I’ll win your freedom… but I’m going to own you in return.
“Drop everything and read! I cried, laughed, and cheered reading this book.” ~ Lynda, Kindle Reviewer
I’ve seen violence and heartbreak my whole life. Some say I have no heart. That I’m cold, calculating, and ruthless. Maybe that’s true, but it’s helped me become the divorce attorney men fear. My clients all say the same thing… I’m a dick. But I don’t have to win their friendship to ensure they’re set up for life—even if it means being a prick in and out of court.
I’ve closed myself off from all outside attachments, feeding my need for control in a more carnal way. I’ve learned feelings make things messy and steer clear of getting involved with anyone. Until she walked into my office, needing my help.
Or any of us, for that matter. A perfect family to the outside world, but behind doors, we’re dark and dangerous. No amount of money will ever make us whole. Being rich doesn’t mean shit when your father’s an abusive prick.
“Mom?” Gage’s voice echoes outside my door in the hallway, and my stomach clenches. Knowing he’s out there makes me bristle beneath my shelter.
“Gage, baby.” My mother sounds so helpless. “Go back to your room.”
“Please, mom. Come with me. We can lock the door.”
“Boy.” The gruff sound of my father cuts him off. “Mind your damn business and get the fuck out of mine. This is between me and your mother.”
“No. You’re nothing but a bully. Why don’t you just leave?” The unmistakable sound of flesh being struck permeates my ears. My eyes squeeze shut in disgust.
“What the hell?!? Gage.” My mother gasps. “Frank, stop it. He’s your son, for Christ’s sake.”
“He’ll learn not to interfere in grown-up matters. Won’t you, boy?” A scuffling noise has me straining to hear. My mother grunts and screams just before a loud thud has me crawling out from my hiding spot. I glance at the door, hesitant to open it and step out. My bathroom door opens to reveal a scared and confused Roland. He’s the youngest of us Winston boys and doesn’t fully understand the dynamics of our family. Thankfully, Dad leaves Roland alone. It’s a small blessing, though he uses me or Gage as his punching bag instead… when he isn’t beating our mother.
“Hey, buddy.” I move toward him and place my hand on his shoulder. “Did the yelling wake you?”
“Yeah. Why is dad yelling at Gage?”
“I dunno. Come on, let’s get in the bed.” I turn on my radio, trying to drown out the sounds in the hall. Roland and I climb onto my mattress and pull the covers around our bodies. At twelve years old, I feel more like his parental figure than his brother. Roland was a late surprise to our family and dad was less than pleased. With eight years between us, Roland relies on me and Gage for everything.
Gage and I grew up fast when he came into the world. We do everything we can to help our mom keep him happy. Because if he isn’t happy, dad isn’t happy. And that means mom is going to pay. The sound of screaming over the music has me jerking upright in bed. Gage is carrying on about something to do with our mother, making my gut coil. My curiosity drives me out of the bed to see.
“Stay here.” I ease out from under the covers and move toward the door. Opening it slowly, I peek around the corner of the door frame. “Gage?”
Gage’s eyes widen when he sees me standing in the open. “Go back to your room, Drake. Lock the door and don’t come out. For any reason. Do you understand me?”
I hear the words he’s saying, but my eyes are locked on the still form of our mother. She’s bent in a crooked position against the wall, blood oozing from a massive gash in her head. “Mom?” I call out, my voice cracking as my bottom lip trembles just enough to affect the tone of my voice. “Gage?” I look at my older brother before flicking my eyes to her lifeless body again.
“Drake.” His voice warns me to move, but I can’t. I’m frozen in fear
“This is your fault, Gage. You did this.” Our father moves into the hallway, a gun in his hand. “You killed your mother.”
“No. You did that. You’re a fucking monster.”
“I’m your father.” His voice rises as he lurches toward Gage. “I’ll kill you for this.”
I watch in horror as they wrestle with the gun. At seventeen, Gage has filled out nicely. My father is no match for him anymore, and Gage is angry. He’s done standing idly by. “Fuck you!” Gage cries out, wrenching the gun from his hand as they fall to the floor.
