Throne of Truth

By: Pepper Winters

Dedication


To every person I’ve ever had the honor of meeting, talking to online, passing in the street, or looking up to. We might have met for a second, but it’s those seconds that make me who I am.





Prologue


Penn


LIES.

They have a life of their own. They multiply, divide, and conquer—not just the listener but the liar, too. They infiltrate the truth. They twist words until false is truer than reality.

I should know. I’d become a master at them.

For a while, lies had been my saving grace. They’d kept me warm on the coldest nights and kept me sheltered when only darkness remained, but now, I have wealth and family, and my lies aren’t giving me power anymore...they’re stripping me of it.

Stripping me of her.

She ran away from me.

She ran before I could tell her the truth.

It didn’t matter the truth wasn’t what she wanted to hear. It didn’t matter I had so many confessions and only the guts to reveal a few.

She ran.

And then she vanished.





Chapter One


Elle


“GET OUT OF the fucking car, Elle.”

I cocked my chin, glowering out the window.

Get out of my life, Greg.

The slur scalded my tongue, but I didn’t have the balls to say it. My cheek still hurt. Fear still sliced my insides. The view outside the car was foreign and unwanted.

I was kidnapped, hurt, and pissed off.

I hate you, Greg.

I’ll make you pay, Greg.

My lips pulled into a sneer of contempt.

You won’t win, Greg.

“Elle!” He thumped the roof of his graphite Porsche for the third time. The rattle shook the interior, making me flinch. I’d done well for most of the journey.

He’d prattled on while miles slowly crept between me and my home. I’d remained stoic and deathly silent—I didn’t wince when he shouted for a response and didn’t cower when he raised his hand in threat.

I refused to let him affect me, even though I couldn’t ignore my body’s discomfort anymore. My bound hands were numb from the twine around my wrists. My shoulders screamed for mercy, and my butt was flat from the long drive.

For five hours, I’d tried to come up with a plan to either talk Greg out of whatever manic idea he’d concocted or figure out a way to incapacitate him.

My mind kept me entertained with images of knocking him out, leaving him tied to a tree, and stealing his car. I’d drive myself back to New York. It didn’t matter I hadn’t driven since I got my license—all David’s fault for driving me everywhere. It didn’t matter I barely knew how to operate a standard rather than an automatic gearshift. And it definitely didn’t matter I had no idea how to knock out a full-grown male with my hands tied behind my back.

I would do whatever it took to get free from this lunatic who I’d been raised with.

Starting with refusing to cooperate.

“Elle...” Greg growled, thumping the car one last time before ducking to shove his face into mine. The night sky bled with shadows and gloomy clouds. Not one star; no sliver of moon. It was as if we existed in a dead end while the roads of the world were back at a U-turn somewhere.

“I won’t ask again.”

I forced every inch of authority I could into my glare. “I don’t want to be here, Greg. Take me home.”

He laughed, rolling his eyes. “Too fucking bad. We’re here. Now get.”

I didn’t let him undermine me. I didn’t let him see my fear or frustration. “I’m not getting out of the car because you’re driving me home. Right now.”

“Oh, I am, am I?” He laughed harder, this time with a sinister echo. “That’s what you think.” He undid my seat belt and placed his fingers on my thigh. “I’m going to count to five.” He squeezed. Hard. “I suggest you get out before I hit five.”

My heart coughed.

Greg dropped all pretenses and ripped off his mask. He was done masquerading as the boring son of my father’s best friend and my employee. Out here (alone), he showed who he truly was, and I hated him.

I hated him more than I feared him.

But the longer he squeezed my thigh, the stronger my fear grew. I trembled with disobedience, cursing him, wishing the ground would grow teeth and chew him alive.

“One.” He smiled, his fingers climbing up my leg toward my core.

I gritted my teeth. I didn’t let him see how much my skin crawled to have his touch so close to where I vehemently didn’t want him.

“Two.” He crept the final distance, cupping me roughly with a harsh glint in his eyes.

I shivered as he let me go as quickly as he’d grabbed me. His touch slithered upward, stroking my belly, my hip, my waist. “Three.”

I shifted despite myself.

My legs bunched to obey—to climb out on my own willpower to avoid whatever nastiness he had planned. But he wedged himself in the door, not giving me any room to exit.

He knew that.

He nodded slyly, knowing I’d figured out that he’d blocked me. That I didn’t have a choice in what would happen next.

“Four.” His touch switched from my waist to my breast, tweaking a nipple before climbing the rest of the way to my shoulder. His fingers dug into me like barbwire, sharp and steely—ready to rip me apart.