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Buttons and Hate

By´╝ÜPenelope Sky

Chapter One


Pearl

Now I was just confused.

My primary objective was to return home as soon as possible as a free woman. I had a job I loved, a boyfriend I loved, and my friends and his family. There were many things waiting for me.

But then Jacob betrayed me.

What was truly waiting for me back at home? A man who cared so little about our time together that he threw me away like an old piece of trash. When his gambling debts got too high, he was willing to sell a person—me—just to make ends meet. What if he wasn’t in debt? What if he just needed money to buy a house or a car? Would he trade me in for that too?

I didn’t know what to think anymore.

The agony that weighed on my heart cut deeper than a blade. It hurt more than a steel baseball bat against my ribcage. There was nothing worse than having no purpose.

And I had none.

I looked at the jar on the table in my bedroom and saw the pitiful amount of buttons I’d accumulated. I agreed to our sick deal because I was determined to return home. But now that I lacked motivation to leave, the buttons seemed irrelevant. The only use they had was getting things from Crow. I slept with him last night because I had a button to spare. It was my currency to get the things I needed.

That was the only value they held now.

Crow returned from work right on cue. He walked through the front door at the same time every single day. He was punctual to the point of boredom. His movements and actions were predictable. I wasn’t sure how he managed to dodge his enemies when he had such a strict routine.

Instead of heading into his room to shower, he knocked on my bedroom door.

“Come in.” I sat on the couch near the fireplace. A book sat beside me on the cushion. I hadn’t started reading again since that horrible afternoon. All I wanted to do was sit still and stare at the wall.

He entered the room with an innate authority. His black suit was buttoned in the front, and the legs of his trousers framed his muscled thighs perfectly. There were a lot of sexy qualities that he possessed, but I was particularly attracted to the strength in his thighs.

He wore a blue tie, the kind of blue that reminded me of tropical waters. It wasn’t deep and dark like his suit. It was vibrant and beautiful. Only a stern man like him could pull it off and make it look intimidating. He made everything seem abundantly masculine. His mansion was styled with elegance and taste, and even that seemed manly.

He greeted me with a cold stare, annoyed from the second he walked through the door.

I hadn’t gotten in his way or pestered him, so I didn’t know what his problem was. “Yes?”

“Knock it off.”

All I was doing was sitting in my room peacefully. I hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch. If his employees didn’t know I was there, they wouldn’t know I existed. “Excuse me?”

“This pity party you’re throwing for yourself. Get over it already and move on.” He turned back to the door, having said everything he needed to say. His shoulders were tense with irritation, like he wanted to flip the chair over while I still sat in it.

“Wow.”

He turned around when he reached the door, his expression still ice-cold.

“I didn’t think you could be a bigger asshole. But I guess you can.” I stormed into my bathroom and locked the door so he couldn’t follow me. I turned on the water and stood underneath the showerhead. The warm water felt good against my skin, soothing the anger away—at least some of it.

***

Lars stepped into my bedroom. “His Grace would like you to join him for dinner.”

Not after the stunt he pulled earlier. “I’ll enjoy my dinner in here tonight. Thank you, Lars.”

He kept his hands behind his back as he stood in the open doorway.

If he didn’t leave, he had something else to say. “Yes?”

“His Grace said dinner would only be served in the dining room. If you would like to eat, you need to join him.”

“Then I’ll starve.” The choice was clear. I turned back to my book and silently excused him.

Lars shut the door, and his footsteps trailed away. A minute passed, and I knew he was in the dining room telling Crow what I had said. It was only a matter of time before Crow stormed up here and dragged me by the hair.

His quiet footsteps approached my door a moment later. Despite how lightly he approached me, I knew there was rage in every limb. Chaos would be burning in his eyes, and he would probably slap me across the face.

The doors burst open right on cue, and his eyes changed from cold peaks to burning lava. “Get. Your. Ass. Up.” He stood in front of me, his powerful arms hanging by his sides. “Now.”

I turned my eyes back to my book and kept reading. “No.”

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