Home > Fallen Rose (Beauty and the Beast Trilogy #3)

Fallen Rose (Beauty and the Beast Trilogy #3)
Author: Amelia Wilde

 


Chapter One

 

 

Haley


The dark presses in like a hand over my mouth, but I have to breathe.

Have to get out of this blood-soaked nightmare echoing with drowned breaths. With tortured gasps. With the sound of Leo trying to breathe while his lungs fill with blood.

The dream is fading fast. But everything feels wrong. I feel less like I fell asleep and more like I was put here against my will. Wake up, wake up, wake up.

My hand connects with something soft. Let it be Leo’s shirt. Where is he, where is he?

There’s nothing solid underneath. I push it away and it becomes a blanket thrown away from my body. A flutter of air as it flies away from me.

I’m on a bed, but it’s not his bed.

Trapped by the sheets. My limbs are sluggish but not as useless as they were in the dream. I push my hair back from my face with numb hands. Both legs over the side of the bed. I could go back to sleep, which is fucked up, honestly. I’ve been sleeping for a long time. That’s all I know. My eyes burn. Even my shins feel weird. There’s a pounding in my head.

And this is not Leo’s room.

It’s lovely. Airy and pastel. Mint green and white. Accents in emerald. Every piece of furniture has been meticulously placed. An elegant chair by the window. A padded bench at the foot of the bed. A matching dresser with a round mirror. I can see myself in it.

I look rumpled. Confused. Terrified. Because I should be.

This is Caroline’s house.

It has a scent to it I recognize. I can’t name it but I know it. I’ve smelled it before. Something rich and luxurious and utterly fake. How the hell did I get here? My mind struggles against black emptiness. I shouldn’t be here. She shouldn’t want me here. Not when I’ve been with Leo. Not when she tried to have him killed. Not when I stayed. I stomp through my memories like I’m retracing my steps for a lost set of keys.

I can figure it out later. For now, I have to get out.

On unsteady legs, I rush for the door. The last time I was here, I was at a party I didn’t belong at in a borrowed dress. Now I’m twisted in Leo’s shirt and my leggings. A tank top underneath. I don’t have socks, and I don’t have my shoes, but I don’t care.

The doorknob turns under my hand. Solid wood swings toward me, forcing me back into the room.

Caroline breezes in.

If I didn’t know what happened to her, I’d never have noticed the tense set to her shoulders. Everything else about her is polished. Perfect. Constantine. She’s wearing a loungewear set with a blue cashmere wrap and an expression of pure concern.

I freeze in the middle of the floor. The scent was her perfume. It’s light and expensive and everywhere.

It makes me sick.

The wrap whispers on her clothes as she reaches for me. I’m too frozen to stop her. Cool, small hands on the sides of my face.

“Haley, darling, we’ve been so worried.” Bile surges to the back of my throat at the sound of darling in her mouth. And she’s not done speaking. One of her thumbs idly strokes my cheekbone. “I heard what Leo Morelli forced you to do to save your father. I’m so sorry you didn’t think you could come to me. Don’t worry, sweetheart, you’re safe now. He can’t steal you away again. You’re under my protection now.”

Her hands slip down to my shoulders.

It’s too much and I wrench myself away. There’s nowhere to go, not really, but I can at least take a big step back. Caroline’s eyes stay big and round and concerned. “He didn’t force me to do anything. You brought me here. I didn’t want to come.”

The corners of her mouth turn down, and she shakes her head a little. “Sweetheart—”

“I’m not your sweetheart.” My skin prickles, going cold with Caroline’s presence. She’d be so pissed if I threw up on her nice carpet. “I want to go home. I want to see my father.”

She clucks her tongue. “You will. Of course you will. And you won’t have to worry anymore. I’m going to take care of everything. Aunt Caroline is here now.”

Caroline steps forward, taking up the space I took back. I should run. I should shove her out of the way and run. But instead my muscles lock down tight, freezing one by one from my toes all the way up. Even my breath feels colder. Caroline isn’t tall. She doesn’t tower over me. I don’t know what makes me so afraid I can’t move. The glint in her eyes, maybe. Or the sickening scent of all her money and power. Her fingertips meet my cheek, and then she brushes a lock of hair away from my face. Her gaze traces my features like she’s seeing me for the first time.

“I’ve neglected your little family for too long. It wasn’t your fault.”

The prison unlocks and I push her hand away. I’m too slow. Everything takes longer than it should. Breathing is harder. Thinking is harder. Leo, falling. The stretcher rails slipping out of my hands. Eva putting her hand to her eyes in the family waiting room. A long, silent ride home. Leo saying run. The black of his coat against the white of fresh snow. I’m burning. His fever. The half-conscious grip of his arms around my waist. He came back. He woke up.

And then.

The text messages. Why did I walk out into the snow without waiting for Gerard? If I’d waited, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have met Cash outside Leo’s gate. I wouldn’t have been standing there when—

“No, it’s not my fault.” I meet Caroline’s eyes with fear and anger rough-and-tumble through my gut. “None of this is my fault. You are forcing me to be here. You’re doing what you said Leo did. You kidnapped me. You had a man drug me.”

Caroline gives a little laugh and it’s so polite and incredulous that a pinprick of doubt digs in. Is it me? Am I the one who doesn’t know what’s going on? The last few days at Leo’s house were a literal fever dream. A fever nightmare. Nothing existed except Leo and the endless stream of cool towels I put on his neck, on his back. Maybe we were both sick. Maybe I’m sick now. I test my own forehead. I don’t feel feverish. I feel like I was drugged. Because I was.

“We’re family, Haley,” Caroline says. “It’s my responsibility to take you out of a bad situation and bring you home. There’s no telling what could have happened to you.”

“You sent a man to bring me here against my will. You sent my brother—” I can’t talk about Cash. Caroline has never sunk lower than sending her henchman to attack Cash, except for once. “He put his hand over my mouth. He drugged me.” I get my hand up to my jawline and skim my fingers over the skin there. I don’t have to look into the mirror to know there’s a bruise—I can feel the sensitive spot where his fingers clamped over my face to hold the cloth over my mouth. “He did this to me.” I lift my chin, angle my face toward the light.

She gives a fake, shallow gasp, and then she’s reaching for me. I hold my breath. I can’t stand it. Her touch is cool and featherlight. Caroline turns my face, peering at the bruise. It’s not like how Leo touches me, it’s nothing like it, and I don’t know where he is. I’ve been here long enough for him to find me but he hasn’t. The urge to hit Caroline, to attack her, dies a hasty death under my fear.

I know what she’s capable of.

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