Date Published: January 30st, 2020
Words like love and hate invoke strong feelings that can change a person, but the word revenge can make a seemingly normal person pure evil. Santino Savage understands all these feelings because he lost his dad and oldest brother to a madman in a mass shooting. Everyone asks: how do you move on after such a loss? Santino would say he survived because he had to. The choice wasn’t his to make. The family left behind needed him.
The same protective instincts Santino has for his family kicks in when the captivating, soon-to-be bride, Chloe Marsh, shows up at his family’s resort for her bachelorette and bachelor party. Deep in his bones, he knows something is off with her fiancé. Santino will have to betray those closest to him to do what he knows is intrinsically right.
Chloe has felt the sting of wickedness that life has to offer. For the soft-spoken woman, trust is a word that is the hardest to achieve and the easiest to be broken. However, she is ready to leave the past behind and start afresh. But then the four-day, mini-vacation brings back the ghosts from her past and thrusts her into a nightmare of epic proportions.
Can Santino save Chloe from the ghosts of her past and the evilness of the present? Is saving a woman he is instantly attracted to worth the sanity of the woman he has always protected? Santino has to discover if truth is a word consisting of facts or feelings. Or if both depend on the beholden.
This wasn’t vandalism. This was a hate crime of epic proportions.
She cautiously meandered around the destruction, going from one room to another. Every piece of furniture she had bought at second-hand stores and painstakingly restored were reduced to piles of rubble. The couch and chairs had been butchered, stuffing hurled everywhere. Every wall was covered in slanderous profanity. The kitchen had also been ravaged—every plate, glass, and mug smashed into a million pieces. The pots and pans looked like someone had taken a sledgehammer to them. Jacob and his friends had made sure there wasn’t one useful thing left in the house.
The farther she walked in, the more a stench increased. Opening the refrigerator door, she squealed, jumping back when she saw animal guts over every surface.
Chloe quickly closed the fridge, backing away, knowing she had to get anything salvageable from her bedroom and get the hell out of there.
She stumbled on the cord of the shattered coffeepot in her haste, nearly falling on her face. Reaching out, she grabbed the table, cutting her hand on a piece of broken glass. It hurt like hell, but not as much as the realization of the hatred it had to have taken to obliterate not only her home, but to also commit aggravated assault. The chill over her skin moved deep into her bones.
Chloe went from her hands shaking to full-on body trembles. She had always known the world was a dangerous place, but right here, it felt beyond vicious and hideous. The malicious attacks were so conclusive that she knew she would never again feel safe or trust herself to care for another living soul.
Little droplets of blood from her hand made a path to her bedroom, where she ever so slowly pushed the door open. Up until this point, Chloe had been so shocked and scared that the tears had remained at bay. That all changed the minute she saw the picture of her and Harper taken out of the smashed frame and tacked to the wall with two butcher knifes through their ripped faces. Above it were the words, One down, one to go. You can run, but you can’t hide. Die, whore! In the middle of the bed lay all of her photos, burnt beyond recognition.
A cry of agony escaped from her shattered heart. She had nothing left except for the clothing on her back and her memories. Every tangible piece of her history had been destroyed. If everything in front of her wasn’t enough, Harper’s little stuffed lamb had also been shredded.
Wobbling, she bent to pick up the treasured stuffed animal that had been her solace in the worst of times. Then, looking heavenward, she cried, “I’m sorry, Harper. I’ve lost every connection I had left of you. I trusted the wrong person. Why didn’t God take the stupid twin instead of you? I miss you and don’t know how to pick up the pieces.”
Santino stood outside, peeking through the corner of the window as he listened to the horrific scene in front of him. He realized at that moment that Jacob had no intention of killing her. No, killing would have been more humane. Torturing her to a point of breaking was far more debilitating, and much crueler.
Santino knew he couldn’t wait another minute. He had to convince her that she had someone on her side. He would help her pick up the pieces of her life, even if it meant he had to walk away from his famiglia to do it.
He slowly made his way to the front door, where he quietly pushed it open. He was astounded at the scene in front of him.
He had heard many stories of how police officers sometimes took their lives after years of exposure to the evilness of mankind. He now understood some things could never be washed from your memory.
It took longer to reach the bedroom than he had first anticipated because every room caused him to stop to take in the immensity of what seemingly normal people could do.
Santino was moving toward the bedrooms when he heard a scraping sound farther down the hall. He stopped at the bedroom she had been in, finding it empty, so he followed the noise that led him to another door at the end of the hall. Being an old farmhouse, he assumed it led outside. Before he opened the door, he heard muffled crying. He cautiously turned the knob, not wanting to scare Chloe. The room turned out to be a garage that was also in disarray.
Santino’s heart just about leapt out of his rib cage when he saw Chloe standing high on a stack of wooden crates with a hangman’s noose around her neck. He froze mid-step when she started to speak.
“Is this what you wanted, Jacob? A noose around my neck?” The pitch of her voice became higher with simmering rage. “For me to have nothing and no one to live for? No options but to take my life and save you the trouble?
“The noose fits, by the way. But I’m sure that was calculated, like everything else you did. Unfortunately, I did have to drag another crate over. You didn’t consider that the pins in my leg wouldn’t allow me to stretch high enough to climb up here. Shame on you for giving me time to change my mind. Guess your perfect plan had a few flaws after all. Although, not many because here I stand, in your trap.”
Santino looked frantically through the dim light to see if Jacob and his friends were there. He was relieved for a second at seeing no one, until he heard the elevated stress turn into debilitating sobs.
Chloe choked a couple of times with emotion, her voice vibrating with gut-wrenching pain. “I’m sorry, Harper. I can’t do it anymore. I can’t live another day surrounded by so much hate. I know you’re disappointed in me for giving up. The weak one couldn’t prevail while the strong one had her life taken. What you don’t understand is, I can’t live without you.” She held the noose loosely around her neck with shaking hands.
When Santino saw that her quaking caused the unstable crates to wobble, he entered quietly, fearful of startling her and causing her to fall.
“I tried so hard to come out of my shell and live my life to the fullest, because you didn’t get the same chance. But I failed miserably. I’m a mess, Harper. Everyone hates me.” She was talking through her weeping. “I’m so scared, and completely alone. I have nothing left.”
Santino saw the exact second that she heaved in too deeply for a huge breath, causing the crates to crumble. He screamed, “No!” watching her fall as he sprinted with all his might to reach her. Thankfully, Chloe’s hands were still tangled in the noose, stopping her neck from snapping.
About the Author
Anne Marie Citro grew born and raised in the greater Toronto area of Ontario, Canada. She grew up in a large, loving family. Anne Marie is married to a very patient man. He is the love of her life. They have four very cool sons, and the girls they brought into their family that have become daughters of her heart. She has been blessed enough to finally have two beautiful granddaughters after four sons. She has her own personal gaggle of girlfriends, who enrich her life on a daily basis and make her laugh. Caesar Friday is her favorite day of the week. Caesars with the girls and date night with her hubby. She worked with special-needs teenagers, that taught her how to appreciate life and see it through gentler eyes. Anne Marie was encouraged by her husband to follow her lifelong dream to write. She loves the characters that take over imagination and haunts her dreams. She loves the arts and she has tried her hand at painting, wood sculpting, chainsaw carving, wood burning, metal and wire sculptures. Yes, her husband is a very patient man! Anne Marie is an avid reader and enjoys about three books per week. But nothing makes her happier than riding on the back of her husband's Harley and throwing her arms out and feeling the wind race by. Anne Marie and her husband take a few weeks every year to travel to spectacular destination around the world. Anne Marie is excited and can't wait to see what the next chapter holds for her life.
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