The Drazen World:LUST (Kindle Worlds Novella)

By: Lola Darling

Dedication



Cover:





Chapter One

Thirty-six hours down. One million left to go.

I stare dead ahead at the altar. At the generic, seen-a-million-like-it crucifix hanging over said altar, outlined in cheap gold plating. Like everything else in L.A., it hung somewhere between visually pleasing and tacky. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in an 80s cult classic film: everything single-note, one-layer. No depth to it, but for some reason, you love it all the same.

I dig my nails into the palms of my hands to ward off that familiar voice in my head. Her voice. "L.A. is that ex who you know is an asshole but can't stop crawling back to, because damn, he's so pretty on the surface." She told me that a week ago, at a rooftop bar we played once. We weren't there for a gig, just dinner out, two siblings enjoying a nice meal.

Now, one week later, I'm counting the hours since I woke up to a phone call from the police.

"Female body washed up on shore . . . Need you to identify . . . Next of kin . . ."

Thirty-six hours of being an only child down. The rest of my life to go.

Somewhere in the black depths of the near-empty church, singing starts. It's soft at first, growing louder. A choir rehearsing, from the sounds of it, the way they stop and start in fits.

They're not great. The soprano is flat, and the tenor can't keep pace with the rest properly. But the sound of music—any music—is enough to bring a mental image of her slamming into my skull. Her bent over the piano as a kid, Mom perched on the bench beside her, slapping the backs of her hands whenever she stumbled. Her on stage at recitals, decent in elementary school, better than anyone else in middle school, and mind-blowing by high school. But even with her talent, her dedication and her near-obsessive drive, it just . . . never happened for her. Not at the levels she dreamed of, anyway.

I close my eyes, clamp my mouth to ward off the apple-thick lump forming in the back of my throat.

That fucking incessant choral music drones on, and when I can't take it anymore, I throw the kneeler down from the pew in front of me, collapse onto it angrily, hard enough to bruise my knees. I don't give a shit. If I could, if it wouldn't get me arrested for life probably, I would tear this whole stupid church apart.

I don't know why I thought it would be a good idea to come here. I haven't been since middle school, when our parents finally stopped dragging us on the weekends. I hear they've changed the mass now. I wouldn't be able to follow along with a proper Catholic service anyway. So I decided to test the waters at an off-time, middle of the day on Friday, figuring maybe the church would be empty at this hour.

Even this wasn't as empty as I want it to be.

I clench my fists hard around each other and scowl up at the figure over the altar.

This is all bullshit. There's nobody up there. Nobody who gives a shit about me or Gabby, at least. If there was a God, what kind of God would let her lose herself this close to her big break, this close to the dream she’d worked her entire life to reach?

The lump swells in my throat, behind my Adam's apple, inching dangerously close to my mouth, threatening to cut off my oxygen supply.

Good. I would deserve it.

After all, if you want to get right down to it, it wasn't God who killed her. And it might have technically been Gabby, she might have taken the amount of pills they said, walked into the ocean where they assume she did, but that's only because I wasn't there for her. I've spent the last year of my life trailing her every move, ever since her first attempt, and the one time I slipped

up . . .

But no. I'd slipped up before. I'd slipped up a lot, honestly.

What it really boils down to is: I couldn't find a way to save her. She begged me to, every time those big, innocent blue eyes met mine, and yet, I let her fall.

I don't even realize I'm crying until the pew beside me creaks gently, and a handkerchief appears at the edge of my vision. I accept it without thinking, dab at my eyes before I even check who's offering it. It's embarrassing, to cry here, in public like this. Monica has seen me cry, the morning the police called, and again in the day and a half since. But no one else.

Not even our parents.

My parents, I suppose I should say. There's only one of us left now.

"Thanks," I mumble thickly as I hand the handkerchief back, pushing myself back onto the pew seat from the kneeler.

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