Ice Excerpt

 Chapter One

Ice

“Suck harder. Right there… Fuck yeah, that’s it.”

The half-naked platinum blonde kneeling in front of me sucks dick like a damn champ.

“Shit! Dammit, Dad!” my teenage daughter, Brooke, suddenly shrieks from across the living room while covering her eyes with her hands. Her voice immediately kills my hard on.

Pushing the bimbo off me, I stand to pull up my pants, wincing as I tuck my still sensitive cock away. I move forward to go find my daughter, who is not supposed to be home today. The blonde paws at me as I go to make my way past her. I would have preferred it if she would have run her mouth and taken off; instead, she is pouting at me because we didn’t finish. I wish Brooke could have just given me five more minutes to get off. Then I could have gotten rid of the broad on her knees. Tossing this barfly out the door would be a hell of a lot easier then.

“Get out. I’m done with ya,” I dismiss her, tired of the sulking look on her face. Damn woman, take a hint already.

With a huff, she rights her clothes, collects her things, and scurries out.

After making my way down the hall, of my not so modest home, I bark a sardonic laugh when I turn the knob to my daughter’s room and find it locked.

“Open this door, young lady,” I order, in what comes out as a bellow. We have danced this dance on more than one occasion.

“Sorry, I’m busy searching for the eye bleach. I can’t unlock the door right now, check back later.”

“Don’t make me kick it in. You want to go without a door again? Don’t traumatize us both. I don’t want to pass by and see you in your skivvies any more than you want me to… or worse, for Hammer to catch you.”

I am hoping like hell she listens. Last time, I took the damn door right off the frame. Later on, I wished I hadn’t, though. It ended up punishing me as much as her when I had to listen to that boy band garbage she calls music.

Within seconds, I hear her feet stomping over. There is a click, a turn of the knob, and then my one true love in this life glaring at me. The door may have won the first round, but this victory is mine. Having a teenager, I have learned to celebrate every win, no matter how small.

“Brooke, what the fuck have I told you about your mouth? Young ladies shouldn’t cuss! It makes you sound like a damn delinquent.” I chastise for her mouth when she first walked in. She was supposed to be at an afterschool study group. Teenagers, never following their damn schedules.

“Yeah, Dad, real good speech you’re givin’. Father of the year material, you are.”

“Don’t you get smart with me,” I say, knowing it is falling on deaf ears, not that I should be surprised. My mom did always liked to rub it in my face that Brooke gets her stubbornness from me.

“Anyways”—her tone is just as sharp as before—“now that you’ve kicked the dog out, what are we doin’ for dinner?”

That is Brooke: my sixteen-year-old daughter, my life, my world, and my eternal pain in the ass. If her mom was still alive, maybe things would be different. Maybe. Only I don’t have time to play should-a, could-a, would-a in my head, because I am too busy raising her on my own.

Erin, Brooke’s mom, was Brooke’s age when she got pregnant. We were young and dumb. Obviously, we didn’t think of protecting ourselves or give a second thought to plans for the future. Condoms were preached to us, birth control, all that. Yet, when the time came, we went at each other like rabbits and never gave a second thought to all that shit people had lectured us about.

When the little stick showed a pink line, I puked and Erin cried. Her parents immediately kicked her out and never got past it. With no job, no education, and nowhere to go, she moved in with my mom and me.

My mom was determined we would both finish high school. Stepping up to help us in every way she could, she worked two jobs to cover daycare costs and then spent many nights up with baby Brooke so Erin and I could study or do homework. I was a senior and Erin a junior in high school. It wasn’t easy, but we made it through. Having a family to support, I graduated and joined the Army right after Erin and I got married.

Leaving Erin and a barely one-year-old Brooke behind was hard; yet I was focused on having a career to support us, not only a paycheck. My mom was supportive of my young wife, helping out with Brooke as I was now gone more than I was home. Selection to Special Forces was hard, training even harder, but having my green beret was everything. I developed pride in myself, pride in my country, pride for my family, and pride in joining together with my brothers to give our all to something more than ourselves. Young? Naïve? Yes, I was. However, drive, dedication, and commitment to my team were what pushed me through the realities of my situation.

I had thought life was going well for my family. I was making something of myself in the Army, somebody my wife and child could be proud of. Erin was supportive during my deployments and missions. She was always quick to show me how much she loved me. My mom was enjoying the time she spent with both Erin and Brooke.

