By: Elizabeth Finn | Other books by Elizabeth Finn
Published By: Liquid Silver Books
Published: Oct 22, 2012
ISBN # 9781595789822
Published By: Liquid Silver Books
Published: Oct 22, 2012
ISBN # 9781595789822
Word Count: 90,419
Available in: Epub, HTML, Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket (.mobi), Adobe Acrobat, Mobipocket (.prc)
DescriptionTrapped in a web of hate with no escape, a young woman discovers her attraction to the man determined to protect her may be her undoing. Will time run out, or will he find a way to protect her before her abusive father kills her?
When Rowan is awarded a ballet scholarship to Michigan State University during her senior year of high school, her life’s dream is finally realized. Having lost her mother at an early age and being subjected to the abuse of a destitute drunken father, she has known unimaginable loss and heartache and been left wanting for a better life—a life now within her grasp. But with one ill-fated phone call, her life is turned upside down.
Logan is Rowan's best friend’s older brother whose career is taking off as he prepares to graduate law school and move cross-country to the prestigious law firm that has offered him a very lucrative contract. When Rowan finds herself at Logan’s mercy after he inadvertently learns of the abuse she has suffered at the hands of her father, their lives become intertwined in a way neither ever imagined nor wanted.
In an effort to protect her, but with his own hands tied by her unwillingness to report the abuse, Logan strikes a deal requiring Rowan to stay with him whenever there is a chance her father might be on a drunken binge—which is often. For her agreement and cooperation, he will keep her secret. Soon, their time together weighs on them both, and they find themselves constantly tempted to step outside the bounds of their supposed platonic relationship. But there is no point. The devastating fact of the matter is their lives are moving in opposite directions—a relationship destined to die before it even has a chance to live.
The ever present clock plagues them both as it ticks off the days until they are parted. But one all important question remains—after he leaves, how will he protect her from a father intent on hating her until the day he dies … or the day he kills her?
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When I was ten years old, my life shattered in the blink of an eye. Escaping unscathed from a horrific car accident that claimed the lives of three people during rush hour traffic on I-35 north of Kansas City should almost be a cause for celebration. But when one of the unfortunate three victims is lying dead beside you in your mangled car, and she happens to be the most important person in your life, relief fast turns to devastation. I wanted to be dead, too. They call it survivor’s guilt. But the funny thing is I never felt guilty—just sad.
To add insult to injury, after my mother passed away, I ended up moving in with my father; he was long divorced from my mother, and I’d never had a relationship with him. Six months after her passing, he moved us to Allendale, a small community not far from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Allendale was a part farming, part urban sprawl community. It was a college town, and a private university at that. Not that it mattered to my ten-year-old self what academia was offered in the local over-priced university. At least it kept the population young, and the businesses flourished. Most of the residents of this safe and quiet community worked in nearby Grand Rapids.
My father was raised in Michigan and apparently had fond memories of growing up in this place—though it’s hard to imagine him having fond memories of anything at all, except perhaps his well-worn bar stool at the local tap, which is where he spent most of his free time. He had always been a temperamental man; it was the undeniable reason my mother had left him. Being forced to take on the unwanted responsibility of being a parent only seemed to worsen his violent streak. He was a mean drunk, and from my recollection, always had been. And with the drinking came the violence.
Though life dealt me a blow when my mother passed, it also gave me a gift. I met my best friend, Sara Harrington, on my nightmare of a first day at Allendale Elementary School. And thank God for her. She was a savior, nothing like my innate shy demeanor. Sara was the center of attention in any room she entered. She was pretty, smart, and outgoing. She was overt at times and ruffled a few feathers on occasion, but she was kind and fair to the point of being passionate in her judgment. Why she had befriended me is beyond my understanding even to this day. But from the moment we met, we were instant friends. Sara’s family matched her kindness and openness to this shy new girl in town. No doubt they felt sorry for me, given my always less than appealing dress and tangled, dirty, unkempt hair—the hallmark sign of a girl without a mother—never mind my all but existent excuse for a father.
