Isabella “Izzy” McKenna just came out of a two year, well, she couldn’t really call it a relationship. It was more like two years of being dominated and controlled by him, a handsome, domineering and powerful man. When she finally decides to leave him, after he finally pushes her too far, she revives her friendship with her best friend from college.
Little did Izzy know that rekindling her friendship would also throw her into an amazing loving relationship with a gorgeous fun, but at times jealous, bar owner named Z.
Will Izzy’s horrible childhood and past controlling relationship keep her from finally finding the love that she’s always searched for? Or will he ruin the love that is finally just within her grasp?
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Excerpt from Promises, Promises:
I sucked down the last of my Shirley Temple making that slurping noise that Harry hates. I looked up and watched Mom walk out the front door with a man. I get so sad when she does that. She keeps promising she’ll stop, but she never does.
“How about another one, Ace?” I looked back at Harry, smiled really big and nodded.
“Yes please!” I loved it when Harry called me “Ace.” He said he used to call his daughter that too when she was my age. I watched him make me another Shirley Temple with lots of that red stuff. He winked at me as he put in three cherries. He slid the glass towards me and I grabbed it, taking a sip quickly. He had a sad look on his face, like I do every time Mom leaves with a strange man.
I watched the door open and Mr. Thatcher came walking in. I jumped off my stool and ran to him. He’s great. He teaches me how to play pool and always gives me advice about life. He’s been out of town for a while now though. He travels a lot, but I’m always happy when he comes back. He took out a small red bean bag dog from his back pocket and handed it to me.
“Wow! Thanks! I love him!” I clutched my new dog tightly to my chest.
He smiled down at me and ruffled my hair. “Did you finish all your homework, Iz?” I nodded my head. This time I really had. He doesn’t usually check, but one time he did and he made me finish before I could play pool.
“Now can we work on my bank shot?” I asked as I watched Harry hand him a beer.
“Yep, let’s grab that table over there.” He gestured toward my favorite table. It was my favorite because I couldn’t see the door. People coming in and out always makes me a bit jumpy and then I miss my shot. I hate missing my shot.
“Can I use a stool this time?” I asked knowing he probably wouldn’t let me. I used to be able to use one, but then I got to a certain height and he said I need to learn how to play like everyone else. I hated that.
He gave me a funny look, making his eyebrows pull together. “Now, why would you get one this time when you haven’t used one in a while?” He handed me a cue stick. I huffed and he shook his head while laughing at me while he lined up the balls on the table.
That guy Joey walked in. He annoys me. He always makes a fuss about me being in here. Says there shouldn’t be kids in here. Harry always tells him it’s his bar and I’m not drinking so I can stay.
Joey glanced back and shook his head at me. Mr. Thatcher helped me angle the cue stick to make sure I hit the ball correctly.
“Why you teachin’ her that, Ted? She shouldn’t even be in a place like this,” Joey yelled over from his bar stool.
Mr. Thatcher shook his head and walked towards Joey lowering his voice. They never think I can hear what they say, but I always do.
“I’m not gonna fight with you about this every time, Joey. She just needs something to focus on rather than what her Mom does. Would you rather her just sit at home listening to CC go at it with her latest John?”
“I think the better thing to do is let the authorities take care of it,” Joey huffed while staring over at me.
“No, if they do that, she’ll be in the system forever. She’s a sweet kid. If we can just help her out a little, then she’ll have a good basis for life.”
Joey shook his head as he watched a gang of bikers come in. “You think this is better for her? Would you want your daughter here?”
“No, but I also wouldn’t want her back at home with CC and one of them trying to come on to her.”
“How do you know that wouldn’t happen when you’re out of town?” Joey asked really loud. He seemed really mad.
“Because she’s been coming here straight from school and Harry’s been watching her. Between me, Harry, Mikey and Dave, we’ve got it figured out, so she’ll be alright,” Mr. Thatcher told Joey.
“Hopefully. This is just messed up.” Joey said and drank from his beer.
Mr. Thatcher walked back and we played pool for a while. Mom finally came back. She nodded her head to me that it was time to head home. I ran around and got my hugs from all the guys. Mr. Thatcher said he’s in town for a while again. That made me happy.
