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nicole Dykes

Copyright © 2021 by nicole Dykes

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

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1. Mya

2. Jase

3. Mya

4. Jase

5. Mya

6. Jase

7. Mya

8. Jase

9. Mya

10. Jase

11. Mya

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32. Mya

33. Mya


Note from the Author

This book is dedicated to anyone who didn’t receive the love they deserved from the very beginning. To all the forgotten children and victims of violence, don’t lose your faith. There is still good out there, and you will find it.

Save A Place


Behind These Hazel Eyes

Abandoning Sunday


Alicia Keys

Hold Me While You Wait

Lewis Capaldi


Alessia Cara

All These Things That I’ve Done

The Killers

Welcome To The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance

Home is Such A Lonely Place

Blink 182

One More Light

Linkin Park

I haven’t seen Rhys for years, but it still feels the same being near him. Being in his embrace feels comforting somehow, like being held by a big brother. It brings me back to when I was nine years old and he was twelve. We were both skinny and dirty kids, but he told me on that day he’d look out for me.

Clearly I believed him.

The door dings, and when it opens, I hear, “Rhys?”

Rhys stiffens and lets me go, stepping back like he’s surprised with himself. “Blair.”

I turn to where he’s looking and see a beautiful blond woman, the rich bitch type, eyeing me with uncertainty and then looking at him. “Are we adopting another kid?”

Kid? I’m twenty, not a kid. And what does she mean by “adopting”? I focus on Rhys and notice a rose gold band around his left ring finger. “You’re married?”

He gives a quick nod, still clearly not someone with a ton of words. It’s been so long since I've been around him. It’s been so long since I've felt safe. “Yes. This is my wife, Blair.” He turns toward her, and I swear I almost see a hint of a smile on his face.

That’s new.

“And no. This one’s over eighteen.” He looks pained as he gazes at his beautiful wife. “She was like a little sister to me.”

I feel the guilt flowing off him. Guilt of leaving us all behind. But I never blamed him. Hell, who wouldn’t get out if they got the chance?

He was just out of high school and badly in need of rehab. I was back with my mother at the time. We hadn’t exactly been around each other much when he left town anyway.

I see Christian hovering toward the back of the store, and it pains me to see him again too. I haven’t seen him since Charity and I were seniors in high school. Since she took off. He looks different. More grown up. Less sad. And for whatever reason, that doesn’t make me think he’s okay. I sense it’s fake, but I can barely feel anything at the moment.

Still numb and so agonizingly tired of everything.

“Tell me what happened to Trey,” Rhys demands my attention, and I focus on him, my chest aching and my soul tired. I’ve just told him I’d come straight from Trey’s funeral, blurting it out because how do you say that without it being a shock? Trey was a kid, and now he’s gone forever.

“I can’t.” I shake my head from side to side in slow motion, trying to will away the memory of my little brother laying in the dirt outside our house.

He nods his head. “Okay.”

“He’s gone, Rhys. And I hate everything.” My eyes lower to the floor. “Everyone.”

Getting right to business, not prodding me any further for details, he asks, “Do you need somewhere to stay?” Still the same Rhys.

I lift my eyes to him. “Have you noticed how similar St. Louis and Kansas City are?” We grew up in Kansas City. In the worst part of Kansas City where, if you visit there, they tell you not to go. Where the sounds of ambulances, police chases, and gunshots are frequent. I shiver at the thought.

He seems to be thinking it over. “Yeah. They are. What can I do?” He sounds almost desperate to help me.

Nothing is going to truly help, but I feel like clawing at my own skin, trying to escape this hellish feeling. I don’t want to be anywhere near that town.

I’m not sure why I tracked Rhys down. He’s a few years older than me. We met in foster care when I was nine, one of the many times my mom messed up and lost us to the system. But unfortunately for us, she always got us back. Still, it’s not like Rhys is the warm and cuddly type. Most people are probably afraid of him at first, all large, tattooed and usually wearing a scowl.

But for me, he always seemed like a safe haven, at least until he lost himself to the drugs. I have no one else in this world. Sean, Rhys’s best friend and another big brother type to me, is in New York, and he sounded so damn happy on the phone. I couldn’t run to him.

I couldn’t pull him down.

I shouldn’t be here, threatening to do the same thing to Rhys. “There’s nothing you could do. I just . . .” I look over at my shoulder, seeing that his wife seems to be giving us some space. I look back to Rhys. “I don’t know what to do.”

“You’re welcome to stay here, but I get the sense you don’t want to.”

I shake my head. “I need a change.” But I barely have any money saved, especially after I bought the bus ticket to get here.

“How do you feel about

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