Twisted Together

Monsters in the Dark - 3

Pepper Winters 

For all the believers in Happily Ever After


The blackness tried to swallow us whole, kill us, ruin us, capture our soul

I’m not marrying you for the pleasure of calling you my wife, esclave. I’m not marrying you because it’s the evolution of a relationship. I’m marrying you so I have claim on you forever. Your soul will be mine for eternity. In sickness and in health, in life and in death, you will belong to me. And I will belong to you.”

Q brought me closer, whispering his passion into my mouth. “Don’t think this is a contract between two people in love. Don’t think this legal document is something flimsy and insignificant. By marrying me, you’re taking all of me. Everything that I am. All that I will be. You’re accepting my lightness, my darkness, my fucking eternal spirit. By signing your name to mine you are no longer Tess Snow.”

“What am I?” I murmured, accepting his feather-soft kiss.

“You’re Tess Mercer. Now and for always. Forever and ever. It’s done.”

Chapter One

But our demons didn’t play well with others, the beast broke free to make them suffer

Do it, puta. Kill her.”

“No! Stop this. I’m done. No more—”                                

“Yes, more. Every night, you’re ours. Every time your pretty fucking eyes close, we’re waiting. Every time you succumb to sleep, we’re waiting to drag you into insanity.”

It’s not real. It’s not real.

No matter how many times I screamed the truth, the dream would never free me. Leather Jacket somehow tricked my mind into leaving the sanctity of Q’s presence, yanking me into the depths of despair.

“Please don’t hurt me,” Blonde Angel moaned.

I didn’t want to. I never wanted to hurt another living thing again.

“Don’t think about disobeying, puta. You know what happens.” Leather Jacket flickered into two monstrosities: one moment the man I knew—the man who’d tortured, hit, and taunted me—then another moment, the drooling carnivorous Jackal who’d raped Blonde Angel only minutes before Q found me.

The smog, the fog, crept over my mind, swarming around me with sickly warmth. “No! Not that.” I never wanted to be held hostage by chemicals again. Drugs made me forget. Drugs made me become them.

“Do it, precious. Otherwise I’ll do something worse,” Leather Jacket cooed.

My heart sank into the depths of my soul. Every night they visited. Every night they shattered my healing, throwing me back to a past I couldn’t forget. Every night they reminded me that pain was atrocious. Pain was the devil. Pain was horrendous and terrible and cruel.


My nemesis.

My burden.

I shook my head, standing over Blonde Angel. Our eyes met—just like hundreds of times before—and I wordlessly shouted my grief, my sadness, my lifetime of apologies.

But it made no difference.

Just like the drugs made me incapacitated in Rio, the dream had power over me in the present.  I wouldn’t be free until I gave into the inevitable. I wouldn’t wake until I killed her.

 A heavy crowbar rested in my sweat-slippery hands. I tried to scuttle backward but some ominous force pressed against my shoulders. The phantom pressure raised my arms against my will—stealing all motor control, leaving me screaming until my throat rivered with blood and rawness.

Mildew and reeking rubbish clouded my nostrils even though I knew it wasn’t real. The only scent I should inhale was the comforting notes of citrus and sandalwood of my master sleeping beside me.

The master who swore to protect me from everything. The master who failed every night. How could a man fight nightmares? How could he slay men he’d already killed from taunting my mind in slumber?

Simple. He couldn’t.

Every night was the same. Q fought to save me from demons he couldn’t fight, and I fought to stop dreaming. 

Once the nightmare claimed me, I couldn’t get free until the horrible conclusion. It happened differently every time. Sometimes by bullet. Sometimes by axe or blade. But no matter how I did it, committing murder was the only way to hurtle me back to consciousness.

If I concentrated hard enough I could feel him. If I squeezed my eyes and searched for the tether to my mortal body, I knew I wasn’t lying quietly and serene. My body was sweat-dewed and thrashing in tangled sheets; my cheek smarting from a stinging slap as Q tried to rouse me.

More pain.

Pain on top of pain.

It all had to stop, before I went mad.

“Little girl, I won’t ask again,” Leather Jacket sneered.

The crowbar was no longer heavy in my hands; the unseen malicious entity arched my back, swinging the weapon, high and deadly.

No. No, no, no. Not again.

Close your eyes. Don’t look. Don’t fill your mind with yet more killing.

Blonde Angel crawled backward, cradling her already broken wrist and knee. Her mouth twisted into pleas. “Don’t. Please don’t. Haven’t you done enough? You killed her! You killed the other girl. Do you have no mercy?” Her eyes were wild, green and clear as cut glass. Her blonde hair no longer shone like gold but hung in bloody clumps.

“I’m sorry!”

My heart-filled apology only made her snarl. “No, you’re not. You’re one of them. You’re lying to yourself, to him, to me. You loved killing the other blonde so much, you thirst to murder. You’re a monster. A fucking demon spawn.”

My lungs suffocated with her hatred, drowning in sorrow. The crowbar swung above my head, controlled by the puppeteer of this horrible dream.

“That’s it, pretty girl. Do it. What’s another life? You obeyed so brilliantly before. Every night you fucking murder. Every night you come back to us.”

