Head down. Don’t look up. Never make eye contact. Those were the words I lived by growing up, the words that protected me in an unsafe home. But words are only letters and eventually even they couldn’t keep his hands off me.
Hoping to leave behind the shattered life of my past, I find myself in a boring, small town, with an aunt I’ve never met and at a school I loathe.
But soon I learn, not everything in this world is as black and white as I’ve determined. Sometimes those we are so quick to judge often need a second, third or even fourth time to make a first impression.
And often, there are friendships and even love waiting just around the corner, if we are brave enough to take the first step.
Am I brave? Or will I hide behind these tattered gloves of mine forever?
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Don’t look up.
Never make eye contact.
These were the rules I’d learned to live by while growing up in a house where men frequented but did not stay. When I was very little, I’d always assumed my mother had a lot of friends. Big, strong, manly friends who protected us since I didn’t have a daddy.
How naive I had been.
The men who had visited only wanted one thing, and my mother was happy to give it — for a price.
She’d never made any desperate attempts to shadow this particular part of her life or protect me from it.
The most I’d gotten was a flippant warning when I started showing signs of puberty.
“Willow, you might want to keep out of sight more now,” she’d said.
And then, when I’d garnered more than a glance or two, she’d say, “Stay in your room at night. Don’t come out.”
But, even with all the rules and warnings, I couldn’t keep them all away.
I couldn’t keep him away.
He’d managed to snuff out every bit of me in a matter of minutes.
Whatever remnants of innocence I’d had from my childhood was gone like a puff of smoke.
But, in our darkest hours, sometimes, even the weak could find the light.
I did, and this… this was my story.
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About J.L. Berg
J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series, The Walls Duet, and the Lost & Found Duet. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she's not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC.