s latched onto him. He yanks it away. 
     “What the hell are you—”
     I’m stunned silent when his eyes flash to mine, his lips closing around my finger. 
     My body clenches in shock.
     His face is completely passive, not a hint of emotion to be found. His tongue brushes my skin and I jolt, tearing myself free and pushing him so hard he nearly trips, his shoe squeaking against the polished floors. 
     His eyes flash, but as quickly as the rage flickers across him, it’s gone. 
     Ander chuckles, his smirk slowly growing as he walks backwards, until he’s met by the exit door. “Now I get it.” 
     I jerk upright, straightening my blazer. 
     “Get what?” I spit. 
     “If my sister tasted like that, I’d be fucking her too.”
     I walk towards him, getting right into his face. 
     We’re nearly eye to eye. 
     “Touch her, and you’ll regret it.”
     “Yeah? And what happens if she does the touching?” he tips his head, a flash of amusement in his dark gaze. “Will you
come ... for me, Alto Avara?” 
     Anger has my limbs shaking, and his mouth hooks higher.  
     “Yeah.” He drops his head against the door. “I think you will, and I think you’ll like it.”
     “Think again.” I press my chest into his. “I like pussy, and it just so happens the sweetest one here belongs to me. Remember that ward. I don’t like to repeat myself.” 
     “If you wanted to play alpha, all you had to do is say it.”
     I slap my palm onto the door beside his head and his teeth sink into his bottom lip. “I don’t play anything, especially not with a nobody like you.”
     Anders eyes flash, and I know I’ve struck a nerve, so before he can deliver whatever warning he’s working up in his head, I shove the thing open and slip out. 
     Fuck him.
     Fuck her too, literally, of course. The minute we're back at the manor, she’s mine. 

 

     *** 

 

     My plans to tie her to the bed and deny her of her orgasm the moment she was begging for it, falls through when we walk into the west wing to find Alicia sitting in the sunroom, Delta’s piano adversary in the seat across from her. 
     “Is she fucking kidding me,” Delta speaks through a forced smile.
     With my hand on her lower back, I drop my lips to her ear. 
     “Shall we call this karma?” I tease, and she slyly digs her nails into my arm.
     My cock twitches in my pants and she spins, so she’s only facing me and pops a brow like a brat. 
     She can never take the loss, and I love that about her. 

     I love every fucking thing about her.
     “See you at dinner.” She backs away. 
     “I look forward to dessert.”
      Delta smiles, a real one, and back to perfection she goes. 
      Her shoulders square, her spine straightening as she says her hello, and leads the duo to the music room.
      I don’t make it halfway up the stairs before my name is called behind me, the tone a sharp caveat. 
     Forcing a grin, I spin, my palm clutching the spiral railing. “Alicia, how was your afternoon?”
     The curve of her lips is not for my benefit, but the maid who hustles down the stairwell opposite of us. “Why are the two of you sharing a car again?”
     “We leave the same house, head to the same place, and return just the same.”
     “Do you not have a single talent you should be putting your time into perfecting rather than shadowing my daughter through her every accomplishment?”
     “I’m quite fond of being behind her.” 
     Her eyes widen, narrowing just as quickly. “Careful, Alto.”
     I couldn’t stop the smirk if I tried. “Always, Mrs.
Avara.”
     The fresh new box of condoms in my bag is proof of such.
     I tip my chin, spin and head up to my room. 
     Setting my things on my desk I slip into my closet, hang up my jacket and tie, and as I step out, with the first three buttons of my top undone, I jerk to a stop. 
     Ander sits at the edge of the window seat, his eyes pointed at the yard below. 
     “Why are you here?”
     He continues to stare outside. “The door to the left of your bathroom leads down there. Is that you’re set up, or part of the property?”
     “Everything in the west wing is ours. No one touches it without our permission. Including you.”
     He nods, his lips twitching. “So, it’s hers. Interesting, I didn’t peg her for the bow and arrow type.”
     “That’s because you know nothing about her.”
     “I know you’re not allowed to have her, at least not fully.”
     “You think because you picked up on Alicia’s passive aggressive bull shit you know and understand what I can and can’t have?”
     “She’s got something you need, that’s why you play nice and fuck behind closed doors.”
     “I fucked her in the school pool this morning.” My eyes slide to his. “Shows how much you know.”
     “Still, there’s a needle in your neck. I can help you pull it out.”
     I shake my head, hitting play and turning my speakers on low.  
     Ander nods, glancing back at the array of targets below. “I should offer her some pointers.”
     “Archery comes as easy as breathing for her, but of course you don’t know that because again, you know nothing about her or the place you’re temporarily calling home. Every corner of this mansion heeds a skill, and every girl who lives within it has each one mastered. If there are pointers to be given, they come from the mouth of a Greyson.”
     “So, I should be asking
her for a private lesson, then?”
     I glare, dropping onto the edge of my bed and begin untying my shoes. “Why don’t you tell me what you want, so I can deny you, and send you on your way.”
     “So quick to assume a denial?”
    “You have nothing I want, so yeah. A denial is what you’d get.”
     “Your eyes tell a different story.”
     My gaze flicks to his, narrowing before a slow smirk curves my lips. “You think I’m interested
in you?”
     He drops his head back slightly, eying me over the bridge of his nose. 
     “Man, you really are fucked in the head.” A chuckle slips from me, and I push to my feet, caring my shoes to my closet where I neatly set them inside the slots they belong. 
     Ander doesn’t move so much as an inch. 
     Shaking my head, I continue unbuttoning my top, untucking it from my slacks. “You just going to sit there and watch me change?”
     “You gonna stand there and change right in front of me?”
     “You clearly didn’t have a gym class like ours. Showers are required.”
     “Can’t wait.”
     I scoff, peeling my shirt off and Ander lowers himself back until he’s flush against the pillows there. As I undo my belt and pants, I allow them to hang open as I walk over to my TV stand and pour myself a quick drink. As I bring it to my lips I glance over my shoulder.
     Ander’s eyes travel the length of my back, pausing, eyes narrowing on the bite marks framing my shoulder blades. I smirk into my glass and face him. 
     His eyes snap up to mine. 
     “She’s a biter.”
     “So am I.” Ander grips himself and I jerk my eyes away, visualizing Delta when heat pulls at my groin. 
Digging my wallet from my back pocket, I set it beside on the tabletop, and when I look back to Ander, I find a taunting grin hooks his lips. 
     “What?”
“You’re anxious.”
I slam my glass down and face him. “What could I possibly have to be anxious about?”
“You know I want to see what’s under those slacks, and you’re anxious you won’t be able to hide the fact that you like my eyes on you when you show me.”
“How do you figure you stepping into my room uninvited and my changing out of my school uniform, like I do every day after instructions, translates to my showing you my shit?”
“Why’d you stop changing, Alto?” 
I study him a moment. “Are you waiting for me to stand here and tell you I’m gay? That I like men and you hit the sweet spot? Because if you are, you’re going to be here a while. I’m not gay.”
“Prove it.”
My head tugs back. “Prove it?”
Ander sits forward, propping his elbows on his knees as he rubs his large hands together. “Strip, Alto.” His eyes are hard on mine. “Prove you won’t swell from nothing but my eyes touching your skin.” 
The sharp, darkness to his tone has my muscles clenching, and my jaw follows. “That proves nothing.”
He lifts a brow. “No?”
     I push my pants down my thighs and step out of them, walking over to where he sits, forcing his neck to stretch up with my approach. 
     “My cock gets hard from the thought of fucking, among other things—”
     “What kind of other things?” he cuts me off, but I ignore him. 
     “It has nothing to do with who’s watching and everything to do with who’s waiting. So, you want me to strip, ward? Want to see what I’ll use to fill my girl when she comes to me tonight?” I nod, step back and push my briefs down. “There you go.”
      I stand before him, completely fucking naked.
     Ander’s tongue slips from his mouth, gliding over his bottom lip in slow motion. 
     A frown pulls over my forehead and he leisurely climbs to his feet, erasing the single step left between us, his attention falling to my package, where it holds. His gaze pops up to mine, desire boiling behind his deep brown eyes. 
     My cock is hard, standing straight up and when he presses closer, the sensitive tip brushes along the harshness of his jeans, and I clamp my teeth together. 
     His chin tips the slightest bit, a smirk playing at his coral-colored lips. “I knew it.”
     “Knew what?”
     His eyes fall once more and he slips past me, pausing when his shoulder is even with mine, forcing my head to turn to meet his. “I knew you’d be thick.” He spins behind me, his lips near my ear. “I knew you’d get hard for me.” My hands curl into fists at my sides. “You’re built like a fucking God, Alto, and I’m ready to play servant boy when you are. Just say the word...”
     My cock twitches and I squeeze my eyes shut. 
     “I’ll pull you into my mouth, roll my tongue along your shaft.” His voice drops even lower. “I’ll even lick her off you if you let me—”
     I’ve spun, captured his throat in my hands and shoved him to the wall in seconds. 
     He lifts his hands, a grin on his lips, and then he groans, purposely stretching the cords of his neck against my palm, as if to hint at the strength every part of him holds.
     Quickly and without warning, his hips buck into mine, pressing right against my cock and revealing how his is just as fucking hard. My eyes dare to close, but I quickly jump back. 
     I spin, pouring myself another shot, forcing my breath steady when I’m close to panting, and willing my unsteady grip not to give me away. 
     “You can go now. Shows over.” 
     I carry my glass into the bathroom and calmly close the door, but the moment I’m locked inside, I set the glass down, looking to my hands. 
     They tremble with need, my cock aching to be gripped, squeezed, and released. 
     Fury builds behind my ribs, but the heat in my abdomen stems from something else completely. 
     With a low growl, I wrap my palm around my shaft, clenching it furiously, and my groan is chest deep. I tug angrily, working my cock to the vision of Delta spread out before me. 
     Her pussy dripping onto the satin of her sheets, her whimpers loud and piercing. 
     And then a harsh breath blows over my shoulders, and my hips jerk. Words are whispered into my ear, and I moan. My hand moves faster, franticly tugging at my cock until my ass cheeks are clenching, and then a deep, heady groan fills my ears. 

