This is one of the books I wrote earlier in my writing career. It happens to be one of my favorites.
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Lizzy would give it all back just to hear her mother's voice one more time... the house, the furniture...even the money. Regardless, her heartless stepfather is determined to take what he feels is rightfully his. Handyman, Adam Woodward rides into Lizzy's life and vows to keep her safe, but is it enough to stop the cold, callous determination of Ben Stokes?
Excerpt : Strong Language
The front door slammed shut, silencing Lizzy’s eighteenth birthday celebration. She sat at the head of the table usually reserved for her stepfather, Ben. Her mother and stepbrother, Steven, sat on either side of Lizzy. She closed her eyes to make a wish before blowing out the candles.
“Where the hell is everybody?”
Her eyelids flew open; everyone’s gazes darted down the narrow hall to the front entrance. Ben leaned against the doorjamb, a twisted grin on his face. The smell of whiskey wafted into the kitchen and soured the sweet scent of the icing. The beautifully decorated cake slowly became a puddle of melted wax.
His presence quickly changed Lizzy’s happiness to fear. She inhaled deeply and braced herself for what she knew would come next. Mentally, she counted Ben’s footsteps as he made his way to the kitchen. Every few steps, he bounced off the hall walls and stopped to regain his balance.
Even his son, who could do no wrong in Ben’s eyes, gripped the tabletop so hard his knuckles turned white. Lizzy’s mother slowly rose to her feet and stood in front of them. She took a deep breath before she lifted her chin and pushed back a stray lock of her flaming red hair.
“You’re just in time, Ben. We were getting ready to have some birthday cake.” Delia’s chipper invitation belied the tremble of fear that ran through her words.
“Birthday cake?” He loomed over the table. Spit sprayed all over the cake as he spoke. His eyes filled with anger and loathing as his glare pierced through each one of them in turn. “You mean to tell me, while I’m out slaving at the mill to put food on this table, you’re throwing my hard-earned money away on such nonsense as a birthday cake?”
Delia’s hand covered the locket around her neck; she turned it over in her hand. “Lizzy, Steven, go up to your rooms, please.”
Their chairs scraped against the wood floor. Lizzy and Steven stood and slowly inched away from the table toward the doorway.
“I don’t think so!” Ben’s fist slammed on the tabletop, silverware bounced across the shiny wood finish. He rounded the table and stuck his hand in the center of the cake.
Candles toppled over in the icing. He took a handful and plopped it down in front of each of them. “You all want cake? Eat it! I’ll be damned if you’ll throw it out after spending a small fortune of MY money on it.”
“Ben!” Delia motioned for Lizzy and Steven to hurry from the room. “Please...it’s Lizzy’s birthday.”
“Lizzy’s birthday.” He mimicked, his lips twisting into an angry snarl. “I don’t give a fuck if it’s the Queen of England’s birthday.” His icing-covered fist slid off the side of the table, and he crashed to the floor where he stayed, passed out cold.
“Quick, go!” Delia pleaded with Lizzy and her stepbrother and ran to Ben’s aid.
Lizzy grabbed her mother’s shirt sleeve. “I don’t want to leave you alone with him.”
“For God’s sake, Lizzy, go! I’ll be fine.”
Reluctantly, she did as her mother asked and ran to the stairway that led up to her room. Steven hadn’t wasted a second in following their mother’s orders, the bang of his door reverberating throughout the old farmhouse. Lizzy stumbled up the stairs, her vision blurred. Her heart hammered in her chest as she fumbled with the doorknob and flung open the door. She slammed it shut and slid the bolt. With her back against the door, she gave in to the torrent of tears and slid down until her bottom hit the cool hardwood floor.
A loud bang stopped her crying, and she pressed her ear to the door. Her mother grunted under her stepfather’s weight, pausing after each step to catch her breath. How many times had she heard this same sound since her mother had married Ben and they’d come to live in Acadia? She knew what would happen next. Delia would put him to bed, and all the while, he’d mumble incoherently. The sun would rise in the morning, and she’d get him up for work, making him coffee and a lunch befitting a king. Not one word would be spoken about the previous night, the kitchen magically cleaned up and back to its natural state as if nothing had ever happened.
Lizzy sighed wearily upon hearing her mother’s footsteps pad back down the stairs. Under any other circumstance, she’d offer to help clean up the mess, but anger and fear kept her exactly where she sat. Slomo stretched out luxuriously from atop her bed and meowed in her direction before she jumped down and stepped onto her lap. She ran her hand through the silky mass of orange fur, and the cat turned over, offering her belly.
Lizzy hiccupped and shook her head. “Happy Birthday to me.” Her fingers slid across the soft underbelly of her most trusted confidant.