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Two years ago, I learned that a prestigious academy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Especially when three boys are determined to ruin you. I was there to pursue music. They were there to destroy me. The sad thing is, they almost succeeded. Their games went too far and I was the one who almost paid the ultimate price. Now I’m back. They were supposed to be gone. This year was supposed to be different. And when I come face to face with my tormentors, it’s clear that things are. They aren’t the same boys I thought I knew. I will never be the same naive girl they once took advantage of again. This time around, things will be different. I’m no longer alone. I’m no longer silly little Diana. I’m Phoenix Carter and I won’t be caged by anyone. Not even myself…….
Caged In Flames will have themes of bullying, mental illness, and mentions of suicide. It will also include MM relations. This is a reverse harem/why choose romance, therefore the FMC will have more than one love interest throughout the series, but will not be forced to choose if she doesn’t want to by the end of her story.
Phoenix Carter is returning to Blisshaven Academy, they have the best music program and she deserves the best education she can get to open doors. It’s been a long road to this point in her recovery but she has the support she needs. Both her mother Cheryl, and her Therapist, Dr. Grace are a phone call away if she needs them. A pleasant surprise once she’s on campus is Gunner Wright. He volunteered at Green Woods and they had several conversations before she was discharged. This is a great beginning.
The first day of classes begins with a welcome back assembly of all students. Gunner and Nix head there after a pleasant breakfast. This is when Jane introduces herself, she didn’t recognize either of them and this is her second year attending Blisshaven. They immediately hit it off, then things take a turn when the guys who are not supposed to be there, are indeed there.
This is a favorite scene.
Clearly whatever he sees on my face worries Gunner, but before he can try to offer me comfort, someone yells out for him.They shouldn’t be here. When news broke that I had attempted to take my own life, the school announced that the students involved would no longer be attending Blisshaven. I guess discipline can easily find an expiration date if you throw enough money at the right people.
“Gunner, you didn’t mention you’d be at Blisshaven this year.” Sawyer sounds intrigued, but there’s an edge to his voice too.
I turn my head to my friend so quickly, I hear a small pop. How does he know them? What is going on? And why the fuck are we all standing around in the hallway for a chat?
“Hey, Sawyer. Yeah, got settled in over the weekend. Can’t say I’m looking forward to starting classes tomorrow.” He’s so casual about making conversation with them while I’m frozen in place. I can’t move or speak. As soon as he’s finished talking, his eyes are back on me.
“Sup Gunner, sup Jane.” I almost forgot Jane was with us until Jude mentions her. When I look over, there’s a slight glimmer in her eye as if she senses this is a conversation worth witnessing.
When Charlie approaches our circle, I feel suffocated. Lowering my head, I hate that I’m showing even a moment of weakness, but I need time to recover from the shock.
“Hey guys, this is my friend Phoenix. We met a few months ago.” Poor oblivious Gunner. He has no idea that I’m about to give his little buddies hell.
Charlie’s eyes are trying to burn a hole through me. I refuse to speak yet. I want them all sitting in the awkward silence for a minute longer. Once I’m confident these assholes are a little uncomfortable, I look up into Gunner’s eyes trying to ignore the nagging sense of betrayal in my gut. “You know these guys, Gun?”
He smiles so sweetly at me. “Yeah, Nixy. We met at a few parties over the summer. They all just got back into town, and husband number five lives in the same neighborhood.”
I squeeze his hand before breaking the hold. I finally gave a good look at my former tormentors. Staring them each in the eyes before spitting out my next words. “Well, if these are your friends, count me the fuck out.” I turn and walk to the door and begin stomping my way back to the dorms.
“Woah, pretty girl, what the fuck?” Did they seriously not remember what they put me through? I turn around to find the mini crowd has followed me outside. Sawyer looks offended that a girl would even dare talk to him this way. Idiot.
“The only reason I am here is because you shitheads aren’t supposed to be. What the actual fuck? You guys can bully a girl to fucking suicide and after a year you get to come back and pretend that it didn’t fucking happen?”
Groaning, I raise my hands up in disbelief. I’m not usually one for the dramatics, but maybe that’s changed these days. “The world is so much more fucked than I thought it was.”
The words pour out of me soaked in venom. I want to pace, but showing weakness just feeds them. Like bully demons who ingest pain for dinner. Instead, I’m a statue. I am not about to be their next meal.
