Lost (Lost & Found #1)
Author: Nadia Simonenko
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Release Date: March 25, 2013
Buy Link: Amazon
Sometimes you need someone else to help you find your way.
Maria's life was torn apart when she was fifteen, and for seven years she's kept her terrible secret hidden from the world. Now, in her final semester of college, she still struggles against paralyzing fear just trying to speak up in class, and the terror and helplessness linger on in her nightmares.
Across campus, Owen sees his scars in the mirror every morning while he gets ready for class. They remind him of the broken home he left behind, the father he hates and fears, and the little sister he couldn't protect. Now, in his final semester of college, he's scared that he may have to return to the hell he called home after staying away for almost five years.
When Owen becomes a teaching assistant for one of Maria's classes, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to each other. As the two learn each other's secrets and grow closer, they realize that although they may be lost, they're not alone anymore.
This new adult contemporary romance is recommended for ages 17+ due to heavy subject matter.
Seven Years Ago...
I hear him start yelling, and I'm up from the couch in an instant. My hearts starts to pound in my chest and my breathing quickens. Where is he? What did I do? Is he coming for me?
"If you cared one goddamned bit about this family like I do, you'd be..."
He's yelling at Mom. I can hear his drunken words slurring together as he screams at her. I don't even wonder what they're fighting about anymore; it's been like this for as long as I can remember.
As I got older, I began to understand the truth. It isn't about anything.
The fight is so one-sided that it's not even a fight anymore. My father is being what he always is: a drunken, violent asshole.
A glass shatters against the floor in the kitchen, and I instinctively raise my hand to my face, feeling the ridge of the long scar running along my jaw. It's nearly invisible now after so many years, but I can still feel exactly where it is. I got this one from a glass, but my parents told the school I'd been in a bike accident.
In the kitchen, Mom starts to cry.
"...stupid fucking bitch! What the hell is wrong with..."
His yelling grows louder, more violent and terrifying to me, and I quietly head upstairs to my room. I feel like I should step in and try to help Mom, but I know I'll just make things worse. She wouldn't help if it was me, either; if I'm the first person Dad sees, she disappears and leaves me to take the beating. She comes crawling back when it's all over to tell me that everything is going to be okay, but I haven't believed her since I was twelve.
The only person I'd protect is Samantha, but I thankfully haven't had to yet. My sister is only eleven, and Dad doesn't go after her.
I close my door, sit down at the wooden desk in the far corner and pretend I"m working on my homework. I'm staring at numbers scrawled near-illegibly in my physics notebook, but they don't mean anything to me right now. My mind is still hiding in terror behind the couch downstairs.
The fight is spilling out of the kitchen and toward the stairs. I can hear their voices echoing through the heating vent; my bedroom's vent connects to the one in the living room, and there is no vent in the kitchen. The aluminum ductwork distorts his cold, hate-filled voice and makes him sound like a monster out of a bad movie. I wish this was all just a bad movie.
I hear my mother's light footfalls as she runs up the stairs. She is trying to get away from the fight, but the loud, dull 'thud' of Dad's boots are following behind her. He was honorably discharged from the army almost ten years ago after he hurt his back, but he still wears those same old combat boots everywhere. It's obvious enough to me that he isn't ready for civilian life, but the army disagrees.
They're fighting at the top of the stairs right outside my door now. I close my eyes and hunch over, trying hard not to shake as I hear the sickening sound of his fists hitting her again and again. He's beaten me so many times that I'm terrified of him even when I'm not the target of his rage.
A new voice cuts through my thoughts and I bolt upright in my chair.
"Stop that! Stop hitting her!" cries Samantha. She sounds terrified, and I can see her wide-eyed, fearful look in my mind. I imagine her jaw quivering in fear, but even if it is, she's still braver than I am. I'm hiding in my room, trying to pretend that I'm not here.
"I promised I'd protect her."
I get up from the chair and start toward the door.
