Authors: Aneta Quinn
Copyright © 2015 Aneta Quinn
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof
may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever
without the express written permission of the publisher
except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
I guess like most people I lived a normal life; I got up every morning, I went to college, and I had a great group of friends and family.
Okay who am I kidding; I have hardly any close friends, my family’s nuts, and I live the proper prim life of a wealthy lonely civilian; either way that was all about to change.
I look out the tinted car windows as first the buildings go by and then the suburban houses as we get further out the city and away from that life I was so used to living.
“Are we almost there?”
“Not even close Miss Summers, still got a long way to go” Jackson answers my question.
“You know you don’t have to call me Miss Summers anymore, my mums not around to hear you. I’m sure the driver’s not a tattletale” I smile and then sigh, leaning back and closing my eyes.
“You’re not a snitch are you James?” I ask the driver and get no response.
It wasn’t Jackson’s fault I was doing this, so I guess I needed to be nicer since he was dropping everything to come out to nowhere with me. By nowhere I mean the lovely Harrisburg Pennsylvania, just a rough 3 hours outside of New York. I have no idea who chose to come here of all places, but they deserve a good karate chop to the jugular.
Jackson’s been my personal bodyguard ever since I appeared in the paper with my mum and her new billionaire husband. He was supposed to look out for me for just a few months until my mum was reassured nothing crazy would happen to me, and then somehow he just ended up staying longer. After a while he became more like a best friend than a protector; a really good looking best friend that I drooled over on a daily basis.
My mum was a little dramatic, but in the end I’d come to like Jax (maybe a little too much though). Once I stopped making his job harder and trying to lose him in a crowd, I’d gotten to know him and he was actually a pretty decent guy. He was a serious and straight to business kind of man in front of my mum, but when it was just the two of us, he was just a good friend, especially because he was closer to my age. I think my mum chose someone closer to my age so that they wouldn’t look creepy following me around. He was incredibly gorgeous too, which sometimes pissed me off because I’d find myself speechless occasionally when I’d see him shirtless or something. I’d started off hating him, and then ended up adoring him.
“That reminds me, here are your new details. You should probably start reading it all through to get your story straight. Here is a new phone as well, it should already be all set up for you and your new number is saved in there as well as mine in case you need it” he says, while handing me a large envelope and a small box.
An iPhone 5, how cool. I guess I needed to upgrade my phone sooner or later anyway, even if I wasn’t in this situation.
I pull the lid off the box and look at the shiny black phone, then pull it out and take all the clear protective covers off. I turn it on to only be reminded I was leaving my old life. The phone was blank; no photos, no friends numbers, and no memories of that life I was leaving behind; at least I had Jax here with me.
As soon as it’s on I quickly type a message to Jax. It’s something we have a habit of doing if we don’t want to say something out loud in front of my mum, even if we’re standing right next to each other; or if we just don’t feel like talking out loud.
Me: I don’t want to do this Jax
His phone beeps with the message and he pulls it out of his jacket. He reads the message and then sighs as he turns around in his seat to face me.
“You know your mum’s only doing this so you’re safe, at least until everything is sorted out. Just think of it as a holiday, with me” he smirks.
“Yeah she has a habit of over-reacting a lot of the times though, wouldn’t want any drama to ruin her social status.”
He sighs at my words and turns back to face the front, knowing I was right about her.
My parents divorced when I was quite young and my mum had re-married almost instantly, leaving me a little suspicious as to why my parents separated in the first place. I guess I was too young to understand at the time, but it left me wandering whether there ever was that epic love for everyone, or just disappointment. Maybe I just read too many books and watched too many movies; I really need to get a life.
My mum married an incredibly wealthy man who owned a chain of hotels. He was always in the paper for one thing or another and being so wealthy gave my mum the freedom to never work another day in her life. She spent her time climbing the social ladder, attending functions and gaining contacts in all the right places. If she wasn’t busy making an appearance at the important lunches and dinners, she would be meeting with the decorators to refurbish or redecorate our house for the hundredth time; she enjoyed spending money I guess. The annoying part was that she’d always push me to be the perfect daughter, to dress and act like I had a permanent stick up my ass like the rest of her friend’s daughters.
My dad was the complete opposite to my mum. He lived by the beach in a single story house, spending most of his time in his shed building things. I hardly ever got to see him because he was always working. He worked on the local’s boats or in the ship construction yard building extravagant yachts for the rich, which no doubt my mum had purchased one; I missed him. I couldn’t go there either though because I could easily be found there, I needed to disappear for a while; to Harrisburg Pennsylvania of all places.
I wouldn’t be doing this if I’d just kept my mouth shut; or maybe not, maybe they would’ve still found me and shut me up anyway just in case. If I had just kept walking and left it alone I might not be in this stupid mess.
I lean back and start drifting in and out of sleep as I think about that stupid night.
I was at a party with some guy my mum was trying to force on me; the perfect guy in her eyes. He was studying to be a lawyer, and was perfect to settle down with to get married and have 2.5 kids with. It turns out she was so wrong; that night I’d caught him fooling around with another girl. Not that I really cared anyway, I mean he wore khaki shorts and a polo shirt for god’s sake; he couldn’t be any more of a typical rich boy clone if he tried.
“This isn’t what it looks like” he’d said to me.
Pssh I’m sure it wasn’t, well because of that I’d left the party and started walking home since he was supposed to be my ride. Surprisingly I didn’t cry at all; I wasn’t even upset, I just felt stupid for listening to my mum for the hundredth time and let her make all these wrong decisions for me. I was supposed to make my own mistakes.
