By: Mia Sheridan

We lived in the small house at the edge of their property, reserved for the gardener. Right this minute my dad was passed out in bed, and Eileen was watching cartoons on the couch in her leg braces. Edward De Havilland was ill, and he was a fair man—although he might not be if he found out what I'd just done with his daughter—but his son was not a fair man, and for the time being, Stuart De Havilland was in charge. He was going to make me beg, here, in front of Lydia and Myles. I let out a long, slow breath, my face growing hot.

"That's not necessary, Stuart, please," Lydia said weakly.

"Shut up, Lydia," Stuart said, pushing her aside. I clenched my fists more tightly. Even though she'd just used me cruelly, my instinct to protect her was strong. Grief and anger now competed in my heart. I bloody hated myself.

"This is not me father's fault, Stuart," I said. "Be fair about this."

Stuart's eyes narrowed further. Several heartbeats went by before he drawled slowly, "Get down on your knees and beg me, scum."

My heart faltered, but I wouldn't flinch. I wouldn't give him the satisfaction.


"Shut up, Lydia!" Stuart yelled again. I didn't even look at her.

"Get down on your knees and beg me for your father's job, and I'll let your family stay," Stuart said, his eyes filled with something that looked like barely contained excitement. He'd never liked me, had resented me for some reason I didn't understand. He was finding some sick glee in this. Silence reverberated around the room. I would not do this for my own father. I would not do this thing for him. But for Eileen . . . for her, I would beg.

I went slowly to my knees, not breaking eye contact with Stuart. "Please don't fire me father. I will not touch your sister again. Not as long as I live." I heard Lydia's quiet cries but vowed not to meet her eyes. Refused to.

"Kiss my feet and the answer is yes."

I gritted my jaw so hard I bit my tongue. The metallic flavor of blood filled my mouth. Eileen . . . Eileen . . . I chanted in my head, picturing her sweet, innocent face, the freckles that dusted her nose and cheeks. I leaned forward, my body vibrating with rage and shattered pride. Before I'd even made it halfway to Stuart's feet, his leg jerked out and his boot caught me square in the jaw. I flew back, letting out a startled moan as I landed on my arse on the floor, hot pain radiating up my face.

"Changed my mind. Get your flea-bitten family out of here . . . by morning."

I jumped to my feet, dizzy with the conflicting emotions pommeling my heart. I could barely see through the fog of humiliation. I went to step toward Stuart, but Myles, who I'd all but forgotten about, took a step toward me, putting his hand on my chest. I swiped it away. "I think it's best if you just leave, Brogan," he said quietly, pity emanating off him. I hesitated, still breathing harshly.

"Good boy," Stuart said, reaching in his pocket and throwing something on the ground at my feet. I looked down. It was a one-hundred-dollar bill. "You got paid yesterday. That should cover today." Shame and self-hatred was a raw ache in my gut. I could feel heat burning under the skin of my neck, but I bent slowly anyway and picked up the bill. We needed it. Now more than ever. I stepped around Myles, exiting the room and not looking back.

As I strode across the lawn, the sky a dusky blue, the sprinklers came on. The cool water felt good against my overheated skin and I didn't change my course, simply walked through them. Out of the corner of my eye I saw who I thought might be Lydia racing toward her house. I refused to turn my head. Stuart De Havilland had told us to be gone by morning. We wouldn't wait that long. We'd be gone tonight. We'd leave right that very moment. And as God as my witness, I would never beg anyone for anythin' again. Not ever again.


Lydia – Seven Years Later

"Earth to Lydia, hello," Daisy said, waving a hand in front of my face.

I laughed softly, grabbing her hand and squeezing it before letting it go. "Sorry, was I drifting off again? I've got way too much on my mind. Start over and I swear you’ll have my full attention." I took a sip of champagne and focused on my friend.

Daisy waved her hand in the air, taking a sip of her own champagne. "No, I don't blame you for ignoring me. I was only complaining about my new eyebrow lady and how the arches she creates are completely sub-par."

I laughed, training my gaze on her perfectly—as always—sculpted brows. "I do see what you mean. You've been ruined. I can't believe you'd subject the public to the disturbing vision that is your eyebrows." I pretended to shudder.

"Oh shut up! Seriously though . . ." Shut up, Lydia . . . That phrase . . . why does it always cause a cold chill to move down my spine? I knew why of course—my brother had yelled it repeatedly that day—but I wondered if those particular words would ever cease to unnerve me. Shut up, Lydia. ". . . so I'm counting down the days until Mariposa's maternity leave is over. The nerve of her."

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