Bentley Celeste has everything to lose, literally. On a night she should have been celebrating, her world came crashing down. Left with no other choice, she ran for her life and has been hiding ever since.
The day Tristan turned into a teenager his whole life changed. Faced with the reality that his father was more of a child than he was, Tristan chose to forego the rest of his childhood and become an adult.
Both have secrets that could destroy the fragile foundation that Tristan fights hard to build. But what happens when the very secrets you are hiding are the very ties that will either bind or break you? Can Bentley stop running long enough to let someone in? Can Tristan start believing that not everyone he loves is destined to abandon him?
I have been through a living hell. I lost my sister to a stalker who to this day, refuses to say where she is buried. I lost my father to his best friend Jim Beam, and my mother, well I never had her. Sure she was there. My darling mommy created the hell I endured every day.
For as long as I can remember the woman hated me. She enjoyed finding new ways to try and break me. The earliest recollection I have of the woman is her humiliating me.
My twin Cora and I were celebrating our fourth birthday. Cora insisted she had to have a Cinderella party. I wasn’t much into princesses but my opinion hardly mattered when it came to Cora’s demands. So of course my mother thought this idea was brilliant. There was a small consolation though. Mom said we could both be Cinderella. Cora threw such a fit at the idea she wasn’t going to be the only princess. That is until she saw our outfits. Cora’s was a beautiful blue dress, a Swarovski crystal crown, and mother even had glass slippers custom made for her. When it came time for me to put on my dress, turned out it wasn’t a dress at all. It was rags, dirty filthy rags. I was the standing joke of the party. That was the start to a long painful childhood.
I tried to avoid my mother’s wrath as much as possible, even if Cora made it her life’s mission to see me miserable. I guess she didn’t like having a twin any more than my mother liked having a second daughter. My mother’s temper hit a boiling point when I was six. We were at a fair and Cora had kicked the dirty water from a mud puddle up at me. It was the first time my mother didn’t scream at me and Cora wasn’t too thrilled she hadn’t succeeded. She always went out of her way to make sure I got in trouble, so since her antics didn’t get the reaction she wanted, she tripped me. I landed face first in the mud puddle destroying my Sunday dress. When I stood back up, our mother was furious. It was the first time she’d hit me hard enough to leave a mark. I had her hand imprinted across my cheek until the next morning.
After demanding that I bathe as soon as we got home, she ran a bath for me. I thought maybe her anger had lessened. She seemed calmer during the trip home. That was until I realized she ran the bath with water that was just a few degrees shy of boiling. She pushed me and the ruined dress I was still wearing into the water. I thought she had left me alone, so I tried to add some cold water to the tub. I never got the chance before she came back in and poured some kind of cleaner into the bath water and told me to scrub. The cleaner was harsh and it left my body covered in blisters.
Once she left the room again I thought it was safe to wash the mud from my hair. Lying back in the tub to try and wash the mud away, I opened my eyes to my mother hovering above me. The next thing I knew she was holding me under the water, trying to drown me. I must have had a guardian angel that night because somehow I slipped out of her grip and bolted through the door leaving water everywhere.
I don’t recall what I was spanked with that night, but I remember I could hardly walk for two days. That was around the same time I started shutting myself away. It was when I came to the conclusion, I was the only person who I would ever be able to rely on. The only person who would ever know the full truth of what my mother was capable of. Many nights I suffered her wrath, both verbally and physically. This became the pattern of my life, abuse and degradation.
Teachers often saw marks, but usually overlooked them. Even when they did ask, nothing ever came of it, aside from making my mother even angrier. Because of that, I learned early on not to tattle. No one ever believed me over her, especially not when Cora was standing by her side, the image of perfection. Everyone began to believe I was hurting myself for attention. The fucked up part was the more she hated me, the harder I tried to make her love me.
I was never good enough though. It didn’t matter that I had perfect grades. It didn’t matter how many people congratulated her on what a bright, well-mannered daughter she had. No, the only thing that mattered was that I couldn’t bring her into the limelight. That’s what she had Cora for. Beautiful spell-binding Cora who could spin a web of the most beautiful lies and you would become entrapped in every one of them. Cora was the only person I think Darla Celeste ever gave a shit about, other than herself. But then Cora was her ticket to stardom. She planned to ride the heels of Cora’s modeling career straight to the top, while I continued to live my life in solitude, consumed by my studies.
October 25, 2007, the day my life officially came to an end. Cora had been missing for several months, and any hope of finding her or her body had dwindled to nothing. The police charged a man that had been seen following her around, and who later was identified as her stalker. She had never mentioned a stalker to me. For the first time in my life I had my sister, we had grown close during my final year in school and the months thereafter. It was nice to have her there, even for that short while. The police questioned the man extensively, but he refused to admit to killing her. He was charged with kidnapping, obstruction and aggravated stalking. He took a plea deal to serve out a five year sentence.
The day we laid my sister’s empty coffin into the ground something inside my mother broke. She had always been abusive and hostile. But her obsession with me had turned to something brutal and deadly. Standing in the kitchen after the funeral cleaning up the mess created by all of the comings and goings of people giving condolences, my mother’s sanity snapped. It could be it was never there in the first place. To this day, I can still taste the chemicals she laced the plastic bag with, although they never found the object she used to try knocking me out with. Whatever it was it left me with a small concussion, and a fractured skull.
If my best friend, Dante, hadn’t talked me into taking self-defense classes with him, I’d likely be dead. Darla Celeste has a good seven inches on my frame, so getting the bag over my head was the easy part. I fought back like hell though as she tried to tighten the bag around my neck hoping if she couldn’t suffocate me, she’d be able to strangle me instead.
It was the first time I ever filed a police report against my mother for her abuse. Even that didn’t accomplish anything other than building her rage. She convinced a psychiatrist she was suffering from P.T.S.D. because of my sister’s disappearance and she couldn’t recognize me in that moment and was trying to defend herself. It was complete bullshit, but just like every other time, they bought the lies as if she was incapable of telling anything other than the truth.
It was in those moments my mother prepared me for a life of misery. It was in those moments I felt I would either live my life hidden away or die in whatever heinous fashion my mother would deem most appropriate to garner the most media attention. Darla had decided if she didn’t have Cora’s coattails to ride her claim to fame, that the loss of her surviving daughter would be devastating enough to garner her enough media attention and sympathy to throw her into the spotlight. But she didn’t just want my disappearance and death, she wanted it in a media frenzied circus. She wanted a horrific spectacle that would launch her to the top of her social circle, no matter what the cost. My mother was nothing if not a whore, and she was willing to trade my life for her 15 minutes of fame.
I chose to hide away from everyone. My only solace the knowledge that if I was alone, no one could ever hurt me. If nothing else, my life had prepared me for pain and misery. It had prepared me for all the great disappointments I endured.
Nothing in my life though, could have prepared me for him. I was at a loss when it came to the man who would wreck the safe little life I had built for myself. Never in my wildest dreams could I have ever conjured up a man like Tristan.
People say there is nothing in life that comes your way that you can’t handle. Well I call bullshit, because those people have never met Tristan Reece, with his sexy smirk and hotter than hell body. No one could ever be prepared for the confidence and sexual prowess that man oozes. Of course by no one I mean me, an average in every kind of way woman, who somehow becomes the bulls-eye on his target.
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