Valentine (Cupid #2), page 1
About Kenya Wright
Also by Kenya Wright
About Jade Eby
Also by Jade Eby
Copyright © 2015, Jade Eby & Kenya Wright
Cover Design by Jackie Sheats
Interior Formatting by Jade Eby, www.jadeeby.com/services
Editing by Megan D. Martin
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To all the underrated heroes who need just as much love as the rest of us.
When the full moon hovered over Asher’s home, no glow rained down.
Just shadows and fake light.
Darkness on clouds.
The property dimmed. Crickets made no sound. Owls did not hoot. The wind ran cold. Tree branches scraped against the top windows of the mansion, sounding like the cries of heartbroken women.
And in the air, the fragrance of death lingered.
Far off in the distance, police combed Ovid Island for a serial killer, some dark man that had just killed his fifth millionaire, carved a name into the latest victim’s chest, and left a bloody message for Diana Carson.
Throughout the night, helicopters rose from the island and sped off with fearful and wicked rich men that were smart enough to know they might be next and should escape while they can.
Within the shadows of his mansion, Asher sat in his private office and drowned in glasses of Brandy aged for years in oak and providing his taste buds with a rich caramel flavor. The bottle ran him thousands of dollars. He had planned to open it on a special day.
Instead, that night, Asher took the bottle out to drown in misery, while he thought of all the things that had gone wrong.
“Right now, you are my lover, and friend,” he’d just said to Diana hours earlier. “But if you try to escape, if you point me out to the police as Cupid, I will no longer be your friend.”
Diana glared back in defiance. “I don’t believe you.”
“That’s not a risk you want to take with me. My hand is skilled, when I hold my bow. It does not shake. My arrow hits the target. It will not waver.”
He’d gone too far. That was what the brandy whispered as he swam all through its rough waves. Insecurities popped into his head. Worries wrestled each other in his brain, and deep inside of him the hunger for blood rose.
Asher tried to drink it all away and think of better things.
She loves me. She loves me not.
His body descended into the pool of alcohol,
down to the bottom of each glass.
She loves me. She loves me not, and what would I do, if she doesn’t love me?
Sighing, he swallowed more, dropping even further, maybe even beyond the hard glass and merging somewhere in between reality and a dream state. Or maybe it was more of a nightmare.
Even earlier that night, he’d pulled his cock out of Diana’s lovely warmth and it dripped with her arousal. He couldn’t help himself, turned her over, took her jaw in his hands, and brought her face close to him.
“I’m not like any man you’ve ever known,” he’d said. “I’m your favorite nightmare and your worst dream all in one. I’m everything you shouldn’t want. And you’re everything I need. Everything I don’t deserve.”
His office door opened and he blinked to make sure he wasn’t seeing things.
Asher’s mother walked toward him, dripping in pearls and rubies, still wearing her fur coat. He’d forced her to go to Paris. He’d needed her out of the mansion, before Diana moved in. The whole living arrangement with Diana was supposed to be temporary, a few weeks of sex and mental games. He’d planned to move on to another kill, after his fun with her. By then, Diana would’ve been off his property and writing about something else besides Cupid, and his mother would return.
He blew out a long breath. “Why are you back so early?”
“You told her everything? This Diana Carson. That reporter.” His mother ruffled her blonde waves with jeweled fingers. “Why would you do that, Asher?”
“How do you know?”
She took off her coat, slung it against the couch near the door, and dropped her purse on the floor. “How do I always know? I’m your mother. Why? Why would you tell her everything?”
“She found out the truth on her own. I left her in my bedroom. She went into my closet and discovered the bow and arrow. She wanted something to wear because she was... naked... ” He lifted the glass of brandy to his lips and finished it whole. “What else could I do?”
Diana’s lush curves and smooth brown skin spun through his mind and knocked away all his insecurities and worries.
I’m doing the right thing. She’s mine.
“Did you hear anything I said?” Asher’s mother stomped over to his desk, the one she’d bought years ago on one of her many trips to Paris. She’d loved that city, the lush vibrancy of the streets and how the glow of culture and history swelled from its ancient bricks. Traveling was the only thing that kept her happy for a few days.
“You’re not listening to me.”
He burped. “Go right ahead, Dear Mother.”
“You’ve made a mess of everything.” She raised her hands in the air. On her charm bracelet, diamond hearts clinked against each other and rung over and over. The noise flooded his head, almost blocking out some of the words that spilled out of her mouth. “You have me go on this trip to do what? Romance a reporter that is investigating your murders. And even worse, one of your victims was her husband—”
“She didn’t love him anymore.”
