Authors: Sherri Hayes
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance
Finding Anna Book 4
First published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2014
Copyright © Sherri Hayes, 2014
The right of Sherri Hayes to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her under the
Copyright Amendment (Moral Rights) Act 2000
This work is copyrighted. All rights are reserved. Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part may be reproduced, copied, scanned, stored in a retrieval system, recorded or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
All characters and events in this book—even those sharing the same name as (or based upon) real people—are entirely fictional. No person, brand or corporation mentioned in this book should be taken to have endorsed this book nor should the events surrounding them be considered in any way factual.
This book is a work of fiction and should be read as such.
The Writer’s Coffee Shop
PO Box 447 Cherrybrook NSW 2126
PO Box 2116 Waxahachie TX 75168
Paperback ISBN- 978-1-61213-222-8
E-book ISBN- 978-1-61213-223-5
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the US Congress Library.
Cover image by: ©
depositphotos.com / George Mayer
Cover design by: Jennifer McGuire
I’m dedicating this book to my street team. They share their love for this series almost daily. Thank you all.
This book contains conversations, flashbacks, and various other items regarding abuse that may be disturbing to some readers.
If I kept this up, I was going to need to replace the flooring in my living
room before the year was out. I stopped my pacing and glanced up at the closed bedroom door, then out the large window that framed my backyard. To say I was worried was an understatement. I wanted to punch something. Or maybe
was more accurate. Unfortunately, I didn’t know who to focus my anger on at the moment.
The first person to come to mind was Stephan Coleman. He’d made Anna depend on him, need him, and now she was completely lost. She was worse now than that first time I’d seen her. For the last two months, she’d barely left her room. At first, even getting her to eat had been a challenge, but with Jade’s help, we’d gotten her to eat something, even if only a bowl of soup or some toast. She was wasting away in that room without him, and there didn’t appear to be a damn thing I could do about it.
So much had changed about Anna. She was no longer the girl I’d known when I was a kid—when we were both kids. Anna rarely smiled anymore. She was never playful or teasing. I missed that. I missed the girl I used to know.
“Aaaah!” Anna screeched as she tried to run away from the frog I had in my hand. Worms she had no problem with, but for some reason frogs scared her to death. “Stop it, Cal, or I’m going to tell.”
I laughed and continued to chase her down toward the creek. We’d been heading there anyway, but I’d gotten sidetracked when I noticed a frog right off the path.
Our fun came to an abrupt stop when we came to the clearing and realized someone else was already there. Jesse was my age, and for some reason, he’d taken to picking on Anna. My dad said it was because he liked her, but I didn’t like it, and neither did she.
Taking hold of Anna’s arm and pulling her behind me, I stepped forward, protective.
Slamming my fist down on a large wooden beam alongside the window, I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. If only things were as simple now as they had been then. As much as I wanted to blame Coleman, what was going on with Anna wasn’t entirely his fault. No. There was plenty of blame to go around there, starting with her father, John. It was hard for me to believe after knowing him all my life, but there it was.
I’d seen John twice since he’d been arrested after trying to kidnap Anna. Both times he had tried to plead his case to me. He wanted to see Anna, and he wanted my help to make that happen. For some reason, he was still under the delusion that I was on his side. I wasn’t. If there was one thing Coleman and I agreed on, it was that Anna needed to be kept as far away from her father as possible. Jonathan Reeves had done enough damage. He didn’t need the opportunity to do any more.
The door to Brianna’s bedroom opened, and Jade stepped out. She glanced up at me and turned to take the dishes into the kitchen. I noticed they were empty. That was good. At least Brianna had eaten something this morning.
