Authors: Gemma James
NOTE TO READERS
TORRENT is a new adult dark romance with disturbing themes and explicit content, including sexual scenes and violence that may offend some. Intendpged for mature audiences. Part one of the CONDEMNED series. This is not a stand-alone read. Approximately 43,000 words.
Copyright © 2014 Gemma James
Edited by Jessica Nollkamper
Ebook cover and interior design by Gemma James
Cover image used under license from www.bigstockphoto.com
All rights reserved.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
TITLES BY GEMMA JAMES
(a pseudonym for Christina Jean Michaels)
Titles written as Gemma James:
ULTIMATUM (The Devil's Kiss #1)
ENSLAVED (The Devil's Kiss #2)
RETRIBUTION (The Devil's Kiss #3)
THE DEVIL'S KISS TRILOGY (The Devil's Kiss #1-3)
THE DEVIL'S SALVATION: FINAL EPILOGUE (The Devil's Kiss #4)
THE DEVIL’S KISS: COMPLETE SERIES
TORRENT (Condemned #1)
RAMPANT (Condemned #2 - coming October 2014! Now available for pre-order on select retailers.)
Titles written as Christina Jean Michaels:
EPIPHANY (Legacy of Payne #1)
AWAKENING (Legacy of Payne #2 – coming late 2014)
UNHINGED (Legacy of Payne #3 – release date undetermined)
She sent an innocent man to prison. Now, eight years later, he’s returning the favor…
I’ve been obsessed with Rafe Mason since I was thirteen. The twisted part of this story is that I still want him, even now.
Now that he's holding me captive on an island.
Rafe has his reasons for doing what he's doing, and if I'm honest, I can't blame him. I’m the girl who sent him to prison for a heinous crime he didn't commit.
But now he's free and the tables have turned...now he's the one driven by obsession.
To my husband James, whose support and encouragement means everything to me. Thanks for believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. I love you.
We’d left the gravesite two hours ago, but Mom’s lifeless eyes still accused me. The memory of finding her dead in the bathtub, the water deep and murky with her blood, embedded in my brain like a tattoo I couldn’t erase.
I stood in my bedroom, a space inundated with white lacy subterfuge, and sensed the uprising in my soul. Grief turned and boiled with a vengeance. I clenched my hands and crossed them over heaving breasts but couldn’t stop the eruption. I’d been simmering too long, unchecked. I hated my perfect room, my perfect family, my perfect life. Appearances were deceitful bitches that lied and covered the ugly truth.
“Open the door, Lex!” Frantic fists pounded, and I covered my ears to block out my step-brother’s barrage on the door. The first drop of misery fell from my eyes and despite squeezing them shut, I was incapable of stemming the mental pictures. They flickered in my head like a child’s View-Master reel.
I relived Mom’s horrified expression the night she heard me cry out, recalled the condemnation in her voice when she yelled at Zach to get out of my room. I still saw her wide eyes—the same green as mine—staring at me blankly a few days later, open and void as the life bled from her wrists.
“Let me in!”
“Go away!” I screamed, repulsed by the mere sound of his voice. A sob caught in my throat, and my body shook with the effort of holding back. I was trapped inside myself, a prisoner of rage and despair. Bursting with the need to tear into something, I dug my nails into my arms.
Her face wouldn’t leave my mind. Her beautiful face, twisted with shock and disgust at what she’d walked in on. I’d been too ashamed to explain. Now it was too late. I’d never see her again, never again inhale the sweet scent of jasmine as she embraced me.
My nails dragged down pale flesh, almost of their own volition, and left behind ugly red streaks. Letting out a roar, I hefted a chair into the vanity mirror. My reflection shattered with an echo, a grotesque replica of my soul. I was unstoppable, insane with the need to destroy, to create the sound over and over again. Breaths coming in shallow gasps, I swept candles onto the floor, followed by pictures and perfumes. My entire makeup collection crashed onto the white carpet where the colors stained with flawless imperfection, but the pressure in my chest wouldn’t subside.
The assault on my door grew in strength, and I thought I picked up another voice blending with Zach’s. Had to be my imagination. Dad had barricaded himself in his bedroom, just like me, though he had a sedative and a bottle of Jack to keep him company.
Afternoon sunshine streamed through the lace curtains, an assault of warmth on my face, and I scowled. The skies should have opened, should have drenched the earth until it drowned. On that day, the day I’d watched my mother go into the ground, the whole fucking world should’ve cried until their eyes bled.
