Broken Bond - Callie Rose Page 0,1

did I survive this horrific life? How did I come out of this with any sense of self left? I’d rather be back in that endless dark hallway, walking blindly forever, instead of reliving these horrific memories.

Now I’m in the kitchen cooking eggs. I can almost smell the butter sizzling in the cast iron skillet and the heady scent of coffee permeating the room. Even the calm, early morning hours aren’t safe from his punishments though. If anything, he’s crueler before coffee. I make him breakfast every morning, his little servant girl, his little punching bag, and I hope against hope that this morning, I’ll come away clean.

Instead, Uncle Clint roars with laughter. He’s still half-drunk from his bender the night before. Drunk on whiskey and on power. He grabs my hand and shoves it onto the red-hot skillet. The scent of my burning flesh mingles with the smell of toast.

I go backward in time. I’m nine years old, tied to a chair with a bandanna shoved in my mouth because I laughed at a television show we were watching together. Any trace of happiness in his presence has to be stamped out, as if he has some kind of compulsion to make me hurt, both physically and emotionally. The cool snick of his blade opening makes my heart jump with terror.

Not again. Please, not again.

With a jolt, I surface from the dreams.

Heat and pain sear through me until my entire body is in agony, but I try to open my eyes anyway. Nothing happens. I can feel a mattress beneath me, blankets bunched in my aching fingers, but I can’t get my eyelids to respond to any commands at all. I can’t open my hands, either—my fingers are paralyzed into claws, and the muscles in my forearms ache.

I want to let go and wake up so I can escape the nightmares. Escape my uncle.

Despite my insubordinate limbs and eyelids, I get the feeling I’m not alone in the room. There’s a presence beside my bed. Sturdy, strong, with a scent like pine that soothes my soul.

Before I can even fully come awake, I submerge once more.

I’m battered by more horrible memories of Clint’s abuse. My mind moves quickly, switching from scene to scene almost too fast for me to keep up. Somewhere in the deluge, I’m awarded a break from Clint’s snarling face and instead, I get a glimpse of two faces that seem familiar, though even in my fever dreams, I’m sure I’ve never seen them before. A man and a woman, both with fair hair and blue eyes. They’re both smiling, the kind of bright, pure smile I’ve only seen in the past few weeks while living with the shifters. Kindness is like a cloak around them, and when they hug me, all my broken pieces fit back together.

This is such a stark contrast to the other memories I’ve coasted through that it stands out and gives me pause.

My parents?

I barely remember them. It’s more like I have a vague, shadowy notion that they did, at one time, exist. And that’s mostly because I know I didn’t just pop into existence one night without parents on the other side. So even in the midst of these wild dreams, I’m not sure if I imagine those faces or recall them from some deep, dark part of me.

I can’t analyze the two faces for very long though. My mind is already on the move again, back in the hellhole that is my uncle’s house. The nightmares rewind and begin again.

And again.

And again.

For a long time, I drift in and out of consciousness. When I’m awake, I catch dim glimpses of a familiar room—the cabin where I’ve been staying with the shifter men. My vision is never fully right. Blackness spreads across my plane of sight until I’m not sure if my surroundings are real or just another construct from my dreams.

At one point, I come out of a particularly horrifying encounter with Clint, unable to see anything at all but with my hearing turned up high. Voices are arguing nearby, slightly muffled as if they’re outside a closed door. Familiar voices. But I can tell they’re angry and… frightened?

That thought sends a wake-up call to the rest of my senses, and I push past the heavy weight on my eyelids to open my eyes. Everything around me is dark and cold, though the blanket stifles me, trapping the heat that radiates from my body. My skin is raw, and