When my father was in a rare sober and somewhat gracious mood, he had agreed to allow me to take dance lessons with Sara every Saturday. Of course, he couldn’t be bothered to take me to class. That would be one of many small favors Sara’s family ended up taking on—the second of which would be paying for my lessons after my father’s check bounced. But they did so, happy to help their daughter’s underprivileged friend. They were the type of family that everyone wanted to associate with: popular, beautiful, accomplished, and wealthy—the postcard family. They became the only family I had, or at least the only family I wanted to claim. They were gracious enough to have me over for holiday dinners when my own father was sleeping away his hangover, even buying me Christmas presents—which I never received from my father.
The Harringtons were good people. You were lucky to be a part of a family like that, but not at all lucky because they would never deny their gracious good nature to anyone. Sara’s mother, Ronnie, had made a good home for her family. She could talk a mile a minute, was a friend to anyone in need, and just like her daughter, had more beauty than any one person could need. She was an art teacher in the elementary school and was almost always covered in some remnant of her classroom, be it paint, clay, charcoal, or paper mache. She was excitable and fun—the polar opposite of her husband, Marcus.
Marcus had a successful small town law firm, and while he wasn’t the next Jimmy Smits from L.A. Law, he paid the bills and then some. For the most part, this consisted of giving legal advice on contracts and the occasional divorce settlement. He was a kind and generous man but without the boisterous chatty personality of his wife and daughter. He was contemplative and almost stoic at times but with a genuine heart. He was tall with a full head of dark hair and handsome—even in middle age.
Sara’s older brother, Logan, took after his father in looks and nature. He was seven years older than Sara and I, and he was mature even in his younger years. He was handsome in a very non-pretentious way and had the most intense dark eyes I’ve ever seen, also inherited from his father. On the occasion I was lucky enough to be caught in his gaze, it was quite mesmerizing. When his eyes were on me, I felt like a puppy ready to pee on the floor. Yeah, he was easy to have a crush on, even at ten. He was popular in school but not because he cared to be. The one thing that always struck me about Logan was how comfortable he seemed to be in his own skin, and for a young high school boy in an atmosphere that bred insecurity, this was quite a feat. People radiated toward him, attracted to his good nature as much as his good looks.
It was impossible to dislike any one of the Harringtons in their own right, and it was many years after my induction into this perfect family that I found myself being somehow inducted into another home.
* * * *
By the time Sara and I reached seventeen, I had far surpassed the rest of our dance class. I had fast become the known talent of ballet, and during the summers of my sixteenth and seventeenth years, I spent a month in Chicago studying in the Joffrey Ballet Summer Program. Those were the perks of being the recipient of the Harringtons’ benefactions. And this was to be my foot in the door, as it was. Sara was, of course, proud of her best friend and happy to take a back seat to me, something she was not often required to do.
When Sara found the posting for the Performing Arts Scholarship on the University of Michigan’s website, I was as reluctant as I could be. In fact, I was so convinced they were looking for someone far more talented than me that I refused to even consider the possibility for the better part of two weeks before Sara convinced me there was no harm in trying. I assumed it would be a long and, quite frankly, impossible shot. But Sara, persistent as always, had the application complete before I could convince her just how resolute I was in this matter. So, I buckled and gave into her wishes. Of course, I’ll be required to thank her for the rest of my life for the part she played in my future, now far more promising than it had been before the blessed application.
She knew full well I had no intention of moving beyond an Associate’s degree from Allendale’s junior college, lest I be saddled with a small fortune in college loan debt for the rest of my life. When I received the notification letter I’d been awarded the scholarship, I was ecstatic beyond all measure, not to mention shocked. It was, after all, the only real way I could ever afford to put myself through school without ending up destitute on the flip side. Sara and I will both be attending the University of Michigan. Go Wolverines. And I owe it all to the illustrious and ever passionate, borderline obstinate, best friend. Without doubt, I’ll never live it down, and I will forever be thanking her for believing in me far more than I ever manage to believe in myself.
