Welcome to the new world order—where the villains have become the heroes.
ERIC ‘WRAITH’ SHAW
Once upon a time… Yeah, no. Let’s stop right there. This isn’t a fairytale. I’m not exactly Prince Charming. And I haven’t forgotten the day Jamie Ellis left town in handcuffs. But that feels like lifetimes ago. My high school crush is all grown up and married to the man who’s holding me prisoner. Drugged and tortured, I’ve become a monster who’ll stop at nothing to rip David Crane’s world apart.
When I left Mayhem at sixteen, a piece of my heart stayed behind with the charismatic bad-boy I’ve loved since kindergarten. But I’m a product of a life gone wrong, and I married David hoping for a better future. Now that I know the depth of my husband’s depravity, I’ll risk everything to ruin his carefully crafted empire—because if Wraith and I want our happily ever after, we’re going to have to fight for it…
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Once upon a time…
What a bunch of bullshit.
I’m no Prince Charming. My life isn’t a fairy tale. And I’m positive of one absolute truth—I’m not dying in this hellhole.
Bad enough, David Crane makes bank off my fights. I won’t give him the satisfaction of profiting from my death.
It’s Fight Night, and the Coliseum’s ground floor is packed. Rows of chairs ten deep wrap around a steel cage in the center of the prestigious arena. A cloud of tobacco smoke thickens air rank with too much cologne, perfume, and sweat. Strategically placed bouncers serve as crowd control. Provocative, leather-clad bartenders hustle to keep pace with the steady flow of orders. Flirtatious waitresses work an upscale horde, sating the mob’s appetite for liquor while fighters quench their thirst for violence.
The action flows to a brothel above the arena. Up there, enough money buys limitless debauchery. Shit those sick fucks do in those luxury rooms is so bad, we won’t even allow it in Mayhem—and our motto is Pick your pleasure, so…
Yeah. It’s fucking disgusting.
Crane built himself a kingdom on the border of Ocala National Forest. As far as I know, there’s only one known entrance, making Gomorrah virtually inescapable. But trust I’m getting out of here, and it won’t be in a body bag.
Never turn your back on your enemy.
The warning echoes in my head. Keeps me upright long after I should have fallen. My opponent is taller than me, agile, too, but slim. Felix’s jabs are quick, but I’m quicker. His kicks brutal, but I’m stronger. The guy’s landed more than a few solid hits, and I swear he’s ruptured something vital when he roundhouses me. But I’m a brick shithouse and withstand the battering, giving better than I’ve receive.
Shame I have to kill him. He’s putting up a hell of a fight.
Cracked ribs are razor blades grating against my lungs. Sweat stings my eyes. My brain is bashed around inside my skull, with each crash of Felix’s fist doing more damage. But I’m still alive.
Mayhem born and raised, I’ve fought my way to the top of the Unholy’s food chain, earning a place as the gang’s most feared enforcer. I know how to hurt someone, and I dig deep as I swing my right arm in a heavy overhand, aiming for an imaginary target beyond Felix’s head. The goal is never to hit the person. It’s to punch through them. I aim past him, the slam of my knuckles shattering flesh and bone. Christ, I destroy the man’s face, ruining his orbital socket.
I’m relentless. Can’t give Felix a shred of mercy. Instead, I bare my teeth, an animal moving in for the kill, and hammer him with a volley of punches until my arms scream from exhaustion.
Concussed, I see three of Felix and maintain the attack on the one in the middle. He crawls away, groping at the mat, and gains his feet. I spit out a mouthful of blood and charge forward. I nail him hard enough to buckle his legs. My guard stays up, and although I never hesitate, I’m still a fucking human being beneath this…monster…and I can’t bring myself to whale on a man when he’s on his knees.
Die, damn you.
There’s no glory in my inevitable victory—no honor in beating someone who lost the fight a dozen punches ago. But the battle won’t end until one of us is dead.
The crowd’s roar is thunderous, their bloodlust sickening. These people are supposed to be civilized members of society. God-fearing, law-abiding aristocracy who glare down their collective nose at folks who live outside of their manicured world. To them, I’m trash—less than nothing. A criminal who, they believe, has earned my place in this cage.
About the Author
Renee Rocco is the author of Dark Romance. After a thirteen-year hiatus, her return to writing allows her to spend her days working behind the scenes for a NY publisher with her nights spent indulging in the wicked world of her antiheroes. Beneath the glamour of her work-from-home mom duties, she’s a suburban misfit who always has a sarcastic comment at the ready—whether the situation calls for one or not. She is not Instagram-ready or speakerphone-friendly—you’ve been warned.