Then the red-cross message came in while I was on a mission in Kosovo. When on a mission, communication to and from home is limited, to say the least. There was no direct line to reach me. My mom followed protocol and used the red-cross to send the devastating news to my Command, who then allowed it to trickle down to me.

Erin was hit by a drunk driver. D-O-A, dead on arrival.

She was nineteen years old with an almost three-year-old little girl at home, and just like that, she was gone.

The woman who hit her was leaving a kid’s birthday party with her own two children in tow. According to the police report, she admitted to having a few glasses of wine at the party. The toxicology report showed a blood alcohol level double the legal limit. Doesn’t matter what any of the reports say; bottom line, she walked away with only minor injuries and her children. Meanwhile, my daughter will never get the chance to really know her mom.

It is the epitome of a fucked-up tragedy.

Brooke will never see, for herself, the way Erin used to smile down at her as she fell asleep. Tuck the blankets around her little body. Sing her a lullaby. Kiss her on the forehead goodnight.

She will never hear the melodic sounds of her mother’s laughter. God, I loved Erin’s laugh. It was loud and beautiful. Anyone who heard it either stopped and stared or laughed along with her.

Brooke had no mom to explain her body to her. That was a nightmare for me, of epic proportions. What man wants his teenaged daughter to ask him when she will start her period? I still shudder every time I remember that awkward conversation. Or, I should say, lack of conversation because I immediately called my mother and told her to handle that shit. I don’t talk about periods with the women I fuck, so I sure as shit am not going to talk about it with my daughter.

She had no mom to do her hair for her first homecoming dance or go dress shopping with her. Instead, I sprang for her to go to a well-known hairstylist and asked my mom to help her pick out a dress. I have already decided, for prom this year, I will give her my cash, and she can shop with her friends. When she comes home, she will twirl around in her dress, much like she did when she was a little girl, and I will tell her she is beautiful.

Brooke will never be able to see for herself that she is her mother’s daughter. No, my daughter misses all of this and so much more, all because of the poor choices of one individual.

My mom stepped up after Erin’s death, practically raising Brooke until I got out of the Army. That was when my mom got the news of her cancer, and I had to step up. I had always been an active part of Brooke’s life while I was home, but then it was time to tackle twenty-four-seven single parenthood.

Needless to say, Brooke and I are still adjusting, especially after Mom lost her battle with cancer, not quite six months ago. It has been hard, my lifestyle making it more challenging; however, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my baby girl.

Thinking about my mom and the influence she had on Brooke, I can’t help smiling. She did her best to teach Brooke, guiding her into young womanhood. She did not only instill in Brooke how to have confidence and be an independent girl, but also the basics around the house she was afraid I wouldn’t teach as a man.

“You could cook, ya know? Grams taught you to bake cookies and shit,” I remind my teen.

Brooke laughs her mother’s laugh. “Shit- if I cook, that’s what you’re gonna get for dinner- Shit.”

In my days in the Army, I had enough MREs—Meals Ready to Eat—and tasteless chow hall grub to last me a lifetime. There is no way I want to risk a dinner that tastes that bad again.

“Steakhouse or Mexican?” I ask, turning to make my way back down the hall.

“Mexican,” she replies, running past me to grab her helmet, letting me know she wants to take the bike.

Spoiled rotten little shit. She knows I won’t deny her.

 

Morgan

 Looking at my phone screen, I smile at the text in front of me.

I’m off 2nite. Movie @ ur house or mine?

Texting back, I tell my best friend I will be at her house after work with takeout. Working in a bank, I have every weekend off. Casey’s career path is far different than mine, though, and it is one that requires weekend time; as a result, this is the first Friday she has had off in a while.

My day drags on as I review current investment portfolios and market changes. I have the best job ever. I get paid to spend other people’s money as an investment broker here in South Beach. My life is sun, sand, and dollar bills.

Before going to Casey’s, I stop by my condo and change clothes. The down side to my job is the stuffy suits I have to wear: reasonable, past knee-length skirts, reasonable women’s dress pants, and reasonable button up shirts. I might hate them; yet, in a sad way, the dress code fits my life—reasonable.

It is not long into girl’s night before the difference in our lifestyle’s show.

“Damn, we’re not even halfway through the first movie, and you’re ready for bed? What the hell? Grandparents stay up later than you,” My best friend wakes me out of my doze.

“Sorry, some of us keep normal business hours.”

“Yeah, your hours scream forty-two, not twenty-four, as does everything else in your life.”

