Authors: Skye Warren
HEARTBREAK is a prequel novella that introduces Blue and Hannah. A preview of Better When It Hurts is included at the end. I hope you love this emotional story
Find out what happens when love blooms despite the odds…
I desire the things that will destroy me in the end.
id you see
the new boy?”
I don’t look up from applying lipstick at the mirror. It’s not my lipstick. I swiped it from one of the older girls before she ran away. It’s also not my mirror. Nothing here is mine except the vacant eyes staring back at me. “I’m not looking for a boyfriend.”
Lucy smirks. “They say he’s dangerous.”
I have a lot of experience with dangerous boys. “I’m not afraid.”
“You will be.” She lowers her voice. “They say he killed another kid at his last home.”
My eyes widen. Okay, that’s new. I’ve been in the system a long time. I’ve been in homes with a lot of strung-out, violent kids. I’ve learned to latch onto the biggest, baddest guy around—he might hurt me, but he could protect me.
Only… I’ve never met a murderer. “What for?”
A shrug. “Dunno.”
It’s enough of a mystery to propel me to the window. I look downstairs where a maroon town car sits in the driveway. Mrs. Moreno is my caseworker too. She stands with a clipboard, her gray hair frizzy in the salty breeze from the bay.
A boy lounges against the hood of the car, his body relaxed, his expression bored. He’s wearing a black leather jacket over a gray T-shirt, worn jeans, and black boots.
Was he wearing the same thing when he killed someone?
All I can think about is whether the blood spattered on his leather jacket.
Does blood even wash out?
Mrs. Moreno is talking, probably giving him the same bullshit about being on his best behavior if he wants to make something of himself. The most disturbing part of that whole talk is that she actually believes we have a real chance. At least the new boy seems to know the drill. His sharp gaze flicks across the barren landscape of boarded windows and cracked concrete.
Then he turns his head toward the house and our eyes meet.
My breath whooshes out of my lungs, leaving me stranded. Leaving me gasping as he stares right at me, dark eyes burning with a rage I recognize all too well. I don’t know if the rumors are true, if he killed anyone, but I know from his eyes that he’s capable of it.
“What did you say his name is?” I ask without turning around. I can’t look away from him. And he isn’t looking away from me. We’re caught in some kind of web, but I don’t know which of us is the spider.
His gaze flicks down to the neckline of my blouse. His lids lower.
Yes, that’s what I have to offer.
And in turn, he offers his fists and his confidence. His protection. We wear our worth on our bodies, the only currency we have. And God, those broad shoulders. The tilt of his head. This one is damn near priceless.
“Blue,” Lucy says from behind me, amusement clear in her voice. “His name is Blue. But I thought you weren’t looking for a boyfriend.”
I can’t really imagine a word like
ever applying to him, to Blue. Oh, but we can come to an agreement. A trade. His protection for my body. What Mrs. Moreno doesn’t understand is that good girls get used up and spit out in this neighborhood. I should know. I used to be one.
I lean against the window frame, feeling the splintery paint beneath my fingers, letting the bite ground me. Even the buildings are sharp here, reminding us of our place. Like one of those old torture chambers with broken glass pointing inward. “If he killed someone, then why isn’t he in jail?” I say, wondering if he can read my lips.
“I don’t know,” Lucy says. “Why don’t you ask him?”
The corner of his lips tilts up. Even from this far away, I recognize the look in his eyes. There’s promise. There’s a threat. It makes me shiver, and not entirely with fear. “I think I will,” I say faintly, mostly to myself.
Mrs. Moreno is still talking when the boy—Blue—pushes himself up off the car. He’s taller than her. He strides past her into the house, leaving her to check boxes on her clipboard alone.
avoid the new boy that night and the next. Even though I’m curious about him, I know too well how badly things can go. Besides, he has to be the one to make a move. You don’t approach a wild tiger, hands outstretched for a hug. Not if you want to live to tell about it.
He’ll have to stalk me. He’ll have to pounce.
The water in this house turns cold in three minutes. I stand under the shower, letting the cold water batter my skin. It makes me hard—goose bumps rising over my flesh and my nipples tight. I wish it worked that way for everything. If every time I got touched or slapped, my body got harder, I would be turned to stone by now.
I’m already made of stone, cold both inside and out.
There’s a bang on the door, shaking the walls and the showerhead set loosely in the wall. A steady stream of foster kids means there’s never enough time in the bathroom. Never enough privacy. The quiver in my chest says this is worse than that.
“Coming,” I say, stripping my voice of any worry. I’m old friends with bravado. It’s kept me alive on more than one occasion. I’m not so sure it will help today.
The handle shrieks as I turn the water off, protesting any movement. The cold spray turns to an even colder dribble, and I reach for the towel I’d placed just outside the curtain.
It happens quickly then, a soft sound that my heart understands before my mind can catch up.
I locked that door.
Then the light shuts off. Coldness gathers in my lungs, freezing me more deeply than the water ever could. Someone had the key.
“Hannah,” comes a low voice.
Matthew, who they sometimes call Big Matt. It’s a friendly kind of name, but it’s not a friendly girth he carries. It’s weight in every sense of the word, and it can crush me. He’s the son of my foster father. In other words, he has power here that the rest of us don’t.
And I recognize this voice, because I’ve been evading it ever since I got here. “What are you doing?” I make my voice hard, the way my skin and nipples are. Hard like armor.
“Is that how you say hello?”
“Go away.” My hand closes around rough, thin fabric. I pull—and the towel pulls back. Matthew already has the other side in his hand, and he yanks. I slip against the wet tub and fall into the plastic shower curtain. His body is on the other side, warm and hard and sickening.
He laughs. “That’s much better.”
