Authors: L. H. Cosway
Copyright © 2013 Lorraine McInerney
All rights reserved.
Cover images by Matusciac Alexandru and Vladimir Nikulin. Taken from Shutterstock.com and Dreamstime.com.
Cover design by RBA Designs.
Edited by Indie Author Services.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Books by L.H. Cosway
YA Paranormal Romance
A Strange Fire
(Florence Vaine #1)
A Vision of Green
(Florence Vaine #2)
(The Ultimate Power Series #1)
(The Ultimate Power Series #2)
(The Ultimate Power Series #3)
(An Ultimate Power Series Novella)
The Nature of Cruelty
For my very best friend.
Because you’ve known such darkness yet still shine so bright.
Cruelty is Seldom Forgotten
ometimes love and hate can emerge from the very same womb.
Sasha and Robert Phillips became my next door neighbours when I was twelve years old. They were twins, two years older than I, both tall and beautiful with dark eyes and dark hair. I think I fell in love with the two of them at first sight. Well, I quickly fell out of love with Robert.
Sasha, though, she'll always have my love. She's one of those girls who has a knack for making you feel cooler just for the fact that you're being seen with her. She's the best friend I've ever had.
The twins were the result of a broken marriage; their mother was Irish and their father English. So when the divorce came about, their mother Liz moved back to Ireland to the house right across from mine, and their father Alan continued to live and work in London. That's how I got my neighbours: a new best friend and her brother, who alternated between ignoring my existence and actively torturing me.
They'd spend September to June living with their mother and then go to London during the school holidays to live with their dad. Alan Phillips was and continues to be the owner of one of the most successful celebrity PR agencies in Britain. In other words, he's filthy rich.
I always wondered how Alan and Liz ever managed to get along, never mind like each other enough to get married and have babies. They are polar opposites. Alan is coldly charming and violently ambitious, while Liz is warm and loving, with a great dry sense of humour. You could say that Sasha took after her mother and Robert after his father.
So why am I detailing all of this? Well, it seems that my whole world has revolved around Sasha and Robert ever since they walked into it with their refined beauty and strange English accents. Sasha could be considered responsible for the happiest times in my life – and Robert for the most miserable.
I'm not even sure if Robert realises how horribly he treated me when we were younger. I think he might be a few steps away from a full-on sociopath, like Patrick Bateman without the killing. Even hearing his name whenever Sasha mentions him makes my stomach drop and my pores tingle.
That's the exact feeling I'm having right now. Sasha's on the phone from London, telling me about Robert's latest exploits seducing a married woman, whose husband beat him to a pulp when he discovered what had been going on. This story is nothing new. Ever since he was fifteen, Robert's been getting himself into all sorts of deplorable situations with women.
Sasha's just completed her first year working as a celebrity gossip columnist for
The Daily Mail
, putting her journalism degree to good use – sort of. It's been awful not having her around these past twelve months. But we'll be reunited very soon, because I'm going to stay with her for the summer in a week's time. I'll be starting my Ph.D. in ancient Greek mythology when I come home, so this is going to be my “Summer of Leisure in London.” I like to think it has a nice ring to it.
Other than working part-time in an Italian wine and cheese restaurant, I'll be as free as a bird to enjoy myself. (And yes, there is such a thing as a wine and cheese restaurant – this is the kind of job an arts graduate can expect to get nowadays, by the way, and the higher end of the spectrum at that.)
Anyway, I'm what you would call a perennial student. I love to study and research a topic that excites me until I can't keep my eyes open and fall asleep, more often than not at my study desk. Basically, I'm a bit of a nerd. I also have a secret desire to sing on stage, but I’ve never told anyone about it. I don’t want to be a super-famous pop star like Beyoncé, mind. It’s just something that I want to do, if only once. A bucket-list item, if you will.
“So anyway,” says Sasha. “Robert came to my place last night to lick his wounds. Oh, God, Lana, you should have seen the pathetic state he made, two great big black eyes on him.”
I snicker down the line. “Damn, I'm so annoyed I missed it. He would have
to have me witness him all beaten up.”
“I know!” she laughs.
Sasha understands that Robert and I have always been at loggerheads. She also knows that her brother's an arsehole, but since he's family she has to love him anyway. The weird thing is, I haven't laid eyes on the guy more than a handful of times in the six years since he moved to London to work for his dad's agency, and yet my hostility still remains. I suppose that just goes to show how intensely we hated one another. Not to mention the fact that Sasha always seems to have some new scandal to tell me about him, so it's almost like he's continually present in my life even though he isn't. It's a strange sort of torture.
