Series: Westbrook Blues #2
Release Date: December 2, 2019
Amazon UK Amazon CA Amazon AU
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Devastation tastes a lot like ash in your mouth.
It feels like looming death hanging over your bones.
It sounds like the violent shattering of your soul.
It has an acrid smell much like that of rotting hearts. . .
But most of all, devastation looks a lot like the beautiful, fiery girl with her fake sincerity and lies. Now, she thinks we're somehow an option that she can discard at any fucking time.
Does it surprise you then, sweetheart, that I would show you what real hate is?
Isn’t it a tragedy after all? To wish on a star that has fallen from grace? Because baby, that’s what you are to me now. A beautiful tragedy that I desperately want to make atone for all her sins.
I guess we were two mismatched, vicious and tragic souls flourishing in hate, headed straight for the sweet experience of deep devastation.
I feel it coming before I can say anything or respond.
It’s coming and I don’t know what to do about it, but I just let it go.
“Emmett, let her go!” Ace shouts.
But it’s a split second too late. I double over and right there, on the sideline of the beautifully manicured and maintained football field, my mouth opens automatically and I vomit my guts out.
It feels like I’m about to die as everything I have in my stomach and everything that I don’t, comes rushing out of my mouth.
It’s painful but I keep going like I’m vomiting everything I have ever had in my entire life. I feel light-headed, tears continue falling down my cheeks but I can’t help but keep going.
Denise’s words are ringing through my ears, making me retch more.
“Raea, are you okay?” I can hear voices around me but I can’t respond in any way as another torrent attacks me, pressing down on my stomach until I have no choice but to open my mouth again and let go.
“Astraea!” Someone shouts behind me but I have no bearing as to who it might be, because nothing matters anymore. Nothing makes sense.
I close my eyes and I can see my brother.
I see George’s smile so clearly, the tears start pouring in earnest. My chest tightens, and I swear, I can hear him laughing at something stupid I might have said.
I see him protecting me from bullies at school.
I see my twin turbo teaching me how to tie my shoelaces.
I see George holding my hand and pressing a hot water bottle to my lower tummy when I got my first period.
I see my brother and I in the kitchen of our huge home enjoying the Haven’s fried chicken on a Wednesday night with no one at home but us.
I see George looking at me with a carefree look on his face that sparked my own. I always thought, if he was happy, I could be too.
I see the other half of my life in all his amazing, untouchable regality.
But before I can savor the image of him behind my eyelids, before I can return that infectious smile of his, those wretched words come back to me, violently moving through me until I am dry heaving, clutching my stomach.
“The first two years of you and your brother’s lives were spent in a home or an orphanage, not sure what they call them nowadays. . .”
I slowly open my eyes, feeling the heat of someone behind me. I slowly realize that it’s Kim, holding my hair back and whispering unintelligible words while she rubs my back.
“. . . I doubt you remember anything but your mother actually gave birth to triplets!”
“Hey, here you go. I got some water from the vending machine!” I feel, more than see Noah step closer to where I am. I can hear the slight panicked shake in his voice and then the calm in Kim’s as she responds.
“That’s good. Can you open it and pass me the towel. She’s heating up.”
“Should we take her to the hospital? I think we should take her. . .”
“Noah!” Kim’s impatient voice sounds behind me and I feel a cold, damp towel being pressed on my forehead.
“What? She has never puked like that before. Not even when I made her eat worms.”
“Yeah, but calm the fuck down! She’s not dying or anything.”
“Shit! Fuck! SHIT!”
“I don’t know what to do! Denise just took off after a mouthful with her son. Amanda was balling like a feral beast, leaving her daughter to just. . . Fuck!” He shouts.
“Okay, we need a game plan then.” Kim calmly states as she presses the towel on my forehead. By then, I think I’ve got my bearings back somewhat.
“Urgh.” I groan as I move away from the mess I just made.
Fuck, this wasn’t what I was expecting the night to bring. And to think I was having the time of my life, high on adrenaline watching my boys dominate the game. But now it feels like that happened a whole lifetime ago.