Mom and I got home, well, most kids wouldn’t call it a home. It was really a motel room, our third one this month.
“Not a bad night, Isabella, huh? You got to play pool and I was able to make a little bit of money. We’ll be moving on to a nicer place in no time.”
I shrugged. “You always say that.”
She sat down on the bed next to me with that pouty face she makes. “Aww, but this time, THIS time, Isabella, I promise!”
It’s the same promise as always. I keep hoping one day we’ll actually have a nice home like my friends or she would be a mom like my friends have, but her promises always fall through. Always. “Promises, promises,” I huffed back at her. She rolled her eyes.
“It’s gonna happen, Isabella. Mark my words.”
Harry taught me that sometimes promises are only as good as the action behind the promise. Other than that, promises are just that – promises, promises.
My mind was racing in an endless loop of thoughts. Do I really want this? Is this what I really want to do? Leave him? Forever? Yes..? No…? What he did was unthinkable, but did he really make me do it? I mean, I let it happen. Although, it was under his command.
His command – that’s what it comes back to. I was so used to letting him control me, my body…my mind…allowing him to do things to my body most women would never allow. The control…
Walking faster, I couldn’t stop the tears…uncontrollable. I could feel the black limo following me…or was it my imagination? Was I really free to leave? Or was he treating me as a child and seeing if I’d come back on my own.
Memories rushed through my mind of being a child and packing my Barbie suitcase with anything I could find (including stuffed animals and several Barbie dolls) so I could “run away” from home at the age of five. I walked out the front door crying, yelling that I’d never be back. Only to go down the street to realize – where was I going? And now, at the age of 24, I was asking myself the same exact question and feeling just like I did at the age of five. Where was I going?
I had no family and I had broken contact with Brad and all my college friends, even my best friend, after I had met him. That was two years ago. Had it really been two years now I was under his control? He would never say he loved me. I understood that from the beginning. He had told me he was incapable of love. That was okay with me at the time. What he offered to a woman just out of college was incredible, I thought at the time. Starting out with expensive clothes, living in his penthouse apartment, fancy dinners, cars, travels to Europe on a whim. It was everything a young woman could want.
The one thing he explained in the beginning that he would never be able to provide. Love. Being 22 and naive…I could make him change – love me as I wanted to be loved.
I increased my speed and ducked into a coffee shop. I took a seat in the back so I could see the door. My heart was racing a mile a minute. Panic was setting in. Money. I had a little cash in my bank account that I hadn’t used in what, two years? I wonder how much was in there. I never had to check since I never needed money for anything.
Living? Where would I live? Melanie and I had fought about him. Could I contact her again? Would she forgive me? I still had her email address, but I can’t use the internet on my phone since I left it on the counter at his penthouse. I left anything he had given me except the clothes on my back and my purse containing my ID, debit card and lip gloss. Or was that his since he paid for it?
I was glad I ran into this place. It was an older café that had three ancient looking computers lined up against the left wall and as I looked up, I noticed one available. Sitting down in front of it, I typed in Yahoo and logged into my old account. Password. What was it? Oh yes! Huffy – the name of my first pink bike. Riding my bike was the only time I was content and felt free.
I logged in and noticed a gazillion emails. I started to type a new email to my friend, but froze, laughing to myself as to what to write. Hello, how are you? Haven’t seen you for two years, but I’m running away from my crazy lover/companion/controller/dominant. I need a place to stay. Can I stay with you? What the hell am I going to write? Because that clearly isn’t the best opener!
A nice waitress came over asking what I would like to drink. Coffee. I definitely needed coffee. She seemed to notice I had been crying and she gave me a sweet sympathetic smile. I’m sure I looked a mess.
I turned back to the email and with a deep breath, I decided on the truth – well most of it. I’d leave out the sexual part of it.
I’m so sorry to write to you now after our huge fight two years ago, but I could really use a friend right now. I am leaving him and need a place to stay. I was wondering if I could crash at your place for a little while to clear my head and get back on my feet. I apologize for this being so sudden and, well, weird. I am in a coffee shop writing this as I have nothing else except the clothes on my back.
