I’m not a girl who expects to be saved

Cruel Beginnings, an all-new dark academia, enemies-to-lovers romance and first book in the action-packed Cruel World Series from USA Today bestselling author Lili St Germain & Lyra Parish is available now!

I’m not a girl who expects to be saved.

I gave up on fairytales a long time ago.

So when my knight in shining Armani stalks into town and delivers me from my tragic fate, I’m grateful.

Darius Prince shouldn’t be in the seedy strip club where I’m paying off my mother’s debts, one piece of my soul at a time. And he definitely shouldn’t be the one who claims me in exchange for a suitcase full of trust fund cash and a deal inked in blood.

His dark eyes shine with a hatred so deadly, I wonder why he wants me at all.

Especially when I find out he thinks I’m somehow connected to his twin sister’s disappearance.

Darius doesn’t rescue me.

Instead, he drags me into his web of tragic secrets and forbidden desires.

He binds me so tight, I can’t find my way out of his grasp.

Not that it would make a difference.

Escaping my fate isn’t an option.

They say every ending is a new beginning.

I just didn’t expect my beginning to be so cruel.

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I rub my fingers across my chin as I size up Rafe Marin. Videos are horrifyingly easy to doctor. He could be making this whole thing up. 

‘What do you want?” I ask finally. “Why are you showing me this?”

“I don’t want anything—other than your assurance we never had this discussion.”

“What discussion?” I reply quickly. 

Rafe’s a smart guy, he catches my drift. “Exactly.”

“You didn’t tell me why you’re showing me this. If it’s legit, you know I’m going to have to find out who those guys are. Especially the one she arrived with. That could fuck with your family’s business dealings. So why risk it?”

Rafe nods, taking the phone and sliding it into his jacket pocket. “Because if my sister went missing and someone knew something, I’d want to be told.”

Huh. “That’s interesting.”

“What? That I care about my sister?”

“Oh please, we both know how much you care for your sister. Almost as much as your father cares for her, right?”I knew Rafe and Faye had some twisted thing going the moment I met them both, and my suspicions were only amplified when I had the misfortune of meeting their father at the beginning of our business relationship. That family is beyond weird. “But that’s not what’s interesting. What’s interesting is that you referred to my sister as missing. Most people refer to her as dead. Including the coroner, who issued her death certificate.”

“Well, there’s no body, right?” Rafe asks, completely ignoring my pointed jab at his incestuous little family. “No washed-up remains? A femur? A skull? A dismembered foot?”

I shake my head. “Nothing. Not even a single fucking strand of her hair.”

“Then she’s still missing,” Rafe states. “Especially in the world you and I live in. No remains, no proof of death.”

He regards me silently for a moment. And then, finally: “Do you think she’s dead?”

“Not for a single fucking millisecond have I ever thought she was dead,” I reply confidently. “Who’s the guy with her in the video?”

“I don’t know.”

“But you know something. What are you leaving out?”

Rafe struggles to articulate the next part. “There, ah…there might be somebody who knows who he is. She hasn’t told me, but for the right price, she might tell you.”

“She won’t tell you, and she might tell me. Sounds like a great fucking lead, Marin.”

“For the right price,” Rafe clarifies. “Question is, how much is your sister worth to you?”

It takes every bit of strength and self-control I possess not to stand and rip his larynx out of his throat with my bare hands. “She’s worth every penny I have. She’s worth the entire ocean. You understand. You have a sister you love. Maybe even more than I love mine.”

Rafe snorts, but he won’t bite. He won’t address his fucked up relationship with Faye, no matter how much shit I give him about it. Oh, well. 

“This mystery woman got a name?” I ask. 

Rafe smirks. “You know I can’t tell you that.”He glances at my balled fists. “I can arrange a meeting. Okay? It’ll be on the mainland, most likely, somewhere public. This woman, she’s paranoid. And rightly so, by the sounds of it. She’s got people looking for her.”

“If she’s got people looking for her, toss her on your boat and bring her to me. I’ll come unarmed, by myself, and she can name her price. If she’s worried about retribution, I’ll take her to Valmont Island and give her asylum.”

Rafe immediately looks worried. “No island. She can’t go there.”

“But I can keep her safe there!” I explode. I’m frowning so hard, trying to figure out Rafe’s reluctance, when it smashes into me like a wall of bricks. 

“She’s from the island,” I whisper. “Your informant. Isn’t she?”

Rafe pales. “You shut your fucking mouth,”he jabs his finger into the table. “I find out you breathed a word of this to anyone, I’ll have your goddamn head, Prince.”

I fall back in my seat, stunned. “She’s from the fucking island.” My mind is going a million miles an hour as I try to think of who this mystery woman could be, who’s from Valmont Island who just might know the guy my sister was fucking two nights before she disappeared? 

“Nobody gets away,” I whisper. “Nobody.”

“You know that’s not true,” Rafe says pointedly. “What, your father?” I reply. “He didn’t get away. He was banished.”

Rafe shrugs. “Being banished isn’t common, but it happens.”

I shake my head, my skull burning with the start of a blinding headache. “The only reason Javier’s not dead in a hole somewhere is because of his seat at the Empyrean Table. I’ve never heard of another person being granted the same. Ever. Have you?”

“Sometimes the dead don’t die,” Rafe says cryptically. “Like your sister, maybe.”

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Oh, Holy Hell this book is brutal in all of the best ways possible. If you have read anything by these two authors you know they can write a good story. Cruel Beginnings is a trilogy and this is book one so just be prepared for the ending. This story will leave you guessing the whole time or at least it did me. I kept thinking yup that's where this is going only to turn the page and be like NOPE you thought wrong. Valmont Island is a crazy place to live and really full of secrets that need to be uncovered. I mean the way they make people do things is creepy. Birdie finds herself in a debt she has no clue about and the collector Darius is about to make her life maybe, maybe not pleasurable. Just read I'm trying really hard not to give anything away. Just go read it already. LOL 


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