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War

By:Kaye Blue

Prologue

Priest



I tightened my tie, fastened my cuff links, and then buttoned my suit jacket, all without glancing at a mirror.

I knew I was dressed to perfection.

So a double check wasn’t necessary because I had long before mastered the art of looking impeccable, an integral part of my aura and legend.

Of course, I couldn’t entirely decide why I had bothered to get dressed at all. I had cultivated enough of a reputation that my attendance wouldn’t be expected.

Probably not something that most would have been able to get away with, but I wasn’t most. Still, Vasile Petran had gone out of his way to personally deliver the invitation to his wedding, and when I had asked him why, he hadn’t given me much of an answer.

We weren’t friends.

I didn’t have those, but I respected him in a way I did few, his intelligent stewardship of his clan and his reliability having made our business transactions smooth and mutually beneficial, something that was far too uncommon. Some part of me, distant but still present, wanted to acknowledge that respect.

So I’d go to his wedding, watch him publicly pledge devotion to the woman I knew he would go to any lengths for.

And maybe I would even hope for the best for them. Another futile thing, because I knew how their story ended. Someone would kill her, kill him, or if not, the inescapable fragility of the human existence would claim one of them.

People died, one way or another, so it was best not to get too close because they could be taken at any time, and they would be. In the end, all of us would end up alone, broken.

I’d thought Vasile knew that, but it seemed now he wanted to pretend, especially given all they had been through together.

Yes, I was definitely going to attend.

There was nothing there for me, but I could use the reminder. Because sometimes, even though I knew better, even though my entire life had been a testament to the fact that there was no such thing as happiness, love, I still thought about what happiness might be like if it was possible.

Those thoughts didn’t change me, and whenever they sprang up, I shut them down completely. But they still came, more frequently now, and I’d get that prickling sensation at the back of my mind, the question of what it might be like not to make the long and increasingly joyless trek from one day to the next completely alone.

So this wedding would be helpful. I’d go, see their joy, happiness, and hope, and know that it was fleeting.

Be reminded that alone was the only way, especially for me.

Besides—I looked around my empty house, as silent as a tomb—it wasn’t like I had anything better to do.





One





Milan



“Pretty please?”

I looked at my roommate, best friend, and current extortionist Tiffany as she batted her big brown eyes at me. She’d tilted her head so it almost rested on her slender shoulder, and her pixie-like features were set in her most innocent expression.

I started to shake my head, and she blinked.

Her dark auburn lashes were longer than should be humanly possible and a hundred percent natural as she was happy to remind me and anyone else who asked. Currently, they were covering soft, imploring eyes that would have sucked anyone in, and still managed to get even me sometimes though I should have been immune to her tricks. But I kept up a good front.

“Tiff, I don’t fall for that anymore, remember?” I said as I dropped onto our couch and tucked one thick leg under me as I always did.

She blinked again and added a head tilt. Tiffany was pulling out the big guns today, but I was determined not to be swayed.

“Come on, Milan. Please?” she said.

I shook my head and then made a big show of grabbing the remote and turning on the TV, deliberately not looking at Tiffany.

“Nope. I’ve already worked six days this week. I want to take today off, relax, so there’s no way I’m taking your shift, especially not to work a wedding,” I said. “You know weddings are the worst.”

Tiffany nodded her agreement. As much as she wanted to convince me to take her shift, even she couldn’t deny that weddings could be hard on the staff.

You’d think everyone would be so busy congratulating the happy couple, they’d be too distracted to harass the catering crew and waitstaff, but you’d be dead wrong. I’ve never gotten more dirty looks, rude guests, and unwelcome ass pinches than at a wedding.

From what Tiffany had told me, this was an especially high-profile event, which meant high-profile assholes who were even worse.

Tiffany put a freckled hand on her small hip and turned to face me, blocking my view of the TV. Then she lowered her gaze to mine, her eyes serious, brimming as though she had the most important thing to tell me.

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