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Devil's Playground: Wrath & Vengeance Series Book 2

Devil's Playground: Wrath & Vengeance Series Book 2

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In this playground, only the fortunate are granted a quick death…

Two years have passed since Aleksandr Sokolovsky’s narrow escape from the horrors of his former home. Hiding in Las Vegas with his two younger siblings, he’s been able to avoid the monsters hunting them and live a resemblance of an ordinary life.

But it doesn’t take long for Aleksandr’s dark past to catch up to him, and he quickly learns that wrath is never truly satisfied. The Furies have tracked them down, and they’re hungrier than ever before. As if that weren’t enough, he also has to outrun his psychopathic siblings who blame him for their parents’ deaths.

Desperate for help, Aleksandr contacts the one person he knows who can help, Evelyn Figueroa. Attempting to live her life while being harassed by reporters and the FBI, Evelyn is ready for a fight. The two must work together to overcome the evil determined to end the Sokolovsky bloodline forever.

But Evelyn could never have anticipated the terror of the Furies, or the viciousness of Aleksandr’s murderous siblings. With every repressed fear brought up to the surface, she soon realizes that even she can’t escape the insatiable wrath of these monsters.

Death lurks around every corner, and Aleksandr and Evelyn must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to survive, before it’s too late...

153 pages

Chapter 1

Aleksandr smiled while tightening his grip on the knife. The edge of the table kept the cooing elderly ladies blissfully unaware of the danger they were in. So they remained standing where they were, blocking Aleksandr's exit and praising the twins who sat opposite him. In Las Vegas, buffets were big business, and it wasn't any different at the Flamingo Casino and Hotel. Hundreds of people bustled around them, running the spectrum of humanity. Happy families, retired locals, gambling addicts and the obviously hung over who had barely managed to peel themselves out of bed. It would be insane or reckless for the couple to try anything in such a public place. Aleksandr marveled at how many people found that idea comforting instead of terrifying. As if insane, reckless people didn't exist.

"My, how clever you are," one of the women said before leaning closer.

Aleksandr calculated how long it would take him and his siblings to jump over the woman's corpse and get to an exit. If they cut across the courtyard, they'd be on the crowded Strip before security organized themselves. Surveillance cameras would be a problem.

"How old are you two sweethearts?" one of the women asked.

"Six," Nadya declared the lie cheerfully, believably, bouncing slightly in her seat.

As the couple prattled on about how intelligent the twins were for their age, Aleksandr arched an eyebrow at his sister. She shrugged, unapologetic. A lifetime with serial killers had taken its toll on the Sokolovsky siblings. Malnutrition and squalor had left all three of them smaller than average. Hard labor in the burning desert sun and countless, bloody fights had aged Aleksandr. The twins, however, still had an angelic, innocent appearance. Thin, frail, with large doe-like eyes, and childishly soft voices, they could pass for nearly half their age, which was something they exploited ruthlessly. For fun and to pander to their egos. Aleksandr generally didn't mind. Kids' rates made family days out a lot cheaper.

Aleksandr struggled to keep his polite smile in place as the woman switched to gushing about how sweet the twins were. Watching them perform for the women, Aleksandr had to admit that his siblings were, by nature, very kindhearted. But nature only goes so far when nurture gets involved. Petya and Olga Sokolovsky had intended for all the children to follow in their footsteps. He wondered if the women would still think them 'sweet' if they were aware that the twins knew precisely how to skin someone alive.

The woman closest to him fixed him with a warm smile. "You must be so proud of your little sisters."

Ivan almost cackled with glee. The twins were masters of perceptive manipulation. Ivan and Nadya could be either boys or girls, pass as each other, or mentally meld into a singular person. It was impossible to catch them in a lie or trick them into revealing themselves. The only way anyone would ever know the truth is if they decided to let them in on the secret.

"My kids," Aleksandr corrected.

