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“I’m so sorry, Mia. He didn’t make it.”

My lips feel numb as I say the words, “He’s dead?”

Dr. Solomon touches my arm, his expression grave. “Yes. I’m so very sorry.”

The muscles in my face are frozen – solid. Which is probably a good thing because I don’t want him to see what I’m truly feeling.

Elation. Relief. Complete and utter relief.

Oliver is dead.

I want to laugh.

“Mia, are you okay? Maybe you should sit down.”

I feel Dr. Solomon’s hand on my arm, guiding me to sit on one of the plastic chairs in the waiting room.

I can’t believe Oliver’s dead.

I can feel the relief bubbling up inside me.

“Could I have some water?” I ask Dr. Solomon.

“Of course.”

He leaves the room, and I’m grateful for the moment alone.

Oliver is dead.

I’m free.


I wrap my arms around myself, hugging tight.

In exhilaration? In comfort?

Maybe both.

I guess I should feel something in the form of grief that my father is dead.

But honestly I don’t. I really and truly don’t.

And I’m glad about that.


Then I feel something form on my lips.

Something that hasn’t happened to me in a really long time; not for real anyway. A smile.

I touch a finger to my lips.

There it is; an honest to god smile.

I hear movement by the door – Dr. Solomon.

I force the smile away and relax my features to neutral.

Dr. Solomon takes the seat beside me and hands me a plastic cup filled with ice water. The cold against my fingers makes me shiver.

He puts his hand on my shoulder and squeezes it in comfort. He probably thinks I’m shivering from shock.

I want to push his hand off. I hate people touching me. I hate men’s hands touching me.

“Is there anyone I can call?” he asks.

He’s asking this, but he knows there isn’t anyone. Oliver was my only family.

I shake my head.

“Are you going to be okay?” he asks, releasing his hand from my shoulder, resting it back in his lap.

I glance up at him and nod.

I can’t speak because if I do, I’ll quite possibly tell that I’m going to be more than okay.

Not really what I should be saying minutes after finding out that my father has just died, but it’s the truth. For the first time in my life, I can honestly say that I’m really and truly going to be okay.

Chapter One


Eight months later…

I push an errant strand of hair back with my hand. Setting down the roll of tape, I survey the boxes piled around me. For the last few days, I’ve been boxing Oliver’s things to give to Goodwill. It’s been eight months since he died of a heart attack, but trust me, I wasn’t hanging onto them out of any sentimentality. I was just putting off having myself near anything of his, but now the house has finally sold after being on the market for six months, so everything has to go.

I feel no sadness. Nothing. Just relief that he’s gone, and then a big black void of emptiness. I’ve felt this exact way from the moment I found out he’d died.

How ironic it is that he died of a heart attack? The great Oliver Monroe, respected and revered heart surgeon, dies from a heart attack.

I like to think of it as divine retribution.

The only one who could have saved him was himself. Maybe punishment does eventually come to those who deserve it. I need to believe that because it’s the only thing that’s keeping me hanging on.

You know the saying ‘from bad to worse’? Well, my situation is kind of like that, but more like ‘from worse, to a diluted version of worse, but still shit nonetheless’.

I moved out of my home—it’s a joke for me to call it that. A home is somewhere you feel safe, but I hadn’t felt safe in this house for even a moment.

I woke up one night, panicked and terrified from a nightmare. I thought Oliver was coming to get me, but then I suddenly realized that I was no longer trapped; that I could leave this place that closeted my nightmares.

So the next day, I put the house on the market and bought an apartment close to school and close to my boyfriend Forbes.

We started dating a month after Oliver died.

The instant I’d realized I was free of my father, I went a little wild. Well, wild for me. I went out to bars drinking, something I had never been allowed to do before.

I didn’t really know what I was looking for, or what I was hoping to find … but that was when I found Forbes.

Or maybe he found me.

We met in a bar. He approached me, offered to buy me a drink. He was charming. I was flattered. No one had ever paid me attention the way Forbes had that night. Like everything I said mattered.

I fell into him like he was a vat of melted chocolate, but I later found out that Forbes is more like quicksand.

Dating quickly morphed into Forbes becoming my boyfriend.

My first boyfriend.

My first everything.

I was happy. Exuberant.

That quickly changed.

Four months ago I discovered that I had gotten myself into a relationship with the exact same man as my father when Forbes backhanded me during a disagreement.

Really, I should have seen it coming. Forbes is the epitome of Oliver, except instead of being a doctor, Forbes is well on his way to becoming a successful lawyer.

Everyone loves him. He’s stupidly handsome. Smart. Charming. You know the type.

I should have known that, behind closed doors, the similarity to my father would be akin there too.

Cold-hearted. Physically and emotionally abusive.

Why do I stay?

