His Twisted Game Sample
five years earlier
“You’re coming out this time, right?” my roommate asked, sitting on the bed next to me. I yanked my earbuds out, pausing the recorded lecture.
“Got to study,” I said.
“You know they’ve got tons of man-candy there?” She shoved my shoulder playfully. “You could use a real-life person and not a toy for once…”
I wasn’t the one who owned seven of those things; I had one, thank you very much.
“You’re the one who needs a real person!” I shouted.
“At least come be my wing-woman.” She gestured to our housemates in the other bedroom. “They suck at it.”
A new library assistant position had been posted back home, and I had promised myself that if I aced my biology final, I’d actually apply for it this time. It was all about balance; get good grades for your career, then reward yourself with your dream.
But I had passed the midterm. I was already on the right track.
Maybe I deserved a break. And honestly, a real person in the bedroom sounded nice too.
It was about balance, right?
“All right,” I said. “But I’m coming home before midnight!”
I dressed in a thin pink dress, one that my roommate approved of. Examining myself in the mirror. What could I add? I went through my drawers and found some purple lipstick and diamond fishnets. I swiped them on.
“Wow,” my roommate said. “You look like a gothic doll.”
That was accurate, and I was totally okay with it. We took a mirror selfie together. My middle sister would have been proud.
My roommate’s favorite bar downtown had half-price shots all the time, and on ladies’ night, like tonight, well drinks were buy-one-get-one, perfect for college students with a limited budget.
“Let’s take a shot! Kamikazes!” my roommate shouted. “In honor of Fiona! Let’s get her wasted!”
It was easy to swallow, and we all laughed. The alcohol warmed me all the way to my toes, and the way men looked at me in my short dress made me want to smile harder. To keep their attention.
Maybe I did need to get laid. It had been far too long.
Next up, we had hurricanes, then we were back to kamikazes, and as the night went on, the drinks added up. The room swirled around me like bacteria in a petri dish, but I didn’t check the time. I was having too much fun.
When my roommate and housemates wandered off to do another dance, I propped myself up on the bar, too light-headed to join in for this round. Halfway through the song, the bartender brought me a drink: another kamikaze.
“I didn’t order this,” I said.
She pointed at a booth in the back corner. “He did.”
A man with black hair made eye contact with me. His fitted suit. Gold cufflinks. He seemed wealthy, too wealthy to be a college or graduate student. Subtle lines on his forehead, like he might be older too. Late-twenties, maybe. A stern jaw. Muscular arms and shoulders, like he might be on the cover of a fitness magazine. But it was his blue-gray eyes that captivated me; his pupils laser-focused, like I was the only woman in the room.
Who was he?
I glanced at my roommate and the rest of the college students in the bar. Why did he buy me a drink? Was it the pink dress?
I walked to him as evenly as I could, then slid into his booth.
“I’ll have to pass,” I said, raising the kamikaze, “but thank you. It’s kind of you.”
He stopped a passing server. “Whatever she’d like,” he said, motioning to me. I wasn’t going to object.
“Soda water with a splash of ginger ale and a lime squeeze,” I said. The server nodded and walked away.
“Enough for one night?” the man asked, amusement in his voice.
I tucked my hair around my ear. “I had a few too many.”
Those words sent shivers down my spine. How long had he been watching me?
“Do I know you?” I asked.
He leaned forward, resting on his elbows. “I’m curious. Why are you here?” he asked, ignoring my question. “Women like you rarely get out like this.”
I flinched. Women like me?
“Am I right?” he asked, a twinkle in his eye. My mouth opened. “So, tell me. What are you doing out tonight?”
I should have been playful, hinting at what I wanted, making him chase me for the promise of a good time. But I was tired, drunk, and impatient. I wanted to get to the point rather than pretend like I wasn’t in desperate need of release. Besides, he was good-looking, and I knew what I wanted.
“Honestly, I hoped I might find some physical action,” I said as matter-of-factly as possible.
His mouth opened subtly in surprised amusement. “Action? A good girl like you?”
“Good girls can be bad too.”
His eyes darkened, but that grin never left his face. It was like he was analyzing me, trying to figure out what my strategy was.
Why had I said that to him?
His eyes still focused on me. “What do you want? Besides the ‘action.’”
I blushed, but he winked, amusement simmering under the surface of his relaxed posture. What did I want? This probably wasn’t the answer he wanted, but hell, I had already been this honest with him.
