Reign : A Romance Anthology by Nina Levine



Prologue





ZOEY/Angie





“Asshole,” I cursed, wiping at the foggy mirror and leaning in close to get a good look at the fresh bruise highlighting my cheekbone. “Dammit.” I’d have to try and hide the mark before Lisa got a glimpse of it. She didn’t take lightly to the men putting their hands on us because then she knew we didn’t make them happy. And unhappy customers aren’t good for business.

Making quick work of adding another layer of foundation to my face, I swiped extra blush strategically across my cheeks to give me what Lisa liked to call that innocent glow. The heat of the shower washed away some of the shame and disgust that tainted my skin, but it was never going to wash away that crawling sensation that had buried itself deep inside.

A feeling I was fairly sure was permanent.

The party was still pumping by the time I got back downstairs. I wasted no time, quickly snatching a glass of champagne off a tray as a waiter passed by.

Liquid courage.

Something to numb my choices.

Something to wipe my memories.

The young server didn’t even look twice. He’d been paid not to, even though I was acutely aware of the fact I didn’t look anywhere close to being twenty-one.

I wouldn’t be here if I did.

That wasn’t what these men were looking for.

Eyes skimmed my body as I passed by. I swore I could feel them reaching for me, their hands tearing at my clothes, the feel of their breath against my neck. Goddammit. My self-control managed to curb the disgusted shudder I could feel tickling at the base of my spine, but not the nausea that had already begun to stir inside my stomach.

“Jesus,” I cursed, lifting the alcohol to my lips, desperate for some kind of escape.

“No drinking, you know the rules.”

I stilled, my face sinking as the glass was plucked from my grasp before I could even take a single mouthful. Lisa’s taloned fingers wrapped around the tall flute, her long nails clinking against the glass.

“You’re underage,” she scolded, her nose flaring.

“Right, underage,” I repeated, spitting out a sharp laugh. “You’re kidding me, right?”

“I am not,” she growled and pressed the glass to her lips, taking a dainty sip just at the edge. Everything she did had to be elegant, high class. From the way she drank to her sleek ink-black hair that was cut into a sharp, sophisticated bob. Her eyes scanned the room constantly, aware of everything that was going on, mentally matching men with the generous array of teenage girls scattered throughout the room. Her eyes finally fell back to me, disappointment clearly evident. “You think stumbling around with a glass of alcohol in your hand is going to make these men want to get anywhere near you?”

“All the more reason,” I quipped, my lip curling.

“Angie…”

“Too young to drink, but just the right age to be fucked by perverts. Got ya.” The low murmur was meant to be under my breath, but like always, I underestimated Lisa Eyler and her ability to see, hear, and smell defiance.

And also, her innate ability to tear it from you.

Her perfectly crafted persona didn’t falter for a second. The typical warm, welcoming smile plastered across her face as she hooked her arm through mine and directed me through the crowd.

Throngs of A-list celebrities, CEOs, and court judges mixed and mingled like any high-profile event you would expect in the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

It was everything you’d expect.

Million-dollar homes, wealthy residents, expensive parties.

Oh, and teenage girls being paraded in front of rich, untouchable men and sold like fucking cattle.

Invitation only, of course.

Lisa’s nails pinched at my skin with enough pressure to make my knees week, and a slight whimper escaped from my throat. “Lisa,” I hissed, a painful crack in my voice that could have easily been mistaken for pleading.

She didn’t respond, not until we reached the double doors at the end of the hall. One hard shove, and I went flying through them, stumbling, fighting to catch myself but failing. My hip hit the floor first, the carpet burning at my palms as I reached out to try and brace myself.

“Get up.”

I fought the aches and pains resonating through my body, trying to ignore them for just a second while I found my feet. I may have spent the past couple of years being beaten, broken, and used, but I hadn’t been defeated.

Not fucking yet.