Home > Pricked(4)

Author: Winter Renshaw

But today? Some preppy little thing with a sugar-spun voice and honey gold eyes telling me to put anything I want on her body as long as it's hidden?

Definitely a first.

Definitely something I couldn’t forget if I tried.

I head inside, smirking to myself and shaking my head as I shove my keys in my pocket and consider the irony in the fact that she cared so little about the ink I was permanently embedding into the side of her ribcage and cared so much about the fact that I don’t have any tattoos myself.

Three times she asked.

And in three different ways, like she thought she could trick me into giving her an answer. She finally stopped prying when Pierce told her I was “commitment phobic.”

Little will she ever know, commitment phobic doesn't even touch it.



"Ah, there she is! Happy Birth-"

I lift my finger to my lips, pleading with my eyes for Eloise, my family’s loyal and beloved housemaid, to be quiet.

Her hazel eyes crinkle at the corners, followed by a wash of confusion over her porcelain complexion, and finally, the smallest of winks.

The number of times I've snuck in through the service entrance, I can count on one hand.

My parents made dinner reservations at my favorite restaurant tonight, and I should've been ready by now. If I could make it to my room unseen, I could throw on a quick dress, pull my hair up, and they'll be none the wiser.

With a sweaty palm wrapped around my purse strap and my heart inching into my throat, I round the corner past the kitchen, trek through the carpeted dining room, and poke my head through the double doors leading into the foyer to ensure the coast is clear. I make it to the foot of the stairs when my mother clears her throat.

Glancing up, I see her standing at the top, her lithe arms folded and worry lines etched across her forehead, deep and furrowed as ever.

"Where have you been, Brighton?" she asks.

"Library," I answer, just like I practiced in the car on the drive home. "I lost track of time."

I climb the stairs, slow and easy, hoping she doesn't notice the slight, square-shaped protrusion along the left side of my ribcage. Holding her eyes like my life depends on it, I offer a smile. Casual. The confidence of a skilled liar, not that I speak from experience. This is all very new to me.

"Where are your books?" Her cool gaze moves to my small purse.

I glance down, pausing mid-step. "Oh. Must have left them in the car. That's what I get for being in a hurry."

My mother's gaze warms and she reaches for my cheek when I approach the top landing. A smile tinted with relief spreads across her thin lips.

"Well, you're home now. That's all that matters. Get cleaned up and meet us downstairs," she says. "Happy twenty-second birthday, my sweet girl."

"Thanks, Mom." I slip away from her and duck into my room at the end of the hall. As soon as I close the door and listen for the sound of her footsteps trailing down the stairs, I tear off my blouse and pad into the bathroom to examine my new "piece."

That's what they call it in the industry.

Peeling back the taped gauze, I study the small drawing sketched in black and blue ink, permanently drawn into my skin, the simple yet beautifully drawn butterfly.

I don't even know what it means—if it’s symbolic or it’s nothing more than a butterfly. Madden, the artist, made me promise not to ask what it meant, which I thought was strange. But stranger yet is the fact that I agreed.

Had I said no, I would’ve been left to my own devices, and I probably would’ve walked out of there with some cliché quote or word or worse … nothing at all.

Peeling out of today's clothes, I slip into a dimpled seersucker dress, white with pale blue stripes, and I twist my pale hair into a summery bun at my crown. I finish with earrings - platinum and diamond studs my parents got me on my tenth birthday - after "the incident." The family tragedy that marred our family history and sent my parents into a frenzied state of overprotection that’s yet to show any signs of letting up.

It’s truly a miracle they let me attend a college forty-five minutes away. I’m convinced that had to have been divine intervention.

I check my earrings, ensuring they’re secure. I'm typically selective about when I wear these, and I'm careful never to wear them around my mother, but tiptoeing around the past has done nothing but enslaved us to it. We can't free ourselves from that heinous night if we keep pretending we're over it. And we’ll never get over it when we haven't even processed it a decade later despite years of therapy.

I don't want to hurt my mother. I don't. I love her.

And I know she does everything with love in her heart ... but she has to let me go.

She can't keep treating me like a china doll, keeping me out of reach from anything and anyone who might possibly break me.

I'd love a good break.

Something to snap me in two.

