Authors: Brina Courtney
By Brina Courtney
Published By Laurelis Press
Copyright © 2013 Brina Courtney
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places or events are entirely the work of the author. Any resemblance to actual persons, events, or places is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. Please purchase only authorized editions and do not participate in piracy of copyrighted materials.
Cover art by Brina Courtney and Indie-spired Covers
Parts of this story were previously published as
Promises are made to be kept, never stolen. But that’s exactly what happened to Victoria Blane and Levi Manor. Tragedy strikes their perfect relationship leaving Victoria struggling to overcome the darkness that threatens to bury her.
Brighton Hanley knows what it’s like to lose someone. He knows what it’s like to be haunted by things that can never change. When he meets Victoria he recognizes the pain she’s trying to bury deep in her eyes. He knows she’s trying to hide, but he also knows that you can’t hide forever.
Victoria is drawn to Brighton in ways she never expected. But is she ready to let go of the past and grab on to her future? Or will she run away from Brighton before she can be hurt again?
Victoria leaned her head back against the cold brick allowing her blonde hair to flow around her shoulders. She attempted to readjust her body in order to be more comfortable because she knew that she would be waiting a long time until Levi got out of work to come pick her up. She had no interest however in going upstairs and spending the next hour listening to her roommate complain about the five boyfriends she had or the crazy party she was at last night. Perhaps at one point that would’ve been something that Victoria had been interested in but ever since she and Levi had gotten serious there was no reason for Victoria to worry about frat boys or what type of new tattoo she should get on Spring Break.
Victoria’s Spring Break wouldn’t be spent on a beach somewhere. Instead she would be cozied up with her boyfriend Levi. Boyfriend didn’t even seem like the right word, partner or best friend made more sense. Levi had rented a small cabin in the woods for the two of them. Victoria finally had time to really embrace the trip only an hour before when she packed a bag full of long sleeved shirts and tight fitting jeans. Although it was still chilly outside, Victoria made sure to throw in a few camisoles and a pair of shorts just because she knew Levi liked them. This extended weekend was supposed to be all about the two of them. As Victoria watched two freshmen play Frisbee on the lawn she imagined how romantic their weekend would be in a cabin amongst the trees. It was a place where Levi could truly relax. No cell phone reception meant
no annoying interruptions from friends or work. Soon they would be sitting in front of the fire snuggling together or drinking wine by the lake with a homemade picnic. It all seemed so picturesque in Victoria’s mind but she knew that’s not how things really worked. No life was like a movie. Victoria learned that the hard way over the past couple years.
College hadn’t been all that it was supposed to be. The first bump in the road had been when Victoria failed a course second semester during her freshman year and life had gotten a lot
more difficult. Victoria’s parents were on her all the time about grades, threatening to cut her off if she couldn’t keep them up. It wasn’t really clear as to why she started to rebel her freshman year. Perhaps it was the fact that her sister, Fallon, had finally married the complete buffoon, Drew. Victoria was forced to spend more time with him then necessary. Necessary being only holiday dinners and the occasional family reunion. But now Drew was at their parent’s house all the time. Which made no sense considering their parents had bought Fallon and her shiny new husband a beautiful townhouse as their wedding present. Victoria felt she had to keep an eye on him. She thought that he might swipe something when no one was looking. She was so annoyed that she was the only one that could see how money hungry he was. Sure, for a long time Victoria had been one of those girls that asked her parents to spend money on frivolous things, but now that she was getting older, she had realized just how lucky she had been growing up. She thought about Levi’s upbringing for a moment while she raked her hands back and forth through the dewy grass. His mom had left Levi and his older sister Tyne at a very young age. Not that she was really a mother figure before she left-- mostly she was as high as a kite. This made for a very difficult and awkward situation at home for Levi and his older sister considering their father was a police officer. When they were younger, he had tried to get Levi’s mom help many times, even sending her to a fancy rehab facility at one point, but nothing seemed to stick besides her and needles. Admittedly, Levi had a lot of mommy issues as a result. It’s not that Victoria was judging him, he had discussed it with her after visiting a therapist. He was horrified at the thought of commitment and for a long time that worried her.
