Authors: T.K. Leigh
HEART OF MARLEY
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or, if an actual place, are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Published by Carpe Per Diem, Inc. / Tracy Kellam, 25852 McBean Parkway # 806, Santa Clarita, CA 91355
Edited by: Kim Young, Kim’s Editing Services
Cover Design: Cat Head Biscuit, Inc., Santa Clarita, CA
Cover Image Copyright Iulian Valentin 2014
Used under license from Shutterstock.com
Copyright © 2014 T. K. Leigh / Tracy Kellam
All rights reserved.
Books by T.K. Leigh
The Beautiful Mess Series
A Beautiful Mess
A Tragic Wreck
Heart of Light
Heart of Marley
To all the Marleys of the world…
You’re stronger than you think you are…
Heart of Marley
is a full-length companion novel to my book,
Heart of Light
. Both of these books can be read as a stand-alone. In
Heart of Light
, Cam tells a story about his sister, Marley. This book begins with that story and progresses through their senior year of high school. You do not have to have read
Heart of Light
in order to understand and follow this book.
This has been one of the most difficult books for me to write. I’ve written books that have dealt with sensitive subject matter before, but never like this. One of the biggest struggles for me when writing this book was dealing with the fact that these characters are high school seniors and are blossoming into a state of sexual awareness. While I understand that many people are of the belief that anyone who isn’t of the age of majority should not be having sex, I refuse to ignore the reality that many high school students do, in fact, have sex. There will be a few scenes where the characters do engage in sex while they are seventeen. If you disagree with this act, this may not be the book for you. In my opinion, these scenes are integral to understanding the characters’ development as trying to come to terms with and move on from their past. They are not explicit or nearly as detailed as they are in my adult romance novels, but they are there.
Further, this book contains mature themes and serious issues including sexual assault, self-harm, addiction, and depression. For anyone unfamiliar with my work, I refuse to glorify criminal actions, such as sexual assault, but these events are integral to understanding the characters and the story. They are not detailed and, as with all my previous books, sometimes what the camera doesn’t show is more poignant than what it does.
The subject matter I’ve presented in this book is, unfortunately, a reality for many people out there. One of the underlying themes I’ve focused on in this story is the consequences of failing to receive adequate treatment or therapy. If you, or anyone you know, has suffered from depression, sexual abuse, or is showing the signs of engaging in self-harm, there are resources out there to help, such as the Crisis Call Center. For more information, please visit http://crisiscallcenter.org.
As always, thank you for your support and I hope you enjoy Marley’s and Cam’s story.
Six Years Ago
as I heard Marley’s cries emanating from our bedroom. I knew what I had to do to protect her and get her away from all of this. I couldn’t let
hurt her anymore.
Our lives used to be the picture of perfection…quaint raised-level home, white picket fence, huge back yard, and two loving parents…until Dad died three years ago just after our eighth birthday. Mama loved us, but the drugs and alcohol that she sought comfort in to cope with the heartache of losing her soul mate diminished her ability to act like a parent. I became the only one who would look out for us. I was Marley’s last line of defense…her last hope.
I stood in the corner of the living room of the apartment that we had called home for the past few months. We had spent the last several years jumping from place to place, never staying for too long. Every time we moved, Mama promised that she was going to clean up her act and not tell
where we were. Then the withdrawal symptoms kicked in and she would cave, begging him for drugs, money, or both. She put her own selfish needs ahead of her children’s well-being. I just couldn’t comprehend how any parent could do that. Then again, I didn’t know anything about addiction.
came into our sorry excuse for a bedroom that evening, I knew what he was going to do. He had been doing that very thing nearly every night since New Year’s Eve three years ago. I wanted to fight him, but nothing ever worked. If I tried to get in his way, he would just knock me out and take what he wanted from Marley regardless. That night, I had bigger plans. When he ordered me out, I followed his demand.
Over the years, I began to hate myself for not being able to stand up to him
and protect Marley. I never knew what hate was until he walked into our lives. Now I welcomed hate. I tasted hate. I breathed hate. All because I loved Marley.
I hadn’t seen my mother in days. I had no idea when or if she would ever return, but that was okay. For what I needed to do, she shouldn’t be there.
Tiptoeing past the couch and toward the front door, I opened the drawer of the entryway table. I saw a flash of light from the reflection of the street lamp on the metal of the gun barrel.
Can I really do this?
I asked myself.
Will I go to jail for the rest of my life?
they send an eleven-year-old to jail?
I no longer cared about the potential repercussions. He had to be stopped. I would gladly spend the rest of my life behind bars to save Marley from her current prison.
Grabbing the gun as quietly as possible, I felt the weight in my hands. It was as if it weighed fifty pounds instead of less than two. I checked the safety and released it, secretly thanking my mother for thinking that it was a good idea, during one of her drug-induced hazes, to show me how to use a gun. She said that I was the man of the house now and I needed to learn to use a weapon to protect our home. Little did she know that the only thing I needed to protect us from resided within those four walls.
I retreated from the foyer and began making my way down the hallway toward the bedroom that I shared with Marley. Each sound seemed to be amplified tenfold, nervous energy flowing through every inch of me. My breathing increased and my entire body trembled…not with fear, but with pure rage at the thought of what my other half had been enduring nearly every night since Dad died.
Taking a deep breath, I placed my hand on the doorknob and turned it. I pushed the door open and surveyed the scene in front of me, my tongue caught in my throat.
“What do you think you’re doing?” a booming voice slurred, not moving from his position.
“Get off of Marley,” I quivered weakly.
“Leave! Now!” he ordered.
“I’m not going anywhere until you promise to leave my sister alone.”
“Fuck,” he hissed under his breath before he raised his imposing frame and stalked toward me.
Looking around his rotund belly, his white tank top stained, I gave Marley a reassuring nod as she grabbed the thin sheet off the bed and wrapped it around herself. Her quiet cries shattered my heart and erased the last bit of faith I had in the human race. Lifting the gun, I aimed it at him, cringing at the sight of his unbuttoned pants and the belt held firmly in his hand.
Just pull the trigger
, I said to myself.
Pull it and free Marley. Free Marley… Marley… Marley…
My nostrils flared and my vindication returned. All I saw was red. I had heard people speak of out-of-body experiences before, but I never knew what they were talking about…until that moment. I seethed with fury. Before I knew what was happening, I pulled the trigger. Again. And again. And again.