Broken Princess Prologue
“Motherfucker!” Everyone in the house comes running into the war room as I scream. The contents of my desk, now on the floor, shattered.
I’m not fucking done yet, though. Not by a goddamned long shot. Some motherfucker is about to die.
“Boss?” Cas is the first to walk closer. The air in my lungs forces harsh breaths out, and I know I look like a rabid fucking dog.
“Someone took her.” No one needs to ask who I’m talking about.
I only get this livid over two girls in my life. My queen, Lilith, and our daughter, Aria. The little princess who wasn’t supposed to make it. She was meant to die, the doctors said, but my girl is a true Adair. She’s a fighter. She takes no prisoners and pushes through life.
“Danny-boy, get on surveillance at the school,” Cas commands. Born at six months, Aria has spent much of her life in and out of the hospital with an auto-immune disorder. She’s been home the past three weeks with a terrible flare-up and begged to go back to school today.
At fourteen years old, she just wants to be treated normally. As normal as an Adair can be anyways. In the best private school in Pensacola, Florida, her security is tight, which makes me wonder if we have another mole.
“King?” Lilith’s fearful voice penetrates the haze that's clouded my sanity.
“My queen.” I hold my arms open for her as she worriedly strides forward, and the men surrounding me remain silent as she surveys the room.
“What’s happened?” The nervous tone in her voice suggests she has an idea.
Sitting her on the couch, I kneel in front of her as Luther stands behind her. Dimitri and Atticus bookend both sides of her frightened body. They know her reaction may be worse than mine.
“Aria,”—she shakes her head in denial, and my fury continues to spike—“has been taken.” There are no rose-colored glasses in our world.
“By whom?” she forces out. Tears spill down her cheeks as she pales.
“I don’t know.”
“What do they want?” Her lower lip trembles.
“I don’t know.” I hate not having fucking answers.
Her eyes narrow, and I know I don’t have to worry about her falling apart… I have to worry about her slaughtering someone without blinking an eye. “What do you know, King?”
Pushing away from everyone, she stands and walks to the window. “Dimitri!” she snaps.
“Yeah, Lil?” D stands and meets her stare.
“Find my daughter's guards. Bring them to me.” A smirk plays on the other man’s lips as he nods and leaves the room.
“My queen, behave,” I mutter.
“My baby is missing, King. My little girl is scared and needs to come home.” Her words are vehement, but her eyes show vulnerability.
Pulling my love into my arms, I look to Luther with a nod, and I know he’ll have everyone in the house on it. Including her brother Holden. Our boy protects his sister like she’s his child half the time, and I know if he and the Petrov-Corelli boys get to whoever took her first, we’ll never have answers. Only body parts.
* * *
Gasping awake, I look around the darkness surrounding me, and sheer terror invades every fiber of my being. I’m gripped in the icy cold hands of death and struggling to remember everything Uncles Luther and Cas taught me.
I was warned from an early age that I was the vulnerable one. I was the one our enemies would focus on because I’m sick. I’m always damn well sick. And while I don’t understand all the dealings my parents are involved with, I know the majority are illegal.
I notice how people fear my dad and uncles like venomous snakes. My brother and all the other boys of my generation are precisely the same as their fathers. And we girls get left in the dark, guarded, loved, placed on a pedestal that is now crashing down.
I have no idea when I was taken. What day or time it is even. I do know I’m in the forest somewhere because I can hear the call of an owl, so it must be nighttime or close to it.
“Breathe, Aria,” I say to break the silence I’m encased in. “Luther and Cas told you what to do.” Taking a couple of deep breaths, I register the faint scent of gasoline in my nostrils, and fear blasts through my veins.
Feeling around me, it doesn’t take long to figure out I’m in the trunk of a car. There should be an escape latch, though, and I struggle to find it. Touching along the panels above and beside me, I can’t locate the small handle that’s supposed to be there.
“It won’t be there, little girl.” I freeze at the voice. I recognize that voice.
“Please let me out, Tristan.” He’s an older boy at my school. He has asked me out a number of times, but I’m not allowed to date, and even if I was, I've always gotten a bad feeling from him. He cornered me in the bathroom at school once and tried to force a kiss on me. He touched me inappropriately, and when I fought back, he slapped me so hard across the face I had a black eye.
My older brother, Holden, got so angry when he found out. He’s always watched over me; same with two of the Petrov-Corelli boys, Seven and Severo. They’re the twins of Danika, Dimitri, and Daniel and have always been by my side whenever I've gotten sick. I felt safe with them, so I confessed what had happened.
Tristan spent a month in the hospital after that, swearing a blue streak that I would pay for it. That was almost four months ago, though, and I don’t understand why he's doing this now.
“You’ll never see the light of day again, you little cock tease.” I was never a tease. I’m only fourteen, and he’s about to turn nineteen. I wouldn’t have been interested no matter what.
“You don’t have to do this. Please let me go, and I won’t tell anyone,” I beg, openly crying. I can’t find the latch, which might mean it’s an older car.
The loud whoosh of oxygen being sucked into something and the smell of fire invade my senses, and I scream. “Let me out!” Smoke quickly fills the trunk, and I know it won’t be long before I pass out and burn to death.
“See ya, cock tease.” Tristan’s laughter fades as he leaves me to die.
“Daddy!” I scream over and over until my throat is hoarse and I’ve lost my voice. “Holden!” My brother has always been my savior. From the time I was born, I was the princess. And everyone treated me that way.
“Daddy, please!” I cry again.
I can see flames licking at the seat behind me, and a new idea strikes. Turning my body so my feet are pressed to the back seat, I begin kicking with all the strength I have. Inhaling more and more smoke with every labored breath.
The smell of burned metal and leather makes everything so much worse. The chemicals permeate my lungs, so I can barely breathe; my throat feels like it’s on fire. My eyes are swelling shut. The heat of the inferno scalds, and I can feel it chasing my legs with every kick.
When the seat finally gives way, a sense of relief rushes through me, and I scramble to turn myself, ignoring the searing skin as I crawl through the tight opening into the back seat of the car.
The vehicle's interior is almost completely engulfed in flames, so when I cover my head with my arms and hurl myself at the back window, flying through fire and broken glass, I can feel my body burning. The side of my face gets the worst of the pain as I fight to free myself of my clothing and roll around in the dirt.
I was right. It’s dark out. The only light comes from the engulfed car just feet from me as I try to pry my eyes open. The cool breeze across my nearly naked body makes me shiver. The sound of the owl plays on, my personal, devastating symphony, as his prey eludes him.
Pain soaks into my flesh like a wet sponge, and as I drift into the darkness, my focus has settled on a broken rose. A lonely flower of one, singled out by the burning light of the fire.