Authors: Krystal Wade
Tags: #Romance, #Thriller, #Love, #Suspense, #Mystery, #Young Adult, #Serial Killer, #Dark, #cinderella
A Division of
P.O. Box 2160
Reston, VA 20195
© 2014 Krystal Wade
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information about Subsidiary Rights, Bulk Purchases, Live Events, or any other questions - please contact Curiosity Quills Press at
, or visit
ISBN 978-1-62007-534-0 (ebook)
ISBN 978-1-62007-535-7 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-62007-536-4 (hardcover)
For Danielle, who wants to broaden her horizons.
hirty-two steps until Haley Tremaine entered hell. Thirty-two steps until she walked into the smell of alcohol and burned microwaveable meals, into a place where fear overwhelmed. Fear of whether Dad would go on a rampage and hit her, or maybe even her little sister Jocelyn, the girl Haley protected at the expense of her sanity, her safety. Even if that sister didn’t appreciate it, or have a clue.
Before Mom died, Haley would have called this home.
But not anymore.
Now? Now, this was definitely hell.
“You punishing your palms with that anger, or are you having a stroke?” Even in the darkness blanketing the empty streets, Haley couldn’t mistake the slight smile toying up the side of Christine’s long, slender face. She walked home with Haley every day after their shifts ended at the Berkshire Candle Company and knew all the horrid details about the broken family life inside the Tremaine household.
Haley unclenched her fists and shook them out, allowing the chilly October air to whisk the sheen of sweat into the night. Nothing more nerve-wracking than going to
“Since you’ve refused all offers to run away and leave this town behind, you could try this.” Christine took a hit of her thinly wound joint, winked, then held it out for Haley. Like tonight would be any different from the other five hundred times Christine had offered.
“Not happening.” But maybe, just maybe, being high would make walking through the squeaky front door hurt a little less. Maybe the pot would snuff out the anger and fear that burned and spread like uncontrolled wildfires in Haley’s head when Dad yelled, when he grunted disgusting noises because she took too long to clean his mess or get him another beer, and when Jocelyn just sat there and watched.
Dad’s favorite. Dad’s favorite because he thought she chose him instead of Mom the night she decided to leave. Dad didn’t know the truth.
Jocelyn didn’t either.
“Not today, anyway.”
Hopefully that day never comes.
“Always helps me get over my issues, but suit yourself.” Tucked into her too-large, red and black flannel jacket, Christine finished off the awful-smelling joint with a shrug, then jogged across the cracked asphalt, hundreds of jagged tar lines holding the road together like band-aids. She forgot to say goodbye. As usual.
Haley stood on the side of the street between the power lines and her yard covered with a thick layer of pine needles and red leaves, the closest thing Deerfield Massachusetts had to a sidewalk. She stared through the yellow glow of the streetlamp Christine ran under, waiting for her to walk into her house. Once she did, Haley jogged up the few steps to her front porch, pulled open the screen door, took a calming breath, then walked in.
No one was waiting. The only greetings she received were sounds of the late-night news reporting the most recent murder, the smell of stale beer, and that ever-unsettling panic in Haley’s chest, the panic that never went away while under the same roof as Dad.
Backpack slung over one shoulder, she ditched her plain black work shoes next to the pile of others by the door and crept through the house that didn’t appreciate anyone creeping around. The worn floorboards rattled with every step, despite Haley’s efforts to place each foot gently in front of the other. She passed the kitchen on her way down the long hallway. The cramped space was a mess of dirty pots and pans sitting and crusting on the stovetop, trash overflowing the can and spilling onto the floor, empty plates scattered on the table. All left for
to clean. All left for
to worry over.
On the way to her room, Haley paused by the arched opening leading to the den. Dad and Jocelyn sat in each other’s company, watching TV as so many normal families would. But did all those families take advantage of one member? Did they pretend like that member didn’t exist unless they needed help with something? Or was Haley the only lucky one?
Deerfield police found Jeremiah Woodson dead this morning along the bank of the Connecticut River. Investigators say he suffered a bullet-wound to the head and are searching for clues.”
“Wife probably killed him.” Dad chugged a bottle of beer, then slammed it onto his side table—he knew his least favorite daughter was home, and that was his best greeting—rattling the seven or eight other empty bottles already there. “Maybe his oldest daughter.”
