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Wicked Lies

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Avery Summers has spent her entire life being the good girl her parents expect without complaint. Until she is conned into a marriage contract with a man she detests. In a desperate attempt to get out, she seeks help from the last person anyone would expect. Drake Winters, has been looking for the perfect way to undermine his enemies, and repay them for past transgressions. What will he do when the answer walks through his front door, seeking his help? Will he be able to resist keeping her for himself?

Chapter 1: Avery

AVERY

“Welcome beloved family and friends,” My father, Frederick Summers, says into the microphone. He stands on the stage, addressing the swarm of people crammed into the event space, with my mother dutifully at his side like always.

“As you’re all aware, this is a most joyous occasion,” he continues as everyone settles to a gentle quiet. This is it, the moment I have worked the last twenty- two years for; freedom. To finally get out from underneath the Summers shadow, to be the woman I want to be.

I have sacrificed my entire life, always doing what they want. From my college choice to the lack of a love life, I forfeited all of it to get here. College paid for, and the chance to find my destiny. All my father has to do is say the words, and it’s over.

“Not only are we here to celebrate my beautiful Avery’s success at Yale,” My father boasts proudly, putting on the show of a lifetime. “Graduating summa c*m laude with a marketing degree, and advertisement.”

Neither of those were my decision, but when Frederick Summers decides something he expects it to happen, and if they don’t, he has ways to ensure otherwise.

“But also celebrate her engagement to longtime family friend Hayden Smith.” He gestures to the blue-eyed, blonde-haired devil stepping up to join my parents. Hayden Smith is the son of my father’s best friend, and also close with my older brother. Evil incarnate is what I call him.

Shock waves tumble as I try to grasp what he said. The guests boom with applause and congratulations, but I am turning numb. My skin flames under the heated stares of a hundred guests.

I meet my father’s gaze, who stands like a king behind his podium, a glint of victory on his lips. It’s the stoic face my mother wears, and her refusal to meet my eye that told me this is premeditated.

“Stop being shy,” his sickly sweet voice fools the others, but I can see through his pretenses. Through the lies to the subtle manipulation. “Come up here, darling, and stand with your fiance.”

Every muscle screams at me to run in the opposite direction . The crowd of people make escaping impossible, leaving me boxed in with nowhere to go but forward. My gray eyes have turned into an icy winter storm as I glare at the so-called family standing before me. Jackson, my older brother mysteriously absent from the picture. I wonder if it’s because he can’t look me in the eye while he stabs me in the back.

My feet feel like they’re filled with lead, making my gait small and painful. Despite my refusal to look at him, I break, inner weakness forcing my gaze to Hayden, who looks like he won the lottery. The amount of saccharin surrounding him and my father makes me want to gag.

The thought of marrying this monster makes my skin crawl in all the worst ways. I’d rather peel my flesh from my bones than touch him, ever. I regrettably climb the steps to join the others, a smile plastered on my lips, lying like them. Why am I shocked? It’s not like any of us are known for our honesty. If we were, my life would be drastically different and I wouldn’t be hating myself.

Hayden wastes no time wrapping his arm around, pulling me into his side. He already acts like he owns me, and in a few weeks or months he will. My stomach flops, making the dinner I had earlier threaten its way back up. Fingernails dig into my side, more than a subtle threat from Hayden to behave. The longer he holds me in his arms, the more I crave rebellion. To cry and break the facade of perfection.

“Awww, look at the gorgeous couple!” My father croons to the guests, making them erupt in claps, eating up the show. “Let’s all raise a glass to my daughter, whose loyalty knows no bounds, and to a happy marriage for the pair!”

A dead stare finds my father, mouth slightly ajar at his gloating look, while he tips back his glass of champagne. No one else recognizes the subtle digs his speech holds, but I do.

Hayden’s nose nestles into my hair, inhaling deeply before he whispers dangerously low. “Drink your champagne, Avery. We want people to think you’re happy.” He pulls away, drinking from his glass, while his free hand pinches my hip again.

Inhaling, I keep my composure, smiling through the devastation, as my glass tips back. The expensive champagne tasting like sour grapes as it slides along the tongue and into my already sensitive stomach.

The dj takes over, his voice a haze as I attempt to make sense of how wrong I was about everything. My entire life, I believed if I did what they asked, I’d be rewarded. Eventually, earn the trust to make my own decisions. It’s only now, in front of this crowd of people that I realize how wrong I was. They would never let me step outside the family legacy to find my own. I should have known better, and I can’t believe it’s taken me till now to understand that. How could I graduate from Yale and still be so stupid?