     “Cum for her...”
     Rage boils from the foreign, yet familiar tone, and my cum squirts along my stomach. I gasp, clenching my cock tighter and fall against the wall. 
     And then I punch a fucking hole through it. 

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER THREE

     Ander

 

     The dining hall consists of a giant round table with nothing in the center but the gleam of the chandelier above it. I counted twelve chairs, and only three remain vacant. 

     The two couples and the solo man seated a space away from Delta’s mom introduced themselves as if their names were supposed to mean something to me, so I nodded and said hello. There’s no need to tell them my name, because the first question that follows, the woman asks, “So dear we must know, what Academy do you come from?”

     “What makes you think he came from an Academy?” the solo man asks.

     “People don’t wander into this program off the street, Rayo.”

     A grin pulls at my lips, but I swipe my tongue across them to hide it. 

     If these fuckers only knew.

     “I apologize for the less than youthful evening, Ander, normally the other girls are here to welcome the rare newcomers, but my sisters are away at the moment, so their parents came on their behalf.”

     My eyes glide toward Delta, who sips a glass of water like a princess. “I wasn’t aware you had sisters.”

      “Semantics.”

     My nod is slow. “Are you as close with them as you are Alto?” 

     Her lips twitch, and she gives a mocking little squint. “Much closer.”

     A scoffed laugh leaves me, and my eyes pop to her left when Alto leans in, whispering something in her ear.

     Her hand comes up, her fingertips skating along his sharp jawline as she tips her head a little closer to his. 

     Heat builds in my gut, and I sink my teeth into my cheek to keep from sneering.

     I don’t know what pisses me off more, his determination to stake claim, or how she seems completely infatuated. 

     Is it subconscious, her need to be nearer or is it an act to mollify the man beside her?

     I’m not sure why I care, it’s not like I like the spoiled brat. 

     “I only married Alto’s father a year ago.” The couple face forward when Delta’s mom speaks. “They’re not that accustomed to one another.”

     “No, not at all.” Delta agrees, running her middle finger over the edge of her glass. 

     Annoyed by her dismissal of him, I look to Alto, but he simply stares at the girl in nothing but admiration. It pisses me off more. 

     How could he allow her to—

     “We only dated for two years, one month, and fifteen days prior to your snorting away your fortune and seeking out another sucker she could smell death on.”

     I choke on air and Alto drops his grin to his chest.

     While the others seated grow wide-eyed, they say not a word, and when I look to Mrs. Avara, her cheeks are red with anger.

     “Could you pass the wine, mother?” she says sweetly and suddenly my eyes are called to her. 

     And now they won’t leave. 

     I didn’t expect that from her, not by a long shot. The words she first spoke, yes. Her brushing him off as if he’s nothing when he speaks of her like she’s the world, completely. 

     But the golden girl who snaps back with venom when someone dares to belittle her lover, not in a million fucking years. 

     Spoiled little rich girls don’t do that. 

     They don’t bark and they don’t dare to step out of line in the presence of others. They do as they’re instructed, cry to themselves at night, but leave no proof of their displeasure as their maids wash the pillowcases before it’s discovered. This means this place is not what I assumed it to be, and that’s a problem.

     Alto is right, but so was I. 

     Alicia has his money.

     And I ... don’t know Delta in the slightest.

     Too bad for him, now I want to.

     I let my smirk free, and he finds it. Recognizes it. 

     His chin lowers in warning and mine rises with reason. 

     Alto said she likes to bite, and it seems that carries out of the bedroom.

     But I wonder ...

     How much blood is the girl willing to draw to have what she hungers for?

 

     *** 

 

     After dinner, Alicia convinces the entire table to return to the first floor’s cocktail room, where I spot what’s now the fourth piano I’ve counted in this place. This one’s cherry wood, ancient, but in pristine condition and sits on a platform three steps high. 

     A few members of the staff slip in silently, quietly passing cocktails to the ‘parents’ of the other Greyson girls, as Delta had introduced them. 

     While the others waste their breaths with useless conversation none of them give a shit about, I make the move that will draw in the duchess. 

     I roll my sleeves up to my elbows and take the seat in front of the keys. 

     Not waiting to steal the attention of the entire room, I hold myself back, playing a simplified version of Toccata D Minor by Johann S. Bach. 

     By the time I’ve eased into the second half, the scent of her perfume reaches me.

     Lavender and pink sugar. 

     Her steps are silent, a part of her classical training, I’m sure, and then her palm is placed along the shiny wood, her eyes on my fingertips as they glide along the keys. 

     “This is a favorite of mine,” she says. 

     I’m sure she’s lying, but she’s here, like I knew she would be. 

     I don’t respond, don’t look up, but say, “sit,” surprised, when she does without a word. 

     Her shoulders square, her back straitening and then her slender hands hover over the left side, gingerly easing down. Delta plays in tune with me, sharpening the ghostly melody. 

     The room around us falls silent, and then Alto appears.

     He rests his forearm on the opposite side of the instrument, his eyes never once leaving her face. 

     I would know, because mine remain on him. 

     I don’t need eyes to play, I lived the last four years of my life locked in an abandoned building with stone walls, nothing but a bed, bathroom, and a piano in the center of the space. There was no light outside of the hint that peaked through a gutter window, so when the sun went away, so did sight. 

     My nights were spent memorizing every note and how to achieve it. 

      I only left that room twice and I won’t be going back.

It’s with that thought that I strengthen the melody, driving the symphony. 

     The piece is perfect. 

     It’s bold and dramatic and forces the mind of a musician to expose itself, revealing the truth. And it does, but it’s not the one I expected. 

     What I imagined was a competitive composer, one who sat with a bitter stiffness but pure confidence, a rich bitch with a talent that was forced upon her and refuses to lose. That’s not what I’m served in the slightest. 

     Delta doesn’t play because she’s required. She not only plays like she was born for it, but as if she lives for it, as if the melody is what she’s made of. It’s a tantalizing response I can’t fight. 

Musical souls speak to one another, and mines clawing at my rib cage in an attempt to touch the temptress beside me. 

     That’s twice now I’ve misjudged her. 

     Her hands begin to fly along the keys, so I put a little effort into the performance, challenging her every strike, with two of my own, and it doesn’t take long for her head to drop back the slightest bit, her airy laughter floating into the space around us. 

     It’s suffocating. 

     Mesmerizing. 

      My gaze is pulled toward her, my muscles clenching as I trace the slender length of her neck, carving a path past her collarbone, down the swell of her breast to the lining of her gown, perfectly tailor to her silken skin. 

     She’s flawless. 

     It’s disturbing. 

     In my peripheral, Alto’s flat palm curls into a fist and my eyes snap back to him.

     His are sharp and lasered in on me, so I wink at the guy, and as we hit the climax, both our hands lifting into the air at the same exact second, the others in the room clap, going back to whatever conversation they were having just as fast.

     Not Delta. 

     The girl smiles from me to my hands, and when she takes my left one in hers. She flips it over, gliding the pad of her thumb along my fingertips, and something stirs in my stomach. 

It’s low and different and has me yanking myself free. 

     Delta’s eyes snap up to mine, small creases framing her features as I dart to my feet, putting space between us all. 

     She glances toward Alto and back, both now wearing curious expressions.

     “So, you don’t suck.”

     A small smirk pulls at her lips and she rises, gliding toward me like a fucking angel in devil heels, but it’s Alto who speaks as he jumps down, offering her a hand. 

     “Sure she does.” He looks up at me as her long, lean fingers lower into his open palm. “Very well, in fact.”

     He leads her away, and the anger from before comes right back, thicker, hotter. It swells within me, but why? 

     Fuck them. 

     I’d like to thoroughly do so, but if I can’t get inside their bodies, I’ll get inside their heads. 

     As the two meet the other guest preparing to say goodnight, Alicia’s eyes glide my way.

She tips her head, glancing from her daughter to me, and when she looks back, it’s with a smile I recognize all too well. 

     Opportunity sparks in her wired eyes and she swiftly breaks route, curving my way rather than the exit her daughter was eagerly pushing her toward. 

     “You’re quite the musician.” She sips from her glass.

     “I guess that’s why I’m here.” 

     She shakes her head slowly, peeking behind her. “I don’t think so.”

     I lift a brow and she opens her mouth to say more, but the doorman clears his throat. 

     “Your car has arrived, Mrs. Avara.”

      She nods as Delta and Alto look this way. 

     “Have a goodnight, Ander. I look forward to seeing you again.” The woman winks and walks away. 

      I stand there, sliding my hands in my pockets and Delta glances my way. Her eyes drop to my hands, slowly lifting once more. 

