Written With Regret, the first in an all-new emotional duet from USA Today bestselling author Aly Martinez, is available now!
Every little girl dreams of the fairytale. The one where the white knight rushes in to save her from the clutches of evil. They fall in love, have babies, and live happily ever after.
By that definition, my life should have been a fairytale too.
When I was eight years old, Caven Hunt saved me from the worst kind of evil to walk the Earth. It didnâ€™t matter that I was a kid. I fell in love with him all the same.
But that was where my fairytale ended.
Years later, a one-night stand during the darkest time imaginable gave us a little girl. It was nothing compared to the pitch black that consumed me when I was forced to leave her with Caven for good.
At the end of every fairytale, the happily-ever-after is the one thing that remains consistent. It wasnâ€™t going to be mine, but there hadnâ€™t been a night that passed where I hadnâ€™t prayed that it would be hers.
I owed Caven my life.
However, I owed that innocent child more.
And that included ripping the heart from my chest and facing her father again.
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Life had never been easy for me. Chaos had been following me like a dark cloud, looming and hovering, casting its shadow far and wide despite how bright the path in front of me should have appeared. After growing up the way I had, where happiness had been more of a privilege than a choice, I knew better than to believe that that moment would be anything other than fleeting.
And one second later, the universe proved me right.
I opened the door to see who had rung the bellâ€”a cursory check revealed an empty hallway.
And thatâ€™s when I heard it: the sound that changed not only my entire life in the present, but my life for all future days to come.
At first, it was just a grunt, but as if that baby could feel my gaze, the minute my eyes made contact, it let out a sharp cry.
Confusion hit me like a lightning bolt, sending me back a step. I used the door frame for balance as I took in the yellow blanket with a hole only big enough to reveal a pale-pink face.
â€œWhat the fuck?â€ I breathed. Glancing around the hall, I waited for someone to jump out and start laughing. When no one spoke up to issue a punchline, I took a step closer and repeated, â€œWhat the fuck?â€
I was utterly unable to process the absurdity in front of me.
Of course, I knew the facts.
It was a baby.
On my doorstep.
But the why in that equation was glaringly absent.
â€œUhhh,â€ Ian drawled, peering over my shoulder. â€œWhy is there a kid at your door?â€
â€œI have no idea,â€ I replied, staring down at the squirming and now-screaming bundle. â€œIt was just there when I opened the door.â€
Ian shoved me to the side so he could stand beside me. â€œYouâ€™re shitting me, right?â€
â€œDoes it look like Iâ€™m shitting you?â€
He looked from me to the baby, then back again. â€œHow did it get there?â€
We were two incredibly smart men who had created a technology empire out of nothing. But, clearly, a baby was too big for either of us to wrap our minds around.
I swept an arm out and pointed to the kid. â€œI have no clue, but Iâ€™m assuming it didnâ€™t catch a cab.â€
A light of understanding hit his eyes. He moved first, stepping over the crying baby and hurrying down the hall, searching around the corner near the elevator before returning alone.
The party continued behind me, but even with the door open, the loud chatter was no match for the ear-piecing cries happening in that hallway.
Veronica suddenly appeared beside me, her body going solid as she stammered out. â€œIs thatâ€¦a baby?â€
â€œBack up,â€ I urged, throwing my arm out to block her path as though the infant were going to suddenly morph into a rabid animal. And letâ€™s be honest, I knew nothing about babies. Anything was possible.
Ian dropped to his knees, scooping up the wailing child. Meanwhile, I stood there like a gawking idiot, paralyzed by a weight I didnâ€™t yet understand.
â€œCall the polâ€”â€ He stopped abruptly and reached into the top of the childâ€™s blanket. â€œOh shit,â€ he whispered, his wide, panic-filled eyes flashing to mine.
â€œWhat?â€ I asked, stepping toward him to get a better look at the kid. Only it wasnâ€™t that tiny baby cradled in his arms that made my heart stop and bile rise in my throat.
There, in my best friendâ€™s hand, was a folded piece of notebook paper that had been tucked into the childâ€™s blanket. From the looks of it, the paper was unremarkable in every sense of the word. Blue lines, white spaces, hanging remnants from where it had been haphazardly ripped from a spiral bound notebook. Even the crease was crooked. But it was my name scrawled on the outside in messy, black ink that made it the most remarkable paper in existence.
I snatched it from his hand and, with blood roaring in my ears, opened it.
Iâ€™m sorry. I never meant for this to happen. This is our daughter Keira. Iâ€™ll love her forever. Take care of her the way I canâ€™t.
Written with regret,
The hall began to spin, my head feeling like every ounce of blood had been drained from my body. The thundering in my ears faded and the loud chatter of my guests, who were suddenly aware that something was happening at the door, roared to life.
And then the chaos finally found me all over againâ€”the past playing out in my head like my life flashing before my eyes.
I sucked in a deep breath and looked at the baby in his arms. The blanket had fallen off its head just enough to reveal a patch of fine hairs, more orange than its motherâ€™s red.
â€œCall the police,â€ I declared, turning on a toe and walking back into my apartment, leaving Ian standing in the hall with Hadleyâ€™s child.
Shoving through the crowd of concerned onlookers, I headed straight to the bottles of liquor lining the counter. I didnâ€™t bother with ice or even a glass. I threw back that bottle of vodka, hoping like hell the burn of the alcohol could numb the panic coursing through my veins.
Through it all, that baby never stopped crying.
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Originally from Savannah, Georgia, USA Today bestselling author Aly Martinez now lives in South Carolina with her husband and four young children.
Never one to take herself too seriously, she enjoys cheap wine, mystery leggings, and olives. It should be known, however, that she hates pizza and ice cream, almost as much as writing her bio in the third person.
She passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a super-sized tumbler of wine by her side.
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