“You’re okay, girl. I got you.” Kim murmurs beside me.
“Baby Blue!” Noah hurries to help me stand up right. I squint my eyes, blinded by the bright, strong stadium lights that seem like they are glaring down on me, revealing a kind of harsh reality that I wasn’t aware of before.
“I’m okay.” I mumble but I’m not okay. I don’t think I’ll ever be okay. I can’t shake what just happened.
“Here, rinse your mouth and spit it out. Your breath stinks.” Kim says with a small smile on her face as she passes me an opened bottle of water. I accept it graciously and do as I’ve been told. I feel like crap but even as I spit out the water and re-do the whole thing twice, I can feel something in me build up.
It’s slow, but I’ve lived with it for so long, I can identify the viciousness of it from anywhere.
“I have some gum too, chew on this.” Kim shoves three pieces of gum in my hand. I open two, grateful for Kim. I try to walk but my knees are so damn weak that I actually trip. Again, Kim saves my ass.
“Noah, go get the car.”
“Yeah, yeah. I can do that.” Noah hurriedly says, glancing at me and then begins jogging in the direction of the car park. I watch him go but everything feels so damn surreal right now, I can’t believe it.
“Astraea.” My mother croaks out. I sharply turn to look at her and my stomach feels like it just dropped.
“Honey, I swear it’s not what it sounds like.” She continues.
“Sounds like what?” I ask weakly, feeling myself slipping from reality as everything comes crashing into me.
“Baby, none of it is true.” She tries, her face swollen with tears, her eyes bloodshot, lips trembling like a hoe in need of her next fix.
I want to scream at her. I want her to fucking know that I don’t want to hear anything she has to say. I just want her to tell me the truth. Maybe I want her to deny everything that Denise said with honest eyes, but that’s not what I see as I look at her. I see the ugly truth of her evil. I see her for who she really is.
A conniving, calculated, manipulative woman who doesn’t deserve to be a mother.
“You know what Amanda.” I start, my voice weak.
“Astraea honey. . .” She starts as she steps closer but I hold up a hand to stop her advance.
“You could have done yourself and us a favor had you left us wherever it is you dumped us in the first place.” I can feel the sour taste of conviction in my words as I utter them.
“You would have done the very best for both. . .no, for all three of us, if you had just let us be and gone on your way whoring around.” My voice is becoming hard but my heart? It feels so faint.
“Astraea my baby, that’s not it, you don’t understand. . .”
“Where is George mother?” I question her, leaning heavily on Kim. “Look at what you have done! Where is my brother? Where is the sister I was denied a life with?” I seethe, unable to even shout the words.
“Look at me. Look at the mess that I am. I’m an addict, I’ve been abused, I’ve been hurt and it’s all because of you!” I cry out, feeling a buzz start spreading between my ears. I start shaking, my entire body trembling and it’s not because of the cold breeze.
It’s the devastation.
“Baby girl. . .” She starts, tears and snot running down her face but she doesn’t seem to care. “Everything I’ve ever done was to protect you.”
“Protect me?” I gasp and then start laughing.
Kim presses me into her, offering her warm comfort that means nothing to me right now.
“I hate you!” I seethe, looking at her.
I watch as Amanda’s eyes widen, looking at me like she’s shocked to hear the words, but that’s how I feel.
“I hate you so much!” I cry, and then try to take a step closer to her so I can get in her face but my knees are weak.
“You did this to us!” I cry, breaking in front of her. The one person that I never wanted to break in front of. The one person I was supposed to feel safe with but never actually did my entire life.
Tonight my mother failed me more than I knew she was capable of doing.
I just wanted her to tell me the truth.
Is everything that Denise King said true?
Is Richard really not my father?
Who is my father?
What happened to my sister?
Did she sleep with both Syrus Easton and Philip King—men with so much power, seeing them is like being summoned to the seventh circle of hell only to perish?
Did she give us up? Only to come back for us because she wanted a ‘picture perfect’ family, ready to conquer the Westbrook Blues estates.
Did she not want us?
Did she not want me?
