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Shattered King

By:Sherilee Gray

PROLOGUE


I came to say goodbye.

Walker James Correctional Facility, NY

Lulu

The metal seat was hard and cold, its chill seeping through my favorite  faded jeans and the plain black T-shirt I'd blindly grabbed from my  dresser that morning. The place smelled like a hospital, that strong  aroma of disinfectant.

I hated hospitals.

But not as much as I hated prisons.

A shiver raced through me, and I dropped my gaze from the dull gray walls, down to my clasped fingers.

My hands felt oddly numb, almost like they weren't attached to my  wrists. My legs weren't much better. I couldn't feel my toes. Inside  though, I was on fire, burning up, twisted in knots. My heart was about  to burst through my chest. I wanted to scream and cry and hit something  until my hands were bloody and raw. But I couldn't do any of those  things. All I could do was sit, and wait.

I was here for one reason and one reason only.

To say goodbye.

Somehow, I had to walk away.

The buzzer sounded and the door opened. I sucked in a breath as  different emotions welled inside me. I sat frozen in my seat as inmates  entered the room, moving quickly to their loved ones, giving their  wives, girlfriends, kids, hugs and smiles. Happy to see them.

Hunter walked in last.

I swallowed, forcing down the anguished sound trying to crawl up my  throat. Seeing him again was a kick in the gut. Somehow, I kept my ass  glued to the seat instead of rushing to him and wrapping myself around  him. Begging him to forgive me.

There was no smile curving his lips as he scanned the room, and when his  clear blue eyes found mine, they were cold, completely devoid of  emotion. There was none of the warmth, the heat that had always been  there for me. It was gone, completely. I curled my fingers into fists as  he moved toward me, so hard my nails cut into my skin.

Hunter was tall, over six feet, leanly muscled, hard and strong. The  white T-shirt he wore stretched across his chest and shoulders, showing  off the ink covering half of his arms. Ink I'd traced with my fingers a  million times. Ink I'd kissed. He usually got me to give him a buzz cut  every few weeks, but we'd missed the last one for some reason that I  couldn't remember now. I had no idea what happened with hair in a place  like this, but it still hadn't been cut. His hair was almost black, and  the longer length made his striking blue eyes stand out even more.

He walked toward me, those eyes, that hard gaze, pulsing right through me, like an electric current, never leaving me once.

Finally, he was there, sliding into the seat opposite. I couldn't meet  his stare, not yet, not when he was so near. I looked at his lower lip.  The plain silver ring that had been there when I last saw him was gone.  The piercing had been on the right side, close to the corner of his  mouth. It drove him crazy when I slid my tongue over it, tasted him.  He'd growl and kiss me back, hot and hard. God, he had beautiful lips.

His strong nose had a bump in the bridge, from where it'd been broken by  his asshole father more than once. I hated the way he got it, hated it,  but weirdly, it suited him. I couldn't imagine him without it. His  cheeks and jaw were covered in a day's growth. I remembered how those  whiskers felt against my fingertips.

On a shaky breath, I lifted my chin, my gaze finally colliding with his.

Nothing.

He gave me nothing.

My toes curled in my cherry Docs, and my pulse beat hard enough I could  feel its thick, steady rhythm at the side of my neck. I opened my mouth,  but words wouldn't come out. His stare got harder and, though I didn't  think it possible, colder. My fingers flexed against my still flat  belly. I wanted to reach across the table and take his hand. I wanted to  tell him about the baby growing inside me, tell him how scared I was. I  wanted to tell him the truth. That this was the only way I knew how to  keep him safe, that I loved him more than anything in this world. But I  couldn't say any of those things. I opened my mouth again. Closed it. My  throat felt dry, like I hadn't had a drink in a week.

He sat forward suddenly, forearms going to the small metal table between us. "You got nothing to say? Nothing? Seriously?"

I flinched. I couldn't help it. Oh God. I knew he hated me. I did. But  seeing it, having it directed at me, I didn't know if I could take it.  Not when I loved him so damn much. I wanted to drop to my knees and beg  him to forgive me, beg him not to stop loving me.

I swallowed, trying to get some moisture going in my mouth. I had to say  what I'd come to say. I had to. I started to shake. Fuck. "I'm . . .  I'm sor . . ."

