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Authors: Emily Goodwin

Stay

BOOK: Stay
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STAY

Emily Goodwin

©2014 by Emily Goodwin

www.facebook.com/emilygoodwinbooks

www.emily-goodwin.blogspot.com

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Other books by Emily Goodwin:

The Guardian Legacies Series:

Unbound

Reaper

Moonlight
(2014)

The Contagium Series:

Contagious

Deathly Contagious

Contagious Chaos

The Truth is Contagious

Beyond the Sea Series:

Beyond the Sea

Red Skies at Night
(2015)

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Chapter Forty-One

Chapter Forty-Two

Chapter Forty-Three

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter Forty-Five

Chapter Forty-Six

Epilogue

To Lori, Lindsay, and Elyse, the real ladies behind
 

Contagious Reads book blog. You all rock.

Trigger Warning: This book contains rape, abuse, sexual assault, violence, and strong language
.

Author’s Note:
STAY is about the very real issue of human trafficking. While writing this book, I spoke with two FBI agents on the issue and did a lot of research, wanting to keep the details as realistic as possible.
 

One thing I hope you understand is that fear controls the victims. There may be times that seem ideal for escaping or calling for help that are not taken because the fear of getting hurt or having loved ones hurt is so deep.

Human trafficking is a real issue. It happens everywhere, even quiet, ‘safe’ little towns like the one I live in. The more I researched, the more horrified I became. There are
more
slaves today than there were 100 years ago.
 
The average age of sex trafficked victims is 13-14. Trafficking victims have a life expectancy of two years. 100,000 to 300,000 people are trafficking in the United States every year. Girls as young as five have been forced into child prostitution. Every thirty seconds, someone becomes a victim of human trafficking.

I didn’t set out to raise awareness or to be preachy about the issue of trafficking, but I do hope you can take away the fact that this isn’t an issue that should be ignored. There is only a supply of slaves because there is a demand.

CHAPTER ONE

JUST ONE MORE chapter. I rolled my eyes and closed the book, smiling at the lie I had repeatedly told myself. It was almost four in the morning, but pulling the almost all-nighter was worth it to finish the latest book in one of my favorite fantasy series. My eyes burned and begged to be closed. I rested the book against my chest and thought about the cliffhanger ending, sorting through my mixed emotions of anger and excitement.
 

I turned my bedside light off and rolled over, feeling slightly sad that I had read through the book so quickly. I closed my eyes and tried to shut off my mind; I had to get up in just over three hours and I had a long day ahead of me. The cheerful chirping of birds outside my window was as unwelcome as the muted glow of dawn that filtered in through the sheer purple curtains.

My thoughts were still tangled with dragons and Rangers dressed in black furs when I finally drifted to sleep, only to be rudely awoken by the blaring alarm clock.
Ugh, not yet.
 

I rolled over and slapped the snooze button—twice—before I forced myself out of bed. I dragged my feet as I crossed my room, stumbling into the bathroom to begin the time consuming ritual of making myself look halfway presentable.

I turned on the shower and inspected myself in the mirror as the water warmed up. Circles clung under my eyes, and my shoulder length brown hair was a tangled mess around my face.
 

Whatever.
 

I waved my hand at my sloppy reflection. It wasn’t anything a shower and a little makeup couldn’t fix.

Tired, I stayed in the shower too long, enjoying the steamy hot water. I got out, dried my hair and put on the least amount of makeup that was socially acceptable for an outing with my friends.

“Addie?” Arianna, my younger sister, called from across the hall.

“Yeah?” I answered and bent down to pet Scarlet and Rhett, my German Shepherds who were sleeping on a pile of dirty laundry I had thrown on the floor.
 

“Can you help me do my makeup? I keep messing it up,” Arianna replied, sounding annoyed.

“Sure, come here.” I told her. It took every ounce of self-control I had not to laugh when she walked into my room. Black eyeliner was smeared across her face, and eye shadow powdered her cheeks just under her eyes. I brought her into the small bathroom that was attached to my room and put the lid down on the toilet for her to sit on.

“Hold still,” I told her while I cleaned up her face. Ari looked a lot like me: high cheekbones and green eyes with a nose that was a hair too straight, and cheeks that caused dimples to form when we smiled. I lightly dusted her eyelids with shadow and drew a very thin line of black liner over her top lashes. “There,” I said when I was done.
 

“Thanks.” She looked in the mirror. “I wish I was good at doing makeup.” She wrinkled her nose.
 

“I wasn’t good at makeup when I was thirteen. And you’re good at doing hair,” I reminded her with a smile. “Speaking of, I need to dry mine.”

“Hurry up!” She scuttled out of the bathroom. “Don’t make us late!”

I rolled my eyes and ran a brush through my hair. Lynn would make us late. Lynn-time was generally a half hour behind real-time, hence why I told her to meet us at my parent’s house at nine when I really wanted to leave at nine-thirty. And, like I predicted, I was done, ready, and waiting by the time my best friend arrived.

I grabbed my purse, double-checked that I had my cell phone, and led the way to the door. “Bye Dad!” I called before I opened the garage door.

“Are you leaving?” Dad asked from inside his office.