“How would you even know this?”
“It was obvious. Plus, we’ve made love.”
His mother sucked her teeth. “This woman is in shock and mourning the death of her husband. It doesn’t matter if she had sex with you. Widows have done worse things while dealing with tragic deaths. I was a widow several times. Widows don’t think while they mourn. They just do.”
“How would you know?” Asher picked up the crystal decanter next to him, took off the top, and poured more brandy into his glass. “You’ve never really been a mourning widow. A widow, sure, but not a sad one.”
“I’ve read books on the mourning process. I learned the proper way to act, which was basically erratic and
Asher raised a blonde eyebrow. “Were my step-fathers really bad?”
“Not this again! I didn’t lie all of those times. I’ve never lied. Those men really did do bad things to me.” She touched her chest. “I am not a monster. What type of woman would make up horrible things so that her son would take her husbands’ lives?”
“One that wanted to be a rich woman.”
She shrugged and tousled her hair some more. “I’ve never needed to have money. I’ve just been lucky enough that the bad men I meet, well... they’ve been rich.”
“Not my father.”
She snapped her attention to him and glared. “Do. Not. Discuss. Him.”
“Calm down.” Sighing, he took a big gulp of brandy.
“Now you’re going to have to kill her.”
He almost spat out the liquor, but instead coughed several times to clear his airways.
“Just go up there right now. She’s here, right? In this house, upstairs, in one of our rooms?” His mother frowned. “I can do it for you this time. What would make you feel better about this? Pills? Your bow and arrow? A knife? Knives are so messy, but you’ve always loved the sight of blood. I can’t touch the stuff. It makes me want to vomit—”
“Shut up!” Asher slammed his closed fist onto the desk. “I’m not going to do anything to Diana.”
“No?” His mother tossed him an evil grin.
“Don’t kill her, then. That’s a great idea.” She clapped her hands and plastered on a fake smile. “Oh goodie. You and she will just go off in the sunset. I’ve always wanted a lovely daughter-in-law, and maybe we can plan a summer wedding. How glorious!” His mother mocked and did a dramatic twirl. “Asher and his scared bride walking down the aisle. Will you have blood on your hands during the ceremony? Make sure you wash them first. You’ll probably kill someone right before the ceremony. You can’t deny your hunger. Wash those hands. You don’t want to get all of that red on her lovely white gown. You don’t want to terrify her even more—”
“She’s not afraid of me.”
His mother pierced him with a deadly gaze. “She will be. I was afraid of you.”
“You made me what I am.”
“That didn’t stop me from being terrified.”
Although he should’ve ignored his mother, the statement broke his heart, twisted the beating muscle into a knotted mess. “You should’ve been scared. You had me kill your husbands over your stupid lies. Dirty things that you knew would get me angry enough to kill them. If I’m a monster, you made me that way, through your lies to a loyal son. You. Made. Me. This. Way.”
“No.” She pointed her finger at me. “I helped you. You loved it. Every damn minute. Don’t forget. You told me that you hungered for the sight of blood. You dreamt about it. My lies to a loyal son? No, my sick son, one who can never walk hand-in-hand into the sunset with any woman because he just might kill her—”
“Shut up!” His vision blurred a little. His mother’s image rippled and then returned to a clear view. Perhaps, it was the liquor. He’d been on his fifth glass when his mother waltzed into his office.
“Wake up!” She clapped. “Wake up, son, and smell the roses.”
In that moment, Diana’s rosy scent swarmed all around him. He’d even sniffed between those thighs, dipping the point of his nose into her warm pussy and breathed in that lovely flower.
“Maybe smelling the roses is my problem,” he muttered.
“You’re going to have to kill Diana Carson.”
“That wasn’t a question, my dear. It’s the reality of the situation.”
“Gut that reporter bitch! I want her blood all over this carpet. Fuck her while you do it, if you want to. I don’t care. Just do it.” His mother smoothed a wrinkle on her silk shirt. “Have you ever done that? Fucked while you killed? I bet it’s quite the erotic experience.”
Asher slumped in his chair. The room twisted into a sort of slow motion as if he sat in the center of a merry-go-round. His hand shook, as he brought the brandy to his mouth. And the whole time his mother talked, his cock got hard, thinking of Diana’s opened legs and the scent of blood.
His mother clapped again. “You, my son, were born a monster.”
“You made me this way.”
“If you are right, then you have to admit that something inside of you is wrong.”
