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       The Way Back To Me (Back To Me #1), p.1

           Anne Mercier
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The Way Back To Me (Back To Me #1)


  The Way Back To Me

  (Back To Me #1)

  Cameron and Olivia's Story

  International Bestselling Author

  Anne Mercier

  The Way Back To Me

  Back To Me, Book 1

  She used to be perky, fun, and full of life—everything I hated about girls and their bullshit exterior. People called her bubbly; I called her “fake-as-hell.”

  The edgy, dark, lonely girl in front of me was not the Olivia Brennan I knew from high school—far from it, actually. I knew the story—the whole town knew the story, we witnessed it all. It happened in the blink of an eye and the girl we knew was gone.

  But I refuse to watch it anymore—I can’t stand it. I’m going to fix it—fix her. It’s time I showed Olivia her way back…

  Back to the girl she used to be.

  Other Books By Anne Mercier

  The Rockstar Series

  Falling Down(#1)

  Blush (#2)

  A Very Xander Christmas (#2.5) (Free short story)

  Amplify(#3)

  Interlude(#4)

  Ballad(#5)

  Lullabye (#6)

  A Very Xander Christmas 2 (#6.5) (Free short story)

  The Truths Series

  Whispered Truths (#1)

  Back To Me Series

  The Way Back To Me

  Copyright

  The Way Back To Me

  ISBN: 978-0-9962621-5-6

  Copyright ©2016 Anne Mercier

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, without written permission from the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are products of the author's imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is purely coincidental.

  Cover Photo and Design: Sara Eirew of Sara Eirew Photography

  Rockstar Logo: Pamela Cunningham.

  The use of actors, artists, and song titles and lyrics throughout this book are done so for storytelling purposes and should in no way be seen as advertisement. Trademark names are used in an editorial fashion with no intention of infringement of the respective owner's trademark.

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or if it was not purchased for your use only, then you should return it to the seller and please purchase your own copy.

  PERSONAL NOTE: The only pirate I like is Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Morgan, which means I'd appreciate if you'd keep my books to yourself. Pirating shows a clear lack of respect for the author—me. I'd rather not meet you on bad terms, so let's not do that, let's not meet that way. Let's meet at a signing or conference instead, or let's go have a cup of coffee or a drink—maybe some of that Captain Morgan! Thank you for respecting the time and effort put into each book. I appreciate it very much.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Epilogue

  The Way Back To Me Playlist

  Looking For Me?

  Acknowledgements

  To The Readers- Without you I would be nothing. Every day I'm thankful for you.

  To The Bloggers – Thank you for everything you do. I appreciate your selflessness more than words can say.

  To Mandi Wathey – Thank you for reading this first and giving your honest feedback. You kept me going when I was plagued with doubt. Thank you, too, for your daily Man Candy posts in the Rockstar group. You give the ladies something amazing to look forward to every morning. Hugs!

  To My Sister, Shelly – Thanks for you unwavering support—and for buying me my deadline snacks. You are awesome!

  To My Mom – Who reads my books religiously—devouring them quickly and then calling me to give me her thoughts—so far it's all been praise.

  To My Dad – For your silent support and pride. Thank you for believing.

  To Harper Bentley – Thank you for telling me it's okay to be me.

  To Sapphire Knight – Thank you for always making me smile.

  To Kathi Field – Thank you for being so supportive and kind. Bless you for finding my LuLaRoe when I'm searching high and low. I'm so happy you messaged me and we became such great friends.

  To My Awesome PAs, Melissa Mendoza and Jaime S. Burns –You make my life easier in so many ways. I can never say thank you enough.

  To My Street Team – Mandi Wathey, Cindy Carlson, Melissa Steps, Dawn Stanton, Kelly Emery, Tera Chastain, Lisa Sylva, Heather Wish, and Veronica Garcia – Without you I couldn't function. You are my helpers and my promoters and my strongest supporters. I love you guys.

  To Cassy Roop of Pink Ink Designs – Thanks for being so accommodating and kind. I'm so happy to have you making my books so beautiful! You're amazing!

  To Sara Eirew – Photographer and cover designer extraordinaire – You are amazing. Thank you for putting up with my quirkiness and pickiness.

  Dedication

  To anyone out there who's ever loved and lost.

  Every day is a struggle.

  Every day is a blessing.

  Cherish every moment.

  "The trouble is, you think you have time."

  Buddha

  CHAPTER 1

  "Grief is the price we pay for love."

  -Queen Elizabeth the Second

  Olivia

  It's so peaceful here. The birds chirping. The sun shining. The squirrels running around looking for chestnuts that have fallen off the old tree on the property line. If I lift my eyes, I can just see the edges of the leaves blowing in the wind. Lifting my head takes too much work. I don't even raise myself up when I drink from the bottle in my hand—and because I don't, the tequila runs down the side of my face and wets the neckline of my dress. My black dress. The dress I wore when they put them all in the ground—when they put my Danny in the ground.