He swiped the index finger of his free hand across the tabletop. The tiny movement went unnoticed by the perplexed woman but carried an explicit message to the children before him. You've had your fun. I want them gone.

"I'm sorry, dear," one of the women said as she placed a hand on his tensed shoulder. "What do you mean?"

"They're mine. Not my siblings."

Ivan looked up at the woman standing next to him as she released a nervous laugh, excited to see how she responded. Nadya was losing interest, and Aleksandr was growing impatient.

"You're trying to trick us," the woman beside Aleksandr said at last. She squeezed his shoulder as if it would somehow prove her point. "You're far too young."

"I'm twenty-two," he said coolly. There was no reason to lie about his own age. People always paid more attention to children. "They're mine."

The energy around the table shifted the instant the women did the math. Looking a little flustered, they managed to hold their smiles through their farewells, but barely got three steps away before they started whispering amongst themselves.

"We work so hard to manipulate people," Ivan sulked. "And all you have to do is mention teen pregnancy. It's not fair."

"Yeah, but he can only trick people into going away," Nadya noted.

Without their distraction, the twins went back to their separate activities. Nadya was fascinated by the live flamingos that filled the little oasis beyond the glass wall while Ivan had his Real World News magazine. The publication insisted on calling itself a newspaper. In truth, they were a trash tabloid full of stories about Bigfoot, conspiracy theories, aliens, and monsters recently found in local swimming pools. Ever since their encounter in the desert, Ivan's interest in the paranormal had become an obsession.

Enraptured with his reading, Ivan blindly reached out towards his plate. Aleksandr watched silently as his brother placed some strips of bacon on a syrup-drenched pancake, rolled it all up, and proceeded to eat the cylinder one-handed. Nadya was quick to follow suit, preferring to stare at the birds rather than use cutlery. Seeing his siblings mindlessly devouring their second helpings always made Aleksandr smile. Two years ago, they had struggled to finish a snack unless they were high. It was hard for any of them to stomach a meal while their parents would randomly go through cannibalistic phases. Aleksandr had never experienced a greater triumph than seeing his siblings at last put on a bit of fat.

Munching on a strawberry, he let the kids do as they pleased and subtly checked the crowd. The hot desert sun pulsed against the tainted glass, pushing back against the arctic chill of the industrial air-conditioning. Outside, tourists milled about, heading for the hotel pools or observing the flock of flamingos. The rush of the small waterfalls was barely audible over the crush of people inside. There were a few recognizable faces, mostly the serving staff and slot jockeys. No one was paying them any undue attention, although there were a few people sneaking glances at their table, offering weak smiles of acknowledgement when Aleksandr caught their eyes.

Only after they had gone on the run did he notice how fascinated people were with twins. Sometimes it was nothing more than a curious double-take, like they were merely checking they weren't seeing things. Others, like their most recent visitors, felt compelled to point out how cute the twins were, either to Aleksandr himself or their own companions. For some reason that Aleksandr couldn't fathom, the general public was more amused by female twins, or perhaps just considered it socially acceptable to point them out. Whatever the case, the days they decided to be girls always drew more attention. Still perusing the continually shifting crowd, he heard Ivan choke and rapidly tap the tabletop.

"You speak two languages," Nadya said, remembering to cover up her Russian accent halfway through the sentence. "Pick one."

Ivan gulped and croaked. "They're taking a psychic to the ghost town."

A pulse of anxiety coursed through Aleksandr's veins like melted iron, but he kept it from showing on his face. Just the mention of that hellhole was enough to cast him back into a maze of nightmarish memories. A cluster of abandoned buildings, separated from the rest of the world by miles of scorched desert had been the perfect place for Olga and Petya Sokolovsky to play out their darkest desires. Nothing was too depraved. Nothing was off limits. Each time he blinked, he could still see the small concrete room hidden under the sand. The crippling humidity. The stench of blood assaulted his nose. He could feel bones cracking against his knuckles.

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