Hayden is pushing me forward, snapping me into the moment, to all the people watching and waiting. Gritting my teeth, I allow him to direct me toward the stairs and the dance floor. Taking the barely drank glass of champagne, he gives it to a server, before leading me down by my hand. His touch makes me want to bathe in acid just so I can forget the memory of his bare flesh against mine. Once we are both at the bottom, his arm wraps possessively around me, dragging me forward.

The crowd parts, allowing us the room to get to our destination. Approaching the middle of the floor, Hayden spins me around, putting on a show for the crowd. The performance of a happy couple in love when it couldn’t be further from reality.

This isn’t one of those situations where I secretly harbor a crush on the man holding me. I’ve known Hayden Smith for many years, and behind the beautiful exterior is the soul of the devil’s demon. I’ve known that since my fourteenth birthday, and I’ve done my diligence to avoid him from that moment forward. He had been coming around for years, but never did he make me feel uncomfortable until then.

He pulls me closer, my hand clasped tightly in his, and arm holding me in place as he forces me to sway to the slow song coming from the speakers.

“I was right,” Hayden whispers, running his nose along my ear, making me visibly flinch. “This dress looks absolutely divine on you. I’ve always imagined you in one like this.”

Ice slides down my spine. An intense urge to strip naked and burn this dress is debilitating. Sensing my desire to flee, Hayden holds me tightly, forcing the charade to continue. My mother’s insistence that I wear this dress tonight makes sense. She didn’t care about my wardrobe, only pleasing him.

“Don’t look so surprised,” he murmurs. “You’re mine, doll. I can dress you up in whatever I want and you will comply. I haven’t waited the last four years to be disobeyed, do you understand?”

“What are you talking about?” I ask, confusion clobbering me as I attempt to decipher his comment, only to fail miserably.

“Ask your family sweetheart,” he purrs, as his front rubs against me. He is hard, where I really wish he wasn’t. The disgust he continues to make me experience is the kind of humiliation that doesn’t wash off in the shower. “For now, stop talking, and smile. We don’t want others to think you’re unhappy with the arrangement.”

His requests forces me to look away, out at the crowd watching and witnessing this moment. The photographers in the corner snapping photos of the event, so they can appear in the society pages tomorrow. It’s the downfall of being amongst the upper echelons of society. Everyone wants to know your business, where you eat, shop, sleep. The Summer name carrying a lot of weight in New York City, as one of its founding members. Our heritage extending even further back than other prominent families in the city.

I keep the tears inside, not wanting these people to witness them. My father and Hayden can take everything from me, but I’ll be damned if they take my dignity too. I shove every emotion to the side, trying to survive the moment. Hayden holds me close, not allowing me the space to move. Before I can stop him, his lips crash to mine while the crowd watches. I can’t move. The crashing onslaught of trauma makes me immobile while his tongue forces my mouth open. I do my best to resist, but the pinch of my skin between his fingers surprise me enough to allow him inside.

As if he can sense I am near my breaking point, he tugs away, kissing my nose so he can threaten me more without those around hearing. “It would be wise not to deny me in the future. You never know what may happen.”

That turn of phrase reminds me of nightmares I would rather not recall now, or ever. Gulping, I look down, trying to force the images away. I want to burrow them deep down, and never bring them to the surface again. Especially here and now with people I barely know.

“Now, stop pouting,” he commands, leaving a kiss on my forehead. “Your future has been decided, Avery. Do yourself a favor, don’t fight it, and wear a smile while we entertain our guests.”

His words are an ice pick, stabbing me repeatedly, except no one can see the internal bleeding and the damage he causes. I have no fight as I process the series of cons committed by my family. The manipulation my family put me through just to land here, engaged to a psychopath. My lack of will makes it easy for him to drag me around the room. He makes introductions and small talk with people I’ve met a million times, but can’t conjure the names of.

Like a robot, or a well-trained dog, I go through the motions, smiling and laughing when required, but remaining otherwise silent. I am tumbling through a whirlwind of disbelief, as I pressure myself to get my emotions in check. Years of breeding and etiquette require that I maintain decorum, when all I want is to burn this room to the ground. The people closest to me are missing anyway so what does it matter?

No matter where I go or look, my best friend is impossible to find. My friendship with her is the only thing in my life my parents don’t approve of and I don’t care. She’d never miss today. She knew the importance and would want to be here for support. So where the hell is she?

“Excuse me,” I say suddenly, interrupting the man whose name I have already forgotten. I ignore Hayden’s death glare, as the others near us offer more congratulations and understanding.

Using the small group of witnesses to my advantage I turn quickly, trying to get out of this situation while I can. Maybe even hide away in the bathroom for the remainder of the festivities. Hayden doesn’t let me get far before his nails are digging into my elbow, stalling me.

“Don’t be gone long,” he says, through a fake smile and clenched teeth. He does well keeping up the act that’ll disappear the second we are alone. Barely waiting, I duck and weave through the crowd, doing my best to avoid being stopped by chatty guests.

