I hope you enjoy this first chapter from my next release, The Man I Can’t Have! It’s set to release on May 9th, 2019 with book two, The Man I Need, set to release on June 13th!
8 Years Ago – Charleston, South Carolina
If my mother could see me now, I’m certain she’d pick up the nearest object and smack me on the back of the head with it.
Granted, the nearest object is the cold bottle of beer clutched in my hand, but sure enough, she’d have grabbed it and hit me with it, just to knock some sense into me.
She’d raised me to be better than this. I wasn’t supposed to grow up and become a twenty-seven-year-old drunk, sitting on a busted-up bar stool in a dive bar named Lionel’s, especially when it was well after midnight.
Unfortunately, this day called for it. My rent is late. Bills are piling up, and not one motherfucker in town will hire me since the little scandal I had with my boss’s wife.
Hell, it isn’t my fault she wanted me; I didn’t even know she was married. She wasn’t wearing a ring the night I met her. I was at a party at my boss’s house—well, mansion, really. She came onto me, and Mr. Powell caught us in his office with her hand on my crotch.
Mr. Powell is a highly respected man—the most well-known business contractor in our state. I’m sure he’s told the businessmen of Charleston to never hire a son-of-a-bitch like me.
Most of the jobs I’ve applied for are in construction, electrical, or mechanical. All I’m good for is my hands, really. I’m great at fixing shit, yet no one around here who has a great business (and a wife) wants to hire me. Figures.
I can’t forget to mention that taking care of Shayla, my sister, is stressful as hell. Twenty-one years old and able to buy her own bottle of liquor, she thinks she has life all figured out. She has no idea how hard life is, considering I’ve piggy-backed her every step of the way.
Too bad Momma isn’t here anymore. Maybe I need her to hit me upside the head with something so I can stop pouting like a whiny little bitch and get a move on. I can hear her voice now, “You got time to mope at this bar, but no time to search for jobs?” I’d shrug, and she’d smack me on the head or arm with a firm hand and a deep, intimidating frown. I’d frown right back, but she wouldn’t give a damn. She’d give me a lecture about how I was destined to live a good life—that she named me Marcellus Leo Ward for a reason. To her, my name was powerful. It was a name that no man could ignore, because it was strong, and most men in this world—especially ones who want a successful business—hire men with solid names. Lately, that has proven to be untrue.
With a sigh, I finish off my beer and then lean forward on one elbow, pulling the slim wallet out of my back pocket. I slam a soggy five-dollar bill on the counter and focus on Lionel who is behind the counter, cleaning beer glasses. “Give me one more.”
“You sho? This’ll be yo’ third one tonight, ain’t it?” he asks. His accent is so thick that when I first met him, I had no idea what the hell he was saying. After many nights of coming here, though, I can comprehend most of what he says. You can definitely tell he’s from Summerville, South Carolina. Same place I was born. We connected because of that—being born in the same city.
“I’m positive.” Lionel gives me a sideways glance, like he knows I need to just take my ass home already, but I wave a hand, silently encouraging him to hurry up before I put the five he could use back in my pocket.
He uncaps my beer, slides it across the counter in my direction, and I push the five his way, putting on a smug smile.
“Know it ain’t my business or anything,” Lionel goes on, drying a glass with a towel, “but what you sittin’ ‘round here down in the pits fo’? Bringin’ the whole mood down around this place.”
“Been lookin’ for jobs,” I mutter after taking a swig of beer. “No one in Charleston will hire me. Don’t have much experience. Had a good job but got fired over some bullshit. I’m in need of a big job. Something great.”
“Big job? What you mean by that?”
“Somethin’ stable that comes with health insurance or at least dental, you know? Need it for me and Shayla.”
“Ah.” Lionel’s eyes get bigger. “I see. Why don’t you just make yo’ own?”
“My own business?” I scoff. “Yeah…I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
Lionel chuckles. “I can see you gettin’ away with something like dat.”
I look sideways at the small TV in the upper right corner where a basketball game is playing.
