Authors: D H Sidebottom
Heart of Stone Novella
D H Sidebottom
Copyright © 2016
book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to actual places, incidents and
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 D H Sidebottom. Please do not copy, alter or
redistribute this book.
secure author’s permission before sharing any extracts of this book.
this book to Mason and Ava Fox.
Thank you. That’s
all I can say. Thank you.
And to Vickie
Leaf. You’ve been with me all the way, and as I wrote the final line, I could
physically feel your hand in mine, holding on. I love you.
Sometimes, love is that
little bit too final
The world, and my life, now took on a whole new
perspective. Rage. Hatred. Paranoia. Bitterness. They all simmered deep inside,
catching my breath every second of the day, haunting my nightmares every single
night, and tormenting my soul with every beat of my heart.
The mirror held a new me, a me I wasn’t sure I
recognised, even under the scars and the desecrated skin. The natural shine to
my grey eyes had gone, the once wide smile now unachievable and unwarranted.
My body was a mass of mutilated sinew and muscle, muscle
that no longer worked properly. My legs and arms were a bulk of weak bones. And
my heart was a gathering place for all the loathing and resentment.
Life. Death. In-between.
had been a sequence of struggles, adventures,
and then love. Now none of those things remained. Only hatred and rage fuelled
the thick substance that ran through my veins.
was tempting. Only
could cease the
hot indignation that plagued me, only death could ease the constant pain that
And then came the
. The now. My life as
it was now. The place between wanting to live, and wanting to die.
But Ava refused to let me die. She refused to let me live
come to that. But she would always be the in-between. The bridge that carried
me over the void. The concrete that fixed my bones, and the only eyes to see
the hurt that was buried underneath the rubble of my body.
The last chapter of my life was to be the hardest trek
yet. And I prayed, daily, for it to end.
I could see it in his eyes. I could feel it in the air
around him. Sense it in the way he now carried himself, and the way his once
vibrant eyes never sought me out anymore.
My man was dead inside.
The body that carried him around was just a carcass of
broken bones and torn muscle, a machine that breathed and ate for him but
didn’t possess any life. While his ruined body still supported him, inside he
was very much a cripple.
I thought back to the time in the hospital, when I had
felt Mason’s life leave him and flood me, when his soul had sought me out and
told of his hunger for death. I realised now that my heart still retained my husband’s
soul, that it had stayed with me for solace when Mason had taken a breath and
stayed to fight another day.
Mason was more than broken, he was shattered. The parts
of him that I had fallen in love with many years ago had been obliterated the
moment his own son had started to mutilate him.
Mason still refused to talk to me about what happened
between him and George, as much as I tried to get him to open up. And that’s
what scared me. His silence. Mason had always been broody, yet now it was like
there was no emotion at all inside him.
But I swore I’d get him back. I would be the crutch that
carried him, whether he wanted me to or not.
Yet, the day he first came home from the hospital, I
realised just how naïve I had been. Just how foolish the vow to myself and my
Mason took a deep breath when he stepped into the
cottage. His body was so highly strung that I could virtually see the energy
pouring off him. His eyes moved, but he didn’t. The tension radiated off him,
burning everything close to him.
Dropping his case to the floor beside the door, I looked
up to see Katie walk into the hallway. Her hair was bunched high, her
cheekbones highlighted with a small amount of blush to hide the pale skin my
genes plagued her with. She was so very pretty, and I couldn’t help but see my
younger self within her.
She smiled widely, her eyes lit with love. “Hey, Dad.”
Her excitement to have him home was exposed across the whole of her face.
However, her smile quickly fell when she went to put her arms around Mason and
he stepped back, regarding her with narrow eyes and an accusing gaze.
My stomach dropped when I heard the murmur of people in
Standing behind Mason, I caught Katie’s attention and
shook my head, flicking my eyes towards the room. I had specifically told her
not to gather a welcome home committee.
She lifted her hands and grimaced, telling me she had
nothing to do with the party.
“I’m going for a shower,” Mason barked, making us both
jump when he shot off up the stairs.
Closing my eyes, I blew out the breath I’d been holding
for the last three hours since I’d walked into the hospital to bring my husband
“You okay?” Katie’s voice was as gentle as her arm around
my shoulders when she pulled me towards her.
Tears bubbled but I bit them back, inhaling my daughter’s
scent to give me the strength I needed. “Yeah,” I breathed as I hugged her back
just as tightly.