I grasped the lamp on my nightstand and hurtled it through the window, eliciting that glorious sound of splintering glass again, and I screamed until my voice went raw like the rest of me. The door broke under Zach’s struggle to get inside, and I fell backward, landing hard on the bed with both hands raised.
“Leave me alone,” I said with a pleading sob. He’d never gone so far as to break down my door. My room had been my only sanctuary, other than those few horrible occasions when I found him lying in wait in the darkness; those times when I wasn’t quick enough to escape within my four walls and turn the lock. “Don’t touch me!”
Strong hands encircled my wrists and pulled them to the sides, but it was Rafe’s beautiful green eyes staring back and not my brother’s. Tension seeped from my bones, left me weightless, and I exhaled in relief when he knelt in front of me, elbows resting on my thighs. A significant moment passed, locking the two of us in that short span of time when the world magically receded.
“I’ve got you. Everything’s gonna be okay.” His arms wound around my trembling body, and I went limp in the cocoon of his embrace.
Zach stood off to the side, arms crossed and gaze shooting daggers in our direction. I stiffened under the threat of his jealousy, and not even Rafe’s warmth could combat the chill that seized me. I wanted to believe him so badly, but nothing would ever be okay again.
Eight Years Later
When it came to karma, I wished for skepticism. Thing was, I fully believed in karma. Something had to balance the scales, otherwise the world would tip off its axis and crash into total chaos. Thanks to my belief in supernatural balance, I had no doubt I was screwed. That was never more true than when I gripped the single piece of paper on which four words were written.
I’m coming for you.
I’d found the note tacked to my door. I didn’t question who left it, as only one person had reason to leave such a warning, and considering he’d been released from the state penitentiary three weeks ago, I couldn’t deny the evidence. I’d been agonizing over the moment when he would confront me.
When, not if.
My knees gave out, and I sank to the bed. Rain beat against the roof in a sudden onslaught, and the panes of my favorite window seat rattled. I hadn’t been home for more than a few minutes, but apparently I’d escaped inside at the most opportune time. I took the torrential tap-tap-tap and rush of wind as a sign, an omen perhaps.
He was coming for me, and I deserved it.
Someone pounded on the door, and I jumped like a frightened kitten. I stashed the note in the drawer of my nightstand and returned to the foyer, pulled the door open, and almost expected to find Rafe on the other side.
It was Zach, not Rafe, who shoved past the threshold. Immediately, the strong odor of whiskey hit my nose.
“You’re not fuckin’ marrying him,” he said with a slur. I edged away as he stumbled into the accent table in the foyer. “I’m going crazy, Lex. Look what you’ve done to me.” Wiping soggy brown hair from his eyes, he lurched forward and clung to my shoulder to keep from falling.
“Did you drive here?”
“Of course I didn’t drive! I’m not an idiot.”
“I know you’re not an—”
He grabbed my chin, silencing me instantly. “You’re gonna call this engagement off, do you hear me?”
The ever-present weight of dread held me in its clutches. “Dad pushed for it.” I paused, one, two, three thuds of my heart pounding in my ears. “Just like he pushed for me to date Lucas. I think he knows.”
“Knows what?” His fingers fell from my chin, and I stared at my feet, enclosed in trendy black heels that matched the black cocktail dress I’d worn to dinner, where Lucas Perrone had proposed.
He faltered, mouth gaping, and it was the most unusual sight. Zach didn’t normally struggle for words, threats, insults.
He blinked and the moment was gone. “I don’t give a fuck what Dad knows or doesn’t know. You’re gonna break this engagement, and you’re not seeing him again.” As if the issue were settled, he staggered into the living room where he sprawled onto the sofa, one leg bent and a foot resting on the floor. I averted my gaze from the bulge behind his zipper.
I needed to get him out of my house pronto. “I’ll call you a cab. We’ll talk tomorrow about this, I promise.”
He let out a bitter laugh. “My cab just left, and we’re talkin’ now.” His brows narrowed over angry hazel eyes. “C’mere,” he said, patting his lap.
I backed up, shaking my head.
“No? You want it extra rough? Is that it?”
I didn’t want it at all, but I knew better than to voice it. I scratched my arm, digging in a little deeper than usual.
“You think marrying some mid-forties vanilla hack is gonna ‘fix’ you? Make you normal? We both know you’re nothing but a slut.”