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Once A Myth (Goddess Isles #1)
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“There was a boy once. A boy who wasn’t strong enough to save me when I was taken.”
Eleanor Grace is a naïve dreamer. Trusting and young, she believes her book-loving boyfriend can save her when her freedom is snatched and sold. Squirreled away to an island at midnight, delivered to a man even darkness won’t touch, she’s bound by a contract.
Sullivan Sinclair is the giver of fantasies. Any wish, any desire—he is the master at quenching even the filthiest appetites. His private paradise and perfectly trained goddesses are there for one purpose: to ensure every guest is extremely well satisfied.
He bought her.
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ONCE UPON A TIME, a teacher surprised us with a pop quiz.
I was seventeen.
It was my last month of school.
The test comprised of a single question.
What is the worst thing that happened to you, and how did you survive it?
When the class sneered at the seemingly random query, our teacher smiled, and said, “You think this is a stupid question, but really, it’s the most important one you’ll ever answer. Why? Because the worst thing to ever happen to you probably hasn’t found you yet. You’re young. You’re fanciful. You’re naïve. But to know that your life will have battles, arms you for the trials ahead. And the answer that you write on this silly piece of paper will be there, in the back of your mind, keeping you company while you face it.”
I groaned with my classmates.
I joked with my friends.
But I did the work required.
I thought long and hard and scribbled:
The worst thing to happen to me? When Max got drunk and abandoned me at the bonfire party last year. In the middle of nowhere with intoxicated teens everywhere, I was lost and lonely. A guy tried to feel me up. He pushed me against a tree, and the fire glowed behind him while he touched places he shouldn’t.
How did I survive it? By being brave and kneeing the bastard in the balls. By being proactive and arranging a ride home with a friend’s older sister. By being unforgiving and dumping Max. By being wise and never forgetting the boy who tried to take what wasn’t his to take.
The teacher didn’t require us to sign our names.
We handed in our confessions anonymously.
She was right, that teacher.
We were young.
We were fanciful.
I was naïve.
Naïve to think a childish party with raging hormones and reckless drinking would be the worst thing to ever happen to me.
Now, four years later, I had a different answer to scribble down.
An answer I wished I knew how to survive.
The worst thing to ever happen to me? Being stolen, sold, and gifted. Being delivered to a man who isn’t just a man, but a monster. Being told I now belong to him.
How did I survive it?
I guess I’ll have to fight and find out…
My head raised from my knees. My eyes peered into the dank and dismal darkness. A ghostly figure of a blonde girl holding up a bowl danced in front of me.
I was hungry. Thirsty. Hurting. Lonely.
She offered salvation to most of those things, passing me a dish of nondescript food and a torn piece of bread. My hands shook as I took the bowl from her, bending a little to reach from where I hugged myself on the top bunk.
She flashed me a smile, nodding in approval. “If we don’t eat, we don’t have enough strength to fight.”
I nodded back. I didn’t want to talk. The men who’d snatched me from the hostel where my boyfriend and I had been staying promised painful punishment if I talked to the other girls trapped in hell with me.
But this girl…she’d only arrived today.
Her fear made her a little reckless, even though I’d seen her crying.
Men’s voices grumbled from outside the door, tearing her gaze worriedly to look. I froze with the bowl in my hands, waiting for a monster to walk in and hurt us.
But the voices faded, and the girl looked back at me. “What’s your name?”
Such a simple question.
But a terrifying one because my name was no longer mine. No longer mine to use. Freedom taken from me along with everything.
I licked my lips, testing my throat that still throbbed from screaming so hard when I’d been taken. I’d been in the communal kitchen of the hostel cooking veggie tacos for me and my boyfriend, Scott.
I’d been the only one. The only backpacker in an empty kitchen while Scott hung out in the pool hall with a guy we’d just met from Ireland.
I’d grown bored of the potato and leprechaun jokes and sought refuge in the quietness of the run-down kitchen.
Until…I hadn’t been.
Until three men arrived with black gloves and sinister smiles.
Until those men noticed me, assessed me…snatched me.
“I’m Tess,” the blonde whispered, Australian accent feathering around her words. “I was kidnapped. They hurt my boyfriend.”
I shoved back the memories of my own kidnapping. Of hands on my arms, fingernails on my skin, a gag shoved in my mouth. The clang of a pot falling on the tiles, the smash of a plate as I kicked and thrashed.
I hadn’t been quiet.
I’d screamed. I’d fought.
But no one heard me over the din of the music in the pool hall.
I shuddered, forcing my voice to stay level and low. “I’m sorry they hurt your boyfriend.” I shrugged. “Mine doesn’t know where I am.”
“I don’t know if mine is alive.” Her eyes glowed with tears. “He might be dead on the bathroom floor where they beat him.”