Home > Ruin & Rule (Pure Corruption MC #1)(9)

Ruin & Rule (Pure Corruption MC #1)(9)
Author: Pepper Winters

A shadow crossed over his features. Pain speckled his brow with sweat. Gritting his teeth, he swallowed before ordering, “Strip. The lot of you. I have to make sure you’re not hurt. Your new owners are expecting perfection—don’t want to disappoint them.”

My heart stopped.

“No, please,” a girl with long blonde hair begged. “Let us go.”

Kill held up his hand—it came up sword-fast and just as sharp. “What did I just say? Immediately and explicitly.”

“Do it, bitch.” Black Mohawk came forward, his hands curling by his side. Violence reentered the room, gusting into being with his uttered threat.

The girls twitched and fidgeted, looking to each other for help. Strange, they didn’t look to me—didn’t seek out my sisterhood or squeeze closer for comfort.

The longer we stood in the line, the more obvious my exclusion was from the tearstained, terrified women.

As much as I wanted answers, perhaps it was a blessing not to know who I was. To not remember my family, marital situation, or who I might never see again.

I was set apart from them. I couldn’t determine if it made me stronger or more vulnerable to be cast out from the group. A small lance of pain pricked my heart. I truly belonged nowhere—even this horrible life into which I’d been thrown.

Kill dragged a hand over his face, smearing a cut from his forehead and drawing the dark red down his cheek. “I gave an order. Don’t test me so soon. Not tonight.”

His gaze zeroed on mine. This time there was nothing there—no pull or whisper of knowing. He was in charge and I was nothing more than skin.

His lips pressed together as he dropped his vision to my breasts. A not-so-subtle command to obey.


Looking down my body, I plucked at the faded blue jeans and white T-shirt with a large, intricate rose on the front. Both smelled of smoke but weren’t burned like my arm. I had no shoes, no jacket.

I didn’t remember buying the items, or where I’d showered and dressed this morning. In a way, it made no difference to me either being clothed or naked. They didn’t offer protection. They weren’t armor against evil happening.

They were useless. Just like tears were useless and terror was useless. I had no need for any of it.

I don’t know what I look like naked.

My heart kicked into a curious beat. I had no idea if I had freckles, or moles, or scars. I lived in the mind and body of a stranger. Maybe if I looked, I might know? Might figure out my conundrum?

I looked up again into the green eyes of my nightmare incarnate. He’d never looked away, his jaw locked as my fingertips traced the delicate rose on my T-shirt.

I sucked in a breath, my skin prickling. I couldn’t deny he stole everything from me with just one stare. But he also gifted a piece of himself in return. I read him clearly—or maybe I only thought I did.

His legs were spread, the stance threatening as well as for balance to combat the pain he lived with. He looked menacing, but something deep in my soul wanted to believe he wouldn’t hurt me.

Don’t be stupid.

I tilted my chin. I wasn’t. I was going out of my way to be rational and collected. Being stupid would be ignoring my instincts and running.

He means to sell you. Turn you into a whore.

I knew that. But my gut said he wasn’t a vicious man. He was a killer, undoubtedly. He’d lived a life of crime for a long time. But he was also hiding something that deep inside me knew. I couldn’t explain how I knew but I had met him.

Once upon a time, I’d loved him in a nightmare so much worse than this one. I’d grown wet for him in another reality, all while he worshipped me, adored me.

It wasn’t my fault I couldn’t separate fact from fiction, truth from fable.

Raising an eyebrow, he waited.

I waited.

We both waited to see who would break.

I did.

Not for him—but for me. I wanted to know who I was beneath my clothes. I wanted to shed the lingering past and had no reason to cling to things I couldn’t recollect.

Grabbing the hem, I tugged the T-shirt over my head.

The girls beside me froze, watching with moon-size eyes. My skin scattered with goosebumps as Kill sucked in a breath.

His inhale sent a clench fluttering through my core. Power. He’d granted me power over him with that tiny noise of appreciation.

Thick hair fell over my shoulder, dangling in my line of sight.

My hair.

Hair I didn’t remember.

I fingered it, running a soft wave through my fingertips. Whether it was natural or real, it was a beautiful shade of auburn and cherry. A rich pigment that spoke of passion and rippled like blood.

I’m a redhead.

My eyes traveled down my front.

I gasped.

“I know how much you’ve always wanted one. I wanted to be the one to pay for it. So you’ll always remember me.” He pulled a drawing I’d been working on for years from his back pocket. “I know how much this means to you.”

I leapt into his arms, hugging him.

“Thank you. So, so much.”

I turned to the artist, pulling my T-shirt over my head. Taking the drawing, I pressed it into his hands, then splayed my palms on my naked stomach and chest. “Here. Ink me here.”

The memory ended.

The first pressure of tears itched my eyes. The tattoo spanned my entire side, up my rib cage, engulfed my left breast entirely, and teased with the final design by my collarbone. The tattoo disappeared into my jeans below. My arms weren’t inked, and I couldn’t comprehend the amount of hours such a piece would’ve taken.

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