“Hey, stay with me. You are heating up like crazy.” Kim’s alarmed voice rings beside me but the buzzing around me only grows louder as the thoughts race in my head.
“I think you should leave, Amanda. You’ve done enough damage.” Someone growls but I don’t know who it is because I’m losing my grip on reality.
I can’t seem to be able to comprehend anything happening around me anymore, my vision growing blurry with each second that passes. It’s like poison is moving through my system, breaking all my defenses, weakening me, reducing me to a pile of nothing.
“We’re losing her!”
Between the harsh, glaring lights and the spinning in my head, the furious weakening of my system and the queasy feeling in my tummy, I feel like I’m going to pass out.
I have no idea who shouts my name but I’m losing it again.
“Amanda you didn’t tell your daughter that you gave birth to triplets?”
“At least we know whose genes you have. . .”
No matter how much I try, I can’t seem to be able to get those words out of my head or my soul or any part of me for that matter. I feel like I’m drenched in those words. I’m definitely in shock.
“I don’t want your slutty daughter anywhere near my son. . .”
Suddenly I’m airborne, floating like a damn ghost, but the strong warm arms around me tell me that I’m still here.
“Stay with me, baby.”
“You knew.” I weakly accuse, tears falling down my cheeks, my soul shattering. “You knew all about it.”
He doesn’t say anything for a while but he doesn’t refuse it either. I burrow into his chest and try to keep the tears at bay, refusing to cry anymore tears than I have already.
I won’t cry but God, it hurts.
“I have my car!” I hear Noah’s voice but I don’t look up from where I’m hiding my face in Ace’s warm, strong and solid chest.
“Fuck off, I’m taking her.” He grits out, his voice encased in a threat of thunder and mayhem.
“But dude, we need to get her to the hospital.” Noah argues but Ace doesn’t say anything. He just keeps moving and then I hear the sound of a car unlocking.
A door is opened and soon I’m being lowered into the leather passenger seat, that special scent that I always identify as belonging to the boy who gives me more flutters in my stomach, my pussy and everywhere else he touches, hits me and I sink into the seat, feeling like I was just in a war. A war that I lost, taking heavy casualties.
It’s funny how you can lose something that you never knew you had. The hard hitting realization only becomes clear the moment the corpse of all your soul yearnings and groans lies at the feet of a formidable enemy who just so happens to be the woman who gave birth to you.
Never mind the woman who gave birth to the boy you love. . .
I hate feeling like this. I hate feeling like a complete idiot, unable to take care of myself or be fucking strong. But tonight, I’ve just been dealt devastating blow after blow that I never saw coming.
Cold fingers tug at my chin, forcing me to look up. The tears are fighting to fall but I refuse to let them. I try not to look in his eyes, forcing myself to look elsewhere, but he waits silently.
I have no choice but to look at him.
As soon as our gazes connect, I see the red, hot fury in him making me pause. He doesn’t say anything at all, neither do I but in this moment we understand each other more than we ever have.
We are at war and nothing is BLUE anymore.
I feel my tears falling down. He leans in and kisses me so damn softly on my forehead, then between my eyes like he always does. He lingers there for a while and I breathe him in, knowing that we have an audience—which is why he won’t say a word.
He wipes my tears away, looking into my eyes.
I could get lost and found in his blues.
Devastation also has a color. . .
I’m a fucked up asshole for so many reasons but I guess watching my mother in action just cemented whose genes flow through me, if anyone was questioning it.
I am the spawn of the devil but that’s just the thing, Denise is nothing compared to Philip King—the monster who calls himself the creator of my entire existence. One could say she was the lesser of two evils.
But tonight, watching my Star’s face drain of all color as my mother gleefully revealed and let loose a kind of hell that I knew Star wasn’t ready for, I was reminded that my parents might just be equals in this whole ‘reign down hell on them with a smile’ debacle they have going on.
And I did nothing.
My mother’s ammo though is quite precise, but nasty nonetheless. She is the type of villain to examine a body thoroughly, study a person until she locates where all your wounds are, all your weaknesses because according to Philip King and he always says this, everyone has wounds. Everyone.