Something that floods my veins with so much emotion, I become physically ill.

I'd love to step out of this protective bubble where I never have to worry about a thing, never have to want. Never have to need or worry or fear or miss out on any of life's grand opportunities.

That's not real life.

I want heartbreak.

I want a good cry.

I want to know what it feels like to miss somebody so hard my chest tightens and I can’t breathe.

I want the head rush of falling deeply and irrevocably in love with someone and the titillating fear of knowing you could lose them if you’re not careful.

There is beauty in those things. There’s beauty in joy and hope and fear and sadness. I learned that from one of my philosophy professors my freshman year at college. He said that none of them work properly without their opposite counterparts and you can’t fully experience one without the other.

Can we ever truly know joy if we’ve never experienced sadness? I think not, but I have no way of knowing for sure since my parents treat me like I'm sixteen and not twenty-two.

They don't see a young woman when they look at me. They see their only daughter, their youngest child who was almost taken from them in an unimaginably tragic crime years ago.

I grab a pair of white linen flats from my closet and change out purses. A moment later, I'm gliding down the stairs, my palm slicking against the polished, antique walnut banister, as my mother is waiting by the door. Her eyes light when she sees me, which means she hasn't yet noticed the earrings.

"You look beautiful, Brighton," she says, placing her hand on the small of my back and guiding me outside. “Radiant as ever.”

My father’s driver, Edward, stands outside the rear passenger door of our Petra gold Rolls-Royce. He tips his hat to us, lifting his white-gloved hand to the brim and nodding, and then gets the door.

"Happy birthday, Birdie-girl." My father looks up from his phone and offers a giant grin. He hasn't called me Birdie-girl in forever and it makes me laugh, makes me forget about this moment for a while. "How does it feel to be twenty-two?" He asks me the way a parent would ask their small child how it feels to turn six. "You measure yourself today? You grow at all?" he teases me.

Same jokes.

Different year.

I laugh to appease him.

Mom climbs in next, the two of them sandwiching me, which almost feels like a metaphor for my life these last twelve years.

The sting from my fresh tattoo zings me when my father shifts in his seat and his suited arm brushes against my side.

A moment later, the Rolls-Royce shifts gears and Edward leads us away from the Iron Palace - my secret nickname for the Karrington Estate, and off to L'Azule we go.

"I wish your brothers were here," Mom says as we ride in the quiet backseat. The scent of new leather fills my lungs, and I realize Dad must have traded this in recently. He only ever keeps a vehicle for six months. Maybe seven. He loves everything to be new and still scented like it was driven off the showroom floor that day.

It’s a frivolous habit if you ask me.

“Me too,” I say.

"Did they call you today to wish you a happy birthday?" she asks.

"Of course." I don't tell her they texted me instead of calling because that's what people do these days. She still insists a phone call is proper protocol and all in good taste.

Edward slows us to a stop at a red light, and when I glance out the window, I spot bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic.

Mom pushes a breath through her nose as she makes the same discovery, but my father's attention has been redirected back to his phone, making him none the wiser. Always working, that one. He doesn’t care for the concept of after hours.

Digging through my purse for something to do, I finger through the cards in my wallet in search of my license.

I'm going to order a drink tonight. It won't be my first, but it'll be my first time drinking in front of my parents. I don't imagine it'll thrill either of them, but it isn't either of their styles to cause a scene.

And besides, I intend on ordering a glass of champagne, and champagne is for celebrating. It's not like I'll be knocking back Jack and Cokes like I did with the guys at college. Turns out pre-med students at Rothschild University party just as hard as they study.

This is weird ...

I go through my cards two more times. My navy-blue debit card is there. My campus health club card. The access card to the pool at my parents’ country club.

But no license.

Hot Series
» Unfinished Hero series
» Colorado Mountain series
» Chaos series
» The Young Elites series
» Billionaires and Bridesmaids series
» Just One Day series
» Sinners on Tour series
» Manwhore series
» This Man series
» One Night series
Most Popular
» Pricked
» Soul in Darkness
» The Light We Lost
» More Than Words
» Scarlet Angel (Mindf*ck #3)
» Sidetracked (Mindf*ck #2)
» The Risk (Mindf*ck #1)
» The Risk (Briar U #2)