Following her, I stayed off to the side, leaning against the counter. Jade had been great. Better than I could have ever asked her to be. She’d practically moved in since Anna arrived. It wasn’t something we’d ever discussed. Jade had her place, and I had mine. We were both busy, and that worked for both of us. After my first attempt to console Anna, however, her presence had become a necessity. Jade could interact with Anna in a way I couldn’t. Touching Anna in any way was off-limits when it came to me. Every time I tried to hug her or hold her hand, she would cringe away as if I’d touched her with a hot branding iron. It nearly killed me to know she’d been abused and to see how badly it had affected her even in regards to a simple gesture. That didn’t happen with Jade. Anna accepted her comfort, even though she typically remained rigid during the exchange. I wanted to do more for Anna. I just had to figure out how best to help her, and in a way that she would accept.
“I’m worried about her.”
My gaze found Jade’s as she turned to face me. How she put up with all of this boggled my mind, but it made me love her even more. “I am, too. I don’t know how to fix it, though. She won’t let me near her.”
Jade crossed the short distance and wrapped her arms around my waist. I pulled her closer so that her breasts were pressed up against my chest. “She misses him.”
I sighed. “I know.”
This was one of the few places where Jade and I disagreed. She was firmly in Coleman’s corner. I, however, was not, and she knew it.
“Maybe we could—”
“No.” I stepped back and released her. The last thing I wanted was to fight over this again.
“Cal, you don’t understand.”
“What is it I don’t understand, Jade?” Trying to keep my voice down so Anna couldn’t hear it, I moved closer until there were only a few feet between us.
“She loves him.”
“That’s not love. That’s dependence. There’s a difference.”
Jade shook her head. “How can you say that?”
“Easy.” Pointing to the closed bedroom door, I drove my point home. I knew a thing or two about dependence. Feeling like there was no choice. Anna had a choice, and I was going to make sure, one way or another, that she knew it. “Look at her. She can barely function now that he’s not around. I don’t think it gets any clearer than that.”
“You are so stubborn. What is it you have against Stephan that you can’t see that, on top of everything else, Anna is suffering from a broken heart? Maybe it’s different for guys. Maybe you don’t deal with it the same way. But it’s not uncommon for a female to lock herself away from the world for a week and bury herself in a tub of ice cream.”
“A week?” I turned away from her again, marching back to the window, wishing the twisting in my gut would stop. “I could’ve handled a week. She’s been like this since she got here.”
I glanced over my shoulder, meeting her gaze. “Of course it is. And it’s his fault.”
She tilted her head back, looking up at the ceiling, and sighed. I got the feeling I’d be sleeping on the couch again after this conversation. “Usually when you break up with someone, it’s because it isn’t working anymore or the other person wronged you. That didn’t happen in this case. She’s intentionally keeping herself away from him in order to protect him. She didn’t stop loving him. He didn’t stop loving her.”
I started to open my mouth to contradict her, but she cut me off.
“I don’t care what you say. I believe he loves her. Why would he go to all that trouble with her if he didn’t?”
“Easy. He wanted a compliant sex toy he could have his way with.”
“Cal Ross. That is one of the most callous things I’ve ever heard you say.”
I hated fighting with Jade, but as she’d said, I was stubborn. The problem was she was just as pigheaded as I was when she thought she was right. “It’s the truth.”
“No. It isn’t. That’s not how it works.”
“How would you know?” I lowered my voice an octave. “He’s screwed up, Jade. The things he likes to do to women . . . I can’t let him do that to Anna. I can’t.”
“And if it’s what she wants?”
She took a step toward me. “If it is?”
“Jade . . .”
Before I could say thing more, she was standing directly in front of me, her nose just inches away from mine. “If you want to be Anna’s friend—a true friend—you will want her to be happy.” I opened my mouth to speak, but she placed her hand against my lips, silencing me. “Stephan Coleman makes her happy. You need to accept that and deal with it. Stop thinking about yourself for once and think about Anna. The man she loves is having his life dragged through the mud right now because of her. Think about how you would feel if something happened to me and you couldn’t do anything to stop it or help me.”
She raised her eyebrow, questioning. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, she had a point. If Jade were in trouble and I wasn’t allowed to help her, I would probably slowly drive myself crazy.
Closing my eyes, I nodded, and she removed her hand from over my mouth. “I still don’t like it.”