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Trouble
Author: Tia Louise

 

Prologue

 

 

Spencer

 

“I have ice. Ice makes the pain go away.” My mom crouches beside me, her entire body shaking as she presses a cloth to my shoulder.

Her face is so white. I want to say her name, but my throat constricts as searing pain burns through my upper body. My eyes squeeze shut, causing tears to stream down my face.

All around us is chaos.

The kitchen table is against the wall, and a chair is broken in two. Beside me on the floor, a splintered piece of wood lies in what looks like a growing puddle of red paint. Only, it’s not paint, and I’m afraid.

“Look what you made me do!” My father yells at us, pacing back and forth. He jerks my mother off of me by her hair. “You made me do this.”

Fear squeezes my lungs so hard, I can’t breathe, and lights flash in the room through the windows like a rainbow. People in white rush into our house, and a woman with orange-blonde hair and sky-blue eyes leans over me.

She puts her hand on my forehead and smiles gently while another person in white lifts me off the floor. She speaks softly, but I can’t understand her.

Is she an angel? Did I die?

It’s my last thought before the darkness closes my eyes…

 

* * *

 

“This is your room now.” The old man opens a door and gestures me into a space the size of a small house.

My eyes are wide as I step carefully on the highly polished wood floor. It’s made of small pieces of wood arranged in a diamond pattern, and a thin rug with a large, oval-shaped design covers the floor.

Driving up to this place, I gazed up at the soaring white columns topped with curling leaves and scrolls. Above them, so high I could barely see from the car, the roof had a railing, like you could walk around up there.

I’ve never seen a house like this outside of a movie or a storybook.

It’s a castle.

It’s also dark and empty.

“I hope you find it comfortable here.”

I look up at him, unsure what to say.

He’s tall with lots of gray hair that swooshes around his head like that scientist in the picture at my school. He’s wearing a scratchy brown jacket and dark pants, and he has a beard. His dark eyes are intense like a bird or a reptile, watching me.

“Are you a king?” My voice is small.

“I’m your new father. You may call me Drake.” His voice is low and measured, like he carefully chooses the exact word to say before he speaks.

“Where’s my mom?” Sadness pinches my chest when I remember the last time I saw her.

His eyes blink away, into the hall. “She can’t take care of you anymore. You’re going to live with me now.”

I’m not sure what he means. “Did she die?”

“Not as far as I know.” His tone is grave like he doesn’t want to dwell on this subject. “If you’re all settled, I’ll leave you to your thoughts.”

I follow him quickly into the massive hallway covered in paintings bigger than me. It’s as wide as a dining room, and long rugs cover the floors that go on for miles.

My footsteps echo off the polished wood as I scuffle after him. “Are we the only ones here?”

He pauses and turns, looking down at me slowly as if I’m an insect he’s considering gobbling up. I shrink back, wishing I hadn’t asked.

“Are you afraid of being alone, Spencer?”

My eyes are wide, and I want my mom. The expression on his face tells me that would be the wrong answer.

“No, sir.”

“Good. Only a weak man is bothered by being alone. Are you weak?”

I’m not sure if I’m weak or if I’m even a man yet, but I know how to survive.

“No, sir.”

His eyes flinch almost like he would smile if that were possible. “Never fall for the lie that you need other people. Only when you are completely independent are you truly strong.”

He starts to go, but I hold out my hand. “But… Why do you need me?”

The spark of approval evaporates like smoke. “I don’t.”

His gaze travels up and around the hall, pausing at a window twice as tall as he is. “When I am gone, I will leave my estate to you, then you will be like me.” Cold eyes return to mine. “Now get some rest. I’ll begin your education tomorrow.”

Dread filters through my stomach, but I don’t dare argue. My shoulder hurts, and I’m sleepy. I don’t know why I’m here, but I remember my mom saying it would be okay.

Returning quietly to my room, I notice a sweaty glass of ice water on my bedside table. Going to it, I lift a cube from the top and put it in my mouth, sliding to sit on the scratchy wool rug covering my floor.

My eyes close, and I focus on the cold as it slowly melts away.

Then I do it again.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Joselyn


Present day

 

 

“Fuck you, Elliot.” I exhale a growl as I shove my phone in the hidden pocket of my knee-length, chartreuse-silk bridesmaid’s dress.

Anger burns in my throat, but I will not cry.

Again.

I won’t ruin my professionally applied makeup.

“Not what I want to hear from my maid of honor!” My cousin Daisy pushes past me into the dressing room suite on the second floor of the Oceanside Hotel. Her vintage Givenchy wedding dress swishes around her knees, and she’s moving fast towards the bathroom. “What happened now?”

I follow her, leaning against the outside wall with a long sigh as she shuts the louvered door. “You know what happened.”

“Idiot Flick again?”

I chew my bottom lip. “He’s not an idiot. He’s just…”

“Controlling, manipulative, unreliable—”

“He’s not coming tonight. He says something came up at work.”

The toilet flushes, and she steps out, washing her hands at the sink. Her brown eyes are narrowed at me in the mirror.

Shame flashes in my chest. “Don’t squinch your little pixie face at me.”

She shakes her blonde head as she dries her hands on the monogrammed towel. “Not my business.”

“Just say it.”

Our eyes meet in the mirror as she taps powder on her forehead and nose. “He pulls a stunt like this at least once a week.”

“You’re saying he doesn’t have to work?” I’m tense, waiting for her to confirm my own fears.

“On a Sunday, at six pm?”

“He has a very demanding job.”

“In garbage?”

“It’s waste management.” I step beside her, fluffing my red hair in the mirror. It falls in large waves around my shoulders. “It’s very lucrative. How do you think he can afford a penthouse apartment in Columbia? Anyway, it’s a far drive, and he just had the Mercedes detailed.”

“The black Mercedes?” She tosses the makeup on the counter and starts for the door. “Don’t the bad guys always drive black Mercedes?”

“It’s a nice car.” My voice is soft, and I’m not even convincing myself.

Hesitating, she returns to where I’m standing, taking both my hands in hers. “Does he make you happy?”

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