The Darkest Secret: A New Adult Romance Novel

BOOK: The Darkest Secret: A New Adult Romance Novel
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The Darkest Secret: A New Adult Romance Novel

Jessica Pine

Published by Pub Yourself Press, 2014.

This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

THE DARKEST SECRET: A NEW ADULT ROMANCE NOVEL

First edition. July 22, 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Jessica Pine.

Written by Jessica Pine.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Acknowledgements

About the Author

About the Publisher

 

This book was previously sold as "Held: A New Adult Romance"

Chapter One

Amber

O
nce upon a time, I was a little girl.

I read books of fairytales and brushed my hair a hundred times. I told myself I'd learned to tell a prince from a frog, and that I knew which beasts were really cursed lovers in disguise. I read about princesses shut up in towers, where they grew from stolen babies into girls whose beauty could stop the sun itself in its tracks.

I read a lot of bullshit.

Dr. Stahl has never read fairy tales - I feel sure of it. On one of the rare occasions I was in her office, I saw her diploma on the wall - Madeleine. It suits her, with her burnished skin and the nose she was born with. I always thought there was something French about her, ever since the word 'insouciance' flitted across the surface of my mind the first time we met.

"She gives no fucks," Everglade might have said, a long time ago in a kingdom far away, but that's not right. It can't be right. For smiling Sunshine State girls the business of not giving a fuck is a high-effort pose, especially since there's so much competition. No, it's different - Dr. Stahl's give-no-fuckness - and only a French word fits. She has none of those usual West Coast badges of female non-conformity - the peasant skirt, the pentacles and the Tarot cards tied up with ribbon. She was probably born with pearls in her ears and that perfect, patient way of suffering fools gladly whenever a man enters the conversation.

She thinks I'm a fool. She has to. She knows why she's here.

"And have you been near the door since we last spoke?" she asks, like it was a thing, like I'm really crazy.

"I don't need to go out for anything," I say. Like I could if I wanted to. What is she thinking?

She tilts her head to one side. Her hair is tabby striped and swept carelessly back to curl just behind the small lobes of her ears. Her eyes are wonderfully green. She kissed me once, before she realized it wasn't a greeting I liked. She smelled of Gucci
Envy
and something chalky, like talc. I pictured her puffing it on her armpits after anti-perspirant, as if it were that easy; maybe it is - she never sweats in the heat.

"Books," she says, trying to lure me from my cage. "You love to read. Aren't there any new ones you want?"

I shake my head. "I can download them. Nobody goes to bookstores any more."

She sighs and smiles. "You're right. Showing my age."

"It's not like anyone's going to let me out," I say, and my voice sounds whiny, a teenager's. I could be fourteen and complaining about being grounded, but it's bigger than that, worse than that. It's real. Tears sting the backs of my eyes and fight them back. There's no point in crying. What's done is done.

"I don't think you're ready for that," says Dr. Stahl. "I was just talking about socializing - online, maybe? There are book clubs and forums for that, right?"

"I'll think about it," I say, but it's so hard to hide these days. Even Google keeps asking for your real name. I deleted my Facebook because my Dad threatened to change the WiFi password if I didn't. What was the point, he said, of leaving all your business out there in the open so that dickheads can come and point and laugh? Learn some social filters - that's the whole trouble with your generation.

He's never going to let me out of here, I think, and the stinging starts up again. Worse, I'm never going to want to get out. I can't go within two feet of the patio door without losing my breath and feeling like a lead-balloon of solid dread is weighting down my stomach.

The silence in the room swells between us. In her dark, straight skirt and white silk blouse she looks like she could have come from another planet; my room is peppermint and pink, full of glitter and star-spackled voile and all the things she probably thinks are ridiculous. I left a pair of shoes next to the end table because my heart was beating too hard for me to open the closet and put them away - they're silver satin, with four-inch platform heels and studded with tiny Swarovski stars. Dr. Stahl wears two-inch kitten heel pumps - plain. Dark blue leather. She would never get herself into the mess I did. She would know who to call when things got bad, if she even let it get that far. Would she have even let it go beyond a second date? I wonder how long she's been practicing; I never saw the date on her diploma. She knows crazy like the unlined back of her hand.

"What are you thinking, Amber?" Her voice is soft, sweet. I wish I could make her magic work in here. For me.

"I don't know," I say, after a long pause. I can't tell her that it’s worse than before. She has to think I'm stupid enough as it is.

I hold my breath again. I run the tip of my tongue over the edge of my upper front teeth. Once there used to be a gap there and I made it wider and worse by pushing my tongue against it. Then I got fitted with braces, so that I could be perfect, like all the other girls. "I haven't had a good week," I say, because I have to say something. And it's the truth.

She nods. "I get that. It's okay. We can't always be making breakthroughs. We've done good work here, Amber. We have."

I nod along with her but my head bobs out of control and the sobs and snot come tearing out of me. I grab a handful of Kleenex from the box. She doesn't get up or hug me or anything - she's not that kind of therapist and I'm glad. The one I had before wanted to hug me all the time and kept telling me I was a strong, brave young woman. Eventually I told her that I was crazy, not stupid, and that I could still smell bullshit when someone crapped a pile at my feet. She went off in a huff and didn't come back.

