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Stolen Innocence (Stolen #0.5)
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I was sold like property on the day of my father’s funeral. I’d thought his death would set me free, but I’d never truly understood what it meant to have all my freedoms stripped away. Until that day, I’d been living in a child’s fantasy.
Then, my brother sells me, and I don’t have the luxury of being a child anymore. I’m taken to Vicente Rodríguez’s estate, to be kept as his plaything. When I’m old enough, he’ll claim my innocence.
My only reprieve from my hellish reality is in the strained companionship I share with his son, Adrián. Sometimes, I think he hates me. He can be cold and cruel, his burning green eyes glowering when he looks at me. But the longer I’m trapped in his home, the more heated those looks become, and not just with hatred. They make something burn within me, too. My innocence is no longer mine to give, but Adrián might be the first one to claim it for himself.
Note: Stolen Innocence is the prequel to Stealing Beauty.
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I was sold like property on the day of my father’s funeral. I’d thought his death would set me free, but I’d never really understood what it meant to have all my freedoms stripped away. Until that day, I’d been living in a child’s fantasy.
At the funeral, my eyes were dry. I didn’t shed any tears over Antonio Moreno because I had none to offer him. I did my best to arrange my features into something sorrowful, but if anything, I felt relief. I’d never tremble in his shadow again.
He certainly didn’t loom large now. Not laying out in his coffin, his eyes closed but his granite jaw as hard and forbidding as ever. Despite the harsh set of his face in death, I realized for the first time that my father was actually a short man. Even though he’d been half a foot taller than me, I was only fourteen and still growing.
It was strange, looking at his coffin and realizing that he’d never been nearly as big as I’d thought. It was almost funny.
I pressed my lips together to keep them from curving up in amusement. I shouldn’t be smiling. Even if I held no love for my distant, intimidating father, my grandmother would switch me for mocking the dead. She’d do it out of love, but she’d switch me all the same. Abuela rarely disciplined me, but she was raising me to be a good, honest girl, and I wouldn’t let her down. Especially not in front of all the strange, scary men who were attending my father’s funeral.
Andrés’ hand covered mine in a silent show of support. I glanced over at my brother where he sat in the church pew beside me. He might be my half-brother by technical terms, but he was the person I was closest to in the world. We shared a father, and we shared the same opinion of him: that he was a callous, ruthless man.
When Andrés’ dark chocolate eyes met mine, I noticed the relief that shone from them. I wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t miss our father. I squeezed my brother’s hand and allowed a small smile to play around my mouth. Others would see the gesture as a sister comforting her older sibling, but in reality, we were sharing a private moment of joy. We were free.
I swallowed a yelp when pain flared on my left thigh. I knew better than to cry when Cristian hurt me. I tore my eyes from Andrés, but I didn’t dare look at Cristian, my other half-brother and my own personal demon. He was nothing like Andrés.
Then again, as the oldest son and heir to my father’s cocaine empire, Cristian had been subject to his full, cruel attention for his entire life.
I wished Abuela were sitting beside me instead of Cristian, but he hadn’t even allowed her in the same pew. Since she wasn’t father’s blood relative, she wasn’t supposed to sit at the front of the church.
I just prayed that Cristian would leave us all alone at our little house on the corner of our father’s estate once we returned home.
No. Not our father’s estate. It was Cristian’s now. He might only be twenty, but father had left him everything. The same hour Antonio had died from his heart attack, Cristian had begun consolidating his power and securing his position. He was young, so there would be challenges to his control, probably by many of the dangerous men who filled this church, pretending to mourn.
The fake mourners were processing down the aisle, taking their turn to say a prayer—or a silent curse—over Antonio’s body. I watched them instead of peeking over at Cristian. It was safer that way.
Or so I thought, until an older man in a tailored black suit turned away from the coffin, and his dark eyes caught mine. His cheekbones were defined, his cheeks hollow. His narrow jaw tapered to a sharp point, which was emphasized by his thin black beard. I recognized Vicente Rodríguez from my father’s lavish parties. I’d become adept at memorizing important names and faces at a young age, and Vicente was one of Antonio’s most powerful friends.
But the line between friend and enemy was thin in our world, and the way Vicente’s lip curled at Cristian made unease stir in my gut. I might not like my half-brother, but if he was killed, I wouldn’t have a home on the family estate anymore. I’d be homeless, penniless. Cristian’s success meant stability for Andrés and me, so even though I didn’t like him, I was on big brother’s side.
Vicente’s eyes left Cristian, and his gaze fell on me. He took a few lingering seconds to study my face. Then, his eyes lowered, and he wasn’t studying my face. I shifted against the wooden pew, becoming very aware of the fact that my breasts had grown over the months since I’d last seen him. My black dress was modest, but the way he looked at my body wasn’t.