My mother is a devoted student to my father’s lethal tactics, at least that’s the one thing they have in common. That and world domination.
Denise has wounds of her own, but she has perfected the art of making it seem like she is the only one in the room without said wounds. Instead, she looks for all the weak spots and where they lie and then soon after, she presses down on those very wounds until she sees your bone marrow.
And tonight, she perfectly executed a plan that I didn’t even have a comeback for.
I never saw it coming but as soon as I saw her, when I was coming out from the locker rooms, my only thought to kiss my girl and have a fucking good time before my brother’s and I messed shit up for Denise, I knew Denise had beaten me to the punch.
I should have known she would though.
I should have been better prepared for a war closer to my turf than hers but then that begs the question, was I going to tell Astraea myself?
“Fuck!” I breathe out, staring into the bottomless muddy brown eyes of this girl that I would do anything for yet I failed her in epic proportions tonight.
Tonight, Denise won more than anyone realizes. And as I helplessly watch Star’s tears stream down her cheeks and her quickly wiping them away, I can’t help but feel the rising of the tides and the impending disaster that looms over us, over me.
I know that things are different. And they are different for a reason.
This is the beginning of the end.
No matter how much I don’t want to believe it, I can still feel it. I can taste the bitterness of it and fuck me, I’m ready to spill blood.
I’m leaned over the passenger seat of my car, my gaze connected to hers that are filled with tears as she silently watches me back. I can feel the anger in her as she quickly tries to wipe the evidence of her breaking away.
She is hurting right now, but she isn’t trying to face it yet.
Astraea has perfected the dangerous, vicious art of avoiding everything. People situations, her feelings, me. . .
I know this is big, but this is going to eat at her self-esteem, her confidence, her armor, until she starts crawling back to those damn opioids.
I won’t fucking let her!
I won’t lose her, not if there is still life in me. I know she blames me for what happened tonight, and I won’t argue it.
What happened tonight did not ‘just’ happen.
“Dude. . .” Noah steps forward. I know he wants to say something. He’s freaking out about Astraea’s violent puking and why wouldn’t he? She has never been sick like that ever, but then again, when has she ever been told that her mother practically abandoned her for the first two years of her life only to come back for her because she found a man to play house with?
When has she ever been told, by a manipulative bitch nonetheless, that she has another sibling that said bitch who calls herself my mother got rid of?
“That wasn’t supposed to happen.” Noah harshly says over my shoulder.
“Yeah, I think it was planned to happen whether we made it to the dinner table or not.” Emmett says.
I stand up straight as soon as I hear his terse voice. Closing Star’s door, I turn around and look at him.
I can feel the dread in me, the iciness filling my veins as our gazes connect. I can’t help the animosity that is rising within me as I look at him. My brother, my closest friend, the one who practically knows my shit and yet. . .
“Yeah, but your mother is a piece of work.” Noah continues, glancing at Astraea through the window.
My gaze is still on Emmett who doesn’t even bother looking away. Instead, he stands up straight, his fucking large gait showing me just how unbothered he is by me. Prepared for anything and I know then by the end of the night, neither one of us will be walking straight.
He sees the threat in my eyes and nods in affirmation.
He’s ready for whatever. So be it then.
“I’m taking her somewhere.” I grit out to Noah but I’m speaking to Emmett. I want him to fucking know that she is mine. She has always been mine right from the start.
“What about the party?” Noah questions. I look past his shoulder and see that girl, Kim, standing there watching us with an analyzing eye. She just had a front row seat to everything and now, her loyalty to Astraea is about to be tested.
“If your girl breathes a word about what just happened tonight. . .” I threaten in a low voice but as if sensing that she is the subject of conversation, the girl steps closer with her chin raised.
“I’m not a gossip if that’s what you are implying. And I’m not afraid of you, or any one of you.” She grits out.
I watch her slowly, something about her just doesn’t sit right with me but then again, I’ve done all my research on her. She looks and seems genuine.
“And besides, I care about Astraea, fucked up family dynamics are not new to me.” She finishes, watching me.