“I’m not that bad,” I protest half-heartedly. However, that voice of doubt says “maybe I am.” Maybe my stiff upbringing has rubbed off on me more than I care to admit.

My parents raised me to be an example. As the oldest of three, I had to be the light to guide my younger sisters, Madyson and Mallory. Everything with my parents was about fitting the mold, keeping up appearances. Their brainwashing worked to some degree. Going away to college did nothing for me in my attempt to escape my overbearing parents, either. No, they live in my head, every rule engraved into my brain matter. Too bad no one warned me there is no cure and no escape once they get those rules engrained into my very being.

Morgan Ann Powell: pathetic, stiff, borderline pseudo-old lady, and a college educated, suit wearing, have my shit together prude—that is me. I am, quite possibly, the only woman in her twenties who can count on one hand how many guys she has kissed. I am also a twenty-four-year-old virgin. I wouldn’t know what to do with a penis if it was given to me gift wrapped in Christmas paper and topped with a bow. I am not cut out for parties, guys, or any wild times, either. My destiny is to be the old lady who lives alone, feeding all the stray cats in the neighborhood.

“I’m a loser.” Sighing, I look over to my best friend. “Sorry for ruining your night off.”

“Stop it! You aren’t a loser, and nothing is ruined. I was dozing off, too.”

“Yeah, but it’s not often you get a Friday night off. Spending it on the couch with your socially inept friend isn’t an ideal night.”

Slapping my thigh, she laughs. “With everything I see at the club, a night in is heaven.”

Aside from being my drop-dead gorgeous best friend, Casey also happens to be a headlining stripper at a local club, After Midnight. Her perky, full breasts, tiny waist, and hips give her the picture-perfect, hourglass figure. Her long, black hair is streaked in purple and teal, adding to the illusion of the wild woman she portrays on the stage. Her curves fall in all the right places, suiting her perfectly and making for optimal tips in her chosen profession. “Work with what you have been given,” she always says. And boy, does she work. Inside, Casey is as calm and happy to stay at home as me.

That is basically all we have in common, though. I could never have the sort of confidence she has. My parents raised me to be reserved in appearances. Where Casey dares to flash her pin-up body in tight clothes, I hide my own curves behind much more conservative attire. I also keep my make-up minimal, only using enough to naturally accentuate my creamy skin and moss green eyes.

Casey often lets her long, gorgeous hair down in wild curls. I, generally, keep my straight shoulder length, russet brown hair in a bun or a ponytail. I cannot count how many times I have wished I had her confidence. However, every time I try to push myself to be more daring with my appearance, I hear one of my mother’s many lectures in the back of my head. There are days I wonder if I need to have a priest do an exorcism to cleanse me of her unrealistic ideals.

My best friend and I also had two completely different childhoods. While I grew up with strict parents and an overly structured life, she grew up with an ailing grandmother. Her dad is unknown and her mom overdosed when she was six, leaving a young Casey with her grandmother. When Nana died, while we were teens, Casey ended up in foster care.

She was fortunate. None of the horror stories of abuse and neglect happened to her in the many homes she was bounced between. The problem she faced was that, at eighteen, she had been tossed out. Sink, swim, or when all else fails, strip.

Casey worked a few of the nasty clubs to begin with. After Midnight won’t take just anyone off the street, and she had no dance experience whatsoever. It was hard to watch her struggle before she found her way there. She was at the lowest of the low to begin with, places where the girls aren’t given choices and anything goes.

Things changed when she got the job at After Midnight. The club has rules for the girls and the patrons. She is well protected and paid, and she actually enjoys her job. Other than the occasional drunk grabby guy, Casey doesn’t come home with bruises anymore.

I have offered for her to live with me, time and time again, through the years, even in college. My parents paid for not only my education, while I was earning my degree, but my apartment and expenses, as well. I begged Casey to come with me, and we would find a way to make it work for her. However, she is stubborn and independent to a fault and refuses any type of handout.

She wants to make it all on her own, and I applaud her determination. It took her a little longer than me. However, at the end of this semester, I will be there, proudly watching my very best friend receive her degree in sports medicine. She took the long, hard road less traveled and made it happen for herself.

She is a fierce beauty, a fierce woman, and she has fierce loyalty—everything I am not.

 

Chapter Two

Ice

Offices make me jittery. Unfortunately, they are a necessary evil for running a business. Paperwork—some nights I feel like I drown in the shit.

