Unbreak me prequel to ru.., p.1
Unbreak Me: Prequel to Ruin Me, page 1
Unbreak Me: Prequel to Ruin Me
Bella Love-Wins Books
Blurb and Authors’ Notes
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About Bella Love-Wins
About Shiloh Walker
Copyright 2017 © Bella Love-Wins and Shiloh Walker
All Rights Reserved
Blurb and Authors’ Notes
I lived in the eye of a storm. A broken child in a nightmare I could never wake up from...unless I could get away.
But running meant I had to leave everything behind.
Years after I finally escaped, I found her.
She was too innocent, too sweet to turn my back on, and it only took an instant to seal her fate to mine.
This innocent stranger might be my only chance. If I let her in, she was sure to unbreak me.
From USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Bella Love-Wins and bestselling author Shiloh Walker comes a dark, emotional contemporary romance.
Unbreak Me is a short story prologue to the standalone, Ruin Me.
This short story ends in a cliffhanger.
A sneak peek of Ruin Me is available on Bella’s website at http://bellalovewins.com/ruinme/.
You little shit…you remember what I told I’d do the next time you got in my way.
It was an old nightmare.
It tore me out of a restless sleep and I jerked upright in bed, covered in sweat and panting for air. Like there’d never be enough of it, oxygen sawed in and out of my lungs, but no matter how much air I dragged in, the pressure in my chest didn’t want to let up.
I was in the fucking closet again.
The same old nightmare, over and over again.
“You got out, Mac,” I grunted to myself.
The sound of my own voice echoing in the silence of my room didn’t help much.
I’d never admit, not even to myself, that my hands shook a little as I wiped the sweat from my forehead, wishing I could wipe away the evidence of the dream just as easily.
But dreams this old, embedded this deep, they wouldn’t be dealt with as simple as that.
I could never remember that first time he locked me up, but I’ll never forget the first time I freed myself.
By then, I’d gotten used to the beatings before he forced me inside with a shove when no one was looking. That cold, conniving expression on his face as he pushed the doors shut was already seared into my awareness, whether subconsciously or not.
The pathetic desperation in my voice as I pleaded with him, begging him to do whatever he wanted with me. Just leave Micah alone, okay? Please?
The smell of sandalwood mixed in with my terror and his strength, the salty stench of sweat fused into the ferrous odor of blood. My blood.
The dwindling light that transitioned to all-encompassing darkness for a time until my eyes adjusted and clung to the thin sliver of light flowing in from the lock he’d turned. He’d taken the key with him. He may have taken the key to prevent me from getting it, but that single act created the means for me to finally escape.
It took years. Years for my tiny hands to get big enough, for my eyes to adjust to the blinding darkness, for my ears to process the sound of each click as the key did its job and turned each tumbler in the lock with incremental precision. Too many years for my mind to process how to undo the work of that key.
One day it all clicked.
He took the key…but what if something else can be a key?
I wasn’t even locked up when it came together. But that was a good thing. Being temporarily outside of my prison when I figured out how to escape meant I could plan for the next incarceration. That was when I hid the first tool. Then a second and a third.
The first was a stick. A twig, really. But strong and hard, with an unusual bend at one side that made me believe it could be useful. And its breadth tapered off from about the size of my thumb to the width of the tip of my little finger.
The second tool was one of the toy soldiers’ bayonets in a set my great aunt had bought me. It was a small thing, not even an inch and a half long, but made of metal and strong. It was perfect.
My last tool was one of my mother’s butterfly hairpins. I found it below the dresser beside my bed and knew it was hers.
I was also sure it could help. Mother was too weak to protect us from him, but she tried when she could. It was somewhat fitting that something of hers was part of the plan to rescue us. She loved us all. It wasn’t her fault that God was so cruel he made her too fragile to shield her innocent children from harm. Wasn’t her fault that one of the babies she loved so much had been broken almost from birth. At least a thing of hers could be of use.
I slid those precious tools into the tiny but rough grooves in the wood inside my prison. He’d never look for it there. He hated being in tight spaces. That was the reason he locked me up in the first place. He thought I’d be as claustrophobic as he was, and I’d feel the same terror.
Was that all he wanted?
To hurt us? Scare us?
Or was he looking for something even uglier, even then? Was he capable of such devious machinations?
Sometimes, I thought he was. He was broken inside and he wanted to break us, too. He wanted to prove he was the strong one, that we were weaker. Maybe he hated the fact that we had each other and he had to put a stop to that, had to divide us, had to break us down until he was the only one left standing. Maybe he wanted to turn us into useless lifeless rag dolls that got thrown out with yesterday’s garbage.
