Authors: Jennifer Labelle
By Jennifer Labelle
Copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Labelle.
All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: May 2015
Limitless Publishing, LLC
Kailua, HI 96734
Formatting: Limitless Publishing
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
This one’s for you, Mom, forever loved and never forgotten. You’ll be in my heart always.
Table of Contents
Holly Hewitt is a survivor…
After witnessing her mother’s murder, Holly was returned to her abusive father. Resorting to drugs and alcohol, she ends up landing herself in foster care, where she is separated from her sister and utterly alone.
Zander Harrison is the light to her darkness…
Zander is young, athletic, and carefree, with the support of a loving family. But when Holly is placed in foster care with his brother’s in-laws, she turns his world upside down.
He’s driven to protect her and to show her the past has made her strong, life is worth living, and love is worth fighting for. If only he can convince her to trust him and stop resisting their mutual attraction.
But sometimes even love isn’t enough to heal a shattered soul. And all the hard work in the world can’t save…
A broken survivor.
This book contains scenes of violence and coarse language. But if you stick around, you’ll discover a strong heroine who learns from past mistakes, and a sexy hero who’s determined to shed some light into her darkness.
Tragedy meets a romantic happily ever after with these two, so please stay tuned. It’s a triumph over disaster you won’t soon forget.
Remember your silly song?
I love you and don’t you for ‘duh’ get it, I love you and don’t you for ‘duh’ get it, I love you and don’t you for ‘duh’ get it, baby! Cha cha cha…
It’s a memory I’ll always cherish, especially now that you’re gone, taken away, never coming back. They’re such sad words to comprehend for someone so young, and I’ve spent years trying to figure out how to move forward.
Ever hear the saying “There truly is a fine line between love and hate”? I thought so.
Nineteenth century Irish writer Oscar Wilde once said, “You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.” I think the point is love doesn’t always make sense. It merely exists. When you love someone, they become your world, they earn your devotion, and you go above and beyond to make them happy, right?
Sadly, love can also corrupt your world. It can take away your self-esteem and leave you a broken shell of the vibrant person you once were. You try to remember the good times, make yourself believe the one who continually hurts you will change, and you give it your all to make it work. Sometimes believing this is as good as it gets. The ugly shines through, the lies continue, the questions of why go unanswered, and the years of abuse wear you down. You would know all about that, though, because you stuck with those patterns only to have it destroy you when you were ready to finally break free.
The bad kind of love is where the hate comes in and it makes a huge impact in the lives of everyone around you. You’re put down enough and you start to believe it. You then make shitty decisions because of it. I get it because I was there with you.
Unfortunately, love of the worst kind describes you and Dad, and then afterward it also described you and
to a T.
God, I can’t even say his name without wanting to puke. Anyway, you’ll soon discover I’m writing about our story because you and I have chosen dramatically different paths in life, and this is a part of me finally letting go of what was.
After the big tragedy and several hard life lessons, in the end I finally realized that because of them, the good, the bad, and the ugly, I’ve become a stronger person for it.
Well, years ago I made you a promise, and I’m a woman of my word, so I refused to become a statistic and continue to let myself be abused. I was done with the bad, and eventually with the love of a good man, the help of a few great people, and some hard work, I was also able to let go of the hurt, the anger, the confusion, and the disappointment. I just wish you were around so you could say the same.
Now I’m left holding on to the few precious moments I had early on. Like the way you, my beautiful mother, used to play with our hair while singing your own renditions of sweet little songs like the one I quoted above, or the way you went above and beyond to keep us and the neighborhood kids out of trouble by organizing outings, by giving us little jobs, or by hosting dances and such. Then there were our girls’ nights out, and we’d watch movies or pig out on finger foods at our spot downtown.
I could seriously go on and on here, but I won’t because I know we don’t have all day, and I’m not really in the mood to allow the longing to take hold again.
So here’s how I remember you, Mom. You were the youngest girl out of four children. With two older sisters and a younger brother, a tiny little spitfire who hid your insecurities well. A woman who told it like it was and put everyone else’s needs above her own. You had the biggest heart, and it later turned out to be the curse of your existence. Well, that and your horrible taste in men, of course.