     She grins, gently brushing the curl from her face, and my fingers dig into my skin, the sudden urge to do exactly as she does, pissing me off. “Goodnight, Ander.” 

     “Fuck off.”

     She chuckles, loops her arm through Alto’s and off they fucking go. 

     Back in my room, I kick the door from its hinges, reveling in the crack of the wood as it hits the floor and lower into the center of the bed. 

     I stare out into the quiet, darkening halls with every light on in the space left around me. 

     Alicia’s words loop in my head and I wonder if she’s right. 

     Was I not brought here to tear the girl apart?

     If not that, then what?

     What purpose could a nobody, as Alto called me, serve a school of scholars like this one? 

     These fuckers in this program got perfect scores on their SAT’s, graduated from prestigious academies with perfect fucking transcripts, meanwhile I never set foot in a high school, let alone one you had to pay for. 

     I’m the black fucking sheep, yet again, but I dare someone to come through that door in the dark and try to take me back to my dungeon. 

     I’ll drive a knife through their throat, carve my name into their skin, and make music in their blood. 

     Someone brought me here for a reason, but if they won’t show their hand, I’ll take things into my own. 

     If morning comes without a fight, the day will be mine. 

     One way or another, I’m sinking my hooks into Greyson Manor. 

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FOUR

    Ander 

 

     She lies on her back, her white satin robe open, revealing a deep V of her chest, but the edges tease over her breasts, her pebbled nipples poking against the soft material. Her left leg is lifted and bent at the knee, tilted just enough to hide her pussy from me, so I’m forced to wonder if she’s wearing panties beneath it or not.

    Her hair is free of its bun, long loose curls falling over the edge of her giant, circular bed. 

    Beside her, Alto is propped up on his elbow, gliding his knuckles along the length of her neck, and when her tiny hands find his bicep, he lowers, pressing his lips to her throat. 

    He worships her, and after last night, I don’t doubt she does the same. 

    Whatever they’ve got, it’s real. Raw. 

    Unbreakable?

    Her soft little mewls has my dick twitching in my pants.

    I lick my lips, my teeth sinking into my bottom one when her back arches the slightest bit, her mouth opening with her moan. 

     And then she opens her eyes, spotting mine. 

     “Good morning, Ander,” she rasps, her voice thick from sleep ... or maybe her throat was already coated with his cum this morning.

      Alto’s head pops up, his eyes sharp. “How did you get up here?” 

     “Now why would I tell you that?” 

     With pure grace, Delta rolls onto her stomach, her bare breasts showing themselves for a quick second before they’re pressed into the comforter beneath her. They’re perfectly round, thick and a darker shade of pink than I’d have imagined.           Her hair falls into her face and I clench my jaw.

      I want to yank on it, but I’m not sure if it’s to hurt her or hear her scream for a very different reason. 

     “What do you want, Ander?” Alto calls my attention back to him, his fingers coming forward to grip her long locks. He wraps them around his palm, pulling them to her left side, where he lets them fall. 

     Her fingers come up to her lips, and she drags them slowly down until it pops free, peeking over her shoulder at Alto, who leans forward to meet her mouth a moment. 

     My dick is hard, aching and I frown. “I need...”

     I trail off when he rises off the mattress, the bear skin throw laying over them falling slightly, revealing a hint of his bare hip as he positions his body behind her. 

     My brows crash, my teeth grinding as his hips roll forward, her body pressing further into the mattress beneath him. 

     “Need what?” he doesn’t bother looking up as he presses his mouth to her shoulder, gliding his tongue across her until his lips meet her ear. He whispers something, and her eyes close, a small gasp leaving her as he thrust forward.

     “Let me ride with you to campus.”

     “Were you not assigned a driver?”

     “I’m more likely to get where I’m going if someone else is in the seat beside me.”

      Alto’s eyes pop up to mine, narrowing.

     “Alto,” Delta moans and my eyes flash, giving me away.

     Alto’s lips curl into a smirk, the desperation in his woman’s tone, the warning she gives with nothing but his name, demanding he continue to fuck her, while her little glare warns me to stop interfering in her ecstasy. 

     He rocks his hips slower, tipping his head slightly. “As you can see,” his voice is strained, the veins in his neck thickening. 

     Her pussy’s gripping him, it must be. 

     His jaw twitches. “Sorry, but as you can see, I’m spoken for, for rides this morning, so if you don’t mind, fuck off, ward.”

     Anger boils, heating me from the inside out, but then Delta stretches her spine, pushing back, right into his cock and his features cave from pure fucking pleasure. Every inch of me sparks.

     “And if I do mind?” 

     “Then shut the fuck up.” his lips part and his eyes close, his grip on Delta tightening. 

     My jaw flexes and I slip further into the room, his gaze narrowing more and more as I press my back into the darkest corner of her room. 

     The curtains have yet to be drawn back and the only light peeks in from the hall and the crystal mirror that is lit like dim diamonds. 

     With my head cocked to the side, I unbuckle my belt, and as it does with the open string of an orchestra, the room falls silent. 

     Their moans, the slight shuffling of the blankets from contact, it all stalls. 

     They seek me out, but I bend, tearing the plug for the mirror from the wall, and all that’s left is the slight shapes of their bodies. 

     “Careful, Ander.” Alto warns, but slowly, his woman whimpers, and my palm strokes along my length following the rhythmic way in which he moves above her. 

     He’s no musician, but his bodies fluent like one. Smooth and in sync. 

     His pants grow louder, my dick swells wider, and my hips buck in desperation. 

     But before she can come, he pulls free, flips her and pulls her into his lap. 

     She sinks down as if she’s done it a thousand times, and then her mouth falls to his shoulder. 

     The deep rumble that falls is pain filled, but echoes with pure ecstasy, as does the cry that leaves her a moment later. 

     She’s bit him, and the sound draws my cum from my body. 

     My chin falls to my chest, my groan a heavy, weighted exhale they couldn’t possibly miss.

     I tuck myself back in my pants and head for the door. “I’ll be in the car.”

     He scoffs behind me, and my smirk slips free. 

      Yeah, this will be so easy. 

     With my hands in my pockets, I make my way downstairs. As my feet meet the staircase that leads to the center point of the house, I glance at the other three staircases that meet at the same point. 

     I’ve just come from the west wing, the only part of the house I’m allowed to travel, the suited security at the bottom of each railing making sure of it. 

     Delta DeLeon is the woman of the west, which means the other girls, who have yet to return from wherever it is Delta claims they’ve gone, have their own designated part of this place. 

     I look to the man at the edge of the west staircase I’ve just come down, and point to the giant door dead in the center of them all. “What’s in that room?”

     The man smirks, shakes his head and looks forward.

     And there it is. 

     It’s not a what. It’s a whom. 

     It’s the fucking Chancellor. Gotta be.

     “How do I get a meeting with the man?”

     He scoffs, licks his lips and presses a button on his earpiece. 

     He nods as if someone can see him, and shit, maybe they can. 

     I searched for cameras and found nothing, but I imagine that’s the point. 

     “Your car is waiting for you,” he says.

      “Tell it to fuck off. I’ll be in Alto’s car this morning.”

     “Good luck with that.”

     I spin, narrowing my eyes on his.

     “Mr. Avara is already gone.”

     Mother fucker. 

     I charge down the entrance steps and tear the door open before the man in the suit can do it for me, but then the man at the stairs speaks again. 

     “Ms. DeLeon, however, has not...”

     My head snaps his way, but he stares straight ahead. 

     He says nothing else, but he doesn’t need to. 

     I close the door and climb the stairs once more.

 

     *** 

 

     Delta 

 

     “All I’m saying is you should befriend Ander, you two, together, could be extraordinary, change the world with your music.” My mother is close to drooling. “Imagine being the bride of—”

     “Bride?” I laugh, cutting her off. “Please, mother. One, you know nothing about Ander Blackwood. Two, we might play by the rules of the rich, but don’t forget, that is only for the investor’s sakes. I’m a Greyson.” 

     I pull open my earring drawer, choosing ruby studs but my hand freezes at my ear when my mother speaks with a tone so sharp, I might have to wound her for it. 

      “You’re not above an arranged marriage. If the Chancellor wishes to give you away, if it suits the future of this place, it will happen. And I doubt your husband will allow your stepbrother to tag along.”

     Forcing my breath to steady, I fasten my jewelry in place, and slowly move closer to where she sits. 

     Reaching behind her, I pull a cigarette from the glass case, the spark from the lighter making her jump, bringing a grin to my face. “You know how easily fixed that is, don’t you? A single drop of Devine wine and poof, the link is long gone.”

     I see her hand before it makes contact with my cheek in a hard, swift slap, but I don’t stop it. 

     I could, but I don’t. 

     Just as I don’t flinch or move my head in the slightest. 

     My mother’s face falls and a sinister smirk pulls at my primrose painted lips. 

     “Don’t test me, mother.” I take steps forward and she cowers away, as she should. “I let you into my home, I allow you to stay in this town, but I’m forced to do none of those things. Don’t forget where you are and who I am. We both know you’ve been blackballed. No one wants to touch the coked-out widow with a track record of terminated husbands, and without one, you can’t challenge the Chancellor, not that your words would make a difference. You have not a hint of hope without me. If I were you, I’d remember that. I don’t imagine you’d do well with a mountain of my man’s money and no one to show it off to.” 

     “I’ll never give it back to him. Not unless I get what I want. Not until the day I die.”

