Secrets and Sins:Raphael

By: Naima Simone
A Secrets and Sins novel (Entangled Ignite)

Chapter One

When a little girl fantasizes about who she’ll be when she grows up, she envisions a mother, wife, doctor, teacher, lawyer. Even a princess.

She doesn’t see herself bellied up to the bar of a neighborhood pub a week before her wedding day because she caught her now ex-fiancé in bed with another woman.

But then again, Greer Addison reasoned, smiling at the bartender who set down a napkin and glass in front of her, dreams had the tendency to shift into nightmares. One minute life was expected, stable, a black-and-white montage of predictability. Then the next it was chaotic, confusing, a Technicolor whirlwind of lies, betrayal, and humiliation.

“Isn’t that number three or four?” her brother, Ethan, asked, arching his brow as she lifted the glass to her lips for a sip. “You don’t think you should slow down? Besides, you’re going to get sick on that. At least switch up to a vodka tonic.”

Greer hummed in pleasure as the sweet chocolate flavor and the tart vodka flowed over her tongue. Wow, she swirled the alcohol in the glass. That’s awesome. “It’s number three, my pace is just fine, and I like this.” She smacked her lips. “Tasty.”

“Sweetie.” Ethan covered the hand on her lap with his. “Greer.” Concern and a terrible sympathy softened his handsome features. The compassion in eyes as green as her own sliced into her heart like the most skilled surgeon’s scalpel. “He didn’t mean it.”

She downed another gulp, heedless of the velvety burn the large swallow of alcohol blazed down her esophagus. If only she could smooth away the jagged edges of her memories so easily.

Her father’s vicious tirade assaulted her brain like shards of broken glass—sharp, cutting…drawing heart’s blood.

What good are you? The one thing you’ve done right—the one time you were useful to me, had finally done something to make me proud—and you screw it up. Your brother’s a fag, and you’re a failure. A useless failure.

“Oh, he meant it,” she murmured, setting the glass down on the aged, scarred bar top. She stared down into the cream-colored drink with the chocolate swirl she’d almost obliterated with two healthy sips. “We both know how sincere he was.”

Ethan’s mouth momentarily tightened, as did the fingers gripping his bottle of Corona. He wasn’t a stranger to Ethan Addison II’s—no “Jr.” for him—“tender mercies.” After years of painful denial and struggling to conform to the inflexible, rigid Addison mold, Ethan had finally come out to his family. She’d been aware of his sexual identity…always had been. But Ethan had always been her protector, her rock, her confidant. Whom he loved and slept with had never mattered to her.

Their father had not been so open-minded. Or forgiving.

Three years later, and the last words he’d uttered to his son were, “I raised a son, not a daughter. When you come to your senses and remember that, you will be welcome back in this house and family. Until then, get out.”

That Ethan had actually stepped inside their parents’ home to lend her his support when she broke the news about calling off her engagement to Gavin M. Wells revealed how much her brother loved her. Or maybe he’d known she would need someone after their father finished slicing her into pieces and put her out like day-old trash.

Probably both.

“It doesn’t—” The cell phone in her jacket pocket vibrated. Maybe it was Mom calling to tell her Dad had calmed… She dug it out and glanced at the screen. Her stomach clenched, twisted. Gavin.

Quickly, she stashed the cell back in her pocket, lifting the glass from the bar with her other hand. The alcohol hit her stomach like a leaden weight.

“Let me guess,” Ethan said with a nod toward her pocket. “Gavin.”

She nodded her head, emitting a short, brittle chuckle. “I only have one thing to say to him, and since it’s anatomically impossible, there’s no point in my answering and wasting my breath.”

“Actually, I saw this video—”

She flicked her palm up. “Stop right there. T-M-freaking-I.”

Ethan snickered, and a reluctant smile curved her lips. So her humor button hadn’t been permanently smashed to smithereens. Good to know.

“Sweetie.” He sobered, his gaze solemn and filled with compassion. “You have to talk to him sooner or later.”

“Not now.” She shook her head. Hurt and the greasy glide of humiliation pitched and rolled in her belly. She turned her head, stared out the latticed windows. The red and orange electric flame effects from the fake fireplace danced in the dark windows, adding to the multicolored flicker of Christmas lights from the office building across the street. She loved this time of year. People were kinder, the world was prettier, more joyful. Her love for the holiday season was the reason she’d chosen December 23rd as her wedding date. It’d seemed perfect.

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