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Pike (The Pawn Duet #1)
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**A King Series Spin-Off**
Born into chaos. Baptized in the gutter.
My life was perfect.
While on a manhunt for a mysterious enemy, one hellbent on taking both my business and my life, I find Mickey. She’s covered in mud, rambling nonsense, and clearly out of her mind.
She’s also a distraction I don’t need.
That is until I discover a connection between the girl and my enemy.
The plan is an easy one, but there’s something about Mickey that’s making it more and more difficult.
After all, she’s not mine to keep. She’s a tool. My pawn.
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“From the deepest desires often come the deadliest hate.”
Love is a plague, infecting the masses with the lie of happily ever after.
It’s the ultimate religion, followed by those who have faith that it will save their wretched souls and give them some sort of deeper purpose. That love is what makes life worth living.
Love is a fucking cult. A stampede of hopeful morons all rushing to jump off the same cliff that has claimed the lives of millions before them. Through the fog, they’re unable to see their fate, what love really has waiting for them at the bottom.
Nothing but a gruesome tangle of carnage.
So, they jump.
And when all is said and done, love doesn’t lead them to find purpose or hope or meaning in this life.
It ends with joining the fucking pile.
Another notch carved on the handle of love’s gun.
The only true end to the plague is death or something that feels a lot like it when the infection spreads to the heart and soul, crushing a man from the inside.
Love is messy, bloody, and ignorant.
Hatred is born in the absence of love’s false promises. An evolution of man.
Hate is easy. Pure in its simplicity.
It doesn’t disappoint or lead astray.
There are no false promises, no fog clouding what’s waiting at the bottom of the cliff.
Hate is a product of where I came from and a direction to where I’m going.
It’s a town made up of equal parts sand and sadists.
Beach and blood.
Saltwater and sins.
Canals and chaos.
The overgrown, empty fields house the perfect soil in which the seeds of hatred are planted and flourish, producing an army soulless men. The blood in their veins, replaced by the flowing green of greed. They wield weapons instead of hands, and stones instead of hearts. Encroach on their paths, and you will be cut down.
The only law in this town is power. And the lengths you’re willing to go to obtain that power can be both astonishing and horrifying. Respect is earned through bloody acts of violence and the kind of brutality that outside of this town only exists in nightmares.
My power lies in my truth. I have no false notions about who I am or what I’m capable of. I don’t fear retaliation, retribution, or the fucking reaper himself.
I approach life without my weapon hidden behind my back but in my hands and in your face because my seed wasn’t planted at birth, but rather by circumstance.
I’m not a victim. I’m simply the result. A product of Logan’s Beach.
An outcast. An outlaw. Out for fucking blood.
I’m prepared for anything and anyone.
My life after Mickey is a live grenade being tossed into the air like a child’s plaything.
While I’m distracted, trying to keep everything I’ve worked for from exploding, she somehow manages to slip her small feminine fingers past all of my barriers, reaches into my black fucking soul…
And pulls the fucking pin.
Four Years Ago
Mama and Papa always beam with pride when they tell people I have a photographic memory, even though I feel like the accomplishment is the least spectacular among those of my three younger sisters. Mallory, thirteen, is already on the junior Olympic swim team. Maya, sixteen, recently received her early acceptance letter to Stanford. Mindy, seventeen, paints spectacular watercolor landscapes and landed her first solo gallery show in Miami next month.
Then, there’s me. Mickey, nineteen, photographic memory, high IQ, socially inept.
Eh, seems pale by comparison. Maybe, because I’ve watched them work so hard to reach their goals while my accomplishments are merely products of something I was born with. I never had to try to be smart or remember things.
I just am. I just can.
I hear Papa’s voice in my head from dinner last month with my aunt and uncle. “Bob, did I ever tell you that Mickey here has a photographic memory? It’s astounding. She can remember every detail of everything she sees. Never seen anything like it. Bob, give me your driver’s license. She’ll remember the numbers in two-seconds flat.”
I chuckle to myself at the image of Bob’s astonished face when I did just that, taking a quick glance at his drivers’ license before handing it back and reciting not just his license number, but his birthday, the date he got his license renewed, and the fact that he’s an organ donor. I added the part about him having a ketchup stain on his collar in the picture for good measure.
My memory has always been my superpower. It’s never failed me.
My smile falls.
Today, Papa’s brag is a lie.
Because something happened today, and for the first time in my life, I can’t remember what.
The memory is there, but it’s sitting inside my brain like a shredded picture, floating in the wind. Just when I feel like I’m getting close to it, it’s gone again. It’s like catching something moving in the corner of your eye only to turn around and realize that nothing’s there.