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Vicious (Sinners of Saint #1)
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They say love and hate are the same feelings experienced under different circumstances, and it’s true.
She is a starving artist.
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MY GRANDMAMA ONCE TOLD ME that love and hate are the same feelings experienced under different circumstances. The passion is the same. The pain is the same. That weird thing that bubbles in your chest? Same. I didn’t believe her until I met Baron Spencer and he became my nightmare.
Then my nightmare became my reality.
I thought I’d escaped him. I was even stupid enough to think he’d forgotten I ever existed.
But when he came back, he hit harder than I ever thought possible.
And just like a domino—I fell.
Ten Years Ago
I’d only been inside the mansion once before, when my family first came to Todos Santos. That was two months ago. That day, I stood rooted in place on the same ironwood flooring that never creaked.
That first time, Mama had elbowed my ribs. “You know this is the toughest floor in the world?”
She failed to mention it belonged to the man with the toughest heart in the world.
I couldn’t for the life of me understand why people with so much money would spend it on such a depressing house. Ten bedrooms. Thirteen bathrooms. An indoor gym and a dramatic staircase. The best amenities money could buy…and except for the tennis court and sixty-five-foot pool, they were all in black.
Black choked out every pleasant feeling you might possibly have as soon as you walked through the big iron-studded doors. The interior designer must’ve been a medieval vampire, judging from the cold, lifeless colors and the giant iron chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. Even the floor was so dark that it looked like I was hovering over an abyss, a fraction of a second from falling into nothingness.
A ten-bedroom house, three people living in it—two of them barely ever there—and the Spencers had decided to house my family in the servants’ apartment near the garage. It was bigger than our clapboard rental in Richmond, Virginia, but until that moment, it had still rubbed me the wrong way.
Everything about the Spencer mansion was designed to intimidate. Rich and wealthy, yet poor in so many ways. These are not happy people, I thought.
I stared at my shoes—the tattered white Vans I doodled colorful flowers on to hide the fact that they were knock-offs—and swallowed, feeling insignificant even before he had belittled me. Before I even knew him.
“I wonder where he is?” Mama whispered.
As we stood in the hallway, I shivered at the echo that bounced off the bare walls. She wanted to ask if we could get paid two days early because we needed to buy medicine for my younger sister, Rosie.
“I hear something coming from that room.” She pointed to a door on the opposite side of the vaulted foyer. “You go knock. I’ll go back to the kitchen to wait.”
“Me? Why me?”
“Because,” she said, pinning me with a stare that stabbed at my conscience, “Rosie’s sick, and his parents are out of town. You’re his age. He’ll listen to you.”
I did as I was told—not for Mama, for Rosie—without understanding the consequences. The next few minutes cost me my whole senior year and were the reason why I was ripped from my family at the age of eighteen.
Vicious thought I knew his secret.
He thought I’d found out what he was arguing about in that room that day.
I had no clue.
All I remember was trudging toward the threshold of another dark door, my fist hovering inches from it before I heard the deep rasp of an old man.
“You know the drill, Baron.”
A man. A smoker, probably.
“My sister told me you’re giving her trouble again.” The man slurred his words before raising his voice and slapping his palm against a hard surface. “I’ve had enough of you disrespecting her.”
“Fuck you.” I heard the composed voice of a younger man. He sounded…amused? “And fuck her too. Wait, is that why you’re here, Daryl? You want a piece of your sister too? The good news is that she’s open for business, if you have the buck to pay.”
“Look at the mouth on you, you little cunt.” Slap. “Your mother would’ve been proud.”
Silence, and then, “Say another word about my mother, and I’ll give you a real reason to get those dental implants you were talking about with my dad.” The younger man’s voice dripped venom, which made me think he might not be as young as Mama thought.
“Stay away,” the younger voice warned. “I can beat the shit out of you, now. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty tempted to do so. All. The fucking. Time. I’m done with your shit.”
“And what the hell makes you think you have a choice?” The older man chuckled darkly.
I felt his voice in my bones, like poison eating at my skeleton.
“Haven’t you heard?” the younger man gritted out. “I like to fight. I like the pain. Maybe because it makes it so much easier for me to come to terms with the fact that I’m going to kill you one day. And I will, Daryl. One day, I will kill you.”