The scholarship is for the University’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance—“dance” being the operative word in my case. And it is all subject to my achieving high academic marks during my senior year of high school. Sara naturally refuses to own any interest whatsoever in a possible career path of her own, destined to worry her parents into an early grave. But were they paying attention, they might find it just a bit too convenient that the University of Michigan has a strong medical program, and they happen to have a daughter more than capable of going down that path. When it comes to Sara, there is never any way to know for sure. She is determined to pave her own road, and I have no doubt that she will pave it in gold; like I said, it is just her style.
I still think of myself as a plain Jane to Sara’s radiant personality. And while the continuity and comfort of her friendship have allowed my once introverted personality to emerge into what has become a more outgoing sarcastic persona, she is perhaps the only person in the world who sees me as anything other than the same shy and plain girl of seven years prior—the sarcasm and wit saved for our ramblings alone. At least I dress in clean and somewhat fashionable clothes now.
My father is still knee-deep in the love of his life—drink. But at least he is bestowed with the honor of town drunk to show for it. And with his prestigious title come the drones of wannabe inebriates. This means when he comes home drunk and mean, he often doesn’t come home alone. He brings home the drunkest and meanest soul mates he can muster in this small little town of ours. And it is times such as these when the ever-present pseudo-family becomes my lifeline. I have taken to spending many nights at Sara’s house these days. The Harringtons know of my father’s drinking habits—as does anyone within a fifty-mile radius of town—and they never mind my company, even when I don’t get there until the late hours of the night.
Logan now lives on his own in an apartment building his parents own in downtown Allendale—one of many real estate investments they are part of. He commutes to Michigan State University in Grand Rapids, which is to be his Alma mater. He is, of course, still very crushable. He’s chosen to walk in his father’s footsteps and is now in his third year of law school after graduating magna cum laude in his undergraduate studies. He is still top of his class in graduate school as all little Harringtons are, including his younger sister. And he is even interning with the DA’s office in Grand Rapids. He is already receiving a great deal of interest from law firms across the country, but it is Brighton and Brinks in Denver, Colorado where he intends to plant his roots. They extended an early offer and Logan didn’t hesitate to accept. The contract has been signed, sealed, and delivered, and our little burg will have to suffer the loss of our most handsome resident little more than a week after he completes his graduate studies. He has always intended to move to Denver after he graduates, and the offer from Brighton was too good to pass up. They are a well-respected and prestigious firm; Logan will fit right in. He only knows how to succeed. He is driven in a way most people could never imagine. It would be easy for Logan to rely on his good looks and charm to get him through life, but he cares little for anything so trivial and focuses all his energy on his education and, moreover, his career. His focus is singular, and it will be the thing that elevates him quickly in life; of this, I have no doubt.
His girlfriend, on the other hand, is a different story. Amy. She is the anti-Christ and everything self-conscious young girls dread. She is blonde, blue eyed, voluptuous, and curvy in all the right places. I may have the blue eyes, but nothing else about me comes close to her physical perfection. I am boyishly built, undersized in all the wrong places and have the most boring, plain, reddish-brown hair. I keep it perfunctorily long to make it easy to pull back in a bun, but otherwise there is nothing impressive about it. Amy’s personality is the complete opposite of Logan’s. She is good at playing nice with people, but that’s all it is, playing. She's selfish, and if I were guessing, she likes Logan more for the way he looks on her arm than who he is. She sees him as a ticket to the sweet life, somewhere bigger and better than she can achieve on her own. It is impossible to see why he likes her so much; well, actually, from his point of view, it is quite obvious what he sees in her. Sara can’t stand the idea of having her as a sister-in-law one day and loves making snide comments behind her back, which I am always more than happy to second.
Sara is also kept busy with school herself and helping her parents around their lake house at nearby Spring Lake. They are restoring the neglected property and pay Sara top dollar for her help. I occasionally go with her to help out but have a weekend waitressing job that limits the time I can spend there. And it is on an Indian summer weekend two months into our senior year of high school I find what is to be my new sanctuary.