The second I cross the restaurant’s threshold, oxygen replenishes my lungs and the weight I had felt earlier eases slightly. Finding the ladies’ room empty, I plop onto the pink settee in the waiting area. With head in my hands, I pray no one else comes in so that I can hide away here forever.

Not even fifteen minutes have passed before the swish of the door opening pulls my attention. “What are you doing in here?” My mother, Ophelia, demands in that shrill scolding only she can achieve. “You have a fiance outside entertaining guests without you. You need to get back out there before the rumor mill starts.”

“I won’t do it,” I blurt out, pleading silently with her to understand. She has to, right? No mother wants to see their daughter married off to a man she hates, do they?

“You won’t go back out to the party?” She asks, her eyes narrow, daring me to be explicit in my explanation.

“No,” I hesitate, shaky from keeping the tears inside. “I won’t marry Hayden.” I inform her after gaining my strength.

Her squawk of laughter fills the space, “and do you think you have a choice? What will you do other than marry a man like Hayden?”

“I have a college degree from one of the top schools in the country,” I remind her, dumbfounded by her reaction. “I can get a job working for any company in the city.”

“Oh, you naïve child,” my mother’s sighs, shaking her head, as if my behavior is the horrifying one. “Degrees are just accessories to women like us. You will do as every Summers woman has done and marry the man picked for you.”

I stare at her, bewildered by the one eighty her attitude has made. I thought she might display a modicum of sympathy for my predicament, but she is no better than my father.

“Now, do what’s expected of you,” she scolds, not caring that I am on the verge of breaking into pieces. “Get your sh*t together and get out there. You will not make a fool of us.”

Her heel squeaks on the linoleum floor at her exit, the door shutting softly behind her. I lean over the sink, staring in the mirror, trying to convince myself to return to my graduation party. A golden shine in the reflection grabs my attention, a smile perking up my complexion. I exhale with relief, knowing I have an escape. Pushing away from the sink, I walk toward the door, trying not to celebrate too early.

I peek outside for any lingering guests, grateful to find it empty. The moment my feet pass the threshold, I commit my first act of rebellion and it’s intoxicating enough to make me drunk. With haste, I rush toward the elevator, repeatedly hitting the button, begging it to arrive before someone else comes looking. An eternity later, a ding sounds as the doors slide open.

Hurrying inside, I tap the button for the lobby. Relief only achieved when the doors shut close and the box descend. The jolt of movement brings all the emotions I’ve kept hidden rushing to the surface, demanding to be seen and dealt with.

Tears pour from my eyes like fountains, making my carefully constructed makeup turn into a runny mess. I only get a few floors down before the journey stops, and the doors open again..

It’s futile to try hiding my tears by wiping away the evidence. It’s pointless, my rosy cheeks, swollen eyes, messy makeup, and sniffles give it away instantly. Cowering in the corner, I refuse to look at the stranger, regardless of how heated his stare is.

Two minutes of awkward silence and sniffles accompany us on our travels. The doors are about to open when a handkerchief presents itself in a large male hand. Tattoos and rings cover his knuckles.

Too embarrassed to look upward, I accept his kindness, nearly jumping when his fingers graze mine. The heat of his body is noticeable as he leans down to whisper in my ear.

His intoxicating cologne of bergamot and leather linger in the air to invade my senses. I don’t think I have smelled anything so heavenly before. Warm breath dances against my skin, and unlike the terror Hayden causes, excitement courses through my blood.

“Whoever he is,” a rough male says as the doors open, “he’s not worth it princess.”

I look up, hoping to glimpse the mystery man, but he moves quickly for a man his size. All I can make out with blurry vision is a broad back in a black suit, with hair as dark. He leaves me alone, confused, and with the only clue to who he is sitting in my hands.

The white square is silky, with a monogram sitting in the corner. I run my finger over the hand stitched initials, “M.W.” Who are you and where can I find you?

Chapter 2: AVERY

AVERY

My heels bounce against the marble floors of my parents’ fifth avenue apartment lobby. A night of crying led to a fury of epic proportions. And in the aftermath, I decided that the years of denying my own desires, in favor of the family demands and legacy ends, today.

I hurry into the elevator, hitting the button for the penthouse, my parents’ apartment. As the doors close, I rehearse the speech I have prepared for my father. It lists all the things I have done for the sake of the family, and how I refuse to do this. This marriage is where I end it, and their control. It has to be.

The ring announces my arrival a few minutes later. Stepping out, I am greeted by the butler, who is waiting to take my things. “Where is my father?” I ask, not bothering with the niceties I normally would.

“In his office, Miss Avery,” he responds, hesitant, sensing my anger, which isn’t an emotion I display often, if ever. Nodding, I veer past him and up the

Heroes

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