Fighting to Forgive (Fighting, #2) by J.B. Salsbury
To my readers, with love and infinite gratitude.
It’s your support that gives
my story wings.
It’s almost midnight, but I can’t sleep. The pounding of adrenaline still floods my veins. Riding high on the rush from earlier today, I stare at my ceiling while Iron Maiden’s “Wicker Man” blares through my headphones. My fingers drum against my Discman in perfect time with Nicko McBrian’s snare hits.
I force my mind to the mundane world of freshman year of high school, finals, and which cheerleader I’m asking to the homecoming game, but even that doesn’t calm me. My thoughts keep going back to this afternoon. I breathe through the rush of excitement.
It was stupid. Sneaking around made it more exciting, but if I get caught… No, next time I’ll take better precautions. I can’t risk—Boom!
My bedroom door flies open and slams against the wall. Oh shit! I rip off my headphones and jump to my feet. Light pours in from the hallway. Shadows of men, hunched low to the ground, filter into the room. My heart slams against my ribs, and icy fear rockets through me. I try to run, but strong hands seize me at every limb.
“No.” I buck hard against the hold. This can’t be happening.
“Fighting will make it worse.” A man, his face masked by the dark, tightens his grip.
It’s a dream; it has to be. My head spins, and I search for consciousness. Wake up. Pain from the violent hold on my body confirms my fear. This is real. My legs shudder with each panicked breath.
“Help!” I lean toward the open door, praying my parents can hear me.
A shove to my legs drops me to my knees. I try to punch, but a man pulls my arms tight behind my back. The cool metal of handcuffs surrounds my wrists.
“Dad.” My voice cracks. “Mom, Braeden.” I thrash. My shoulders burn. “Let me go.”
I don’t understand. Where is everyone? Did these guys get to my family first?
Dread and fear chip away at my strength. I swallow against the ache in my throat. I’m outnumbered, outmuscled, and overpowered, but I refuse to sag into their hold.
“What did you do to my family?” I can barely hear my own words over my heaving breath.
“Hang in there, kid,” says the man at my back, too casual to be comforting.
This is bad. “Take whatever you want. I won’t call the cops, just let us go.”
The dense silhouette of a man fills the doorway. I squint into the darkness, fearing the worst. Is this the one who’ll finish me off? He steps farther into the room, and I drop my head back to see his face.
Oh, thank God.
“Dad.” I try to break free, to get to him, but I’m held in place. “Help me, they’re holding me.” The words tumble from my lips before what’s going on around me sinks in.
I stop struggling.
My dad’s not helping me. And the men who busted into my bedroom don’t seem surprised to see him. My blood turns ice cold, and a chill runs through my body.
He’s sending me away.
“Dad?” I search his face for compassion but find nothing close. “Don’t do this.”
He warned me this would happen. Threatened to send me off if I didn’t stop.
A flash of what my future holds lies in the compassionless faces that study me now. Trained monkeys who live by orders, brainwashed to give up their free will. That’s what he wants from me. Fuck no. I jerk hard, and my joints burn in resistance.
“Stop fighting, son.” My dad steps closer and squats to eye level.
The spice of his cologne rolls my stomach as my vision adjusts to his nearness. His military-approved haircut only makes his square jaw seem more angular. His mouth is a rigid line held so tight that the muscles in his cheek jump. The usual dark green of his eyes looks almost black, and I struggle to hold his stare. He studies me for a few seconds then grimaces. Even though it’s a look he gives often, it’s still upsetting.
“You crying, Blake?”
“No, sir.” I sniff back the tears that burn behind my nose and try to hide the fear that pollutes my veins.
“The hell you aren’t, son.” He shakes his head. “And herein lies the problem.” His words are mumbled. He pushes to standing then paces back and forth. “I won’t tolerate my teenage *-ass excuse for a son crying like a girl.”
The room fills with the snorted laughter of the soldiers holding me. Even as my cheeks flame, I ball my hands into fists, and my muscles go rigid. My tears dry, and the roar of my pulse thunders in my ears.
“As if that shit you do in your free time isn’t gay enough, now I got you crying?” He’s not asking a question.