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Destroy: A Sordid Series Novella
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My entire life fell apart once. It took everything I had to pull it back together and drag myself out of the darkness.
This stranger who bought my art was supposed to be my hero, but instead he’s the villain. He threatens to destroy all I’ve worked for—my sculpture, my rebuilt reputation, my life. All I have is my art, and I’ll do anything to save it from his predatory hands.
Even if it means offering myself instead.
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Swearing seemed appropriate in this moment. Anger swirled hot through my body, tensing my muscles into thick cords, and movement became impossible. All I could do was stand beside my artwork and stare at the shipping manifest, letting the recipient’s name sear into my brain.
This was the first real work I’d done since the darkest point in my life, and it was stunning. A masterpiece that had taken almost a year to conceive, months to create, and nearly the last dollar I had. Yes, it had been bought and paid for, and I was desperate for the money, but I would not let Rafferty bastardize my sculpture.
Panic, verging on hysteria, seized me as I stood in the back room of Garcia Gallery. Outwardly, I showed very little of it. Any other day, I wouldn’t react at all. I would be calm and composed—not a blonde hair out of place or a smudge of mascara. My husband had often accused me of being a robot, but it wasn’t true. Yes, I didn’t cry when he died, but I had feelings.
I just preferred to deposit my emotions in my art.
But this rage was too powerful to contain, and I had nowhere to put it.
No one had accused Rafferty outright in the industry, but we all knew what he was doing. Like a cuckoo bird who lays its eggs in another bird’s nest—brood parasitism, it’s called. My sculpture would not be his nest. Luke Rafferty stood on the shoulders of others, pushing them into the ground so no one could see who was really buried at the base. He stole everything from other artists. Concept. Materials. And worst of all, credit.
I uncurled my balled fists, barely noticing the sting that lingered from how hard I’d driven my nails into my palms. I’d had everything taken from me as I fought against it, clutching fiercely until my hands were bloody, and I’d lost.
It wasn’t going to happen again.
“Is there a problem?” Maritza, the gallery owner, asked when she noticed my rigid state, or perhaps how I was awash in fury.
“There’s a very big problem. You’ll need to cancel this sale immediately.”
Maritza was in her early forties, about ten years older than I was, and a beautiful woman, but her expression turned sour like she was going to be ill. “This is about the buyer?”
She shook her head, sending shimmering waves down through her dark hair. “It’s too late. Mr. Rafferty requires third-party sales, probably to avoid the purchase from being stopped. I didn’t know it was him until this morning, and the truck is on its way.”
Panic continued to flutter in my veins, bubbling in my system. I’d already packaged the sculpture and closed the crate. Did I have enough time to pry the nails out of the wood? And if so, could I really destroy the most beautiful work I’d ever created . . . just to save it?
“I need a crowbar.” My voice was ice, even though I was sweating. It was hot inside the back room of the gallery, like most of the air conditioning was saved for the customers up front.
“A crowbar? For what?” Maritza’s expression filled with horror when she realized what I intended. “No, Nikita. You can’t.”
My hands were clammy, so when I seized the hammer I nearly dropped it. My grip tightened on the handle while I evaluated the best point of attack. The top left corner wasn’t perfectly flush, so I’d start there. I sank the claw into the seam and jerked. The wood groaned under the force.
“Stop it!” Maritza clasped my arm and tugged me back. The hammer clattered to the ground as she threw her body between me and the crate, her arms flung out to the sides.
Five and a half feet of Latina would not stop me from what I had to do. I’d be the mother who ate her baby to save it from a worse fate. No other thought was in my mind.
I ducked under her arm and barreled forward. My shoulder slammed into the wall of wood, but I kept going, ignoring the pain radiating through my body. I forced my feet to move, hardly getting any traction between the bare floor and my ballet flats, but the initial impact was enough to pitch the crate backward. One final shove would send it toppling.
The wood creaked as it tipped, and then the six-foot box landed on its side with a thunderous crash, breaking my heart and hopefully my sculpture inside.
For a moment, reality slowed. Dust motes ceased moving, and Maritza Torres, owner of the only gallery in LA who was willing to showcase my work, stopped breathing. I stared at the pine-colored wood decorated with dark knots and feed marks from the wood planer.
“What have you done?” Her voice snapped us back to real time. Her arms hung at her sides, her shoulders sagging under the enormity of the situation.