I blurted it out: “I want my own library.”
His eyes fixated on me, mulling over my words. “Libraries are important pillars of the community.”
Finally, someone who understood me. “Exactly!” I said. The server brought my drink, and I took a long sip, staring up at him.
“So what would you do for your own library?” he asked.
“Like, what lengths would I go?” I laughed. “Am I being interrogated?”
“It’s a simple question. What would you do for your own library?”
His eyes blazed down on me, and I hoped that this was his way of flirting. So I considered it. If I thought about it, really thought about it, I didn’t know what I wouldn’t do for my own library. As long as I got a job as a doctor, I’d be able to volunteer at a branch, giving back to a system that had given so much to me.
“Would you do anything?” he asked, his voice smooth as glass.
“Yes,” I said. “Anything.”
A hint of malevolence shined in his eyes, like I had walked into a trap made personally for me.
“I can make that happen for you,” he said.
“Play a game with me. If you win, you get your own library. If I win,” his lips pressed into a smirk, “you’re mine.”
My vision was fuzzy, but as long as I focused on his face, I could sit up straight. Had he really just said that?
The nice suit. The gleam in his eye. His confident posture. He pulled two red dice from his pocket, then rolled them in his palm. They reminded me of blood clots.
Even if he was gorgeous, dreams never came that easy. No one was going to give me a library. Whatever his game was, it had to be a trick.
“I’m good,” I said, hesitantly. “I value hard work, you know?” I joked.
“You’re too good for a little game?”
I bit my tongue. It wasn’t about being too good for anything. “I don’t want to leave my fate up to someone else.”
“You don’t want help?”
“I refuse to beg.”
His expression darkened again, but in a flash, he relaxed into that charming smile. “It’s just a game,” he said. “Indulge me.”
The room kept spinning and the music throbbed. Indulge him? I should have been home, studying. I needed to ace my final so I could finally apply for the library.
A wave of dizziness crashed over me. I leaned on the table, waiting for the room to stop spinning. I shrank down into my seat.
“I should go,” I said.
“I’ll give you a ride home.”
I grabbed my clutch. “It’s fine. Really. I’ll get a rideshare—”
“We both know you don’t have that money. You spent the last of your cash on the drinks and you left your cards at home.” How did he know that? He offered his hand. “It would be my honor to take you home. Free of charge. Perhaps we can even discuss the ‘action’ you were searching for.”
Though it was weird that he knew so much about me, I figured he might have seen my wallet when I paid for a round of drinks. And most of all, he intrigued me. He had a weird game, but he hadn’t forced me to drink more alcohol. And he hadn’t touched me yet, unlike the men on the dance floor.
We went to my roommate. “I’ve got a ride home,” I said. My roommate looked at the man in the suit. I steadied myself, trying to seem as sober as possible.
“You’re good?” she said to me. You’re sure you want to go home with him? her eyes asked.
“I’m good.” I patted my purse, reminding her I had pepper spray.
“Call me when you get home.”
At the apartment, the man unlocked the front door for me, then helped me out of my shoes. I laid on the bed, waiting for him to join me, but he stood in the doorway.
“You don’t want to lay with me?” I asked. Immediately, I flushed. Why had I asked that? He had said he was going to give me a ride home, not give me a joy ride at home.
“I don’t sleep with drunk women.”
“I’ve sobered up since we’ve talked, believe me,” I laughed. “You said we were going to discuss getting some ‘action.’”
He sat on my bed, contemplating me. “So you want to own your own library,” he said, ignoring my statement. “A regular little angel.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment?”
“You look like one too.”
Everything inside of me was hot. So he did want me. He stroked my cheek gently like I needed comfort. I closed my eyes briefly, leaning into his touch. A chill ran through me.
When I opened my eyes, the room sloshed to the side. He was a dark blob now.
Maybe it was a good thing that we didn’t do anything. I might vomit on him.
He rose, his shadow taking up the doorway. I lifted a hand to stop him, but the room was spinning and I could barely see. Did he have brown eyes? Were they red, like a devil’s? Or were they blue and gray like a stormy sky? I couldn’t remember. I could barely see him there.
“You don’t want me?” I asked.
“I offered you my game.”
If I win, you’re mine, he had said. Why was that so hot? Like he wanted to own me.
Maybe a game or two wouldn’t be that bad.
“I have games of my own,” I teased.