“Wait a minute, it was them?” Gunner looks at each of his new friends then back to me. He immediately walks over and grabs my hand back. He’s showing me his loyalty and drawing the line. The softness in his eyes has me melting.
“What’s going on? How do you even know that?” Jude looks haunted. Sawyers seems uncomfortable, but his eyes are on the hands interlocked at my side. Charlie hasn’t stopped staring at me, analyzing everything in front of him. Creepy fuck. I spot the exact moment his confusion melts into recognition.
“Diana.” Charlie’s voice is softer than I’ve ever heard it. Especially considering it’s directed at me.
Jude and Sawyer recoil with their shock. “I only know one fucking person with those eyes. You changed your name?” That voice. That awful fucking voice. I haven’t had to hear it since it last taunted me.
“I changed a whole fucking lot, you piece of shit.” He flinches just enough to prove the blow landed.
I refuse to give them the chance to speak to me about anything. “Nope. Fuck no. Absolutely not. Hell to the fucking no. You don’t get to say shit to me.”
Yeah. I think I might have a thing for dramatic flair after all.
This time Sawyer tries to speak, “Princess-”
Gunner growls at him. Fuck, that would be so much hotter if we were alone. “Don’t fucking think about it. I am so sorry, Phoenix.” His body is close enough to mine that I can feel the vibrations that noise causes. “You’ve never really given me any details. Just tidbits here and there. I swear I had no idea.”
His words are rushed and he’s barely taking a breath in between each statement. Gunner’s shoulders roll back like he’s itching for a fight. “I never would have wasted a fucking second around them if I knew.”
I look over at him and feel some of the tension in my body release. I nod at him in acknowledgement.
Turning back to the shit stains of the planet, I put on the best bitch face I can. All three of them look like they have no idea who I am anymore. And they don’t.
“You do not get to talk to me. You do not touch me. If I am in the same room, you leave. The only exception is class. And even then, you sit as far away as you possibly can. You are nothing. What you put me through…” I need a minute to calm down. Eventually my anger will bleed into tears if I am not careful.
Jude appears heartbroken at my demands. Interesting. I pinch the top of my nose and move on. “You have no power here anymore. I will do everything I can to make sure you are nothing, anywhere. What you have done will follow you wherever the fuck you go, if it’s the last thing I do.”
I am able to give my speech without interruption and even though I want to pee myself with the anxiety racing through me, I hold strong.
“Blue, please give us…just give me a minute to talk.” Is he serious?
I turn a scathing look on Jude, “Fuck you. I am not your Blue. I am not your Princess. I never was. Move the fuck on because I have.”
I’m not here for their entertainment. I’m here for me. I have to make this clear right now. There will be no repeating the past.
Turning my attention to Charlie, I make my next demand. “Tell my father that he fucking owes me for not giving me a warning. Tell him to do whatever form of apology he knows as far as his dead-beat father skills go, because this was the one time that waste of sperm could have picked up the phone instead of the credit card.”
“Diana-” I hate that name. I don’t want to be Diana ever again. Not for anyone.
“Stop. Calling. Me. That.” I hiss out every word. “My name is Phoenix Carter. I do not know Diana anymore. She was weak. She fell for lies and pretty boys.” I look to Jude for this next part. “She let her body be taken advantage of. Diana was no one, and you three did that to her.”
Sure, I’m being a little over the top. But I’ve earned this moment. This time I’ll make the rules.
Drea Denae. Caged In Flames – ARC Edition (Kindle Locations 323-379). anonymous.
Charlie Westbrook and his friends Jude and Sawyer had attended different schools the previous year. It was Jude’s mother’s idea for them to write letters of apology to the headmaster if they wanted back into Blisshaven. It worked and they were surprised the school didn’t want monetary compensation.
Phoenix/Nix isn’t going to let anything stop her from succeeding, especially not them. With every page I admired her, I love her friendship with Jane and Gunner. There’s just so much that’s going to play out, with twists and turns all over the place.
I’m still not seeing a way for this to work, but I can be patient. I am truly impressed with this debut book for Drea and I can’t wait for the next book in the series.
5 Contented Purrs for Drea!
Drea Denae lives in Texas with her small family. She hates the heat, lives off iced coffee and loves to rock red lipstick. She also collects book boyfriends and enjoys reading anything and everything.