Dark Domination - Lili Valente

CHAPTER ONE

Hannah

“Keep the door locked, Hannah, and don’t go outside.” Her sister, Harley, dug her fingers into the soft flesh of Hannah’s upper arms, the arms she could never keep as toned as her twin’s, no matter how often she hit the gym. “No one can know you’re here. Do you understand me? No one.”

“I get it,” Hannah said for the third time.

“Even if the hall is full of starving orphans,” Harley insisted, her blue eyes hard and focused. “Even if there’s a nun out there with her pants on fire, you keep the door closed and your mouth shut. Get me?”

“But nuns don’t wear pants.” Hannah winked, trying to ease the tension that had festered in the air since she’d surprised Harley at work this afternoon.

But her sister’s perfectly sculpted brows only drew closer together. “I’m serious, Moo. You know I love you, but if you screw this up for me, I’m going to lose it.”

“Screw what up?” Hannah asked, dread whispering through her chest.

Harley’s schemes were never good news. Her twin’s flair for the dramatic had taken a dark, twisted turn that summer ten years ago when their family had fractured down the middle. Afterward, their mother had been the one most obviously damaged, but something in Harley had been broken, too.

Since then, her sister never seemed to know when she’d gone too far, or care if people were caught in the crossfire.

“What’s going on?” Hannah pressed. “Is this why you’ve been pushing me away all summer?”

“I haven’t been pushing you away,” Harley lied, not even bothering to do it convincingly. When Harley was in top form, she could make you believe that the sky was green and the grass was blue.

But she didn’t bother turning on the charm for family. She saved that for the art dealers who purchased her sculptures, the wealthy lovers she played against each other like pieces in increasingly heartbreaking games of chess, and the unlucky victims slated to pay for wronging her.

It didn’t matter if the sin was real or imagined or if Harley realized halfway through crafting her blueprint for revenge that the punishment she’d conceived for her target didn’t fit the crime. She never shifted direction or altered course. Hannah was the second guesser, the person who could always see both sides of a story. Harley was simply…inexorable.

Sometimes, it made Hannah wonder if she had absorbed her twin’s share of empathy in the womb.

Sometimes it simply scared the hell out of her.

“Don’t go.” Hannah mirrored her sister’s stance, gripping Harley’s arms, but her touch remained gentle. It was her blessing and her curse, her inability to be as tough and pitiless as her father wanted his daughters to be. “Stay with me. Let’s make popcorn and watch Pretty Woman and pretend it’s the end of another perfect summer. Like when we were kids.”

“It is the end of a perfect summer.” Harley’s smile was sharp to the touch. “The most perfect summer ever.”

She leaned in, pressing an impulsive kiss to Hannah’s cheek. “I love you, Moo. And I’m never going to let anyone get away with hurting you or Mom again. Okay? Just stay inside, quiet as a mouse, and everything will be fine.”

Hannah’s stomach clenched. “Harley, please, I’ve got a bad feeling.”

“You’ve always got a bad feeling, worry wart.” She pulled away with a laugh, reaching for the black handbag on the polished table by the apartment’s front door.

The apartment Harley had chosen for her summer on the Virginia shore was uncharacteristically modest, but her purse still cost a few thousand dollars. When Hannah had left for college at Duke, she had adjusted her wardrobe to fit in with the other undergraduate students in her psychology program, gratefully abandoning thousand dollar dresses for blue jeans and tee shirts. But Harley’s taste had only grown more extravagant.

Her twin was making a killing in the art world, had sweet-talked their father into granting her access to her trust fund two years early, and was always getting gifts from her endlessly shifting assortment of suitors. She was never short on money, which was another reason the modest apartment, the summer job serving drinks at a restaurant by the beach, and the beat up VW Bug Hannah had seen parked in her sister’s space in the parking lot below made no sense.

Add in the tip envelope with “Harley Garrett” printed on the outside that Harley had tucked into her purse before hustling Hannah out of the bar this afternoon, and there was no doubt that