Authors: S. M. Shade
Back Book Three
Copyright © 2015
Cover Art by
Kellie Dennis at Book Cover by Design:
reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or
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This is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either
the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely
door closing behind me makes me cringe. I almost expect to hear a loud clang of
metal on metal, for I feel like a prisoner. He’s the criminal, yet I’m
know I’m being melodramatic. I’m no prisoner. In fact, I’m incredibly lucky my
friend Evie told me about this place. Run by three brothers, Striking Back is a
shelter for abused women and for now, it’s home. An abused woman, is that what
I am? It’s not exactly what I aspired to be at twenty-three.
always done what was expected of me. I graduated high school and went to
college. My work as a copyeditor keeps me busy and out of trouble. I like to
think I’m smart, level-headed, but if that were true I wouldn’t have landed
get me wrong, this is a nice place and believe me, I’m grateful. After Al lost
his damn mind and punched me in the face—twice—I had to get out of there. I
tried staying with a friend, but he camped out outside her apartment. He
followed me to work, alternately begging me to take him back and threatening me
when I didn’t capitulate.
restraining order would only have enraged him so instead of calling the police,
I came here. To hide like a scared child cowering under a bed. It doesn’t
exactly make me proud. “Here is your room, dear,” Ms. Den, the housemother,
chirps, putting an end to my self loathing thoughts. “Dinner is at six-thirty.
Just let me know if you need anything.” She gives me a smile before leaving me
to explore my room.
simple, but clean and I’m glad I don’t have to share a room with a stranger. A
twin size bed rests against one wall, made up with clean sheets and covered
with a cheerful yellow comforter. A wooden dresser and small night stand round
out the furnishings. Ms. Den explained that I’m to share the bathroom across
the hall with the two women rooming on either side of me.
not a terrible place to be, reminds me of college a bit, but still I feel anger
rush through me. Why should I have to live here? Why should I have to be
dependent on a charity when I’ve worked so hard to make it on my own? I have
plenty of money in the bank to rent an apartment or a house, but money isn’t
fucking Pearson is the problem. Wherever I move, he’s sure to find me, so until
he’s out of the picture, this is my new life. At least my job allows me the
luxury of working at home. I open my suitcase and stare at the unorganized
jumble inside. I didn’t have time to grab much. A few clothes, my laptop and
phone, and a few toiletries are all I own at the moment. Thank goodness Evie
loaned me her Kindle or I’d be bored to tears.
and emotionally exhausted, I stretch out on the bed to read until my eyes grow
heavy. Fear grips me the instant I wake, as I struggle to figure out where the
hell I am. The clock on my phone tells me it’s after one a.m. and my stomach
growls. I haven’t eaten all day. Maybe I can find some peanut butter or
crackers or something in the kitchen.
hallway is dimly lit and the silence is eerie. Maybe it’s just because I’m in
an unfamiliar place. I feel like a cat burglar creeping through the day room
and into the industrial kitchen.
perusing the contents of the refrigerator when the clearing of a throat damn
near makes me hit the ceiling. “You! I almost pissed myself!” I gasp, my brain
to mouth filter failing to engage.
deep chuckle fills the room, and I glare at the shadowy figure seated at the
want to tell me who you are and whether I need to arm myself with a knife or
cheese grater or something?”
can’t hurt someone with a cheese grater.”
on how low you grate.”
He stands, and I can see he’s a big guy even in the gloom. When he switches on
the light my stomach tips before slowly righting itself. It’s a damn good thing
we met in the dark. If I’d seen him in the light of day, I’d still be trying to
Parker Reed. Jensen had a family emergency so I’m filling in on security.”
brother?” I ask. That explains a lot. The Reed brothers are known for being
gorgeous. Ev’s boyfriend Mason runs the place and he’s a walking wet dream.
how I like to be known,” he replies, his thick sculptured lips curling into a
mischievous grin. “But yes. You’re Evie’s friend aren’t you?”
nod, totally immersed in those pale blue eyes. What do you call that color
blue? I’m not sure there’s even a word for it. Sky blue? Ocean blue? I’m going
with fuck me blue, because that’s what they make me want to scream. “Macy
sticks out his hand and I’m fascinated by the flex of his tattooed bicep. Shit.
I’m staring when I should be shaking hands. His smirk tells me I’m busted.
“It’s nice to meet you, Evie’s friend.”
to meet you, Mason’s brother.”
laughs and shakes his head. “Are you hungry?”
I slept through dinner so I thought I’d grab a snack.”
me show you where they keep the good stuff.” He winks at me and walks to
another large fridge. After rummaging around for God knows what, he pops a
plate into the microwave.
try not to ogle his good stuff as he moves around the kitchen with more grace
than most guys will ever possess. I have to get a grip. I never react this way
to men. After Al’s bullshit, anyone with a penis should be my enemy. “What
would you like to drink?” he asks, popping the second plate into the microwave.
“Coke, iced tea, water?”
fine, thank you.”
high pitched beep fills the room and he retrieves two plates loaded down with
roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans. “Wow,” I exclaim, taking a
seat across the counter from him. “Better than peanut butter.”
lips curve into a smile. “You look like you’ve had a bad day. Food always
cheers me up.”
fingers creep to brush against the bruise beneath my eye. “I’ve had better.” I
look into his eyes, unable to bear the thought that this man would see me as
the type who would stick around to be abused. “I left the first time he hit me.
