The club is for graduates of Oxford and Cambridge. As I am neither, I shouldn’t be here. My education came with bloodstains and fatigues. Still, I find myself at another insufferable party, pretending that I have anything left in common with these people. It’s insulting how doors open for money or titles. I have both.
I have titles—as in multiple titles.
I have a name that will open any door in this country.
I don’t want any of it, and it is impossible to forget that here, among the crowded sycophants eager to play at being my friend.
“Hiding?” Jonathan asks, slipping onto the terrace next to me. He pulls out a pack of clove cigarettes and offers me one.
I shake my head. “No on both counts.”
“In that case, the party is in there, mate. I know you’re a little rusty on the etiquette.” He flicks open a lighter and lights his smoke.
Jonathan Thompson’s presence is as cloying as the smell now drifting toward me. I can’t help but remind him that I’m not a spoiled university brat intent on networking. “Why are you graduating now? You’re old as shit.”
Jonathan was my sister’s friend before the accident. Younger than me, but old enough that he should have left university behind by now.
“I took two gap years after the accident,” he says breezily, taking a drag from his cigarette.
“How nice for you,” I say tightly. Without thinking, I reach for the pack of smokes and take one. I need to do something destructive that doesn’t involve Jonathan’s face.
I hate the casual air he has about the accident that took my sister from our world. But he wasn’t in the car that night. He’d stayed at the club instead. He’s just another person who mourns her.
He isn’t responsible for what happened to her—I am.
“I think of her every day,” Jonathan says in a quiet voice.
I study him and see what others don’t—the bravado and the charm are a mask. He might truly mean what he says about thinking of Sarah. He might be fucked up over what happened. I don’t care.
Caring costs too much, and its price can’t be paid with money.
“Brimstone tonight?” he asks.
I nod. I don’t have anything better to do than find a warm place for my cock, and I’ve become a fixture at the club. The noise, the packed cluster of bodies, the flames—it’s as close to hell as I can find in London, and hell is where I belong.
“Don’t invite Pepper,” I say. The blonde has been like a shadow since I returned home and just as difficult to lose.
“I never do.” He shrugs like it’s a lost cause. Reaching over, he lights my cigarette. I’d forgotten I took one. “There. I better get back.”
I turn and watch him go, wondering if this is the rest of my life. It’s a fitting punishment to be dragged to another bar and another club to be photographed and fawned over. I may have been sent from London, but I’ve never really escaped.
Seven years ago, I made a mistake. I’ve been paying for it for the last six. Now everyone wants to pretend I’ve atoned, that we can go back to our previously assigned lives.
I need a distraction.
But while my father has been detached enough to not care where I go at night, I somehow know there is one place that will catch his attention.
There is a door in London that leads to the only club I am interested in visiting.
It would open for me now. But I was dragged away from there with blood on my hands, and I’ve chosen to leave that door closed.
I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to ignore how the darkness there calls me.
It would take a miracle to keep me away.
A woman darts into the hall, her eyes behind her like she’s attempting to escape. When no one follows, she sinks against the wall and pulls at her black dress. It’s too tight for her, which is exactly how clothing should be on a woman like this. The fabric puckers over her breasts, and I want to set them free—take them in my mouth.
I can almost hear how she’ll moan.
She startles, finally realizing I’m here. Her hand flies to that perfect chest, and she gasps—the most perfect little sound in the world, and I haven’t even touched her. Yet. I want to make her do it again. I want to see what other sounds I can draw from her.
The silence between us stretches as she stares at me fixedly, no doubt trying to grasp who she’d discovered. Then her eyebrows knit together in concentration.
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