Stepping back, she looked at me. The exhaustion on her
face was as visible as her bright red hair. Her striking green eyes were cloudy
and now enclosed in dark rings. Her shoulders slumped and her once healthy skin
was now pasty, her soft skin marred with small thread veins. “I don’t know what
to do to help him,” she whispered as Layla appeared from the lounge doorway.
Confusion crossed her face as her eyes glanced over us.
“Did he not come home?”
“He’s gone for a shower. He’s just tired.”
She stared at me, seeing straight through my excuse, but
she nodded and tipped her head to the lounge. “I’ll shift the others out, then
I’ll be back… and we talk.”
Sagging in relief, I blinked, trying hard to stop the
tears. “Okay, see you later.”
Leaving them, I slowly climbed the stairs. The need to be
near Mason was as great as the need to run far, far away from him. I had to be
hard, but I was too weak. Losing George had hit me more than anyone would ever
know. I was ashamed of him, agonised by what he had done, but he was still my
son, my little boy. I missed his unique scent, the way he would smile at me,
the sound of his laughter and the pitch of his voice. I missed his compassion –
well the compassion he had once had – and the feel of his arms around me when I
The worse feeling in the world was accepting that you
failed as a parent. And that pain tore at my heart constantly. There wasn’t a
moment in the day when the guilt didn’t eat me up, guilt at failing and guilt
at forcing him into the corner he had ended his life in.
A part of me died alongside my son, and I knew I wouldn’t
ever get it back again. I always knew I wasn’t a good person, but now I had to
face head-on that I was also buried so far in my own sin that I would never
witness a bright, sunny day again.
Yet, for Mason, I was willing to live in the darkness for
the rest of my days. I was willing to accept the evil that simmered away inside
me, just so I could fight beside my husband for another day.
The sound of the shower from the en-suite was loud in the
small bedroom. Memories of mine and Mason’s younger days flooded me as I
perched on the edge of the bed. Memories of our laughter, our love-making, our
talks, his amazing smile, each one filtered inside me to warm the chill that
had crept in. We’d had such a good life, albeit a hard life, and we’d been
blessed with great friends and beautiful children – children that were broken
from our sins.
The shower shut off and I gripped the edge of the bed,
bracing myself when the door opened and Mason emerged in a billow of steam.
I’d seen his scars on many occasions in the hospital. But
witnessing them inside my own house I realised I wasn’t remotely prepared for
the overwhelming feelings that burned through my veins.
Each raw, broken bit of skin was like a scalpel to my
heart, etching myriads of mirror images across the surface and slicing me with
thousands of razorblades of pain. Visions haunted me, my imagination guiding me
through the long hours Mason had spent in the room with his own, masochistic
son. The pain he must have felt, both physically and mentally.
“Why didn’t you fight back?” It was a daft question. One
I should never have voiced. But I needed to know, I
He remained stoic, his deep grey eyes fixed on me like I
I was stupid
His long body taunted me, the deep grooves of his muscles
and the heavy contours of his frame stood firm and hard. Even though he’d been
disfigured he was still a very beautiful man, the way he held himself, the way
he stood menacing and foreboding, and the way his cold eyes drugged me caused
my heart rate to escalate and my breathing shallow to virtually nothing.
I blinked when he whipped off the towel from around his
hips and threw it into the corner of the room.
“This is me,” he said cryptically, his voice rough with
emotion – the first emotion I’d witnessed from him since he’d opened his eyes
eight weeks ago. “Because
I am me
His cock stood proud, as proud as my man once had. But no
longer did he hold that pride, it had vanished along with his soul.
He flinched when I stood up and walked over to him.
Lifting my hand to his face, my heart squeezed when he moved away from my
touch. His eyes closed and he screwed up his face as if he needed to prepare
himself for my skin against his.
“And I love you,” I whispered. “I will always love you,
no matter what, you know that.”
His snort pierced something inside me and my hand jerked
when he pushed it away from him.
Snatching up his jeans and a t-shirt, he refused to look
at me, his tension pushing me away.
“I’m going out.”
I stood watching the door for a long time after he’d gone
And it wasn’t until Layla walked through it a couple of
hours later that I moved.
“How you holding up?” Layla asked, her large eyes
watching me over the rim of her glass.
I shrugged, leaving her question unanswered, and she
nodded as if I had answered it. “Has he spoken to you about what happened?” I
countered with another question.
Shaking her head, she sighed. “No. Where is he anyway?”
“No idea, he just went.”
Placing her glass on the table, she leaned towards me
from where she sat beside me on the sofa. Taking my hand, she gave me a sad
smile. “Give him time, Ava.”