“Tell you what? I would hire ya, but my numba’ one rule is to never let a man who loves drinkin’ work at my bar.”
I smirk. “Good rule. Better that I don’t work around all this alcohol anyway.”
Lionel laughs again, walking off to help someone at the end of the bar. I take a chug of beer, about to lean back in my chair and think about where the hell else to apply, but my cell phone vibrates in my pocket.
“Fuck,” I grumble, fishing the phone out of my jeans.
I check the screen and, of course, it’s Shayla. Always the one to ruin my buzz.
“What do you want, Shay?” I answer, exasperated.
“Marcel, I need you to come pick me up.” Her voice sounds panicked.
“What the hell’s wrong with you?” I sit up higher on the stool.
“Please—stop askin’ questions and just come get me!” she hisses into the phone. “There was a raid at Tommy’s house but I was out back and ran away before anyone could catch me. My fuckin’ purse is still in there with my ID in it. They’ll probably find it and call me in, so I need an alibi. If you come get me now, I’ll have one, and it’ll seem like you and me were together.”
“Goddamn it, Shay!” I push out of my chair and march to the door, bursting out of Lionel’s. Wasted five dollars on that damn beer. “I told you to leave that dumb motherfucker alone! Where the hell are you?”
“I’m at the gas station near the beach—uh, you know, the one Momma always took us to when we wanted snacks?” Her voice trembles as she says Momma’s name. Probably ‘cause she knows Momma wouldn’t be proud of the shit she’s gotten herself into.
“All right. I’m on my way.” I hang up before I say something I regret. Unlocking my truck, I hop behind the steering wheel and drive straight to the gas station. It doesn’t help that I’ve had three beers. I’m good driving, but I hate leaving the bar until I’m completely or mostly sobered up. I lost my mother to a drunk driver. I refuse to be that kind of man who thinks he’s too good to sober up, but Shay needs me right now.
It takes less than ten minutes for me to get to the gas station, where I spot Shayla standing beside the ice freezers, her hands buried in the pockets of the white coat I bought her for Christmas a few weeks ago. I pull into the parking spot in front of her and her eyes widen, swirling with relief as she rushes to the passenger side. After I unlock the doors, she climbs inside.
“Let’s go,” she demands.
“Let’s go?” I turn to face her, frowning. “You realize the shit you’re in, right? You interrupted my fucking night for some shit that I’ve told you repeatedly to stay out of!”
“I know, I know, Marcel, but can we not do this here! Tommy’s house is, like, right up the street, and I saw a cop drive by a minute ago!”
I grimace, putting the car in reverse and leaving the gas station. Shayla has been getting worse and worse ever since Momma died. She was sixteen, and I was twenty-two when we lost her. I took on the role of taking care of her. She had no one else but me, and I knew that, but with each passing year, I wish more and more she’d get her shit together and find her own fucking way in life.
“I’m gettin’ really tired of this shit, Shayla,” I mutter, turning onto a single lane road.
“And I’m tired of you chastisin’ me over the shit I do. It’s my life, Marcel.”
“Well if it’s your fuckin’ life, why the hell are you stayin’ in my fuckin’ place, eatin’ all my goddamn food then?” I glance over and she’s glaring at me.
“See? This is why I never come home! Because you’re always bitchin’ about somethin’!”
“Oh, I’m always bitchin’? Really? I’m here bustin’ my ass trying to find a stable job so we can keep a roof over our heads, and I’m bitchin’? You think I wanted this shit to happen? You think I wanted to be the one responsible for your lazy ass? No, but I am! This is life, Shay, and you need to grow the hell up already! Get a real job or somethin’!”
“Oh my God—okay, you know what? Stop the car. I wanna get out.”
I shake my head. “I’m not letting you out in twenty-degree weather.”
“I don’t give a damn! I can walk home from here!”
