Dirty Ride

By: Chantal Fernando

PROLOGUE

HE’S late. Again.

I sit down at the dinner table, where the now-cold food congeals, and cover my face with my hands.

Two hours late. Again.

What am I going to do? How long am I going to live like this, waiting for him to change?

I need to make myself realize that the Darren I fell in love with isn’t the man he is now.

Ten years of my life I’ve given him.

Ten.

My first love, my first boyfriend, the man I thought I’d marry.

And then he turns into such a disappointment.

No, that’s an understatement.

He’s everything a man shouldn’t be.

In fact, his mother should be fucking ashamed of the man he’s become.

I hear the garage door open, but I don’t move from my spot. Of course, he stays in the garage and doesn’t even bother to come up and see me. No hello, even though I’ve been blowing up his phone for the last hour wondering where he is.

He’s a master liar. He has an excuse for everything, and I believe him every single time.

Love truly is blind. I can see the truth now, but does that mean I don’t love him anymore?

I really hope so.

He finally comes upstairs and kisses the top of my head.

I don’t bother to ask where he was, and he doesn’t bother to explain why he was so late. He just pretends everything is okay, that we’re perfectly fine, that all is well in our world.

“How was your day?” he asks as he eyes the food.

As if he gives a fuck.

“Fine,” I say, looking up into his lifeless brown eyes. “Yours?”

“Yeah, good. Work was busy.”

Today is a good day. The days I get ignored—they still suck, but they’re better than most. Better than the alternative.

I touch my neck, and feel the bruises that still remain there.

This is how he expects me to live.

To not question him. To just work and come home and cook and clean.

To die inside, little by little, while he’s off with his friends, injecting needles into his veins and fucking other women.

Before the drugs, he wasn’t like this, but there’s no point living in the past.

I’ve tried to leave a few times, but each time, he brought me back here. I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to get any of my family or friends involved, but if I don’t reach out for help, I’m probably not going to make it.

Darren the man is dead, and in his place is a monster.

I’ll never forgive him for being so weak and turning to drugs in the first place.

Never.

I decide right here and now that I need to get away, to get out. I can’t live like this anymore, slowly turning into someone I’m not. I don’t care that he threatened to kill me if I leave. I’d rather die than live like this, with him.

No one is coming to save me; no one.

I have to save myself.





ONE



Six months later

I KNOW I seem out of place, so I ignore the looks I get from the people around me and stare straight ahead. I probably do look like a criminal, if I’m being honest. The worn jeans and black hoodie really aren’t nice enough to be worn out in public, but it’s not like this bar is some posh place. I mean, it’s nice enough, but it’s still a bar. I have my hood up, but strands of my fiery red hair are sticking out of it, framing my face in messy curls.

I swallow a mouthful of beer and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.

How did I get here? Not here as in this bar, but here, at this place in my life.

Alone and looking homeless. On my thirtieth birthday.

Yeah, today is an all-time low.

Happy birthday to me!

“Can I please have another beer?” I ask the extremely sexy blond bartender at the bar, who grins, nods, and grabs me one. I open my purse and pull out some money, then curse as a few of my cards slip out and onto the floor. Sighing, I hand him the money, then pick up the cards and shove everything back in, zipping my bag.

“If you think that hoodie hides your beauty, you’re fuckin’ dreaming,” mutters a slightly accented voice from my right.

English? No.

Maybe Irish.

I turn to look at him, giving him my most unimpressed look. He’s good-looking. No, that’s too bland a description for what he is. He’s sexy, in that bad-boy, I’ve been through a lot and I know how to handle everything, including you way. Dark hair and eyes. Add in that slight accent and he’s just my type. Shame about the timing—I’m definitely not looking for my next mistake right now. “It’s worked up until now.”

“Guess I’m smarter than other men.” He grins and picks up his glass of amber liquid.

“Or maybe other men can take a hint,” I say, my gaze roaming over the scar on his neck. “Which would make them smarter.”

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