Crown of Lies

By: Pepper Winters

Dedication


This book is dedicated to all those eagle-eye readers who will most likely notice I’m an English-born writer who uses words with pesky S’s (tantalise), double L’s (travelled), and the occasional extra U (favourite). I’ve done my best (and enlisted help) to catch the English in this American book, but to any New Yorkers who spy a few...all I can say is, I tried. I now have a love-hate relationship with Z’s, learned a boot is a trunk and a lounge is a living room, and just how magical one language can be with two correct ways of writing.

Happy reading!





Prologue


IN EVERY GIRL’S life, there is betrayal.

Betrayal from loved ones, unknown ones, and from the ones we choose to make our own. However, where there’s deceit, there’s trust, too. And sometimes, those two things camouflage themselves to mimic the other.

That was what he did.

The man who first stole my body and then stole my heart was the ultimate magician with lies.

I think a part of me always knew what he kept hidden. I always suspected and maybe that was why I fell for him despite his deceit.

But then his fibs fell apart.

And it was up to me to decide if I wanted to give him trust

or

betrayal.





Chapter One


“YOU CAN’T BRING your daughter to work on a weekend, Joe.”

“Says who?”

Steve crossed his arms, doing his best to come across as strict but failing. “Says you.”

I hugged my frilly dress-covered chest, my head bouncing like a volley-ball between Dad and the man who helped run his company. My back tensed, waiting for their voices to climb and anger to emerge, but their elderly faces remained happy.

Ever since Mom died four years ago, I’d become susceptible to outbursts of emotion. I hated when Dad raised his voice or someone had a fight in public.

Dad looped his arm around my tiny shoulders, hugging my body to his. “When did I say I couldn’t bring my darling daughter to work on a Saturday, Steve?”

Steve winked at me, his dark blond hair trim with his mustache bushy. “When you wrote the rule book for your company, Joe. There was fine print.”

I knew they were joking—playing a game I couldn’t figure out. I’d been to the office every day of the week, including Saturdays and Sundays. But because they expected me to buy into their little drama, I did.

I allowed myself to act younger than I felt, even though I was still a child and shouldn’t grasp age and maturity just yet.

Mom’s death and my induction into the workforce from a tender age had given me two ideals to follow: adulthood and adolescence. A lot of the time, I was treated and responded like an adult, but today, I didn’t mind acting younger because I wanted to be younger for a change.

I wanted to be allowed to cry because today had become a massive disappointment and if I was a kid, I could let my hurt show. If I was an adult, I had to suck it up and pretend I was fine with it.

My sadness originated from something so stupid. I shouldn’t care—especially seeing as I knew better. But Dad had let me down on a silly birthday tradition, and I didn’t know how to tell him I was sad without coming across as a pouting kid who didn’t value everything she already had.

“Rule book?” I piped up, glancing at Dad. “You wrote a rule book like school has? Is it as stuffy and strict on silly things like sock length and uniform?” I wrinkled my nose at Steve’s crumpled shirt and creased trousers. “If you did, how come you’re not dressed the same?”

Dad wore pressed slacks, gray vest, and a blazer with navy piping on the sleeves. Every cuff and pleat were military in perfection.

He looked nothing like the other suited men in his high-rise building, especially Steve in his shirt-wrinkled glory.

But that wasn’t new.

Dad had been immaculate every day of his life since I could remember. Even in the photos of him holding me as a new-born at the hospital, he’d been in a three-piece suit with a chrysanthemum (Mom’s favorite flower) in the lapel.

Steve chuckled. “Your school has a uniform, Elle?”

He knew this. He’d seen me here after school in my despised splendor.

I nodded. “I hate it. It’s scratchy and gross.”

“But you look so adorable in it, Bell Button.” Dad hugged me closer. Secretly, I loved his cuddles (especially because we only had each other now) but outwardly, I had a twelve-year-old reputation to maintain.