Cover Design: Lucy Olsen
One, two, three, four, five . . . the lyrics to the hell inside your OCD head.
Not alive, not dead. In chains.
You’re broken, Amy. I did this. Can’t undo that.
Six years ago, I played a cruel joke on you in front of the whole school. The girl who made a happiness machine to put her happy inside my head. And I just ripped your heart out.
Now, I’m back to fix what I broke. I’m a psychologist, Amy. I can give you back the happiness I stole . . .
It’s all a lie. I’m not a doctor.
So what. She doesn’t get a choice.
So what if I buy the Victorian estate she lives in, blackmail her into fake therapy sessions.
So what if I get her addicted to my body like a painkiller, make her wish me dead.
I’m not the hero. I’m the monster. The orphan boy gone bad. Cursed, everything broken.
So what, when I discover a dark secret that makes her every inch off-limits, I don’t keep my hands off her.
Her bones are made from emeralds, she’s that precious.
I won’t stop chasing her until she’s mine.
But Amy is a pretty little liar, too. Her lie is the deadliest of them all.
Only one of us is telling the truth.
So bloody what. Nobody’s gonna believe her over me.
It’s her word . . .
. . . against MINE.
You’re in a bad place, Amy. Where the monsters go. But it’s only in the bad places . . . I can get to you.
Disclaimer: No cheating — this alpha-hole keeps it in his pants.
Oh, all her tricks are gone now. She’s afraid and real and sad and crying into a pile of flowers that are already dying.
Amy looks at Max, and then at me. She can’t decide what to say or do. That kind of feeling makes me want to destroy things. But Amy doesn’t want to destroy anything. She wants to save Max, protect him from the big bad monster. That is what tears at her. Amy’s wondering where the danger is and I smell fear rolling off her in waves — such intense fear that she will do or say the wrong thing. She can’t guess what I’m up to. She’s wondering if I plan to give her a demonstration of what kind of monster I really could be. Remind her I have a fuck for a heart.
The flowers fall out of Amy’s delicate hands and onto the floor. She says to the kid, ‘Thank you, Max. You mind if you leave me and Shepherd alone? We’ve got some important adult matters to discuss. Boring stuff. Why don’t you go back to your mum? I’m sure she’s missing you.’
‘Okay, Mamy.’ Max trots out of Amy’s room, saying, ‘Smell you laters,’ with a skip in his step.
‘You wouldn’t use a kid? Surely?’ Amy whispers, her words hot as lava.
‘Yeah I would.’
‘Please don’t drag Max into this.’
And for the first time, she looks at me. Looks into my eyes with pure hatred. It’s what I wanted, and now I can’t remember why I wanted it so bad.
‘You downright refuse my help with your OCD, Amy. Don’t you get it? This shit is ruining your life.’
Her pale lips quiver. ‘Why can’t you leave me alone? Why is it so hard for you to just let me be?’
‘I’m not leaving you alone again.’
The response is automatic. Easy. Because god fucking forbid she withers and dies.
Can you save someone who’s already dying?
‘You don’t think I see?’ I say. ‘You’re a zombie, Amy. Still fucking beautiful, but half alive. You’ve given me no choice. If you don’t let me inside that pretty little head of yours, I’ll kick Max and his mum out onto the streets.’
Sometimes the stars don’t align so you have to make them. That’s what I’m doing with Amy. I’m playing God. Fuck Fate. Fuck us destined for a never. I’m making it happen.
Her mouth smacks open. I can see into the dark reaches of her. ‘You can’t.’
‘Yeah I can. Daisy, right? She’s poor. Comes from some derelict housing estate on the east side. I hear it’s bad for her at home. Her uncle or something . . . They can’t afford to pay for treatment — you know that? They’re behind on their payments. I’ve been letting her stay scot-free.’
‘I didn’t know you were doing that for Daisy . . . ’ Her voice is quiet like a mouse.
‘You don’t know a lot about me.’
I can’t help the pride that creeps in my voice. All that destruction, all that chaos I’m making for her. It’s like a lion lying a bird at her feet.
I always get what I want. The lies give me that power. That’s what got me addicted to them.
‘So, what’s it gonna be? Start therapy with me? Or you wanna go downstairs and help Daisy pack her bags?’
I’m a snake in a suit with dead eyes and a poison tongue, and Amy gives me a death stare. Her face is glazed for a split-second, like a China doll. Then she frowns. Her lips purse together. Her eyes are unblinking.
‘My friends are the one real thing in my life and you’re wrecking it,’ she says.
Wrecking things is what I do best.
In this moment, if her eyes were a weapon, the piercing look in them could cause serious annihilation. It’s like she’s a lioness and I just went into her territory, poked her, and she’s ready to attack.
‘This is emotional blackmail. You’re using my friend and little Max to get what you want. I never thought you could sink this low.’
