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A War like Ours
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Three weeks ago, James Maxwell’s wife died in a car accident, but he hasn’t been able to tell his five-year old daughter the heartbreaking truth behind her mother’s death. Instead, he packs them up and leaves for a summer resort in upstate New York to spend a few peaceful weeks and to gradually break the news. But a spirited and outspoken maid at the resort has figured out his secret.
After witnessing her mother’s violent death at the hands of her stepfather, Madison Smith has turned aimless and bitter toward the world—men, in particular. Her dead-end job at the local resort and her convenient girlfriend barely keep Madison from falling apart. When she meets James, however, she’s driven to protect his child from the darkness she sees inside him.
A forbidden kiss…
But Madison doesn’t expect to find that very darkness irresistible. Drowning in guilt and memories, neither does James expect to be drawn to the sharp-witted woman who has made his life miserable. When their tempers flare, a brutal kiss triggers a need that blurs the lines of hate and desire. As their lust spins out of control, they must decide if their attraction is worth fighting for or if love is the real enemy.
Author’s Note: This book is intended for mature audience. It has trigger elements: Abuse, self harm, death. 18+ ONLY. Despite having an HEA, this story doesn’t follow the usual or conventional rules. It’s rough, edgy and yes, difficult to read in places. The characters are broken and jagged and so is their descent in love. Please proceed with caution. Thank you!
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I was a hater. I didn’t want to be—I tried not to be—but that was kind of my thing.
When I was a kid, I hated school. Well, what kid didn’t? I hated having to go and sit through classes when I could be outside smoking pot. I hated when teachers talked to me about my failing grades. I wanted to be a pot dealer one day. How many pot dealers did you know who had a degree?
I hated the couple that lived in the next trailer van. They fucked so loud their two-year-old baby could never sleep. Neither could I, for that matter. I tried to steal it once, the baby I mean, so he could at least have a good night’s sleep. But they caught me. It wasn’t a pleasant interaction. The words “cops” and “jail” were thrown around.
But most of all, I hated that my mom was a romantic, a believer in true love. All my life I had seen my mother fall in love with men who abused her, cheated on her, stole money from her, and left both her body and her heart broken. I hated that most of the time she came home from her dates, pockmarked with angry, purple bruises. Bruises courtesy of the men she claimed “loved her more than life.” But she never learned.
This is it, Maddy, she would say. He’s the one. He’s going to take care of us. He’s going to save us, take us out of this dump.
She was wrong every single time.
As I grew up, boys started to take notice of me. They would throw me flirty glances, leer at my bare legs in a skirt or the mounds of breasts under my tight T-shirts. I loathed it so much that I wore such clothes on purpose, to play with them, to make them want me. Every time it happened, I wanted to run to my mom and tell her, look, Mom. Men aren’t as smart. They are stupid as fuck. Lose hope, Mom. See me. I’m here.
But to my mom, I was invisible.
Then one day, she was gone, killed, murdered, taken away from me. By a man. He killed my mother, and on the night of her funeral, in his drunken haze, he killed me, too.
Every day around four a.m., I jogged from my house to the only park in our small town of Hedge Lake.
As I ran the sleepy, darkened streets, I’d imagine myself sitting in a plastic chair—a yellowish white plastic—with ten faceless people sitting in a circle around me. I imagined we were all assembled in a basement, dingy and wet with cement floors. To our right was a long table with a starched white tablecloth and towers of coffee cups. Then, I’d picture myself standing up or maybe raising my hand—I wasn’t set on this part—and saying, “Hello, my name is Madison Smith, and I’m an addict.”
In my mind, I heard those ten people murmuring, throwing me smiles of solidarity and whatnot. A sisterhood of addicts. For some reason, I never imagined any men in my imaginary circle of addict friends. I, also, never gave our group a name, like, Alcoholic Anonymous or Drug Addict Association or whatever.
Because, truth be told, our addiction was weird. It didn’t have a name.
That morning, I reached the park in record time, less than the usual twenty minutes. The park stretched before my eyes like a green carpet with a running trail winding across. It was deserted, and the trail edged with shrubs felt abandoned, only lit by the yellow light of the lamp posts.
The lake—the namesake of our town—came into view up ahead, dark and calm. I had taken this path so many times I could run it with my eyes closed. The shrubs grew into tall trees, mostly junipers, as the trail snaked its way along the lake.
On my way up, I passed a squatting cottage overlooking the water. The bottom of its beige walls was dank, the paint peeling off in bubbles. Its roof was overrun by ivy that dangled over the checkered windows. This cottage was part of Hedge Lake Resort where I worked on the staff. There were eleven cottages in total that were rented for the summer. But this one—cottage eleven—was my favorite. It was less than perfect, with its cracked and faulty corners on the exterior walls. That morning I thought I saw a shadow moving at the kitchen window, but it was gone before I could be sure.
After another ten minutes, I reached my destination—an alcove made of three overgrown shrubs, nestling a bench, hiding it from sight. The bench faced the lake and a mesh of foliage. The wood felt warm to the touch, and I plopped down on it, panting, trying not to pass the fuck out from exhaustion.