Empire of Sin (Empire #2) by Rina Kent



Tonight, I’m going to fuck someone.

I don’t care who.

I don’t care where.

I just need to cross it off my bucket list before I disappear.

Good girls like me don’t think about fucking or doing it with a complete stranger. We’re taught to always keep our legs closed, our hearts sealed, and our brains dormant.

Oh, and we don’t get to curse.

We don’t get to live either.

We’re just valuable stock to be used when the opportunity arises.

Good girls like me definitely don’t dress in provocative red dresses that show more cleavage than it hides. We’re not even allowed to buy such things.

But I did. Secretly. When no one was looking.

I’m wearing it now, the red dress that falls amply to mid-thigh and bares half of my back. I improvised and used a dainty chain to attach the straps together at the back and hooking my lucky butterfly motif to it—the only thing my mom left me before she also disappeared to a different place than the one I’ll be going to.

With each move, I feel the soothing coldness of the pendent against my bare back. Normal people hate the cold, but I find solace in it. It probably has to do with my Russian genes. Although I was born in the States and have lived here my entire life, my origins will never change.

I wasn’t even allowed to adopt the normal American lifestyle. Education? Homeschooled. Fun? Security hazard. Friends? What are those? Clubs and bars? Yeah, they’re not an option.

So the fact that I’m in a bar is a miracle that should be engraved in history. It’s called Black Moon and is situated at the end of a backstreet in New Jersey.

It took me so much effort to leave home and come here, which is why my trip has got to bring results.

Truth is, I’m absolutely not an expert on these things, but I did my research and also hacked into their system to get an idea of their security measures and the people who come here.

Judging by the trouble I found with their firewalls, I’d say they’re good enough.

The place has a classy, comfortable atmosphere that I’m drawn to the moment I walk in. The decor is black and dark brown and the lights are dim, giving the patrons privacy and a sense of anonymity.

Perfect for me.

Still, I feel eyes on me. Lots of them. They’re digging into my skull and trying to pull out my true identity—the one that should, under no circumstances, be revealed.

My hand turns clammy and I bring it up, resting it on my chest to calm both its shaking and my heartbeat.

It’s all in your head, Ana. It’s not real.

With a deep breath, I make my way through the tables and try not to lose the confidence I’ve been building for days and planned for weeks.

I’m a planner that way. Nothing ever happens without a plan. Not even the small details as to which bar I’ll go to.

Since Black Moon is a high-end bar, I came a bit early so that I can get in quickly.

I climb onto one of the chairs and sit at the bar, in direct view of the bartender, whose name tag reads Simon. Curly hair falls over his forehead and he’s wearing a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to expose his forearms. When he flashes me a charming grin, I think I have my pick for the night.

A small wave of relief floods me. I don’t have to gather more courage and look for someone else.

“What can I get you, miss?”

“Vodka martini. Make it a double, please.” I try to sound flirty, but I have no clue if it works. I really suck at this.

But it’s not like I’ve had plenty of opportunities before. This is my first time in a bar. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve been outside of the house alone.

This night is a first for everything.

“Right away.” He gets busy and speaks to me over his shoulder, “You like your vodka, I assume?”

“A little.”

Okay, that was a white lie. I never thought I would fit the stereotype of how every Russian loves vodka, but when we celebrated my eighteenth birthday two years ago, I was told I needed to drink it and ever since then, I refuse to consume any other type of alcohol.

A smirk lifts Simon’s lips as if he’s amused by how much I like vodka. “Are you new around here?”

Shit. Shit. He figured me out, didn’t he? Everyone does. It doesn’t matter if I chose a place out of state or that I faked a driver’s license and my age.

One look at me and people know who I am and where I came from. No amount of makeup and red dresses will change what I am.

Who I am.

Maybe I should abort this before it gets too complicated. Maybe I can drive back earlier than planned, and—

I shake my head internally. I worked so hard for this freedom. I’m not going to give it all up now.

So I wear the best smile I can offer as I stare at the bartender for a brief second before I cut off eye contact. “Why are you asking?”

“I just haven’t seen you around, is all.”

My muscles relax when a shaky breath whooshes out of me.

See? It’s nothing. I’m safe here. I made sure no one from my circle comes to this place, after all.

He places the martini in front of me. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

“Thanks, Simon.”

He grins and I know he’s about to strike up a conversation. I can see it in the ease in his eyes and the way his body is leaning toward me.