Maybe, even then, he wanted something more final…to end us.
Or maybe he was just plain evil.
Too broken to see the damage he did.
No matter what he really was, one thing he had was too much freedom. One day that would end. I kept hoping it’d happen before he ended us.
The door could only close slowly now. I was growing. Every day I could feel my strength catching up to his. He’d push and I’d push back, and although the door always shut me in, it gave me hope. One day I’d be as big as he was. One day I’d fight back and win. One day he’d realize the only option was to stop before I stopped him for good.
My only wish was that I’d thought about finding a way to get my baby brother inside with me.
If only I’d seen this prison as an escape in itself.
At least he’d be safe with me.
At least he’d still be around.
I’ll always remember the look in his eyes when I emerged from my prison for the first time. He caught sight of my reflection in the large foyer mirror and spun around so fast that he almost lost his balance. As he stood there, frozen in shock that I’d escaped, his one hand was clenched around my baby brother’s shirt collar. The other was balled up in a fist, ready to deliver a beating to a child who could never defend himself against someone so big, so imposing, and so cruel.
In that instant, my feeling of victory was replaced with only one emotion.
He locked me away because he couldn’t hurt me as much as he did my baby brother.
He cast me aside to take me out of the equation.
In my blinding fit of anger, I hurled toward him and he let go of my baby brother to fend me off.
“Go hide.” I needed him to hide in our mother’s room. Once the smaller boy was safely gone, I fought with every ounce of strength, pounding on my older brother with one bunched fist after another, kicking his shins, shoving my entire body weight against him to let him know I’d never stop fighting him until my very last breath.
But he was still stronger. Still bigger than me. And enraged—furious that I’d gotten free, furious that I’d managed to hurt him, even a little.
He got my arm and neck into a wrestling hold and squeezed so tight I could barely breathe. My vision blurred as I slipped closer to the edge of unconsciousness. My legs were still kicking whatever I could reach as he dragged me across the foyer and up the wide wooden staircase to the second floor. I knew what was coming next. He’d gotten away with throwing me down the stairs twice now, and I was sure that for this third time, I wouldn’t be so lucky. Sharp edges, bones, and gravity didn’t mix well.
But a knock on the front door saved me.
He was smart enough never to let anyone see what he did to us. That was how he got away with so much. The absence of credible witnesses enabled him to blame it on us. He could call us clumsy, or rowdy, or careless little kids who hurt ourselves at every turn.
A random neighbor’s visit saved me. She stopped by to see if Mother was well enough to catch up on some of the local church events. When she saw my bruises, she asked who’d done this to me. I knew better than to give her a straight answer. My family was too powerful to feel the force of justice. She could have reported my injuries to the police, Child Protective Services, to our priest. None of it would’ve mattered. Our family had a way of making legal problems go away. Wealth and influence made it possible for us to suffer under the weight of a ‘good’ family name. Reputation imprisoned us and kept our pain hidden.
My refusal to reply to the neighbor saved me from more beatings that day. It also inadvertently ended my time locked up in that prison. He was so angry about the fact that I’d freed myself that he rushed upstairs to figure out how I’d unlocked it. I regretted my mistake then. I’d forgotten all about my makeshift tools on the wooden floor inside. Once he saw the twig and toy soldier’s bayonet, he took them out to the garage and broke them into little pieces with a hammer. He didn’t dare break Mother’s butterfly hairpin, though.
He probably had no idea that I’d just used it.
That it was the key to everything.
He didn’t need to know about the countless tries it took me to get out of that prison.
But finally, that day, it worked. I’d wedged one edge into the top of the keyhole and slid the bayonet underneath. The hairpin was narrow enough, yet strong enough to anchor down the slender tip of the bayonet, and when I shimmied it around, one tumbler lifted and dropped. Then another, until it was open.
That was my first ever act of magic.
Except, after he broke the twig and bayonet, he stuffed the end of two plastic toy arrows into the keyhole. Wedged them in so tight that no one could get them out. Of course, it meant he could never lock me inside ever again. At the time, I’d thought it was a good thing.
Not long after, I realized how wrong I was.
He found other places to imprison me. Places that I couldn’t get out of fast enough.
That first prison could’ve kept him from my baby brother.
After everything, I still had the butterfly hairpin. I kept it hidden under a loose board in my first prison just in case he found a way to dislodge the broken arrows in the keyhole. The day I finally ran away, I took the extra time to sneak in, just to find that hairpin and take it with me. That little thing was the only item I valued in our massive house that I could escape with.