She knows that Star is my only concern, my only weakness and strength. She knows that I know that Star cares about her so I won’t dare do anything to her. I’ve learnt some things about pushing Astraea too hard, she will just fight harder and will get herself hurt in the process.
Exhibit A, her friendship with Brittney that eventually got her burned. That’s some fucked up mess that I have to deal with too, but I won’t do it without Star’s knowledge.
Kim returns my unwavering gaze without flinching. She is a strong one alright, I see why Noah is a fucking fool for her but I will crush her to a pulp if she so much as hurts a glorious hair on Astraea’s head.
Emmett threatened Amanda and now she is nowhere to be seen. I have no idea where she went but if she went to murder my mother, I will gladly help her hide the body.
Then I think I’ll be helping my baby hide her pathetic excuse of a mother’s dead body too.
“Call Spider. Tell him to get that shit started. We’ll be there.” I tell Noah as I turn away. I quickly round the car but before I can open my door, Emmett speaks and I still in my tracks.
“Are you going to tell her?” He questions in a low voice.
I close my eyes for a split second.
This is not what I had planned for tonight. This is not what I wanted to happen tonight or any night for that matter but once again, events that I never seem to see coming have dictated the pace of this hellhole.
Tonight, I played football for her. It was her first time watching me do my thing on the field and I did it for her. I was planning for us to go away after the party and just be us but my mother practically pissed all over my plans, doused that shit in gasoline then Amanda Fields lit the match.
Telling me about a possible marriage arrangement between. . .fuck!
“I’m not going to lie to her.” I grit out and then quickly get in the car. If I stay, I’ll fuck Emmett up so bad.
I start the car, ignoring the multiple gazes on me and my girl.
I glance over at her. She is staring ahead but seeing absolutely nothing. It’s almost as if she isn’t even here but I know better, her mind might be racing but she is piecing things together as she goes.
Switching gears, I peel out of that fucking school, turning away from the estates, going through some private roads that lead to a specific highway that I would like to take her to.
Again, not a plan for tonight, but it has to be done.
Switching gears, I press down on the gas pedal, leaving all the madness that only makes things worse for anyone who wants to go up the social, economic ladder of Westbrook in the rearview mirror.
“You knew.” Her voice is hoarse but still so damn sexy. I glance over at her and then back towards the road.
I’m not going to lie to her or withhold anything anymore. Not ever.
“Yes.” I grit out, pressing down on the gas pedal. We shoot forward, faster.
“I stood there, looking at Denise wondering why on earth she would admit to murdering my brother. I mean, she is too smart, too calculating for that. . .”
“But then again, I’m the stupid girl that needs answers about what happened to her twin—oops, not my twin, apparently I’m part of a triplet band!” She starts laughing then but it’s hard, dry, without a trace of humor.
“And to top it all off, my wombmates are all gone and I’m the only one left. . .” Her voice breaks and something in me breaks along with it.
Being unwanted is not exactly something new to me, but for Star, finding out that she had another sibling—her triplet—and never got to know her or experience being together, that’s a kind of heartache that she hasn’t even started processing yet.
She might not even know that she is feeling that heartache either.
“You knew and you never thought to tell me.” She whispers and I briefly close my eyes. I won’t lie to her.
“You weren’t ready for that yet.”
“Oh, and you are the one who gets to decide what I’m ready for and what I’m not ready for, huh?” I can feel her fiery gaze on me, watching me, judging me.
“Were you ready to hear just how shitty your mother is or just how much she never wanted you to begin with?” I question her quietly, knowing that she won’t answer that.
It’s not my intention to hurt her but I won’t lie to her and I won’t ever allow her to lie to herself. I want her to see the full spectrum of what’s happening and what has happened in her absence.
Silence spreads between us in the car but I just keep driving. Soon, the agitation in the car is so damn loud and strong that I reach for my dash and grab a joint, then light it up as I lower the window.
“Pass me that.” She demands, the tears now long gone, only a stealthy kind of determination on her face.
I pass the tightly wrapped joint to her and she puffs it like a pro, then passes it to me.
“Where are we going?” She questions, looking out the window.