      I blow smoke into her face, and she works hard not to fan it away. “Like I said.” I glide my knuckle along her cheek and she jerks away. “So easily fixed, now, get out of my house, mother dearest.” 

     With a tight set jaw she whips around and off she goes. 

     I wait a solid minute before I slip my blazer on and raise my prize possession from its holster, and say, “you can come in now.”

     I lift my arms, and as I hoped, there is no hesitation, Ander places himself in my doorway, staring right down the length of my golden arrow. 

     Shock is the first thing to hit him, but it washes away as fast as it came, and all that’s left is that perfected glare of his. 

     I stretch my hand all the way back until my collar bone is parallel with the arrow. “Eavesdrop on me again and I’ll let this loose.”

     “I don’t think you’ve got it in you.”

     “That’s the biggest mistake you could ever make in Greyson Manor.”

     He eases a little closer. “What mistake would that be, Ms. DeLeon?” 

     “Assumptions.” I shift the slightest bit and release.

     The arrow whips by him before he has a chance to see it coming. His head snaps around to where it’s stuck and when he faces forward again, he feels it. 

     His hand darts up, gliding along his ear and when he pulls his fingertips back, they’re blood stained. “You nicked me.”

     “Only a little.” I set the arrow back in its place and walk past him, but pause at the first stair step, glancing back at him.         “Coming?” 

     “What are you, some kind of black night princess?” 

     An unexpected laugh falls from my lips, and I face forward. 

     Sure, something like that.

CHAPTER FIVE

Anchor 1

     Ander 

 

     The whack ass way this program is set up leaves a gaping two-hour mid-day break wide open, so I search the place from top to bottom until I find where the happy fucking couple are hiding, which of course is the top floor flat. They sit side by side on a small burgundy sofa that faces a large window, a mini fucking jungle on the other side of the glass. 

     Alto has a pen and pad in his hands while Delta’s nose is stuck in a book, so I sneak up, lean over and read the first line I can find. 

      “One must rethink how to engage and develop relationships with those who—”

     Delta looks up over her shoulder, not so much as a balk when I leap over the back of the small sofa and plant my ass right beside her. 

     “Ander.” She closes her book with a soft snap, lowering it to her lap. “How’s the ear?”

     Alto’s head snaps this way, and he frowns at the clean slice at the edge of my earlobe. 

     Ah, so she doesn’t report back with every little thing. Interesting...

     I reach up, flicking the spot as if to say just fucking fine, and she looks to my hands. 

    “May I?” she says reaching out. 

     “If I said no?”

     “You won’t.” Alto doesn’t bother to look up as he speaks but curves his wrist to shade in whatever the hell it is he’s working on.

     What is he working on?

      “Do you like it?” Delta’s question fans along my neck and I lower my eyes to hers. “It’s a skyscraper. Alto’s designs have been—”

     “Baby.”

     Her lips seal at his request and I frown at the fact that it was one.

     He didn’t bark or pin her with a glare. He gave her the respect of deciding and she willingly, gladly honored his wish as if they’re equals. Are they? 

     He could demand of anyone and I’m sure they’d give. So could she. 

     So why choose to settle for less? 

     Is it less if it’s all you wish for?

     “Your hands,” She repeats with an open palm, so I give her what she wants.

     Same as after we played together, the pads of her fingers glide over mine, and this time I swallow the urge to pull away, the need of her touch outweighing the confusion it causes. She turns them from side to side. 

     “They’re so raw, shredded.” She looks to me. “Does it hurt to play?”

I shake my head and she inspects the area closer. “You have no fingerprints.”

     “Acid will do that.”

     In my peripheral, Alto glances up, but I keep my attention on her.

     She speaks a little slower this time. “Yes, it will. Erase the print—”

     “Erase the man.”

     Something flashes in her eyes, but it’s gone so fast I couldn’t pretend to know what it was.

     She grins, then opens the book and picks up where she left off.

     As she settles once more, I look up to find Alto’s eyes on me. He holds them there a moment and then he too goes back to his work, so I stay where I’m seated and watch. 

 

      ***

 

      When instruction ends for the day, and I’m sliding into the back of my assigned car, I’m surprised to find I’m not alone. 

      Alicia smiles from her seat, a man I’ve never seen at her side. 

     “Ander, this is Damiano Greyson,” she introduces him. 

     Greyson...

     This has to be the Chancellor, the man who brought me here.

     I settle into my seat more, dropping my palm onto the middle cushion, where I hid a knife I stole from the kitchen. It will have to do until I can figure out where to find a real weapon. 

     The man nods his head, taps on the window and the car begins to roll. “It’s good to meet you, Ander.”

     “Can’t say the same.”

     “And why is that?”

     I eye the man. He can’t be much older than my twenty-two, maybe twenty-five, if that. “I was told this was my car and I didn't give you permission to ride in it, yet here you are.”

     “I could climb out right now.” He eyes me. “Or... I could tell you why I’m here.”

     I don’t respond at first, forcing him to wonder what I might do. The man doesn’t know me, so he has no idea.

      All he can do is what I was so sweetly informed I shouldn’t. Assume.

     “You’ve got three left turns, one right and a quarter mile stretch before the car stops.”

     “You measure time with distance.” Curious, he folds his hands before him. “What do you shoot?”

     “Anyone I have to.”

     A chuckle leaves him, and he nods. We both know he means what weapon, but why would I tell him this if he doesn’t already know?

     He sits back. “I’ve got a proposition for you, Ander Blackwood, one that will guarantee Greyson Manor as your home.”

     “There’s no such thing as a guarantee.”

     “I don’t say things I don’t mean.”

     “Alicia, I’m gonna need you to get out.” My eyes lift to hers. 

     She blanches, opens her mouth, but Damiano lifts his hand, and she clamps it shut. He taps on the window, tells the man to pull over and pushes the door open. 

     “Go, someone will come for you.”

     She doesn’t argue but does as she’s instructed. 

     So, he does have power. It has to be him.

     The second we’re rolling again, his eyes slice to mine. “Say what you want to say.”

     “You can mean it all you want.” I get right to it. “But why should I trust that your word makes a damn difference when I have no idea who paid the price it takes to get me here.”

     “You’re a grown man.” He changes the subject. “Why do you work for someone else?”

     “I’m a slave, Mr. Greyson. I might be a man, but I’m not a free one.” 

      “Call me Dom.” He studies me a moment. “Why don’t you run?”

     “Because I’m a man. Men don’t run from their problems; they find a way to resolve them. Every truth, earns a dollar, every dollar, is one less owed. My skills are expensive, but I get the feeling you know this.”

     Small creases line his forehead, and he leans forward. “What if I told you exactly how to get what you needed if you choose to stay?”

     “What’s this world got to offer me outside of an education I don’t want?”

     “The world you see isn’t the one I live in.”

     I knew it, this isn’t about a fucking school. 

     He straightens his watch, looking to me. “Mine’s darker, ran by a group so unsuspecting, it’s nearly undiscoverable.”

     “If that’s true...” I lean forward, mimicking his position. “Then what the fuck do you need me for?”

     His smirk is deep. “I don’t. Alicia Avara, or should I say DeLeon, does.”

     My stomach springs and I grind my clamped teeth from right to left as I gauge the guy a long moment. 

     Keeping my expression as neutral as possible, I slowly sit back. 

     “I’m listening.”

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SIX

     Alto 

 

     As my head breaks the surface of the water, I find Ander standing there, his arms crossed over his chest. 

I tear my goggles off, tossing them to the side and pull myself out of the water. “Why are you always popping up?”

     “It’s your face, your voice, your body.” 

     I scoff, wiping my face with a towel and sling it over my shoulders. “Cute, ward.”

     Not bothering to entertain him, I head for the locker room, but before I can push through the doors, he stops me in my tracks. 

     “About that whole ‘ward’ thing. I think I’m about done with that.”

     Slowly, I turn to face him. “Oh yeah?”

     He nods, taking slow steps toward me. “I’m twenty-two, Alto. Wards are juveniles, like you.”

     “I’m eighteen.”

     “Yet still under your mothers’ thumb.”

     “She’s not my mother.”

     “Right, sorry.” He cocks his head. “Stepmother. No incest, right?” 

     My eyes narrow, my spine tingling. 

     “What if I said I could give you back what’s been stolen from you.”

     “I’d call you a liar.” My words are careful, and he chuckles.

     He continues forward, stopping only once we’re nose to nose. 

     Ander licks his lips. “Any chance you’d ever call me yours?” 

     My pulse jumps. 

     Seven months of work, and we’re only nine days past his arrival. 

     There’s no fucking way we’re already here ... yet here he stands. 

     My chin lifts and I press closer. “Never, ward. Like I said ... you’re nothing.”

     His eyes flash, his lip curling as I whip around, disappearing behind the double doors. 

     I don’t have to stand around to know he won’t follow. 

     He came seeking an answer, and I gave him one. 

 

     *** 

     Delta 

 

     A shadow falls against the wall before me, and I close my eyes, my keys striking chords that are not written along the pages before me. It only takes a few moments before heated breaths fan along my neck.

     “This isn’t one I’ve heard,” Ander whispers. 

     “That’s because it’s mine.” I slowly lower my hands to my lap, but as I suspected, Ander doesn’t want that.

     The pads of his fingers glide along my palms, and he folds his over my own, lifting them back up. 

     “Play it for me, duchess.”

     “Call me queen and I’ll think about it.”