“I can’t understand,” I spoke into the room, my brows
pinching together with the many confused thoughts in my head. “Why didn’t he
fight? Mason would never allow that to happen.”
“Ava,” Layla said quietly. “It was George. His own son.”
I laughed then, shaking my head in humour. “Yeah. But if
I had the courage to kill my own flesh and blood then surely Mason…”
“You didn’t kill George,” she argued, her eyes becoming
stormy with anger. “He took his own life, Ava.”
“I didn’t give him a choice.”
Gritting her teeth in exasperation, she blew out a
breath. Then eyeing me warily, she frowned. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Layla was very astute, and I tensed.
Gulping down the rest of my drink, I grabbed the bottle
and refilled my glass, pouring some into Layla’s glass before I spoke. We both
knew I was delaying but I needed to form the words in my head before I blurted
them out of my mouth carelessly. “None of us have any idea what happened in
that room with Mason and George… and Rich Vaughan and his men.”
“And you have to wait until Mase is strong enough to tell
My tears were so hot I swore they singed my irises when
they flowed over. My throat constricted and my voice dropped to a faint, choked
whisper, “I think he was raped, Layla.”
I could practically hear the bile shift up her throat
when she swallowed. “Fuck!”
“In front of his own son…”
“Jesus Christ.” Grabbing on to my shoulders, she turned
me to face her. “You can’t know that, not until Mason confirms it. And if it’s
true then you’ll be there for him, just as much as he was there for you.”
I nodded firmly. “I know, and I will be. But I can’t help
him if he won’t let me.”
“Then you need to be patient. He knows you’re there. Just
give him time, and support.”
I knew she was right, but the more Mason retreated from
me the more my heart broke, and I prayed that I would still strong enough for
him when the time came for him to need me.
He was quiet but I sensed the need in his voice as soon
as it soaked into my sleep-addled brain.
Turning over in bed to face him, my heart wept when I
found his drug-induced gaze seeking me out in the soft light of the room.
He nodded. “Yes.” Placing his palm on my cheek I covered
his hand with my own, relishing in his touch once again.
The sorrow pouring from him crushed my resolve and his
face blurred under the pool of tears. “Talk to me, Mason. Let me help you.”
“Don’t cry,” he whispered as he stroked his thumbs over
my wet cheeks. “Please, don’t cry. It breaks my heart when you cry.”
“I don’t know what to do, Mason. I love you and I can’t
make you see that. Whatever happened we’ll deal with it, together.”
He shook his head, dropping his hands from my face and
rolled onto his back. “You can’t help me, Ava. No one can.”
Pushing me away when I rolled into him and slid my arm
over his chest, he sat up and turned his back on me, tossing his legs over the
side of the bed.
“You’re angry, I get that,” I tried as I sat up behind
him, but as soon as I touched him, he shot upright, shivering with my touch.
“Why won’t you let me touch you?”
The sob that left me was loud and I winced at the broken
sound of it. I hated to be weak, but I couldn’t find the strength to fight the
coward in me.
“So much has changed,” he whispered without turning. “
I didn’t like where I knew we were heading. The flesh of
my lip popped when I bit into it so hard my mouth flooded with the taste of my
own blood. “But I haven’t.”
Spinning round, he fixed me with a fierce stare, his
eyebrows elevated in opposition to my statement. “Haven’t you? You killed your
own baby, yet you sit there and tell me you haven’t changed. No one is that
fucking cold, Ava.”
His words stole my breath and I choked on a sharp gasp.
“I sat there and took his rage, Ava! I sat there and let
him… do things to me…
Fucking horrifying things!
Because he was my son.
Yet you… you…” He couldn’t finish his sentence. Instead the look of disgust on
his face told me what he couldn’t.
I couldn’t face him; face the truth he spoke of. Lowering
my eyes, I nodded. It was all I could do. I wasn’t equipped to argue with his
I gasped when his hands clamped my face and he yanked my
head back, making me look at him. “You beg me to talk to you, to tell you what
happened. But you’d never look at me the same way again!”
“No! Don’t you get it? I don’t want to see that horror in
your eyes, Ava. That’s the one thing I will never be able to come back from.”
“But I want to help you!”
“Then let me be!” he shouted, making me flinch with the
hatred he spat at me. “Let – me - go!”
Fear seized me and I crumbled under his touch. My head
shook. “No, don’t do this! Mason! Let me help you…”
“The scars, they’re crushing me, chewing me up, over and
fucking over. I’m fucking lost in my own ravaged body, Ava. Not even you can
find me anymore.”