The man who’d owned me. Who’d drugged me, sold me, and ultimately broken me, appeared from dream-mist. White Man looked suave and immaculate in a white shiny suit. His feral touch landed on my chin, cupping my jaw, holding me prisoner. “You’ll never be free of us. We took your mind back in Brazil. Your bastard of an owner might’ve slaughtered my men and whisked you away to safety, but you know the truth.” His mouth descended on mine, his monstrous tongue diving past my lips, making me retch.

Breathing hard he pulled away. Manic anger glowed in his blue gaze. “Tell me the truth.”

The truth?

What truth? I didn’t know what to believe anymore. Was my mind so twisted the truth was only visible in my sleep? Was I deceitful every moment I was awake—pretending to deplore pain and horror when really I craved it? Craved to inflict it. Craved to kill.

Questions and uncertainty sprouted like vile weeds, growing thick and fast, suffocating all reason and clarity.

Am I truly what they say? I’m no longer a protégé. I’m truly the devil.

I squeezed my eyes, blocking the dream, grasping with panicked fingers to latch onto the weak tethering of awareness.

Wake up, Tess.


“Tell. Me.” White Man’s breath fanned my eyelashes, smelling of candy floss. Why did the demon of my nightmares smell of innocence and sugar?

Shaking my head, I whimpered, “There’s nothing to tell.” My arms stayed raised above my head, holding the crowbar in an unnatural pose. I had no control. None.

“Oh, but there is.” His white slacks whispered as he stepped to the side, dragging me forward.

Blonde Angel shook so much, my ears rang with the jangling of her bones. “Night after night you return to me. Night after night you kill for me. You’re not free, pretty girl. And that’s the fucking truth.”

Leather Jacket moved to my other side, grinning like a psychopath. “Truth’s a bitch and then she dies. You know how this ends, puta. Do it, then we’ll let you wake up.”

A gale whirled from nowhere, kicking up dust and mould from around the dungeon, howling in my ears: Do it. Do it. Do it.

“No! Not again. I can’t do it again.”

I’m crazy. I’ve lost it completely.

Blonde Angel stopped shaking and raised her head. Our eyes locked, understanding flowed. Mutual need to have this over with made her nod in heart-wrenching acceptance. In one fluid moment, she bowed forward. She didn’t say a word—she didn’t need to.

We could beg and cry and scream.

But ultimately, we had no power.

The truth burned my eyes, puncturing my heart.

I was a killer.

I am a killer.

I’m a monster.

The force holding my arms up suddenly released, and the weight of the bar came smashing down. Blonde Angel jerked and jolted. I blinked as the crunch of bone shattered beneath the weapon. Her arms splayed to the side as her body tipped over, succumbing to death.

I willed myself to wake up. Freedom normally came once I’d killed, but this black-laced dream was different.

Manic laughter filled the reeking dungeon. I dropped the crowbar and the clanging metal echoed in my ears. Something heavy morphed into my hands. Sinister and cold and deadly.

A gun.

The gun. The gun I’d used to take a life—a real life. The gun I’d tried to find freedom with. We had history, that gun and I. An intimate past with a murderous object forever linking me to this—this…never ending cycle of dreams.

“You tried to kill yourself last time, puta. Care to try again?”

I refused to look at Leather Jacket. His voice scurried like a thousand spiders over my skin. I craved the bland cushioning of the drugs. I wanted oblivion. Peace.

“Pull the trigger. Go on. You know you want to be free. This is your only way,” Leather Jacket said, prowling around me.

My malnourished, bleeding hands shook as I looked at the dead woman with her vacant eyes. Her skull looked odd—cracked and concaved from the killing blow.

I did that.


God, what has become of me?

 Q sacrificed so much to bring me back—it was sacrilege not to keep fighting—to be worthy of his gift. But I had no reserves—no more strength to live these nightmares and stop them from trickling into reality. My nerves were raw. My mind broken. My spirit ruined.

No more.

One bullet, lightning pain, then it could be all over.

Leather Jacket yelled, spitting in my face. “Do it. You belong to us. You do what we command!”

I didn’t have the strength to fight back. I no longer wanted to exist in this world. Raising the gun, I opened my lips and guided the metallic chamber into my mouth. It tasted just like I remembered. The taste of finality. Closure. Squeezing my eyes, I tensed.

“That’s a good girl. Send yourself to hell. We’re waiting for you there.”

I pulled the trigger.

The sulphur of gunpowder itched my nose.

The loud detonation of a bullet rang in my ears.

Disbelieving tears streaked from my eyes.

Desperation and utter grief crushed my heart.

The dream howled and gusted and I split into identical images of myself.

One Tess jerked in death-throws as the back of her head exploded in a horrible mess of tissue and red rain. Another Tess, an omniscient dreamer, silently screamed—unable to do anything but watch.

“No!” This couldn’t be possible. I just killed myself.

I ended my own life.

I’m weak.

I’m a coward.

I’m worthless.

I screamed.

“Tess! Fuck, it’s okay.” Q caught me, just like he always did, as I shot upright and clung to his hard shoulders. I couldn’t suck in a breath; I scrambled nearer, trying to get closer, trying to morph into him to steal his endless reservoir of strength. Give it to me. Give me your sanity and warmth. I couldn’t let him see how rattled and ruined I’d become.