Empire of Lies by Whitney G.

Prologue





Michael





Before you begin this story, I need you to know that I’m not a good man. I never will be.

I’m telling you this now so that you won’t get your hopes up, so in those moments when your heart races and the tears prick your eyes—right when you start to believe that I’m a changed man or a ‘hero’ worthy of being on your book boyfriend shelf, you’ll already know that I’m two pages away from disappointing you.

Everything that I once lived for has been burned to the ground, and all that remains are the ashes of my past. Every now and then, I’ll feel a flicker from a stubborn cinder that still burns—a desperate flame that craves more emotional attention, but I always blow it out.

My days of attempting to be ‘a good person’ like everyone else are long gone, and I choose to live my life using a simple series of questions: What’s in it for me? How will this benefit me? Why the fuck are you asking me to do something when there’s nothing in it for me?

All of that said, I have a few redeeming qualities that I’m more than happy to discuss, if you like: I’ve been more than blessed in the endowment department; I can be a gentleman when I want to be, and I own my fair share of properties on the Amalfi coast. (Feel free to do the math on my bank accounts. Plural.) When it comes to ‘relationships,’ I’ve never been interested in learning what that term means, but I more than make up for it between the sheets: I can devour your pussy in ways that will make you forget every man who came before me, leave you orgasming in utter bliss after a session of unforgettable fucking, but I’ll never love you. (Well, anyone, for that matter.)

I’m not that guy.

You’ll never find that in this story…

The only thing you’ll see, if you look closely enough, is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. The woman who brought me to my knees and almost shattered everything I thought I knew.

Keyword: Almost.

Translation: ‘Almost’ doesn’t count.

You see, even when the stakes have been dizzyingly high, I’ve never lost a single game in my life. Never hedged my bets or folded when all the chips were down.

I’ve always known that the best player is the man who has nothing to lose, and in order to be a “hero,” you have to have something (or someone) worth fighting for.

I never have.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.





Meredith





Now





Don’t stop running, Meredith. Don’t you dare stop running…

I struggle to breathe as my lungs catch fire, stumbling through the woods with every step I take. My clothes are soaked from the night’s pouring rain, and tears are falling down my face. Even though my mind is telling me that I’m doing the right thing, my heart is begging me to turn around and run back.

I refuse to listen.

Last time I managed to escape, I miscalculated—tried to do too much, too soon, but this time, he won’t catch me. My lying, unfortunately—gorgeous and charming as ever—husband won’t have enough time to realize that I’m gone.

And when he does, it’ll be too late. Far too late.

Making my way past the mouth of the small town’s river, I stop and lean against a tree. Looking up, I can see my guiding light—the brightly lit billboard with my name and face printed on it. It takes everything in me not to break down and scream.

MISSING:

Meredith Alexis Thatchwood

If found or seen, please call: 1-855-MER-TIPS

Reward: $500,000

(for any information leading to her safe return)

www.meredithmissing.com





The large picture onscreen features me smiling in front of a sunset, wearing my one-of-a-kind wedding dress. It’s an off-shoulder black gown, all in lace, with hints of silver in the seams. I can still remember the stunned look on my husband’s face when I walked down the aisle, the way the fabric lay on the floor of our honeymoon suite when he fucked me against the windows.

Since I’ve been gone, I’ve managed to read one article by The New York Times, one where a so-called journalist wrote, “Perhaps Miss Thatchwood knew something no one else around her did. Perhaps she was well aware that she was dressing for her funeral, and not her wedding.”

His attempt at treating my disappearance like a pretty poem still hurts.

Trying to block out unnecessary thoughts, I start running again. Harder this time, much faster this time.