Home > Rapture & Ruin (Rapture & Ruin #1)

Rapture & Ruin (Rapture & Ruin #1)
Author: Julia Sykes


Prologue

 

 

Max

 

 

There was no other way: I had to make Alexandra Fitzgerald suffer. I didn’t have a choice. Her father had ruined my family. It was time for me to ruin him. If I attacked him directly, I’d bring down hell on what was left of my once-powerful family. But his daughter…

Alexandra was a much easier target.

Young. Willowy. Delicate.

Her rosy cheeks and cute little freckled nose gave her an air of innocence, but that was just a pretty lie. Ron Fitzgerald’s daughter wasn’t innocent. There was no way she’d managed to live under the beloved mayor’s roof for twenty-one years without being tainted by his corruption. Not when she was related to that two-faced monster.

Monster. My fingers found the puckered skin that stretched too tight across my brow, obsessively tracing the damage that would never heal properly. The nerves were fried; there was a strange disconnect between my fingertips and my brain. It was like touching someone else’s ruined face, not my own. It still felt foreign to me, even though nearly two years had passed since the fire.

I swallowed the acidic tang at the back of my tongue and focused on my prey, assessing my surroundings. Alexandra would come home soon, and I needed to be ready.

In my meticulous search of her home, I hadn’t found any evidence of her father’s criminal activities. The multimillion-dollar townhouse appeared just as cute and innocent as the young woman herself.

Deceptive. Spoiled. Frivolous.

This was a girly apartment. There was a dizzying amount of pink, for god’s sake. Like everything else about Alexandra, it was a perfectly pretty cliché.

I reached out a gloved hand and snatched up a gilt-framed photo from the ornate marble mantle. My eyes adjusted to the gloom as I focused on the picture, finding Alexandra’s alabaster features first. Even swathed in a shapeless black graduation gown, she seemed to shine with some inner light. Like some kind of goddamn angel with her long, flowing copper hair and luminous, peridot green eyes.

A fallen angel, but her delicate beauty was undeniable. Tempting. Cruel.

Her father’s daughter.

My scar tugged on a frown, and my stomach turned as I was drawn into the photographic image of her luminous green eyes and incandescent smile. Strange, insidious warmth pulsed at the center of my chest, and my thumb traced the curve of her rosy cheek. Surely someone with that smile—like she’d never seen so much as a shadow of the world’s evil—couldn’t be complicit in her father’s crimes.

Tension rippled through my muscles, and my grip on the frame tightened. The crack of glass beneath my thumb pierced my chest like a bullet. For several agonizing seconds, I couldn’t draw in any air.

I closed my eyes and forced my lungs to expand, breathing deep. A low growl slipped between my teeth when I exhaled. I couldn’t allow myself the luxury of having second thoughts. I’d come too far, suffered too much.

If the cost of my revenge was Alexandra’s tears, then she would have to pay the price. No matter how innocent she appeared, those wide green eyes wouldn’t change my plans for her. Before the night was through, I would make the fallen angel weep.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Allie

 

 

He’s a bully and a loser. Don’t let him get to you. Isabel’s message of solidarity lit up my screen, but I couldn’t manage a nonchalant shrug and a wry smile. Not when I was alone, and I didn’t have to force myself to pretend that Gavin didn’t wreak havoc on the confidence I’d painstakingly built over the last three years. I thought I’d escaped his cruelty when we graduated high school, but my own personal demon had followed me to my summer internship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Even though I’d landed my dream placement, it would’ve been hard enough to prove myself and escape my father’s larger-than-life shadow. Gavin had turned my biggest opportunity into a nightmare.

I fiddled with my locket—a familiar comfort when I was feeling anxious—as I sent the reply to my best friend: I won’t let him get to me. I’m okay. Love you!

Acting out of habit, I rubbed my thumb over the locket’s gold surface, which was pearl-smooth from years of wear. My first initial was engraved on the front, but the back had become my personal worry stone.

I drew in a deep breath and paused at my front door. I fisted the locket, drawing on the memory of my mother’s strength as I took a moment to repeat the mantra I’d adopted to bolster my confidence: I am strong. I am independent. I can do this.

Bullies like Gavin couldn’t hurt me anymore. I wouldn’t let them.

My phone chimed again. Wanna meet up for a drink? I promised to do some posts about this cool new cantina on the socials. You can vent all about that douchebag over margaritas!

Despite my crappy day, the knots in my stomach loosened, and a small smile tugged at my lips. I wasn’t sure what I’d done to deserve a friend like Isabel, and I would always be immensely grateful for her support and loyalty. Tomorrow night for sure!

I slid my key into the lock and entered my apartment, beyond ready to cuddle up on my couch beneath my favorite fuzzy pink blanket. Maybe I’d pour myself a glass of pinot noir to sip while I read my new rom-com novel. Nothing relaxed me like the scent of a good book and the glide of well-worn paper beneath my fingers. If I devoured this one tonight, I’d have to go to the library on Saturday to stock up again.

Some of the tightness in my chest eased at the prospect of spending an afternoon in my favorite place in the world: the New York Public Library. I blew out a sigh and closed the door behind me, my fingers automatically finding the deadbolt lock in the darkness.

Before I could flick on the light, something warm and firm pressed against my lips, stifling my shocked gasp. A hard, masculine chest collided with my back, pushing me forward so I was pinned against the wall. Panic slashed my thoughts to ribbons, tangling my rational mind into a snarl of disjointed, primal fears. Animal instinct overtook my body as adrenaline surged through my system. My hands slapped at the wall, my palms stinging as I struggled to free myself from my attacker’s hold.

He was too strong. His hand tightened over my lips to smother my scream, but he didn’t have to hold me with bruising force to pin me in place. His bulky frame surrounded me, suffocated me. My chest seized; I couldn’t seem to get any air into my lungs. The shadow-draped foyer spun around me, and terror was a copper tang on my tongue.

“Breathe.” The growled command was punctuated by a sharp prick at the side of my neck. Insidious warmth oozed into my bloodstream, pumping through my body with each pounding beat of my heart. My muscles relaxed, and fresh oxygen flooded my lungs, enhancing the strange, alarming high that muddled my mind with each passing second. The shadows around me deepened, and I floated away into darkness.

 

 

“Wake up, Freckles. We need to talk.”

My eyelids were far too heavy, and sleep fogged my brain. I groaned and tried to ignore the voice, but a harsh curse roused me. That deep, masculine tone set off alarm bells in my fuzzy mind, blaring at me to wake up.

A burst of instinctive fear pulsed through me, and I peeled my eyes open. I squinted into the darkness, struggling to make sense of where I was. A single, dim lightbulb hung above my head, cocooning me in a small puddle of illumination that threw the rest of the room deeper into shadow. The semicircle of floor that I could see beneath my feet was gray concrete.

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