Twelve of Roses - Natalie Bennett


“Happy birthday, baby.”

My aunt smiled at me from the end of the table, poised with her smartphone ready to snap a picture.

She looked as gorgeous as she always did, but I knew that twenty minutes into dinner she had lied about needing to use the restroom so she could bump a white line of powder. Her pupils were so dilated, her green hues looked like they were about to pop out of their sockets.

My uncle shoved my half-eaten dish of meatloaf out of the way to make room for the cake decorated with little red roses made of icing. “Hurry up and make a wish.”

He grinned, staring at me in a way no man should ever look at their niece.

His sick smile was a promise of what was to come. My aunt pretended not to see it. That wasn’t anything new. She always chose to ignore his lust-filled looks, just like she did the sounds that came from my bedroom in the middle of the night.

But as disgusting and unfortunate as my situation was, these sad individuals were my family: my uncle, the renowned prosecutor of Brookdale County, and his perfect wife who sat on the HOA board.

On the outside we were picture perfect, all the way down to the golden retriever lounging in the corner. Within the walls of our home was where everything fell apart.

I forced a smile and leaned down to blow my candles out, catching movement in the hall just outside the dining room. I paused, doing a double take. When I realized my mind wasn’t playing tricks on me, I opened my mouth to shout a warning to my aunt.

The man with the gun was quicker than I was.

Digz, having spotted the intruder, jumped up with a snarl. His ill-timed bravery cost him his life. The gun swung his way and discharged. The pained yelp that escaped his mouth would haunt me forever. His furry body hit the wall. Blood sprayed onto the curio cabinet.

My aunt started to screech, covering her face with both hands. She was shot next.a slug blowing a hole cleanly through a portion of her head and hand, scattering little pieces of bone marrow on our solid oak table. My uncle tried to run, earning himself a shot to his chest. He careened into the curio cabinet, where he then fell onto Digz’s lifeless form.

It was all a little too much for me to handle—the grotesque amount of crimson coating the beige walls, the bits of sinew mixing with the meatloaf.

I fell from my chair and scrambled backward, a scream building in my throat. Mindlessly, I backed myself into a corner.

The man turned his attention to where I sat huddled in a ball, hitching the barrel of his gun over his shoulder. Terror coursed through my veins. I wanted to run, but there was a disconnect between my brain and my limbs.

Eyes as dark as night bored into mine, completely void of all emotion except for something akin to hatred.

“Happy birthday, little Rose,” he sneered before disappearing from the doorway and exiting the house through the front door.

Chapter One


Nighttime always weighed me down. There was something about the stillness that made me think about my past.

All the torment we caused so many innocent people…it was catching up to me. The regret was suffocating. I could barely sleep without seeing their faces or his anymore. My parents would be so damn ashamed of me.

I rubbed my temples to help alleviate a headache. My nails were a chewed mess, the vodka bottle was emptied hours ago, and I was down to my last cigarette. I needed a mood stabilizer, something to take the edge off. I needed to get out of the house. I needed a distraction.

Yeah. That was it.

Fresh air and a change of scenery could do wonders. I threw on a short black dress and fuck-me heels, let my ruby red locks hang down to my ass, and left.

Instead of going to one of the finer establishments, I headed straight for the dive bar that sat at the edge of town.

I was a woman on a mission.

That mission was to find a solid body and a large cock to sit on—or a face, but you get my gist. Since I was the new girl around here, I thought it might be best not to seduce one of the well-known locals my first night out.

Molly and I had made a vow that Black Pine would be our last move. We had to establish