The Absolution of Aidan

By: Kathy Coopmans

(The Syndicate Series Book 3)


Dedication





This book is dedicated to my dad, James Richardson.

I will always be your little girl, and you will always be the man who taught me to do the right thing.





PROLOGUE


DEIDRE





“Please dad. Get me out of here. I… You know I hate hospitals.” I’m so tired. All I want to do is sleep for days, weeks even. I’m forced to lie on my stomach, for at least two weeks the doctor said, while these wounds on my back heal.

I have twenty-six cuts across my back and shoulders, two of them deep enough to require stitches. The majority of them will disappear; they’re minor, they say. Minor to whom? Them? It’s the scars on the inside I’m more concerned about. Who’s going to nurse them back to health? Make them evaporate into thin air? No one. They will be there for the rest of my life.

“Honey. This is the best place for you to be. You need to heal.” My mom tries her best to settle me down. Heal! Heal! Heal! That word has become my most hated word; if I ever hear it again, I may kill the person who says it.

Beth La Russo, the best mother a woman could ask for, takes hold of my limp arm, running her hand up and down in what I assume is supposed to be a soothing gesture. Don’t say the ‘H’ word anymore, mom. Of course, I don’t say that to her. I really would never do anything to purposely hurt my mom or my dad, but god, can’t they see I’m losing it here?

My body is entirely numb. Drugged up on morphine to ease the pain of the scars that Royal Diamond left behind, permanently reminding me of his legacy of maiming people with a knife.

My wrists are raw, black, and blue, covered in cuts and scrapes from where I was frantically trying to escape the chains I was hanging down from like a slaughtered animal.

My body may be free of pain at the moment. However, there isn’t a damn thing anyone can do to erase the plague of shit that’s running through my head. I desperately want to sleep. But I’m fighting it with every ounce of strength I have left. If I sleep, he will be there. He will kill me and he will beat Aidan more. Or force him to watch while he does vile, repulsive things to my body. Things I will never forget. Things that will haunt me if I sleep. Even though he didn’t touch me sexually or rape me like he threatened to. That doesn’t mean I can forget. I still feel his hands on me. The knife scraping across my skin. My name rolling off his tongue like a sudden high tide.

I know he’s dead. I’ve been reminded repeatedly by my dad over and over while I lay here on my stomach begging them to get me out of here. I can’t be here. I feel trapped. This tiny hospital room is closing in on me by the second. I can’t breathe. I can’t move my arms. I need to move them. I need to walk to see with my own two eyes that Alina, Aidan, and everyone I care about are safe. Hell, my chest feels so tight I can barely breathe. Maybe if I succumb to this sleepiness sensation my inner awareness is commanding I need, I will forget. Concentrate on the good. The only problem is, there isn’t anything good about any of this. I’m mutilated, scarred for life. Again, it’s all on the inside. I cannot stop my brain from wheeling around like a giant tornado. It keeps spinning and spinning.

“Sweetheart, you need to rest. Close your eyes and sleep. We will both be here when you wake up.” Stefano La Russo, my father, the only man I will ever trust, will ever let touch me again, squeezes my leg through the blankets that feel like they are suffocating me everywhere.

“No,” I scream loudly. My mom jumps from the side of the bed I’m facing at the tone of my voice. “He’s here. I know he is. He… he said he’ll kill me. Drug me and rape me. He will, too. That evil man is capable of doing anything. Why won’t you listen to me? Why won’t you help me? HELP.ME!” I scream.

Soft muffles escape my mom’s mouth, her hands flying up to cover her face.

“He can’t hurt you, baby. He’s dead. You’re safe now,” my dad says, trying to soothe me.

“He’s not really dead,” I choke out. Royal Diamond may not be alive on this earth anymore but by god, he is in my head. He’s there. All I can see is his face. His bloodshot angry eyes. His filthy hands on my body. His fingers stroking my skin. That knife digging into my back. He’s surrounding me. Cutting off my air supply. Taking away my sanity. My will to survive.

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