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The Lies We Tell Ourselves (Southern Heroes #4)
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I’m at the end of my rope, planning a wedding with the man who has become a threat to my sanity.
That’s until Alec is hired to watch my every move.
An accidental touch has me wondering what if.
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“I can’t do this by myself.”
On the way home from visiting my friend, Birdie, I’m still trembling from all the emotions warring inside of me.
Too much has happened over the past few weeks, and it feels like everything around me is spinning out of control.
Hunter, my first love, died while serving as a marine, and I feel awful for using him as the reason why I was upset when Birdie asked what’s wrong. I shouldn’t have gone to Birdie. She’s been through hell herself with her biological father almost killing her. But her boyfriend, Cole, rescued her and for a stupid moment, I had hoped maybe he could save me as well.
In a moment of weakness, I told Birdie and Cole too much, and I’m scared to death Clay, my fiancé and also the man who’s become a threat to my sanity will find out.
‘He started doing drugs. He said if I leave him he’ll kill me first and then himself.’
What I told them was only the tip of the iceberg.
Clay’s not doing drugs, but manufacturing and distributing them. He didn’t say he’d kill me, but instead meant he would destroy everything I hold dear.
‘You don’t get to leave me, Reece. Don’t even try. I’ll destroy everythin’ you love startin’ with your mother.’
Hindsight is a horrible thing. If I had known how corrupt and abusive Clay would become, I never would’ve fallen for his lies. I wouldn’t have committed myself to him by getting engaged. I wouldn’t have let him near my mother.
At nineteen I was a fool to believe I couldn’t survive on my own. Now, I’m stuck in this nightmare my life has become.
If I had been stronger back then, none of this would’ve happened. If only I had stood on my own two feet and not depended so much on Clay.
Pulling up the drive, I look at my family home that’s become my prison.
Getting out of the car, the familiar feeling of hopelessness bears down on me, making me feel much older than twenty-seven.
I ignore the two guards standing at the front door, and go inside. When Clay first brought in a security team, he said it was to protect us. Mom’s been bedridden since the plane crash, which killed Dad. Because of Mom’s poor health, I became her legal guardian.
It’s my fault for not trusting myself to cope on my own when my parents were in the plane crash. That’s why I allowed Clay to make most of the decisions for Mom and I. Feeling I owed Clay for all he did for us, I gave him access to my bank account, unknowingly providing him with access to funds to start his drug business.
But regret always comes too late.
Also, I didn’t fully understand what it meant being a legal guardian, and the first year felt like I was drowning under all the obligations I had to fulfill. Now it’s become routine attending board meetings, and fundraisers for The Nicolson Foundation Mom and Dad founded when I was born. The foundation offers funding and grants to causes including education, homelessness, disease, poverty, and hunger both nationally and abroad. It’s stressful, but luckily I’ve managed to represent my family’s name.
Clay uses my family’s wealth as an excuse to surround me with guards who report my every move to him. As I walk by each camera, I feel eyes watching me from screens in the security room.
“Miss Nicolson,” Mr. Tymes calls before I can pass by Clay’s office to go check on Mom.
I stop outside the door and take a moment to gather my strength to walk into Clay’s office. Taking a breath I turn to my right, and the second I step inside the room, my eyes find Lawrence Tymes. He used to be Dad’s secretary but later aligned himself with Clay. I guess money does buy loyalty.
“Another letter came,” Clay says to get my attention.
I walk closer to the desk Clay’s sitting at and let my gaze fall to the piece of paper.
The first time Mom’s life was threatened I was hysterical with fear and willing to pay the blackmailer whatever he wanted. It’s been three years since the first letter came. They no longer fill me with terror, but instead, make rage burn in my heart.
I lift my eyes until I meet Clay’s dark blue ones.
“I’ll take care of it,” he says while getting up from the leather chair he rules his illegal empire from.
He walks around the desk and comes to stand next to me. Taking hold of my chin, he turns my head so I’ll look at him.
In the beginning, when Clay started showing his true colors, I would pretend I was okay by smiling. Now I don’t bother.
As I impassively stare at him, a calculating smile forms on his face. He tightens his hold on my chin and leaning forward, he presses a hard kiss to my mouth.