What happened during my walk home, I would never forget though. I mean you watch enough movies to get an idea of what pain looks like, enough horror movies to see torture, but when you see it for real, when you see someone been beaten to an inch of their life, it’s still a shock.
On my walk home I heard yelling coming from a nearby house. At first I just stood there in the middle of the dark empty street and listened. Could it just be someone’s TV? I looked around and saw no one come running out of their house to see what was going on, so either no-one heard it, or I was hearing things. I suppose the saying ‘curiosity killed the cat’ is fairly true since my curiosity nearly got me killed. Since I was pretty buzzed from the alcohol I drank I stupidly snuck down the side of the house to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, and hid amongst some bushes.
I could see through one of the windows clearly as two men held up a barely conscious guy, trying to get something from him. The guy was beaten so badly that I was surprised he was still alive. His eyes were swollen shut, blood trickling down his face, and I almost threw up when I saw his hands (if you’ve seen any movies where bad guys torture people, I’m sure you can imagine how gross and smashed up his hands looked). Before I knew it one of them had pulled out a gun and shot him point blank in the head, probably realising they weren’t going to get whatever they wanted from him. Maybe they were doing him a favour at this point; I can’t imagine how much pain he would’ve been in after everything they put him through. As the gun went off I gasped and fell back into the bushes; I knew they’d heard and seen me because after the gun shot everything else seemed so eerily quiet.
I’d just witnessed a murder so I did the only thing that seemed sane and ran. I mean if these guys could kill someone so easily, obviously not caring whether they were seen, they would just as easily kill me for witnessing it all.
I ran so fast and pushed my legs so hard I could barely breathe. They burst through the front door of the house and shot at me from a distance which only pushed my legs harder. I didn’t care whether anyone came out of their house to help, I didn’t care to even look back to see if they were following; I just ran.
I ended up in a park a few streets away from home and hid in the bushes until morning, too exhausted to move.
Once I could get my legs to work I finally pulled myself off the ground and made my way home. As my mum started lecturing me on going out without a guard I just dropped to my knees in the hallway. Refusing to tell her what the hell was wrong with me I ended up finding Jax and dragging him to the police station with me. I told them everything that happened and what I’d seen, and I pointed them in the right direction of the house. Since the guys chased after me; they didn’t have too much time to clean up their evidence; or maybe they were just sloppy criminals. Apparently some neighbours called in the disturbance and police caught them right in the middle of cleaning up their mess, so I was lucky enough to have to pick them out of a line up – talk about awkward.
Unfortunately they had friends in the right places and managed to get a hold of all the information from the case that was building up against them. A lot of witnesses started to refuse to testify; probably paid off to keep quiet I don’t know. After the court case had been postponed for some unknown reason, I started getting followed. I mean I wasn’t stupid, I knew when I was in shit.
They knew what college I went to and where I lived. They’d even stopped me outside campus and almost forced me into their car, but luckily Jax had pulled up just in time to pick me up and they sped off; only managing to rip my bag off my shoulder and throw my books all across the sidewalk.
I knew that wasn’t the last time I would see them though. Jax gave me some self-defence lessons but I still had moments that I was too scared to leave the house. My mum grew even more paranoid and after keeping me in my bedroom for a week she decided to send me away. I was trying to look on the positive side; a) I was going to be away from my nut job mother for however long was necessary, b) Jax was coming with me, and c) I got to send someone out to buy me new clothes and I decided to get stuff that resembled nothing I currently owned. So in other words I didn’t have to wear prim cardigans and expensive dresses anymore to please my mother.
She purchased an apartment for me, paid in cash so it couldn’t be traced, and Jax would live upstairs in the apartment above me so that he was never too far away. I thought it was going a little overboard to get two separate apartments but my mum always seems to get her way no matter what; you can’t argue with her successfully, you just end up losing every time.
“Hey wake up sleepy head” Jax says as his warm hand gives my shoulder a light squeeze.
I rub my eyes as I sit up in the backseat and check my phone for the time, it’s almost 2.30am. Obviously there were no messages since nobody had this number.
“We’re here Miss Valentine” Jax says with a small smirk.
“Did you even read the paperwork in the envelope? Your name’s Charli Valentine.”
“Valentine, are you serious? Who picks these names out?”
“I thought you’d find it funny, since you’re such a romantic an all” he teases as he takes a step out the car, “At least you get to keep the same first name. Not entirely sure that’s a good idea though.”
He pops the trunk open as I climb out the car groggily and he starts to pull our bags out; the driver kindly helping. They grab as much as they can and start carrying our stuff up to the main door as I follow them, yawning all the way to the door.
“The code for your apartment is in the envelope I gave you” he says.
I roll my eyes and pull out some papers from the envelope, so much stuff for a brief new life.
I wonder idly who I’d be now; no more prissy, prudish Charli to satisfy my mum which will be a nice change for me. I could be the Charli who listens to loud music, wears tatty old rock shirts and sneakers, and she can’t do a single thing about it.
“Hurry up Charli, these bags aren’t exactly light. What did you pack, bricks?” he jokes.
“Yeah yeah keep your hair on Jackson” I say as I unfold one of the papers and look for the code.
So many things to remember which I know will take me ages; I swear I have the memory of a goldfish. I enter the code into the pad on the wall and the main door clicks as it unlocks.
I pull it open and hold it while Jax and the driver struggle through with our bags.
We enter the elevator in silence and I check the piece of paper again for the apartment number, then I hit number 6 on the elevator and stand drowsily as it carries us up to our new life. I take a quick look at Jax from the corner of my eye to only notice how exhausted he looks; eyes weary, and slight stubble forming across his jaw. It suits him actually, gives him more of that bad boy appeal that I seem to be drawn to.