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Living On A Dare (Cheap Thrills #2)
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Every little girl dreams of a big white wedding with their knight in shining armor. They’d have 2.5 kids, a beautiful house, birds flying around with crowns made of flowers, and live happily ever after. None of us ever dreamed of being divorced with a baby because we discovered that the knight was an evil ogre when we came home from a prenatal appointment and caught him in bed with another woman. Yet, here I was, twenty-six, a single mom, trying to find a magic spell to keep the ogre out of my life.
My sister Tabitha’s arrival on the day I found him cheating brought something I needed into my life – someone who acted and loved like a real family member. I hadn’t even known she existed until that ancestry DNA testing gift, but it felt like I’d known her my whole life.
Now I wanted my dream, but I wanted to have a fresh start and be me for the first time in years. I wanted to live my best life with my daughter, laugh every day… basically I wanted the dream without the knight.
Then, my soon to be brother-in-law’s best friend dares me to go out on a date with him, and it’s not a dare I can say no to.
I’ve been a tattoo artist for years. I’ve met great people, weird people, pain’s in the ass, you name it, but I’ve never met anyone like Jose.
We’re proof that opposites attract, but every time I ask her out she keeps saying no. So, I came up with a plan, a plan based on handing out dares knowing she wouldn’t say no to them. Why? Because she’s the most stubborn woman in the world.
When that still wasn’t enough, I went ahead and submitted a photograph of the two of us into a competition in an ink magazine. Guess what – it won, so it’s now on billboards all over the country and she can’t get away from me.
So now we’re living on a dare.
And I dare Jose to say no.
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What we’ve been through shapes us, right? So, people could be forgiven for thinking that what I’d gone through with my ex-husband had done that. They could even be forgiven for thinking the same about my mom’s parenting skills. It wasn’t true though, not one bit of it.
Catching my ex-husband in bed with the town slut, Rita, hadn’t been a great experience. During the court case against him, it had been revealed that she was just the last vagina on a long, long, list of them as they’d questioned all of his ‘associates’ to see if there was anyone else involved in his drugs operations. So many women had admitted to having an affair with him that, even though I’d had routine tests done during my pregnancy, I’d gone ahead and gotten more carried out to make sure he definitely hadn’t given me any sexually transmitted diseases. That was not a good moment for me because they could easily have been passed onto my daughter Olivia when I gave birth to her. On top of that pile of awesomesauce was the document I’d received from him about our daughter shortly after his court case for his many crimes, signing over all parental rights to her. The letter that accompanied it was the cherry on top of it all, though. In the diatribe of written bullshit, he’d told me to take ‘it’ and do whatever I wanted, because he’d never wanted Olivia in the first place. In fact, he didn’t even want to be on her birth certificate, and didn’t give a shit what I ended up doing with ‘it’. I’d felt sick to my stomach reading the thing. I was devastated for my daughter that her father didn’t see and appreciate the magical human that he’d helped to create, but I’d also felt guilty for choosing such a piece of shit for her father. I’d put up with the years of abuse and lies from him – ‘accidental’ hits, using my money like it was water, locking me in rooms so I wouldn’t go out unless it was to earn money… I’d put up with so much that people didn’t know about. So, yeah, I could excuse them for thinking I’d be scarred emotionally and mentally because of him, but I wasn’t. Larry White’s actions were on him, not me. If I was to hold on to them and use them in my journey through life, I was continuing to give him control over me, continuing to bend to him, and I’d be doing my daughter a huge disservice.
The same went for my mom and how she raised me. Wylda Harrison was the ultimate flower power woman, the epitome of the Age of Aquarius (and not the astrological definition for it). She wasn’t abusive, she was just selfish and lived life moving from one man to another, seducing my boyfriend’s when I was a teenager, and holding wild parties. To sum it up, she put men first. I wouldn’t call her a misogynist, but she’d always been of the mind that men were the priority, and without one a woman is nothing. We’d moved all over the country when I was growing up because of problems with men; from Chicago, to Ohio, to Kentucky, to Arkansas, and then onto Alabama for my last two years of high school. I’d moved out the day I graduated and had gone to college at the University of North Alabama in Florence, almost four hours away from where Wylda lived in Auburn. That’s where I’d met Larry, and we’d moved to Texas after I graduated because his parents had lived here before they died.
When I’d kicked Larry out of my house after I’d found him with Rita – and as she was hitting me – he’d called her to complain about it. Mom had called me as they were both being arrested and told me he should be allowed to take valuable items from our home so he wasn’t left with nothing, and to even give him the house and find something to rent on my own. She knew I was the one working every day, the only one bringing in money and paying the rent to begin with, but to her that was ok because men were ‘different’ to women. It was our duty to do that for them. Him cheating was just Larry feeling left out because I was pregnant, and he needed time to adjust to not being the center of my attention. That way of living wasn’t for me, so I’d stuck to my guns and closed that door.
Again, I wasn’t taking on her problems and whatever else were her shortcomings as my own. I was a woman with a strong mind who had dreams about how life was going to be for me and my daughter, and whatever problems I’d encountered that could have shaped me mentally and emotionally and deterred me from that path were not my issues, and they had no place in my life. The final example of this was my father, the man whose DNA mixed with Wylda Harrison’s and created Josephine Harrison (obviously, but it sounds like a better argument if I phrase it that way). Mom only had one night with him, one fueled by alcohol – and whatever else – that led to sex, a condom breaking, and me being conceived. She didn’t have a name for him, couldn’t remember what he looked like, there was absolutely nothing to go on. If it hadn’t been for Larry buying me a DNA kit for my birthday which led to me finding my sister Tabby, I wouldn’t have had anyone when I needed support the most. I could be a crying, bitter, angry woman who trusted no one, and who carried all the bad things that had happened to her as her shield, stopping anyone and everyone from getting close to her, but that wasn’t going to be my story, hell no. Part of my strength was thanks to my daughter, part of it was thanks to my sister, and part of it was down to me, and I was grateful for all of it. So, really, I thanked Larry for being the selfish loser that he was, I thanked Wylda for her wandering vagina, and I thanked my father for creating me and Tabby, because she was the most beautiful human being I’d ever met. Without all three of them, I wouldn’t have her in my life, and without Larry, I wouldn’t have Liv. Even though she’d only been in my life for just over eleven months, my half-sister knew me better than anyone. As you can see, my ex-husband was an asshole of the highest order, and he’d given the DNA kit to me as a joke but it had backfired on him in so many ways. She’d come into my life two days after she’d lost her mom to cancer, and months later had moved to Piersville, where I lived. I know a lot of people would be wary, bitter, maybe even angry in our shoes, but when we’d spoken on the phone it had been like finding a missing piece of myself. I’d listened to her cry before and after her mom’s funeral, I’d listened to her do it again as she sorted out her mother’s belongings and struggled to give stuff her mom had worn and touched to Goodwill. I’d heard her take a shaky breath and start making plans for her life without the one person she’d always had holding her hand, and I’d proudly become the person who took over that job. In return, she’d become the person to get me through Larry’s infidelity, to stop the beating I was getting as I lay on the floor trying to protect my stomach from the hits. Hell, she’d even used her bra to restrain Rita, after hitting her repeatedly with the breast pump that I’d been trying to figure out before I’d gone for my prenatal appointment. She’d gotten me through it all with her unending strength and love for life and had been there to hold my hand when I gave birth to my daughter. She got me, she understood me, she literally was the piece I didn’t know I was missing about myself.