TITLE: Pretty When You Cry
AUTHOR: Skye Warren
INFO: Fiction, 330 pages
PUBLISHED: Kindle, 2015
came from a place of dirt floors and holy scriptures. They told me
the world outside is full of sin, and the first night I escape, I
know it’s true. Ivan saves me, but he does more than that. He takes
me. He makes me his own girl.
conditioning runs too deep. Ivan sees what I am.
the thing about showing a mouse to a cat. He wants to play. And it’s
terrifying, even for me. Because the only thing darker than my past
EXCERPT: So far a
city looks exactly how I thought it would—gutted buildings and dark
morning I woke up on my floor mat in Harmony Hills. Sunlight streamed
through the window while dust rose up to meet it. The white walls
somehow kept their color despite rough dirt floors.
desperate trek through the woods and a series of bus rides later, I
made it to a city. This city. Tanglewood. It could have been
anywhere. They’re all the same, all sinful, all scary—and the
only thing that makes this one special is that I ran out of money for
are made of white canvas, already fraying and black from the grime of
the streets. I made these shoes by hand when I turned twelve, and the
heel on the left side has never fit quite right. But the bamboo soles
lasted four years in the hills. Now they’re cracking against
concrete. I can feel every lump in the pavement, every loose rock,
every rounded hump as the sidewalk turns to cobblestone and then back
not the worst part.
someone following me. Maybe more than one person. I try to listen for
the footsteps, but it’s hard to hear over the pounding in my ears,
the thud of my heart against my chest. Panic is a tangible force in
my head, a gritty quicksand that threatens to pull me down.
end up on my knees before this night is over.
don’t think I’ll be saying my evening prayers.
standing outside a gate that hangs open on its hinges. They fall
silent as I walk close. I tighten my arms where they are folded over
my chest and look down. If I can’t see them, they can’t see me.
It wasn’t true when I was little, and it’s not true now.
them steps in front of me.
breath catches, and I stop walking. My whole body is trembling by the
time I meet his eyes, bloodshot red in a shadowed face. “What’s
your name?” he asks in a gravelly voice.
my head. No.
that’s not very polite, is it?” Another one steps closer, and
then I smell him. They couldn’t have showered in the past day or
is a virtue.
quiet and obedient and small is a virtue too. “I’m sorry. I just
know what comes next. I want to run. I want to hide. I want to
pretend the past fifteen years as a disciple of the Harmony Hills
never happened. None of that is possible when I’m surrounded by
men. I take a step back and bump into another man. Hands close around
escapes me—fear and protest. It’s more than I would have done
this morning, that sound.
turned to face the man behind me. He smiles a broken-toothed smile.
“Doesn’t matter what you want, darling.”
opens, but I can’t scream. I can’t scream because I’ve been
taught not to. Because I know no one will come. Because the
consequences of crying are worse than what will happen next.
man’s eyes widen in something like fear. It’s a foreign
expression on his face. It doesn’t belong. I wouldn’t even
believe it except he takes a step back.
squeezes tight. What’s behind me? Who is behind me that could have
inspired that kind of fear? The men surrounding me are monsters, but
they’re backing off now, stepping away, hands up in surrender. No
harm done, that’s what they’re saying without words.
and almost slip on a loose cobblestone.
standing in front of me is completely still. That’s the first thing
I notice about him—before I see the fine cut of his black suit or
the glint of a silver watch under his cuff. Before I see the
expression on his face, devoid of compassion or emotion. Devoid of
didn’t know she worked for you,” one of the men mumbles.
still backing up, forming a circle around us, growing wider. I’m in
the middle. I’m the drop, and the men around me form a ripple. Then
they fade into the blackness and are gone.
just me and the man in the suit.
hasn’t spoken. I’m not sure he’s going to. I half expect him to
pull out a gun from somewhere underneath that smooth black fabric and
shoot me. That’s what happens in the city, isn’t it? That’s
what everyone told me about the outside world, how dangerous it is.
And even while some part of me had nodded along, had believed them,
another part of me had refused.
had to be beauty outside the white stucco walls. Beauty that wasn’t
contained and controlled. Beauty with color. Only apparently I was
wrong. I haven’t seen anything beautiful—except him.
beautiful in a strange and sinful way, one that makes me more afraid.
Not colorful exactly. His eyes are a gray color I’ve never seen
before, both deep and opaque at the same time.
closer, the light from a marquee sign illuminating his face, making
him look even more sinister. “What’s your name?”
couldn’t answer those other men, but I find something inside for
him. I find truth. “I’m not allowed to say my name to someone
studies me for a long moment, taking in my tangled hair and my white
dress. “Why not?”
God will punish me. “Because I’m running away.”
like this is what he expected. “Do you have money?”
fifteen dollars left after bus fare. “Some.”
twist, and I wonder if that’s what a smile looks like on him. It’s
terrifying. “No, you don’t,” he says. “The question is, what
would you do to earn some?”
is just a whisper. “I’m a good girl.”
laughs, and I see that I was wrong before. That wasn’t a smile. It
was a taunt. A challenge. This is a real smile, one with teeth. The
sound rolls through me like a coming storm, deep and foreboding.
know,” he says gently. “What’s your name?”
studies me. “Pretty name.”
voice is deep with promise and something else I can’t decipher. All
I know is he isn’t really talking about my name. And I know it
isn’t really a compliment. “Thank you.”
come inside, Candace.”
and walks away before I can answer. I can feel the night closing in
on me, the sharks in the water waiting to strike. It’s not really a
choice. I think the man knows that. He’s counting on it. Whatever
is going to happen inside will be bad, and the only thing worse is
what would have happened outside.
to catch up with him, almost running across the crumbled driveway,
under the marquee sign for the Grand, desperate for the dubious
safety of the man who could hold the darkness at bay. It’s the same
thing that kept me in Harmony Hills for so long—fear and twisted
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Warren is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author of dark
romance. Her books are raw, sexual and perversely romantic.
for Skye’s newsletter: www.skyewarren.com/newsletter
Skye Warren’s Dark Room reader group: skyewarren.com/darkroom
Skye Warren on Twitter: twitter.com/skye_warren
Skye’s website for her current booklist: www.skyewarren.com
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