When I was a teenager, I was skinny as can be. Top that off with braces and a head of starkly red hair, and there were endless ways in which Robert could make me feel like shit. I've since filled out and lost the braces. I've also come to learn that although red hair can turn you into a pariah as a child, it's actually something that people envy you for when you get older.
“Anyway, enough about my prick of a brother. Are you all set for the big trip next week?” Sasha asks.
I plonk down onto my bed and let out a long sigh. “Yeah, Mum and Gran are making a fuss over me going, which is annoying, but all the arrangements have been made.”
I live in a house of women: me, my sister Alison, my mum Fiona, and my grandmother Penny. Both my mother and my grandmother are extremely protective of me. I think they imagine me to be far more fragile than I actually am. That's what happens when you're the short one in a family of especially tall people. You get labelled as the baby. Alison is only sixteen, and already she towers over me.
Sasha laughs down the phone line. “Yeah, Liz said Fiona's been talking about how worried she is for you to be going over to the ‘big smoke.’ Just an FYI, she's planning on giving you a rape alarm before you leave.”
“She is not!” God, my mum can be such a nutter at times. You'd think I was twelve instead of twenty-two by the way she carries on. She's a policewoman, so you could say she's more aware of the dangers that are out there than most. Not very many little girls have mothers who teach them self-defence from the age of five, but I did.
“She so is. Liz told me all about it when she phoned the other day.”
Sasha likes to call her mum by her first name. I've always found it kind of odd, but hey, each to their own. My and Sasha's mothers are best friends. It's something that gives us an extra-strong bond. Our two bungalows sit side by side along the coast, in a little village called Gormanston, where you will find approximately two pub/restaurants, one boarding school, a train station, a tiny grocery shop, and an army barracks. The latter makes it an eclectic mix. I’m not a stranger to seeing men in uniform hanging around – winkety wink.
Okay, so I’m also not a stranger to scurrying by like a jittery little lamb when I see them, either.
Liz and my mum get along like a house on fire, since they are both whole-heartedly disillusioned with men. Liz had Alan to disillusion her and my mum had my dad, who left us when I was five and my mother had just become pregnant with Alison, never to be seen again. I can't count the number of times I've heard the phrase “who needs a man” bandied about over the years.
Perhaps this is why I've never had much experience with men. My mother is so negative about them in general that it makes me fear them. Not to mention that ever since I turned sixteen she’s told me horror stories about the crime scenes she's been on – the rapes in particular.
She hasn't really got a filter that tells her what you should and shouldn’t tell your teenage daughter.
when it comes to what will and will not scar said daughter for life. It’s no wonder that thoughts of being with a guy make me break out in a cold sweat. Well, that and the fact that Robert was the first boy I ever found appealing. Unfortunately, he took my blossoming crush and stomped it into the ground.
I'm what you would call a defiantly shy person. In other words, I try my hardest to fight past the shyness and be confident. To speak my mind even when it's almost torturous to do so. I don't want to let the bitch rule me, but most of the time it's like I live inside a tortoise shell, physically incapable of being free. Sometimes I think it was Robert's antagonism that made me this way. He bullied me constantly, and I was constantly trying my hardest to show him I was immune to it, when really I was dying inside.
Well…I suppose some of the shyness is just naturally a part of my personality, but I’m sure he contributed a little bit.
Just thinking about him brings on a bad memory. I was thirteen years old, and Robert was fifteen. He knew I liked him, and he decided he'd have a little bit of fun with me. The three of us had been hanging out in Sasha's bedroom, because Sasha was sick with an ear infection. When she went into the bathroom so that her mum could give her some medicine, I was left alone in the room with Robert.
I wasn't as wise back then as I am now. Even though Robert would call me names every chance he got, I was still (secretly) madly enamoured with him. When you're a young girl, you tend to like a boy even more so when he's mean to you. It's one of those unexplainable sicknesses of the mind.
Robert patted the place beside him on Sasha's bed, and told me to come and sit down. I did as he requested. He placed his hand on my thigh and asked me if I was nervous. I shook my head, my heart beating wildly in my chest. He continued moving his hand up my thigh and leaned his lips in close to my ear. I let out a tiny gasp just before he whispered to me, “You, Lana, are the ugliest girl I have ever laid my eyes on.” Then he pulled away and began laughing uproariously.