Authors: Kasey Millstead
Fighting to Stay
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Thank you for respecting the work of this Author.
Fighting to Stay
is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and events portrayed in this book are either from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, with exception to Artists named, and their song lyrics, and direct quotes from movies whose titles have been named. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, or events is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2013, Kasey Millstead
Cover design © Arijana Karčić, Cover It! Designs
You taught me the hard way that life is too short.
Five and a half years with you wasn’t long enough; but for a parent, forever isn’t long enough. I love you with my whole heart. I miss you even more. xx
“You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”
Down Under Cowboy Series
Cowboy Town (Eden & Jackson)
Sky Cowboy (Ava & Jeremy)
Stand Alone Novels
Fighting to Stay
Cowboy Christmas (A Henley Christmas Novella)
Cowboy Dreams (Jules & Clay)
Cowboy Endings (Edie & Jackson, Ava & Jeremy, Jules & Clay)
ADD THEM TO YOUR WANT-TO-READ SHELF ON GOODREADS.COM
Troy – God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you...
To my four beautiful babies – I love you beyond measure.
To Mel and Wurry, I think “
I II III IV III II
” says it all. Mwah.
Thanks to Meri for listening to me rant and rave and for letting me bounce ideas of you.
Thanks to my mum and dad, the best parents,
And an extra special thanks to my mum who implanted a deep love of reading in me at a young age by reading The Adventures of Blinky Bill & Nutsy to me every night when I was a little girl.
“If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Thank you to Emily, again, you’ve gone above and beyond for me. Never underestimate the depth of my appreciation for you and everything you do for me.
I’ll never be able to thank you enough!
Kylie at Give Me Books blog – You. Are. Amazing! You’ve become a great friend and I can’t wait to work with you more. Your dedication, hard work, professionalism and honesty is an inspiration. You are one of the most devoted and enthusiastic bloggers I’ve ever met and I’m so glad I found you.
Lisa Watmough at Rock Wat Designs – you are unbelievably talented and creative. Thanks for keeping me stocked with unique swag.
Thank you to the super talented Ari at Cover It! Designs for creating such a beautiful cover.
Suzanne Donaldson – my beautiful friend. One day we will meet in person! Thank you for your help with all things Southern in this novel! I’m so blessed to have you in my life.
To each and every blogger that participates in my cover reveals, blog tours and book blitzes – THANK YOU!!! I wish I could list you all individually, but that would be a novel on its own! Thank
you for everything you do. Your hard work never goes unnoticed and it’s appreciated from the bottom of my heart.
To the girls in WFD and 101 – Wow! You ladies are such knowledgeable, friendly, helpful people. I’ve learnt so much since I found y’all, and I’m so very grateful. <3
Lastly, thank you to each and every
one of you that reads this book. You are making my dreams come true.
Goodreads.com – Kasey Millstead
If you liked Fighting to Stay, please consider leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads.
I stand behind the half closed door. I don’t want them to know I’m there. I just want to listen.
I want to hear what he’s like with her. This is it. After four long years, he’s back and I’m still as broken as the day he broke me.
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess,” he starts.
“That’s mommy,” she points out, referring to me.
“She moved to a small town one day, and th
ere she met a handsome prince.”
“That’s you,” she says excitedly.
I hear him chuckle.
“The prince was tall with dark hair an
d a short beard. He rode a big motorcycle and wore a leather jacket. The princess loved the prince’s blue eyes; they twinkled when he was happy. The princess fell in love with the handsome prince. She loved him so much that she had a baby. The most beautiful baby the world has ever seen-,”
“That’s me!” She claps
, interrupting him.
I hear him chuckle
again, before he continues. “The princess looked down at her baby and named her Lola. She looked just like her daddy, with her dark hair and bright blue eyes. The prince and the princess were so happy with their new baby. They couldn’t wait to take her home so she could meet her older brother. The prince had a son, whose name was Jasper. Jasper looked just like his dad as well, except he had blonde hair. He lived in another town, but he visited often.”
I hold my breath as he nears the end of the bedtime story I
know by heart - I’ve read it to her every night for the past four years; every night since the night we left him. But that’s not the only reason I know it so well, I know it because I wrote it. The words are
“One day, the princess got a sore heart. She was very sad, so she took the beautiful baby and moved them away so she would be happy again. The princess never stopped loving the prince, though.
For every time she sees her daughter’s twinkling blue eyes, she is reminded of him and it makes her smile. The End.”
I hear him saying goodnight to her, so I tiptoe away. He’ll come and find me when he’s ready to talk. I know he wants to; it’s why he’s here
. Well, that and to see his daughter. He wants answers. He’s mad, and he’s got every right to be. I’m not mad anymore. I’ve forgiven him, but just because you forgive, doesn’t mean you can forget.
