Cassandra is a street urchin who sells herself to survive. Hadrian is her devoted "lover" and promises her the world, though the scars he's left on her soul only fester with every kiss he leaves on her lips.
Amadeo...Amadeo is different from all other men Cassandra has known. And he doesn't want her for what she can give him; he wants her for what he can give her. Because he really can give her the world.
An allegory of cruelty, raw and shameful...and of love, rich and neverending.
The cobblestones were covered in mud from the wheels of the carriages that passed by, animal blood that ran downhill from the butcher's shop, and human waste that was carelessly thrown from the windows of the apartment buildings that lined the streets. Whips cracked across the backs of overworked donkeys that were laden with poorly crafted merchandise to be sold in the square. Everywhere one went, the sound of shouting, cursing, and even crying haunted him to the very bones.
And there was a girl.
Dressed in a gown with a bodice that was much too tight and low and a skirt that was much too loose and high, the girl stood still, her plaited hair crested with imitation jewels and her neck covered in cheap jewelry.
And she waited.
Everyone who knew Cassandra Morrow kept their distance from her. They knew her industry: sin. And they knew the merchandise she sold: herself. Though the occasional highly religious do-gooder dared to toss a coin or a morsel of bread, accompanied by a hasty "God bless you," in the girl's direction, nobody approached her. Nobody, save the men who used her.
And there were many of those.
Day after day and night after night, the living nightmares ensued. Cassandra was willingly abused, knowingly played. The small bed she afforded bespoke of the horrors of a young girl sold into slavery. But now that she was older and slightly more independent, Cassandra stayed in the bondage she had been given to. There was no other way to live, especially now that she was tainted.
A man appeared and whispered something in Cassandra's ear, then kissed her neck and slipped something into her hand. The two disappeared into the apartment.