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Home > Burned (Forbidden #4)

Burned (Forbidden #4)
Author: Melody Anne

Prologue

We’ll be best friends forever, right?”

A very young Tyler Knight, then age thirteen, turned to look at ten-year-old Elena Truman with a raised eyebrow and crooked grin that later in life would be one of his most recognizable expressions.

“I can’t be best friends with a girl,” he said with his impression of a scoff.

“You promised we were best friends,” she told him.

“Okay, we’re best friends, but that’s only between us. If my brothers knew I was best friends with a girl, they’d pummel me,” Tyler said as he kicked the hard clump of dirt in front of him. “They’d mock me mercilessly.”

“That’s not fair, Tyler.”

“Life’s not fair. Get used to it.”

“Why are you being so mean to me right now?” Tears filled Elena’s eyes.

“I’m older now. I’m a teenager, and my brothers said that girls are for one thing only.”

“Huh? What thing is that?”

“You know, the kissing and touching kind of thing,” he said nervously as he looked away from her.

“Why do girls and boys have to do that?” she replied. “It’s stupid.”

“It’s just what they do, Lanie. See, that’s why we can’t be friends. You’re too much of a baby.”

“I can kiss!” she insisted. “I’m not a baby.”

“Prove it,” he said, and he stepped closer.

Her heart was racing a million miles a minute as her best friend, the boy she’d been inseparable from for five years, was now only a couple of inches away from her.

“Just do it,” she said. Elena was so afraid of losing him.

He leaned forward and then he was pressing his closed lips against hers. Neither of them moved; they just stood there with their lips touching, their hands at their sides. They didn’t have a clue what was supposed to come next.

He finally took a step back and Elena opened her eyes. That wasn’t so bad after all. In fact she could do that again.

“See, we can still be friends,” she told him with a bright smile.

“That was stupid, Lanie. You don’t know how to kiss,” he said with a look she’d never seen on his face before.

The tears that had been threatening her earlier now spilled over. “You don’t either, Tyler,” she sniffled.

“Why don’t you grow up before you come around again?”

“Fine. I don’t want to be your friend anyway. You’re a big jerk,” she told him before turning and stumbling several steps away. “And you’re the one who needs to grow up.” She took off running, refusing to analyze whether she’d been shouting or wailing when she said those last few words.

“Good riddance,” Tyler called after her, making her heart break even more.

Boys were nothing but trouble.


Chapter One

Ten Years Later

Elena knew her boss wasn’t going to be happy with her, knew she was about to lose her job, but she had a point to prove. And the point was that she wasn’t just a piece of meat. She had a respectable quantity of gray matter in her head. A lot more than that, if you wanted to get technical.

Yes, she needed the money, but after working at the gentlemen’s club for the past six month, she was realizing that the tips simply weren’t worth the harassment. Yes, she’d make a lot less at any other waitressing job, but surely her pride was worth more than a few extra dollars that could be made by exposing her assets in a far too tight uniform.

Men didn’t normally look at her, and they certainly didn’t lust after her — not unless she was dressed the way the club wanted her to be dressed. She was taller than the average woman; she stood at five foot eight, and even at age twenty, she hadn’t yet grown into her body. Sadly, she appeared more gangly than womanly. The tomboy curse had pursued her long past puberty.

Looking into the mirror, she pushed back her long dark hair before gathering it up into a severe knot on top of her head. She actually liked her hair, one of the few things she did like about herself.

She knew she was much too thin, but that was genetics. There wasn’t anything she could do about it. And her hips were too narrow, her breasts too small. If it weren’t for padded bras, the gentlemen’s club most likely wouldn’t have hired her in the first place.

Her mother always told her that she was a flower, a beautiful flower that someday would bloom. Elena was still waiting for that to happen. The only time it seemed that men gave her attention was when she was dolled up at her job. And that wasn’t the kind of attention she wanted.

Why didn’t she just quit this job? Well, she was going to. But not before making a point. Coming onto the floor looking less than perfect would infuriate her boss. Good. He deserved it.

She was finally ready. Looking in the mirror at the outfit that was too large, the makeup that was practically nonexistent, and the hairstyle that was intentionally disastrous, she knew she’d be lucky to make it past the back room tonight without a confrontation.

After taking a deep breath, she stepped through the door, looking straight ahead, ignoring the shocked gasps from her co-workers. Hey, they were most likely pleased by her appearance. It certainly meant more tips for them.

But at least tonight her ass wouldn’t be grabbed, and the “gentlemen” — yeah, right — wouldn’t be soliciting her like she was their personal call girl. Some of the women who worked there would go home with the men. Maybe they’d even end up with jewelry, cars, housing, if they played it right. Elena wasn’t that girl.

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