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Once a Myth (Goddess Isles Book 1)

Pepper Winters




  Goddess Isles

  Book One


  New York Times Bestseller

  Pepper Winters

  Once a Myth

  Copyright © 2020 Pepper Winters

  Published by Pepper Winters

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form, including electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person you share it with. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and purchase your own copy. Libraries are exempt and permitted to share their in-house copies with their members and have full thanks for stocking this book. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

  Published: Pepper Winters 2020: [email protected]

  Cover Design: Ari @ Cover it! Designs

  Editing by: Editing 4 Indies (Jenny Sims)


  Pepper currently has twenty-eight books released in nine languages. She’s hit best-seller lists (USA Today, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal) thirty-three times. She dabbles in multiple genres, ranging from Dark Romance to Coming of Age.

  For more information, please visit:


  Goddess Isles Series - 2020

  Once a Myth

  Twice a Wish

  Third a Kiss

  Fourth a Lie

  Fifth a Fury

  Monsters in the Dark Trilogy – Available Now

  Tears of Tess – FREE BOOK

  Quintessentially Q

  Twisted Together

  Je Suis a Toi

  Indebted Series – Available Now

  Debt Inheritance – FREE BOOK

  First Debt

  Second Debt

  Third Debt

  Fourth Debt

  Final Debt

  Indebted Epilogue

  Dollar Series – Available Now

  Pennies – FREE BOOK






  The Master of Trickery Duet – Available Now

  The Body Painter

  The Living Canvas

  Truth & Lies Duet – Available Now

  Crown of Lies

  Throne of Truth


  The Ribbon Duet – Available Now

  The Boy & His Ribbon

  The Girl & Her Ren

  Standalone Spinoff

  The Son & His Hope


  Destroyed – Grey Romance

  Unseen Messages – Survival Romance


  Pure Corruption Duet – Available Now

  Ruin & Rule

  Sin & Suffer


  Can’t Touch This


  For 2020 titles please visit


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  Instagram: @Pepperwinters

  Facebook Group: Peppers Playgound


  Once a Myth Blurb:

  “There was a boy once. A boy who wasn’t strong enough to save me when I was taken.”

  There was a girl once. A girl called Tess Snow who sat with me in the dark, waiting to be sold.

  There was an owner once. An owner who bought me, entrapped me, and made me his unwilling goddess.”

  Eleanor Grace is a naïve dreamer. Trusting and young, she believes her travel-loving boyfriend can save her when her freedom is snatched and sold. Squirrelled away to an island at dawn, delivered to a man even darkness won’t touch, she’s bound by a contract.

  Four men.

  Four fantasies.

  Four pieces of her soul.

  Sullivan Sinclair is the giver of fantasies. Any wish, any desire—he is the master at quenching even the filthiest appetites. His private paradise and perfectly trained goddesses are there for one purpose: to ensure every guest is extremely well satisfied.

  He bought her.

  He trapped her.

  She belongs to him.



  Once a Myth Blurb

  Dedicated to


  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Pre-Order TWICE A WISH



  Dedicated to:

  My readers.

  You’ve been with me from the beginning.

  From darkness to tragedy and everything in between.

  Dark Romance, Grey Romance, Rom Com, and Tear Jerkers.

  Thank you.

  Thank you for your time reading my words.

  Thank you for adventuring into my pages.


  ONCE UPON A TIME, a teacher surprised us with a pop quiz.

  I was seventeen.

  It was my last month of school.

  The test comprised of a single question.

  What is the worst thing that happened to you, and how did you survive it?

  When the class sneered at the seemingly random query, our teacher smiled, and said, “You think this is a stupid question, but really, it’s the most important one you’ll ever answer. Why? Because the worst thing to ever happen to you probably hasn’t found you yet. You’re young. You’re fanciful. You’re naïve. But to know that your life will have battles, arms you for the trials ahead. And the answer that you write on this silly piece of paper will be there, in the back of your mind, keeping you company while you face it.”

  I groaned with my classmates.

  I joked with my friends.