Because it’s all I know.

All I have ever known.

Like a bee drawn to honey, I was drawn to a man like Forbes because the life he offers is the one I’m used to.

It’s easy to be worthless to someone, but to matter to someone … well, I think that would be harder.

I’m not playing for sympathy here. My life is what it is. I live it. There are people out there who are far worse off than I am. Children living with famine and loss, and dying every single day without reason and cause. So yes, I can cope with the occasional beating.

I do believe that everyone has a pain and coping ability that is individual to them, and if you want to feel sorry for yourself because of the hand life dealt you, then that’s your god given right—I won’t judge you for that.

I spent a long time crying my heart out because of the life I had. Then the tears dried up, and I got up and carried on.

I live to my worth. That’s what Oliver taught me.

And there are good times. Little rays of sunshine on a bleak, cloudy day where Forbes shines through, reminding me of why I care about him.

Until the next time he splits my lip or cracks my ribs.

I don’t love Forbes. I tell him I do because he wants to hear it, but really I don’t.

In the beginning, I thought I did, but what did I know of love? I’d never been shown it to know what it was. It had taken me a while before I realized that what I felt for Forbes was nothing more than my own feelings being reflected through my utter desperation to be loved by someone.

Forbes showed me affection in the beginning—so I, of course, gorged like the needy person I am.

The one lesson I’ve learned is that if I were ever blessed to fall in love in the future, I would be able to tell it from my own wants and see it for the real thing.

Not that I ever see love happening in my future.

I’ll be with Forbes until the day I die. Which could be sooner rather than later. One wrong hit is all it takes. Then I’ll be with my mother.

I never knew my mother. She died when I was a baby. Oliver wouldn’t talk about her. I’ve never even seen a picture – he got rid of all traces of her when she died. All I know is that she was called Anna and that she died in a car accident four months after I was born.

I’ve often wondered if that was why Oliver hated me so much. Because I was here, but she wasn’t, and I reminded him of her.

I have her painted in my mind like an angel. She’s one of the things that got me through the hard years with Oliver. I used to imagine how life would have been if she were still here. Would he have been the way he was? And if he were, I know she would have taken me away with her.

I know, because it’s what I would have done, and I have to get that from her. Oliver didn’t have one speck of goodness inside him, so it has to have come from my mom.

Thirsty, I head downstairs to the kitchen. The sound of my bare feet slapping against the tiles haunts me. Shivers run across my skin, fighting horrors to the surface.

Taking a deep breath, I close my eyes and calm myself before walking on, quietly this time. Before going to the fridge, I turn the TV on to fill the space with noise. I pull a bottle of water from the fridge, unscrew the cap and lean back against the counter.

My cell starts to vibrate against my butt.

I pull it from my pocket. I don’t have to check the screen to know who it will be; Forbes. I don’t have any real friends, not ones who call me anyway.

Growing up, I’d kept my distance from other kids. I’d wanted friends, desperately so, but I couldn’t let anyone close because of the way Oliver was. It wasn’t a risk I could take.

After a while, I’d become the weird kid. The loner.

I could have changed that when Oliver died, but I didn’t see any real point, and even less so when I met Forbes. He isn’t exactly big on me having girlfriends. He likes control, and I’m easier as a solo project.

“Hey,” I answer.

“Hey babe, how much longer are you going to be?”

He’s in a good mood. Thank god.

“Not too much longer. I just have the attic to finish, and then I’m heading home. That just leaves Oliver’s office to do tomorrow.”

“Shall I come over tonight?”


“Of course.” I force bright and bubbly into my voice.

“I’ve missed you these last few days,” he says quietly down the phone.

“I’ve missed you too.” Not once.

“We’ll make up for it tonight.”

Oh god.

“Can’t wait.”

“Great, I’ll come over at eight.”

“I’ll make us dinner.”

“I love you, Mia.”

“I know. I love you too.” I hate you.

Oh a sigh, I hang up the phone, shove it back in my pocket and head back upstairs to make a start on the attic.


“Hey.” Forbes envelops me in a hug of expensive cologne and rich cotton.

Forbes is very handsome. Blond hair, six foot, built like a linebacker. He’s the all American boy, and physically, we suit each other. I’m blonde and slim, though Forbes often tells me I’m overweight. And I’m short. Five three to be exact. It puts me a severe disadvantage when things get rough with Forbes. Not that I ever fight back. Fighting back only makes things worse. I learned that lesson a long time ago.

He leans down and kisses me firmly on the lips. I taste the alcohol on his breath instantly. He’s been drinking.

My stomach sinks.

I used to love Forbes kisses in the beginning. Especially the alcohol free ones. I remember how I couldn’t wait to have the feel of his lips on mine. Now, it’s the last thing I want.

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