Empire of Hate (Empire #3) by Rina Kent

“I think I should go find your mum.”

“N-no…please… I told you, sh-she’ll punish me.”

“Then you shouldn’t have done something you’d be punished for.”

“You do that all the time a-at school.” It’s why I noticed him in the first place. He often gets sent to the headmaster’s office for pulling pranks and generally having fun.

I liked that. The way he laughed and didn’t care what the grown-ups said about him.

I wished I could be like him.

I wished I wasn’t lucky and didn’t have to talk a certain way, walk a certain way, and breathe a certain way.

“That’s because I don’t like rules,” he says. “But I don’t go hurting myself.”

“I-it doesn’t hurt.”

“You look and sound like you’re in pain.”

“It’ll get better if…” I swallow, but my tongue feels too big for my mouth, like it’ll roll out onto the ground.

Daniel stares at me as if that’s exactly what’s happened, then he wipes the side of my mouth, where some peach-flavored drool escaped.

If my cheeks could get any hotter, they would. This is so messy and wrong, and Daniel shouldn’t witness me like this.

“If what?” he asks.

“I-if you get my toys.”

He releases a breath that sounds a bit exasperated, then keeps a hand on my head to stop me from moving as he rummages behind him in the drawer.

Soon after, he produces my doll and snow globe and puts them on my stomach. “Happy now?”

“Y-you can have it…”

“Thanks, but I don’t play with dolls.”

“N-no, you can have t-the snow globe.”

Maybe if I share my favorite toys with him, he’ll like me.

Maybe he’ll also see the beautiful girl trapped in the snow and think about how he can get her out without breaking her world apart.

“It’s nothing serious,” I blurt when he remains silent, examining the snow globe between his fingers. “It’s…it’s…because y-you’re letting me use your lap.”

He stares at the side. “Whatever.”

My heart falls and something stings in my eyes.


Even sharing one of the last things I have of Papa didn’t work.

He might have talked to me and held me, but I’m still invisible to Daniel.

“It’s still girly,” he says.

“It’s…it’s a beautiful bride.”

“You like that? Brides?”

“I-I do…” I lick my swollen lips and try not to think of the bitterness that’s stuck at the back of my throat or how it hurts to breathe. “When we grow up, will you marry me?”

His eyes widen, but he looks away.

My heart shrivels and breaks in my chest.

Once again, it was all for nothing.


My lids slowly close and a tear slides down my cheek.

Is it the pain of the peaches or the pain of being invisible?

Maybe it’s the pain of having an unhealthy obsession.

“Nicole, open your eyes!”

For what?

My head lolls to the side and bumps against his knee. He smells like peaches.

Or maybe I do.

“I’m going to call your mum.”

The scent of peaches disappears and so does he.

And I’m left on the ground with my half-eaten peach and the doll.







If life throws you a lemon, you should probably eat it or else you’ll remain hungry.

At least, that’s true in my case.

The fact that I got fired from my last job should say something. Apparently, I’m not supposed to call a customer a “creepy old man” if he “accidentally” touches my butt.

And okay, maybe pouring water all over his head was a bit of an extreme reaction, but I don’t have a filter when it comes to these types of things.

Not after everything that’s happened in the past.

So now, I’m hoping one of the companies that I interviewed with will call me back. Otherwise, Jayden and I are screwed.

I might not have finished university, but I did study at Cambridge for two years, and I have some experience.

But oh well. It’s brutal out here in New York, so my small amount of experience may mean nothing.

“Are you okay, Nikki?”

I lift my head from my task of chopping vegetables and stare at the adorable face of my little Jayden.

He looks so much like me, it’s a little freaky. But his blond hair is shinier, like my mum’s, and his eyes are a light brown, like a warm forest during a sunny day.

Despite being only nine years old, he’s the definition of a blessing. I don’t know what my life would be like if he weren’t around.

“I’m fine, baby.”

A delicate frown appears between his brows as he trudges toward me. “Stop calling me that. I’m not a baby anymore.”

“As if.” I ruffle his blond strands and he whines wordlessly. “Have you taken your medication?”

“Yeah, I did. I told you I’m not a kid.”