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Violence
Author: Lily White


violence

noun

 

An unpleasant or destructive natural force

 

 

Our past should never define us. At least, that‘s what I’ve heard many people say, the self-help gurus and life coaches, the people teaching us to move on from past mistakes to find a better future.

But what if it’s your future that defines you? What if the fate you’re moving towards is the problem that will defeat you?

And what if there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop it?

That’s my life.

My fate.

My burden to carry since before I was born.

I was bred for it, raised for it, reminded of it every day of my life.

I never knew anything except that I would one day be married to man I don’t love. That I would be a wife to a man that doesn’t love me. And that I had to accept that arrangement regardless of whether I wanted it or not.

For eighteen years, I believed I would never know love, never experience true heartbreak, never have anything to look forward to except what I was born to become.

Mrs. Mason Strom.

A wife.

An ornament.

A trinket.

That was before two twin boys walked into my life. Before the weeks of freedom they gave me. And before I had to walk away from them despite what it did to me.

You think you know violence?

I promise that you don’t.

Not like I do, at least.

Not until you experience true annihilation.

Ezra and Damon Cross were beautiful when they were young.

They were my world for the short time we had together.

They were all that mattered until the day came that I had to leave them.

Now, they’re men forged in fire and shaped by the hands that beat them.

Beautiful.

Scarred.

Cold fury and blinding chaos.

I thought I knew violence.

But I was wrong.

Because if Ezra has taught me anything in life, it’s that the worst kind of pain isn’t what we do to ourselves, it’s what the person your heart belongs to can do when he’s learned to hate you.

 

. . .

 

Past

Emily

Prep school is a joke.

The entire establishment, really.

All grades from kindergarten through senior year.

We’re nothing more than carbon copies of our parents being churned out. A young generation educated, trained and mass-produced to take over when our parents die.

I’m still wearing the same uniform from when I was young, obviously with a size difference, but the style has never changed.

Grey pleated skirt. White button-down blouse. A grey jacket with the school insignia stitched to the breast pocket. The only choice we’re allowed is our shoes, but even those are practically the same since they have to be all black with a smooth sole and no laces.

The guys aren’t much better with their grey pants, white button-down shirts and the same jacket. Most of the students adhere to the strict dress code, all except the Inferno, of course, because they can do whatever the hell they want.

Leaning against a locker, I wait for Ivy to pull out the books she needs. She’s dragging ass, as usual, her eyes flicking over to Gabriel Dane’s locker repeatedly.

When she pulls her bottom lip between her teeth, I arrow my stare on the expression, suspicion churning in my gut because I know that look.

“What did you do?”

“Huh?” she asks, her voice distracted and her blue eyes turning my direction. “Nothing.”

My brow lifts because she’s definitely lying about that.

“He’ll kill you, whatever it is.”

Her lips curl at the corners.

“If he can catch me. Which he won’t.”

Around us, the typical popular crowd waits for us to finish what we’re doing so they can follow us down the hall for bragging rights.

Ivy, Ava and I are at the very top of the food chain, best friends since birth, but always willing to blend in with the other girls who come and go in school.

Esmeralda Chase is chatting up Jane Dougherty, and Ellie Maxwell is watching Amanda Stewart closely. Around them are another tier of gossiping hens, none of which know us well, even though they pretend to.

Eventually, Ava walks up, and the crowd of girls parts to let her through, her lips curved in a modest smile.

“I heard something interesting today.”

My eyes lock with Ava’s, worry creeping down my spine because there are far too many rumors in this school. Some true, many ridiculous.

Ivy is still too preoccupied to have heard what Ava said, her foot tapping against the ground awaiting Gabriel. I have no idea what she’s done, but it must be bad. She doesn’t always stick around to watch.

I’m not sure I want to know what Ava heard, but the question tumbles from my tongue regardless, slippery and wet.

“What’s that?”

Her brown eyes sparkle to look at me.

“I think you know. And if it’s true, you’re an idiot to go there.”

Damn it.

It’s not surprising to hear a whispered rumor is already breezing through the school halls after the party last weekend. I knew the mistake would leak. Had been sure of it after Mark Kingsley stumbled into the wrong room with Polly Hanes on his arm.

He’d mumbled a quick apology when he saw Ezra and me, but both his and Polly’s eyes took a good long look before running away at the sound of Ezra’s growled warning.

It was the first time we’d kissed, and I’d intended it to be the last, but the past few days have tossed more mistakes onto the pile, burying me in them each time my arm is grabbed and I’m dragged into seclusion.

Every time, I promise I’ll end it, but then his mouth brushes mine, his hand slides to forbidden places, and I can’t help but feel thrilled to break the promise my parents made for me before I was born. I also melt beneath the shiver of excitement I feel kissing him while knowing he’s dangerous.

Ava lowers her voice to a whisper, her body leaning into mine.

“Of all of them, he’s the last one you should be screwing with. You know how the twins are.”

Nobody can tell the twins apart, and to be honest, neither can I. Not fully. Not with enough assurance to know it’s always Ezra. But that’s who he tells me he is. I have no way to know for sure. They’ve been known to play a game of replacing each other.

“You need to stop,” Ava warns, but her words are lost when Ivy’s elbow nudges me, her chin lifting to tell me to look down the hall.

There they are.

The Inferno.

Not all of them, of course, because the entire group is rarely in the same place at the same time in school. Only at parties. But there are enough of them to make heads turn and people whisper behind their hands.

Gabriel and Tanner lead the pack, their jackets missing and shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows. Behind them, the twins saunter down the hall, Shane standing between them, his shirt untucked and a new tattoo peeking up above his collar.

I have no idea where the rest of them are, but I really don’t care. My focus is solely on Ezra...or Damon...or both. I’ve been studying them for years, and I still can’t pick up on the small clues that a person can use to tell them apart.

The way they move, the way they talk, the aggression in their amber eyes and even the way they wear their clothes, it’s all identical.

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