A loud blast echoes through the narrow hallway, making me jump. The distinct scent of burning material and a metallic odor fills the space, assaulting my gut as I run toward my brother. “Gage!” I kneel on the carpet, my knees burrowing into something wet and sticky. “Oh, God… please don’t be dead.”
“Drake.” Gage turns his head toward me as he rolls to his knees, his eyes wide with shock. “Call 9-1-1.”
I’m rooted to the spot, unable to move. My father is lying on his back, eyes wide and unmoving. The hollowness of his gaze tells me he’s gone. “He’s dead,” I mutter, my voice barely a whisper. “Dad’s
“Drake.” Gage calls my name again. “9-1-1.”
“I thought…” I push to my feet and continue to stare at the man I called my father. I should feel sadness, but all I feel is relief.
“I know, buddy. I know. But mom needs help, so go call 9-1-1.”
Those words spur me into action. My feet carry me toward Gage’s room, where I retrieve his cell phone and press the emergency button. “9-1-1, where is your emergency?”
“My father’s been shot, and my mom is hurt. Can you send the police and an ambulance?” I give the operator the address and stay on the phone with her as I walk back out to the hallway. Gage is bent over my mom, doing CPR, nearly causing me to drop the phone.
“Tell them she’s not breathing.” Tears stream down his face as he continues to press on her chest. “TELL THEM.” He screams.
I do my best to relay the information, but the intake of breath behind me forces me to turn around. Roland is standing with his mouth open, watching the horrific scene unfold. “Shit,” I murmur. “Roland, go back to your room.”
“Mom? Dad?” He blinks, the confusion marring his perfect little face.
“Ma’am,” I spoke to the operator. “I need to take my little brother into his room. Can you tell the officers the door is unlocked and to come upstairs? My brother has kicked the gun away from them and is still doing CPR on my mom.”
“How about you keep me on speaker?” I nod, even though she can’t see me, and press the speaker button before shoving the phone into my pocket.
“Come on, buddy.” I grip Roland’s shoulders and guide him into my room. “Let’s wait in here, ok?”
“Are they…dead?” Roland crawls onto the bed and draws his knees to his chest.
“I don’t know.” But even as I speak the words, I know everything is about to change. And when the flashing lights illuminate the dark sky, our world is irrevocably altered. “Wait here.” I glance at my baby brother and open the bedroom door. A flurry of activity fills the tiny corridor as medics assess my parents. The white cloth covering my father tells me what I already know. The monster is dead. The medics load my mother’s lifeless body onto the stretcher and rush from the house. What I’m not prepared for is the sight of my brother in handcuffs. “Hey,” I scream, rushing toward him. “Where are you taking him?”
“It’s standard procedure, son. In fact—” the surly man nods toward his partner. “They all need to be brought in.”
“You’re arresting him?”
“Drake.” Gage’s calm voice snaps my attention toward him. “Get Roland. It’s going to be okay, but you need to be there for him.”
“Gage… what’s going to happen now?”
“I don’t know, buddy. I don’t know.”
I fetch Roland from my room and hold his hand in mine as we walk down the stairs to the waiting patrol car. The uniformed officer helps us inside the backseat and closes the door. The metal slamming is like a coffin sealing our fate inside.
“Drake?” Roland looks up at my face. “Who’s going to take care of us now? Are they going to take us away?”
“No, buddy. No one is ever going to split us up. Not forever, anyway. Do you hear me? It’s us now. You, me, and Gage.” As the car pulls away from our home, I can’t silence the
voices in my head telling me I just lied to my little brother. My parents were supposed to love us. But for years, all we got was violence and heartbreak. And if that’s what love does
to someone, I wanted nothing to do with it.
From this moment forward, my brothers would be the only people I loved. Because letting someone in meant taking a risk. And opening yourself up to someone else meant experiencing
something I’d rather not… heartbreak.
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