- Meet The Girls
- Meet The Guys
- Chapter One
- Chapter Two
- Chapter Three
- Chapter Four
- Chapter Five
- Chapter Six
- Chapter Seven
- Chapter Eight
- Chapter Nine
- Chapter Ten
- Chapter Eleven
- Chapter Twelve
- Chapter Thirteen
- Chapter Fourteen
- Chapter Fifteen
- Chapter Sixteen
- Chapter Seventeen
This story is rated Mature for adult language, sexual content, references to graphic violence, drug, and substance abuse. This means that this is intended for audiences 18 and up.
This chapter includes mentions of cheating, abuse (mental, emotional, physical), and suicidal ideation.
Her belongings were packed in such a frenzied fashion, she didn’t know what made it into her suitcase. For the first time since this life had begun, she felt her composure slip entirely. Decorum was lost, thrown to the wayside to live in the gutter with her self-respect. A cigarette remained clutched between her teeth as she worked. She hardly could bring herself to care about one of her more overpriced dresses when ash fell, charring a hole into it.
A part of her wanted to see it all go up in smoke.
What a vision she would have painted, standing in the middle of a sterile, modern apartment — a black-clad figure, watching as a suitcase filled with the Devil’s finery went up in flames.
It was a disappointment when it didn’t erupt. Grief washed over her as she mourned the absence of poetry to her suffering. What she needed was something to make it all make sense. To make it all worth it. Instead, she was left with only the bitter realization that there was no rhyme or reason for this. There was no greater meaning to be found in the fine lines of this contract with the Devil. This was, from the beginning to the end, her greatest mistake. It was the bear trap she had stumbled into because she was too naïve to see Landyn for what he was. She refused to see the monster beneath the mask.
She stood, too aware of the ache in her back and the stinging in her knees. She sucked another plume of her cigarette between her teeth, reveling in the smoke as it burned its way down.
Unable — or perhaps unwilling — to waste her drink as an overpriced ashtray, she padded to the balcony. No sooner did her fingers close around the crystal bowl did the doors to her apartment swing open.
Landyn cut an imposing figure in the doorway. Shadow and anguish shaped into an immovable mass. He surged toward her, something akin to panic alight in his gaze.
He barely passed the threshold of the balcony before the stench hit her. Cheap perfume and the musty scent of their sex. His sweat, her spit.
She bared her teeth at him, her eyes flashing to her Beast’s.
How fucking dare he?
To his credit, he halted in his stride, his eyes locked on hers. “Elizaveta,” he purred, his knuckles whitening against the doorframe. “I’m sorry.”
The corner of her mouth quirked. A sadist’s smile curved her ruby-lacquered lips into something unrecognizable. Something menacing enough that even the Devil recoiled. She brought the cigarette to her lips, inhaling a plume she didn’t even taste.
“You’re not,” she purred.
“Eli, I am.”
“You’re sorry you got caught,” she tapped the cigarette into the ashtray, wondering what sort of sounds he might make if she were to put it out in his eye.
“No, I’m—” he made a soft, surprised sound as she brushed past him. His eyes tracked her every movement, finally settling on the suitcase in the middle of the floor. “What’s that?” He asked, panic constricting his throat.
“My suitcase,” she replied, her tone bland. Bored. “I’m leaving you.”
“No.” She wasn’t sure if it was a whimper of a growl. But, judging by the conflicted look on his face, not even he was sure. “You’re not leaving me.” Arrogance replaced his brief moment of vulnerability. It seemed that he remembered he had a crown, and she had nothing. The way he had designed her to be. Helpless.
“I am,” she growled, her eyes locked, unwavering on his. “You’re clearly bored with me,” she was surprised at how bitter she sounded. Surprised at the way her heart fractured in her chest. “You haven’t even been faithful to me since we got together. So what is the point of me staying?” She hissed, gesturing wildly at the apartment as if its four walls were meant to encapsulate the entire shit-show that was their relationship. “There’s no point.” She answered for him. “There’s literally no reason for me to stay. You treat me like shit. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“I know,” he said, his eyes widening with panic as he stepped toward her. She could see it in his face. The realization that he had lost control of the situation. The epiphany that, at long last, Eli had reached her breaking point. The usual formula of turning the tables, breaking her, and then soothing her wasn’t going to work. For once, she had managed to push him onto his back foot.
The power made her feel alive. She wanted to pin him beneath her heel — she wanted to watch as fear froze his face and stopped his voice from leaving his throat. For once, she wanted to see the great Landyn Cole take a knee.
She wanted him to beg.
“I’m leaving,” she repeated.
A self-satisfied shiver rolled up her spine. The Devil’s smile sprawled across her lips.
The de-throned King seemed to falter. His expression was pallid. He reached for her, hesitating as if feeling her skin against his would scald him.
Eli allowed him to touch but made a great show of wrenching her arm away. “Don’t. Fucking. Touch. Me.”
He swallowed hard, panic widening his gaze as he forged another dreaded step toward her. “I’m sorry. I really truly am. I don’t… I don’t know why I did it. Why I continued to do it.”