  But I did the work required

  I thought long and hard and scribbled:

  The worst thing to happen to me? When Max got drunk and abandoned me at the bonfire party last year. In the middle of nowhere with intoxicated teens everywhere, I was lost and lonely. A guy tried to feel me up. He pushed me against a tree, and the fire glowed behind him while he touched places he shouldn’t.

  How did I survive it? By being brave and kneeing the bastard in the balls. By being proactive and arranging a ride home with a friend’s older sister. By being unforgiving and dumping Max. By being wise and never forgetting the boy who tried to take what wasn’t his to take.

  The teacher didn’t require us to sign our names.

  We handed in our confessions anonymously.

  She was right, that teacher.

  We were young.

  We were fanciful.

  I was naïve.

  Naïve to think a childish party with raging hormones and reckless drinking would be the worst thing to ever happen to me.

  Now, four years later, I had a different answer to scribble down.

  An answer I wished I knew how to survive.

  The worst thing to ever happen to me? Being stolen, sold, and gifted. Being delivered to a man who isn’t just a man, but a monster. Being told I now belong to him.

  How did I survive it?

  I guess I’ll have to fight and find out…

  Chapter One


  My head raised from my knees. My eyes peered into the dank and dismal darkness. A ghostly figure of a blonde girl holding up a bowl danced in front of me.

  I was hungry. Thirsty. Hurting. Lonely.

  She offered salvation to most of those things, passing me a dish of nondescript food and a torn piece of bread. My hands shook as I took the bowl from her, bending a little to reach from where I hugged myself on the top bunk.

  She flashed me a smile, nodding in approval. “If we don’t eat, we don’t have enough strength to fight.”

  I nodded back. I didn’t want to talk. The men who’d snatched me from the hostel where my boyfriend and I had been staying promised painful punishment if I talked to the other girls trapped in hell with me.

  But this girl…she’d only arrived today.

  Her fear made her a little reckless, even though I’d seen her crying.

  Men’s voices grumbled from outside the door, tearing her gaze worriedly to look. I froze with the bowl in my hands, waiting for a monster to walk in and hurt us.

  But the voices faded, and the girl looked back at me. “What’s your name?”

  Such a simple question.

  But a terrifying one because my name was no longer mine. No longer mine to use. Freedom taken from me along with everything.

  I licked my lips, testing my throat that still throbbed from screaming so hard when I’d been taken. I’d been in the communal kitchen of the hostel cooking veggie tacos for me and my boyfriend, Scott.

  I’d been the only one. The only backpacker in an empty kitchen while Scott hung out in the pool hall with a guy we’d just met from Ireland.

  I’d grown bored of the potato and leprechaun jokes and sought refuge in the quietness of the run-down kitchen.


  Until…I hadn’t been.

  Until three men arrived with black gloves and sinister smiles.

  Until those men noticed me, assessed me…snatched me.

  “I’m Tess,” the blonde whispered, Australian accent feathering around her words. “I was kidnapped. They hurt my boyfriend.”

  I shoved back the memories of my own kidnapping. Of hands on my arms, fingernails on my skin, a gag shoved in my mouth. The clang of a pot falling on the tiles, the smash of a plate as I kicked and thrashed.

  I hadn’t been quiet.

  I’d screamed. I’d fought.

  But no one heard me over the din of the music in the pool hall.

  I shuddered, forcing my voice to stay level and low. “I’m sorry they hurt your boyfriend.” I shrugged. “Mine doesn’t know where I am.”

  “I don’t know if mine is alive.” Her eyes glowed with tears. “He might be dead on the bathroom floor where they beat him.”

  She had it worse.

  At least my boyfriend had been safe. What had happened to hers after she’d been stolen?

  It was the unknown that hurt the most. The not knowing if her boyfriend was alive or if mine was looking for me. The total uncertainty of our futures, diverted without our permission from the path we’d chosen.

  How could another human do this to us? What gave anyone the right to steal us from a life and trap us in the dark with no answers, no comfort, no sign of this nightmare ever ending?

  “I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Are you okay? You weren’t hurt too badly?”

  She sniffed with pain. “I’m fine. Are you okay?” She stepped closer to my bunk, her blonde hair dirty and limp. “You don’t look so good.”