     His mouth has lowered, so I can feel the curve of his lips along my skin. “Play it for me, my queen.”

     I turn my head, and his dark eyes lift to mine. 

     “Your queen?” My brow hikes high, but he doesn’t retract his statement. He doesn’t do a damn thing outside of wait for me to oblige. 

     So, I do. 

     With my eyes on his, I play him the short piece, and the longer our eyes are locked, the more the truths are revealed in his. 

     He’s a man without a purpose, searching for one in a place he knows nothing about, but is he willing to take should it not be given?

     There is no power in probability.

     If my intuition is correct, Ander Blackwood has come to realize this.

     He slips behind me then, so I straighten my posture, my eyes closing once more. 

     As I reach the final note, he speaks again. 

     “For the record.” His teeth graze along my earlobe. “I wanted this to play out real fucking different.” 

     His footsteps are heavy and angered as he storms from the room, and only when the door is slammed close do my eyes pop open, my slow smirk pointed at the wall before me. 

     So close. 

 

     *** 

 

     Ander 

 

     Sliding into my car, I slam the door before the driver has a chance to do it for me, glaring at the man and woman across from me. 

     “Now, or never.” 

     Alicia’s lips curve into a wide smile and Dom sips his scotch with ease, before handing one he already had poured. 

     Once I take it, he lifts his glass into the air. “Looks like a celebration is in order.”

     I down mine and set it beside me. “We’ll see.”

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER SEVEN

     Ander 

 

     No one called or came to find me when I didn’t show on campus for instruction today, but why would they? I have no one here who cares, but after today, I’ll force them to. 

     Glancing around the room, I lower into the solo item it now holds – a desk as black as a crow, with walls and a chair to match. 

     “You’ve been busy.” 

     I look up to find Dom in the doorway, his suit still on. 

     “I didn’t lift a fucking finger.”

     He grins. “Perks come quickly, don’t they?” 

     “Are you here to waste my time or do you have everything ready for me?”

     “And so do the balls.” His eyes narrow. 

     “Balls have always been there, Greyson, but the need to hold my tongue is gone.”

     His nod is slow and then he’s approaching, lowering the files in front of me. “Signed, filed, and secured.” 

     My gut swims with anxiousness and I can’t help but laugh. I lift my hand and Damiano slaps his into it. 

     His phone beeps in his pocket and he looks to the screen a moment. “You ready?”

     I sit back, my forearms curling over the arms of the chair. “Been ready.”

     He comes standing behind the open door to my right, mumbling, “showtime.” 

     And then there they are, arm in fucking arm.

     Stepbrother and stepsister. 

     Delta jerks to a stop first, her eyes wide as they flick around the room, finally, landing on me. 

     “Hello, sweetheart.” My smirk is slow. “How was school?”

 

     *** 

     Alto eases into the room, gazing around at what had just this morning been his bedroom, the bed I caught them fucking in now long gone. 

     His eyes search mine, narrowing. “What did you do?”

     “Come here.”

     His jaw clenches, and I cock my head, using his words against him. “I don’t like to repeat myself, fuck boy. I said come. Here.” 

     Delta’s lips press into a hard line, and she slips her fingers beneath her pleated skirt, jerking to a stop when I throw a dagger, nicking her knuckle as she did my ear. 

     Her eyes flame, hitting mine; Alto flashes, darting forward but I shoot to my feet, and Dom steps out of the shadows. 

     They both jerk to a stop, their heads snapping toward one another for a shared thought. 

     My blood runs warm, and I jerk around the desk, but perch on the edge of it. “Lift your skirt.”

     Delta lifts her chin, her face stoic as she does what I say without hesitation, her pussy hidden by the thinnest of thongs, a steal arrowhead tucked into a holster attached to the seam of her skirt.

     I push off, stepping to her and her eyes flick up, peaking at me through her long, thick lashes as I guide my fingertips up her thigh, and take the item into my hand. Right as I tug it free, she jolts her hips, and the sharp point slices my skin. Her left brow pops and she faces forward. 

     Brat

     “Please, Delta, have some class” is spoken from the doorway and I back up, sitting at the edge of the desk once more as Alicia comes in. 

     Her eyes are clear today, but her grin is as shitty as ever.

     She comes to stand beside me and hands me an envelope. 

     The two watch, their chests rise with inhales that they don’t let out. 

     I tear open the flap and peek inside, forcing myself not to react at the amount of zeros on the bank statement inside, but fuck me. That’s more than I’d have thought. 

     I step toward Alto and hold it out. 

     The golden flecks in his eyes seem to disappear as his eyes dig deep in mine, trying to get to the other side, seeking answers I would have given him had he been brave enough to ask. 

     I tried to give him everything, but he refused me. 

     Now, he gets only what I’m willing to give. 

     Slowly, he reaches up, and my brows crease when his fingers land on mine, holding there the shortest of seconds before he takes the envelope from my hands. 

     His gaze flicks around the room before he looks inside, and when he looks up again, his expression is unchanged. He has zero reaction. 

     Delta turns to her mom, her hand coming up to her chest in dramatic fashion. “What did you do?” she nearly cries. 

     My pulse pounds heavily. 

     Alicia stands tall, a sinister smirk on her lips. “I made a deal with the devil, honey.”

     “What did you do?” 

     “What kind of deal?”

     “I gave him everything.”

     Delta’s eyes spark, her lip twitching and my brows crash together. “You have no authority...not unless...” she turns to me. “Ander?”

     My frown deepens, my gaze zipping from her to Alto.

     She tips her chin ever so slightly, and my curt nod follows. 

     “All I needed was a husband to hand everything to.” Alicia loops her arm through mine. “Now you can touch nothing, and he decides Alto’s fate, which we’ve already worked out of course.”

     Delta coughs, choking on nothing but air, her hand shooting down and latching onto Alto’s wrist. “It can be undone.”

     “No, it can’t.” She laughs viciously. “It’s all legal. We’ve covered every step. Damiano was the witness to it all.”

     “Damiano ... isn’t in control.”

     All our heads snap toward the hall, where three women stand, one in the center, the others flanking both her left and right side. 

     I slowly rise to my feet, my jaw hardening as the blonde leads them in, her black fucking cat suit looking thing- gleaming with her every step, her stilettos echoing along the marble floor and sending my heartbeat slamming in rhythm with them. Slow and fucking steady. 

     Ready to stop beating. 

     “Who the fuck are you?” I force past clenched teeth. 

     The girl smiles, twirling a piece of her long blonde hair. 

     “Ander Blackwood, meet Rocklin Revenaw, the Chancellor.” Damiano steps beside her, but not too close. 

     I jerk forward, but before I make it, a cold steal barrel meets the side of my head, the sound of the gun cocking to follow. My eyes shift and the sleek haired brunette winks. 

     “I heard you were gorgeous, but my, oh my—”

     “Bronx.”

     The girl’s lips close at Delta’s voice, and my eyes snap forward again. 

     Confusion whirls in my gut when she slips behind the newcomers with ease, a smirk on her lush lips, but she doesn’t come to me. She steps before her mother. 

     “Thank you, mother, for being so predictable.” She laughs, shaking her head, and then Alto weaves his way to her side. “You may go.”

     Alicia begins to pant. “No, I—”

     “Sorry, did I say, may?” she tips her head. “I meant you will go. Now. The doorman is waiting with a check in your name, your things are being prepared in your condo as we speak. The jet will take you anywhere you wish, and it will return without you.” 

     “Delta, please—”

     “Hm-mm.” She cuts her off. “I gave you a chance to decide, and you failed to take it. So, I made it for you. You called ‘check’.” Her eyes come to mine. “So, I dangled ‘mate’.”

     “What the fuck is going on?”

     “Ugh.” The girl with the gun breaks form, and hops up on the desktop, crossing one leg over the other. She scratches at the base of her head with the tip of her Smith and Wesson. “Isn’t it obvious? D, I thought you said he was smart?”

     Alto chuckles, licking his lips. “He is. Just a little jaded. Fill him in, Rocco.”

     Rocklin steps up. “This, piano boy, is your initiation,” the ‘chancellor’ smiles. “Congratulations, you’re in.”

“In ... what?” I look to Delta.

     “You’ll see.” She smiles, stepping up to me and pressing her lips at the edge of mine and something inside me settles. Her bright eyes find mine. “I knew you’d get it done.”

     “You planned this?”

     “Why do you seem so surprised? Who do you think brought you here?” her fingertips glide down my arm until she’s brushing along my own. “This is my world, Ander, and as of right now, you’re officially a part of it.”

     My heart beats fucking wild as I try to understand, to accept what they’re saying. 

Alto walks up behind her, draping his arm around her shoulder. “Your debt has been paid to the man who owned you, the money you have now is yours to keep, as is the room you’re living in, should you want it.” He tips his head back, using my words against me, as I had him. “Yeah, you want it ... just like you want her.”

     I clear my throat of the sudden knot threatening to clog it. “Wanted you first.”

     “I told you twice, fuck boy. I’m not gay.” He grins and fuck me.. the weight on my shoulder lifts.

     “Please, give me five minutes and I’ll change that stubborn mind of yours.”

     Alto chuckles, and we all follow Delta as she faces her mother once more. 

    “You thought a stepbrother was shameful ...” she smiles. “How do you feel about a stepdaddy?”

     My nerves jump, my yes snapping to the twosome. They say nothing as they turn, headed for the exit, and my muscles coil, but then they pause at the door, looking to me.

