The Best Goodbye(Rosemary Beach #13)(4) by Abbi Glines
“Yes, ma’am,” I replied politely.
Cora glanced down at me and let out a small sigh. “You’re a beautiful child. If you’d just act right, you’d find a home you could stay in.”
I had the urge to tell her that I did act right. It was on the tip of my tongue, but I bit it back and only nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” I replied again.
I followed Cora up the steps to the pretty yellow house with a big white porch wrapped around it. I liked the look of this place. The other houses I had lived in didn’t look anything like this. They were usually old and smelled funny.
Before Cora could knock on the door, it opened slowly. A tall boy stood there. He had blond hair that was a little too long and shaggy. His green eyes went from Cora to me. Then he frowned. I had never really seen a boy I thought was beautiful until now, and he was frowning at me. I hadn’t even messed up yet.
“You’re little. Thought you were my age,” he said, staring at me.
I hated being called short. Everyone talked about me being small for my age. I got teased about it at school enough. Straightening my shoulders, I tried to stand taller. “Maybe you’re just too tall,” I snapped in response.
Cora’s hand wrapped around my shoulder, and she squeezed so hard I winced. Her long nails bit into my skin, reminding me that I had to make this work. If I didn’t, I would be taken to a girls’ home next, and I knew the nightmares that happened there. I’d heard stories.
“Sorry,” I murmured through the pain in my shoulder, where Cora hadn’t let go of me.
“Let her go. You’re hurting her,” the boy said angrily, jerking my attention back up to his handsome face. He was glaring at Cora like he was ready to remove her hand himself. “Jesus, she’s tiny. You don’t have to squeeze the hell out of her,” he said, scowling.
“River Kipling! Watch your language,” a voice called out, just before the figure of the woman who would become my worst enemy filled the doorway.
My eyes flew open, and I threw off the blanket, bolting up and sliding to the edge of the bed before taking a deep breath. I was covered in cold sweat, and my heart was still pounding. This dream was one I knew well, but it had been a while since I’d had it. From the time I was sixteen, I’d been fighting one demon—the one that tore my heart out and never gave it back again.
Fucking death. I had killed men. So many men. Men who deserved to die. Men who had abused children. Men who didn’t belong on this earth. With each one, I was saving her. The one I had failed. The one I hadn’t been able to save. I had tried to conquer that horror in so many ways, yet ten years later, I still dreamed about her. On other nights, I dreamed about how I had lost her. How I hadn’t been strong enough to save her. Screwing my eyes shut, I inhaled deeply and buried my face in my hands. Each breath burned, and my chest cracked open.
Addy’s beautiful face looking up at me, smiling, while her blond hair danced around her in the wind. The image made me feel complete, but it was just a tease. A sweet memory. One of the last memories I had of her. But the dream always turned so quickly. Blood everywhere. Addy in a pool of it, and all I could see was her. The woman who had raised me laughing as she watched Addy die. I screamed each time, but I was unable to get near her. I was frozen. Unable to save her in the dream or even to hold her.
She had been my soul mate. My other half. Even when we were kids, I had known she was the best friend I’d ever have. It hadn’t taken long for me to realize I loved her. Once, I feared I loved her too much.
Thinking about Addy hurt more than I could describe. I kept waiting for it to ease, for the day when I would be able to think of our time together with a smile. But I knew I’d never do that. She had lost her life because of me. So beautiful and delicate. All I had ever wanted to do was protect her and hold her close.
I had to shake this before I went to work. It had been months since I’d dreamed of Addy. Usually, it was because something spurred a memory. I wasn’t sure what it was this time. Why she was back in my dreams, which so often turned into nightmares. But something was making me think of her.
It wasn’t Elle. That much I was sure of. I was careful never to date anyone who reminded me of Addy. Blondes and petite women were off my radar. I had tried that once, and the memories had hit me so hard I almost broke down and went for professional help. Memories of her had been killing me slowly, for a while. Making me wish I’d gone with her. Life seemed pointless without her smile.
But I was tougher than that, and I had found a way to live.
Even if that way had been to take the lives of others. My past wasn’t something I regretted, though. I had done what needed to be done to save myself and stop perverts from hurting other children. It wasn’t legal, but I wasn’t one to give a shit about the law.
I got up and went to take a shower and find a way to push the memories back into the recesses of my mind.
Two hours later, when I walked into my office, Major Colt was sitting on the sofa across from my desk, with that ever-present smirk on his face. If the guy wasn’t so good at what he did, I wouldn’t have hooked him up with Benedetto DeCarlo. Anyone who could pull off that easygoing playboy facade and kill people for cash in his spare time was impressive. I appeared to be what I was: an asshole. I didn’t have his charm. I didn’t fucking want it, either.
“Why you here, Colt?” I asked, tossing my keys onto the desk.
“Seems my next target is attached to someone around here. So I get to have a little Rosemary Beach fun while working. You seen the legs on some of these babes?”