Axel:A Bad Boy Romance(8)

By: Laura Day

Her biggest fear about leaving Austin would be where she would live. Both of Marie’s parents died when she was a child. An aunt, who had passed only a few months after Cate was born, raised her. There was no one else. She had no family she could lean on or turn to. When she imagined leaving Austin, the thought of living in some flophouse in a dangerous neighborhood always halted her progress.

As they came to their third floor apartment, Marie held her breath as the door opened. But she needn’t have worried. The room was bright and airy with large windows open to the breeze. The walls were painted a soft green with white trim. There was a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. It was fully, if sparsely, furnished and perfect.

A smile spread across her face as she ran her hands over the soft couch in the living room. “It’s perfect,” she whispered as she held back tears. This might actually work. She could live here in this apartment with her daughter and no one else. She was going to be free. No more getting screaming at, no more lying about the bruises on her arms and stomach, there would just be peace and happiness here.

“Can I go see my room?” Cate asked and Marie nodded and let go of her daughter’s hand. She felt the immediate emptiness when Cate was gone, but she needed to let go a little. She hadn’t escaped Austin just to lock Cate up. Her daughter had spent enough time living in fear.

“We were so glad when we got your résumé,” Ingrid said as they both watched Cate run to the smaller bedroom. “I was worried we were never going to find a trustworthy candidate to live in our old house.”

“I’m really grateful for the opportunity,” Marie answered. “You have no idea what this means to me.”

Ingrid nodded and looked at Marie from the corner of her eye. “It was surprising that you could start so early. We figured it would take months to find someone who could move to town.”

Marie said nothing. She looked down and traced a scratch in the floor with her shoe.

“Don’t you worry, dear,” the other woman said, putting her hand on Marie’s shoulder. “Sometimes you need a change of pace and Harksburg’s the perfect place for starting over. We’re a good town and we look out for each other here. You don’t need to worry or feel unsafe. You’re part of the Harksburg family now and you're part of my family. I love this old house, so you better get used to seeing me around.”

“I’m really glad to hear that,” Marie said with a smile as she heard Cate running around her new bedroom. She took a deep breath, and looked around at the apartment. She was already fixing it up her mind. She would add white curtains and there would always be fresh flowers on the dining room table. She was going to cover the walls with pictures of Cate and her drawings. She was going to make it her own.

Chapter Five

He jogged to the gym. It was four miles from his mother’s house making it a perfect warm-up run for someone in as good shape as Axel was. With a kiss on the cheek and a promise he would be back soon, Axel left her and took off down the street. His headphones were pounding punk rock into his ears and his pace matched the rhythm of his music. His heels slammed into the dirt on every downbeat.

A mile in, he stopped for fifty push-ups. Two miles in he stopped for fifty squats. By the time he was on Main Street his heart was pounding steadily and sweat was gathering on his face and chest.

“Axel! Axel!” The voice was loud enough that he could hear it over his music and it had that tone of someone who would not be ignored. With a sigh Axel stopped and removed his headphones turning around to face Ingrid Michele’s.

“Morning, Ingrid,” he said. “How’s the historical society today?” He should have known better than to stop. Ingrid was like a dog with a bone when it came to certain things. To his own chagrin Ingrid had talked Axel into buying a bench in the town’s square. He had been guiled and bullied into buying it. There were relentless phone calls from Ingrid who knew every trick in the manipulation book. He had at least been able to put his mother’s name on it instead of his own. Now that he had stopped and acknowledged her presence, whatever it was she wanted, he would inevitably have to give her.

“Everything at the historical society is wonderful,” she said giving a little skip as she hurried up to him. She was wearing yoga pants and a sweater, out for her daily speed walk no doubt. Axel slowed down so he was walking next to her. Ingrid’s speed walking matched up with Axel’s normal pace and he fell into step beside her as she pumped her arms and continued to move.

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