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Throne of Truth

Pepper Winters



  New York Times Bestseller

  Pepper Winters

  Throne of Truth

  Copyright © 2017 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. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.

  Published: Pepper Winters 2017: [email protected]

  Cover Design: by Cover it! Designs

  Editing by: Editing-4-Indies (Jenny Sims)


  Pepper Winters is a multiple New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today International Bestseller.

  All Pepper’s books are available in e-book, paperback, & audio.


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  Throne of Truth Blurb



  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

  Letter from Penn

  Letter from Elle

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Letter from Elle

  Letter from Penn

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven

  Chapter Thirty-Eight

  Chapter Thirty-Nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-One

  Chapter Forty-Two

  Chapter Forty-Three

  Chapter Forty-Four

  Chapter Forty-Five

  Chapter Forty-Six





  Throne of Truth Blurb


  Since my life changed for the second time and not necessarily for the better. Two years since I traded prison bars for streets and hunted a runaway who I’d met in an alley.


  Since I forgot how to lie, woke to fists, and chased after the girl who’d been stolen from me.


  To save her, rescue her, keep my lies intact. She looks at me full of hate. I look at her full of confession.


  For our relationship to switch from mutual dislike to floundering with unknowns. I’ve hurt her. Now, she’s hurt me. I guess we’re even.


  For her to listen, to see, to finally know who I am. The answer comes with hardship. The answer isn’t what she wants to hear.


  For me to walk out the door.


  For it all to be over.


  To every person I’ve ever had the honor of meeting, talking to online, passing in the street, or looking up to. We might have met for a second, but it’s those seconds that make me who I am.




  They have a life of their own. They multiply, divide, and conquer—not just the listener but the liar, too. They infiltrate the truth. They twist words until false is truer than reality.

  I should know. I’d become a master at them.

  For a while, lies had been my saving grace. They’d kept me warm on the coldest nights and kept me sheltered when only darkness remained, but now, I have wealth and family, and my lies aren’t giving me power anymore...they’re stripping me of it.

  Stripping me of her.

  She ran away from me.

  She ran before I could tell her the truth.

  It didn’t matter the truth wasn’t what she wanted to hear. It didn’t matter I h
ad so many confessions and only the guts to reveal a few.

  She ran.

  And then she vanished.

  Chapter One


  “GET OUT OF the fucking car, Elle.”

  I cocked my chin, glowering out the window.

  Get out of my life, Greg.

  The slur scalded my tongue, but I didn’t have the balls to say it. My cheek still hurt. Fear still sliced my insides. The view outside the car was foreign and unwanted.

  I was kidnapped, hurt, and pissed off.

  I hate you, Greg.

  I’ll make you pay, Greg.

  My lips pulled into a sneer of contempt.

  You won’t win, Greg.

  “Elle!” He thumped the roof of his graphite Porsche for the third time. The rattle shook the interior, making me flinch. I’d done well for most of the journey.

  He’d prattled on while miles slowly crept between me and my home. I’d remained stoic and deathly silent—I didn’t wince when he shouted for a response and didn’t cower when he raised his hand in threat.

  I refused to let him affect me, even though I couldn’t ignore my body’s discomfort anymore. My bound hands were numb from the twine around my wrists. My shoulders screamed for mercy, and my butt was flat from the long drive.

  For five hours, I’d tried to come up with a plan to either talk Greg out of whatever manic idea he’d concocted or figure out a way to incapacitate him.

  My mind kept me entertained with images of knocking him out, leaving him tied to a tree, and stealing his car. I’d drive myself back to New York. It didn’t matter I hadn’t driven since I got my license—all David’s fault for driving me everywhere. It didn’t matter I barely knew how to operate a standard rather than an automatic gearshift. And it definitely didn’t matter I had no idea how to knock out a full-grown male with my hands tied behind my back.

  I would do whatever it took to get free from this lunatic who I’d been raised with.

  Starting with refusing to cooperate.

  “Elle...” Greg growled, thumping the car one last time before ducking to shove his face into mine. The night sky bled with shadows and gloomy clouds. Not one star; no sliver of moon. It was as if we existed in a dead end while the roads of the world were back at a U-turn somewhere.

  “I won’t ask again.”

  I forced every inch of authority I could into my glare. “I don’t want to be here, Greg. Take me home.”

  He laughed, rolling his eyes. “Too fucking bad. We’re here. Now get.”

  I didn’t let him undermine me. I didn’t let him see my fear or frustration. “I’m not getting out of the car because you’re driving me home. Right now.”

  “Oh, I am, am I?” He laughed harder, this time with a sinister echo. “That’s what you think.” He undid my seat belt and placed his fingers on my thigh. “I’m going to count to five.” He squeezed. Hard. “I suggest you get out before I hit five.”

  My heart coughed.

  Greg dropped all pretenses and ripped off his mask. He was done masquerading as the boring son of my father’s best friend and my employee. Out here (alone), he showed who he truly was, and I hated him.

  I hated him more than I feared him.

  But the longer he squeezed my thigh, the stronger my fear grew. I trembled with disobedience, cursing him, wishing the ground would grow teeth and chew him alive.

  “One.” He smiled, his fingers climbing up my leg toward my core.

  I gritted my teeth. I didn’t let him see how much my skin crawled to have his touch so close to where I vehemently didn’t want him.

  “Two.” He crept the final distance, cupping me roughly with a harsh glint in his eyes.

  I shivered as he let me go as quickly as he’d grabbed me. His touch slithered upward, stroking my belly, my hip, my waist. “Three.”

  I shifted despite myself.

