Home > Once a Myth (Goddess Isles #1)

Once a Myth (Goddess Isles #1)
Author: Pepper Winters




ONCE UPON A TIME, a teacher surprised us with a pop quiz.

I was seventeen.

It was my last month of school.

The test comprised of a single question.


What is the worst thing that happened to you, and how did you survive it?


When the class sneered at the seemingly random query, our teacher smiled, and said, “You think this is a stupid question, but really, it’s the most important one you’ll ever answer. Why? Because the worst thing to ever happen to you probably hasn’t found you yet. You’re young. You’re fanciful. You’re naïve. But to know that your life will have battles, arms you for the trials ahead. And the answer that you write on this silly piece of paper will be there, in the back of your mind, keeping you company while you face it.”

I groaned with my classmates.

I joked with my friends.

But I did the work required.

I thought long and hard and scribbled:


The worst thing to happen to me? When Max got drunk and abandoned me at the bonfire party last year. In the middle of nowhere with intoxicated teens everywhere, I was lost and lonely. A guy tried to feel me up. He pushed me against a tree, and the fire glowed behind him while he touched places he shouldn’t.

How did I survive it? By being brave and kneeing the bastard in the balls. By being proactive and arranging a ride home with a friend’s older sister. By being unforgiving and dumping Max. By being wise and never forgetting the boy who tried to take what wasn’t his to take.


The teacher didn’t require us to sign our names.

We handed in our confessions anonymously.

She was right, that teacher.

We were young.

We were fanciful.

I was naïve.

Naïve to think a childish party with raging hormones and reckless drinking would be the worst thing to ever happen to me.

Now, four years later, I had a different answer to scribble down.

An answer I wished I knew how to survive.


The worst thing to ever happen to me? Being stolen, sold, and gifted. Being delivered to a man who isn’t just a man, but a monster. Being told I now belong to him.

How did I survive it?

I guess I’ll have to fight and find out…



Chapter One




My head raised from my knees. My eyes peered into the dank and dismal darkness. A ghostly figure of a blonde girl holding up a bowl danced in front of me.

I was hungry. Thirsty. Hurting. Lonely.

She offered salvation to most of those things, passing me a dish of nondescript food and a torn piece of bread. My hands shook as I took the bowl from her, bending a little to reach from where I hugged myself on the top bunk.

She flashed me a smile, nodding in approval. “If we don’t eat, we don’t have enough strength to fight.”

I nodded back. I didn’t want to talk. The men who’d snatched me from the hostel where my boyfriend and I had been staying promised painful punishment if I talked to the other girls trapped in hell with me.

But this girl…she’d only arrived today.

Her fear made her a little reckless, even though I’d seen her crying.

Men’s voices grumbled from outside the door, tearing her gaze worriedly to look. I froze with the bowl in my hands, waiting for a monster to walk in and hurt us.

But the voices faded, and the girl looked back at me. “What’s your name?”

Such a simple question.

But a terrifying one because my name was no longer mine. No longer mine to use. Freedom taken from me along with everything.

I licked my lips, testing my throat that still throbbed from screaming so hard when I’d been taken. I’d been in the communal kitchen of the hostel cooking veggie tacos for me and my boyfriend, Scott.

I’d been the only one. The only backpacker in an empty kitchen while Scott hung out in the pool hall with a guy we’d just met from Ireland.

I’d grown bored of the potato and leprechaun jokes and sought refuge in the quietness of the run-down kitchen.


Until…I hadn’t been.

Until three men arrived with black gloves and sinister smiles.

Until those men noticed me, assessed me…snatched me.

“I’m Tess,” the blonde whispered, Australian accent feathering around her words. “I was kidnapped. They hurt my boyfriend.”

I shoved back the memories of my own kidnapping. Of hands on my arms, fingernails on my skin, a gag shoved in my mouth. The clang of a pot falling on the tiles, the smash of a plate as I kicked and thrashed.

I hadn’t been quiet.

I’d screamed. I’d fought.

But no one heard me over the din of the music in the pool hall.

I shuddered, forcing my voice to stay level and low. “I’m sorry they hurt your boyfriend.” I shrugged. “Mine doesn’t know where I am.”

“I don’t know if mine is alive.” Her eyes glowed with tears. “He might be dead on the bathroom floor where they beat him.”

She had it worse.

At least my boyfriend had been safe. What had happened to hers after she’d been stolen?

It was the unknown that hurt the most. The not knowing if her boyfriend was alive or if mine was looking for me. The total uncertainty of our futures, diverted without our permission from the path we’d chosen.

How could another human do this to us? What gave anyone the right to steal us from a life and trap us in the dark with no answers, no comfort, no sign of this nightmare ever ending?

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “Are you okay? You weren’t hurt too badly?”

She sniffed with pain. “I’m fine. Are you okay?” She stepped closer to my bunk, her blonde hair dirty and limp. “You don’t look so good.”

I waved her concern away with a lacklustre smile. “I’m still alive.”

She sighed as if I’d said I was broken beyond repair. “Being alive might be something we’ll end up regretting.”

Other pairs of eyes looked over to us, narrowed with fear and harsh with warning. Silence had been our only companion since I’d been thrown in here two days ago.

This girl had taken that silence and filled it with fight. The food in my hands reminded me that she was right. No matter what they’d done to us, we couldn’t just accept it. There had to be a way—some way—to stop this.

Without dying in the process.

Tess sighed again, a huff of anger and a puff of despair. “I just want to go home.”

A whisper of agreement filtered around the room.

I nodded. “Me too. All of us do.”

My other companions had trickled in over the past forty-eight hours. Two girls had been here before me, but the others were new, just like this brave Australian girl. I’d never been much for talking to strangers and preferred silence over conversation, yet she reminded me of a time when things had been so much simpler.

A girl of a similar age. A young woman just embarking on her life after suffering through adolescence and education. We’d earned our freedom, yet these men had killed it before it’d begun.

“They can’t do this.” Tess’s hands curled by her side, crushing the piece of bread she still held.

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