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Broken Beginnings
Author: J.L. Beck

 

Prologue

 

 

Claire

 

 

6 Years Ago

 

 

Pain. I feel it in every cell of my body.

It’s all I can feel while I lie on the floor, unable to get up. I try to make sense of what is happening. Why is my dad so angry? Why is he hurting me? Is he going to kill me?

All the questions swirl in my head, but the pain won’t let me conjure up an answer.

“Do you have any idea what you’ve done? Who he is?” my father spits, confusing me even more. “He’s going to tell his boss where I am. He’s going to kill me because I can’t pay back the money. Is that what you want, Claire? Do you want me dead?”

The feeble attempt I make to shake my head and tell him no sends a sharp pain shooting down my neck. I open my mouth to speak, but my throat is so raw from crying for help. My lips are dry and cracked, and I taste the coppery tinge of blood on my tongue.

“This is all your fault. Everything was great before you were born. Your mother loved me. We were happy, and then you had to come along.” He says it like I chose to be here.

He paces through the room, a beer bottle in his hand. I follow him with my eyes since that’s the only part of my body I can actually move without causing more pain.

I want to tell him I’m sorry, beg him to forgive me and stop hurting me, but my body is so weak that I can barely keep my eyes open, let alone speak.

Everything hurts, and all I want to do is close my eyes and sleep.

“You destroyed my life!” he yells.

My eyes fly back open just in time to see the beer bottle fly my way. I squeeze my eyes shut and try to turn away, but I’m too slow. The bottle hits me in the side of the head, the glass shattering around me.

Agonizing pain erupts, like a million little bombs going off, crushing my skull, and turning my brain to shreds. The room spins around me, and all I can hear is a loud ringing in my ear.

My vision blurs, and I feel myself fading. Something in the back of my mind tells me to hold on, to keep fighting. Forcing myself to blink and keep my eyes open, I stare at the ceiling and try to think of anything but the pain. There’s a loud pop in my ear, and the pressure is so great, it feels like my head will explode.

Above me, my father slams his fist against my head. Saliva clings to my skin as he spits words of hate at me. Something warm and wet trickles down the side of my face. One more punch, and I can’t contain the scream that’s lodged in my throat.

Fracturing like a piece of glass, I don’t even recognize the sound that escapes me. I let my eyes drift closed then, and the darkness becomes a comforting balm.

Please, make it stop! I repeat over and over in my mind.

Then, as if God can hear my unspoken prayers, the weight against my body lifts. I force my eyes open, even though it feels impossible to do. The pain in my face is overwhelming, but for a moment, it becomes background noise when I see Lucca hovering over my father.

The world around me is silent, there is no sound, and all I can do is watch in horror as Lucca transforms right before my eyes, becoming someone else entirely.

Fear replaces any happy thoughts I ever had about him.

There is a darkness in his eyes that makes it hard for me to breathe. Terror reignites in my veins as I lie helplessly on the floor and watch my father’s head bounce against the ground, over and over again like a basketball.

Lucca’s lips move, pulling back into a sinister grin as he speaks, but I can’t hear what he’s saying. I’m drowning in the chaos. My eyes drift to a dark spot forming on the floor beneath my father’s head.

Blood. The puddle grows bigger and bigger, and it seems like forever before Lucca stops. I can’t look away from his hands. They’re coated in blood—so much blood. I shake when his eyes find mine. His penetrating stare submerges me into icy water. I’m afraid. I want to move, to run before he hurts me too, but I can’t make my limbs work.

Pain blankets every inch of my body.

The darkness in Lucca’s eyes fades slowly, and he looks down at my father and back at me as if he’s trying to piece the puzzle of what he’s done together.

The person I thought he was all along, the white knight, a friend, reappears.

In a flash, he crosses the room, fear overtaking his features while his gaze sweeps over my body. I struggle to move, trying to scoot away from him, but any type of movement makes the throbbing in my head worse. I’d rather die than attempt to move right now.

With his powerful arms, he picks me up off the floor and holds me to his chest. I push with all my strength, trying to escape him, but I’m in too much pain. Too far gone to care what happens next. The coppery tang of blood is all I can smell as I breathe through my nose. Lucca peers down at me, his eyes liquid pools of amber.

“Call an… ambulance,” I croak, afraid that my father may be dead before they arrive.

“Everything is going to be okay. He’ll never hurt you again. I swear on it. No one will, not as long as I’m breathing.”

I want to cry, but the tears aren’t there.

I’m broken. The man I thought would never hurt me, that would save me from everything, just took my entire life and crushed it into a million pieces.

 

 

1

 

 

Claire

 

 

Present

 

 

I keep my eyes trained to the floor, walking down the long hallway that leads to the double doors ahead. All I have to do is get outside, and I’ll be free of this building, and the people inside of it, for the rest of the day.

The dull sound of footsteps and chatter echo around me as the hallway fills with students being released from their last class of the day.

Everything I do is to limit the amount of attention I bring on myself. Today, however, there is no avoiding Cinderella’s three wicked stepsisters.

I look up just in time to see the three witches leaning against a nearby locker. My gut tightens like a knot being pulled tight. I hate them. Hate how they make me feel. How they bully me. Making fun of me because I can’t hear properly. Because the teacher always makes me sit up front because I have to ask people to repeat questions or look at me so I can read their lips.

They don’t like me because I’m different. If only they knew what made me this way, what caused me to lose my hearing. Maybe then they would be a little more compassionate.

Or maybe not.

Arabella sticks her heeled foot out at the last moment, and before I can stop, I trip over it, barely catching myself with my hands; my face nearly collides with the linoleum. Pain ripples up my arms from hitting the floor, and I grit my teeth, holding back a curse.

“Looks like Claire can’t walk any better than she can hear.” Bethany sniggers, tucking a strand of silky blonde hair behind her ear.

Popular. Gorgeous. Perfect in every way.

Bethany is mean, but nothing compared to the ringleader, Arabella. I shake my head and reach for the book I had clutched to my chest. My fingers graze the cover just as Arabella’s pointed heel comes into view.

Like the bitch she is, she presses it against my hand. My jaw quakes with how hard I’m clenching it.

“Oops,” she sneers and pulls her foot back a second later.

I bite my tongue, holding back the insult that’s building at the tip of my tongue. Nothing I say to them will change how they act. They want to hurt me, and I’m not giving them that type of satisfaction. I grab my book and scurry off the floor and out of the school before they try to do something else to me.

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