I pour myself a cup of milk and wait for him. I hear his heavy boots lightly thumping as he makes his way down the floorboards of my hall. I sense him stop when he reaches the doorway of the kitchen, where I am. So I turn to face him. Gone are the tender eyes he gave to our daughter. In their place are hard, cold,
Roam,” I whisper. I don’t know what else to say. I don’t know what else to do. He’s not scaring me, as such; I know he’d never hurt me. But, I don’t like being on the receiving end of the look he’s giving me and I don’t like knowing that it is my actions that caused that look to appear on his face. The silence is deafeningly uncomfortable. I want to run again, but I know I won’t, because I made a promise to myself. For the sake of my daughter, I would never run again. I would face my problems head on. I would not run.
When things get bad, I run. I always have. It didn’t matter whether I was running
into a field to escape my home life when I was a kid, or whether I was crossing state lines to escape a relationship gone wrong. When things get bad, I run.
Stability…what’s that? I’ve never had it –
. It’s funny how so many people assume that if you live in a house surrounded by a white picket fence, with a mother who stays home and a father who works long hours that you have a happy, stable life. Well, I’m here to tell you, don’t
assume. I grew up in that exact situation, and my life was a far cry from solid.
My mother and father were high school sweethearts
. My mom was shy, easily led and naïve. My father was highly strung, domineering and controlling. She followed him to college, never once stopping to even contemplate following her own dreams. She lived her life
him. They married right after graduation and a year later, I came along. Mom stayed at home with me, while my father worked as a highly successful businessman. To the outside world he was charismatic and charming, my mom was supportive and proud of her husband and I was their perfectly mannered princess.
To the outside world.
Behind closed doors it was the screaming opposite.
Every time my father took to her with his fists or his acid tongue, I’d run as far away as could. I would hide until I was sure he had left, and then I would sneak home and curl up in a ball in my bed until my mom came and laid beside me.
She would pull me into her arms and make me look into her tear filled eyes. “Never stay, Lacey. Promise me. Promise right now, that whenever things go bad in life, you will run. Never, ever stay.”
“I promise, Momma,” I would swear. Then, I’d rub her tummy and comfort her as best I could, until we both fell asleep.
When nights like that happened, my father never returned home until early the next morning. He’d shower and dress, and then leave for work without so much as sparing us a glance. As I got older, it didn’t take much to figure that he’d been out with other women.
My dad…he was smart about the way he abused my mom. He never left marks in places that would be visible to others – he couldn’t risk the questions that would surely arise from such bruises.
He also never laid a hand on me when I was little. Don’t worry, he wanted to. He just couldn’t
. That’s what he’d tell me when he got in a rage. “You’re lucky you’re a risk, Lacey. If I knew for sure you would keep your trap shut, I’d knock you into next week. I’d wring your fucking neck if I could get away with it.” He did slap me once,
fair between the shoulder blades, when I was around fifteen. It left a hand print shaped bruise, which resulted in a call from the school after a teacher had noticed it when I was changing after gym class. I don’t know how it explained it, but it was never spoken of again, and he never touched me again.
A week after my eighteenth birthday, my mother made sure he’d
never hurt either of us again when she shot him three times in the chest. Then, she turned the gun on herself and took her own life. Later, when I had to finalize details, I realized she’d planned the whole thing well in advance. Everything was in order – life insurance policies, their last will and testament, the house, the cars. No end was left loose. Along with all the papers and bank account details that she had left in my room, was her suicide note. She ended it with the same words that she would say to me as she curled me in her arms.
“Never stay, Lacey. Promise me. Promise right now, that whenever things go bad in life, you will run. Never, ever stay.”
“I promise, Mom,” I had whispered to thin air. And I meant it. No man would ever control me. No man would ever make me feel weak or inferior. And no man would
hit me more than once. I was
After losing my parents, I couldn’t stomach the thought of living in that house again. I tried to, but everywhere I turned, my mind was filled with images, and my nose was filled with the smell of blood. I hired professional cleaners to come and bleach it ceiling to floor, but I could still smell it. I sold the house and moved an hour away, to Shelley Beach.
They say that in the aftermath of a tragedy, you shouldn’t make any life changing decisions. Well, I like to go against the grain. I moved four times in the first year of losing my parents. I felt like I couldn’t get
. No matter where I went, I just couldn’t settle. I tried big towns, small towns and different states –
worked to settle my soul. So, I continued to run.
Four years after my parents died, when my boyfriend hit me and sold some of my things for drug money, I ran again.
This time, I decided to go to someone familiar.
Jenn and have been best friends since we were eight.
She’s been the only friend I’ve ever really had. She’s the only other person who knows exactly what my home life was like, so she understands why I do the things I do. After my parents died, she helped me grieve, and then she helped me heal. It doesn’t matter where I am, I know she’s only a phone call or a text away.
A couple of years ago, Jenn had moved from our home town of Fortlawn, to Salt Rock. I had never been to Salt Rock, but she seemed happy there and I was ready to move back to Alabama. I packed my shit and left Florida without a second thought.
