contract marriage
arranged marriage
female lead

Beatrice Halifax's entire life has been controlled, sheltered inside the four walls of her family's house she had no hope of ever escaping. Until she was given an opportunity. One year to live her life in freedom. One year that would end in marriage. But just when the year is about to conclude a new man comes to town, one who threatens to completely unravel Beatrice's world. Lies surface and trust is broken as Beatrice is forced to face the truth about her family's past. Power corrupted this game, now she's the only one who can stop them.

Power is created by Stacey E. Haught, an eGlobal Creative Publishing signed author.

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Chapter 1: Rule #1: Never Underestimate Your Power.
Beauregard. Of course, it'd be raining, it seems like everything today was set in motion to piss me off, the air alone in Greenville pissed off, its sweet southern scent was enough to make my skin crawl. I could feel the frustration creep along my spine coupling with the bitterness that took root in my gut like a heavy iron fist. It wasn't the towns' fault, just my history with the people in this godforsaken place. I had one more thing to notch off my to-do list, one last thing before I could feel free from this vendetta, one person was standing in my way between breathing and suffocating, just one more before I could prove to everyone that I was worthy of the position I deserved. Maybe if I could prove to them that I could actually accomplish this they wouldn't question my loyalty. In order to do this, and do it successfully, I'd have to be patient. Something that I didn't want to be. "Beau baby!" A high pitch squeal set my already frayed nerves on end. The voice belonged to a perky blonde, barely clothed in a skimpy white dress, who was waving to me from across the street, screeching at me all the while jumping up and down. Although annoying and overly obnoxious, it wasn't her that was the reason for my mood. No, it wasn't her, even though I wasn't going to be sad to be rid of her either once all of this was over. She was just a causeway to the real person I was after, the short, curvy woman next to her, the one who didn't seem any more pleased to be here than I was, the one who dressed as if to blend in with the background. As much as I hated the woman I tried to find a comparison between myself and her, searching in the woman who was my twin's face for some sort of resemblance to myself. The woman who stood there feigning innocence pretending to be the supportive best friend to the woman I was pretending to be infatuated with. She lived the life I was supposed to live, and I hated her for it. When I was younger, weaker, and more vulnerable to daydreams, I would conjure up her face in my head. Somedays, it was the only thing that got me through the torture, the pain, the fear, of the family I was sold to. Then those daydreams twisted into nightmares where she became the one who was causing me the worst pain and my hope was replaced with hate, disdain, revenge, and the need to inflict the same pain onto everyone else who had abandoned me. She didn't know it. I was the only one who knew the truth. Even now watching her lag behind her leggy blonde friend, she didn't know she was my sister, she didn't know what our father did to us, she didn't know that twenty-six years ago when we were barely two years old, he sold me off to Carlos Domenico to pay his debt. A debt he had owed Carlos for years prior to our birth, a debt my father could have easily paid off by promising his precious Beatrice to one of Carlos's sons in marriage, something that she would have fared from much easier than the life I was forced to live. But he didn't. He gave me over to Carlos, I was family only by name, kept on the fringe, a punching bag for his real sons, left never to know love or a caring embrace. "Baby!" That high pitch screech hit an all-time high as she wrapped her long arms around my neck and squeezed. I slid on my mask, after all, I was good at my job. "Abby!" I laid it on thick, wrapping her thin, curvy body in my arms to make it look good for our audience of one. I had even started slapping on a slight southern accent, to mask my New York accent. She bought it hook, line and sinker. But I couldn't drag my gaze from Beatrice, she was just off the cusp of our embrace, looking everywhere but our hug. I had thought that perhaps she would be jealous of her best friend's new man but she wasn't giving off those signals. It's not that I was looking for her to find me attractive, but I wanted to see her feel something... I wanted her to feel a small semblance of the pain I had endured. But she only looked embarrassed, shy, and demure, as if being outside and around strangers made her feel uncomfortable. I didn't like the way she looked, it made her look human and I almost found myself sympathizing with her. If I was to do what I needed to do then I needed her to not look human so she could remain the enemy. I quickly shoved those unchecked emotions aside and pulled back from the woman who was squeezing my neck. "Oh! Beau baby, this is my best friend, Bea!" Abby said as she stepped just out of my embrace to tuck herself into my side. Abby was like gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe, no matter how hard I scrapped at her I could never get her off once she was attached to me. "Don't think she's rude baby, she's just real shy." She whispered. Those nagging unchecked feelings peeked their pesky heads up again...we had something in common. Both shy except Carlos beat the shyness out of me though, it was confirming to me however that she had lived a privileged life. Beatrice could afford her shyness, I bet she could afford her choices too, the word no, and education. My mind battled against any feelings of pity or compassion, my feelings of pure hate and disdain won over any feelings of empathy. "Hi Bea, I'm Beau!" I said forcing friendliness into my voice. But my hand was rigid, and as her small hand placed into my large, scared, battered hand, I felt a slight tremor in her. Her eyes, which was the only physical difference between us, besides her being female and I being male, my eyes being blue and Bea's being a clear, glassy hazel, that reflected the autumn colors around the Greenville main street road, as well as, all of the emotions she must be carrying. "It's nice to meet you." She greeted me in return. I noted her voice was lower than her friend Abby's. I felt instantly relieved that at least I wouldn't be annoyed with listening to her chatter like I had been for the last two months listening to her friend Abby. Two months. Two long months of playing the part of an interested guy. I matched with her best friend Abby on a dating app, it didn't take much, I had done my research, and she was desperate. Abby was easy to figure out, she wanted attention, and kind words, both were easy to do via text and phone calls, the physical part was where it got difficult. I was good at playing games with people, being who I needed to be in the situation, but I found being hard and cruel, easier than being, soft and pliable. Being a kind doting boyfriend was proving to be more challenging, which is why when Abby suggested her friend Beatrice I lunged at the offer, she was always the end game. She was also the long game, but with her as an added person in our mix I had hoped I could rely on her being a distraction for Abby. A distraction for me to not be 'on' all the time. As much as I hated to admit it, I could feel myself relaxing even with the underlying irritation I felt just by seeing her up close. I had always been plagued by photos of my twin. Carlos taunted me with them from the earliest age of eight, that's when he first blurted out the truth. I had always known that I wasn't his son, it didn't take me long to figure out that I looked different. His sons were cruel, just as violent with their words as they were with their fists. Carlos let them beat me into submission, beat me harder when I cried. Beating after beating, I trained my mind to stop feeling, and I also learned to stop screaming for help, it was no use anyway. Help never came. He showed me her picture when I screamed out her name. I had heard it for so long, he had told me about her, told me about the girl who lived the life I would never have. "Are you okay with that?" it was the soft voice of Bea this time, not the naggy voice of Abby. I tuned back into my surroundings and realized I had been left on the sidewalk with my archnemesis while the perky one abandoned us both into a small café off to the side. "I'm sorry, it seems like I wasn't listening." I admitted, allowing myself a moment of my true nature to show the real me, the person I tucked away so far inside that I was even shocked to hear the genuine tone in my voice. "Abby has that effect on people, don't feel too bad, I tune her out all the time." She agreed. "What did I miss?" I asked, saddling up to my sister playing the good little boyfriend of her best friend. "Well, Abby has decided we need chicken salad sandwiches for lunch." She said with her nose turned up. "I hate mayonnaise." We both said in unison. She laughed. Her glassy autumn eyes staring right at me. It was the most familiar sound I had heard. I gazed back in contemplation... I came here to destroy this woman's life. I could come in like a storm, quick, and violent, or I could come in like a plague, and eat at her from the inside. I smirked at her as she walked ahead of me, then watched closely as she said something, with this sweet look on her face as she smiled at her overly excitable friend. I had just infiltrated the life of Beatrice Halifax, and my effect was going to be slow but deadly.

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