His gaze sharpened, cutting into me. “One day, you will beg me. And I won’t be a gentleman. I’ll scare you. You will wish you had never met me.”
I squinted my eyes, trying to understand. His words were suddenly threatening, and yet he still hadn’t laid a single finger on me. It didn’t make sense. He seemed polite. Respectful, even. Charming.
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
He stepped back, leaving me alone in the room. “You will.”
The next night, I stood outside of her apartment, watching her window. There was no reason to care that she got home. She was a college student, like so many others I had played with.
But she was the first to deny my game. As if she was better than me. As if she believed she could do it all by herself.
Fiona Ross. College student. Double major. On track to medical school. Struggled in her biology classes, but made up for it with her GPA in English. She even volunteered at her hometown library on the weekends.
But why had she declined my game?
The delivery came: a small tablet. The clunky old laptop worked well enough, but she needed something lightweight. One of her three roommates opened the door.
“Fiona! It’s for you!”
Fiona bounced to the front door, her hair spun in a towel on top of her head.
“I didn’t order this,” she said.
“Says here you won it. On a grant or something,” the delivery man said.
“I can’t pay for it.”
“It’s already been paid for.”
She furrowed her brows.
“Just take it,” the delivery man said. He shoved the clipboard toward her, and finally, she signed her name, taking the box. Her roommate patted her back as they closed the doors.
I couldn’t figure it out. My livestock order had been completed; our client’s target was dead. There was absolutely no reason to be in this college town anymore. But I had been watching her apartment for hours. Waiting. Searching for that reason she had denied me.
She had acted like she had something over me. For a moment, she had. And that intrigued me.
How long would she last?
I headed back to Crown Creek. At the Feldman Farm, I went straight to my office situated inside of the Calving Barn. My father sat behind the desk.
“Where were you?” he asked, narrowing his eyes. “You were supposed to be done with Rice last night.”
I closed my eyes, then opened them slowly. “He’s dead.”
“That face,” my father said, studying me. He rubbed his chin. “I know that face.”
I wanted to throw him out of the room. This wasn’t his domain anymore. I had taken over most of our family business’s proceedings; he was only here because I had gotten back late.
“I’ve got a call to make,” I said, ushering for him to leave. But he didn’t move; he was waiting for me to explain myself.
“When do I meet her?” he asked.
“Who is she?”
“I’m not stupid, son,” he laughed. “I know when there’s someone on your mind.”
I had learned not to care about anyone like that when I was a child. My father had made that clear.
“No one is on my mind,” I said.
“Then where were you?”
I breathed through my nose, leveling with him. I hated him, more than I could stand, but all it took was the right moment. My brother on my side. Our father isolated between us. And then, I would kill my father. Our business would be far better off without him.
“I was running your business,” I said. “Now get out.”
I picked up my phone, dialing one of our burner numbers, just to get him to leave. He stood in the doorway.
“You know what must be done,” he said. Then he left.
The Feldman Offering was a family tradition where we killed our wives. They were good for breeding, but other than that, they were a distraction. And when you ran a business like ours, you couldn’t afford that. The Feldman Offering was how we proved we wanted the business more than we wanted anything else.
And no matter what it took, I was going to rule the Feldman Farm one day.
So why was I protecting Fiona from my father? She was no one. A woman who would become a doctor and help people, who would turn her back on someone like me.
And yet, that was it. She was too good. Rejecting my game. Playing by her own rules. And that made me want to destroy her. To show her she didn’t want her dream as much as she thought she did.
She wanted to die for her library? Then she would die.
The next day, I took one of the hunts. One of the livestock orders—our targets—had a girlfriend. And though she wasn’t there when I killed him, I waited until she returned.
Dark hair. A slim fit. Blue eyes, not brown like Fiona’s. But she would work.
I shot her in the head, a quick, merciful kill, then moved the bodies into my SUV, taking them back to the farm. The livestock order went straight to the incinerator, but I took the woman in a black garbage bag to the pond. The sunset reflected on the water as I drenched her body with gasoline. I threw a match and she burst into flames, her body crackling in the night.
In the morning, I carried the charred corpse, some of the brittle remnants breaking off in my hands. As I drew closer to the main house, I let my shoulders sink under the weight, letting that pressure build, as if the corpse were actually Fiona’s.
My father sat at a large dining table, eating breakfast. I dropped the blackened structure onto the wooden surface. It broke into pieces with a soft crack.
