Authors: Kelly Carrero
Aiden laughed. “She’s good. I’ll give her that. I didn’t even feel her controlling the conversation.”
“Have you ever? I mean, for almost two years, you didn’t even know she was like you. She had you all fooled,” I said, realising how she had manipulated the Scotts, as well. “Well, she’s not going to get away with it this time.”
“Jade—” Aiden called out as I transported back to my mother.
“Why the he—” I began to yell at my mother, but cut myself off when I realised she had company. She was sitting on the couch in the lounge room with Jack.
She opened her mouth to say something, but quickly shut it when she heard keys being inserted into the lock of what I presumed was the front door. Mum quickly stood up and placed her arm around my shoulder. “Why don’t we go get that lunch we were talking about? I know this great little place not too far from here.” She turned me so my back was to the door.
I slipped under her arm. “I don’t think so.” I took a step back from her. “Why are you so keen to get me out of here right now?” I asked as the door opened.
She brushed a piece of hair away from her mouth. “I’m not. I’m just trying to spend some quality time with my daughter,” she said a little too sweetly.
At the sound of the door clicking closed, Mum took a step towards me, and I mirrored her with a step away. “Quality time, my arse.”
Footsteps came down the hallway towards us. “Who are you trying to hide from me now?”
“I’m not trying to hide anyone from you. I just thought it was a nice idea,” Mum said, sweeping her hands through her hair with what seemed to be nervous energy. I didn’t believe for a second that she just wanted to spend some quality time alone with me.
A pretty five-foot-five brunette with hazel eyes and thoughts I couldn’t hear stopped dead in her tracks when her eyes locked on mine. She looked no older than fifteen, and I had to wonder what someone so young was doing in my mother’s life—and why she was so keen to keep me away from her. Nobody around us moved or spoke. Time seemed to have frozen over, but I was pretty sure none of us actually had the ability to do that.
When the girl seemed to have gotten over her initial shock, she strode over to the buffet next to the dining table and dropped her shoulder, letting her backpack fall to the ground with a thud, breaking the silence. “Ahh, so this is the infamous Jade,” she said with a smug expression on her face.
I turned my back to the girl to face my mother, who looked a hell of a lot more nervous than she had been when I’d met the two guys she’d been hiding from me. “Care to introduce me to another one of your little secrets?” I asked my mother dryly.
The girl walked over to the lounge and leaned against the back of the sofa. “I always thought our meeting would be a lot more… I don’t know, planned? But it doesn’t seem it’s worked out that way by the look on Mum’s face.”
Say what. “Did you just call her ‘mum’?” I asked the girl, but didn’t give her a chance to answer. “Please, Mum, tell me I’m wrong. Tell me she did not just call you ‘
“What’s wrong? I can feel you freaking out.”
Aiden’s panicked voice filled my head.
“I…” She was still unable to string two words together. Mum looked afraid, more so than when Adam had pulled a gun on her.
Aiden’s voice once again rang through my head.
“Now, this is special,” the girl said with a laugh. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you not know what to say,” she said to my mum.
“Please tell me you’re okay at least.”
“Come on, Gemma,” Jack said, standing up. “Can you please go to your room? You’re not making this whole situation any better.”
She scoffed. “I don’t think so.”
“Gemma, please?” He pleaded with her to go, probably so they could try to explain to me what this teenager was doing calling my mother her mum.
“What?” I spat the words from my mouth rather than directing them silently to Aiden. All eyes turned to me. My mother looked at me as if I were losing my sanity. Jack looked at me as though I had somehow offended him. And Gemma obviously thought I was the crazy girl who had rightfully been banished from their lives. “I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”
“So you usually keep those crazy voices locked away in that head of yours?” Gemma said with a grin.
“No, smart arse,” I replied, earning an even bigger grin from Gemma and a sigh from both my mother and Jack. “I was just—”
“Why the hell won’t you answer me?”
Aiden’s voice practically screamed through my head in a mixture of panic and worry.
“Bloody hell,” I yelled as I brought Aiden to us.
When he appeared beside me, he quickly looked me over to make sure I was okay, then took in our surroundings.