“Yeah.” The floor creaked as Dad walked down the hall. He hugged Arianna and me goodbye. “Drive safe and call me when you get there. And have fun at whatever you’re going to.”

“The Pride Parade.” I smiled.

“Yeah, that.” He and shook his head. “You kids are getting too liberal,” he mused.

I jingled my keys. “And you are too old fashioned,” I countered. “Besides, you like Matt. Don’t you want me to go support him?”

Dad nodded. “I do like him. He’s a good kid. You’re going to his house after the parade, correct?”

“Yup,” I replied. “And yes, his parents are home.” I rolled my eyes. “Good thing because it’s not like I spent a whole year living on my own at college or anything.”

Dad ignored the snark. “Watch out for your sister and don’t be out too late. Have fun. And call me when you get there.”

“We will,” I promised. “Love you!” I hurried out the door and unlocked my car. I rolled down the windows and cranked the air conditioning before we all piled in.

"Are you and Dillon gonna double date with me and Luke tomorrow?” Lynn asked as she raked her fingers through her wet hair.

 
“Maybe.” I’d have to come up with some real excuse. Saying I wanted to stay in to finish a book had been my reason for skipping out on a double date the weekend before.
 

“Maybe?” Lynn echoed. “Try not to die from excitement, Addie.”

“I’ll try and contain myself.”

“Oh come on! Just give Dillon a chance. It would be so perfect if you dated my boyfriend’s best friend!”

“I know,” I agreed. “And this will be the
third
chance I’ve given him.” Dillon was a nice guy. He was outgoing, like Lynn and Luke, and attractive. But he didn’t like books and said reading was boring. It would never work between us.

“You could at least use him for the night,” Lynn added. “You know what happens after the third date.”

I considered it for a second then shook my head. “I can’t do that to him … or me. I have higher standards for myself than that.”

“Your loss,” she said with a shrug and threw her blonde hair over her shoulder. “If I wasn’t with Luke, I’d tap that.”

I laughed. “You’re so full of shit, Lynn.”
 

She looked at me innocently then laughed too.

“What are you talking about?” Arianna piped up from the back seat. “What happens on the third date? I think I know. Isn’t that when you—”

“Nothing happens,” I interrupted. Ari was too young for this. “Nothing fun.”

“You have an odd definition of ‘fun,’” Lynn teased. I glared at her.

“Are you talking about boys?” Ari asked, suddenly more interested. "You know Addie secretly hopes to find some Prince Charming type of guy, like in one of her books."

"It's not so secret," Lynn said with a laugh.
 

"So," I said, changing the subject to our planned trip to Wizard World in Chicago later in the summer. I hated talking about my relationships—or lack there of—with Lynn. It made me depressed, and it wasn’t that I wasn’t looking. Honestly, I felt like there would never be anyone right for me. Maybe I
was
holding out for my knight in shining armor and didn’t want to admit it to myself. “We need to decide on a theme for our costumes ASAP. Batman characters or Disney princesses? Personally, I’d go with Batman.” We talked about our costumes and the rest of the fun stuff we had planned for the summer, making the long drive to the city go by quickly.
 

We parked and got out, taking a few minutes to fix our hair. I grabbed my cell phone and called Dad as we shuffled into the flow of people headed toward the parade.
 

“Matt said to meet him at the end,” Lynn informed us. “And,” she continued, scrolling through her text messages, “it ends on Mackinoff Drive. So let’s go a block before that. We can still see the parade and then easily find him.”

“Good idea,” I affirmed and let her lead the way. The further we got from the heart of the festival, the more run-down the buildings became. The street sides were hardly occupied so far down; we easily found a spot and sat down on a bench while we waited. I stretched my long legs out, wanting to soak up as much sun as possible before I was beach-bound tomorrow for Lynn’s family’s annual Memorial Day cook out. Next to Lynn, who went to the tanning salon four times a week, I was ghostly pale. I had intended on going tanning a few times with her, but I had spent my 'fun money' allowance on books. I pushed my sunglasses low on my nose, trying to avoid an awkward tan line.

I saw a blur of black out of the corner of my eye. It was moving fast and headed right toward the street that ran perpendicular to the one we were on. It wasn’t blocked off for the parade. I whipped my head around to see a girl race into the street, jumping off the sidewalk with such haste that she didn’t take the time to see if the coast was clear.

A horn blared and tires squealed as a car slammed on its breaks.
Holy shit
. My heart skipped a beat. The car missed her by just a foot. It wasn’t going fast being so close to the parade route, but it was fast enough to cause some damage.
 

“Did you see that?” Lynn stood and put her hand to her face, shading her eyes. “That was close. Dumbass isn’t looking where’s she’s going.”

“I think she’s crying.” I narrowed my eyes, watching her race across the street. She kept her head down and her arms wrapped around her chest. It was odd to see her in a long sleeved sweater in eighty-degree weather. When she was parallel to us, she whirled around, looking behind her as if she was scared of being followed. Whatever she saw made her pick up the pace. She dodged behind a building and out of sight. My eyes lingered in her direction, waiting to see if anyone else would accompany her down the alley.
 

BOOK: Stay
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