“Yeah, and freeze to fuckin’ death? You know what? Maybe I should let you do that, then you’ll be out of my life for good!” I can’t stand when she acts like she knows everything. I’ve done everything I can for her—have been since Momma died—because I love her and vowed to always have her back. The least she can do is make my life easier, but does she do that? Fuck no. She always causes trouble—always hangs out with that stupid weed dealer, Tommy.
“Let me out! Now!” Shay demands.
“I’m not kiddin’, Marcel! I’ll open this door and roll out! I don’t wanna be in here with you! All you fuckin’ do is judge me and complain about me being around! Why bother callin’ when you’re just going to be a dick about it?” She grips the door handle, glaring at me with glistening blue eyes. Without much thought, I reach across the console just as she pulls the door handle. The door flies open, and the inside of the truck fills with cold air.
“Shay! Close the goddamn door!”
“Fuck you!” she shouts, but the vehicle is going fast, and she’s clinging to my arm like her life depends on it. She knows damn well she isn’t going to roll out of a truck that’s going over forty miles per hour. To my luck, I get the door to shut, and she gasps, almost like she wants to thank me for saving her from doing something so stupid, but my sister has too much pride to do such a thing.
“Are you out of your fuckin’ mind? I swear, you do some of the dumbest shit sometimes, Shay!” She has to be drunk or high. That’s the only explanation for what she’s doing right now.
“Marcel!” she screams as headlights slash across her face. “Look out!”
I gasp and look through the windshield. “Shit!” Jerking the wheel, I try getting back in my lane as the car ahead of me honks the horn. I move out of the way successfully, but it’s too much for my old Ford to handle.
The truck veers sideways way too quickly, and Shay screams to the top of her lungs as we start to spin out of control. I do everything in my power to gain control of it, but the roads are slick from old snow and the shower of rain that just passed, and this truck is too old, with tires that I should have replaced years ago.
I look over at Shayla, and her eyes lock on mine, her face panicked. For a moment, I swear everything around me goes absolutely still. All is quiet, and it’s only me and my sister staring at each other, realizing this is the fear Momma must’ve felt when she got into that car accident, before dying in the hospital less than thirty minutes later.
This shouldn’t be happening to us. We’re supposed to live on for her, right? It’s what I always tell Shay. We’re here to carry on her life’s work. She raised us to do good—to be good.
The world spins again.
I look away, holding the steering wheel tight, but the truck flips once, and then another time, right before slamming into a thick tree trunk.
When I open my eyes, shattered glass is everywhere. My mouth is numb, like I’ve just gotten punched in the face, and I taste blood. Fuck, I smell it everywhere.
I look down and see blood on the steering wheel. I must’ve hit my mouth there.
Something’s piercing me, just below the ribs, and it hurts like hell.
“Shay?” I call.
“Shay? You okay?”
“Shay! Answer me!” I yell as loudly as I can, the potent, warm stench of blood stinging my nostrils. Deathly afraid to do it, I look over and see glass all over Shay’s side of the car. Her window has completely busted, and from the lights in the console, I can clearly see dark-red blood on the bark of the tree that’s right outside her window. Some of her brown hair is strewn over the open window, but most of it is covering her face.
Fighting whatever pain I feel, I lean over and grab Shay by the shoulder. Her head rocks back as I use as much force as I can to get her to wake up.
Her face drips with blood. It’s pouring from a gash in her forehead.
“No, no, no,” I cry. “No. Shay. Please.” I wince as pain shoots up the right side of my body. I don’t care about the pain. I grab her face between my fingers. “Shay! Wake up!”
No answer, just like before. I look down and spot a sharp piece of metal protruding from her stomach. It has ripped through her stark white coat. I try to pull on it, but it doesn’t budge, and she doesn’t make a sound.
“Shay! Please! Wake the fuck up!” I cry out as a blue light flashes behind me. A siren sounds, but I refuse to give up on her.
With every word, my voice breaks, the pain below my rib growing more intense.
I don’t give a fuck.
I want this pain to sweep through me and swallow me whole, because it doesn’t take a genius to know that my sister—the only family I have left—is gone.
And it’s all my fucking fault.
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