As I reach the door, though, I stop. No, she's not in trouble yet. Dad won't hurt her. As I turn around and head back toward my desk, I heard the loud clap of my father's palm against her face, and she starts to cry.
A door slams down the hall. Mom has abandoned Samantha.
I spin around and hurry back to the door, but again my hand hovers at the knob and refuses to budge.
"He'll kill me!"
"If you don't go, he'll kill Samantha!"
My hand trembles and my teeth grind as I try to force myself to open the door. I need to protect my sister, but my mind screams at me to step away from the door. In the end, my cowardice wins the battle and I turn away.
My entire room shakes as Dad slams her against the door, and I nearly leap into the air. A framed photograph falls off the wall and its glass shatters as it strikes the ground. It's our family photo from ten years ago; we were all smiling back then.
I can hear Samantha's terrified whimper just outside my door, and my legs begin to shake. I'm such a fucking coward.
I have to protect her.
I open the door just in time to see my father's outstretched arm and my little sister tumbling down the stairs.
Samantha crashes into the wall at the middle landing with a terrifying thud, her neck contorted in an impossible way and her gray eyes staring blankly up at me.
The world freezes around me as I stare back into her empty eyes, and everything is strangely silent.
I've failed her. I've failed her in the worst way I possibly could have.
My father's face is as white as a sheet as he looks down at what he's done, and I shove past him and race down the stairs.
"She fell, Owen," he calls after me. "It ain't what it looks like."
I don't care what his excuse is this time; my sister isnt' breathing. I can't tell if my ehart is sinking into my stomach or if my stomach is rising into my chest. I feel like I'm going to throw up.
"Owen Maxwell, you come back up here and..."
I ignore him and race for the telephone in the kitchen. I have to call 9-1-1.
The phone is nowhere to be found, and I hear the thud of his boots coming slowly down the stairs after me. I shove papers off the kitchen table, knock over a vase by the sink as I push aside all the clutter and broken dishes, and then I finally see it lying on the floor next to an overturned chair.
I pick it up and just as I start to dial, Dad's fist connects with the side of my head.
I hit my head on a chair as I collapse to the ground. I'm dizzy and my vision goes almost entirely black except for a few strange, floating blue spots. He grabs the phone out of my hand, and as I try to get back up, he kicks me hard in the chest and knocks the wind out of me. I can't breathe, and I feel like I'm going to pass out.
I hear him dialing a number above me as the toe of his boot catches me squarely in the ribs again. Somehow, I barely notice the blow this time. Maybe I'm too far-gone already.
"Hi Betty. Sheriff please," he says in a shaky voice. He steps over me and starts to straighten up the kitchen. He sets the chair upright as on-hold music blares through the receiver, and even from down here I can smell the alcohol oozing from his pores.
"Hi, Bill? Yeah, it's Todd. I need you to send someone over here with an ambulance. Samantha fell down the stairs. Please hurry."
He's so good at putting on an act when anyone else is around; it's only his family that sees the other side of him.
"Thanks Bill. I really appreciate it," he says with a tone of terrified concern, and I almost believe him for a second. My belief shatters instantly as he hangs up and shoots me an ice-cold glare.
"Don't you ever tell the town about our dirty laundry like you were gonna, you hear me boy?" he snarls, and he kicks me again for good measure. "Now get the fuck up and help me clean up this mess."
I continue to lay motionless on the floor. A strange chill is spreading down my body, and I can't be bothered to listen to him anymore.
"God, please take me away from here."
His boot connects with my stomach, and I gasp as he knocks the wind out of me again. I close my eyes and brace myself for the next blow.
"You heard me, you stupid shit! Get up!"
He kicks me again and again, and I don't care about the pain anymore. It doesn't matter. None of this matters.
The only thing that mattered to me is lying dead at the bottom of the stairs.
Nadia Simonenko is a scientist and author currently living in Indianapolis with her husband, two cats and a dog. When she isn’t writing, she develops new oncolytic compounds and dreams about someday getting to take a vacation.
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