It just about kills me laughing the way she looks at me. Pure fucking contempt on a cracker. If looks could kill, Amy would be more deadly than me. Her hate — that’s good all by itself, makes me run hot.
I lean closer, breathe her in. All vanilla and flower and bubble-gum. I give her a reassuring smile. Such a narrow margin between reassuring and predatory.
‘That’s what you want, isn’t it?’ she says. ‘You want me to hate you, because you think hate is stronger than love,’ she says right in my face.
‘Baby, they’re not opposites.’ I smile wickedly. ‘I think hate and lust are very close.’
It makes her eyes hot with hate. She’s not afraid of what I’ll do or say next. She’s thinking about killing me, maybe.
‘No, they are not opposites, but you’re wrong. Hate isn’t stronger,’ she snarls, spit in the corners of her mouth, and I don’t want her to stop. I want her to hate me a whole lot harder if that’s what this is.
Got your attention, now.
‘You want me to hate you, but hate is weak. Don’t you understand? I feel nothing. I don’t even hate you, anymore.’
‘You will,’ I say. ‘Soon enough, you’ll want me dead.’
But it blows my mind that she doesn’t already.
I straighten the gold seahorse around her neck. ‘Start making an effort to heal — or Daisy and her little kid get booted out. Hell, I’ll raise the prices so high nobody will be able to afford living here. Even those stuck-up rich girls. The roof over their heads rests on your shoulders. Sink or swim — your choice, Amy.’
I’m pulling her apart like candy floss. I’ve ruined her. I’ve burned down her dreams, hopes. Turned her wishes to ashes. And I’ll keep ruining her, keep destroying her. Maybe a deep part of me wants her to stop me.
‘Fine,’ she mutters.
She doesn’t hesitate. Doesn’t even calculate. That’s how bad she wants to save Daisy and Max from the big evil monster.
‘Just like that? No fight?’
‘I can’t cut off my heart. I’m not you.’ She looks down at her bare dainty feet. ‘I just want peace.’
Something you could kill your way to . . . that’s how I see peace, Amy.
Whole lot of silence after that.
Finally she says, ‘You’re vile.’
‘Tell me something I don’t already know.’
Her eyes are jewel green, hazed in mist. ‘I thought you were beautiful when I first saw you at the children’s home.’
She never flatters me, not since I hurt her. And a slow, sickening feeling comes on me.
‘Is that so?’
‘When I was fourteen, I used to love you.’ She says it all in a cold, steady voice, and it stabs like sharp icicles in my heart.
I pin her against the wall behind her, and snarl, ‘Used to love me?’
The air around us is heavy, rage brews in my gut.
‘Yes. Imagine that. Little fourteen-year-old me — in love and thinking about you.’
It’s the closest she’s come to showing me any real feelings. But she uses it in the past fucking tense.
‘What do you think that does to me, Amy, hearing you used to love me?’
‘What do you think it does to my heart?’
The problem is, that as good as it feels, as much as I want to lean back and get off on her submission, I can’t. Because she looks at me from under her eyelashes. Looks at me with my damned soul in her eyes. She never looks at me when I — no, I never let her look at me when I go over the edge of ecstasy. And now she won’t stop looking at me. It knocks me for six.
I clench my teeth, damp down the anger. Pride — that’s my cardinal vice. Not wrath. Pride. The one sin from which all others stem. Yeah, I can be the greedy man and the mean man, the envious and the enraged man, the licentious and the vicious man, but it all spirals down to pride. To the mortal sin of playing God. Of being a complete arse to the only girl I fucking love.
I keep my face neutral and fix my raw eyes at the butchered flowers on the floor.
The ache fades and the pleasure comes back so intense I want to eat her alive. For the first time I have to give chase, like a wolf after prey. I take her to her bed, and her tears are hot and delicious in my mouth.
This ‘thing’ between us, the chemistry, it’s fucking toxic. I know my body is some kind of painkiller, a poisonous addiction, a fix she needs when it hurts too bad. It’s like a knife to my chest but I’ll let her use me. Take whatever I can get. Give whatever she needs. I’ll feed her addiction.
I make her hurt, knowing I’m the one she needs to make the pain go away.
When I’m inside her, she’s crying so hard, her sobbing clutches at me so tightly, it feels like a supernova when I come.
I live my life in the Artic. Like a vampire, there’s no place for sunshine in my world.
Sunshine is a fucking killer to dead souls like me. All the same, I’m like a wasp to the biggest flame.
I don’t care if Amy hates me, forever. All I want is for her eyes to stay alive when I’m there. If she loved me again, would the darkness in my soul be converted? Or would the scar her soul has left in me, fade?
Kingsley loves Pina Colada. Rain makes her go off. She’s a fitness freak. A pudding-holic. And a Brainiac. She lives in London and enjoys playing — winning — golf with her sexy lawyer fiancé.