"It's like anything," says Dr. Stahl. "Sometimes you breeze through and sometimes you hit a plateau. And it can knock you back because you're used to doing so well. But don't let it. This is a good sign - trust me. It means you're not satisfied with slow progress. It means you want to get better. But don't let it frustrate you, okay?"

I sniff and nod. I don't know how I'm supposed to get better when I can't even put a pair of shoes away without freaking out, but she's the doctor, after all.

"How are you getting along with the medication?"

"Fine. Good."

"No more side effects?"

"No. It makes my mouth dry sometimes, but I always did need to drink more water."

She checks a little black notebook. "You're not due for a refill for...about two weeks? Does that sound right?"

"Yep."

"Okay. Good." She peers neutrally at me for a while. I know that look. She's waiting for me to bring something else up, but I've got nothing today. On better days I can tease out a strand of what's bothering me and offer it up for us both to examine and talk over and unravel, but today there's nothing but a snarl, a hopeless tangle.

"Are you okay to carry on?" she asks. "Or do you need a break for today?"

"Break," I croak, so grateful that I think I might cry again. This is so stupid. She's right - I feel like I've taken a giant step back. All the effort and energy I spent trying to pull myself out of this hole, only for it to open up and swallow me again. And it happened so easily; that is by far the worst part.

When she's gone I sit and stare at the door like it's going to eat me. I know that beyond it is an oval shaped pool, mosaic tiled and all mine. I used to love going out there in the mornings, seeing the perfect, flat surface of the water and knowing that it was mine to break. I don't want for much. People have been telling me that my whole life.

Once upon a time they were talking about getting the pool drained. Are we back there again? I hope to God not. I don't think I could stand people looking at me like that.

I want a cigarette. Outside is the only safe place to smoke, but I'm desperate. I recall the dorm-room contraptions that Everglade used to make - cardboard tubes and dryer sheets, so that we could do bong-hits without setting off the smoke alarms. The crumpled pack under my mattress reveals that I have only five smokes left and I haven't seen Esteban today. Or yesterday. Or the day before. How long have I been in this room?

I turn on the extractor and stand on the lid of the john, straining up on my tiptoes when I exhale, so as to blow as much of the smoke into the fan as possible. So much for adulthood. Like sanity, it can collapse from underneath you when you least expect it. I am careful to keep my balance.

Four. Four. The number won't leave me alone. That's one smoke now. Then maybe I can take my mind off it, watch a movie for a couple of hours. Then another. No. Maybe I'll call for some dinner first and smoke after. Good. That's two. That leaves me with two until whatever o'clock in the morning I fall asleep. It's not enough. Not today. Today is a bad day.

The fear threatens to sneak up on me again, to steal my breath. I clench my fists hard and remember to breathe. Breathe like I learned in yoga class, deep through the nose, down into the throat. Heroic breathing - was that what they called it? Huffing farts, said Everglade. They should just rename Downward Facing Dog the Fart Cannon and get it over with. They were always threatening to throw us out for giggling.

If I call the lodge they'll know something's up. I'm going to have to go out there. My heart feels like it's trying to bust out of my rib cage and my mouth is dryer than a mummy's sock, but it's that or face a whole night with only four cigarettes in the pack. I can't do that.

I could cry. I could scream. I could punch the walls. It might even make me feel better, but it won't get me what I want. To get what I want all I have to is step outside, sit beside the pool and wait for Esteban to make his rounds. My life is not exactly complicated, but for some reason my brain and my body never got the memo.

Everything is fuzzy around the edges as I open the door. I feel like I could just float away. It's almost evening - the shadows long on the terracotta patio tiles. The pool is smooth and blue as a jewel and I think about what might happen if I fell in. Would I just sink because I couldn't catch my breath? I sit down before I fall down, and put my feet in the warm water.

It's okay. It's okay. Everything is fine. Only I wish someone would tell my heart that. I take out the pack and light another cigarette. That's three left. Esteban had better come soon. I could smoke all three sitting here; I'm burning through my smokes and my mental resources all at once. The water is no longer perfectly smooth - it shivers in a way I've never seen before, kind of like the ripples from a stone but smaller, faster, constant.

It's then that I see him. Dark, slim and unfamiliar. The water shivers faster and I realize it's me - I'm the one shaking and rippling the surface.

"¿
Donde es Esteban?
" I say, my tongue dry as ashes.

He frowns. Great.

"¿
Habla usted Inglesé?
"

His frown deepens. "
Usted?
" he says, in an accent that is pure SoCal. "Isn't that kinda formal?"

"I was being polite." The voice that comes out of me seems to have nothing to do with me. It's like I'm watching myself on autopilot.

He tilts his head to one side. His hips seem incredibly small, dwarfed by the bulk of his belt. I know he has a gun. "Technically," he says. "I'm your servant, so a
tu
will do. I think."

"You think?"

He shrugs. "I don't speak much Spanish. You must be Amber, right?"

I nod. "Where's Esteban?"

"He's moving on – got a new job. I’m replacing him."

I shake my head. I'm no longer on autopilot - it's like I've been dumped back in the cockpit of my brain while it's heading full speed towards the ground, and I don't even know the first thing about flying. I fall back onto the patio, my feet still in the water. He comes running; it's his job, after all.

BOOK: The Darkest Secret: A New Adult Romance Novel
5.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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