A gritty New Adult drama about a young woman’s self-destructive quest to find purpose, self-worth, and love in a broken world.

My name is Elise Duchamp. I’m twenty-three years old and I’m known as the town whore.

No, not the kind who exchanges sexual favors for money. The other kind. The kind who gives it all away for free, whenever and however she likes. I am that girl. The one everyone whispers about and the one none of the girls seem to like, because all of their boyfriends either want to sleep with me or already have. Promiscuity is my thing—the kind that slowly, violently turns my insides black, but gives me something I need.

All things considered, I’m not completely reckless. I’m safe, and contrary to popular opinion, I do have a heart. I live in a world of careless choices, and with those choices come careless people. I cannot judge them, because I am one of them. I too bow down to the altar of the self-serving. I am not a good friend. I am not and never could be anyone’s girlfriend. I’m convinced any goodness in me shriveled up and died long ago.

But I am a replacement. That is something I know how to be, and this is a story of the lengths I’d go to in order to keep it that way.

A fine shiver runs down my spine as I watch his confident stride to the other side of the Jeep. He gets in and his woodsy scent engulfs me as he starts the ignition. We drive for about twenty minutes, making small talk and casually flipping through radio stations when it hits me that we’re not approaching a neighborhood, but a campground.“Uh…so you really are taking me for a Thanksgiving Day hike?” I look at him in surprise, not at all prepared for a romp in the mountains. I’m still recovering from my dream and the fact that I slept straight through my alarm this afternoon, not to mention the fact that my black heeled booties aren’t very proper for a hike in the woods.“Before you panic,” he says, parking the Jeep and leaning across me to reach the glove compartment, “shut your eyes.”“Shut my eyes?”“You heard me.”

I do as he says and can’t help the smile that’s forming on my lips. I can hear the smile in his voice and his closeness is causing all of my muscles to lock up. As I hear him open the glove box, I’m swamped with the realization that I want him to kiss me again, the way he did the night of the festival. But that was a first kiss and I ruined it, and Nate’s fingerprints are still branded on my skin. I hear the rustling of a bag and a soft snap, and then something is touching my lips, but it’s not Ryder’s mouth. It’s sweet and salty and divine. “Open,” Ryder says patiently, his tone smooth like silk. My lips part and my tongue is met with luscious chocolate tinged with sea salt.

I purr in satisfaction and his finger slides the piece of heaven further onto my tongue. “Nice?”“Mmmm,” I hum, more enthusiastically now. “Oh my God…so good.”“You can open now.” I allow my eyes to drift open, and I’m greeted with his, dark as the chocolate melting in my mouth. I swallow and feel my eyelashes flutter with his closeness, his face just inches from mine.“I don’t believe you, though,” he says. He tilts his head slightly. “I need to taste for myself.” A hot rush of breath hits my lips and his mouth presses down onto mine. I melt into the seat, my muscles relaxing from his touch. This is nothing like the first kiss. I lean into it, let him draw me into his warmth. The driver’s seat groans as he shifts, cradling my neck and jaw with his rough hands. Our tongues meet and glide, mixing and exchanging the remnants of chocolate, and I moan into his mouth, absorbing the taste.“Elise,” he whispers against me, deepening the kiss. I fall into him, everything plummeting like there’s nothing left to live for and today is the apocalypse. My hand finds and unclicks my seatbelt, then his, and then I’m lifting myself from the passenger seat to slide over the console and onto his lap. He pants as he accepts me, a low groan sounding from deep in his throat. It’s like a grenade in the quiet car, fueling my desire. I slip my thighs over him, straddling him in the driver’s seat. My hand slips down his chest and grabs one of his, guiding it to my breast. His head falls back against the headrest as I devour him, and he squeezes, rolling his thumb around and around, moaning in satisfaction. Things are spiraling out of control fast, but his touch is so gentle, so patient, like he’s touching glass. I’m breakable to him, but the pressure is firm and certain.

It makes me want him even more.
My hands glide over his hard abdomen and find their way under his shirt, fumbling with his belt buckle. I’ll ride him right here if he’ll let me.“Wait,” he breathes, dropping a hand to his belt.“I got it,” I say, undoing the loop. “Keep touching me.” I continue undoing his belt while I reach back with my free hand to loosen my hair tie, letting my wet hair fall around my shoulders. I feel naked already, with no powder on my nose or mascara coating my lashes. My hair isn’t blown out to perfection, and my lips are natural, but I’m raw and open to him, and it makes me brave.“Elise, not yet.” He smiles against my mouth and brings his head forward, his breathing labored. “I owe you dinner, beautiful.”“I don’t want food.” I roll my hips to meet his erection and his head snaps back, smacking the headrest.“Shit, baby, you’re killing me here.”“So quit struggling.” I lean down and bite his neck, dragging his flesh sharply through my teeth.He groans. “I don’t have anything in here.”“In my bag.” I blindly feel my way to the passenger seat for my purse, digging out a condom.He lets me tear at the wrapper for a second before snatching it from my hand. “Elise, I really want to give you that meal.”

I stop kissing him, pulling back to search his eyes for traces of evidence of sarcasm, but I only find sincerity. Our chests rise and fall against each other as our breathing slows, and I slowly shift off of his lap, lazily sliding back into the passenger seat. My head rolls toward him. “You have the restraint of a saint.”“You have a sinful body. There are too many things I want to do to it to qualify as saintly.”“Well, we can’t all keep our wings clean.”“My wings are black when I’m near you.”“You’re in luck.” I straighten my sweater and sit up. “My wings are black all the time.”

Rachael Wade is the Amazon bestselling author of The Preservation Series, The Resistance Trilogy, and the upcoming sci-fi series, The Keepers Trilogy. When she’s not writing, she’s busy learning French, watching too many movies, and learning how to protect animals and the environment. Visit her at and, or come chat with her on Twitter via @RachaelWade