“You were supposed to have a son together before you killed her,” my father said. “That’s how we cultivate the family business.”
I tightened my fists. “Guess I’ll have to find another.”
“How long had you known her?” An old clock ticked in the next room, eerily loud as he waited for my answer. But I said nothing, keeping my eye contact even. “I’d say that I was proud, but I’m not,” he said. He stood up, drawing closer to me. “Now where is the real woman?”
I grabbed him by the shoulders, shoving him into the wall. The pressure built in my eyes as they bulged from my skull. I was supposed to give a performance. This was supposed to break me. I didn’t blink until tears burned my eyes, a few drops falling, then I shoved my father away before it took control of me.
“Say it again,” I growled. “Say it again. Question my loyalty, and I’ll show you how dedicated I am.”
“I guess I was wrong,” my father chuckled. “That’s the fire I want you to harness. You need it to beat your brother.”
I grabbed him again, banging his skull against the back wall until he swung at my face. I blocked him, then kicked him in the side until he doubled over. My punches railed into him, blow after blow, until finally, one of the ranchers appeared out of nowhere and ripped me off of him.
“It’s all right,” my father said, touching his nose, wiping away the blood. The rancher stepped back. My father’s eyes were cold and blank, the kind of face he had right before he finished an order, the same expression he had before he killed my mother.
But I was older now. I could finally beat him. I gestured at the rancher, who then took care of the woman’s body.
“She’s dead,” I said calmly. “My Feldman Offering is complete.”
“But you still have to have a son, and fight your brother,” my father said. “A few more years, then we’ll begin the Feldman Trial.”
I shook my head, pretending to be more disturbed than I was, then headed toward the parking area. Did my father believe me now? Or did he know that the burned corpse meant nothing to me? I dismissed my driver, then slid inside of my SUV, driving back to the college town. There was no reason to go back there; no deliveries to monitor, no boyfriend to murder.
So why did I keep coming back to Fiona Ross?
Perhaps I wanted to break her. Executing her like the Feldman Offering dictated was too easy. I didn’t want to simply kill her; I wanted to crush her soul, to exert my power over her emotions, no matter how strong she thought she was, to show her that every lie she believed in, wasn’t real. To teach her that I would always win.
With my eyes flicking between her bedroom window and my phone, I did another search for her on social media. Though there was no linked page, Fiona’s profile said she had a sister. How old was her sister? Could I torture her sister, using her to get information about Fiona?
Or could I convince Wilder to take her sister, using the two of them to draw Fiona closer to me, without having to step a single foot in her direction? Now, that was an interesting idea. I wouldn’t be surprised if Fiona was too intoxicated to remember me.
I scrolled back to her profile picture. Straight, white teeth. Innocent copper brown eyes. She was so determined to live out her dreams by herself, and I wanted to destroy that vision of her future. To show her she wasn’t better than me. That she would fail too. And if I had to, I would fuck it out of her until she was nothing more than a sobbing mess of insecurities.
The light went out in her bedroom, and I stroked the head of my bulge through my pants. I would have her on her knees. Milky black tears running down her cheeks. And then she would realize that she wasn’t anything special, and she never would be.
A strong woman like her, broken in half, made me hard.
The dice clinked in my palm as I scanned the ballroom, filled with people celebrating my brother and his wife’s first anniversary. As the new leader of our family business, every social gathering was an opportunity. I made small talk, using my charm to put the guests at ease. It was easier to control others when they believed you were on their side, and I was good at that.
As I complimented the dress of my brother’s aunt-in-law, one of my men moved forward.
“Hatchcom Focus is in the building,” he said.
The owner of Hatchcom Focus had accepted my invitation. I was looking forward to meeting with him.
“And Ross?” I asked.
“No signs of her yet.”
Wilder, my older brother, crossed the threshold. I put the dice in my pocket and shook his hand.
“Thanks for coming,” he said, his voice monotone, revealing his lack of desire to be hosting this party. We were on the same page then, though, I was much better at hiding it. “When I disappear later,” he nodded toward the double doors leading to the pool in the back, “Watch the place for me.”
So he had a tryst planned with his wife. How romantic.
“Happy Anniversary,” I said. In the past, neither of us had cared about women or family. It was surprising that my brother suddenly did. But I always respected him. He wanted privacy with his wife? Then so be it.
