And so is Johnathan.

I’m owning them right now. From this point on, they’re my family, the family I got to pick for myself.

My father’s eyes finally drop to Charlie and fill with so much loathing and disgust my hands itch to wrap around his neck. I never thought I was capable of violence. After all I’ve endured, how could I possibly inflict pain on another person? But the way my father is looking at Charlie makes me feel murderous.

If I had that gun Johnathan said is under the bed, I’d be extremely tempted to use it.

“I can see you are going to refuse to be reasonable,” he says through clenched teeth as his eyes lift. He jerks his head towards his goons. “Escort my daughter to the car.”

“No!” I cry out, but it doesn’t stop the goons as they come for me, their tree trunks for legs easily eating up the distance.

“Beth,” Charlie starts crying in earnest, and my heart breaks as I feel his tears soaking my shirt.

I can’t protect him and I can’t fucking stop this. Just one-on-one with one of these guys would be nearly impossible.

Taking three of them on is beyond futile.

At the last moment, I push Charlie towards Sophia. I don’t know what else to do.

“Please take care of him,” I beg.

Do what I can’t.

Sophia meets my eyes and her face is flushed with anger on my behalf. “I won’t let him get away with this,” she promises as she hugs Charlie to her chest.

But even though her father is the Chief of Police, I know there’s nothing she or her father can do to stop this.

My father is, and has always been, higher up the food chain. His connections reach all the way to the Oval Office.

The three goons reach me, and two of them grab me by each arm and start dragging me back.

I want to cry out, to tell Charlie I’m sorry, so sorry, but I’m afraid of further traumatizing him.

I’m the worst fucking protector ever.

As I’m dragged past my father, he grins a very self-satisfied smile. I honestly can’t comprehend how he can be so smug over this shit. He couldn’t even take me on by himself, he had to bring in three goons to do his dirty work for him.

And that’s when it hits me. My father is a coward and has always been. He refuses to fight fair because he knows if he does he can’t possibly win.

The smug smile dies on his lips as he takes in my angry, non-terrified glare.

For once in my life, I’m honestly not afraid of him. He can drag me away against my will and lock me back in my room, but I’ll stop at nothing now to escape him.

The two goons drag me out the door and down the driveway to an awaiting black limousine. The back door is opened and then I’m shoved inside. The door slams shut and I immediately check the handle.

It’s locked from the outside.

A moment later, the other door opens and my father slides in. I scoot into my corner and stare out my window, unable to bring myself to look at him.

The front doors open and slam shut, then the car starts moving.

“Elizabeth,” my father says, and I stupidly glance over at him.

He backhands me across the face, and it happens so fast, so suddenly, I never saw it coming.

I reel back as pain explodes across my right cheek, and then he backhands me just as quickly across the other cheek.

“That’s just a taste of what’s to come for all the trouble you’ve caused me, you little ungrateful bitch,” he hisses.

I stare at him in shock at first. I mean I knew what was coming, but usually he waits until we’re in the house before he dishes out the violence.

Reaching up, I tentatively touch my cheeks, then my bottom lip. Yeah, he busted it open.

My father reaches down and yanks on the bottom of his suit jacket before leaning back. His eyes meet mine and he grins as tears fill them.

But the joke’s on him.

I turn away from him and stare out the window again, unable to stop the tears pouring down my cheeks.

But I’m not crying because my father just bitch-slapped me.

No, I’m crying because at this moment I absolutely hate myself.

I couldn’t protect Charlie.

And I just broke my promise to Johnathan.

20

Johnathan

The broken-down girl in my living room sure as fuck isn’t who I thought would be here when I got the fuck home.

Charlie is nowhere to be seen, and the seething rage that fills my veins is about to explode.

My Beth is missing.

The front fucking door is wide open, and I think this girl’s name is Sophia.

“Where’s my wife and son?” I ask gruffly as she stares up at me in shock.

My phone begins to vibrate and chirp in my pocket, but I ignore it as I move closer to her.

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