At a very early age you suffered from a Transient Ischemic Attack, better known as a mild stroke, which resulted in a slight disfigurement to your right hand, leaving it useless.
You’re Emma Hewitt, a unique beautiful woman who was certainly one of a kind to those who had the pleasure of knowing you, and most importantly to me you were an amazing mom. It’s just too bad some mistakes don’t always get a second chance and the people left behind are stuck with the consequences.
Bye for now. I love you.
Holly Hewitt rubbed the sleep out of her eyes as she descended the stairs. The smell of bacon and eggs filled the house, and her stomach grumbled with hunger.
It’d been a while since her mother had cooked them their traditional Sunday brunch, and she smiled, hoping things were finally perking up. Emma had fought depression after the sperm donor, Christian, left them, and Holly hoped this was a good sign life would return to normal, or at least that her mother would.
“Good morning, sweetheart, you’re just in time.”
Holly grunted, still half-asleep as Emma put plates and silverware on the table, but startled once she noticed they weren’t alone.
What the hell?
There hadn’t been a man in the house since her dick of a father had left them.
“Um, who is that?” Wide awake now, she pointed at the stranger in confusion. She narrowed her eyes when he gave her a once-over from top to bottom.
“This is Clay. Now go wake up your sister. I’ll tell you more when you’re dressed and both present.” Her mother made a shooing motion with her hands, and suddenly the T-shirt Holly wore to sleep in felt as if it were getting smaller and smaller, thanks to Mr. Weirdo over there looking at her strangely. She didn’t like it, so she didn’t argue and immediately left to get Chrystal and a pair of pants to cover up.
“Fine, but a little warning next time would be appreciated.” Holly pointed behind her to the strange man in question and hurried up the stairs to the muffled sounds of low, masculine laughter.
“Chrystal.” She barged into her sister’s room and jumped on the bed. “Chrys, wake up!”
“Go away!” her sister groaned in frustration and tried kicking her. “It’s too early for your crap today.”
“No!” Holly continued to jump on the bed and laughed when Chrystal failed at kicking her again. “Listen, Mom’s downstairs cooking breakfast, and she’s not alone.”
“Why would I care? Just tell her to save me a couple strips of bacon or sausage, and I’ll eat when I’m ready to get up.”
“You would, because the company we have is a man, and Mom sent me to get you. She wants us downstairs as soon as possible so she can introduce us properly, I think. She looks…” Holly sighed and left the bed to pace around the room. Ignoring the annoyance in her sister’s tone, she continued. “She looks happy again, Chrys. Aren’t you the least bit curious to see who the hell he is and what he might be to her?”
“Really?” Chrystal’s eyes popped open with interest.
“Uh-huh, so get your big butt out of bed and get dressed. I’ll meet you down there in a few minutes.”
About fifteen minutes later, they were all sitting at the dining room table, and their mother casually introduced the girls to the new man in their lives.
“Chrystal, Holly, I’d like you to meet Clayton. He just moved here from Toronto a few months ago.”
“Oh yeah? And where exactly did you two meet?” Holly loved her sister’s bluntness and suppressed a smile, knowing instantly she’d had the same gut feeling Holly did. Something was off about this guy. Maybe it was his look, his lingering gaze, or his quiet but guarded demeanor. But this moment wasn’t about them, it was about making their mother happy, so she at least put in an effort to be nice.
“Lydia introduced us.”
“Well, that’s real encouraging.” Her sister snorted while rolling her eyes. Lydia was one of their neighbors. She was outspoken, rude, liked to fight, and most people went out of their way to avoid her. Emma, on the other hand, looked for the good in everyone and had befriended her instead.
“That’s enough, Chrystal.”
“Whatever!” she sassed back and forked up a mouthful of eggs.