Kara used to help keep me straight on both of our strip clubs. She kept the administrative bullshit off my plate, kept the dancers out of my face, and did it all with such attitude it made my dick hard. I really miss having her around, and not only for the times she warmed my bed.

With one look at Sullivan, everything I had with her was over. Those two had unfinished business, history, and more emotion shared between them than I have seen in my lifetime.

She has her life with him now. Doesn’t mean I don’t think about what we could have had if her ex hadn’t shown up bringing with him all their unfinished business. Would I have ever given her hearts and flowers? Fuck no. That is not me. I would have given her security and happiness and a warm body in bed with her at night, though. Fidelity. She also would have had the security of knowing she wasn’t alone. With a woman like Kara at home, you sure as shit don’t need or want a barfly.

Sometimes I could see a bleakness surrounding her like an emotional armor. It kept her from connecting with others, living her life. However, when I had her on the back of my bike, she shed that armor and embraced life.

I might not be able to give her the sort of emotions women usually want, but I would have given her a good life. A woman like her deserves to be happy. I would have been honored to be the man to give her that. Not that I am some unselfish hero or some shit. Hell no. Sometimes, a man gets tired of being lonely. Problem is, I hadn’t come across a woman, until Kara, that I would have been willing to tie myself down to after my wife had died.

My casual affair with Kara lasted a few years after she had stopped working at After Midnight. The woman has a mind for business and could work a pole like no other. She came to me shy, defeated, and a shell of a human being. Watching her grow, transform, and come into her own was something books should be written about. She fought with everything inside her to pull out of the depths of the hell depression had sucked her into. I was damn proud of her. I have seen grown men in the military that couldn’t handle the kind of demons she had and come out of it alive. Kara is now a curvy, knockout package, carrying a warrior’s heart; the kind of woman men around the world over would live and die for.

Riley Sullivan, her ex-husband—now her soon-to-be husband again, the real light of her life, soul mate, whatever—is one lucky bastard to have her. Kara moved to Virginia to be with Sullivan a little over three months ago. If he ever takes it for granted or fucks it up, I will be there to remind him exactly how good he had it.  I will know the minute Sullivan fucks up because I have kept tabs on her, discreetly, through weekly check-ins with my old Army buddy, Lucas Young, who works on the same black ops unit, the Ex Ops Team, as Sullivan.

The Ex Ops Team came down to Miami and did an undercover gig with information my boys and I had dug up on missing women in our area. They ended up leaving with their mission half-finished to regroup and bury two of their men; although, not before they were able to get the name of a man who might be connected to the missing women—Lazaro Sandoval. What Lucas and his team don’t know is that the Regulators have picked up where they left off. We are on a mission of our own now.

The music changes, drawing my thoughts back to my office and the budget needing my attention. After Midnight is our female strip club, the place I prefer to spend my time. To corner the market on both sides of legally selling skin, we also have Alibi, an all-male strip establishment for the ladies to come toss their dollar bills around. The Regulators MC has to have some sort of legitimate business front—enter the two clubs for us. To keep the damn Internal Revenue Service off our asses, I make sure the books stay on point. We wouldn’t want some of our not so legitimate business associates to look into us and find anything off point, either. Tonight, it is my night to update Alibi for the month.

The music changes once again, this time to Shane’s opening song. The lyrics make me shake my head. Why in the world bitches would want to ride on a ‘disco stick,’ I don’t know. What I do know is Shane makes more money off that routine than any of the other boys that strip here.

Hearing the ridiculous fucking song, I know it means I won’t be stepping out of this office anytime soon if I can help it. Seeing another man’s dick swinging around is fucked-up when you don’t swing that way. Almost enough to traumatize me, and I saw some seriously screwed up shit when I was in the Army. Not to mention I had to see more hairy asses in the communal showers during my service than a ninety-year-old woman sees during the course of her marriage.

Then it hits me. Shane is headlining this week. If he is going on stage, then it is around eleven. Looking at my phone, I am met with a blank screen. No new notifications. Brooke is required to be home by her curfew, which is ten on school nights and eleven on weekends. I know it is far from freedom, but the later it gets, the more things she could get into that she shouldn’t. With the late nights I keep, it is necessary for Brooke and me to have a system in place. She is supposed to call me from our home phone, that way I know she is tucked safely away inside our house.

Dialing my landline phone at home, I feel the tension rise in me with every ring that goes unanswered. The life of an outlaw biker is hard enough on its own; however, being a single dad to a teenage daughter is a never ending nightmare. Combine the two, and I am one trigger happy bastard.