     “Well?” Alto pops his brow. “You coming or not...” 

     My fingertips tingle and I meet them at the door.

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER 8

     Ander

 

     We don’t get two feet inside her door before she’s spun around to face me. 

     No, not me. 

     Us. 

     She faces us.

     Alto stands at my side, his chest already heaving as she slowly slides her blazer from her body. She looks to Alto, nodding her chin as he moves over to the vanity, taking the small bench before it and pushing it against the edge of the bed. His eyes snap up to mine. 

     “Sit,” he demands, peeling his own jacket off and allowing it to fall to the floor. 

     I do as he says, watching him as he rounds the edge of the room, closes the door and leans his back against it. 

     Satin like skin brushes along my chin and I look to Delta as she glides before me, swinging a leg over, slowly lowering her ass into my lap. 

     “Why you doing this?” I rasp and she lifts my hands, dead at my side, placing them over her naked ass beneath her skirt. “I betrayed you.”

     She shakes her head. “You did exactly what I wanted. You didn’t choose what she offered you without trying to make us choose you first...” her fingernails drive into my hair, scratching down my scalp until she’s gripping me by the back of the neck. “But what you didn’t know, was that we already had. You were such a pretty pawn, we had to have you....” 

     I dig my fingertips into her ass and she flicks her tongue across her teeth.

     “All we had to do was make a splash with your arrival, and let you show the world what you were capable of.”

     “My music.”

     “Mm,” she moans her agreement. “And just like that, everyone saw you as the man after me, and everyone knows who’s after me, has to go through him. And so the wedge is driven.”

      “What if you brought me here and I wasn’t what you thought?”

      “Then I would have sent an arrow through your heart and let Alto tear it out.”

     My dick twitches and she feels it, her back arching slightly to push into me further.

     “Take my clothes off, Ander.”

     “No.”

     Her eyes narrow and I move mine over her shoulder. 

     “Come here.”

     Alto’s lip twitches and he kicks off the wall, but he doesn’t stop in front of me, he curves around, climbs onto the bed and then his legs are at my side, his shoes planted on the bench seat beside me.

     “I thought you understood, ward,” he whispers. “I’m the alpha. Take her top off, or I will take her off.”

     “You could try.”

     His teeth fall to my neck. “Now,” he hisses.

     My dick strains against my pants, so rather than easing it from her body, I tear her tits free. 

     They bounce before me, and Alto’s left hand comes forward, gripping and tugging on her nipple. He stretches it to its max before letting go, and her whimper has my muscles flexing. 

     “Pull me out, baby.”

      Her lips twist into a smirk as she works her way into my pants and frees me. My hand shoots down to grip myself when she lets go, but Alto’s arm is just as fast, his long, thick fingers wrapping around my wrist and yanking it backward. 

     “No,” he rasps. 

     “I need to be squeezed,” I speak through clenched teeth. 

     “So, tell her to.” 

     My head falls back, meeting his collarbone and he doesn’t move away. In fact, he shifts the slightest bit to make me more comfortable. My eyes meet hers, and her nipples pucker even more. 

     “Squeeze me.”

     “With?” he prompts and my eyes close. 

     “You’re pussy, baby. Squeeze me with your pussy.”

     She sits up, and not a second later, silk’s sliding over me, and I drive my hips up into her.

     I try to tear free, but Alto takes both my hands then, wraps them behind my back and drops his ass behind me, his chest now flush with my back. 

      I growl, and his chuckles fan along me, my dick flexing inside her. 

     “He likes that. The heat of your breath.” Delta outs me, and then she starts to ride. 

     For a moment, the only sound in the room is the grind of our bodies and the low moans coming from Delta, but then Alto’s lips are near, I can sense them, hovering near my ear. 

     I spin my hips in circles, my groan low and harsh, and then he speaks. 

     “Fuck her, ward, don’t play with her,” he whispers. “She’s been waiting for this ... for you.”

     “Let go.” My fingers twitch, dying to grip her, to flip her. To hold her down so I can dive as deep as her body allows. “My dick is a lot fucking longer than I can give without pinning her.”

     “Too bad you’re pinned.”

      I growl, and he chuckles against me. 

     Instantly my balls tighten and Delta moans. My eyes fly open and I lift my knee, nudging her back and sending her flying forward, and she gasps, the new position giving her more. 

     “Mmm,” her moan breaks off into a croaky cry and I turn my head, catching her nipples between my lips and sucking.

     “Bite,” he pants. “Quick.”

     I do and Delta’s entire fucking body shakes. 

     “Fuck, yes, baby.” I drive into her, and she grips my face, dragging my mouth up to meet hers, but before I can press against her pillowy lips, Alto steels her attention, pressing firmly into my back as he pushes up the slightest bit, so his lips can meet hers. 

     She cries, and then she’s bouncing over men. Then he tears away, his chest rumbling against my back, his muscles flexing when fucking finally, her mouth finds mine. 

     She hovers there, her eyes locking onto mine as she smashes our chests together. Her tongue comes out, flicking along my lips before diving inside, her mouth molding to mine in desperation. 

     Her pussy walls clamp over me and I groan, tearing away, my head falling back on the man behind me.

     “There it is.” My eyes close, my toes curling in my socks. “Squeeze me.”

     Her whimpers, grinding hard, working her clit against my body as my dick works her from the inside. My hands twitch with the need to strangle something, so I adjust, open my fists and close them over Alto’s dick. 

     He hisses in my ear, and then his clenched teeth are pressing against it. “Let go.”

     “Fuck no.” Delta’s legs come up around our bodies, my dick sinking even further. “God ... damn,” I moan, squeezing him harder.

     “You’re going to regret that,” he warns.

     “Doubt... doubt it. Fuck,” I pant.

     “Look at her.”

     I do.

      He lets go of one of my hands, but I keep his cock in my palms. 

     I can picture the sight of him, mentally tracing the length of him as I had the day he stripped down. He’s long and thick and so fucking hard. 

     “I said look at her.”

     My eyes fly open, my muscles tightening when his hand comes into view, gently gliding across her skin until he’s trailing the pad of his thumb up her jawline. 

     She tips her head, her mouth opening, but he evades her, pressing at the underside of her lip, and a small frown finds her forehead. She growls and his airy satisfaction has chills wrapping round my fucking neck. 

     His lips find my ear again. “You have no idea what our girl can do.”

     Our girl...

     My fingers twitch. 

     “Watch...” he says like a secret, and this time, when her head lowers, he slips his thumb between her lips and she starts to shake, her entire body quaking, goosebumps spreading along her skin. She closes her lips around him, sucking, and then her teeth clamp. 

     He groans behind me and my core begins to jut, but right as I’m about to come, Alto whispers, “I said you’d regret it.”

     His other hand lets me go suddenly, and he jerks up, freeing himself and tearing her body off mine in the same second. He tosses her behind him on the mattress and spins. 

     I’m still panting, just getting to my feet when he’s already got the front of his pants undone, dick out and pushing into her. 

     Her legs come up wrapping around his waist and rocks into her.

     “That’s not ... nice.” She moans. “He earned my cum.” 

     “He’ll learn to listen.” His face disappears into her neck, and her eyes meet mine. 

     My cock twitches and I kick my shoes to the side, tearing my jacket and shirt off, dropping them in the pile with his. 

     Just as I’m undoing my belt he lifts his head, smirks and slides out of her, and she climbs to the edge of the bed. Alto gets behind her, and then his eyes lift to mine, holding. 

     I free myself and shuffle forward. 

Delta’s lips caress the head of my dick and he presses at her entrance. 

     At the same time, we glide forward, and she moans around me. 

     We fuck her from both ends and she comes for a second time not a minute later, and I’m getting there. 

     “I’m going to come.” I warn her. 

     “Pull out of her and she’ll sink her teeth in.”

     “Why the fuck would I do something so stupid.” I push in further and she claws at my thighs. “Swallow me, baby.”

     Alto smirks, leaning over her, his face so close to my dick it swells further. 

     “I’m coming too, baby.” he groans, his features pulling. “Look what you did to us.” He kisses her shoulder. “Feel what you do to us.”

     His eyes snap up, dark and desperate and I jolt, my cum spraying her throat and she moans, her body tightening until, all it once, she collapses to the mattress.

     Her dark hair fans all around her, her body marked with both our hands and sleek with sweat. 

     Delta chuckles, tugs us down beside her and closes her eyes. 

     It’s not long before his follows, but I stay awake a little longer, listening to them sleep. 

     Quietly pushing to my feet I go back to my room, looking around at the large space. 

I’d vowed not to go back to being a prisoner, but I didn’t expect to come out of that with anything but my life. This shit don’t feel real. 

     This room can’t truly be mine.

     Can it?

     Lowering onto the edge of the bed, I lean over, staring at the floor. 

     I’ve never fucking needed a soul, so why the fuck does the thought of not having them drive me mad? It started with him, grew to her, and ended with one realization. 

     Neither could be sacrificed.

     But will they still want me once they realize they no longer need me? 

     That I already moved all of the money Alicia gave me into Delta’s accounts and that the estate left behind from Alto’s father now shows his name on the deed. 

     I never planned to fuck them over, but I was going to let them feel the sting as if I did for a while. 

     A little pain goes a long way. 

     It makes you strong. 

     It doesn’t make you equal ... doesn’t make you worth a damn.

     Footsteps have my head snapping up to find Delta and Alto stepping inside. 