The nice waitress came back with my coffee and another sympathetic smile. I turned back to the computer after pouring in two creams and two sugars. After all, I was no longer with him, so I didn’t need to just have it black because he was controlling my weight. Taking a sip of my sugary, sweet coffee, I felt exhilarated on my new found freedom. I refreshed my email and my heart skipped a beat when I noticed how quickly she replied.
Oh my God! I have missed you so much these past years and have thought of you so often. I told you he was really a jerk! Lucky for you, our old roommate just got married and moved out. I live with two guys now, so as long as that doesn’t bother you, you are more than welcome! Do you need any money to get here? How can I help you? I cannot wait to see you again after all this time!
How could I have just left such a good friend to be with him? Tears began to spill down my cheek, remembering our last fight before I left to move in with him.
I checked the train schedule and wrote back what time I would arrive and that I should be okay with money.
Lucky for me there was an ATM machine in the back of the coffee shop. I went ahead and paid the waitress with my debit card knowing he was going to track it. It didn’t matter at this point because a limo kept driving by, so I was pretty sure he already knew where I was. After deleting the history on the computer and receiving my card back, I went to the ATM to check my balance. Over $10,000? How the heck did I have that much? Hmm, bank, I needed my bank to withdraw as much of that as I could. To start, I withdrew the maximum the ATM would allow so I would have cash on hand as long as I could.
Next, how do I get out of here without the limo spotting me? Hmm, nice sympathetic waitress…I bet she would know.
After explaining that I had a crazy, jealous ex-boyfriend waiting outside, she took me out the back exit and explained that if I turned left, there was an alley on the right that would lead to the train station. My bank was also conveniently located near the train station.
Such crazy cloak and dagger stuff…who would have ever thought I’d have to think like this? I should have known he would show his true colors two years ago, but I was blinded by greed and desire to be “the one” to change him.
I ran down the alley and turned the corner; just as the waitress said, there was the train station. I noticed my bank to the right and tried to blend in with the crowd and ran into the bank. I needed as much of that money as I could, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to touch my account ever again.
The person greeting people at the door signed me in and I waited in a chair until the next desk person was available.
I sat there trying to keep my leg from shaking. Each passing second I felt like he would come bursting through the door and…what? Do what? What would he do? I didn’t know and hoped not to have to find out.
If I weren’t so nervous, this actually might be a little funny. Running from limos through dark alleys and withdrawing large sums of money…It seemed so silly and a bit ‘cliché’ out of a movie.
Finally, it was my turn after what felt like an hour. I was led over to a desk behind a plexiglass cubicle wall. Mr. Bank Guy sat behind his desk with his hands folded and propped up. A smirk from his round, pink face and balding head made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I explained to him that I needed to withdraw my full amount, but needed it in cash.
Martin Cannon, according to the name plate on his desk, had me fill out several forms with a smarmy smirk on his face the whole time. Finally, he got up and seemed to waddle over to the bank vault.
After a short period of time, he returned with that same smirk on his face. My heart picked up because I couldn’t help but wonder if he called him or something. To my relief, Martin Cannon sat down and slid a stack of bills toward me.
$10,000 in cash is a nice little stack; weighs a lot and luckily fit nicely into my purse. Or was it really his purse? I asked myself this as I shoved the stack of cash into my purse. Damn it. It keeps dawning on me – nothing is really mine.
I thanked Martin Cannon, stood up quickly with my heart beating out of my chest and left, realizing and hoping that this was the last place he would know I’d been.
I went straight to the train station and purchased my ticket, in cash, and went right to the platform and onto the train…and to my new life.
The train pulled into the station four hours later and I was relieved to see he wasn’t there. Rather, with a spark in both our eyes, I found Melanie immediately. She was just as I remembered her – gorgeous as ever with an amazing body, blonde wavy long hair and blue eyes to die for. Melanie always got attention wherever she went and had the bubbly personality to match. Even in a blue Henley shirt, faded jeans and her hair swept up in a ponytail, she was stunning. She pulled me into a huge bear hug and then introduced me to the guy standing next to her, Clark, her…well, now, my new roommate.
Clark looked kind of like Clark Kent, to be quite honest. He was tall with dark hair, but had brown eyes instead of blue, broad strong shoulders – and yes, had the dark rimmed glasses. I half expected him to pull his shirt open and show me his Superman shirt. Instead he gave me a warm hug and a sweet smile, of course after checking me out from head to toe and lingering a bit too long on my chest. He seemed to be looking around nervously and I kept wondering why. Suddenly, it dawned on me that he was probably looking around to make sure a crazy ex-boyfriend wasn’t chasing me down!
