Chapter 1. Present Day

Tell me something.

Between you and me.

What's the most severe piece of material you've ever encountered?

And when I say severe, I mean, everything hurts like absolute Hell (no pun intended) to get up and away from said material when you're finally ready.

Be honest, here. Was it some sort of wood? Stone perhaps? Concrete?

I can't seem to recall the last time I sat on something as hard as the metal bar stool my ass is numbing on top of right now. And that's saying something, considering where I reside.


Resided. Idiot.

How long have I been here, exactly, anyway?

I'm terrified to get up in fear my joints might just break out of the sheer surrender.

Regardless of how long I've been here, apparently, it's been too long.

Satan, I'm getting old.

And agitated.

At this time of night, a place like this should be nearly empty. People should be stumbling home with the one-night-stand they've worked so hard to score throughout the evening, or passed out drunk on their couches somewhere. I should have the place to myself so I can drink myself into oblivion without the constant buzzing in my ear from people trying to make small talk.

Instead, the sticky floor is full of mingling, sad souls, dancing awkwardly with one another in an attempt to make some sort of connection that will make them believe they're worth something to someone.

They're failing miserably. It's inevitable.

I turn my head to watch them for a moment. A woman pushes some hair behind her ear in a shy sort of way as the man she's dancing with lowers his hands so they sit just below her waist.

I sneer.

I growl.

I taste thick, sour disdain at the back of my throat from witnessing such a ridiculous form of flirtation.

So I turn back to the glass in front of me and empty it. Then order another.

The broken, slowly spinning disco ball that hangs loosely from the ceiling somewhere above me, makes its way around and one of its few attached mirror-like squares allows light to shine into my sad little direction.

For a split second, my hand glows and I catch a glimpse of the ring that calls one of my cursed fingers home. It reminds me of where I come from, who I am, exactly, and why I will never look into the eyes of a woman as she pushes some hair behind her ear in a shy sort of way.

Not when she knows where I come from and who I am.

Pondering inconsequential matters distracts me from the task at hand so I proceed to work on the fresh drink in front of me and focus on more important matters.

A large mass I have to assume is a body of some sort bumps up against me as they pass by. The stench of beer exudes from their pores and I want to crush this tiny human's existence into oblivion but then the faint sound of music enters my senses.

A familiar sound.

One that gives me both pleasure and pain to hear.

A low "fuck" hisses out from between my lips.

I'm sick of the rain.

I'm sick of the rumbling of thunder as the storm outside tries to decide what it's going to do, and where it's going to go.

Move on, already.

"Is that an offer or a threat, honey?" The older bartender eyes me curiously from behind her counter, then winks.

If she only knew.

The question is enough to encourage me to push myself up off of this bar stool after all.

I stretch through the pain in my joints, toss a few hundred dollars down onto the counter, and leave.

I specifically chose this establishment because I wanted some peace and fucking quiet. Instead, it's been filled with drunks and whores all evening. The stench of stale beer that should have been able to make me forget about my own problems instead has me mulling over every single moment from the past several months.

I push my weight against the blackened exit door and it creaks in retaliation. Surprisingly, it takes a bit more effort to actually open the damn door.

Fucking Hell.

Outside, I let the cold water falling from the sky drench me as I move down the street, hoping it will wash away the choices I've made. The gestures I've allowed. The people I've trusted.

And then I remember the choices others have made.

The outcome of those choices.

The pain it's caused on too many accounts.

And I plot my revenge.