  I'd waited. I went home and waited. After an hour, I came back. I don't want to be anywhere else. Here, I feel close to him. The sun's been shining all day reminding me how easily the world around me moves along. But I don't. I can't. So I lay here unsure as to how long I've been out here. Minutes? Hours? I don't care and the alcohol is making it even easier not to.

  I turn and stare at the etched words on the smooth marble surface. The pain in my heart is unbearable. I reach out to trace the letters, my breath coming faster with each one. Panic sets in as I admit to myself what I've been unable to: I am alone. I'm still feeling. This is unacceptable.

  I take another gulp of tequila, noting it's over half gone and I'm still not numb enough, so I take another, the burn warming my belly.

  I wake to the feel of cool raindrops falling from the sky, soaking my clothes and hair. I'm still drunk and I can barely keep my eyes open despite the fact that I'm shivering.


  Strong arms lift me from the ground. I clumsily resist, swatting at whoever it is disturbing my serenity.

  "Shh. You're safe, Kitten. I've got you," a masculine voice says. It's familiar but I can't place the owner. It's the same voice that carried me home from the dock two days ago, and the beach two days before that where I lay alone in my grief—before my friends were laid to rest here. Today I had them.

  The umbrella deflects the drops of rain and I want to feel them. I need to feel them.

  "Don't want your umbrella," I say like a bratty toddler.

  "Then we'll get wet when I carry you home," the voice says.

  "Don't wanna go home," I complain.

  "You can't keep doing this to yourself, Livvy," he whispers.

  A traitorous tear slips from my eye, blending in with the raindrops cascading down my face. I wrap my arms around his neck when he starts walking.

  "I have nothing left," I whisper.

  He sighs. "You have a whole hell of a lot left. You need to look past your pain and try to live."

  I shake my head.

  "This isn't doing you any good. You're not only making yourself sick, but your mom too. She and your dad are so worried they've got the whole town looking for you," the voice tells me softly.

  "Great." I'll continue to be the topic of everyone's gossip. Can't they mind their own damn business and just leave me to grieve?

  "You need to stop this," he tells me again.

  "They're all gone," I admit, showing this faceless man who's been my unidentified savior what hurts the most.

  "They are," he admits with a nod, the stubble on his jawline rubbing against my forehead. "But you're here. You're alive."

  "I don't want to be."

  He nods again and his arms tighten around me as he continues to walk steadily toward what I assume is my house. "I get that. But do you want to put your mother through the kind of pain you're feeling right now?"

  His soft question belies the harshness it carries with it. That's not what I want. I don't want to hurt my mom. I just want this pain to go away.

  He walks up the steps and the front door to my house opens. I can smell homemade apple pie and the lemon soap my mom likes to use to clean.

  "Where did you find her?" my dad asks as my mom touches my forehead. I keep my eyes closed. I don't want to see the pity or anguish on her face. I've seen it enough.

  "The cemetery," my savior confesses. "Tequila was her drink of choice today."

  Traitor.

  "Oh, Liv," my mom agonizes. I can hear the quiver in her voice. She's about to cry again.

  "I'm fine," I slur while flopping an arm out to show them, only to slap myself in the head. Yeah, I showed them.

  I take a deep breath in then let it out.

  I bury my nose into his hard chest, hiding. My savior smells like Speed Stick and something woodsy. I like it so I breathe it in again, relaxing into him. I should really try to see who he is, this faceless man who's been carrying me around town.

  "Let's get her out of those wet clothes," my mom suggests after clearing the tears from her voice. She does that a lot.

  "I'll carry her in for you, Mrs. Brennan."

  "That would be wonderful. Thank you…"

  She says his name, but I miss it when I hear a buzzing and I get light-headed. Oh man. I need to throw up. I squirm in his arms.

  "Be still, Kitten."

  "Bushes... puke."

  He turns around and sets me down on the porch. As soon as he does, I hang my top half over the railing and vomit up the tequila. It tastes even more disgusting coming up than it did going down. Tequila is not my friend right now. Then again, tequila is never anyone's friend.

  "Oh God," I whine just before I puke some more.

  "Jesus, how much did you drink?" my dad asks. I don't think he really wants an answer and I couldn't give him one if I wanted to. Not when everything I drank today is squeezing my insides so hard and spewing out my mouth into the bushes. It's coming out so hard I can't catch my breath.

  I gasp for air when I get a reprieve.

  "That's rank," mysterious guy says. I turn to look at him but my vision's blurred by the tears filling my eyes from vomiting.

  "Thanks for holding my hair," I whisper, my throat now raw.

  "Let's not make it a habit." With that, he leaves.