"Don't fucking say it, Lulu. Don't you dare fucking say that to me."

Hearing him say my name was a knife to the chest. He was the only one  who called me that. Everyone else called me Lucinda or Lucy. Pierce, my  stepfather-even thinking his name made my skin crawl-had hated it. Hated  Hunter period. Now the sick, sadistic asshole had found a way to get  him out of my life for good.         

     



 

I stared into his eyes, desperate for a piece of my Hunter, no matter  how small. But he was gone. The full impact of his hatred for me, his  disgust, was as bright as a neon sign. What else could I say? He didn't  want my apology. I got that, too. How could an "I'm sorry" make up for  losing three years of your life?

I couldn't tell him I'd let him swing to save his life. My stepfather  had people on his payroll in this prison. He'd told me they'd be  watching today, that if I said one thing to tip him off, Hunter was  dead. If I went to the cops, if I said anything to anyone, Hunter was  dead. My nose and eyes stung, tears threatening to escape, but I  swallowed them down ruthlessly, forced them back.

I glanced around. No one seemed to be watching us, but I had no way of  knowing for sure. I couldn't risk Hunter's life just to appease my  guilt. "I'm leaving," I told him. "I'm never coming back. I came to say  goodbye."

He stared at me for several long seconds, showing no outward reaction.  But then he fisted his long fingers in front of him, the ink on his  knuckles becoming stark against the tight, whitened skin. "As far as I'm  concerned, you're already gone. You're dead to me. You don't fucking  exist."

I was going to throw up. Nothing in my entire life had hurt more than  those words. I couldn't bear it another second. I couldn't sit here with  him looking at me like that. Lying to his face. Pretending I didn't  care. Pretending I was okay, when I was so far from okay I didn't know  where the hell I was.

I stood abruptly, and had to grab for the table when my legs threatened  to give out from under me. Before I could get my bearings, Hunter's hand  snaked out, wrapping around my wrist, yanking me forward. I fell across  the table with a cry, the bolted down metal legs rattling loudly  against the concrete floor as he dragged me closer.

"Why?" he hissed in my face.

His grip was tight enough to hurt, and the table dug painfully into my  side. Tears welled up and spilled hotly down my cheeks. "I'm sorry," I  gasped. "I'm so sorry."

The guards were on him, trying to pull him off me. He fought, still not  letting go. They yanked him back and I was dragged forward, going down  hard on the floor.

"Why?" he roared in my face.

His fingers were pried from around my wrist, and they dragged him from  the room. He yelled the same word over and over the whole way. It echoed  off the walls around me.

I squeezed my eyes shut, lifted to my elbows, and threw up in front of everyone. I didn't care.

Hunter was gone.





CHAPTER ONE


Three years and four months later

Hunter

My footsteps were soundless against the thick carpet as I headed up the  darkened stairs. I didn't need a flashlight; the moon was doing a decent  job through the skylight.

The Upper East Side townhouse had that smell. A smell that, to me,  screamed money and privilege, not something I could describe easily. The  word sterile rattled around my skull. Furniture polish. Floor cleaner.  Whatever other shit they had their cleaning staff use to wash away any  traces of personality. Anything real.

It hung heavy in the air. Lifted the damn hair at the back of my neck.

I despised the types of people that lived like this. Firsthand  experience had taught me they couldn't be trusted. That they'd stab you  in the back as soon as you looked the other way.

And in this guy's case, commit insurance fraud rather than admit they were living beyond their means.

I did a walkthrough and a quick search of the bedrooms before I headed  to the office. I found the safe quickly, in a closet on the far side of  the room, hidden under a stack of boxes. I'd been cracking safes since I  was fourteen. Raul Esposito, a man who had become a second father to my  older brother Van and me when our own had been a drunk and an asshole,  had trained me well.

I'd picked up the skill so fast, I'd actually impressed the old bastard.  The pride I'd felt when I did it on my own for the first time was  something I'd never forgotten. Some people would think it was messed up  that the only decent male role model I'd had taught me how to be a good  thief, but I didn't give a fuck. I owed Raul more than I could ever  repay.

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