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Authors: Ella Fox

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Missing Hart

BOOK: Missing Hart
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Missing Hart (The Hart Family, #5)

By Ella Fox

Chapter One

It was the second blind date I’d been on in the last year and things didn’t go well at all. My design assistant Ray had set me up with a friend of his cousins and like a sucker I agreed to go. The second I met Claire and she opened her mouth, I knew I was doomed.

She announced straight away that she’d been anxious to meet me once she saw my picture in the Los Angeles Times. “I mean my gosh… You’re successful and you’re hot on top of that! I can hardly believe you’re still single. Apparently you’ve been dating women with no game plan.”

After that blood chilling evaluation she went on to tell me that she was looking to settle down. “I’m open to having a child in the next few years as well. One is my limit however, and any man who wants more children isn’t someone I’d be interested in. My last date asked me if I’d be open to adopting a few children. Can you imagine? Taking in someone else’s trash? Nature or nurture they always say. I’d never buy a used car, and I wouldn’t accept a second hand child, either.”

I couldn’t believe the balls on the bitch. She might have been beautiful, but her behavior made her ugly as hell. I wondered what the fuck Ray had been thinking when he set me up with her, and I hoped he didn’t realize what a vile asshole she was on the inside.

As repulsed as I was by her attitude about adoption, it was her next salvo that put me over. She looked down her nose at, and was rude to, the waitress, and after she walked away Claire whispered to me, “Ugh, what an idiot that girl was. I can’t imagine how much of a loser you have to be that your job choice is to be a paid slave. It’s like, get an education honey.”

I’d been a busboy and a waiter when I was a teenager and my sister was a waitress while she was getting her nursing degree, so I was offended by Claire’s attitude. Even if Leah and I hadn’t worked in restaurants, I still would have found Claire’s attitude and comments reprehensible. Who the hell did she think she was? Only the most obnoxious assholes went out of their way to treat people working in the service industry poorly, and when I saw people doing it, I wrote them off immediately.

I’d stared at her dryly as she talked herself silly over dinner, barely noticing that I said next to nothing. She really loved the sound of her own voice, but I couldn’t stand it. I laughed in my head at the idea of how horrified she would be if she knew that not only had I been a waiter, I was adopted and then I was raised in foster care after my parents died. That would be three major strikes against me as far as the snooty bitch was concerned, I was sure of that. She had no idea that she was at dinner with someone who’d come from nothing, but I knew that she would be repulsed if she did.

She had nothing interesting to talk about, at least not in my opinion. She went on and on about her fabulous and unique country club (an oxymoron if ever I’d heard one), her busy Wednesday mornings at the spa, and her interest in international travel. She was literally one of the most obnoxious and unattractive to the core people I’d ever had the misfortune to meet.

Does that make the fact that I agreed to go home with her any better? No, it doesn’t. Did I do it anyway? Yes, I did. Sex was meaningless, and the fact that she was an asshole didn’t make her less attractive. If anything, it made it easier to fuck her. The less emotion attached, the better.

I followed her home knowing that I was going to take her to bed, and I was just fine with that decision. Her house was exactly what I’d expected. Over the top, ostentatious and cold, it screamed, ‘a soulless freak lives here.’

Unfortunately, the sex was as off-putting and uncomfortable as eating dinner with her had been. Claire was a ‘performer,’ but she had no skill at all. She didn’t give head (that kind of thing was ‘nasty’ according to her) but that wasn’t a deal breaker for me since I didn’t either. I’d been unfortunate enough to acquire a taste for one girl in particular, and when she left my desire to perform on others went with her. The irony of the fact that I didn’t perform oral sex while the girl that ruined me for others was now living life as a lesbian wasn’t lost on me.

Claire had a variety of sexual positions that she worked through as she writhed and moaned like a sex worker in Amsterdam. She was the type that imagined that screeching and telling a guy how big his ‘dong’ was (swear to God, she used the word dong) would be a pleasurable experience. While it was memorable (and not for any positive reasons), it was hardly pleasurable. It was completely repulsive, but I worked with what she gave me and got off. When I was finished, I hauled ass from her bed to dispose of the condom and then I got dressed to go.

The sound of her voice was a total turn off. “Aren’t you going to come back to bed and give me some more of that dong, lover?”

Seriously, where had this chick come from?

Shaking my head I said, “Nope. I’m done.”

As I walked to the door, she spoke again. “Call me.”

Looking over my shoulder, I gave a joyless laugh. “That won’t be happening. I forgot to tell you… I’m adopted. Oh, and I used to be a waiter.”

Her angry screech made me laugh, and I was still laughing as I got to my truck and heard her yell out her window at me that I was a “filthy mongrel loser.”

I texted Ray on my way home and told him to just say no if he ever felt the need to set me up again.

Chapter Two

Once I got home from that unsatisfying experience I showered all traces of Claire from my body. The whole thing made me feel more unsettled than usual, and that was saying something since I generally feel used up, a husk of a man who is old before his time. I’m twenty-nine, hardly old when you looked at it mathematically. It isn’t the number that makes me old though. It’s my pathetic excuse for an existence.

I was raised hard, never quite fitting in. I’ve always felt like something was off. It’s like a piece of my puzzle is missing and hasn’t been found. As the years have passed me by, I’m more and more certain that whatever the piece is, I’m not meant to find it.

Aside from my parents, there have only been two people in my life that had ever genuinely cared about me. The first is my sister Leah. The second was my wife, Marissa. After my adoptive parents had been killed in a freeway shooting, my sister and I had been placed into the foster care system. None of the blood relatives of our parents were interested in raising adopted children, so we’d been put into the system just ten days after our parents were killed.

