Amber to Ashes (The Torn Heart #1)

By: Gail McHugh


PROLOGUE

Amber

I FELL FOR THE two loves of my life when I was nineteen. Yes, two. Plural. More than one.

Immoral? Maybe. I say undeniable. Uncontained. Some say I’m wrong to feel this way about two men. Most call me a whore, a skank, or the town slut.

I don’t care.

Simply put . . . they each took a piece of what I wanted to give. No one will ever understand the addiction they pulled me into, both men the needle to my next hit. My dizzying high. They were as opposite as fire and ice, yet I ached for them equally.

Needed them the same way.

One was my rock. My strength. My first real . . . obsession.

The other was my passion, my burn.

They owned my mind and all its thoughts, every pulse that thrummed through my body, and every inch of my shattered soul.

A crack of lightning in my dark sky, they were a raging storm I never saw coming, an unforeseen heartbreak on the edge of a dangerous cliff.

Little did I know that by the time I turned twenty, the death of one of them was going to steal them both away from my life.

His murderer?

Me . . .





CHAPTER 1

Amber

Four Months Earlier

A WHIFF OF FAST food hits me as I scan Hadley University’s student dining hall. Juiced-up jocks, bad boys, and uppity sorority girls to my left, creepy loners, hipsters, and random misfits to my right. Every type of personality is present and accounted for, each huddled at their socially segregated tables.

Cliques.

Whoever said college wasn’t filled with them must’ve been smoking crack.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this, I chant in my head, having not a speck of faith that I can. But what the hell is faith anyway? One huge misconception if you ask me. Either way, college has to be a better experience than the twelve years of mental tedium of public school.

At least I hope to God it is.

Inhaling, exhaling, right foot in front of the left, I start for an empty table—right before I feel myself . . . falling?

Kill. Me. Now.

Attention so focused on making it to that damned empty table, I fail to notice a duffel bag in my path. Falling forward—momentum picking up—books and papers fly from my hands as my heart flies from my chest.

With nothing to grab, I face-plant onto something that feels like concrete, my knees buried between two jean-clad, muscular thighs. The chair Concrete’s sitting in screeches sideways across the laminate floor as laughter erupts, exploding in my ears like grenades. Mortified, I wrap my fingers around his firm shoulders, my nose inches from his.

My “savior” flashes me a heart-stopping smile as he curls his arms around my waist, absorbing our impact. My breath falters, catching like a snagged sweater on a rusty nail.

Embarrassment hijacks my body as my gaze falls upon a pair of tattoo-sleeved arms. Streaks of orange fire, shaded skulls, and what appears to be Chinese writing twine their way over every inch of thickly roped muscle, from his biceps down to his wrists. My attention travels back north. A blast of jet-black hair, spiked up messily above the most striking I can fuck you into oblivion blue eyes I’ve ever seen, nearly stops my heart.

In those eyes, I see amusement. I also see trouble, a healthy dose of rebellion, and pure, unadulterated sex. I tighten my grip around his shoulders as his smile widens. There’s a heavy air of arrogance in his smile, and something screams at me to run—that this dude’s going to be my undoing—but I can’t. I’m stuck, Super-Glued by my thoughts to his lap. His features are disarming, perfectly . . . imperfect. Lush, sculpted lips. Hard, chiseled jaw. He’s a perfect composite of every piece of gorgeous, drop-my-panties-now-and-hold-on-for-dear-life male specimen I’ve ever come across.

God help me.

A lone dimple dots his kissable cheek. “Have you decided to be my lunch? If so, I fully approve of the meal.”

“Excuse me?” I try to ignore his clean smell of soap and woodsy cologne. Woodsy? Did I just describe cologne as woodsy? Whatever it is, it’s making me high. He’s making me high. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

He chuckles, and the realization of just how moronic my question was makes me want to crawl under the table and die.

“It means you’re in my lap and you look good enough to eat.” He runs his callused hands up and down my arms. I tremble, his touch lighting me up from head to toe. “Actually,” he continues, “ ‘eat’ is nowhere near the correct word. ‘Devour’ is more like it.”

An aggravated huff electrocutes the air, making me whip my head around. Some porcelain-looking blonde is clearly annoyed by our exchange. I narrow my eyes right back at her and bring my attention back to the dude whose lap is holding my body captive.

“Oh, really?” Though it comes out snarky, it’s the only thing I can think of.

“Yes, really,” he answers, his voice a low rasp. He flicks his pale blue eyes to my mouth, dragging his bottom lip between his teeth. “ ‘Devour’ is a better term for what I’d do to you.”

Although we’re surrounded by laughing spectators, an unexpected urge to taste his lips tickles deep within my belly.

Wait. What the hell am I thinking?

Control. He’s stripped it from me, and I need to take it back.

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