Wicked Love by Gianna Gabriela



PART ONE





Prologue





Sometimes life is just too damn complicated. This is as true for nineteen-year-olds trying to find their place in the family unit, their elite social circles, or their academic culture as it is for a ninety-year-old, trying to find their mouth to spoon-feed themselves gruel.

Sometimes I wish I were ninety years old. That I had already found my way through the complicated maze of confusion, contradictions, poor choices, failures, successes, disappointments, doubts, and self-loathing.

I long to stand at the precipice of my existence, watch my whole life replay in front of me in bold, neon, polychromatic flashes from a kaleidoscope that shows my story so I can see how it all finally ends.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not depressed; honestly, I'm not. I'm more like . . . desperate. Yeah, that's what I am.

Desperate to know how it all turns out.

But I don't have that luxury right now. It is totally my fault. I'm ass deep into something I never would have imagined in a sober moment: My investigative research paper, for a class next semester.

I'd been so pumped about getting accepted as a sophomore into a seniors' class, that I'd started my research early, complete with a journal I've been keeping this semester.

It's going to be "cutting edge." I am confident it will blow Professor Armentrout out of his comfort zone when he reads my final right before the fall semester ends before winter break. It will be epically unique.

The prestige of garnering a slot as a contributing journalist for the monthly publication will practically ensure my acceptance into the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Yeah, the one founded by Joseph Pulitzer himself.

My aspirations are high, but almost always met. It's the thing I do. It's who I am.

Carson Renee Matthews.

Second child, only daughter of Easton and Darcy Matthews.

My father, Easton Matthews, is a global industrialist, a venture capitalist dabbling in all sorts of lucrative goods and services. He and my mother are thicker than thieves. Never argue. They still look at one another as if they're meeting and falling in love for the very first time.

Never argue.

Disagree?

Oh yeah. Lots of times. But it's usually about Weston. Mom thinks Daddy is too harsh with him. Her favorite line is, "Easton, he's testing his wings. Cut him some slack; let him soar with the eagles in his own good time."

Daddy's response?

"For Chrissake, Darcy, how will he soar with eagles when he surrounds himself with dodo birds?"

Oh, I know he loves Weston and me unconditionally; neither one of us has ever doubted that. It's just that . . . well, I wanted to make sure I didn't put the unconditionally to the test. Both of our parents were über attentive, although Daddy traveled quite a bit for his global business interests. But when he was home? It was all about Mom, Weston, and me.

Daddy can be a bit over-protective. Way worse than Mom, that's for sure. But the fact they own a condo here in the city, which they visit more often now than they ever did the whole time I was growing up, is their way of making sure they keep parental tabs on me. Which is fine. I happen to love my parents to the moon and back.

But nothing in my formative years, my teen years, or my college years had prepared me for the ramifications of the choices I made.





1





Aftermath





I feel like I'm floating in darkness. My eyes refuse to open, my limbs refuse to move, and the only sense not shut down appears to be my hearing.

Hushed voices.

Repetitive beeping.

Sounds of air being pumped and then released into something with a long sigh. Doors swishing open and closed. Echoes of footsteps in the distance.

And then I hear a voice. A familiar male voice with an unfamiliar timber. He's murmuring to someone. I then process that he's talking to me.

It's my older brother, Weston. He's blaming himself for some shit I clearly don't understand. What the hell does he think I've been involved in?

Silence follows. Is he still here with me? Then his voice floats to my ears. It calms me.

"Anyway, Sis, when you wake up, you and I are gonna have a long talk about that shit, you hear me? You've been playing Russian Roulette with your life, and I need to know you're going to stop that shit. So, you focus on getting better for now. And then I will make sure that you're safe from here on out. I love you, baby sister."