We were the lucky few that got a chance to start over. A fake family, a new home and a pretty little life built on lies. But while our lives continued to intertwine, we were put on very different paths. Now it was only a matter of time before they collide and the beast behind the beauty is exposed.
“What are your plans for the day, little one?” I asked, and she startled.
“I have a report I need to finish on the adverse effects of corporal punishment used on children.” I laughed and shook my head, my eyes going back to the television. “Yeah, so that will be fun. But if Connor and Grace aren’t back, I can always skip school tomorrow.”
“Not a chance.”
“I wasn’t asking.”
I looked over at her, her eyebrow raised in challenge.
“You had a private tutor.”
“I had antisocial tendencies and a habit of challenging authority.” I laughed as the credits rolled on the screen in front of us.
“I don’t doubt that.”
We fell silent as we both sat, unmoving. “So this guy…” I let my voice trail off.
“He’s just a guy.” She shrugged as she pulled on a loose thread on the blanket.
“Is he a good guy?”
“Are you?” she shot back.
“That’s a loaded question.” I stood up, stretching, and when I looked down at her, her smile fell. “What?”
“Did that hurt?”
I sighed as I thought of the marks that covered my back. “Don’t.” I walked over to the shelves of movies, scanning the titles. I didn’t know if it bothered me more that she was asking about them or that she looked upset over my injuries. I was no one for her to feel sorry for. While I’d received them for not doing what I was told, I’d earned them by following through with the orders. But answering that question perplexed me. If you take a child and never show him affection, any attention received is positive in his eyes. Coupling that with the twisted abusive behavior and dominance that was instilled in me so young, I learned to derive gratification from receiving pain as well as giving. It was a release, a way to atone for my sins.
She stood and walked up to my side. My scars should have been a warning to not get close to someone like me, but Annabel saw my dominant side as a reflection of my overprotective nature toward her. My eyes closed as her hand ran softly over my back. Her featherlight touch on my own wounds more painful than when I had received them.
“Annabel, stop,” I bit out, but she continued on, her fingers trailing over the raised welts. My body stiffened, not wanting someone to give me affection I didn’t deserve. It turned my stomach, and for once I was completely thrown off guard. So I did what I knew best, and I instilled fear in her.
“I said fucking stop,” I seethed as I grabbed her by her shoulders and slammed her small body against the movies, causing the shelves to shake. Her green eyes were wide with fright, and now I was the one desperate to touch. Her fear was palpable, and while I knew I was pushing away the one person who even remotely began to understand me, it was for her own good. She didn’t have to understand as long as she listened. But listening to me was something Annabel rarely did anymore. She’d become too comfortable in my presence, and now she ignored the alarms that would set a normal person on edge. That was what terrified me about her seeing this guy. I had no idea what kind of person he was, but I knew Annie wouldn’t be as cautious as she should be.
“Annabel…” I rested my forehead against the case, my body hovering over hers, caging her in with my arms on her shoulders. Her name came out like a plea for help.
I lifted my head and looked at her. The fear-induced stutter let me know I had succeeded in making her understand.
I took a step back from her, running my hand along my jaw before turning and leaving the room, desperate to put distance between us.
(This bio is not to be taken seriously under any circumstance.)
Teresa Mummert is an army wife and mother whose passion in life is writing. She is the author of the New York Times and USA Todaybestselling novels White Trash Beautiful and Suicide Note. Born in Pennsylvania, she lived a small town life before following her husband’s military career to Louisiana and Georgia. Check out her website for samples and updates! TeresaMummert.com”