Home > King of Spades (Wonderland #1)

King of Spades (Wonderland #1)
Author: Alta Hensley





If you read THE WHITE RABBIT published separately, or the story Silver Bells from MEET ME UNDER THE MISTLETOE, you can skip ahead to read Part II now >



Chapter One



This should be mine.

The dripping chandeliers, the gowns, the diamonds, the exclusive money that oozes from every crack of the mansion. Black and gold decorations with a pop of red represent the Morelli family. Rich with undertones of blood.

Not my family… but it should be.

“This was a bad idea,” Sasha Morelli says as she stands next to me, nervously running her finger along the edge of her champagne glass. “I should have never snuck you in here. You’re going to get caught. We’re both going to get caught. I don’t think you realize how much trouble we could get into.”

“I know it’s not safe to be here, and I know what happens if I’m caught. I’m quite aware the bastard does not belong at a Morelli party,” I tell my cousin, wishing I didn’t have to be brought in through a back entrance.

Sasha’s not supposed to know about me, but she does. Most Morellis aren’t supposed to know about me, but a few secretly do. She’s just the only one who doesn’t ignore the fact that I exist.

“I hate when you call yourself the bastard,” she says.

“But it’s exactly what I am.”

“It sounds harsh, and I don’t even know why you want to be part of this family. It’s fucked,” she says. “You care too much about them.”

She’s right. I should be past my Daddy issues by now. I shouldn’t care what they think… but I do.

I obsessively do.

I watch my secret half brothers and sisters work the room with a skill and finesse you can only be born with. Yes, they’ve had the grooming, but there is so much more they have that I don’t. They represent wealth, power, and everything I desire. Dresses and tuxes worn that cost more money than I will ever see or even come close to having. They possess everything… and I have nothing unless I earn every cent on my own.

They have the Morelli name.

I do not.

Jealousy is an ugly bitch. I know this, but the green-eyed monster takes hold and refuses to let go. I’ve tried to walk away and never look back, but I can’t. The claws of the beast hold me in place—looking in from the outside.

I scan the room for my father. Bryant Morelli is somewhere, but where? Would he recognize me? Doubtful. But if he knew I’m crashing his party, he’d have me escorted out before people could even blink. So, I’m careful to not draw attention to myself as I watch.

I watch from afar, like always. It’s what I do. It’s who I’ve become.

I’m hiding by a sculpture that is decorated with nothing but red roses on every square inch of marble. A smaller one that no one seems to notice next to the huge, glimmering one that forms the centerpiece of the ballroom. It seems only fitting that the bastard daughter hides next to the bloodred-colored sculpture. I’m here, but not really. I watch as the guests continue to arrive, grateful that they scored an invitation to such an exclusive event. An invitation I never received.

The good, the bad, and the in-between mingle within these walls. Secrets, gossip, and threats blend with the music playing in the background.

I’ve studied each person on the guest list. I’ve researched, watched, and learned. Being the bastard gives me one advantage. I know them, but they don’t know me.

Bubbles of champagne blind all, and I’m out of sight which gives me the perfect view when he walks in. Of course, he would be a guest. How could you have a party and not invite him?

Aside from seeing my father, it’s actually him who I’ve been excited to see.

He’s notorious, mysterious, a recluse of sorts, and only the most powerful get to be blessed to be in his presence. He rarely leaves his mansion, but this is the Morelli party after all, so even he doesn’t turn down the invitation.

His name is known in the underbelly of the dark world.

“That’s Nick Hudson,” Sasha says to me, as if I don’t already know.

He’s not a Morelli. Actually, quite far from it.

He’s wearing a black pinstripe suit and holding a black cane with a ruby perched on the top. He walks in cadence with the music playing in the room. Tattooed hands, neck, and intricate tats on each side of his shaved head gives off an air of danger—and sparks the wannabe bad girl locked inside of me desperate to come out. I don’t need to see what’s beneath his suit to already know that he’s inked from every square inch of his body.

I want to taste the madness on this man.

And by the way that heads turn when he enters the room, I’m not the only one.

He has an entourage of security flanking him on both sides, though from his very presence, it’s clear the man can take care of himself. It’s all for show… Nick Hudson can shred anyone to pieces with his bare hands if he needs to.

But he never needs to.

“He’s not a man to mess with,” Sasha continues. “His name, and his private club known as Wonderland give him a reputation as a man to party with, a man to have on your side, a man to work with, but definitely not a man to cross.”

I remain quiet, not letting on that I know exactly who Nick Hudson is. I already know he’s one of the leaders of the underground, and he knows the dance of the devil intimately. And after learning everything about this man, I know I want to tango with his darkness.

Maybe it’s because he’s the first person I’ve obsessed over other than a Morelli. I see someone I want to be in him. I want a name like his.

A name to be respected. A name to be feared.

Right now, my name—Lyriope Bailey—is a name that remains in the shadows.

Forgotten. Not important. A side note.

But not him. There is nothing about this man that can be forgotten.

I’m fascinated with the tales and stories of debauchery that surround Wonderland. And though the Morellis are exclusive, Wonderland is truly restricted as it’s invite only for the few. I want the key. I want the pass to enter. I want a seat at one of his infamous tea parties.

His eyes dart around the room, taking in each person. He lingers on some, nods at others, but when his eyes finally find mine, he pauses. He seems to stare longer on me than anyone else, but maybe it’s wishful thinking. Maybe it’s the sculpture I’m next to that has his interest, or maybe there is someone standing behind me who he’s actually taking in.

Or maybe… just maybe… my own darkness is attracting his. Maybe my fucked-up self is a magnet to jagged edges.

Maybe he likes the silver dress I’m wearing, and it’s hypnotizing him.

Or maybe—and just like that, he looks away.

“I need to go say hello to others and not stand here too long or people may question who you are,” Sasha says. “Promise me you won’t stay for much longer. Uncle Bryant will catch on to who you are if you keep lurking.”

I nod as she walks off to join her family, but I have no intention of leaving just yet. My eyes haven’t left Nick Hudson, and I’m not sure I can simply pull them away.

I see Nick whisper to one of his security guards, and then his attention is diverted elsewhere, and the bubble of hope that I’m the center of his attention is gone. A split second of lustful thoughts, ideals of grandeur, and now I’m just the bastard child… alone.

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