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Twisted Love: Chapter 38

Alex

Josh’s fist slammed into my face, and I heard an ominous crack before I stumbled back. Blood dripped from my nose and lip, and judging by the pain radiating from the right side of my face, I was going to wake up with one hell of a shiner tomorrow.

Still, I made no move to defend myself while Josh pummeled me. “You fucking bastard,” he hissed, his eyes wild as he kneed my stomach. I doubled over, the breath stolen from my lungs in a wet, crimson-stained gasp. “You. Motherfucking. Bastard. I trusted you!” Another punch, this time to the side of my rib. “You were my. Best. Friend!”

The hits continued until I dropped to my knees, my body a mess of cuts and bruises.

But I welcomed the pain. Reveled in it.

It was what I deserved.

“I always knew you had bad taste,” I rasped. Note to self: work from home until the injuries heal. I didn’t need the office running wild with rumors. Everyone was still whispering about my uncle’s death, which was officially attributed to the fire that’d reduced the manor and everything in it to ashes.

Josh grabbed me by the collar and hauled me up, his face tight with pain and fury. “You think this is funny? Ava was right. You are a psychopath.”

Ava. The name sliced through me like a razor-sharp knife. No physical beating could hurt more than thinking of her. Her face before she walked away would haunt me for the rest of my days, and thanks to my fucking cursed memory, I remembered every detail of every second. The scent of blood and sweat staining my skin, the way her shoulders trembled as she clutched the blanket with white-knuckled hands…the moment the faint light of hope died in her eyes.

My gut wrenched.

I may not have killed her physically, but I had killed her spirit, her innocence. The part of her that believed the best in people and saw beauty in the ugliest of hearts.

Was any of it real?

Yes, Sunshine. All of it. Realer than I ever thought possible.

Words I wished I’d been able to say, except I hadn’t. She’d gotten hurt and almost killed because of me. I’d failed to protect her, just like I’d failed to protect my sister, my parents. Perhaps it was my curse to watch everyone I loved suffer.

I was a genius, but I’d been so arrogant I’d overlooked a crucial weakness in my plan. I’d anticipated my uncle might go after Ava, but I should’ve had a team monitoring her twenty-four seven instead of just during the day. That one error of judgment had almost cost me the one thing I couldn’t live without.

Except I lost her anyway. Because while I may be a selfish son of a bitch, the only thing that would gut me more than not having her by my side was seeing her hurt again. I’d made plenty of enemies over the years, and once they discovered my weakness—because she was my weakness, the only one I ever had—they wouldn’t hesitate to do what my uncle did. Ava would never be safe as long as she was with me, so I let her go.

She was mine…but I let her go.

I didn’t think I had a heart before I met her, but she proved I did—it lay in pieces at her feet.

“Fight back,” Josh growled. “Fight back so I can kill you, you bastard.”

“No. And not because I’m afraid to die.” Hell, I’d welcome it. I flashed a grim smile. The movement sent another burst of pain through my skull. “This is your freebie. One session of unlimited beating for eight years of lies.”

His mouth twisted, and he shoved me away with disgust. “If you think one beatdown will make up for what you’ve done, you’re delusional. You wanted to use me? Fine. But you brought my sister into this, and for that, I will never forgive you.”

That makes two of us.

“I’m not wasting any more energy on you. You don’t deserve it.” Josh’s jaw flexed. “You were my best friend,” he repeated, his voice cracking on the last word.

Another, altogether different type of pain lanced through me. I’d originally befriended Josh because he was Michael’s son, but over the years, he really had become my best friend. My uncle had been my last living relative, but Josh had been my brother. It had nothing to do with blood and everything to do with choice.

Truth was, I could’ve taken Michael down a long time ago, but I’d stalled out of loyalty to Josh. I’d made excuses as to why I dragged out my plan, even to myself, but deep down, I hadn’t wanted to hurt him.

You were my best friend too.

Josh’s face hardened once more. “If I ever see you near me or Ava again, I will kill you.” He shot one last disgusted glance in my direction before he left.

The door banged shut, and I lay there, staring at the ceiling for what felt like hours. Movers had already packed up my belongings and transported them to my new penthouse in D.C. I couldn’t stay in this house any longer—it was too full of memories, of faded laughs and conversations that stretched deep into the night. Not just with Ava, but with Josh. We’d lived here together in college, and it had been some of the best years of my life.

I closed my eyes, and for once, I allowed myself to sink into a good memory instead of a painful one.

“Sing onesong. Just one,” Ava pleaded. “It’ll be my birthday present.”

I shot her an unimpressed look, even as I held back a laugh at her exaggerated pout and puppy dog eyes. How could someone so sexy also be so fucking adorable? “Your birthday isn’t until March.”

“It’ll be my early birthday present.”

“Nice try, Sunshine.” I wrapped my arms around her waist from behind and brushed my lips over her neck, smiling when I heard her sharp inhale. My quickly hardening cock fit perfectly against her ass, like we were tailor-made for each other. “I’m not singing.”

“What do you have against music?” she huffed, even as she arched against me when I grazed my thumb over one perfect, peaked nipple. I could never get enough of her. I wanted to tie her up and devour her all day, every day. The rest of the world didn’t deserve her. Neither did I, but she was here, and she was mine, so fuck what I deserved. I took what I wanted.

“Nothing against music.” I pinched her nipple, and she ground against my now rock-hard cock in response. “Just don’t like singing.”

I did it once at some stupid karaoke spot my uncle dragged me to, and I never sang again. Not because I thought I was bad—I was Alex Volkov; I could do anything—but because singing felt too raw, too personal, like I was baring my soul with each note leaving my throat. That held true even when it was a stupid pop song. All music, no matter how cheesy, was grounded in emotions, and I’d built my reputation on having none—unless I was with Ava.

Desire pumped through my veins.

I had her all to myself before Jules got home from work in an hour, and I was going to take advantage of every second.

“But if you really want an early birthday present…” I spun Ava around, and she laughed, the sound filling the room with its warmth. “I have something in mind.”

“Oh? What’s that?” she teased, looping her arms around my neck.

“I could tell you or…” I kissed my way down her chest and stomach until I reached the sweet perfection between her thighs. “I could show you.”

I yanked myself out of the scene, my heart pounding. Like all my memories, it was so vividit might as well be happening in real time. Except it wasn’t, and all that surrounded me was emptiness and cold air.

My chest cracked. Now I remembered why I’d held off on reliving the good memories—every time I returned to reality, it was like losing Ava all over again. I was a fucked-up Prometheus, suffering for eternity, except instead of having my liver eaten by an asshole eagle every day, it was my heart breaking over and over.

I lay there until the shadows lengthened and my back ached from the hardwood floor. Only then did I force myself to stand and limp to my car.

The house next door was dark and silent, matching the weather. I’d been so caught up in my misery I hadn’t realized it was storming. Rain fell in furious sheets, and angry bolts of lightning split the sky in half, illuminating the barren winter trees and cracked pavement.

Not a hint of sunshine or life to be found.


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