     He closes the door and locks it while she walks toward the opposite side of the bed that I’m sitting on and climbs beneath the covers, her body still naked and flushed. Alto climbs in behind her, and they both look to me, ever so slowly, I step out my pants, slipping beneath the covers with them. 

     Alto reaches behind him and presses a button on the remote, turning off the lights. After a moment my eyes adjust, finding Delta’s sleepy smile on me. 

     Her hand comes up, pushing my hair back and glides along my cheek. “I knew the minute we met you we’d want to keep you,” she admits.

     I swallow past the lump in my throat, looking to Alto. “We?”

     Alto’s dazed eyes slides to mine. “You fit, Ander.” His eyes close again, and he wraps his arm around her, hers entwining with mine as she pulls it between us. “Don’t question it, and don’t leave us in bed like that again.”

Heat spreads through my chest, and I nod even though he’s not looking. 

     “Fine, but I call the first taste of morning pussy.”

     He scoffs, and says, “yes dad.”

     The three of us laugh, and then we fall asleep.

Quick note from the author:

 

JOIN MY GROUP! More from this world is 

COMING this winter! 

Gah! Thank you so much for reading Ander, 

Delta, and Alto’s short story and intro to the world 

of the Greyson girls! I hope you love them as much as I do!

 

Speaking of multiple men to love… dive into my completed series, Boys of Brayshaw High below…

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     Chapter 1

 

     Raven

 

     Walk away.

     Move your feet, exit this piece of shit cafeteria, and go get high. Chill out.

     Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.

     I keep walking, and I’m almost free and clear, almost through the door and away from the trouble I surely don’t need but can’t seem to escape.

     But of course, nothing in my life is simple and just before my left foot joins my right, the final step through the open door, the bitch decides she’s not done and runs her mouth. Again.

     “Maybe if she wasn’t such a slut her whore mom wouldn’t have kicked her out for sleeping with her new man.”

     The laughter echoes, growing louder until it wraps around my throat like my mother’s hands when in a fit, choking me until I lose focus.

     I stop where I stand.

     My eyes haze, rage winning over the calm bravado I attempted to force myself into.

     “Trailer trash, bitch.”

     More laughs.

     And there it is, the push.

     Why do they always push?

     Before anyone can stop me, not that there’s anyone who would give a shit, I snatch the closest tray off the nearest table and in one swift move, one hard, full swing, smash it across the side of her face.

     The cheap red plastic breaks against her head and screams ring around me.

     Blood pours from the big mouthed bitch’s forehead and she shrieks, her horrified gaze flying to mine. I wait until our stares connect, then quickly kick her chair sideways. Panic grows in her eyes as she crashes to the floor.

     There’s no time to escape, not that I have anywhere to go.

     People scream, but no one dares to step closer to me. The lunch lady calls for help and everyone rushes to the side of the asshole on the floor because she’s ‘the victim.’ Sure, I got physical first, but she started it. What did she expect? 

     If you can’t take it, don’t dish it.

     And, yeah, the spat wasn’t a lie, my mother is a whore. The dirtiest of dirty. Straight trailer trash at its finest, I’ll admit it all day.

     But she doesn’t get to say it.

     And I sure as shit couldn’t let her get away with disrespecting me the way she did, publicly.

     Not sure how she managed it, but my mother, the failure she is, taught me one thing - to keep my pride above all else.

     Apparently, that’s all a girl like me can control.

     So, disrespect me not.

     “My office! Now!” Principal Folk screeches. He doesn’t call me by name, doesn’t look my way, but why would he? Here I stand, caught red-handed - literally still holding half of the tray in my hand - as always.

     He probably knew it was me the second someone called for help, before even walking in here.

     I toss the tray to the floor and head straight to my home away from home - the cheap wooden chair with a ripped-up burgundy center that sits directly across from the principal’s desk.

     Monday was, as he warned, my “last strike,” but yesterday I got caught smoking behind the gym, and I’m still here. Today’s Thursday.

     Wonder if he’s in another forgiving mood?

     I’m guessing not when forty-five minutes later he charges in and slams himself into the seat, glaring at me through his little nerd glasses.

     His anger probably has something to do with the loud-mouthed girl – who very well may still be bleeding all over the stark white cafeteria floor – being his niece.

     My fucking bad.

     His eyes narrow as he judges me and my too-tight top and ripped-up jeans.

     So, I smirk, taunt him a bit.

     Because there’s nothing this guy could say or do that could possibly be as fucked as every other day in my reality.

     I grab the edge of the chair and lean forward. “Give it to me, Mr. Folk.”

     His eyes widen a fraction of an inch and as if he can’t help himself, quickly cut to my top.

     Men, they have no self-control. 

     Well, look at that, another thing learned from my mother. 

     “Clearly you don’t want to be here, Ms. Carver. Every time I issue a warning you come back twice as hard.”

     When a slow grin stretches across my face, he clears his throat and looks away. 

     “This is your third high school in eighteen months and honestly, you’re lucky you lasted here so long.”

     “Am I… Mr. Folk?” I drop back against the seat. “You sure you’re not—”

     “Stop.” He glares before sighing. “This is serious. You’ve got the entire school’s attention now. I can’t make this go away.”

     I roll my eyes. “Just get on with it already. Where to next?”

     He eyes me a moment before folding his hands and leaning forward against the desk. “I made a call.”

     My eyes slice to his.

     “Your social worker—”

     “I don’t have a social worker.”

     “Apparently you do. She contacted me a few months back and—”

     “Months?”

     “Raven, listen—”

     Right then, the secretary ushers in some dark-haired lady wearing slacks and a button-down. She reaches over the desk to shake the principal’s hand. 

     “Mr. Folk, I’m Maria Vega.” 

     “Ms. Vega, I appreciate you coming so quickly.” He turns to me as she does the same.

     “Hey there.” She gives a fake hello, her roaming eyes and tight-lipped smile more curious than anything. “Do you mind if we talk for a bit?”

     I don’t bother speaking. No matter what I do or don’t say here, she’s already got me figured out as far as she’s concerned. 

     “Mr. Folk and I have been in contact over the last semester. He’s briefed me on your home situation and past issues, and at this time, we think it’s best you be removed from your mother’s care.” 

     A laugh bubbles out of me before I can stop it. ‘My mother’s care’ she says. Please.

     The woman stares at me for a moment before sighing. She’s quick to lose the sweet, caring woman act. “Look, I get it. You don’t care what I have to say, fine. But we are removing you from your home. I’ll take you to grab your things and then it’s a day’s trip to your new housing. It’s a bit different, you being as old as you are, but we have a safe place for you.”

     “Yeah? They make cookies and tuck you in at bedtime? Or is that job left to the man there who creeps into the little girls’ rooms at night?”

      The woman’s eyes narrow and Mr. Folk sighs. “Is there something you need to tell me, Ms. Carver?” 

     “Nothing you’d care about.”

     Her eyes jump to the small, fading cut below my left eye. “Try me.”

     “Pass.” I hop to my feet, stepping close to her. “I’ll be waiting out front.”

     “You’ll wait right here if you want to avoid that girl’s parents who are standing a few feet outside this door.”

    “You’re mistaking me for someone who gives a shit.” With that, I shove past the woman and walk toward the front of the student office, toward the loving mother and father of the little bitch who ran her mouth. I look from the girl to her parents, finding all their glares on me, their body language showing exactly what they think of me. 

     Dirty.

     Used.

    Worthless. 

     And they’re not wrong. 

 

                                                                                             ________

     Chapter 2

     Raven

 

 

     “You have got to be fucking kidding me,” I mumble to myself as I scan the yard. 

     Ms. Vega shifts toward me. “You’ll get used to it.” 

     “What the fuck is this place?”

     “This is the Bray house.”

     “Looks like Michael Myer’s house.”

     She laughs lightly, then looks again, a frown taking over her face. “Well shit, it does. I never noticed before.”

     The porch is dipping at the center, likely from wood rot, the white paint chipping like large splinters. It’s a perfect square, two small windows on each side of the door mirroring the two on the upper story, a creepy awning beneath them.

     “It seems small, but it widens toward the back.”

     Small is a trailer with only enough space for a personal size fridge, one-sided sink, and two outlets for hot plates or a toaster oven.

     “Anyway, this is a home for kids getting ready to age out, and a few younger ones who had issues with standard style parenting. It’s for the kids who are more ... challenging.”

     “So, there’s a bunch of punks living here?” 

     “No.” She shakes her head. “There’s a bunch of punks at the high school. This place is cake compared.”

     “Sounds fantastic,” I deadpan.

     With a resigned sigh, Ms. Vega says, “Let’s go.” 

     She drags the duffle bag she loaned me behind her as she walks up, and I force my feet to follow. 

     When we showed up at my trailer the day before yesterday, my mother laughed and welcomed us inside. She sat there smoking a joint – of my weed – in front of the social worker and offered to help me pack. I thought for sure she’d flip, try to beat my ass or let her flavor of the week do it, as she always has when I’d get suspended or kicked out of places. She knew if social services stepped in it meant no more welfare for her, and no more welfare meant no more “free” cocaine – she’d have to put in extra time on her back without it. And that was a problem because the prime prostitute from Gateway Trailer park has expensive taste in powder. 

