Step-Lover Page 1

Author: Bella Jewel

Genres: New Adult , Romance

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PROLOGUE

Raindrops keep falling on my head . . .

There’s no reason why a song should play over and over in your head when something horrific is happening to you. No reason, yet they do. Songs from your life, songs about the moment, songs that are there for no reason at all, except to torture you. From that moment on for the rest of your life, every time you hear the song that plagued you in your time of terror, you will always be taken right back, as if you never left. Forced to relive it all over again.

I don’t know why it was that particular song. Maybe it was the beat of the rain falling outside. Maybe it was the timing of the blood dripping onto my face. Maybe it was playing on the radio. I didn’t know. I knew I was in a car—that’s what I knew. A car that was twisted so badly I could no longer see my parents in the front.

I was so terrified. My mother was screaming. The rain was pounding down on the roof, making a horrible roaring sound that blended with her deafening yells to create a noise I’ll never forget.

I remember my body being squashed in an angry position, my legs twisted, my head tilted back, my arms stuck between pieces of bent metal. My sister, who was beside me, seconds before, laughing and giggling over a silly joke my father had made, was suddenly dead quiet. I cried out, so many times, but whatever voice I had was stuck in my throat. Even when desperation took over, and I became frantic, the silence remained.

“Please, wake up.” I’ll never forget my mother screaming. “Jayden! Milly! Aria! Please.”

There was so much blood. It was on my face, on my body, sticking my fingers together when I tried to move them. Panic was something I became all too familiar with in those terrifying moments. Then there was my sister. What I saw will forever be implanted into my memory for every day to come. It will never leave. She was twisted, so twisted—I knew there was no way it was natural. Her head was turned to the side, facing me, and her eyes were wide and open, lifeless.

I screamed for her, but once again my voice let me down. Instead I was left staring at the life that was no longer present in the blue eyes I adored so much. My sister was dead. It didn’t matter that I was young and shouldn’t have known. It didn’t matter. I knew.

Flashing lights and sounds pierced the air, but it was too late. My mother stopped screaming, I stopped fighting and outside, through the rain and terror, I heard them speak. “The father has been thrown from the car, it’s a mess. He’s gone. We’ve gotten the mother out, but there are two kids in the back still. One is dead, God, it’s such a mess. I haven’t seen something so gruesome in my life.”

Gruesome.

Gruesome doesn’t happen to us. Not us. Not this family. We’re happy. We’re loved. Things like this don’t happen to happy families.

I was wrong.

It does happen, and it did.

CHAPTER ONE

NOW

Raindrops keep falling on my head…

I jerk up in bed, arms dashing out in front of me as if to stop an invisible force that’s never there. It takes me a moment to calm my breathing, control my jerky movements and realize I’m in the now, not the then. I reach up with shaky hands and rub my eyes. I have the same nightmare every night; I have since I was eight and my father and sister were taken from me.

That night lives in my dreams, it haunts my days, and it’s a never-ending spiral of agony. Every time I close my eyes I see my sister’s lifeless ones, staring back at me. Even after all these years, I can still see the image in my head as if I were there only yesterday. My heart aches every morning, because I’m forced to wake up the same way with each rising of the sun.

It’s been eleven years, but time doesn’t heal everything. That night changed not only my life, but also my mom’s life. We went from having everything, to having nothing. My parents didn’t have life insurance. They never thought it would happen to them. I think that happens to a lot of people. When we lost my father and sister, we had to sell our home and move to something a great deal smaller. We’ve been here ever since.

That was the smallest part of our difficult journey. How do you support someone who is grieving as much as you? My mom was so strong; she held it together when I needed her, but I heard her sobbing at night, alone. She and my dad, they had that relationship. You know the one. The one that’s rare, beautiful, and once-in-a-lifetime. They were happy. They were normal.

There was nothing ugly with our life.

He wasn’t drunk driving. They weren’t fighting. No one came onto our side of the road. My father didn’t have a heart attack. No, it was a tire blowout. That’s it. That’s what took away my beautiful life. A tire. One simple tire. It blew, and when I say it blew, I mean it blew. Then the car skidded, Dad tried to correct it but we went off the road and flipped before the car twisted around a tree.

A tire ended it all.

“Aria?” My mother’s soft voice calls from down the hall.

“I’m up,” I yell back, running my fingers through my hair.

“Honey, I’m late for work. Do you need a ride to school?”

I groan. I want to stay in bed. I don’t want to go to school. It’s always hard to go for that last week before summer starts. It’s my first year in college, and so far it’s going as planned. When I finished high school, I knew what I wanted to do. I had the grades. I had a plan. I joined a Pre-Med program to start the journey into medicine. The school has Pre-Med students, as well as students studying medicine and starting internships.

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