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Eden O'Neill

Illusions That May

Illusions That May

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 768 5-Star Reviews

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Some stars fall. Others... disappear.

My sister is gone and no one seems to really give a sh*t about that but me. Everyone’s made things about them, her memory only that and I’m left to sort through all my own pieces. I’m alone in all this and the dangerous boy with the green eyes ultimately leaves me too. I didn’t know him like I thought I did. If I had...

I would have run sooner.

Warning: This enemies-to-lovers, high school romance contains some dark themes and light bullying. The book is not a standalone and is book two in a four-part series of full-length novels. Royal Prinze is the only hero of this tale... good luck getting him to share.

*Hardcover and Paperback books purchased after 1/26/24 will include author's stamped signature

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Chapter One


I spent homecoming in a sheriff’s office when most people spent theirs screwing in hotels or getting fucked up at after-parties. I spent my homecoming alone, or at least, it felt that way. Words flittered around me that night, words about both possibility and tragedy. They circulated around me like a cyclone of leaves and debris, but they weren’t for me despite being about me and my family. I wasn’t supposed to know what was really going on, sitting behind glass and sipping tea with more than an unsettled stomach. I emptied my stomach just earlier that night, my sister’s pretty dress dirty from when I fell in the dirt and got vomit on it.
Rosanna had brought me a change of clothes to the sheriff’s office, as well as the tea. She’d been hell-bent on bringing me home, but I wasn’t going anywhere.
None of us would before we could find out more about my sister.
Dad was there too, of course, either on his cell phone or yelling at cops. He wanted to know what the fuck was going on and why some news story downstate was reporting my sister’s death when he’d just been called down to the sheriff’s office about it. He wanted answers, and when he wasn’t getting them quick enough, he called people. He called his people while I sat behind glass with Rosanna. She had her arm around me, cradling me with warmth, but that didn’t matter. I was alone here.
I didn’t even have Royal.
At homecoming, he, Jax, Knight, and LJ took me to the sheriff’s office in urgency. Dad had actually sent Hubert to get me, bring me to the sheriff’s office of Maywood Heights alone, and to be with family, but the boys weren’t having that. Royal wasn’t having that, and I wasn’t either. He and the others wanted answers just as much as I did and they were family. They were my sister’s family, blood or not. Royal held my hand the whole time, telling me it’d be okay. Telling me this wasn’t real and it couldn’t be. He’d heard from my sister. He’d heard from her and this was all just some fucked-up mistake and a viral news story. He couldn’t be certain, though. None of us could, and the moment we arrived at the sheriff’s office, Royal fired words at them. Seriously, he’d lost it, all the boys having to hold him back while he demanded the truth about my sister. Eventually, they separated him from me and my dad, the other boys going with him when the sheriff managed to calm the situation only by inviting Royal and the boys to come speak with him privately in his office. They could ask their questions, but they wouldn’t be doing so in their current manner at the busy precinct.
“I’m going to figure this out,” Royal’d said to me, his expression wrought with so many emotions. Tie undone and blond hair strewn, he had a horror behind his lustrous green eyes. He had a terror I hadn’t wanted to see. It was different on him, foreign, and twisted my stomach even more than it already was.
Royal left after that, left with the sheriff and the rest of the boys, and I hadn’t gotten to see him after that. He disappeared into the valley of cops and talk, and I myself was forced behind glass, the precinct’s sitting room my place for the night. I was sheltered from everything while others talked around me. While Royal was gone, my dad was doing his own yelling, the man beet red with threats on his lips. In the past, he’d acted so cold about all things Paige, even me for a time, but all that obviously wasn’t true. My dad cared. He didn’t want his kid dead any more than anyone else would, and I saw that behind thick glass.
I saw that when the news hit.
What news my dad got exactly I didn’t know, but he got something. He’d heard something before me and whatever it was made me stand up and go over to that glass. The cop he’d been speaking to had a walkie-talkie in his hands, the officer’s face grave, and my dad’s had bled of all color. He physically paled after the officer told him something.
I later found out it’d been the truth.
I lay in my bed hours later that night, alone again and tossing after a round of fresh tears. I drenched my pillowcase with them, Hershey in my arms and whining beside me. She didn’t like when I was upset, my little Labrador puppy worried about me and she should be. She should worry. I was worried too as I was completely unable to determine how I would be able to get out of this bed after this very moment. My sister was gone, and my dad was too. He’d left, going downstate.
He had to identify my sister’s body.
His words were still in my head, no longer behind thick glass when he finally came to speak to me. He’d erased his emotion then, maybe feeling like he had to? For me? I didn’t know, but it was gone and that cold exterior returned. My hard-ass father was before me, telling me things and truths I didn’t want to hear. He told me they had evidence. He told me they had facts about a girl who’d lost her life beneath a train. She’d been dragged, only recently discovered by a maintenance crew worker, and her story leaked the moment she’d been identified. The girl had a history with the law, underage drinking… minor stuff, but because of the things she’d gotten into, they had her fingerprints. They knew who she was. The only thing they had to do now was have family ID and claim the body, and I stopped listening after that, things about plane tickets and details regarding my dad’s trip lost on me. I didn’t want to hear this story about some girl who couldn’t possibly be my sister. They made a mistake. Royal told me he’d heard from her.
He told me she was okay.
I refused to absorb any of it, currently on the cusp of a breakdown in my bed. For the umpteenth time, I attempted to text Royal for an update on whatever he was finding out, the truth. He’d have all the answers, and I knew he would. He cared about my sister. He cared about me, and I knew that’s what he was trying to find out.
“I’m going to figure this out…”
A knock on my window made me drop my phone, and when I turned, a figure lingered outside on the second level. Broad and solid, a suited Royal Prinze hovered a hand to me, and I instantly rose from my bed. He didn’t have to pull out his pocketknife this time to let himself into my life. He didn’t have to do any of those things anymore.
Disheveled, Royal was down to his dress shirt and pants, his tux coat in his hand as he worked his way through my bedroom window. The pretty paper orchid on his tux was crushed, hanging from the jacket lapel and seemingly wilted. I’d done that, my body when he picked me up from the Windsor Preparatory Academy campus lawn. I hurled my guts out on that lawn, lost in a daze of emotions. He let me finish, but after, took me away. He told me Hubert was here to get me, but he and the guys were taking me away themselves. We were all going to the sheriff’s office, and my dad would meet us there.
So much of that was a blur, my life a movie on fast-forward, and nothing slowed down until this very moment. Royal was here. He was here with the truth and finally things would slow. He pulled me into his arms the moment he got feet to the floor, that mighty embrace so secure and filled with so much heat. Finally, things would be right. Finally, he’d give me something other than the bullshit I’d gotten.
“Dad’s going downstate,” I told him, not realizing I was crying until his dress shirt came away wet. I shook my head. “He had to go ID the body. But this is crazy. It’s not Paige. You heard from her. You said she was okay. Did you show the cops? Show them your text messages from her? This is all a big mistake.”
She told him that after an altercation with a girl she’d been seeing, she was going away. If my sister had been leaving like he said, all this other stuff wasn’t true. Who they found couldn’t have been her. The news had mentioned a girl being dragged, dragged south by a train, and there’d been whispers at the precinct that the train came from this area but that couldn’t possibly be true. It couldn’t be Paige. She was leaving town.
A finger rough and thick wiped away my tears, the blond silent as he watched me talk. I ignored the red in his eyes, the visible presence of anything but hope, because this was all a big mistake.
I talked again.
“You told them, right?” I asked him, begged him. “Told them the truth? It’s not true what they’re saying about Paige.” This all was crazy and my dad would see that the moment he went south and saw whatever girl they had wasn’t my sister. After that, he’d probably sue the fuck out of some people. The media obviously got on my sister’s social media accounts, found her pictures. The ones the news had been showing all night came right from my sister’s profiles. My jaw moved. “They’re all going to pay for this. My sister isn’t dead, and they’re playing with my family.”
Royal’s hand came to cup my jaw, his expression morphing. It appeared more and more tragic the longer he wasn’t saying anything.
His gaze veered, eyes blinking. He dampened his lips. “It’s her, Em,” he said, the shortening of my name gutting me. His throat jumped. “Who they found was Paige.”
“Stop it.”
He held me steady when I tried to back up, held me firm. He gripped me. “I showed them the text messages, December. Showed them everything. Talked to the sheriff until I was blue in the face. They told me she sent them before. They told me…”
I shook, Royal bringing me close.
“They found alcohol in her system. Lots of it. There was evidence in a neighboring town. They think she wandered there via the tracks. They’re saying it was an accident—”
“No. No. No!” I smacked at his chest, Royal wrestling with my hands. “You told me you heard from her. You told me she was fine!”
“She was, December. I swear to God. She was fine, and she had not one lick of alcohol that night. I know because…”
“Because what?”
He gripped me, his throat bobbing. “I was there. I was there, and I told you that. We were out on Route 80, but she didn’t drink.”
“Why were you guys out there? Why?”
He had to physically grab my hands now, his jaw working.
“That girl left her fucked up,” he said, his swallow hard. “That girl she was seeing? Paige was angry, upset. She wanted to deal with it, but I was called away. My dad needed me that night for some stupid Court thing. I shouldn’t have left. I should have stayed.”
He said that, again and again. My face scrunched up. “How did she want to deal with it?”
He said nothing, his thumb moving along my jaw. “She wanted Court intervention, but I swear, December. She was fine. At least I thought she was. The drinking must have happened after I left somehow. I never gave her any alcohol. Didn’t think she had anything, but she must have. The cops think she sent me the texts after she did attempt to leave, wandering the tracks to the next town, but she was drunk, December. Just so drunk.” He paused, a gasp in his throat. “The time stamp on the texts were literally an hour before the train came through that town.”
I dizzied then, dizzied until I fell into his arms. I hit at his biceps. I thrashed against them. I recalled my dad telling me something similar, that there was an accident and they found evidence my sister had been hit in a neighboring town, but how could I believe it? It contradicted everything.
Until it didn’t.
It all came crashing down in a wave of reality, a wave I wasn’t ready for and I wasn’t the only one.
Mighty arms secured around me like a lifeline, like I was the lifeline and needed as equally as I needed the embrace. Royal buried his face into my neck, holding on to me for dear life.
“I’m so sorry, Em,” he rasped, the words gasping over and over. He gripped my hair. “I’m so sorry.”
He did nothing, not his fault. Paige’d wanted his help and he probably would have done anything to give that to her. He would have ruined the very existence of whoever this girl was who screwed over my sister. He just hadn’t gotten the chance.
There were many times some of the things Royal did truly intimidated me and sometimes even scared me. He was intense and borderline lethal.
But he was also this.
He was caring, had a heart, and he showed me that with his vulnerability and comfort. He held me, consoling me when he himself no doubt was cut to ruins. I kissed him, his mouth pausing.
But then that stopped too, his hands coming down my shoulders until he had hands full of my bottom. I’d put on a T-shirt and bed shorts, and he pushed hands underneath the latter.
“December…” He kissed me hard, his mouth pulling apart my lips. He lifted me, my legs wrapped around his waist while he made me forget. He made us both forget, his hands pulling my ponytail holder out as he brought me to the bed. He set me down next to Hershey, kissing me.
“We shouldn’t,” he rasped, but didn’t stop. He cradled my face. “We can’t. I shouldn’t…”
Maybe he didn’t want to do this because of the situation. Maybe he knew we were both in pain, and clearly, this was an avenue to block any of that. But I knew something too. I needed him, and I know he needed me.
I pushed him back, only enough to place Hershey into her dog bed. After that, I was pulling him with me, guiding him to his back while I worked my clothes off. I tossed my T-shirt, my breasts free, and he cupped one, instantly making me cry out. I think it was too much because before I knew it, Royal shifted the tables.
He captured my lips, the entire mass of his hard body pinning me beneath him. Working off his shirt, he exposed his chest, golden and perfect and hot when he pressed himself against me. He thrust into me through my underwear, kissing me deep into the sheets.
“Em…” He quivered, actually quivering over me. “Em, I’m so sorry. I’m so damn sorry.”
He kept saying that, that he was sorry. Sorry for me, us? I didn’t know, but he was. He was sorry in this situation, and I was sorry too, sorry for us both. We shouldn’t have to deal with this, but this is what we had, each other.
I tasted his tongue and he let me, his hand moving into my underwear. He touched me where it ached, and as I rose up, his eyes rolled back. Like he loved touching me just as much as I loved to be touched. He guided my legs out of my panties, and after working his pants down, he got a condom out of his wallet. He made sure that protection was on good between us. He protected me, and when he eased my legs apart, I cried out again.
“Royal…” I gripped his biceps, the tears falling. He kissed them away, shaking above me with every thrust. He moved slow at first, picking up and hugging me to him. He wouldn’t let me go, apologizing again. He was really holding the burden and maybe forever since he’d been out there with my sister.
I cried while he apologized, the pair of us a complete mess, but we didn’t stop. We didn’t because it felt good. It felt close and loved, and I didn’t think either one of us wanted to let go of that. We both knew what would happen once we were out of this bed and away from each other’s arms. We did and we weren’t ready.
Royal kissed me hard as I reached my peak, his thrusts hard as he hit his. Even still, he wouldn’t let go. We both rode it out, tomorrow another day.
I hoped tomorrow never came.

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