Authors: Jessica Sorensen
Tags: #review, #New Adult, #Romance
Seven years later…
My day has been mellow for the most part, a rare but welcomed occasion. Ever since my mother died, good days are far and few between. But today seems so good it’s left me hoping that perhaps it would continue.
I wake up with no hangover, even after partying way too hard the night before. Then I manage to avoid my bodyguards, which is going to get me into trouble when I got home. But I’m in desperate need of some alone time to clear my head, so I sneak out and head to the cemetery to put flowers on my mama’s grave. Then I have a nice, long, one-sided conversation with the engraved stone. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a few weeks now, ever since I found
That goddamn letter that had flipped my already chaotic life upside down even more than it already was. I’d found it hidden in one of my mother’s jacket pockets while I was cleaning out her closet, something that should have been done a long time ago, but I had been holding on to the stuff that belonged to her.
It was written by my mama to a man named Everson Milantes, divulging to him that she thinks I might be his daughter, not the man I thought was my father and who had raised me for the last twenty-one years. The letter was never sent, probably because my mama passed away before she ever got the chance. It was strangely dated the night before she died—the night before I found my father holding her lifeless body in the driveway from what the paramedics declared a heart attack.
The letter changed everything in an instant—myself, my life, my father, my mother—which is exactly what I decide to tell the gravestone.
“I just don’t understand,” I say as I kneel down in the dirt, grasping a bouquet of sunflowers in my hand—my mother’s favorite flower. “Why did you never tell me… I thought you told me everything.” Which always seemed true when I was younger. To me, we’d always had more of a sisterly relationship than a mother/daughter one, which was good in the sense that it made up for me not having any siblings. We so open, without secrets, or at least, that’s what I had thought. But now, well, the letter unfortunately was just a number on an ever-growing list of secrets that I’d been discovering since my mother left this world, her death something that still haunts me to this day.
“I’m starting to wonder what else you didn’t tell me. What other lies I’m going to find out. There’ve been so many… And with the way you died… It’s just so hard to accept that it was a heart attack. I just want some answers to what happened that day.” I shake my head as tears start to sting my eyes. I refuse to go down that road again, a one-way road I was stuck on from the ages of fourteen to sixteen when I wouldn’t let my mother go. I became obsessed with why she died, refusing to believe anything. Even though I still don’t believe the lies, I have moved on because it was killing me inside.
And I think it’s time to do it again, to let go and move on, just in a different way.
I glance around the empty cemetery; the grass covered in headstones, the trees flourishing with leaves. It’s a beautiful, summer day, yet I feel so cold inside—so hollow.
Just like this place.
I simply want to get away, be somewhere else, and even though it sounds crazy, I swear the wind whispers that it’s okay to go.
Sighing, I set the flowers down in front of her headstone and kiss the tips of my fingers before pressing them to the stone, silently telling her what I think may be my final good-bye. Then I get to my feet and head out of the cemetery; not to my car, but to the park down the street. I need more time to think, to process, to work up the courage to finally do what I’ve wanted to do since I found the letter, maybe even before that. I think part of me has always wanted to do it since the day I suggested it to Layton, to just up and move. To leave everything behind. My life. My friends. My family and all the money and connections that come along with it. To run away.
I’ve been living a life of lies and deceit for too long, and I want to start over and perhaps go find this Everson guy, find out what he knows about the letter; if he knows I may be his daughter. I’m curious what he looks like, who he is, what kind of person he was and is now. Is he like my father, good to his family but his morals and choices perhaps a little twisted and dangerous, or does he simply live a quiet, boring life? I did some searching around for him, however I didn’t find out anything. The only thing I have is the address on the envelope the letter was in, but that was from over six years ago.
After wandering around for about an hour, I finally gather enough strength to go back to my car to go home and pack up my shit. I turn around and cross the grass toward the exit area of the park. Although, right as I’m stepping out of the security of the gated area and onto the sidewalk beside the street, a sleek, black, and very expensive SUV with tinted windows pulls up to the curb.
I know this life well enough to know what’s behind those doors—I’ve been warned by my father since I was five and seen firsthand what kind of people drive around in them. They are the type of men who are the reason I usually have bodyguards with me.
I whirl around to run, but I barely have time to react as two very large, bulky men wearing black suits and sunglasses, all
Men in Black-
like, jump out of the car and come barreling at me. I open my mouth to scream, yet they grab me by the arms and one of them slaps a hand over my mouth, right there in broad daylight, which means they have nothing to fear. And no fear means they have connections, probably to one of my dad’s many enemies. The question is, which one? It might not seem important, but at the moment, it’s more important than breathing. Who it is could be the difference of whether I’ll walk out of this alive.
I have hardly any time to come up with an answer, though, as I’m roughly forced into the backseat of the car. As I land face first, bumping my head onto the roof, I try to get a few kicks in, but my struggles are effortless. Before I know it, I have a bag over my head, my hands are tied behind my back, and the car is speeding off.
“Who the hell are you?” I growl through the dark fabric, hoping for someone to reply, then maybe I can figure out who it is. However, the only thing I get in response is a low chuckle and a brush of a finger up my bare thigh to the edge of my shorts. When their hand slips up the front of me and cops a feel of my breast, the touch stands the hair on the back of my neck on end and my stomach churns. I vow to myself that, if I get out of this, I’m going to make the fucker pay.