I felt bad, leaving without giving my boss notice, but that was life. I’d done it before, and no doubt I’d do it again. That thought made me a bit sad, so after popping a sucker in my mouth, I turned up my music to drown myself out and instead, focused on Shooter Jennings singing “Fourth of July”.
day later, I arrived in Salt Rock. It was already dark and Jenn said she’d be at work from five, so I drove to the address she’d given me. Finding a parking spot was proving difficult. It was a Friday night and the place was packed, but after driving around in a loop three times, I finally managed to find a space in close proximity to the entrance. A large illuminated sign, advertised Joe’s Bar. Reaching over into the back, I grabbed my makeup bag and quickly applied a light cover of foundation, some mascara and a swipe of lip gloss. Then, I locked up my car and made my way to the humungous black man that was manning the door.
I pull my ever present sucker out of my mouth.
“I’m here to see Jenna Mason,” I tell him.
He barks back.
“Lacey Monroe,” I
reply. He looked down, searching his clipboard, before looking back at me and telling me to go on in. I took a few steps forward and then turn back to him. “Uh, where do I find her?”
His tone was softer as he gave me directions. “Turn left. Three doors down on your right.”
“Thank you.” I walk inside and I’m immediately assaulted with the loud music coming from somewhere in the large establishment. It’s so loud, I have to resist the urge to cover my ears with my hands. I turn left and count three doors. Just as I am about to knock on the closed door, it swings open and Jenn walks out.
she squeals when she spots me.
I shout, and we run into each other’s arms. “I’ve missed you so much.”
“Oh! I’ve missed you too, girl. I can’t believe you’re finally here.
Stand back and let me get a good look at you.” She holds me at arm’s length and takes in my appearance. I’m wearing tight, skinny leg, black jeans with a burgundy halter, which I’m sure is creased from sitting in the car for so long. My dark brown hair is hanging loosely down my back. I look her over as well. She’s barely changed a bit since I saw her last. She’s still as gorgeous as I remember. Her light brown hair is cropped to her shoulders and she’s wearing wide leg black pants with a light red blouse that has a Joe’s Bar logo above her left boob.
“You look amazing! You certainly filled out, Miss Curvalicious,
” she laughs. I smile huge and nod. When I was younger, I was skin and bones. All gangly legs and arms. All elbows and knees. Now, I had filled out. Nicely, I thought. Well, I definitely liked how I looked now, compared to my teen self. Jenn leads me back out the hallways and through a large set of glass doors. Looking around, I can see a bar running the full length of one wall and out in front of that is a large dance floor. It’s full of people bumping and grinding. Sliding up on a stool, Jenn calls over a young guy and asks him for ‘her usual’.
she asks me.
“I’ll take a beer.”
As soon as the bartender slides our drinks across the counter, I take a long pull.
things? You were vague when you said you were coming here. Did something bad happen?”
my head. “Nothing a bit of distance won’t fix.”
“You sure? I worry about you, Lacey.”
She looks so concerned.
“Hey, I’m fine. You don’t need to worry about me.” I raise my drink and point
it in her direction. She gets the hint, and clinks hers with mine. “Cheers.”
“To best friends,”
she adds on with a smile.
“To best friends,” I repeat.
“How’re things with you? Still got a hot biker dude to keep you warm at night?” I bump my shoulder against hers and grin. Jenn had been dating the same guy for the last few years. He’s in some motorcycle club that’s based here in Salt Rock.
“Yeah, Switch is amazing. You’ll get to meet him soon enough,”
“You look happy,” I
say, taking in her glowing face.
“He makes me happy,”
If only all men were like that. If only all men were decent and made it their life’s work to find a great woman and treat her like a queen…not that I want to be treated like a queen – just being treated like a human being would suffice.
Later, after we’ve had a few more beers and taken to the dance floor to work out some of the alcohol we’ve consumed, we go back to Jenn’s place. Since Switch had driven her to work that evening, she caught a ride with me.
“How long do you plan on staying for?” Jenn asks.
We’d barely taken a breath with all the catching up we’d done on the short drive home from the bar. Now, we were relaxing on her sofa, still talking.
“A while, I think. I missed
‘Bama,” I grin ruefully.
“Bullshit. You just missed me.”
“Yeah, that too. If I can find some work and a place of my own, I think I might stick around,” I tell her.
“Well, you know you’re welcome to stay
as long as you want.”
I stretch out and yawn. “Think I might go to bed, if that’s okay. I’m wiped.”
“Of course. Come on, I’ll show you to the guest room.”
Jenn shows me into my room and I dump my bag on the bed. Taking out my shower bag, some pajamas and a towel, I make my way into the shower just off the bedroom.
I’m proud of how well Jenn has done for herself. Her house is a two bedroom cottage style p
lace, with an open kitchen, living room, and dining area. Each of the two bedrooms has its own bath attached and it’s everything a home should be – warm, inviting and comfortable.
I have a quick shower and fall into bed. That night, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I sleep like the dead. I don’t wake up until the sun is shining bright through the window at
nine o’clock the next morning. As I stretch out in bed, I can’t help but thinking that coming back to Alabama was the best decision I’ve made in a long,