I had nothing left.
Nothing and no one.
Nothing but that pretty little butterfly hairpin from Mother.
The means to spread my wings and fly far away.
My key to freedom.
My key to discovering magic.
My key to everything that followed.
“The first round is on you,” Tamika announced as we stepped out of the elevator.
Rolling my eyes at her, I said, “You always make me buy the first round.”
“Don’t you know by now that’s why I keep you around, honey?” She gave me a wide, wicked smile, but ruined it by pulling me in to hug me, quick and tight. “Mexico! How can you be moving to Mexico for as much as two years? What the hell am I going to do without you around?”
“You’ll call me like you do all the time anyway. I’ll fly back for holidays. We’ll Skype, and Face Time, and email.” I shrugged. “In other words…we’ll manage.”
The one part of my upcoming trip to Mexico that I was really dreading was leaving my best friend behind. “You sure I can’t talk you into coming with me?” I batted my lashes at her as we wove through the crush of bodies.
“I’ve already got my dream job laid out, sugar.” Tamika threw her long, dark hair behind one shoulder and shrugged. “Not my fault you decided you had to go and move all the way to Mexico.”
“You are never going to let me live this down, are you?” Wryly, I shook my head.
“Nope. Not ever.” She hooked her arm through mine. “Check out the honey over there.”
She nodded her head to the right before letting go, and continued her long-legged, easy saunter through the lobby. I followed the direction of her eyes and caught sight of the guy I assumed she was talking about—he was a honey, all right, but too pretty for my taste. He was definitely up her alley, though.
“Man, he’s so… biteable,” Tamika said, a bit of a playful growl in her voice.
“So go see if he wants to get bitten.” We might have had a date for drinks our first night in Vegas, but best friends know when to step down or step aside.
“Nah.” She didn’t even ponder it, pausing once to glance back his way.
I did the same, wondering what it was she saw.
“He’s…hey watch out!”
I heard the warning, but couldn’t stop in time.
I crashed, full speed, into what felt like a wall.
“Oops, sorry!” I managed, my hands coming up to grip the steel struts masquerading as arms. Absently, I tipped my head back to look up at the guy I’d bumped into. “Sorry about that.”
Blood rushed to my cheeks, because I hadn’t just bumped into him—I’d pretty much walked right into him—it was something of a surprise I hadn’t bounced off of him and landed on my ass, he was so damn solid.
Too embarrassed to wait for an answer, I darted around him and caught up with Tamika who was standing two feet away, brows arched and a grin on her face.
“Don’t say a thing,” I warned.
“Not a word.”
She wore a butterfly hairpin.
The jeweled wings glittered in the bright lights shining down from the chandeliers in the lobby. It was nestled in lush locks of thick, wavy, blonde hair.
The glint of blue caught my eyes, followed by the sweep of wings.
That shade of blue was echoed in her eyes.
A butterfly hairpin, golden curls and blue eyes.
While my brain was processing that, the rest of me was processing other things—soft curves, a pretty mouth, one hell of a rack. Her hands had come up to grip my arms out of instinct, steadying herself when she’d crashed into me after I’d rounded the corner. The apology had flown easily from her lips while I’d said nothing.
I’d been too busy staring at the butterfly.
I never would’ve noticed anything about her if it weren’t for that damn hairpin. Sh
Part of the decor.
And I kept them all at a distance.
But that seemingly inconsequential hair accessory set her apart from everyone else. Brought her into my frame of reference. Pulled her one degree closer. While everyone else was shrouded by the blurred lines outside the protective walls around my consciousness, I saw her.
She held the key and she didn’t even know it.
As I sat in a private corner of the lounge after our show, I warned myself that if I were smart, I’d turn away and act like I never saw her. I’d forget she existed before that broken part of me let her get any closer.
But that was the fear talking. She couldn’t get closer if she tried. I was in the private, roped-off VIP section of the lounge, hidden behind a smartly decorated wall of mirrors and a cascade of hanging plants. It was the perfect vantage point for enjoying the entertainment without interacting with it. More importantly, to kick back without being seen.
Sly and LeVan, my best friends and business partners, walked by. They stuck around long enough to notice me staring at her. As always, their reactions were what I expected. Polarized and predictable. One supportive, the other, pure resistance.
“Man-eating she-devil,” Sly warned, sizing her up instantly based on nothing but her appearance. “A woman that beautiful can have men eating out of her palm and she knows it—don’t waste your time.”
by Bella Love-Wins / Sports / Romance have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes