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Devil's Prey

By:S. E. Chardou

Prologue


Magnolia


Summer, 2002



You know how everyone talks about the most pivotal moment in their life  when everything changed? Yeah, well, that happened to me when I was  thirteen.

I waited outside Vasil Kazlou's School of Gymnastics for my mother to  pick me up. As usual, she was late, not uncommon since my mother would  be tardy to her own funeral. The Vegas sun started to set in the west  but since it was summer, at seven in the evening, there was still  daylight and the temperature hovered around one hundred and six degrees.

I pretended to read The Kitchen God's Wife, a required book we had to  complete over summer vacation before my freshman year in high school  started. To suggest the novel was any more exciting than watching paint  dry would be an understatement. I had no idea how I would skim my way  through this coffee-table drivel, let alone finish it in time for the  start of the school year.

That was a depressing thought.

School started in less than six weeks. No more lounging around watching  my favorite shows and doing the requisite exercise my parents required  from me. No more lazy days in the pool with my friends. Life wouldn't be  fun anymore. I had absolutely no delusions being a freshman in high  school would be anything other than a major pain in the ass-friends or  no friends.

The only bright spot about school was at least I'd made the junior  varsity cheerleading squad. That was a major plus. I'd been a  cheerleader since seventh grade and loved it. There was something about  the adrenaline of being on stage and doing all those impossibly  difficult movements in front of a large crowd.

I wish I could always say I was confident but really, I knew it'd only  grown over the past year. I was at that awkward stage, not a girl  anymore with budding breasts, pubic hair and my period yet certainly not  a woman. I suffered from perpetual crushes. This week, it was Jared  Leto. His band, Thirty Seconds To Mars, had just released their  self-titled album, and I loved it so much, it played constantly on my  iPod.

"Edge of the Earth" blasted in my ears from the crappy Apple buds. I  thought about how I would have to beg my mother for a better pair since  there was absolutely no bass or treble to be heard and the music had a  tin can sound to it. The Kitchen God's Wife stuck to exposed skin where  my shorts ended while the wooden bench underneath me warmed my ass  almost to the point of burning me.

I stuck the book into a small, pink paisley backpack and continued to  look around for any cars turning down the quiet street. Mom was pretty  hard to miss since she drove a canary yellow, late-model Range Rover  that had been a gift from my dad. He was in the pawnshop business and  managed to score big time when Golden Sins was picked up for a reality  show by a cable network.

The show had taken off and visitors to Vegas regularly visited the dingy  little place downtown. I'd grown up there so although now it was a  famous landmark, I made it a habit not to visit much anymore. The last  issue I wanted was to be featured on television. Hell, to be honest, I'd  rather not be known as Justin "Riggs" Reynolds' daughter at all.

I'd started giving up all hope my mother would actually pick me up when I  saw the "Yellow Submarine"-the nickname I've given to my mother's  SUV-as it swung around the corner and turned into the parking lot. She  drove quite erratically but I'm pretty sure that had more to do with  being late than anything else.

I stood to my feet and walked over to the passenger door before opening  it and sliding inside. The leather, soft and cool against my skin, felt  perfect in contrast to the hot weather I'd left outside the moment I  closed the door.

"Sorry, I'm late, Mags. You know how traffic is at this time of the day," she offered without any further explanation.

I smiled wryly. "No problem, Mom. I'm just glad you managed to get here  in one piece." I paused before I stared at her profile. "Are you okay?"

Mom glanced at me in a distracted manner. Although her shoulder-length,  sable brown hair was perfectly coiffed and her dark designer jeans  paired with a black silk blouse made her appear to be her usual regal  self, her rich olive skin looked pale and her deep amber eyes appeared  distracted and troubled. She flashed a winning smile at me instead and  said, "Everything's fine, baby. Your dad needed help at the shop and I  kinda lost track of time. It's my fault but there's absolutely nothing  for you to worry your beautiful little head about, okay?"

Uh oh. When my mother insisted there was nothing for me to worry about,  usually there was some kind of trouble around the corner. The alarm  bells went off full throttle in my head despite her calm, outward  appearance.         

     



 

I wasn't completely naïve. As an only child of two parents who were  deeply in love and strove very hard to give me what ever my heart  desired, money problems were never an issue. However, some of the men my  father did business with on a regular basis weren't exactly on the  right side of the law.

There was always a chance he could piss off the wrong people and our  family would be in a shit load of trouble. That was the problem with  living in a city like Vegas. Plenty of people made a lot of money but  they didn't always make it legally. My father, unfortunately, dealt with  many unsavory types who didn't settle disputes with attorneys and  lawsuits but muscle and guns.

My parents tried to keep all of this from me, of course, but I was a  smart girl and it didn't take me long to put two and two together.

"Does this have anything to do with . . . Daddy's former life?" I choked out.

Mom shook her head adamantly. "No, nothing like that, sweetheart. I promise you, everything's fine."

I shut my mouth, knowing her final words had closed the subject for good.

My father wasn't a saint, far from it. He'd been a member of the White  Knights Motorcycle Club in a previous life. Before he met my mother and  fell in love with a woman who his Neo-Nazi biker gang did not approve of  at all.

Mom was everything Dad wasn't. She was refined to his roughness; purity  to his corruption; dark to his light-in looks only. In terms of  personality, I could see why he'd been attracted to her from the moment  they met. People always said opposites attract but my parents were more  alike than they were different.

Where as Dad had grown up in a dysfunctional home to parents of  Polish-Irish and Irish-German descent, my mother had been the princess  of Michael "the Gent" Abandonato and his gorgeous Creole actress wife.  Technically, my mother's cousin, Angelo, was head of the Abandonato  Crime Family but my grandfather wanted my mother to have nothing to do  with the family business.

Of course, when push came to shove and my mother needed favors, she  contacted Angelo and he was happy to help out his favorite cousin,  regardless what she needed. My parents' wedding gift from Angelo had  been the pawnshop and a ridiculously expensive house in Summerlin.

I'd attended the best schools my whole life; my dad had put his  dangerous and thuggish MC ways behind him, voluntarily leaving the White  Knights to be with my mother. He still had contacts and spoke to Brad  Decker, his former Prez, but his tats affiliated with the club were  turned into other designs and as far as I was concerned, I had no reason  to think about the former life he lived.

We pulled up to our ostentatious home in an exclusive, gated community  and as soon as Mom parked in the driveway and cut off the engine, I  opened the door to the Range Rover and got out. Her phone rang and she  dug it out of her expensive leather Louis Vuitton handbag before  answering it quickly.

There was no use of me trying to get any more information from her. She  wouldn't tell me, even if the whole world were coming to an end. And in a  way, it was, at least for me.

I walked inside behind her but instead of following her, strode up the  grand staircase to my bedroom and closed the door behind me. My iPod  slipped easily into a stereo docker I had for it and Korn followed  shortly after a few clicks.

Their album, Issues, was epic, and although it was considered probably  too deep for a kid like me, I was a total rock chick. That didn't mean I  never blasted 2Pac, Eminem or Dr. Dre but in terms of hip-hop, there  were only a few artists I liked. Most of the music I listened to had  bloodthirsty guitar riffs and rocked hard.

I began to bob my head to "Falling Away From Me" as I changed out of my  gymnastics clothes and got comfortable in a pair of sleep shorts and a  matching cami. I probably had a few hours to kill before Dad got home  and with the way Mom looked that evening, I knew she would probably  order Chinese or Japanese takeout and be done with it. She certainly  didn't look like she was in any mood to cook.

I grabbed The Kitchen God's Wife and lay out on my bed as Korn provided  the twisted soundtrack to my so-called life in the background. I could  at least attempt to try to make some headway into the novel; after all I  still had two other more novels that were required reading. They looked  slightly more promising though. I had a feeling both The Color Purple  and Look Homeward Angel wouldn't at least put me to sleep.

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