“I’m not the hero in this story, girl. You’d do best to remember that.”
Once upon a time, I was an eighteen year old psychology student.
Now, I’m a man’s property.
Stolen and sold, I’ve been decorated in bruises since the day my world changed two years ago.
I suffer in silence, I crave freedom, but I never break.
Until he arrives.
Elder Prest, the only man to look at me and see me. The only man more ruthless than my owner.
He wants me for reasons I don’t understand.
He claims me for one night then leaves and never looks back.
Until he returns.
And life becomes much more complicated.
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★★★★★ 5 Stars
The author returns to her dark romance roots and I can say that the first book in the series is some of her best work yet. The story is complex, the characters elusive and I do believe that Mrs. Winters has created her best villain up to date. —Lina’s Reviews Book Blog
- ★★★★★ 5 Stars
Just when you think you’ve seen the best of Pepper Winters, she goes and does it again. Yup, this has got to be her best work yet and that really is saying something considering every book I’ve read by this author has been 5 hearts!!! —Hopeless Romantic Book Blog
- ★★★★★ 5 Stars
Holy Hell, I can not begin to process all that has just happened in this crazy, dark, compelling story. I now truly know why people call Pepper Winters the queen of Dark Romance. —Danielle Goodreads
- ★★★★★ 5 Stars
If you love dark romance, then this book is a MUST READ! —BexLOVESbooks
- ★★★★★ 5 Stars
WOW WOW WOW Just absolutely amazing!!!! A word of warning: do not start reading this book unless you can dedicate you entire day (or two) to finishing it. You will not want to put this book down!!! —Heather Goodreads
- ★★★★★ 5 Stars
This might just be the best novel Miss Pepper Winters has ever written! Pennies has touched me in ways I have never felt from reading any dark romance novels before.–Revenge of the Heels
- ★★★★★ 5 Stars
- ★★★★★ 5 Stars
Such a simple word.
For those who had it, it carried very little importance. But for those who didn’t have it, it was the most precious, prized, and promised hope of all.
I supposed I was lucky to know what freedom felt like.
For eighteen years, I’d been free. Free to learn what I wanted, befriend who I liked, and flirt with boys who passed my rigorous criteria.
I was a simple girl with ideals and dreams, encouraged by society to believe nothing could hurt me, that I should strive for an excellent career, and no one could stop me. Rules would keep me safe, police would keep the monsters away, and I could remain innocent and naïve to the darkness of the world.
I had it.
But then I lost it.
Murdered, resuscitated, and sold.
I lost my freedom for so many years.
Until the day he entered my cage.
Him with the black eyes and blacker soul.
The man who challenged my owner.
And set my imprisonment on an entirely different path.
No, that didn’t sound right. Far too light-hearted for my tale.
Scratch that. Too grandiose.
To The Person Reading This.
To The Person I Wish Would Help Me.
That would get me in trouble. And I refused to sound weak. Not if these words were the only thing strangers would remember me by.
Tapping the broken pencil against my temple, I did my best to focus. For weeks, I’d been confined like a zoo animal being acclimatised to its new cage. I’d been fed, washed, and given medical attention from my rough arrival. I had a bed with sheets, a flushing toilet, and shampoo in the shower. I had the basics that all human and nonhuman life required.
But I wasn’t living.
I was dying.
They just couldn’t see it.
Inspiration struck as I came up with the perfect name to address this sad letter to. The title was the only right in this wrong, wrong new world.
To No One.
The moment the three words were pressed into my poor parchment, I couldn’t stop the memories unfolding. My left hand shook as I kept the toilet tissue flat while my right flew, slowly transcribing my past.
I WAS EIGHTEEN when I died.
I remember the day better than any other in my short life. And I know you’re rolling your eyes, saying it only happened three weeks ago, but believe me, I will never forget this. I know some people say certain events are forever imprinted on their psyche, and up until now, I haven’t had anything stick in such a way. You see, No One, I guess you could’ve called me a brat. Some might even say I deserve this. No, that’s a lie. No one would wish this on their worst enemy. But the fact remains, only you know I’m not dead. I’m alive and in this cell about to be sold to the highest bidder. I’ve been hurt, touched, violated in every sense but rape, and been stripped of everything I used to be.