I scramble back and hit the tiles, trapped in a small place with a large body. “Get out. I’m serious.”
“I feel how serious you are,” he says, his voice mocking. “While you’re naked and shaking your tits at me. How is an innocent boy like me supposed to resist?”
It’s too dark to see, but I cover my breasts with my hands. It’s useless, though. He can do worse than see them. He can touch them. He’s almost close enough. All he has to do is step inside the tub—or drag me out.
a part of my brain says. I know that will only bring everyone in the house to witness my shame. They would believe whatever he says, that I had gotten naked to tempt him. They would send me away, and I have nowhere else to go.
He shifts with a whisper of cheap fabric, and then there’s a click. He’s holding a lighter up. Orange flame lights up his face—and my naked body. He smiles, looking demonic in the angled glow. “You’re the prettiest one,” he says.
says the other part of my brain. And I know what I have to do.
He comes toward me, and I shut my eyes tight, waiting. Surviving.
There’s a huge crash. I gasp as light floods into the bathroom from the hallway, drawing a tall body in shadow. Broad shoulders and a cocky tilt of his head.
Matthew is sputtering. “What the fuck? You can’t just barge in here and—”
“I thought I heard something,” Blue says mildly, almost as if he doesn’t care. As if he didn’t just kick the door in. “I came inside to check.”
“We’re doing something. In private. So get the fuck out of here.”
Blue’s gaze flicks over Matthew, but he doesn’t look impressed. He doesn’t look afraid either. “Sorry,” he says, not sounding sorry at all. “I need to use the bathroom. You know how it is.”
Matthew looks incredulous and torn about whether to stand his ground. His nervous gaze takes in Blue’s tall form and his body—not as wide but way more muscled. He also holds himself as if he’s been in lots fights. And won. “Let’s go,” Matthew finally says, and he turns back to me.
My hands are still covering my private parts, my eyes wide. Fear has frozen me to the spot. I don’t think I could have moved from the spot even if I had wanted to. And I don’t want to.
Matthew’s eyes narrow, and I recognize the message inside them—
He storms out, squeezing past Blue’s body.
“One more thing,” Blue calls without turning.
Matthew glares at his back, all of his malevolence in his gaze. “What, asshole?”
“If you touch her again, I’ll kill you.” Blue’s eyes are on mine the whole time. The words are spoken so softly, so casually it somehow makes the meaning more real. Matthew’s eyes widen, and he disappears down the hall.
A breath escapes me, relieved.
I wait for Blue to leave, but he doesn’t. Instead he steps inside and shuts the door, which hangs off its hinge. My heart pounds as he takes a step toward me. Did I just trade one predator for another?
He picks up the towel that had fallen on the floor.
And then he holds it out, his eyes on mine. He’s giving me privacy. I step toward him and turn, letting him drape the thin fabric over my shoulders. “Does he do that often?” he asks, his voice soft against my temple. Close. He’s close to me still, his body warm at my back without even touching me.
“He tries,” I say, my voice shaking. He’s always trying to get me alone.
“Not anymore. If he bothers you again, tell me.”
If you touch her again, I’ll kill you.
I turn the fabric in fists, wrapping it tighter around me. “Why would you do that?”
“Because I want to.”
I face him, knowing the towel won’t cover me completely. If he looks down, he would see my bare legs and the shadow between them. His gaze remains locked on mine. “Because you want
“Yes,” he acknowledges with a solemn nod. We’re making this pact now, just like I’d imagined when I saw him out on the driveway. Protection and sex, his body for mine.
The towel slips from my fingers and falls to the floor in a damp
I’m standing there naked, sealing the agreement. I want his protection now. I don’t want him to change his mind.
He looks at me, appreciation and heat in his eyes. Then he shakes his head.
My heart stutters, afraid he doesn’t like what he sees.
“Not like this,” he says softly. “Finish your shower, beautiful. Then we’ll talk.”
* * *
I meet him
outside, where he’s leaning against old wood siding, the paint chipped away by time and neglect. He straightens when he sees me, his dark gaze taking in my spaghetti straps and cutoffs. They don’t cover much. The cool breeze makes my nipples press against the thin fabric. He’ll be able to see the rest soon enough.
I’m sure talking was a euphemism, and I’m fine with that.
He’s the biggest, baddest guy around right now. He’ll hurt me.
He’ll protect me.
“Hannah,” I say, offering my name even though he didn’t ask.
His lips twitch. “I know. I’m Blue,” he says after a pause.
I give him a smile, feeling shy. “I know.”
A gust of salty breeze sends a chill under my skin. I don’t flinch at the cold. I don’t even think my skin gets goose bumps. I have too much experience hiding what I feel—especially if it’s a weakness. No one needs to know how badly I want an extra blanket or food. They don’t need to know how much I want a goddamn hug.
Blue seems to notice anyway. He shrugs off his leather jacket and drapes it over my shoulders. The scent of him—male and somehow familiar—soothes me. The warmth left from his body feels like a hug.
“Thanks,” I mutter.
He sends a sideways glance to the house before he starts walking. “How long have you been here?”
“Long enough.” Long enough to know what to expect from Matthew and the other kids. Long enough to know what
to expect—any kind of support from the foster parents. They’re struggling to get by just as much as the kids, hoping our monthly checks stretch a little farther than what we eat or break.
A nod tells me he understands all of that. “Where do you hang out?”
What he doesn’t ask is—where did you come from? Why are you here? Another sure sign he’s been in the system a while. Those are things we don’t share. At least, not unless we’re close to someone. And I’ve never gotten close. My dad’s in jail and my mom… I don’t like to think about her. These aren’t the kind of stories I share around the dinner table.