“Because you don’t love me.”
“No,” he said, shaking his head fervently from side to side. “I do love you, Elizaveta,” he reached for her again, his fingers shaking as he got close enough to feel the heat radiating off her skin. But, then, he thought better of it, allowing his hand to fall to his side. “I have always loved you. You’re the woman I want to be with for the rest of my life.”
“I’m your possession,” she snarled, hating the parts of her that softened to him, seeing him so openly hopeless. So helpless. She hated the pieces of her that bent to hearing him confess that he loved her. That he wanted her.
“No,” he said, after too long a pause. “You’re not.” It sounded like it was harder to admit to himself than console her. “You’ve always been more to that than me.”
“I don’t know,” he roared, throwing his hands over his head.
She watched him through a plume of cigarette smoke, tapping the long column absently into the ashtray. She remained quiet. The silence felt unnatural and oppressive — she could hear his frantically beating heart. The scent of him made her stomach turn.
“I deserve better.”
She watched him warily, her jaw working. “You’ve never loved me the way I deserve to be loved.”
His face fell, his voice came quietly. “I haven’t.”
“It shouldn’t have taken all of this, Landyn!”
“I know!” He growled, his temper getting the best of him. The Devil began to pace, his fingers raking frustratedly through his shortly cropped hair. “I know, Eli. I know.”
“Then you know why I have to leave.”
“No,” he fervently shook his head from side to side. “I’ll be better, Eli. I’ll do everything right. I will stop sleeping with other women. I’ll… treat you better. I’ll—”
“Stop beating the shit out of me?”
He froze, the muscles in his jaw working as he looked at her. Those words, said out loud, had never sat well with him. It was like he managed to completely detach himself from reality. As if he believed himself to be someone else entirely. As if someone else took control of him when those beatings were dealt. When his punishments were lavished across her skin.
There was no escaping it. No pretending that she had been at the mercy of someone else. No, it was him. Landyn Cole. Her personal Devil.
He clenched his jaw, his eyes falling to the floor. “I didn’t forget,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. “Eli, I couldn’t. Not after…” He swallowed a hard lump in his throat, his shoulders squared as he turned to face her. “I never want to hurt you like that again. I never…” His hands shook. For a moment, she almost believed him. She almost believed that he was disgusted by his actions. She might have been convinced that he meant what he said if she hadn’t heard this song and dance before. If he didn’t pull her back in every single time.
She’d sobered enough to realize the error of her ways. By announcing that she was leaving, she gave him everything he needed to act out. While he might not retaliate then, it was only a matter of when. There was nowhere she could go he wouldn’t find her if she left like this.
She needed a better plan if she was to leave. Which left her impotent in the face of Landyn’s tears as he reached for her.
There was no escaping him. Not today.
He pulled her into a tight embrace, his face buried into the crook of her neck. She flinched at the smell of another woman on his skin, hating that it twisted her insides to know he had just come from her place.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
She protested, but his arms tightened. He held her close as if fearing what would happen if he let her go. “I’m so so sorry.”
He peppered her cheeks and her neck with kisses. She stiffened in his arms. But he didn’t seem to notice. Or, perhaps, he just didn’t care.
“I’d die without you, Eli.” He whispered, pulling back to frame her face in his hands. His fingers brushed through her hair as he locked eyes with her. She could see the truth in his gaze. Feel the weight of the unspoken promise hanging between herm.
She hoped he would.
He clung to her, little more than a hopeless, lost child attaching to her. She smoothed her hand over his back, his gaze locked blankly on the wall opposite her.
“Promise me you’re not leaving.”
“Not tonight,” she gritted, too aware that she was the one consoling him when it should have been the other way around.
“Promise me you won’t leave me, Eli.”
“No,” she pulled away from him, her jaw working as she stared him down. “I won’t promise you that. Not now. Not while you still fucking smell like her.”
He flinched as if he had been struck, his gaze locked on the floor. “Come shower with me,” he whispered. “Wash her smell off me. And know I’ll never smell like anyone else again.”
She scoffed at him, her teeth bared in a feral snarl. “I don’t believe you.”
“Allow me to show you I’m being honest,” he pleaded. “Let me show you that I can change. That I can be the man you deserve. Let’s start with tonight.”
She saw it in his face. His resolution. She knew that no matter how much she tried to protest him, he would continue to implore her. She had no choice.
“Fine,” she conceded, pulling away from him to stamp out the cigarette butt. “I’m going to have another cigarette,” she murmured, too aware of how he seemed to brighten. He hastily pulled away from her, his long legs eating up the ground as he strode toward the bathroom.
“Don’t take too long,” he warned, “we don’t want the water to get cold.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, hazarding a small, forced smile as she waved him off. She padded toward the balcony, folding herself over the railing as she watched the cars as they passed by.
Not for the first time, she found herself wondering how much a fall would hurt. And not for the first time, she wondered if she’d have the strength to make the jump.
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