“No, Mother. I know something is wrong with me. We just disagree on the origin.” He poured another glass and got ready to swallow that one whole.
“How long have you been drinking?” She snatched the glass from his hands.
Asher blinked with confusion. The glass still sat in his fingers, yet, in front of him his mother stood, nagging and holding the very same glass in her hand.
Two glasses, when there had only been one.
How drunk am I? What’s going on? Were there two glasses? Didn’t she take mine? It’s in her hand right now. But it’s also in mine.
He blinked again.
“Stop drinking and deal with this problem.” His mother slung the glass behind her. It hit the floor and shattered into tiny pieces.
But, when Asher turned to his hand, that same glass remained in his grip. He let out a long breath and returned to his mother’s rippling image. “This isn’t real.”
The shattered glass appeared right back in her hands as if she’d never slung it. Laughter fled her lips. She hurled it at him. He ducked. The glass propelled into the air. Yet, once he blinked, nothing happened.
It all disappeared.
His mother’s image faded in and out. “Our conversations are never real, darling.”
“Oh yes. I forgot. I killed you. Didn’t I?”
“Yes.” His mother nodded.
“Because in the end, I found out the kind of woman you really are. A lying, selfish bitch. Those husbands of yours were innocent, and I wouldn’t let you force me to take anymore people’s lives that didn’t deserve it.”
“Oh bravo.” She gave him a standing ovation. “Let’s be real. You killed me because you couldn’t stand that mommy dearest knew you better than you knew yourself. You killed me and yet, you can’t live without me, can you, Asher?”
“Stop it!” He yelled at the fading image of his mother.
Why am I arguing with a hallucination?
Because you’re insane.
“This is not about me.” She sashayed over to the couch. “This is about my lovely daughter-in-law sleeping upstairs.”
“Go away, Mother.”
“Fine, Asher.” Her image blurred out a little, but her voice remained. “But we both know, that you’ll kill Diana. There’s no other way this can possibly work, and I’ll be waiting to say, I told you so. And when you kill her, she’ll haunt you as I do.”
A sick, gut-twisting curiosity stung at her heart. When Diana had found her babysitter in the backyard, that same feeling had consumed her.
She’d just been a young girl, hunting out clues. Instead of hidden treasure, Diana found death that day—cracked pink nails, a young face smashed on one side, twisted limbs, and burn marks where soft flesh should’ve been.
She didn’t grab her parents for a reason. She wanted to show them how smart she’d become. If they saw how amazing she was, maybe they would stop all of the arguing about Dad losing his job. Maybe, they’d return back to normal—laughter and presents, giggling behind their closed bedroom door and movie nights where they all cuddled on the couch and wrapped each other in their love.
But nothing happened like her young mind had dreamed. The police arrived, lifted the mutilated body from the ground, and arrested her father, the poor black man that o
Her dad spent the night in jail, and someone killed him for the crime. No one ever discovered his murderer. But then again, no one had bothered to try. He was merely a casualty in the prison war games.
A week later, the police discovered Gabby’s actual killer, some dirty old man a few blocks away.
That event taught Diana two things: sometimes she could dig too much, and never ever trust the police to hand out true justice.
He’s Cupid. So, what do I do now? I can’t trust the police.
Once they returned home from his latest crime scene—the one where Asher had carved a message into a dead man—she took the sleeping pills from him like they were candy. Maybe she should have been more scared. Cautious to take anything from a man like him. But she swallowed the little white pills and the world spun around and swallowed her whole.
Barefoot and hungry, Diana stepped into a dream world that only Salvador Dali could’ve painted.
Desolate land stretched out for miles, a sea of hot, tan sand that continued as far as her eyes could see. It never ended, and no one appeared to be near her. An odd sky sat above with no sun or moon, just scattered light. Formless clouds faded into a distant darkness up ahead, where a full rainbow arched and seemed more trapped into the black.
She wore rusted armor over her chest. Underneath, a huge black gown fell to her feet and swished with the cruel wind. She also carried a wooden sword. It weighed heavy in her scarred hands.
“He’s a murderer,” she said to no one.
Something pushed Diana to move toward the rainbow, and she whispered again, “No. He’s a vigilante. Dammit. I don’t know what he is, but I want to.”
Someone pulled up to her side.
Diana stopped and stared up at the most horrifying thing she’d seen in years. A skeleton sat on a horse with no skin or hair, just bones, teeth, and muscle.
“What is he to you?” the skeleton knight asked.
She drew her sword and pointed it at him. “Who are you talking about?”