“So who’s this cutie pie?” Gemma said, wiggling her eyebrows.
“This—” Mum started.
“No. Don’t tell me,” Gemma said, her brown eyes lighting up. “Tall. Brown hair. Green eyes. Nice tan. Looks like he should be plastered all over every teenage girl’s bedroom walls,” she said looking him up and down, smiling at what she was seeing.
“That’s enough,” Jack snapped, but it didn’t have the desired effect.
“Worried about Jade,” she added when Aiden looked sideways at me, probably to see my take on what she was saying. “Yep. This is definitely Aiden.”
“That’s me,” he said with an easy smile, which made Gemma take a sharp breath. “And you are?”
I took a step to the side, placing myself between Aiden and Gemma. “That’s what I’d like to know, too.”
A moment of silence filled the air as we all waited for someone else to explain what was going on. My guess was that nobody wanted the job of telling me who this girl was and why she was calling
I turned to my mother. “Come on, Mum. Shouldn’t you have another lie up your sleeve for this one?”
“Jade,” she said, dropping her eyes to the floor. “This is Gemma.”
“No shit, Sherlock.” I wished she at least had the decency to look at me when she talked to me, but that wasn’t going to happen. “What I want to know is why she is calling you ‘Mum’?”
“Say what?” Aiden’s eyes just about popping out of his head.
“Ohh, isn’t that cute,” Gemma said, looking at Aiden and me. “They spend so much time together that they say the same thing.”
Ignoring Gemma, I yelled at my mother, “Tell me!”
Mum paced the lounge room. “It’s not that simple!”
“Well, let me make it a little more simple for you,” I said, getting worked up. “Either you tell me why she is calling you ‘Mum,’ or I’ll make sure you only have one person calling you that from now on.”
Gemma’s eyes widened in fear.
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not going to do something to you,” I said, guessing she was thinking I’d made a threat on her life. “I meant I would leave her alone with this ‘family’ she seems to have created for herself while she left me at home alone all those days and nights.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Mum said, coming to a standstill. She placed her hands on her hips and looked between Gemma and me. “Nobody is going anywhere.”
I scoffed. “Don’t you think I’m the one who gets to say whether I want to be a part of
?” I waved my arms towards both Gemma and Jack.
Aiden came up behind me and put his hand on my shoulder. I quickly whipped my head around. “Don’t even think about it,” I said, pointing my finger at him. I didn’t want to be calm. I wanted to be mad. I deserved to be mad after everything that had happened in my life and all the deception that I’d been fed all those years. Everything I’d known looked to be a lie, and I would be damned if I was going to stay calm for that. My mother didn’t deserve to have this go smoothly for her. She deserved to feel hurt. She deserved to feel pain. She deserved to feel what I felt.
My mother screamed in pain as she clutched her head between her hands.
Not until her knees buckled and she collapsed on the floor did I understand what was going on. “Oh, my God,” I shrieked as I brought my hands to my lips. A second later, I felt Aiden’s hand on me again before I was torn away from the scene and calming endorphins flowed freely through my veins.
The next thing I knew, Aiden and I were standing in the lounge room of his house on the Gold Coast. Aiden’s arms were wrapped around me as he guided me back towards the lounge. When his legs hit the leather, he pulled me into his lap and held me tightly as he continued to flood my system with his much-needed calming endorphins.
Tears spilled down my cheeks as I realised what I’d just done—or almost done. I’d only ever seen something like that once before, and the person had ended up dead. What had I done? I had almost killed my mother. And for what? Because she’d kept so many secrets from me. I was pissed, but she didn’t deserve to be killed because of it. And to think of how easy it had come to me. I wondered if the same evil that lived inside my father also lived inside me. Was I destined to become like those who made me? A new bout of tears streamed down my face as I contemplated the answer to that question.
“Shhh,” Aiden said, rubbing circles over my back.
“I’m a monster, just like my father.”
“No, you’re not.” He kissed the top of my head. “You’re nothing like him.”
I turned my face up towards his. “How can you say that? I almost killed her,” I wailed.
