1. the devil himself

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Sample (in original Wattpad format - sample of edited version can be found on Amazon.com)

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The concert hall was silent, the air thick and heavy with anticipation. It was a breath inhaled and held, ready to be released.

Adjusting my uncomfortable suit, I stole a glance at Ayden and Cal seated beside me. My brother and his partner appeared content despite the oppressive hush around us, leaving me the odd one out as their hands entwined across the armrest.

Ayden saw my discomfort and leaned closer. "It'll start soon, Chris," he whispered, but not softly enough.

An aging lady in front of us turned her head and narrowed her eyes. Three years ago I would have given her a similar glare in response, but I wasn't a teenager anymore. I couldn't get away with being a brat to distinguished ladies such as herself.

She produced a small huff before turning around once more. I figured she was saying something like 'wretched youngsters' in the comfort of her own mind. One had to live for the small amusements in life when everything else was fucked up, so I allowed a smile to tug at the corner of my mouth.

"Looks like you're in trouble, bro," I said, slightly louder than Ayden had.

The lady turned again, but this time I refused to acknowledge her annoyed glare. Ayden stifled a chuckle beside me, and we barely had time to settle down before the atmosphere transformed around us.

The lights dimmed, apart from a soft glow focused on the string orchestra seated on the wide stage. They all looked like they wore a tuxedo to breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lifeless dolls with no other purpose than to entertain the rich. I loosened my tie in a small rebellion, trying to accept that I would be trapped in the hall for two more hours.

Ayden had received free tickets to this première and had argued that it was a good opportunity to experience something new. I disagreed.

I wished Mom were here instead of me, but my brother had brought me along to stop me from thinking about her too much. She had made it out of her depression, but someone had decided to snatch her away too early despite all her efforts to remain with us. Cancer is a vicious enemy.

Sinking down into my seat, I tried to dispel the memory of her gentle smile. It didn't work until a short, graying man in another immaculate tux stole my attention as he entered the stage and breathed life into the entire hall. He didn't acknowledge the greeting he received but placed the score in front of him and raised his arms into the air. He looked ridiculous as he waved his thin stick like a magic wand.

One, two, three, four.

I wasn't prepared when the first note struck. Not at all. Waves of sound rolled against the walls, flowing into every crevice then surging back. The tiny hairs on my arms stood in a silent salute, reaching for the hum in the air. I gripped the armrests on both sides of me, but it didn't help. I was floating in a restless sea, weightless and lost.

Closing my eyes, I fought the current of emotions that tried to break free, but it was a hopeless battle. I shivered as the tones from the string orchestra reached for my core and swept me away. Ten seconds, and I was struggling to breathe. It was too much.

In the late afternoon sun, one full year ago, my last words to Mom's coffin hadn't brought out a single tear, but here beneath the glow of a solitary light, my eyes burned.

I wanted to leave. All the pent-up sorrow after Mom's last months alive seemed to pour out of my heart, latching on to the beautiful lament produced by the violins and cellos. It felt as if I were fighting against a tidal wave of sounds and emotions. It was powerful and haunting, like ghosts whispering past the veil between life and death. No wonder my skin flared alive with apprehension.

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