HOOK – Chapter One

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I crumple to the floor as the reality that I’ve lost everything drags me down into an abyss. The lies and half-truths splinter my fragile heart into jagged pieces of glass, ripping me apart from the inside out. The eyes of the man I thought loved me bore into me from above, and the realization hits—he is the one responsible.


He did this.


My heart is a kiln that hardens my despair and transforms it into a rage so monstrous it cannot be contained. I’ve been forged in fire and born anew.


He would pay.


They all would.


I’d burn this whole cesspool of a city to the ground until I’d exacted revenge on all of them.


Every. Single. Fucking. One.


– Emily





The first time I slept with a man for money I didn’t come.

I was okay with it because, hey, it was my first time and I was nervous. But years later, I’ve grown tired of only experiencing the big ‘O’ through my own battery-operated devices. Being a high-end call girl, surely a perk of the job should be a climax every once in a while, right?

I squeezed my eyes shut, willing an orgasm to overtake me.

“Ah, that’s it, Brandi. Just like that,” Julian said as I ground my ass back into him.

His hands gripped my waist as he pounded in and out of me while I stroked my clit in hopes that—just this once—I’d find relief from something other than my vibrator.

“You almost there, baby?” he asked and then groaned.

“Almost,” I panted. My time was running out. I attempted to clear my mind and forget my surroundings, hoping that would help. He plunged in and out, the mechanics of it all in place but the intended result so far away. A slight tingling was all I felt though, and I resigned myself once again to fake the orgasm.

“Ahh”—I began moaning—”oh, right there. That’s it. Oh my God. Oh my God!” I fisted the sheets for extra effect. “Oh, Julian, I’m gonna come. I’m coming for you!” With that final proclamation, I threw my head back, causing my dark hair to cascade down my back.

It might’ve been a little theatrical, but it got the job done.

He thrust into me a couple more times. You know the ones I’m talking about—those jerky, off-rhythm movements that almost always mean a guy is about to finish. And finish he did, with a few grunts and whispered words about how I was the best fuck in Vegas.

Damn straight. You didn’t get paid what I did a night because you were a limp lay.

I dropped down onto my stomach. Julian rolled onto his side and stroked lazy fingers across my naked back. Only a few minutes passed before he said, “I gotta run.” His hand stopped stroking and he pressed a kiss to my shoulder.

I turned my head on the pillow to watch him crawl out bed, remove the condom and toss it in the trash before reaching for his clothes folded neatly on a nearby chaise.

We’d left the hotel curtains open, and though it was dark out, the chaotic, sparkling lights of Vegas provided enough ambient light for him to go about his business. My gaze wandered to the night sky in search of stars, but like always, there were none to be seen here. Growing up in Utah, there were always an abundance of stars. Then again, Vegas seemed to suck the light out of everyone, so I supposed it was fitting. Just another reason why I hated this wretched town.

The mattress sunk as Julian sat on the edge of the bed, drawing my thoughts back to the present.

“I wish I could stay longer.” He leaned down and tucked my hair behind one ear.

“I’m sure I’ll be seeing you soon.” I sat up, not bothering to cover myself, comfortable in my nakedness. “I had a good time tonight.”

His hand brushed the side of my breast before settling on my waist. “You know I always have a good time with you, Brandi.”

I curved my lips into a smile, one designed for seduction, and leaned in, pressing a chaste kiss to his lips.

His hand at my waist gripped me tighter. “Got some business to take care of out of state. I’ll make arrangements to see you when I’m back in town.”

“Be careful,” I said. He nodded and slipped back out of bed quietly to make his way out the door. Julian was in a dangerous line of work—to put it mildly. I didn’t know specifics, but I knew enough not to ask questions.

I lay back down and gazed once again out at the night sky.

I enjoyed my evenings with Julian, as much as I was able. At least I always knew what to expect with him. He was a pretty average middle-aged guy with light brown hair and a fit body, and the best part was that he wasn’t into kinky shit.

Once I was sure he wouldn’t be returning, I rolled over and turned on the lamp. The expensive hotel room came into view, and I instantly spotted what I was looking for. On the corner of the nightstand sat a stack of bills that had been neatly arranged. I reached for it to tally my nightly earnings. Counting off bills in my head as I placed them on the mattress in front of me, I realized that he’d left me a larger than usual tip.

I smiled to myself. My blowjob skills must have been on point tonight.

This is the part where you judge me. We both know that’s what you’re doing…but don’t bother. It won’t make any difference to me. I’m not in need of someone to save my fucking soul.

And no, I didn’t get into prostitution because I had daddy issues, nor do I have a drug habit I’m trying to support.

I had my reasons.

As does anyone who’s ever done something worthy of being judged.

A soft knock sounded at the door and the mechanism inside the lock clicked. The hulking frame of my bodyguard, Leroy, came into view as he stepped into the room.

“Hey, baby girl. Saw Julian book it out of here. How’d everything go?”

I held up the cash and shook it back and forth. “He was generous tonight.”

I’m one of the agency’s top earners, which means that Leroy accompanied me whenever I conducted business. All on the orders of my madam, Sylvia.

Since Julian was a long-time client, Leroy waited in the lobby rather than outside the door, giving him a little more leeway than he would a new-to-me john. I’m sure even Leroy tired of listening to my fake orgasms. God knows I got tired of performing them.

I stepped out of bed and approached the six-foot-five behemoth, unconcerned with my nudity. Long ago I’d resigned myself to the fact that my body was no longer private property. At this point, it was merely a vessel to do the job. It didn’t really matter. I’d never noticed Leroy trying to sneak a peek anyway.

I pushed a small stack of bills at him. “This is Sylvia’s take. Be sure she gets it?” He nodded, and I made my way around him to the bathroom to get dressed. After I’d put my dress back on and collected all my belongings, I returned to the room to find Leroy waiting for me by the door.

“How you know I’m not gonna rip you off? How come you always trust me to get this to her?” he asked as we exited the room.

I smiled and elbowed him in the ribs. “Because I know you for the softie you really are, and you’d never screw me over.” It may seem peculiar to call a giant man a softie, but it was true.

Leroy was one of the only people I trusted in this town, and one of the very few who knew why I chose this profession. I knew he’d pass the money along to Sylvia rather than pocket it for himself.

Vegas wasn’t called ‘Sin City’ for nothing, but despite what he did for a living, Leroy wasn’t one of the sinners. Everyone else here was out for themselves and would turn their backs on you in a heartbeat. That included Sylvia. While my madam and I had a cordial relationship, I was just a way for her to make bank and we both knew it.

Leroy tousled my hair as we walked along the multicolored carpeting toward the elevators. “You always seein’ the best in everything, aren’t ya?”

“No, I see the truth. It’s one of the things you need to survive this gig.” He looked over at me with a mix of pity and compassion. “Don’t give me that look,” I said. “I don’t want your pity. I’m blessed in my own way.”

He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and tugged me to his side. When we reached the elevator doors, he gave me a squeeze and said, “That you are, baby girl, that you are.”

A chuckle escaped my lips. Who would’ve ever thought a call girl could consider herself blessed?

Time to head home to the reason why I truly am.


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