He wiped a tear away from my cheek with his thumb. “You couldn’t have killed her that way. She isn’t a normal human like the guy I killed.”
“Whether I could’ve killed her or not doesn’t matter. The fact remains, I still did
After a few minutes of silence, he finally spoke. “Let me take the hurt away?”
I pushed off him and stood up. “No. I deserve to feel this way.” I hurried towards the stairs, but I realised there was a quicker way out of the room, and I took it. I transported to the room Chelsea had stayed in the last time she’d slept over.
I closed the blinds, making the room almost pitch black, then I pulled back the quilt and collapsed onto the bed. I pulled the doona over my head, curled into a fetal position, and willed myself to go to sleep. But I wasn’t that lucky. Images of my mother holding her head reeled through my mind. Was I really much better than my father? Was I destined to end up like him? Did my genes determine how I would turn out? Or did I have a choice?
The bed moved as Aiden sat down and placed his hand on my leg. I didn’t want him to see me like that, so I kept the covers over my head. I waited for him to try to send me some of his feel-good endorphins, but they never came. I guessed he had accepted that I wanted to feel like crap. The bed creaked as he shifted positions, and I waited for him to lie down beside me. But he didn’t.
I recognized the familiar feeling of thoughts being pushed onto me, but I froze the second I heard the voice inside my head. It wasn’t Aiden.
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,”
he whispered. The voice disappeared, as soon as the weight on the bed did.
I needed almost a full minute to work up the courage to lift the doona off my face. Just as I began peeling it back, someone sat on the bed again. Summoning all my courage, I quickly ripped the quilt off my face and sat up, prepared to finally come face-to-face with my father.
Relief washed over me, and I lunged into his arms. “Thank God it’s you.”
“Who did you think it was?” He had one hand wrapped around my back, and the other was rubbing the same spot on my leg where my father’s hand had just been.
I closed my eyes and melted into his warm embrace, comforted in knowing I was safe and didn’t have to confront the man I despised so much.
“Jade. What’s wrong?” Aiden’s voice was etched with concern.
I didn’t want to have to explain it to him. I wished I was able to open up my mind so he could see for himself, but for all I knew, my father was still around. I couldn’t risk him finding out more ways to hurt me.
“He was here,” I finally managed to say.
Aiden’s muscles tensed. “Who was here?”
“He didn’t touch you, did he?”
“Only my leg. But that’s beside the point. He was in my mind.” I shuddered at the thought. How dare he think he could do that? I felt so violated.
“What did he do?”
“It’s not what he did. It’s what he said. He said the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. He said I was like him.”
“How did he know that?” Aiden said, more to himself than to me. “He’s been here. He must have been watching us downstairs.”
“I don’t know. Maybe he was already here, or maybe he’s got cameras set up everywhere.”
“Like he had when he filmed Mum being shot?”
“I can’t stay here any longer.” I crawled out of his lap. I got up off the bed and paced the room, shaking with nervous energy. “We have to leave. But where do we go?”
“Calm down, Jade.” He looked at me as if asking permission. I relented and stepped closer to him so he could reach out and touch me. Once I had my nervous energy under control, Aiden patted the spot on the bed beside him. I sat down and waited for his suggestion. He always had a plan, so this time shouldn’t be any different.
“So far, we know he seems to have eyes everywhere. I think we’re going to have to do what we said earlier. We’ll need to find a new place to stay whenever we need to sleep. And I think it goes without saying that during the daytime, you, unfortunately, cannot be alone.”
I nodded. I was completely onboard with that one. I didn’t want to give Adam the chance to sneak up on me again, even if it did mean having to drag someone with me while I showered or even went to the loo. “Safety in numbers, isn’t that what they say?”
“That’s what they say,” he agreed. “Let’s just hope they’re right.”
My phone vibrated on the bedside table. Aiden picked it up. “It’s Chelsea.”
“Can you answer it and tell her I’m in the bathroom?”
“Sure.” He swiped the screen. “Hey, Chels. Are you having fun?”
I left Aiden to talk with her while I went into the bathroom. I was sure to leave the door open so I wouldn’t get any surprise visitors. I turned on the taps and splashed water over my face.