Jocelyn tensed, finger held over one spot in the middle of her book, legs tucked up under her on their ugly paisley sofa.
“I’m home,” Haley muttered.
Dad took the time to glance at the clock, then scowled over his shoulder at Haley with his piercing blue gaze. “About time.”
Please not tonight
Five minutes past curfew, five minutes her manager had wanted to talk about candle placements for the upcoming Harvest Festival. But Dad would never forgive those five minutes. He’d never understand. Haley should have been home. She had chores, homework, a family—that didn’t love her.
He remained seated, despite his pursed lips and balled fists. Dad would wait for Jocelyn to go to bed before he said anything to Haley.
Wouldn’t want to tarnish that image in his perfect daughter’s eyes. That perfect daughter who had yet to acknowledge Haley was home.
With a silent sigh, she dropped her bag inside the door to the mostly empty bedroom she wouldn’t be able to crash in for at least another hour, then started on her chores. She filled the sink with soapy water, collected the dirty dishes from the uneven kitchen table and off stacks of newspapers in the den, then washed and dried them one by one. From there, Haley wiped down the butcher-block counters, the gas stove—astounded they actually tried to make a meal rather than microwave something; although burned mac and cheese was probably a step down—picked up the trash, then swept the tacky yellow linoleum floors. Haley slammed the garbage into the large black can outside and then sat on the steps and put her head in her hands, tugging out strands of hair as she tried to control her shaking.
A stray cat Dad had taken a liking to walked up to her and meowed.
The little orange tabby wound through Haley’s ankles, purring set on overdrive, leaving fur behind on her black work slacks.
“You’re like the only thing in this house that cares about my existence. Promise not to ever run away?”
The cat put her front paws on Haley’s knees and meowed again.
“Feed that animal already,” Dad yelled from inside, sending a wave of panic through Haley’s chest at the same time the cat hissed. Had Dad heard her?
“Taking off for Amanda’s now, Daddy,” Jocelyn called in her sweet little voice, walking toward the door with her patchwork shoulder bag slung over her arm.
“She still having issues with that stupid boy?”
“Yep. Be back in about an hour.”
“I don’t like you out there alone at night.”
“Mace is already in my bag, Daddy.”
Dad said something else in return, but Haley stopped paying attention when he agreed and allowed her fourteen-year-old sister to go out past ten on a school night because a friend was having boy issues.
“I’d love to hear his response if I asked that question,” Haley whispered, scratching the scruffy cat behind the ears.
“Maybe if you didn’t always come home
curfew, he’d let you.” Jocelyn allowed the screen door to slam behind her and then propped her hands on her slim hips, her wavy, long blonde hair falling around her porcelain face, narrowed blue gaze locked on Haley.
Unfortunately, Dad’s relentless denial of anything Haley asked for had more to do with control—and maybe how closely she mirrored her mother—and not the fact she was occasionally three-hundred seconds late.
“If you say so.” Haley returned her attention to the cat, chin on her knees, praying Jocelyn would just walk away.
But Haley’s prayers were rarely ever answered.
“You shouldn’t be so hard on him,” Jocelyn said, sitting on the crumbling concrete step next to Haley, her words caught up in a symphony of cricket songs.
When they were younger, they’d lay outside on nights like these and stare up at the stars, holding hands while dreaming up big futures involving space travel or frilly dresses. Haley’s dreams might never come true, but she’d do everything in her power to make sure Joce’s did.
“He just wants you to do well in school and obey his rules, but you constantly fail at both.”
Why would Haley shoot for good grades? College wasn’t an option anymore, not when it meant leaving town and leaving Jocelyn with their abusive father. Sure, he’d never once raised a hand to his youngest daughter, but he smacked Haley around more now that Mom was dead. Who’s to say he would continue sparing Jocelyn his wrath with her unthanked protector out of the picture?
“Guess I just suck at life.” What could Haley say? Mom never wanted Joce to know about the darker side of Dad. He couldn’t hide the alcoholism, but how many times did she defend him? How many times did she say that Mom and Haley should be more understanding of his injury, of his feelings of inadequacies—
not her words
—now that he was on disability and Mom was the CEO of a booming candle company? If Joce knew the truth, that Dad hit Mom and Haley, she’d be crushed. She was already crushed about not being there when Mom died. Joce didn’t know. She didn’t understand. And Haley couldn’t tell her.