Instead of causing more drama, I bite down on my lip and force myself to stay silent and remain still. This is what I have been taught to do as a defense mechanism. The last thing I need is to piss the wrong person off or get so worked up I can’t think clearly. It’s in the Preparation for When Kidnapped Handbook, and I’m not talking metaphorically. There was an actual handbook, given to me by my father on my eighth birthday.
Lolita, nothing will ever conquer you if you don’t show any fear
,” my daddy said as I’d torn the wrapping paper off the present then frowned at the thin leather-bound book inside. “
In our world, never show fear. Never let it own you. Always be strong or else you won’t survive. This book will teach you to do just that
.” It was a family heirloom, and honestly, I’d thought he was insane, but I still read it. I wanted to make him proud, up until my mother passed away. After that, our relationship turned rocky.
Now, I can’t help thinking how right he was, though. Fear is the enemy. Fear is making my head foggy, making me think irrational ideas like throwing myself forward and trying to escape blind. Crying. Screaming. I need a level head if I’m going to accomplish anything.
Twenty minutes later, I’m still sitting in the backseat of the car, squeezed between the two sweaty, smelly men. My heart’s racing in my chest, despite how much I’m telling it to shut the fucking hell up. I try to steady my breathing, stable my heart rate, inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth, let my muscles unravel. Think of something relaxing. Reading… sleeping… taking a bath… They all seem okay, somewhat relaxing, but if I’m honest with myself, I need to think of something that actually relaxes me—the real me, the one hardly anyone knows. Drinking… shots… beating the shit out of the guy beside me… sex… hot, sweaty sex. It might be messed up, yet it makes me feel the slightest bit content.
After I get about as calm as I can—still somewhat jittery, though, and with way too much adrenaline pumping through my bloodstream—I sink back in the seat and assess what I can about my surroundings.
The engine is humming and I can hear the sound of the wind, which means the car’s moving and the windows are rolled down. I think about the weapons I have on me. Brass knuckles and mace in my purse, but I dropped it when the guys grabbed me back at the park. I do have a small knife in a holster hidden inside my boot, but how the hell am I supposed to get it out when my hands are bound and I can’t see a damn thing?
Turning my head to the side, I strain to see through the bag. The sunlight faintly slips through the fabric, and I can make out the top of one of the guy’s heads beside me. I wonder if he’s watching me; if he’s thinking about touching me again. I want to rip his hand off for touching me already.
I’m evaluating my options—
keep sitting, try to fight blind, cause a scene
—when the car comes to a screeching halt. I hear the driver mutter something, then a door opens and the guy to the side of me gets out. I start to let out a breath of relief, but then he either climbs back in or someone else takes his place.
Moments later, the scent of cologne and cigarettes grace my nostrils. I realize there’s definitely someone different sitting next to me since the previous guy stank like BO. There’s something very familiar about the scent, too… I know it from somewhere. I try to think of all the parties I’ve attended, the “family gatherings.” Is that why the person smells familiar? Have I met them at one of those perhaps?
I feel the person shift in the seat and I cringe as their warm breath caresses my cheek. “Just calm down, Lola,” they whisper softly as I clench my hands into fists. Then, their finger brushes the inside of my wrist, a comforting gesture only one person in my life has ever used on me, and suddenly I realize who it is. “Everything will be okay.”
Boy, oh, boy, do I know that voice. What’s more, now I know just how much trouble I’m in, who’s behind the kidnapping, and how slim things are looking for me ever seeing the light of day again. Dead—I’m pretty sure that’s how I’m going to end up.
Sitting beside me is Layton Everett, a guy who used to be my best friend when we were younger, but now he works for my family’s enemy, the Catherlson. Frankie is their leader, the guy who grinned and winked at me the day my mother died. He has despised my father more than any other drug lord on the east coast and has been trying to set my father up and get him killed. He even put a hit on my father once when I was about seven, but it was quickly taken off when my father retaliated, which has always made me question why the hell Frankie was at my house the day my mother died. Of course, I’m not supposed to know any of this, however the house I grew up in had cathedral ceilings that caused every conversation to carry throughout the rooms and hallways.
“I should have known you had something to do with this,” I say spitefully to Layton. My words carry no truth to them, though. Even after my mother died, Layton and I still remained friends for quite a while. He never would tell me why he got into the car with Frankie that day or what his father said to him. And about a week after the funeral, all was well in our drug lord world again. Mr. Everett and my father were friends once more, both despising Frankie Catherlson. No more strange meetings were held.
All was right in our crazy, mad world, up until a couple of months ago when I heard from one of my few female friends that Layton had shown up at a party with Frankie’s men. He didn’t even have the balls to tell me himself, nor did he offer me any explanation when I confronted him, nor have we talked since. I’ll admit, part of my anger stems from the fact that I’ve always believed Frankie had something to do with my mother’s death, and Layton knows my theory, even though he doesn’t believe it.
“Lola, don’t start with me, please,” Layton warns, his fingers leaving my wrist. “You’re only going to get yourself into trouble if you get that mouth of yours going.”
“Fuck you.” I lean into him, lifting my leg and moving my foot around until I find his shin, and then I kick as hard as I can. “You traitor.”
“Dammit, Lola,” he curses, jerking his leg away from mine. “Stop acting like a psychopath.”