- 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 substance/alcohol abuse.
Things hadn’t quite gotten back to normal. Landyn had made it his sole purpose to make sure she knew how valued she was. Gifts came every day. Little notes were coupled with them, bearing sentiments that she knew were far too deep to have been the Devil’s. It wouldn’t have surprised her if she were to learn that those words, those feelings, belonged to someone else. She couldn’t read many of them because they reminded her too much of Damien.
Landyn was a somewhat constant presence at her apartment. They had never been the most “domestic” pair, but he was sharing her space to the best of his ability.
Eli realized, quite quickly, that their evening routines were wildly different. He would entertain himself with the television and a bottle of something nearby. She’d often find herself curled up in a chair on her balcony, with a book draped over her knee. The only commonality they shared was alcohol, which surprised her. Landyn had been the one to introduce her to the wilder side of life — to designer drugs and fine powder on glass tables. Her dalliances were now hidden, consumed on marble countertops, with the bathroom fan cranked as loud as it could go. Paranoia made the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. It was impossible to feel at ease with him around. His abstinence made her feel as though she was doing something wrong. But, if she thought too hard on it, she would be forced to realize that he was simply on his best behavior.
He was trying to show her that there was a future for them.
She supposed it wouldn’t be the best image for her to have. Of Landyn completely coked out and acting wild into the morning’s early hours.
Especially if there were babies in the picture.
They had talked about kids enough times. It was enough to make her head spin. Truth be told, she hadn’t thought about what her future might look like. When the abuse started, she found herself too aware that the future wasn’t something that was promised to her. She learned to give up hope — at least, until recently, when she reclaimed it for herself.
One thing was for sure, no part of her had entertained the notion of having children with the Devil. The last thing the world needed was more demons.
Kids were something she had looked forward to at one point in her life. Like most things light, bright, and happy, she could trace it back to Aria. To those perfect lips peeled apart in a bright smile. To the laughter that sounded like music carried to her on the winds. A siren’s song that pulled her ever closer until they were tangled at the mouth.
It was hard to say whether she missed the love they once shared or the peace she had felt with her. After all, their relationship was just another crippling disappointment. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the pin pulled out of the grenade before she was thrown at Landyn Cole’s feet.
It was irrational, but a part of her was resentful that her life had led her to this point. She thought too frequently about what life must be like for Aria. Was she happy? Had she found someone else to warm her bed and summon that toothy grin to her lips? Had she made a life? A career? Had she finally, at long last, earned her father’s approval? Eli hoped, if nothing else, that she was happy — even as it twisted her insides to know that she wasn’t a part of that portrait. But, vengeful as Eli was, she never wanted to direct her ire toward Aria.
Not the one good memory she had left.
Still, with the Devil darkening her door nearly every night, the past was all she could think about.
When Landyn announced that he had to leave Vegas for a few days, she allowed herself a massive sigh of relief.
The temptation was there. To pack up everything and test what Julian had said about her guards. But she knew better than to act out. Eli knew that she was still very much a prisoner despite his show. She might have traded one jailer for another. So until she knew how she was being monitored and where there were weaknesses — if any — she couldn’t afford to act.
She had been reckless before.
There was too much blood on her hands.
So, instead, she elected to test Julian’s promise to her in another, subtler way.
A few hours passed — Eli awarded herself her patience by feasting upon a lunch of hard liquor and designer drugs. Then, bleary-eyed and pleasantly numb, she called one of the guards into her apartment.
He looked stiff when he entered, his jaw locked tight. His eyes swept around the room, drinking in the state of disarray she had allowed it to fall into. Undoubtedly, he was impressed that she managed to make such a mess in such a short period.
When everything was so structured, she couldn’t help but crave a little chaos. So that was what she made.
“Did Landyn leave you with any special instructions while he was gone?”
“To follow you if you were to leave,” he said, his voice a soothing, smokey basso. The sort of voice she’d love to have whisper lewd things in her ear. And she might have indulged that want if she hadn’t sworn off guards. She had learned that sleeping with them made things quite complicated.
“We are supposed to report any visitors you have.”
“When was the last report you gave him?”
“Before the terms of our employment changed.”
She paused, her arms draped around her middle. Her finger tapped against her bicep, her lip caught between her teeth. “When was the last time Landyn asked for information?”
“He gets a daily email briefing.”
Her stomach twisted in revolt, her teeth bared. “What do you put in these emails?”
“The standard,” he began, his tone bored as if he was commenting on the weather. “Your comings and goings, your visitors, like I said. But also, anything we can hear inside the apartment.”
Her stomach dropped, her mouth went dry. “Is my apartment bugged?”
“No,” he answered quickly, his head shaking from side to side. “At least, not by us. If it is, that would have been contracted through another company.”
Nex was a bit fanatical about their security. They kept several companies in their pocket, ensuring their assets were well looked after. It wouldn’t surprise her if there were another company monitoring the happenings in her apartment.
