Read The Registry Online

Authors: Shannon Stoker

Tags: #Suspense

The Registry

BOOK: The Registry
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Dedication

For my parents

Acknowledgments

Thank you to my agent, Paula Munier, for too many reasons to list. To my editor, Amanda Bergeron, who has the most gifted skills of any editor on the planet, and the rest of her team at HarperCollins for their wonderful input. To my mom, dad, and brother for years of continuous support. To Andy and Nucky for their never-ending encouragement. To my friends Rachel and Laura for volunteering their time to read early drafts. To Dalmy and John, who were always there when I needed a sounding board.

Contents

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Coming Soon from Shannon Stoker

About the Author

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

Prologue

P
retty. Beautiful. Stunning.

Words she’d heard all her life echoed in Mia’s mind as she stared into the mirror, brushing her long pale hair. Turning her head this way and that, she admired the sheen the overhead light cast and smiled, trying to see herself as a potential husband might.

Since she’d been old enough to understand her duty and her role, Mia had known she would marry a very wealthy man. Because if her parents were correct, upon her eighteenth birthday—the day all American girls had the great honor of entering the Registry—she would be marked at a price that only the richest man could afford. Her father often bragged, to anyone who’d listen, that his Mia would be given the highest value in the entire history of the Registry.

From her mother’s contented smile—for she was a very beautiful woman herself—Mia knew it would be a happy life. She would have her own household and wear the most elegant dresses. She twirled and danced in front of the many mirrors placed throughout her room, imagining rich folds of fabric swirling around her.

Thunder rumbled in the distance just as the front door banged open downstairs. Her parents. She raced to the hall and stood at the top of the stairs, giddy at the prospect of hearing all about their night. She couldn’t wait until she too could attend parties and weddings. Soon.

Mia pulled up short. It wasn’t her father standing at the bottom of the stairs. It was her sister, soaking wet from the rain.

Confusion and delight rushed in. Mia hadn’t seen Corinna in almost a year, not since her wedding.

“Corinna!” Mia rushed toward her sister. “What are you doing here? Where’s William? It’s only two months until I enter the Registry. Father is certain I’ll get picked up in the first month, and then I can be an old married woman like—Corinna?”

Mia’s babbling cut off as she noticed the blood and bruises on her sister’s once-lovely face. Corinna’s hair was greasy and stuck to her head. She looked skinnier than Mia had ever seen her.

“Corinna, are you okay?”

“Where are Mother and Father?”

“They’re out. A wedding. What’s wrong?”

Corinna, always funny and clever, always the first one with something to say, looked like words had deserted her.

“Corinna, what’s going on?”

“I escaped,” she whispered.

“Escaped where? Did William rescue you? Did hooligans get you?” Mia’d heard stories of women being kidnapped and attacked by unmarried men. Corinna knew better than to go anywhere alone, though.

“No.” Corinna lifted her head. “I escaped William.”

The stunned look on Mia’s face must have said enough.

“It’s not like what they tell you. I needed to warn you, to show you something.”

Corinna pushed Mia aside and started up the stairs. Mia caught a glimpse of her eyes; they were glassed over and emotionless. Her sister was broken, a shell of her former self.

“Did you do something? Were you a bad wife?” Mia asked, still confused.

“William did this to me, after my son was born. He said I was a bad investment.”

The muffled sound of her parents walking toward the door stopped Mia from asking any more questions. Husbands didn’t hurt their wives. Husbands protected their wives. The door opened to show a surprised David and Laura Morrissey.

“Mia, go to your room,” her father ordered when he saw Corinna, his eyes darkening.

Mia always listened to him, but she wanted to hear more from Corinna. She thought her parents must be furious at the condition Corinna was in.

“Now, Mia.”

She turned and ran upstairs but hid by the top of the steps. She needed to listen, but her sister didn’t make a sound.

“I’ll call William,” Mia’s mother said.

“Please”—Corinna sounded so weak—“I can’t go back there. He hurts me.”

“Well, give him a daughter and then he won’t anymore,” Laura intoned.

Mia could hear her mother walking down the hall.

“You shouldn’t have come here. You have your own family now. You need to be an adult,” David told his daughter. “There are no returns on a marriage.”

“What family? He made me throw away my child and he beats me.” Mia had never heard her sister speak to their father with such animosity. The creak of the stairs resumed; Corinna was continuing the climb.

“What you need is to be with your husband.”

Mia heard her mother walking back to them. “He thought she’d come this way and was already driving here. Apparently she stole his car this morning. Lucky for her he didn’t involve the authorities. He’ll be here any minute.”

This comment brought a cry of anguish from Corinna.

“I won’t go. I won’t go back with him.”

“It is your duty,” David responded.

Mia couldn’t believe her father was acting so cruelly. She’d always thought he and Corinna were close.

A knock at the door made Mia jump. She leaned around the corner and watched her sister’s husband walk in.

“We are so sorry about this,” her parents said.

“It’s not your fault. It’s what I get for teaching her how to drive. I thought it would be fun. Never knew it would come back to bite me. Come on, darling, let’s go home.”

Corinna turned and tried to run up the stairs. Mia peered out. She wanted to help her sister, but she froze. William ran up after her and grabbed Corinna’s ankle, and she fell. The two sisters were face-to-face, just for a moment. Corinna reached out and grabbed Mia’s hand.

“My closet. Look. I thought it was a joke but it’s all true,” Corinna whispered to Mia.

Mia held on to her sister’s hand for as long as she could, but Corinna didn’t put up a fight as William dragged her, stumbling, down the stairs and out the front door.

Chapter 1

The greatest accomplishment a female can achieve is becoming a wife. Through marriage she will serve her country and ensure her own happiness.
—The Registry Guide for Girls

T
he appraiser never smiled. Mia wanted to ask him why he was so angry, but she knew better than to speak.

“Arms out.”

Mia lifted her arms to the sides while the appraiser ran his tape measure across her shoulders. She closed her eyes in an empty attempt to hide her disgust. She had been preparing for this day her whole life. Her mother had spent countless hours telling her how to behave and what to expect, but it didn’t make the process any easier.

She tried hard to stare straight ahead and not look down on his shiny bald head as he continued with her measurements. He was in his late fifties, just older than her father.

“Turn around,” he said without looking up.

Mia was quick to comply. Now that he couldn’t see her face, she let herself rest for a moment. The feeling of his tape measure on the back of her legs was humiliating. The skintight black bodysuit didn’t make her feel any more secure. Her mother had told her it was the mandatory outfit, but that didn’t help her relax. It was only a slight step above being naked.

“Keep your chin up. Arms down, heels together, back straight.”

She closed her eyes as she pulled in her extremities. Her body was still shaking. He probably assumed it was from nerves. She should have been nervous and excited. Most girls were. But not Mia, not anymore.

BOOK: The Registry
7.51Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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