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The Gentle Scoundrel

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Talia grew up without trusting anyone but herself to live. With no father figure to look up to and a clinically depressed mother who keeps on betraying her, Talia crawls her way to the top of the social chain to survive. But upon one drunken night, she meets her terrible end. Just like that, Talia loses all she worked hard for, or so she thought. When she wakes up, she becomes a duke’s eldest daughter in a medieval era where alliances and conspiracies dictate a noble’s future and where love is a luxury that will lead anyone to ruin. No matter how twisted the world she is pushed into, Talia is determined to live long. She realizes that she is given a second chance to live – or not. Reality slaps her hard when she learns that she is now inside the body of a sixteen-year-old villain character of the Netflix series that she binge-watched, “Thorny Crown”! Talia, who is now the infamous Lady Victoria, entered a popular yet twisted Netflix series two years before the plot started. And in that plot, the character of Lady Victoria is meant to die like cannon fodder for the female lead! Talia refuses to die again. And this time, she is going to extend her helping hand to another side character, the second prince of the story, Prince Cory. She decides to be the queen and defy the plot called destiny with the king of her choosing. In an era of deceit and conspiracies, will she be able to keep her head as she walks the thorny path of a villain? With her head on the line, will she be able to control her blooming feelings for the pawn that she has chosen?

Queen Be No More?

THE HALLWAY was buzzing. Talia knew the hallways were always rowdy, but not to this extent. Something must be on with the social gossip. She thought that maybe there was a desirable piece of a man who was transferring; she hoped it was the case.

Social gossip was the portal to know who was in and out. After hard work, Talia ruled her small kingdom named Saint Martin High. She's at the peak of her youth. What more could she ask?

Well, maybe a boyfriend.

She's turning seventeen, but she's still the 'flirt to make out,' not the 'flirt to get laid.'

A blue-eyed brunette came trotting into the classroom. Talia and the newly arrived brunette were a couple of minutes early for class. One thing about Talia was she might rule the entire High School, but she also excelled in academics. She was aiming to be her year's valedictorian. And the one that just came in was her not-so-sincere-so-called-BFF, Gemini. Talia knew that she was a two-faced hypocrite, but they benefited each other, so she let it be.

"What's with the fuss?" Talia asked Gemini since the latter was the fastest gossip informant in their school.

Gemini slumped onto her seat. "Netflix just announced to stop the franchise of my fave series." Her gloomy mood was reflected beneath her crystal blue eyes.

A knot lodged in between her perfectly carved eyebrows. "Which one?"

With her question, Gemini's shrilling voice resonated inside the room as she stood like a mother hen, ready to attack her. "Which one? The series with the gorgeous edible men, Thorny Crown! Jesus, Talia! Do you live in a cave?"

Oh, that one.

"Yeah yeah."

Talia saw that one, but she stopped watching it at Season 5. The story centered on the male leads obsessing about a two-faced female lead who's ambitious enough to covet the throne even when she's a half-blood noble with a commoner's blood from her mother's side. Talia hated the wench since Season 3 when the stupid Victoria, the female lead's half-sister, got executed for a crime planned by the female lead. It was such a twisted story, but it was still a hit worldwide since the main plot has a touch of offensive schemes and harsh politics.

Still, Talia did not care about the story. The final season, the seventh one, was what Gemini was talking about.

Talia placed her chin atop her palm, her elbow resting on her desk. "Why's that?"

"The last book is yet to be released in the market or any publishing house. So when the writer died in the fire accident last week, the book perished along with it."

Talia, who was not familiar with the writing industry, muttered a question under her breath as if she was talking to herself. "Can't any writer create the last book?"

"Of course not! It wouldn't be the same."

Talia inwardly rolled her eyes. The only reason Gemini loved the said series was because of the male leads that were genuinely drool-worthy. She changed the topic to lighten up Gemini's mood.

Wriggling her eyebrows, Talia flipped her hair. "Dion invited the entire cheerleading squad this time. Well, she invited the entire football team first. You coming with me?"

Gemini immediately perked up with the mention of the upcoming frat party. The frat party would be the most prominent event right before homecoming, so everyone wanted to be invited. Unfortunately, the wealthy and picky Dion Lockhart chooses only the best of the best. Anyone asked in the said party would have a boost in social standing for sure. And when anyone was talking about the best of the best, that would mean her – Queen Bee Talia of Saint Martin High.

"Hell, yeah. You got a date, Talia? What about Jake?"

Jake was the team captain of the football team. He's also Gemini's apple of the eyes.

Checking her hails, Talia gestured to Gemini. "You can date him. I'll go solo and see it from there if I can see some chocolate man. You know what I mean."

"Ooh. I am looking forward to this party."

THE LAST thing that Talia remembered was the headlights dashing towards them along with the screeching sound of wheels, and then it turned into darkness. No, it turned into nothing. She couldn't see anything, neither hear nor feel anything.

"Am I dead or dying?" Talia knew she spoke, but she couldn't hear her own words. She flailed her limbs, but she couldn't feel anything. Everything felt cold and void.

Talia surrendered herself into the darkness. She hoped everything would be a dream, and when she woke up – she would be beside a hot tattooed guy and naked. But no matter how many times she closed and opened her eyes, she was still there.

D*mn. So much for a hot tattooed guy and his naked butt, huh?

"Please. Someone. Help me," Talia somberly whispered to the nothingness that whipped her ever since she regained consciousness. She hoped that someone would hear her plea. But no one did.

When all hopes seemed lost, Talia, both defeated and scared bordering on insanity, closed her eyes as she tried to relive her life. Talia's mother's hysterics, Talia's nosebleeds every time she studied without sleep, her A grade, her cheerleading audition, her very first standing ovation when she sang in front of many students, her very first kiss with someone she didn't even like, the pressure to stay on top in the social circle, her very first catfight with a senior cheerleader, her first party, her first date, and her college applications. Talia had so much yet to do.

Without knowing, tears fell. Talia shouldn't have attended that blasted frat party! She's very sure that she was sober when she was driving. That stupid car crossed the f*ck*ng lane and caused her death!

No way!

She died without even putting in a fight! She should have at least thrown her stilettos to the other driver's head.

"Child. Are you hurt?" A calm and warm voice stopped her weeping frenzy. Talia took a peek and was almost blinded by the light just by looking at someone's silhouette.

No sh*t, Sherlock.

"Are you the grim reaper? Well, you dressed rather odd than I have imagined." Talia imagined a rather gloomy appearance, but this presence before her was blinding. If she had a term to describe the person before her, it would be an angel or a celestial being. Talia could not discern the gender of the person before her because of the loose silver robes around the person's body. A silver hair complimented by an almost grayish eye. The darkness around Talia washed away slowly, and the surrounding scenery changed.

Her senses that she thought she lost came back. The once dark pit became a vast flower field with an amazingly clear blue sky above her. And the figure that approached her just watched her reactions unfold.

"I'm dead." Realization dawned upon Talia, and the only conclusion she could come up with was that the person before her was her angel. Talia continued, "So is this it? The heaven that my mother spoke of?"

The figure smiled knowingly. "No, Talia. This is the bridge to all the Realms. You are here because of the wishes of different people and because someone wants to meet you."

Yep, I'm dead. Talia thought.

"As you can see, my favorite soul died suddenly. But he carried a heavy burden. Also, he could not pass in peace unless we would answer the desperate pleas he heard." The figure paused and sighed before he continued, "Ironically, this person's wish coincides with yours. The moment you drew your last breath, you wished for a second chance to live. That person also wished to be given a second chance, not to live, but to correct his decisions."

Huh? Talia couldn't understand what this angelic person was blabbering about. Was it the roundabout way to tell her she was dead?

The angelic person laughed heartily that it startled the surrounding petals, creating a whirlwind of petals that seemed to sway around Talia. It was as if this person was one with the place.

"You will understand everything in due time, Talia. Before I bid my farewell to you, another soul wanted to tell you something before she passes to the spiritual realm." The angelic person snapped her fingers, and a silhouette of another person appeared before her. It was a smoky appearance, but Talia could still see the soul's features.

An oddly familiar golden hair and ruby eyes of a young woman appeared before Talia. The soul was smiling sadly before her. "Live splendidly. If it is someone like you, I am sure you can do it. Save them. Those people died in vain. And do not lose yourself."

"What?" Talia could not understand the soul before her.

Save who? How can I save someone when I'm dead, anyway?

The soul just smiled as its smoky appearance scattered into the wind – her ruby eyes still gazing at Talia with sadness and gratefulness. Though not knowing the soul before her, Talia felt a wave of heavy emotion in her, an immense feeling of betrayal and frustration. She clutched her chest as a lone tear slipped from her.

What the?

She couldn't hear the last words that the soul whispered. One thing was for sure, the look when the soul closed her eyes, Talia saw the tranquility in it. The soul was at peace.

"Now, Talia. It is time for you to wake up and live your life the second time around. And remember, Gaia, blessed you." With the angelic person's hand wave, Talia felt herself float.

I Am Tori The Bitch Chic

LIKE A person deprived of air for a long time, Talia woke up in that state. She was catching her breath as everything around her was a blur except the familiar flower field drawn on her canopy.

Wait. When did I have that canopy? No shit. I don't have a top in my room, just a ceiling with stardust designs. Where the fuck am I?

"Lady Victoria? Lady Victoria? The doctor is coming." A frantic voice snapped her from reverie, and the next thing she saw, a brunette with chocolate eyes and freckles around her button nose while wearing a maid uniform was hovering over her body.

She opened her mouth to speak, but her throat was scratchy.

How long am I asleep, anyway? Where's my mom? Wait, what? Lady Victoria? Who's that?

"Water," she spoke in a raspy voice. Her voice was a little different. It was velvety, even with a scratchy throat.

Is this the result of my accident?

"Where am I?"

The shock and horr


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