We live in a gated community already, but I have a security system installed that could rival the White House. Even then, I keep a prospect on watch if I am going to be any later than midnight. My lifestyle isn’t conducive to parenthood, and Brooke could be used for leverage against me. No, I don’t raise her in a perfect scenario, though I do the best I can to give her a better future. It is what it is, and we make it work… well, usually.

Calling her cell phone, I am more on edge when she doesn’t answer that, either. Met with her perky voice recording, adrenaline kicks in.

“You got me. Leave a message at the beep if you’re hot,” Brooke’s teen voice radiates in my ears.

“Oh, I got you all right. You best believe I’m hot, too. Only it’s the kind of hot that’s going to get your ass grounded for a month. Call me, Brooke, before I come find you. If I have to come looking for you, little girl, we’re going to have serious problems.”

Rather than waste another minute, I use the app on my smart phone to track hers. She may think she knows everything, but she has no clue. Teenagers—sigh—they don’t understand the real dangers that lurk, the bad things that can easily happen in the blink of an eye.

Recognizing the address on the screen, I see it is one of the upper class neighborhoods in our area. My heart pounds wildly in my chest. She obviously isn’t studying at Janessa’s, since she only lives two doors down from us, and this is showing her phone is not on our street.

Stepping out of my office, the noise of the club assaults my ears. The sounds of women screeching alerts me that Shane must be taking something off. Thank heavens for that warning; it lets me know to keep my eyes on the bar as I make my way out.

Catching a glance over at Hammer and Coal, I give a quick chin lift. My silent acknowledgement immediately has them jumping from their stools to follow me.

Without a word shared between us, we all climb on our bikes and take off. We share a bond of brotherhood. They trust me to lead them straight through the depths of any hell, even the parenthood of a daughter. In turn, I trust them to have my back, and, most importantly, to keep me from killing a teenage boy for merely looking at my baby girl.

At the entrance to the subdivision, I easily maneuver my bike around the bar meant to keep people out. When the overweight security guard steps outside of his stand, I flip him my middle finger. He can call the cops, no problem. The Miami-Dade police department won’t touch me, especially not for picking up my disobedient daughter. Not to mention that I have connections so far above their pay grade it would make them piss their pants.

Riding farther into the upscale development, the noise of the party drowns out even my motorcycle pipes. I am surprised the stuffy suits that live in places like this haven’t called the cops themselves.

Easily following the sounds, I find the three story deluxe home with cars packing the driveway. Parking my bike on the edge of the road, I hop off with Hammer and Coal following suit. They don’t bother asking questions, because my reason for coming here is obvious as we make our way into a house full of drunken teens.

Walking inside like I own the place, I see kids in every corner, making out. The sight makes my blood boil. If I find some little dipshit with his hands all over my baby girl, it is going to take both Hammer and Coal to keep me from beating the shit out of him. I don’t care if they are teenagers; no little prick is good enough to touch Brooke.

I glance into the formal dining room to my left, and someone has one very expensive table that seats eight, making a perfect set up for beer pong. Jesus, this is the nightmare of every parent. If I see one kid doing any drugs, my head is going to explode.

“Brooke,” I call out. “Brooklyn Rayne Grady, get your ass out here… Right. The. Fuck. Now!” I roar without a second thought.

All the teens stop and stare at me and my brothers filling up this ostentatious entryway. When nobody moves, Coal steps up to be right behind me on the left.

“Brooke, find her now,” Coal clips out, giving his cold glare to every teen in the room.

At the top of the stairway, I watch my daughter meet Coal’s gaze without one ounce of trepidation. Baby girl is showing balls of steel for her friends. Her short as sin shorts make my blood pressure shoot up even higher. The camisole tank top that I bought to go with pajamas is far from hiding her buds from all these teen pricks.

“Dad—” she starts as I interrupt.

“Don’t say another fucking word. Get your ass on my bike.”

“Death of you,” Hammer chuckles behind me as he turns around to get ready to leave.

Yes, my daughter will be the death of me. I watch as she grabs her friend by the wrist and half drags her down the stairs, mumbling at her the whole way down. When the two girls reach me, I don’t move.

“Come on, Dad,” Brooke lets out a huff. “Let’s go. This is embarrassing enough already.”