“So what made you leave Toronto?” Holly asked, hoping to ease a little of the tension in the room. How much did her mother really know about this guy? And she and Chrystal had felt protective of her since their father left
“Well, my father owns a successful business, and I was tired of working in his shadow,” Clay said. “I also wanted to be closer to my kids. They live only about an hour away from here, so it’s a lot easier for me to spend time with them.”
“Oh my God, yes, he has a daughter who is eight, and your son would be around five, right?” Her mother nearly bounced in her seat with enthusiasm, and Holly had to suppress another eye roll.
“Would be?” Busted! They talked about them in the past tense, and Holly had caught it.
Just what is this guy’s story, anyway?
He was still giving off some major creepy vibes, but Holly and Chrystal seemed to be the only ones who’d noticed. Something felt off, but hey, maybe they were just being overprotective. Their mother was clearly into the guy.
“Yeah, they’re five and eight,” he agreed and then took a big mouthful of food as if the subject was closed.
“So you mentioned your dad has a good business. What did you do when you worked there?” her mother asked, and it granted Holly her first genuine smile of the day.
Good for you
, she thought.
That’s right, Mom, drill him, get to know him, and make sure this one’s not another douche-bag loser.
“He owns a car lot, and I was in sales.” Clay shrugged and continued eating.
“A car salesman?” Chrystal snorted, and she stifled her laugh when Emma sent them a glare.
“Interesting, is that what you plan to pursue here too? I mean is that the type of work you like?” Emma continued.
“Hell no, I hate commission-based shit. Pardon my French. My family is pretty well off, and I’ve got a little saved, so right now I’m just enjoying my time off. I’m not sure what I want to do yet. I was thinking of going back to school, maybe, so I can become a mechanic. I love cars, I just don’t like selling them.”
“So you’re more of a hands-on guy, then? There’s nothing wrong with that. My ex worked with cars too. He was more of a body man, though, liked making them pretty.” Their mom laughed nervously. “Christian did repairs and paint jobs, that sort of thing. He was really great at it too.”
“Oh yeah, I like being a hands-on type of guy.” He winked, Emma blushed, and Holly suppressed a shudder and her gag reflex.
Nobody missed the double meaning behind those words, and the conversation quickly changed to something else to avoid more awkwardness.
“So what I’d like to know is what kind of relationship you have, and how long you’ve been seeing each other? I don’t mean to be rude, but holy cow, Mom. You go from Dad, to depressed and moping, to finally becoming normal again, and now suddenly here you are—with him.”
“Show your mother some respect.” He narrowed his eyes and answered. “We’ve been seeing each other on and off for a couple of weeks, and I don’t see that status changing anytime soon. The fact is, I like your mother. I like her a whole hell of a lot, and I’ll be around as long as she’ll have me.” He turned in his seat to face her and took one of her hands in his. “What do you say, beautiful? You want me around, don’t you?”
Just fricken’ lovely!
Holly watched him lean over to give their mother a quick kiss as she nodded yes to his question. She sported a goofy smile once he pulled back and turned from him to face her kids again. “Our relationship is still new, but I’d like to see where this is going. I’m happy again, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt that way. I’m sorry it didn’t work out with your dad, but things are much better now. Don’t you want me to be happy?”
“Of course we do,” they both answered at the same time.
Chrystal continued, “Look, I love you, Mom, and I want you to be happy, but that doesn’t mean I have to like him,” she said as she pointed to Clay. She got up from the table and left them to go back upstairs.
They had their answers. He was obviously going to be a permanent fixture, and it didn’t matter if they liked him or not, because their mother did, so Holly decided to suck it up and make an effort for
, no matter how hard it was.
“Okay, you’re in a good place right now, and that’s good enough for me. I’ll try to be nice, Mom, but don’t ever be sorry for Dad because I’m glad to see him gone.” Holly stood as well, pointed at him, and then said in a stern voice, “Don’t you dare hurt her. If you can promise me you’ll be good and I can see she’s happy, then I’m golden.”
She’d walked away from that first encounter with an uneasiness still lingering in her gut but gave Clay the benefit of the doubt to keep the peace.