“I can’t believe you’re here and that I get to see you again after all these years!” Melanie exclaimed excitedly with a perfect smile (insert sparkle in her teeth just like a TV ad).
“Melanie, I’m so sorry about everything. Thank you so much for writing back to me.” I sighed, hugging her again.
Melanie hooked her arm with mine as we started to walk. “I’ve missed you so much. I don’t care anymore. We have so much to talk about and catch up.” She glanced at Clark with a weird quirk that made me arch my eyebrows. Melanie cleared her throat. “Let’s get going and you can see the townhouse and where you’re living now!” I wondered what that exchange was, but dismissed it quickly in hopes it was something between them and that it wasn’t about me.
As we left the train station, Melanie explained that they didn’t live far and that they have a great townhouse thanks to Flynn’s dad investing in the area early before it became the new trendy place to live. We walked down the tree lined streets with chic shops and restaurants for several blocks.
The townhouse was brick with beautiful colonial type steps leading up to a wide inviting red door. It was just as charming inside. Flynn’s dad must have great taste or hired someone with remarkable decorating skills, because the inside of the townhouse looked like a comfortable bachelor pad out of Better Homes and Gardens. It was decorated in rich crèmes, blues and light green. The living room and kitchen were all open with high ceilings and brick walls exposed. A massive fireplace with a huge TV hung above it created a nice focal point for the room.
“I’ll show you your room upstairs. Lucy left all her furniture since she moved in with Max and he already had furniture. It’s like it was all meant to be, Izzy!” Melanie winked as we climbed the stairs. I smiled so brightly at hearing her nickname for me. “Isabella” is what I had been called most of my life and especially what he insisted on calling me.
Putting a hand on mine lightly, she softly said, “When you want to talk, I’m here. I’ll let you get some sleep. The bathroom is right down the hall. Flynn has his own bathroom, but Clark and I share. There are some towels in the linen closet in the bathroom, so go ahead and make yourself at home.” And with that, Melanie walked down the hall, but turned again giving me a sad smile. “I missed you so much.”
Tears filled my eyes and I sighed, “I missed you too. I’m so sorry.” She nodded and blinked tears from her eyes before going downstairs.
I took a very hot shower thinking about how close Melanie and I had always been. She was as close to a sister as I would ever get. I met her as my roommate at orientation for college and we hit it off immediately. We did everything together and had most of our classes together.
After graduation, I met him at my first ‘real’ job and after only a month, he absorbed my world. Melanie tried to caution me several times through several fights, but I didn’t want to listen to her. She knew he was just a pompous asshole trying to control me, but I didn’t listen nor did I want to.
He promised to take care of me and provide anything I could ever want. I agreed to his request to be with him and him alone, under his promise that he could show me so much more.
I hadn’t heard from her after our last fight, yet here I am in her life again and she just welcomed me with open arms. With the water washing away my tears and shame, I decided I would make up the lost years of friendship and hoped I could be a better friend.
I wrapped myself in the soft towel and realized I only had my dirty clothes to put on. Frustrated, I balled my dirty clothes and held them to my towel wrapped body and went to “my” new bedroom.
The room was average size. A bed, dresser and mirror occupied most of the space. The closet was pretty good size, not that I needed much room with the one pair of jeans, t-shirt and sweatshirt I had, but I guess I could fill it with a couple more things soon. I realized the bed had sheets, a flowery comforter set on it and some clothes were laid out – a long sleeve football jersey and sleep pants. Cozy. And again, I was so thankful for my friend who I hadn’t been much of a friend to.
I put on my borrowed pajamas and climbed into the comfortable new bed and started thinking of my wonderful new life and my renewed friendship with my old best friend.
My mind wandered back to what I left. I began to wonder if he was out there somewhere looking for me. Was he upset that I left? Was he going to come after me? Was I safe here or would he seek retribution for me leaving? Did he know the shame I felt and how disgusted I was after that? Of course he did; I’m sure that’s why he did it. After crying and tossing around for a little while, I finally fell into a deep sleep.