At some point she had decided their relationship was worth more than looking into the future and worrying what might happen, or what might not. She was content in their relationship. Truly happy. And marriage wasn’t the be all, end all anyway. Many marriages didn’t make it. And some people who were in the ones that did, were miserable anyway. Her parents had a beautiful relationship though, which gave her hope, even if she didn’t want to admit it. She thought about their late Friday nights out at expensive restaurants while she was cared for by a nanny or her older sister. She watched her mother place a string of pearls around her neck and admire her wedding ring. Victoria could see the love in her eyes. Her mother spoke often about her admiration of her father, and their life together. She loved those small quiet moments with her mother. There were other fond memories of her childhood, many of them spent with Levi.
Closing her eyes she envisioned the times they had spent together as children, when the innocent childhood crush had formed. Victoria’s father was a lawyer that worked closely with the police. Many nights when Levi’s soccer practice was finished and Victoria was done with ballet, they would end up in Victoria’s father's office while their dads poured over some new case. Levi was a year older than Victoria and his dad always told him to keep her occupied. Victoria could recall the large man in the black uniform lean down to his son and say, “There are things here that little girls shouldn’t see, you got me, Levi?” Tyne would watch them while she did homework, but it was up to Levi to keep Victoria busy. Tyne was too focused on her studies to notice the connection between the two children.
Levi would find some cards to play with and they would laugh for hours over a silly game of Go Fish. After a year or more of their friendship Victoria realized that she felt something more for Levi but she was just a child. Victoria didn’t understand her true feelings for him. Besides that, he was a broken boy from a broken home. He had trouble understanding what love really meant and Victoria knew that even now it was still difficult for him to verbalize how he truly felt about her. Levi was much more of a physical being, not that Victoria had anything to complain about. When their lips would touch it felt like lava moving from his skin to hers. The feeling traveled down through her body filling her with tension. Sometimes she felt that if she touched him too intimately in those moments she would explode. But sometimes explosions were good.
They had their fair share of sexual encounters of course. There had even been a few boys before Levi if Victoria was being honest with herself, but none of that mattered anymore. The only person that mattered now was Levi. He was everything to Victoria. No matter what happened in their lives, Victoria would make sure that they stayed together.
Darkness was settling around Victoria and the boys that had been playing Frisbee had returned to their dorms while she sat, still waiting for the old beater truck to turn the corner into the parking lot. When Victoria finally heard the rumbling of its engine she stood and slowly grabbed her bag.
Levi hopped out of the green truck and strode quickly over to Victoria. He only paused when he wrapped his hands around her cheeks to kiss her with such intensity that Victoria thought she might fall over.
I’m sorry I’m late babe. Do you have any idea what traffic is like out there? Friday night…” He shook his head allowing his chocolate colored bangs to fall into his eyes. Victoria lifted her hand and used her forefinger to pull them out of his face.
It’s not a problem.”
He squinted in the fading light as if looking for something,
“How long have you been out here?”
She shrugged handing him her bag and began walking,
“I don’t know… like an hour. It’s better than being upstairs with Jen.” Victoria turned around to look at him for a moment, his feet were planted and he had a scowl on his face.
Is she still causing problems for you?” He began walking but it was more of a stomp than his typical gait.
Victoria rolled her eyes,
“She’s not causing problems for me. She’s just really annoying. There’s nothing you can do to fix annoying. Trust me I’ve tried, you forget that I grew up with Fallon.” Victoria liked to remind Levi of how different their sisters were. Fallon had been abusive of their parents’ money, spending it willy-nilly without a care in the world. Fallon also reveled in bullying Victoria and liked to watch people squirm. Tyne on the other hand, was practically Levi’s mother and raised him since they were kids. Tyne started working her freshman year of high school just to help put food on the table. She had never been able to afford college though she was now taking some community college classes locally. Tyne would never say something to make someone uncomfortable, it just wasn’t her way.