“Everybody here, you have twenty minutes to get this house cleaned the fuck up. Since you dumb shits have been drinking, a bus will be here to pick each one of you up and take you home. My man Coal here is gonna stay behind and make sure you do as I say.”

“Daaaad,” Brooke whines, “leave everyone alone.”

“Brooke, I suggest you shut your mouth and get your ass over to my bike. If your friend needs a ride, Hammer will take her. Outside. Now. You’re in enough trouble, don’t add more.”

Defeated, the two girls stomp off while Hammer shakes his head at me while I turn to follow them all out. I haven’t even made it to the door when I hear some pre-pubescent shithead slur out a question.

“Do you think they are, like, real biker dudes? Maybe we can ask them to pop a wheelie or something. Wait!” His voice cracks as he gets excited. “Maybe they’re from that show on TV! We should ask for their autographs!’

God save me from teenagers. No doubt, Hammer is cussing me out in his head for sticking one on his bitch seat.

 

Morgan

 Bam. Bam. Bam.

Ding. Dong.

Ding. Dong.

Bam. Bam. Bam.

The rapid percussions of someone at my door startles me awake. Grabbing my pepper spray from my nightstand, I sit up and get out of bed. No one visits me unexpectedly. Ever. Not even Casey. My neighbors must have misplaced guests, or maybe this is some crazy prank.

Looking out my peephole, I see a man in a black shirt, a black leather vest with a patch that says “ice”, and jeans. His brown hair is short on the sides yet a little longer on the top. Before I can inspect him through the tiny hole longer, he is pounding on my door again, making me jump.

Twisting the safety piece, I ready my pepper spray as I twist the lock on my door. I don’t even get my hand on the knob to turn it before I am being pushed back by my door opening.

Raising my arm, I ready to spray when my wrist is suddenly wrapped in a firm grip and my hand quickly and efficiently emptied of its contents. So much for my self-defense savviness.

“This one belong to you?” the rugged looking stranger gruffly asks me as he points his thumb over his shoulder, obviously pissed. There is another man with him. His vest has a patch that says “Hammer” and a teen girl shifting nervously beside him.

Taken aback by his terse attitude, I stand there for a moment, frozen and unsure of what to do. His eyes are so dark and lethal looking I can’t tell if they are black or brown. The harsh lines of his face accentuate his high cheekbones that are flushed in anger, and his strong jaw is clenched tight. I can’t decide if he is drop dead sexy, in a scary sort of way, or just plain scary. My chest rapidly rises and falls as I struggle to catch up with everything happening. Following his pointed finger, my eyes land on my sister.

Madyson, my drop dead gorgeous, just turned eighteen, high school senior, little sister is standing in my doorway. Her eyes plead with me to take her.

What the heck did she get herself tangled up in now? Why did she bring this to my doorstep? Our parents expect bad things from her; therefore, this would be nothing unusual. However, I don’t expect her to bring her problems to me.

“Ummm,” I begin, but I am cut off.

“Ummm, nothin’. She gave us this address to drop her off at. Since you obviously aren’t old enough to be her mother, I’m goin’ to assume she’s your sister. There is a similarity in your features. Clue in, sweets; girls at this age shouldn’t be out this late and certainly not dressed like a hooker. Know where your girl is. Take responsibility, for fuck’s sake. Bad things can happen,” He releases my wrist harshly and turns to walk away.

Something changes inside me. I should stay quiet and let him leave, but I can’t. “Take responsibility? You don’t know me, mister, don’t judge me.”

Looking over his shoulder, his cold stare meets mine. “I didn’t fuckin’ stutter. Take responsibility. She’s yours. She’s carefree and breathing. Keep her home, keep her dressed, and that’ll keep her carefree and breathing.”

My sister steps into my condo as the stranger makes his way out without ever looking back.

“Seriously? Seriously! I can’t believe you, Madyson! Why did you bring your problems to my doorstep?” I yell hysterically, not worrying about my neighbors or what the stranger may hear.

“Mom and Dad,” she croaks out. “I’m always the disappointment, and I didn’t want to deal with it tonight. Give me a break, please,” She is begging me. I can’t stand when she does this—uses me as her hiding spot when she has done something wrong and doesn’t want to face our parents who expect too much, yet always make us feel as if we never measure up.

I don’t know what to say or do. I am half asleep and not prepared for any of this tonight.

Sighing in defeat, I tell her, “Go to bed. Call Mom and tell her you’re over here. Then go home tomorrow.” Not waiting for her reply, I lock up quickly and retreat to my room.

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