  My legs bunched to obey—to climb out on my own willpower to avoid whatever nastiness he had planned. But he wedged himself in the door, not giving me any room to exit.

  He knew that.

  He nodded slyly, knowing I’d figured out that he’d blocked me. That I didn’t have a choice in what would happen next.

  “Four.” His touch switched from my waist to my breast, tweaking a nipple before climbing the rest of the way to my shoulder. His fingers dug into me like barbwire, sharp and steely—ready to rip me apart.

  I braced for pain.

  I sniffed in retaliation.

  Not that it did any good.

  “Five.” The grasp he had on my shoulder became a throbbing anchor. Digging his fingernails into my flesh, he yanked with all his energy.

  With nothing holding me in the car, I toppled sideways.

  I had no way to fight or stop my sideways motion.

  I fell out, landing painfully on my shoulder with my legs still in the Porsche and my arms tied behind my back. Sharp gravel dug into my cheek. Wind whooshed from my lungs.

  With my face wedged against the ground, I had a perfect view of Greg’s black loafers as he squatted over me. “Well, that’s one success. You’re out of the car.” He nudged me with his toe. “Now, get up.”

  I squirmed, wincing as every joint and ligament squealed in pain. My spine hated the way my legs pretzeled above while my shoulders slam-dunked into the earth.

  Terror sprouted like weeds in my veins as Greg took a step back. I tensed for a kick or reprimand, but he placed his hands on his hips, waiting.

  If I’d climbed out like he’d asked ten minutes ago, I could’ve avoided the shrapnel to my cheek and the new contusions to my body.

  You were stupid, Elle.

  Was it wise to refuse everything out of principle or obey to save my strength?

  I knew the answer even though I hated it.

  Doing my best to stifle my moan, I slowly unhooked my ankles from the Porsche and wiggled forward to give my legs room to drop down. Slowly, achingly, I figured out how to slide sideways and push off the ground with my hands behind my back—granting just enough leverage to sit upright.

  It took a while, but the moment I sat up, Greg clapped condescendingly. “Finally, you listen to the boss.”

  I spat out a mouthful of acrid dust. “You’re not my boss.”

  “Wrong, Elle. I am. You’ve been in charge for far too fucking long. Things are gonna be different now.”

  I clamped my lips together. I wouldn’t antagonize him further. He was delusional. There was nothing I could say to a crazy person. Let him think he was my commander. I’d correct him when he was in jail.

  We held a staring war like children until I cocked my chin and ignored him.

  He didn’t speak as I navigated my sore body into movement.

  It took a few minutes to figure out how to shuffle my legs beneath me and push off on numb tingling feet to trade driveway for standing, but I managed.

  The second I succeeded, Greg captured my elbow. “About time you got up.” Pulling me toward a large cabin resting on the boundary of a dense forest, he added, “Wasting my time, Elle. Gonna pay for that.”

  “You could’ve helped me. Better yet, you could take me home.”

  He chuckled. “Funny girl.”

  The cabin reeked of disappearing CEOs and illegal activity. In any other situation, the cute windows with yellow and brown trim would’ve made any guest feel welcome. In this situation—when I’d been stolen against my will—it was a coffin I had no desire to enter.

  Every inch of me did not (with a thousand did nots) want to go into that place. But I was tired, hungry, and emotionally wrung dry. My head still throbbed from his punch at my apartment, and my heart still panged for the lies Penn had told. The glittery blue of my sapphire star dangled in my mind, destroying Penn’s fibs over and over again.

  Where had that necklace come from?

  Was it true Penn was Baseball Cap or Adidas?

  Regardless of the truth, I knew one thing for sure.

  All men are assholes.

/>   And unless my father or David could figure out where Greg had taken me, I was on my own.

  I glanced out of the corner of my eye at Greg and his pompous face. Everything about him irritated me to the point of sheer rage.

  He’s a moron.

  A moron who can kill me with no one here to stop him.

  Despite running from Penn and cursing him forever, I wouldn’t be opposed to him hunting and freeing me. He was the lesser of the two evils tonight.

  Climbing the porch steps, our footsteps echoed on a stained wooden deck, weathered with a stylish décor.

  Greg let me go, fumbling in his pockets for a key.

  I didn’t run off or try to bolt into the forest.

  My hands were still tied, and I had no idea where I was. I’d never been good at hikes in school and would rather deal with Greg than a bear in the wilderness while incapacitated.

  I kept my voice icy. “Where are we?”

  Greg grinned as he slotted a key into the antique looking lock. “My father’s cabin.”

  I vaguely remembered Steve bragging about buying a vacation place before I took over Belle Elle. He and Dad had gone away for a weekend to do manly things.

  I hadn’t asked what those manly things had entailed.

  It’s true. He is a moron.

  I blinked, forcing myself not to roll my eyes at Greg’s stupidity.

  He’d kidnapped me and taken me to a location that his father knew about.

  I wanted to thank the nonexistent stars.

  Bless him for his small brain. It would only be a matter of time before the cavalry came for me.

  I kept my conclusions to myself, nodding respectfully as Greg opened the door and held it wide for me to enter. He followed, leaving me standing in the foyer as he turned on lights to reveal wooden walls, cathedral ceilings, and timber flooring.

  It wasn’t called a log cabin for nothing—every single inch, including the kitchen counter, was made out of sacrificed trees.

  It was wood overload with a plaid couch, rustic dining room table, and a window seat that could fit ten children more inclined to read than explore the sinister forest waving its shadowy branches by the windows.

  The place was big with hallways leading off to bedrooms and a second lounge down a few steps with a giant log fireplace.

  Greg shrugged off his blazer, throwing it haphazardly on the back of the couch. He smiled. “Come here.”