Levi also wasn’t in school--he worked for a computer analytics company mostly because he was a genius. He didn’t need the collegiate education that most others did to find themselves in a job as good as he had. But he too had worked since he was young. Starting with a newspaper route leading up to the waiter job, he constantly had money flowing in to help this family. As a
result, he had a sense of responsibility that most guys their age didn’t have. Sometimes it made Victoria feel protected and safe, while other times she felt like something else on his list of things to do in life.
She watched Levi’s face and could see that he was trying to shake off his annoyance with her roommate so he laughed lightly at her quip about Fallon, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes.
Victoria tried to shake off the foreboding feeling that he was in one of those angsty moods he sometimes carried around with him. She walked the rest of the way to the truck quickly hoping the moment would pass. He jogged up next to her in order to open the door. One of the qualities Victoria really appreciated about Levi was the way he always seemed to act like a gentleman. For a man who had grown up without a mother, he really did know how to treat girl well.
As he climbed in next to Victoria, she buckled her seatbelt and turned up the heat. It was odd because it was late spring and it should have started to warm up. But Victoria realized that she hadn't heard any of the usual cricket symphonies on campus on evenings like this.
“Do you think it's going be cold up there? At the cabin?” As Levi backed out of the parking lot he shook his head.
Nah, I don't think so. Besides the place has heat just in case.” He paused for a moment as if for dramatic effect, “You shouldn't worry about the temperature anyway. You know I'll always keep you warm.” He allowed his hand to leave the steering wheel and rest just above Victoria’s knee on the inside of her thigh. It was a gentle touch but Victoria knew that it meant more.
Victoria pulled her lips to one side giving him an assessing look,
“Levi Manor you are a bad boy!” She said mockingly. He laughed lightly and Victoria felt his poor mood from before lift slightly.
So what kept you at work? Another big project?”
Levi shook his head,
“No, it's that asshole Dave. He's never doing his work on time. Then the rest of us have to pick up the slack. I wish they would just fire him already.”
If he’s so terrible, then why don't they?”
Levi lifted his hand from Victoria’s leg and placed it back on the steering wheel. She saw him grip it tightly.
“Because he's the boss's son. And, honestly, the only other person they have that can do his job is me, and sometimes they don't particularly care for the fact that I don’t have a college degree behind my name. It's bullshit really.”
Victoria nodded her head in agreement,
“What idiots! What does it matter if you have a college degree? You know more than most of those guys. Besides, in this economy a lot of kids are going to trade school these days.”
He sighed heavily,
“Yeah, except I didn’t do that either. Without any formal education I'm not going to be able to move up within the company.” Victoria could feel the tenseness rolling off of him like waves. She knew it was time to drop the subject. This has been an argument since Victoria had begun taking steps towards her law degree just like Victoria’s father had before her. And she realized that one day she would make a lot more money than Levi and that bothered him. He liked to take care of her, protect her or support her. It wasn't that he didn't appreciate how much Victoria wanted to be a lawyer or that he didn't support her decision to go through seven years of schooling, but sometimes she knew that he felt he could never be as successful as she intended to be.
As they drove through the darkening night Victoria thought back to the night they had begun dating back in her senior year of high school. Levi had already graduated and was working as a freelance computer analyst but many times he still graced the high school crowd with his presence. Many of the Cape Haven alumni did. When you graduated Cape Haven, you stayed part of the town. It was just the way things were in the small coastal village.
It was in the spring and everyone was at some ridiculous party at Trey Valaquez's house. Trey had previously been kind of a nerd, but then his parents won the lottery and somehow he became the most popular guy in school. They liked to leave the house a lot on weekends, or maybe Trey kicked them out, no one was ever really sure. Some people said that Trey was actually a total genius and that he had rigged the lottery system so that his parents would win. Ever since then, he ruled his own little world and most of Cape Haven.
The party was something out of a magazine, with girls dressed in glittery short dresses and the guys all in suits and tuxes. Victoria remembered Levi had saved up money for weeks just to afford the suit that he would wear to the party. Tyne had tailored it for him so it would fit perfectly. Victoria had giggled watching Tyne stick him with pins so he would look dashing. At the time Victoria couldn’t tell him how fine he looked. Neither of them had spoken of their feelings for one another, not yet anyway.