“What are you meant to report then?”
The guard’s cheeks flushed. “Moans, or… shouting.”
She grimaced, her teeth gnashing together. “Of course.”
The two lingered in uneasy silence for a long moment, his feet shifting from one foot to another.
“Your team is qualified to search for bugs, right?”
Her lips quirked up in a lopsided smile. “Why don’t you get started on that while I make a phone call?”
He offered a slight, sharp nod. “Of course, Miss Black.”
“Oh, and what’s your name?”
“Tristan,” he said, his shoulders rolled back as he drew himself to his full, impressive height.
“Tristan,” she repeated, his name saccharine on her tongue. “We will have to renegotiate what information you share with Mr. Cole. Both of them.”
Eli had placed a phone call to Julian as her guards took care of the matter of additional security. The older evil confirmed that Nex employed no other companies, and Tristan was able to reassure her that there were no bugs in the apartment. Relief unlike anything she had ever felt before washed over her. She had done her best to keep as low a profile as possible, but Archangel had been to her apartment. And when Yui had been there, talking ad nauseam about how she didn’t want the future Landyn did. Worse, how she would actively sabotage his plans, regardless of what they were.
With her newfound freedom, she intended to do all the things she had abstained from since she came out of the hospital.
She went to the club and returned with two of the dancers. She made sure that they were both quite loud. And she made sure to walk them to her door, still reeking like sex. She smiled wolfishly at Tristan as the girls made their departure.
She wiped her mouth while he not-so-subtly adjusted himself.
The next day was no better. She had Yui in the morning and did everything she knew she liked. Yui had never been particularly shy about vocalizing how good she felt. With enough fingers in just the right place, Eli had learned long ago how to make her sing. The afternoon was a bit of a departure from the norm. As it turned out, some of their cleaning staff was also quite easy on the eyes.
It was too easy to indulge too much. Eli had felt like she was starving — forced to play the part of a role that never would have earned her attention in the first place. She was rebelling — taking advantage of these few moments of independence. There was no telling how long it would be before she could break away from Landyn and the chains he kept her tethered by.
Eli poured herself a bath and settled into the hot water, keen to relax the tension from her muscles. She had yet to make plans for the remainder of her evening, but she felt that things would be pretty similar to the way things had been the night before.
Her phone chimed, earning her attention. It was a text message from Tristan. Her head quirked curiously to the side as she thumbed open their blank text thread. An amused smile formed on her lips as she opened up the message.
Tristan: Landyn leaving restaurant, returning to hotel.
Tristan: With security.
Eli sunk deeper into the water, humming contentedly to herself. It felt good, for once, to have all of the cards in her hand. To be the one to hold the power. To know the secrets. It felt good to be in the know.
A part of her couldn’t help but wonder if she was ready and willing to leave everything behind. If she was ready to step out of the life Landyn had forced her into. A life that, admittedly, she thrived in. She had spent so long dreaming up a way to escape that she hadn’t stopped to wonder how she would feel if things were different. If she were with anyone but Landyn, would she turn her nose up at this? The wealth, the status, the drugs, the sex?
She wasn’t sure where his perversion began and where her own deficiencies ended.
This life was tempting. She felt like she could own the whole world. Like there was nothing that could stand in the way of her bending the planet to her will. She could make the powers-that-be tremble in fear and take a knee before her.
Julian had made it clear that the throne was hers for the taking. And once she earned it, she knew that it would be easy to maintain. Markus had no genuine interest in leading, and Kade was… simply put, completely useless. They had the same deficiencies as Landyn, though, they were both spoiled by having had no responsibilities. As a result, they were able to reap the benefits of their father being a fearsome, cold-blooded monster without ever having to do much to earn their marks.
She, however, had carved her own way. Earned her reputation. Though, Landyn had been the one praised.
It could be hers. She didn’t have to leave.
What even waited for her on the other side of the world? A woman who had decided she hadn’t wanted her many years ago? It was stupid. Foolish.
But there was at least safety. There was autonomy. Eli would be under someone’s thumb until the crown was hers. She would be subject to Landyn’s mood swings. And still, she would have to play a part. Until Julian abdicated his throne and Landyn was dispatched. Ideally, un-humanely.
Her phone chimed again, earning a sidelong glance. The screen didn’t show any names she recognized. Instead, it was a long string of numbers. Curiosity got the best of her.
She thumbed up the chat and immediately felt her heart lurch into her throat.
Anonymous: Friday, 10:24 PM, get yourselves to meeting point A.
That was two days from now. Eli swallowed a hard lump in her throat, her heart pounding against her rib cage.
Thoughts of being the Queen dissipated like smoke. Relief unlike anything she had ever felt before washed over her — coiling around her body like a soft blanket. Even as her heart galloped, she felt an overwhelming sense of peace.
It was then that she knew she didn’t want to be queen. She never wanted to be.
The mind simply had a remarkable ability to make the best out of a shit situation.
They were going to be free.
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