  ***

  After that I showered, drank the tea my mom forced me to drink, threw up a couple more times, then went to bed and passed out. I've barely moved since. Not only because I can have quiet here but I'd overdone it that day at the cemetery and I hurt like a mofo—my leg, my rib, my cuts.

  My mom's afraid I'm going to OD or something so she only gives me the dose of pain medicine prescribed and takes the bottle with her. Same with the ibuprofen. It's tempting. But when I think back to what mystery guy said, I know I can't.

  "She really needs to get up. She's been in that bed for two weeks, Trish," my dad says to my mom. They're right outside my door again. I sigh softly.

  I get up to shower…when I can't stand the smell of myself anymore, and to use the restroom. I've been out of bed, but according to my dad that doesn't count.

  "Leave her be, Greg. She's not ready yet."

  "She's never going to be ready. No one's ever ready for what she has to face."

  Mom sniffles and I know she's crying again. I'm so tired of hearing her cry. There's no reason for her to cry—not because of me. I lived. I'm here.

  I wish I could cry but I can't. I haven’t cried since I woke up in the hospital. I didn't cry from the pain of my fractured and broken bones. I didn't cry at the funeral when I stared down at the lifeless body of my soulmate—the body lying there was unfamiliar—not at all my Danny. I didn't cry while I struggled on crutches with a fractured rib over the uneven lawn, past all the weathered gravestones signifying just how final death really is. I didn't cry when I lost it at the people—strangers—who didn't know my friends and my love by more than a passing hello stood there crying and carrying on. They didn't know their favorite color, their favorite food. They didn't know that Danny chewed spearmint gum. They didn’t know that Simon kept us laughing. They didn't know Cassidy was our support system. They didn't know that Phil wasn't really as shallow as he led everyone to believe. They. Just. Didn't. Know. They didn't have a right to cry for people they didn't know—people who weren't important enough for them while they were alive.

  And me? I just couldn't cry. I didn't even cry when my parents took me home and I stared at the corkboard filled with photos of me with my friends, me and the love of my life holding one another and laughing—a life that no longer exists. I stared at it for the hour I waited for the cemetery workers to cover the graves of those I love most. Then I went to them with my tequila.

  My eyes are locked on that corkboard now and I can only stare mutely.

  I'm numb.

  I don't want to feel. I don't want to face a future alone, so I stay in bed and sleep. Sleep is the only friend I have left.

  Sleep embraces me and holds me tight, blocking out the pain and grief that would otherwise fill my shattered heart. Sleep enfolds me in a cocoon of nothingness, and nothingness is what I crave.

  Watching Simon take his last breath is something I'll never forget. Seeing what I saw in the destruction of the accident. I don't want to see it but it comes to me in dreams and in wakefulness.

  I don't want to think. I don't want to feel. I don't want to breathe. I don't want to exist. What's the point when my future is gone?

  My door opens slowly, a trail of light illuminating the floor.

  "Olivia, honey? I need to change your bandages," my mom tells me and I carefully roll to my back when she approaches with the bowl of warm water and washcloth I'm now well acquainted with.

  She removes the bandages and Band-Aids.

  "They're healing so well," mom whispers. It's the same thing she said the day before, and the day before that. "There's no infection and some of the stitches are almost dissolved
already." She washes each wound meticulously before getting out the ointment the doctor prescribed and coats each wound with it. I roll to my stomach and she treats my back with the same care, and then my feet.

  Her gaze flits over to mine and she gives me a small smile. "You were pretty lucky."

  Lucky? Is she kidding? "How do you figure?"

  "You won't have any permanent scarring. After flying through the windshield as you did, it's a miracle."

  "It wasn't a miracle, it was plastic surgery. And even if it was a miracle, God could have kept his it and scarred my face to hell if only he'd have kept at least one of them alive!" I shout, sitting up so quickly my ribs protest. I ignore the pain—no, I welcome it.

  "Olivia!" my mother exclaims, shocked.

  "It's true! He could have scarred my face, my entire fucking body if He'd have kept at least one of them alive. Why did He have to take them all? Why?" I rage.

  She shakes her head, her hand covering her mouth.

  "Why do you continue to go to church? Is it because I survived? One out of five, mom. One. Out. Of. Five. That's not something I'm grateful for at all!" I scream.

  My dad comes into the room. "What's going on?"

  "Olivia's just upset, Mark."

  "I can see that," he says, "but what's with the hollering and the swearing?"

  I give him the "are you kidding me" look.

  My dad gives me a look back. "You don't use language like that, Liv. What—"

  "What does it matter, dad? Cassidy was a saint and He still let her die. Why bother?" I ask, furious, so damn mad I begin to sweat.

  "Don't talk like that!" he demands.

  "Fuck, fuck, fuck! Shit damn ass bitch!" I shout.

  "Olivia Alison Brennan! You will not use that language in this house! Do you understand me?" my dad commands, his voice booming in my bedroom.

 
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