I shook his hand once again, and Wilder parted ways. I jingled the dice in my pocket. The day my father had given them to me, was the day I realized they were a symbol of the erratic nature of life. That day, I was ten years old. It was my first real test.
Wilder had his chin lowered, his face swollen and covered in blood. Two men squeezed my brother’s arms, forcing him to kneel in silence.
What is this? I had asked.
My father showed me a revolver with a blue design curled like veins around the grip.
You want the farm, don’t you, Sawyer? he had asked.
Wilder was the oldest son; he was more likely to get the leadership position. But I wanted it more than him. I wanted to prove myself. I was younger, but I was capable.
Yes, I said.
You like games, too, right, my son? my father asked, his tone oddly warm. He took out two dice, red with silver dots, black edges around each corner. An even total, and he walks away. But odd? My father grinned, his canines gleaming in the dim fluorescent lights. You take my gun and pull the trigger.
He rolled the dice, then totaled the numbers.
Odd, he said.
He pocketed one die, then rolled the other. Now, for the number of bullets. I leaned over to see what number he had rolled, but he stowed the die before I could see it. He turned his back to me, loading the gun’s chamber. The cylinder spun with a rolling click-click-click, falling into place. He aimed the gun at my brother and I froze in place.
I had watched my father before. I knew what he was capable of.
Then he stepped toward me, his shoes cracking on the cement.
Are you willing to do anything for the farm? my father asked. To kill? To die? I didn’t say a word, and he balled his fist. Because I didn’t raise any damned coward for a son! He smacked me in the chest and I landed by Wilder’s feet. The wind knocked out of me and I heaved.
After I caught my breath, I stood up, straightening my chest, ready for the next blow.
You shoot that gun, he bellowed, or so help me, I will shove you into that incinerator alive.
I locked eyes with my brother. He gave a slight nod, knowing exactly the kind of situation I was in.
If I went through with it, my brother might die. And if I didn’t go through with it, I would die.
Do it, Wilder said.
I didn’t ask you a question, my father howled at him. He back-handed Wilde, but my brother stayed silent. Martyrs, my father muttered. They always die first.
I knew what to do.
Pull back the hammer.
Line the sights. Aim. Fire.
But screw that.
I flipped around, aiming at my father’s head. His eyes widened, but the gun clicked and nothing happened. Wilder lurched forward, trying to help protect me, but the men held him in place. My father took a giant step and bashed his arm into mine as I shot again, a bullet hitting the wall. My father wrenched the gun from my grip.
I didn’t think you had it in you, he said.
He shoved me into the ground, beating into my head until blood pounded in my ears and my face was so swollen, I could barely see. Then he put the gun in my hand, forcing me to my feet, making me face my brother. He choked me, blood rushing to my face, and my finger slipped, releasing the trigger, but the gun simply clicked. No bullet. My father dropped his hold on me, grabbing the gun, then growled.
He put the barrel to my temple, letting it click and click and click and click until it dawned on him. His eyes lit up with amusement.
He had rolled a one on his dice, then. One bullet.
There were no bullets left.
You’re lucky, he said. My body quivered, weak from adrenaline. He threw the dice at my feet, and I imagined right then, that he was rolling for his own life.
And now, my father was dead. The Feldman Farm was mine.
As the new leader, I had gotten rid of the archaic rituals my father held onto, like the Feldman Trial, in which sons competed for the leadership role, and the Feldman Offering, where we sacrificed our wives. Not because I didn’t enjoy a little murder, but because I had my own games to play. Twisted, personal games. Games that could break a person’s sense of self, a condition that was worse than death.
My fingers twitched around those old dice, begging to roll them again, my eyes scanning the ballroom. Finding the staircase, I walked up to the balcony, which had a view of the drop-off point. I tossed the dice between my hands as Fiona Ross’s old car rolled through the parking lot. She stepped out of the vehicle, her shiny brown hair bouncing, a fake smile on her face, not a real care in the world. A tingling warmth filled my head. It was time to play a new game.
Footsteps tapped on the floor behind me.
“She’s arrived,” one of my men said. “Should we watch her, sir?”
When it came to Fiona, I preferred to watch her myself.
“I’ll be down in a minute,” I said.
An even number, and she’d walk away. An odd number, and I’d lock her into my game tonight.
She pulled a jacket tighter around her body and I smirked to myself.
She was still free. For now.
His Twisted Game: A Dark Assassin Boss Romance coming in Fall 2021!