But to my mother? I’m dead. I died. I vanished. Who knows if she’ll ever truly find out what happened to me.
The scribbling of my pencil stopped. I sucked in a ragged breath, trembling hard as I relived what I’d been through.
My will to stay breathing had vanished. It’d taken them a while to break me. But they had. And now that they’d achieved their goal, I was nothing more than cargo waiting for the transaction to line their pockets with my sale.
For days, all I’d had for entertainment were my chaotic thoughts, awful memories, and overwhelming panic of what lay ahead of me. But that was until I found the chewed up, snapped in half pencil beneath the bed.
The find had been better than food or freedom; better because both of those things were minutely controlled by my traffickers. I had no power to sway the regimented arrival of breakfast and dinner nor the ability to halt the fact I was being sold like meat to the highest bidder.
I had no control over being alone in a tiny room that had once been a hotel suite before its premises were bought for more unsavoury stays. The towels were threadbare with the sigil of some long ago establishment and the carpet swirled in golds and bronze hinting the decor hadn’t been updated since the seventies.
Was that how long the pencil had lurked beneath my bed? Were the bite marks on the wood given by a rowdy toddler waiting for its parents to stop fussing so they could explore a new city? Or had a maid lost it while tucking starched white sheets with military precision?
I’d never know.
But I liked to make up fantasises because I had nothing else to do. I spent my achingly long days going over every nook and cranny of my jail. They’d broken my spirit, washed away my fight, but they couldn’t stop the determined urge inside me. The instinct everyone had—or at least, I thought everyone had.
I’d been alone for so long now I didn’t know what the other girls I was processed with would do. Did they lie star-spread on the bed and wait for their future? Did they huddle in the corner and beg for their fathers to stop this nightmare? Or did they accept, because it was easier to accept than to fight?
Me? I ran my rubbed-raw fingertips over every wall, every crack, every painted up window frame. I crawled on my hands and knees, searching for something to help me. And by help me, I didn’t know if I meant as a weapon to fight my way out or something to end my struggle before it truly began.
It’d taken me days to go over every square inch. But all I’d found was this half-mangled pencil. A gift. A treasure. The nub was almost down to the wood and I wouldn’t have long before I had to find a way to sharpen my precious possession, but I’d worry about that another day. Just like I’d become a master at shoving aside my worries about everything else.
The one thing I didn’t find was any paper. Not in the drawers of the beat-up desk or in the cupboard beneath the non-functioning television. The only apparatus I could write on was toilet-paper and the pencil wasn’t too keen on that idea, tearing the soft tissue rather than imprinting its silvery lines.
Nevertheless, I was determined to leave some sort of note behind. Some piece of me that these bastards hadn’t taken and never would.
Taking another deep breath, I shoved aside my current conditions and clutched the pencil harder. Glancing at the door to make sure I was alone (I had three hours before dinner was served through the hole in the wall), I spread out my square of toilet paper to make it tight and writable and continued with my note.
I wish I could say a monster killed me. That a terrible accident caused this. And I can say that…to a degree.
However, the real reason I’m dead and a new toy about to be sold is mainly because of my upbringing.
That poise and confidence my mother drilled into me? It didn’t grant me in good stead for a profitable career or handsome husband. It pissed people off. I came across as stuck-up, know-it-all, and vain.
It made me a target.
I don’t know if anyone will ever see this but you, No One, but if they do, I hope they forget what I’m about to admit. I’m an only daughter to a single parent. I love my mother. I do.
But if I ever survive what’s about to happen to me and by some miracle I find freedom again, I’ll keep this next part to myself when I account my time in purgatory.
I love my mother, but I hate her.
I miss my mother, but I never want to see her again.
I obeyed my mother, but I want to curse her for eternity.
She’s the only one I can blame.
The one responsible for me becoming nothing more than a whore.