“I want to show you something.”
“Does she know that she is going to marry Syrus’ son?”
The twisting in my fucking chest and the tightening of my hands on the steering wheel are all evidence that I want to fuck some shit up.
I slow down when I get closer to our destination and then park the car at the shoulder of the road. I don’t bother explaining where we are because she sucks in her breath as soon as she notices what’s right ahead and then she is fumbling with the seatbelt so she can get out.
“Oh God.” She breathes and then she is out of the car. I watch helplessly as she slowly starts walking towards the very spot where the wreckage happened.
The spot where fragments of broken glass, pieces of metal from the car and bits of blood are smeared all over the place, leading to the large tree where George’s car is said to have crashed, folded in itself, killing him on impact.
I watch her from the car as she takes in the tragic scene before her, a hand covering her mouth as she sees it for herself. Her tiny frame is shaking, her long hair blowing in the wind but she keeps walking as if drawn to the area of the damn wreckage.
The area where her brother died.
As soon as she starts shaking so damn hard, I get out of the car and quickly walk over to her and wrap her in my arms. I can feel my sweatshirt getting wet with her tears, her sexy body shaking so violently in my arms, but I hold her tighter to me, kissing the crown of her head repeatedly.
“Why did you bring me here?” She whispers in my chest, tears clogging her throat.
“I need you to understand something, Star.” I start, barely aware of the hoarseness in my own voice. “I need you to understand it all”
I frame her face, moving the tresses of her hair away as I stare into her tear filled eyes. I fucking hate these tears. I’ve hated them since forever ago.
“But most of all, I desperately need you to stand with me, baby.” I finish.
I need her to see that everything has a consequence, a price, a sacrifice. And as evidenced by where we are currently standing right now, those consequences can sometime be fatal.
I refuse to lose her, to anyone or to anything. When she was away in London, at least I could say that she was still living and breathing even though it was excruciating pain for both of us.
But in Westbrook, I have no idea what might come at us, but I know something is already in the works for both of us.
I just need her to stand with me.
“Why does it feel like this is just the beginning of a war?” She sniffles in my sweatshirt but I don’t fucking care.
“That’s because we are in the middle of it and the enemy just showed up.”
“She doesn’t want us together.”
“They want us to dance to their tune for the sake of the great land.”
“What do we do, Ace?” She questions, looking up at me.
I lift my hand and wipe the remaining tears that fall on her cheek and my fingers. Her tears burn into my skin and I just want them fucking gone.
I wish I had better words to tell her. I wish I had the courage to tell her that everything is going to be alright but I’m not going to lie to her.
Everything is going to go to shit, but I refuse for that to include us.
“We do what we do best.”
“And what’s that?”
I lean down and kiss her forehead, lingering there as I take a whiff of her. She smells like a heaven and temptation at the same time, I might just die in her scent.
“We fuck shit up.” I groan, as I look down at her, feeling the tenseness of my entire body.
She smiles then, a sad, tired smile. Tonight has been too much but I don’t think it’s over. Not for us anyway.
“Promise me something.” She starts, looking up at me, with the wind blowing her hair into her face. I move the silky strands away, staring into her eyes—hard eyes filled with so much confusion right now.
The entire world if you want it. The moon and the stars are yours, you rule them all.
Me, baby. I promise you me. . .
“Promise me that you will never lie to me. Or keep anything from me.”
I had a feeling this was coming.
At this point, I’m not sure if lying will keep her safe or if it will make things worse. Something tells me that the latter is much more probable now with the stench of war in the air.
Will she lie to me too?
“So long as you promise to do that too . . .”
She nods her head, then reaches for my hand that cups her cheek. She loops our pinkies, mirroring something we used to do whenever the boys were around.
I couldn’t bring myself to talk to her with the boys watching but sometimes, I could sense she was sad or she could sense that something was happening with me. So, she would come stand close to me, but we wouldn’t look at each other as our pinky fingers interlocked under the table, or at our backs where no one could see.
God, I’m a sucker for this girl. Been a fool for her my whole life.
“I promise.” We whisper at the same time.