  I waved her concern away with a lacklustre smile. “I’m still alive.”

  She sighed as if I’d said I was broken beyond repair. “Being alive might be something we’ll end up regretting.”

  Other pairs of eyes looked over to us, narrowed with fear and harsh with warning. Silence had been our only companion since I’d been thrown in here two days ago.

  This girl had taken that silence and filled it with fight. The food in my hands reminded me that she was right. No matter what they’d done to us, we couldn’t just accept it. There had to be a way—some way—to stop this.

  Without dying in the process.

  Tess sighed again, a huff of anger and a puff of despair. “I just want to go home.”

  A whisper of agreement filtered around the room.

  I nodded. “Me too. All of us do.”

  My other companions had trickled in over the past forty-eight hours. Two girls had been here before me, but the others were new, just like this brave Australian girl. I’d never been much for talking to strangers and preferred silence over conversation, yet she reminded me of a time when things had been so much simpler.

  A girl of a similar age. A young woman just embarking on her life after suffering through adolescence and education. We’d earned our freedom, yet these men had killed it before it’d begun.

  “They can’t do this.” Tess’s hands curled by her side, crushing the piece of bread she still held.

  I nodded again. I opened my mouth to agree.

  But really, they could.

  They had.

  They’d taken us, and we had no control.

  We could scream and curse and crawl around in the dark for a way out, but in the end…we just had to be patient and hope fate was kind to us and ruthless to them. That karma would be on our side.

  No one knew what was in store for us but nasty misery held the truth.

  We were theirs.

  To use.

  To sell.

  To kill.

  We could rebel all we wanted and use energy, wishing it wasn’t so…but in the end, the ones who would survive were the ones who waited and watched and learned how to use the monster’s weaknesses against him.

  “I’m sorry about your boyfriend,” I murmured. “I’m sorry they took you.” I pulled back into the shadows, curling around the food she’d given me, settling deeper into silence.

  * * * * *

  “Get up, putas.”

  I opened my eyes.

  The oppressive blackness was sliced with a wedge of light, spilling through the open door. Two men barred the exit. One had a jagged scar along his cheek, the other an oily leather jacket.

  The one with the leather jacket marched straight toward Tess and snatched her off the bottom bunk. The one with the scar joined in the game, dragging girls off the bottom bunks and yanking legs of the ones on top. Not waiting for the rude alarm clock to hurt me, I leaped off the top bunk and landed on filthy floorboards.

  My denim shorts and lemon t-shirt had long since succumbed to dirt and disgust.

  The scarr
ed guy sneered at me, then shoved my shoulder and sent me crashing into the framework of the bunk just because he could.

  I gritted my teeth as quiet rage slithered through my chest. A rattlesnake of hatred. I was the girl at school who always played by the rules and made friends with everyone. I was the one teachers used as a good example. Not because I was perfect but because I’d learned how to play perfect.

  I didn’t pick fights or argue trivial matters. I held the enviable position of not being tied to one clique. I hung out with the nerds, the cool kids, the druggies, and the jocks.

  I was neutral. I was calm.

  But beneath that façade, I was pure emotion.

  I didn’t bother wasting energy on petty and pointless things because I knew life hadn’t truly started yet. I’d bided my time. I’d accepted the delay that school delivered before my life could really start.

  And now that it had…now that I didn’t have to be perfect, well…it was personal.

  This situation was too dangerous to ignore, and I wasn’t weak enough to accept it.

  I wouldn’t stay quiet.

  I wouldn’t obey.

  My natural instinct was to lash out. To puncture their chests and rip out—

  “Let go of me, you bastard!” The blonde girl, Tess, screeched and wriggled in the man’s hold. Her foot kicked his kneecap. I cheered for her. His palm crashed against her cheek. I pitied her.

  He dropped her to the floor as if to stomp on her head, but his partner muttered something in Spanish, and he chuckled instead. Hauling her to her feet, he shoved her through the door, stepping out of the way as more men entered to shepherd the rest of us.

  Another girl gave in to the urge to rebel, shouting something in Swedish. A man buried a fist in her belly, sending her crashing to the floor.

  Backing away, he left her crumpled at his feet and snarled at us to follow.