     I knew it wasn’t because the worker was there, she didn’t give a shit about that. Shit, she talked with the lady like she’d known her all her life – shitty and hateful with a nasty smile on her face. The worst that would happen if she was reported would be a few days in jail, and that meant nothing to her, they already knew her well. According to my mom, it’s almost easier to score a sack in county than it is out here – and there, her trades are welcomed. She doesn’t discriminate against gender. A woman’s money is worth just the same, she’d say.  

     No, I knew by her nonchalant attitude she’d gotten herself a new supplier, be it a new dealer willing to take a trick for a trade or client who stuck, who knows. 

     Who fucking cares.

     “You must be Ms. Vega?” I follow the voice to find an older woman with deep wrinkles and dark frizzy hair. Her tone isn’t exactly welcoming toward Ms. Vega, more quizzical if anything.

     “Yes, ma’am.” Ms. Vega hesitates for a second before stepping forward to shake the woman’s hand.      “Ms. Maybell, this is Raven Carver, seventeen, out of Stockton California.”

     When the woman turns my way, the roughness framing her eyes smooths. 

     “You had a small journey, huh, Raven?” the woman asks.

     “It’s Rae.” 

     The woman smiles and if I didn’t know any better, I’d say it looked genuine. And hell, maybe it is, another bastard’s kid means more green in her pocket. 

     I’m aware I could be judging unfairly, but ... are there still people who choose to house fucked up rejects for fun?

     “Rae.” She smiles a little. “You’ll be in room seven. There are two bunks per room, but the last two who were in there were sisters, so both left together last week. You’ll have it to yourself for a bit, but that don’t mean funny business will be any easier for you. Not sure if you were told, but this is a girls only home, the boys are there.” She points across the lot to another white house about two court spaces away. “There’s no drugs, no sex, no stealing, and absolutely no fighting amongst the other girls. Other than those few things, it’s a nice deal here. Hurry on, put your things away and we’ll get you to the high school. They’re expecting you.”

     With a sigh, I make my way to the door, pausing when she calls out again.

     “Oh, and Rae?”

     I glance over my shoulder with an eyebrow raised. 

     “Behind the house is off-limits. You can go as far as the swing set there but beyond that, the dirt road? It’s not for walking down. This whole front part, though, is yours to roam.”

     “Sure,” I respond and face forward, taking in the mental institution style housing. Plain white walls with random couches against them make up the room, a single TV hanging high in one corner and bolted into the wall – preventing it from being easily stolen, I’m guessing. A card game left mid-play lays on the coffee table and an ashtray sits beside it.

     “What the hell is this place?” I mumble to myself, jumping slightly when an unexpected voice answers. 

     “It’s four walls to stuff the runaways and problem children ‘til nobody is forced to pretend to care anymore.” When I lock eyes with the girl, she decides that means I want the full breakdown and keeps talking. “All the kids here are shipped to the local high school as part of some poor kid program. It’s quite a place. Nothing but a bunch of ritzy privileged assholes with the exception of us few fuck-ups, and a handful of others from the low-income housing track down the road. But it’s not divided like you’d think, more one big system. You either tuck your tail and go about your day without being seen or heard, they allow that, or you’re in the middle of it all and your every move is measured. Step outside the unit and you’re treated like the trash they already see.” 

     “Sounds like a nightmare.”

     She pops a shoulder. “It can be. Ran by some real gems.”

     “Ran by?”

     “You think they’d let us all walk on their marble floors without having a leg up on us?” She shakes her head. “They’re smarter than that. They offer us something we don’t have back home, we stay in line. Tit for tat all the way.”

     “And people buy into that shit?”

     This time her eyes skim my unhealthily thin frame from head to toe. “You’ll understand soon enough.” And then she’s gone.

     “Okay.” I frown, and turn to my things, making quick work of tossing my clothes into the dresser labeled with my name and walk back out front.

     I toss my social worker – who popped out of fucking nowhere - her bag and she frowns. 

     “I told you to keep this.”

     “I don’t want your pity shit.”

      “I have no pity.”

      “Then I don’t want your shit.”

      “Get in the car, Raven,” she tells me with an exasperated sigh.

     Maybell walks toward me with a smile. “Ms. Vega was nice enough to send over everything I needed yesterday, so I was able to pre-register you. Go straight to the office when you get there, it’s the first door on the left when you walk in. They’ll give you your schedule.”

     With a nod, I walk away, but Maybell calls out again before I step into the car. 

     “There’ll be a group of kids walking this way after school. A good lot are headed here if you’d like to join ‘em. It’s a little over a mile down the road, city bus works just fine too if you can pay for it. Stops right here.” She points to the stop sitting at the edge of the sidewalk just in front of what she pointed out as the boys’ home.

     I don’t respond and slam the door behind me. 

     Ms. Vega gets behind the wheel with a huff. “Look, Raven—”

     “It’s Rae.” 

     “You need to make this work. I’ve talked to a few girls here. Maybell lets them do what they want if they follow the rules. At least here, you can still pretty much do as you please, be your bitchy little self and get away with it.” She half laughs as she says it and my eyes cut her way. “You might think I’m just the lady to deposit you, but I’d like to think it will be better for you here. I don’t expect you to be happy, but maybe you can move past the anger your mom left you in.”

     “What, do you double as a shrink or something?”

     She grins and pulls away from the curb, driving the several blocks down to the high school. “No, but someone helped me once, and I’d like to help you the same.”

     “Don’t waste your time, focus on the little ones that don’t understand the lives they’re living.” I turn to look out the windshield. “I’m already ruined.”

     “Hey!” she snaps, and I turn to glare at her. “You’re not ruined. Believe it or not, it only takes one person to make you see that. Give it time, you’ll heal.”

     “Not interested. All I want is a life away from anyone who has ever heard my name, fucked my mom, or read my file.” With that, I exit the car and I stare at my new reality – a giant brick building with a cement sign dead in the center.

     With a shake of my head, I make my way up the steps, stopping when Ms. Vega shouts from behind me.

     “This place isn’t like most high schools, Raven. Things are a bit different here than they are where you come from.”

     Tension lines my stomach. “What are you trying to say?” 

     She eyes me a moment. “Girls like you aren’t exactly welcomed at a place like this, so … keep your head down and look the other way.”

     A chuckle bubbles out of me. “Have you met me?”

     “I’m serious,” she stresses, unease lining her forehead. 

     “So am I.”

     “Do you want me to come in with you?” 

     “Goodbye, Ms. Vega.”

     With her eyes on the building behind me, she nods, gets back in her car and drives away. 

     I pause where I stand for a moment. 

     I could just take off now, but it’ll do no good. I can’t get a job on my own unless I follow in my mother’s footsteps and at least staying here helps pass the time. Eighteen isn’t too far off.

     “Fuck it,” I mumble and go to push through the door, but it bursts open before I can, and three guys strut out … three girls following close behind.

     The guys don’t see me as I shift to the side to avoid being hit by the metal door, but when the girls shuffle out, one of them makes it a point to bump me and she really shouldn’t have done that. 

     I guess right off the bat is the best time to show her I’m not the one.

     After she shoulder checks me, I spin and dart forward, grabbing a good full grip of hair in my hand. I go to pull her back, but the moment I do, a large hand wraps around my wrist. 

     “Now, now,” a deep, teasing voice warns and my glare snaps over my shoulder to find a brown-haired guy who’s about to catch an elbow to the jaw. “No need to act out. We make time for all those ready and willing.”

     “Get your hand off me unless you’re ready and willing to get kicked in the dick.”

     “Ooh, sounds like a good time.” He steps closer. “Now, let go, and show me what else that grip could do.”

     I tighten my fist and the girl cries out more.

     The guy’s smirk deepens, and before I can maneuver away, his hand is gripping my ass. “You wanna come? I can pull your hair too…” he whispers.

     My body grows stiff against his and he barks out a mocking laugh as he lazily steps back. 

     My hand falls from the girl’s hair and she grunts before storming back into the school. Probably to fix herself up, superficial as shit.

     “Not as hard as you want to be, are you the new girl?” the guy speaks, a hard edge to his tone as he falls in line with his boys, forming a tight arrow. 

     But he’s not the one in the center.

     I offer a shitty smile when really, I want to ram a pipe down his throat. “Guess not.”

     “Don’t worry, baby, you’re forgiven. I’ve got it on good word she’s got no gag reflex.”

     I nod lightly. “So, she was perfect for you then?”

     The guy tips his chin at my snide tone, but his friends make no move.

     They’re wearing sunglasses, so when I do glance from one to the next – purposefully avoiding looking them over any further – I can’t read the look in their eyes, something I’ve taught myself to do when it comes to the male species.

     I stand there until one of them, the tallest of the three, turns and heads for the parking lot, noting the asshole who put his hands on me is the one to get behind the wheel of a big ass, black, chromed-out SUV, not unlike the other flashy cars in the parking lot but by far the most alluring. There’s something to be said about a sleek SUV with blackout windows. It demands your attention – likely why this dumbass drives it. 

     In my neighborhood, though, such a ride tells you where to score or which way to run – always the opposite direction is the answer. Unless you’re my mother, of course. To her and her friends it’s looking a lion in the eyes hoping it takes the bait – the fancier the ride, the bigger the payout.

    I shake off the thought but catalog the vehicle in my mind.

     Lifting my backpack over one shoulder, I prepare to step through the door for the first time, glancing up at the cement sign above before I do. 

     Welcome to Brayshaw High…

Download book one here: https://geni.us/BOBHFB

Download the boxed set here:  https://geni.us/BrayshawBSBM

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