Fall of 1993
Two and a half years later
Holly and Chrystal sat at the table for a family meeting and waited for their mother to spit out what was so important. Normally it was about weekly chores, a missed curfew, or something out of the ordinary, like a trip or a family member visiting, so when she announced, “Clay is leaving,” they were both momentarily taken off guard.
“It’s about fricken’ time.” Chrystal sighed, and there was no mistaking how glad she was at the news.
She’d made it clear from day one of that she disliked the man. In fact,
would be a better word to describe it. While Holly felt the same way, she wasn’t as vocal as her sister in sharing those feelings. Something was just off about him, though, and he’d been that way for the last two years he’d lived with them. When Christian had walked out on her after twelve years of marriage, Emma had been miserable and depressed. She needed someone to fill the void inside her, and Clay seemed to do that job when she met him a year later—at least until recently.
Their dad was nothing more than a sperm donor. He preferred his drugs and women over family he’d walked out on. Holly’s most vivid childhood memories were of abuse and emotional torture. He was a sick, twisted bastard who felt better when he caused people pain. Memories of being burned with cigarettes, dodging things thrown at her head, and watching Christian beat her mother almost daily were forever ingrained in Holly’s mind. She grew up scared and passive for the most part because of Christian’s behavior, though she admired her sister for having a strong personality and an “I don’t give a shit, fuck the world” attitude.
“Come on, we all know how you feel already. Are you all right, Mom?” Holly reached for her hand and squeezed. Another failed relationship had to be hard on her. She’d screwed up on love again, and damn it, she deserved so much better than she had. Holly just hoped to God that this time her mother would finally wake up and smell the coffee. She didn’t need a man to define the beautiful woman she always was, but it was easier said than done to convince her.
“I will be, but I messed up again, and I’m sorry.” Emma wiped away some fresh tears. “I’m so sick of this. You guys deserve better. Hell, I deserve better, and from now on it’ll be just the three of us. At least for a while, I promise.”
Their mom had given Clay two years to find a job, to do something with himself, and in that time he’d done the exact opposite. He’d lied about his family’s wealth, the good job he’d supposedly had when he left Toronto, and about his so-called children. He’d only made one attempt to contact them by phone in the whole time Emma had been with him. Supporting two children as a single mother was hard enough, and Emma was finally kicking the deadbeat to the curb.
, Holly thought.
When Clay first came into the picture, things were different from when Christian was around. In the couple of years he and Emma had been together he’d never physically hurt any of them. He was the quiet type, weird, and a little perverted; when their mother wasn’t looking, he gave the girls lingering glances. He’d filled a void in a time her mother was in need of someone, a warm body to fill her bed and satisfy certain needs. He was nothing compared to the shit Christian had done, yet it would still be a relief to see him go. Enough was finally enough, and as they sat there, Emma explained the reasons for the breakup, seeming tired of caring for the third child he’d become.
“Woohoo, baby. Take. It. Off!”
“Shall I get that one for you later?” Emma chuckled at her enthusiastic sister Karen. It’d been her first time out in God knows how long, and it felt great to let loose again. Breaking up was hard to do. She’d given the dumbass a week to pack up and leave, and the tension was too much to bear at times. It felt good to unwind and have some much-needed fun.
“Hell yeah, or better yet, we’ll get him for you. Right, ladies?” Karen draped an arm around her shoulder and gave her a reassuring squeeze before letting go.
“Damn straight,” Charlotte chorused, sounding tipsy. “Loosen up, Emma, we’re here tonight for you, darlin’, and that there is a nice piece of ass. Whoo-wee, call it a belated Happy Birthday. You only turn thirty-four once in a lifetime. You’re beautiful, newly single, and we’re here to celebrate, so live it up.”
Emma chuckled as her sister and friend ganged up on her with good intentions. They’d gone out that night to celebrate double birthdays. Hers the week before, and Karen’s the following Saturday. Charlotte had been one of their closest friends and had been there for every milestone, so this hadn’t been any different. She was as easygoing as they came, had a big heart, and was always in the mood for a good time.