He never got violent before.”
glad you made the right decision before he could seriously injure you.” His
voice softens. “Everything seems like shit right now, but it’ll get better.
It’s good to see you have an appetite.”
always have an appetite,” I snort, laughing. “I’m not afraid to eat.”
tiny as you are?” Amusement dances in his eyes. I’ve always been slim, no
matter how much I eat.
metabolism I suppose.”
here. So, I guess we’ll have room for that chocolate pie I spotted.”
never turn down chocolate.”
* * * *
should let you get back to work,” I say reluctantly, taking my last bite of
chuckles and a tiny dimple appears in his cheek. “I’m working. We have a guy
watching the cameras and the alarm is armed. We just like to have a little
muscle close by in case there’s trouble.”
This guy is solid muscle. “Is there often trouble?”
He pops our dishes into the dishwasher, and I wipe our crumbs off the counter.
“We’ve had a few assholes show up at the door, but they don’t get any farther.
It’s safe here.”
would never know to look for me here. I feel safe.”
I’m greeted by another charming smile. “I’m going to watch a movie in the
dayroom. If you’re not ready to go back to bed, you could join me.”
you don’t mind. I’m wide awake.”
to have some company.”
follow him to the day room and settle on the small sofa in front of the T.V.
while he puts the DVD in the player. “What are we watching?”
best movie of all time.”
Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?”
Club.” Of course that’s his favorite.
never seen it.”
for your movie.”
missing out on Nicholson at his finest,” I tell him, curling up with a throw
movie might top your list after tonight,” he warns, plopping down beside me.
Even though the movie is interesting, I feel my eyes grow heavy, but try my
best to stay awake. My best sucks.
next thing I know, thin light is seeping between the curtains of my room and
I’m being lowered into bed. Parker carried me to bed like a child. “You
should’ve woke me instead of lugging me up here,” I mumble.
got boxing gloves that weigh more than you. Get some sleep.”
out like a light until a tap on my door wakes me. “Come in,” I mumble, sitting
up in bed.
met with Ms. Den’s kind eyes. “I just wanted to check on you, dear. You weren’t
at dinner or breakfast. You need to eat.”
you, I’m fine. I couldn’t sleep last night so I came downstairs. Parker made me
some dinner.” I glance at my phone. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to sleep so
perches on the edge of my bed. “No worries. I just want to be sure you’re okay.
Women tend to want to hide in their room when they first arrive, but isolating
can lead to depression.”
sweet she’s so concerned. “No hiding out, I promise.”
then. I’ll let you wake up. There’s coffee in the kitchen.”
you, Ms. Den. For everything.”
very welcome, honey.”
until ten has its advantages. The bathroom is free and I take a long hot
shower. Throwing on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt, I head downstairs to face
the day. The day room is empty, but I hear voices coming from a large adjacent
room where two women are sitting at a table organizing and stapling papers.
you must be Macy,” one of the ladies greets. “I’m Georgia.”
I’m Molly,” the other speaks up. Both scan the bruise on my face with a look of
to meet you. Can I give you a hand?” I ask, sitting beside Molly.
brushes her long blonde hair back over her shoulder. “Sure. We’re stapling
these fundraiser flyers to a sign up sheet. Ms. Den will have volunteers pass
them out later.”
lose myself in the mindless work and friendly conversation. I expected a really
depressing place full of downtrodden pitiful women when I arrived, but it’s not
like that at all. I always pictured victims of domestic abuse as the typical
battered housewives who deal with violent husbands for years before escaping.
But it seems my story is common as well.
is also here to protect herself from an asshole ex-boyfriend who’s stalking
her. Georgia’s story is more devastating and tears fill my eyes as she explains
her husband was molesting her four year old daughter, and the court was still
forcing visitation. “Staying here keeps her safe,” she says. “If I have to hide
her until she’s grown, I will.”
lucky to have you,” I assure her, placing my hand over hers, and I’m rewarded
with a small smile.
Den announces lunch is ready, and we move to the dining room. There are only a
few residents present. I suppose some have found a job outside of the shelter.
Two ladies sit at a long low table on one side of the room with four school age
kids. Everyone is upbeat, talking and laughing as they eat. Maybe it won’t be
so bad here.
settle into a routine over the next few days. Wake up, shower, eat, and work on
my laptop until lunch. After helping Ms. Den prepare lunch, I work until early
evening. Evenings are spent chatting with the other residents, playing cards,
or watching T.V. It’s comforting and safe, but I’m dying to get out, so when
one of the volunteers announces a day trip to Eagle Creek Park, I don’t
hesitate to sign up.
amazed at the resilience of the kids who live here. After being uprooted from
everything and everyone they know, they still laugh and play. A sweet little
girl named Jamie sits on the floor in front of me, her little hand resting on
my knee as I paint her nails a sparkly pink. “Mommy, can we get Pizza Hut for
mother, Lana, looks up from her law and ethics textbook. “Sorry, peanut. We
can’t afford it or have it delivered here.”
lower lip pops out. “We used to eat Pizza Hut every Saturday before.”
your favorite kind of pizza?” I ask, blowing her nails to dry them.
and cheese. It’s sooo good.” Her little eyes roll back in her head. This one’s
a born drama queen.
favorite is pepperoni.”
burn my tongue,” she says, making a face. “Mommy!” She bounds to her feet, all
thoughts of pizza forgotten, and bounces over to her mom. “Look! They’re
sparkly. Will you do my toes?”