My adoptive parents were good people, and I miss them. It couldn’t have been easy taking care of two babies who were only thirteen months apart, but they did it. I found out after they died that they’d really only wanted Leah, but we were a package deal. I’d never noticed any difference in the way they treated us. Their families, on the other hand, never warmed to us. As a child, I thought that it meant there was something wrong with us for being adopted, but now I know that it was their own prejudices about our lack of blood relation that kept them from accepting us.

I used to obsess about where I’d been for the first thirteen months of my life. Had my parents loved me? I’m not sure why, but I don’t think so.

Ours was a closed adoption, so Leah and I never have had any information about where we came from or who our parents were. My mother told me that when they adopted me, I’d been the quietest baby she’d ever seen. I could tell that had worried her. “You didn’t smile for months and months, and you didn’t know how to be held for a long time.” The sad thing is that I’m back to having that problem.

Leah and I met Marissa a few weeks after moving into our first foster home. The three of us had been a unit in several group homes, constantly together. I was ten, Leah was nine and Marissa was eleven. We were considered “old” for possible adoption, and it was acknowledged that we were long shots. We’d moved around a few times, but had always been lucky enough to wind up together in the end.

Leah and I had always had each other, and that gave us a strength that Marissa didn’t have. We both had a full time job in taking care of Marissa. She wasn’t like us, and things affected her differently. Marissa was beautiful but also exceptionally fragile.

When we met her, she’d been put into care after years of being brutally raped by her stepfather. Someone finally figured out what was going on, and she had been removed from her home by the authorities for her own safety. Eventually he wound up in jail, but her mother never wanted her daughter back. The bitch had the gall to tell Marissa that she was selfish for letting anyone figure out what her stepfather had been doing and she held Marissa responsible for the fact that he was in jail and unable to support her or their daughter. Marissa had an incredible amount of guilt over that, and it was heartbreaking to witness. She genuinely believed that she had hurt her stepsister because she hadn’t been able to conceal her own wounds anymore. That guilt never went away and I believe that it played a part in her demise.

I married Marissa when I was eighteen and she was nineteen. We loved each other deeply, but it was never that kind of love. I adored her, loved her almost as much as I love Leah, but I wasn’t in love with her. She’d asked me to marry her, to give her something normal to hold on to, and I had said yes without hesitation. It’s a decision that I’ve never regretted, even though the pain of losing her still cuts deep.

I began working every single day once I was fifteen years old at two different jobs because I knew I needed to be able to take care of us all. I’d been lucky enough to save up a fair amount of money and when I married Marissa, I rented us a little bungalow in the Valley, right on the same street that Leah was living in foster care. We had about a year to wait until she could be out too, and she was working overtime applying for college scholarships. Her dream was to be a physical therapist that specialized in children.

I painted the interior of the house to Marissa’s specifications, bought furniture from Ikea, and the two of us started school at the local community college. I worked in landscaping and Marissa worked in a small bookstore. Both of us were happy with the way our lives were going, and I know that we both felt as comfortable with life as we ever had. We cooked meals, read books, and devoted ourselves to creating a normal life.

I loved and adored Marissa, but we’d only gotten married because it was something she’d needed, and I’d held true to my promise that I’d take care of her. We’d rarely hugged or touched, and we’d never been sexual with each other. Marriage and stability was what Marissa needed, and I’d been bound and determined to provide her with it. No one but Leah really knew the truth about our relationship.

Our bungalow home was a happy place, especially once Leah moved in for the summer before college started for her. The three of us were a team, committed to going the distance with our lives. Marissa was really coming out of her shell working at the bookstore. She made a few friends, but there was one in particular that she was close to and I encouraged that wholeheartedly. I’d never seen Marissa take to someone other than Leah and I so quickly before and I loved seeing her come into her own. When Leah got a scholarship to the University of California at Santa Barbara, it meant that we were all in a good place and I felt like the future was bright. We all felt that way.

All that got blown to smithereens the morning that Marissa’s stepfather showed up at our house. We hadn’t even been notified that he’d gotten out of jail, even though we had been assured for years that were he ever to be paroled, we would be the first to know.

He pushed his way into our house as she screamed for me to help her. I was at the front door within seconds, but the damage had been done. I got rid of him and he wasn’t able to lay a hand on her, but every bit of progress that she’d made with her life evaporated right before my eyes.

The safety she had finally started to believe in was gone. She quit the job she loved, refused to leave the house, and her nightmares came back full force. Marissa was wasting away in front of me, and nothing I did helped.

Those of us that loved her tried to pull her out of her downward spiral, and within a week I’d moved us into a new house a few miles away.

It didn’t make any difference.

Everything I did was really nothing but me grasping at straws as I tried to save one of the people I loved most in the word. But the truth is that it was too late to bring her back because she shut down emotionally and physically the second she saw her stepfather.

Losing my parents hurt, but losing Marissa hurt more because it was my failure. There are a million if only scenarios that plague me to this day, but you can’t un-ring a bell. She’s gone forever and I have never known who I’m angrier with about that-her for quitting or me for failing to save her.

While I had always known that she was fragile, Leah and I both had, I had really believed that I could pull her through it. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, there is no way to get a person off the course that they are on. Marissa was smart, beautiful, sweet and kind, but she was broken inside and she didn’t want to live anymore.

BOOK: Missing Hart
5.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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