Her All Along - I’d craved an ending for as long as I could remember. An ending to the crippling hurt, the blinding rage, and this sense of confusion and loss. I didn’t know who I was. I had no identity. I just hated.
Until her.
With one small flame after another, she lit up my path toward redemption and showed me a life worth living. It was how our love story began—without fanfare. Just a flicker in the dark.

 

Her All Along by Cara Dee Book Chapter One

 

Avery Becker

I could be the guy who blew his brains out to the soft notes of “God Only Knows,” a song that’d played on repeat in my head on and off for years. A song that mocked me wherever I went. A song I’d heard when I was little and hiding in a closet with my brother.

“Do it,” I whispered.

I sucked in a breath and pressed the barrel to my temple.

Do it, do it, do it.

My reflection in the bathroom mirror caused my hand to tremble, and I promptly screwed my eyes shut. This could all be over if I only had the balls to pull the trigger. History would be wiped clean. I’d feel no more hatred. I would be gone. Erased. Would I find peace? Or would I just…fade into nothingness?

Do it, do it, do it.

A rushing sound thundered in my ears. My throat closed up. Fuck—it would be over. Wasn’t that what I’d craved for as long as I could remember? The rage wasn’t even the worst of it. This sense of confusion and loss, being lost, constantly wondering, was what I couldn’t live with. I didn’t fucking understand myself. I didn’t know who I was other than a box of crippling emotions. I had no identity. I was hatred personified, and hatred was ugly. Vile.

I was vile.

Do it.

I could put a stop to the song, permanently.

“You coward.” My eyes burned behind closed lids. The memory of my mother telling me what a coward I was rolled through my mind—as if I needed the reminder. “It would be over.” I tensed up as I brushed my finger over the trigger. “Do it.” You’re almost there.

But what if…

A strangled sound escaped me, and a tear rolled down my cheek.

“Avery?” Two taps on the door followed my soon-to-be-ex-wife’s voice. “Are you almost done? I have to shower.”

The air was knocked out of my lungs in defeat. Lowering my hand, I opened my eyes again and stared at my pathetic reflection, my chest heaving. What was wrong with me? I clenched my jaw. Hating, hating, hating. I felt like I’d run a marathon.

“Yeah.” Exhaustion took over. Today wasn’t the day I killed myself. “Be right out.” The revolver went back into the cupboard under the sink. It was time to get ready. A new day. We were meeting with our divorce lawyers.

 
The blows kept on fucking coming. I dodged left, only to get a knee in the gut. Then I ducked right, and he was on me like a freight train. Jesus. I coughed, pain radiating from my rib cage.

“Come on.” Darius grinned.

Wiping my forehead, I jumped up again and charged. Sweat poured down and caused my beater to stick to my skin.

I welcomed each punch and did everything I could to return them.

I succeeded sometimes.

He’d long since given up on teaching me actual rules and styles. I suspected since he was so good at boxing, he didn’t worry because he could take me without much effort. And so, he let me come at him with rage fueling me and a complete disregard for how it was done.

To be fair, he didn’t play by the rules with me either.

“Motherfucker.” He chuckled through a groan when I managed to jab him twice in the face. “You’re a good brawler, I’ll give ya that. Bad day?”

“You could say that.”

I gnashed my teeth.

I hissed and flew back, Darius’s gloved hand splitting my bottom lip open.

“I have work tomorrow,” I barked. Explaining a busted lip wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

He laughed, out of breath, and we took a break to get some water. “You’re something else, Ave. You’re shit at technique, but damn, you keep getting up.”

I leaned back against the ropes of the boxing ring and reached for my towel. I wasn’t bleeding too much.

When you’d been born on a battlefield, suffering was as natural as breathing. Darius’s uppercut, no matter how hard he delivered it, was nothing.

 
Half an hour later, Darius and I were sweating buckets in the sauna.

“Shouldn’t you be off work for the semester soon?” he asked.

“Friday’s the last day.” I scrubbed my hands over my face, willing the tension of the day to just leave me already.

This summer was going to be interesting. It was the first year I didn’t have summer school. I’d have two months off before I returned, and once again, I was struck with disbelief at the sheer stupidity of kids today. Especially the privileged little shits I taught.

“You have a birthday coming up,” Darius stated.

I snorted softly and reached for my water. “That was last week.”

Twenty-eight was just another number. Another year I didn’t spend the day with my brother.

“Damn,” Darius muttered. “I knew it was around the end of the semester…”

I mustered a smirk and clapped him on the shoulder. “You didn’t miss anything.”

He wasn’t wholly satisfied with that. “We should go out this weekend. I need to get shit-faced before I head out again.”

Ah. I didn’t pry. He said he was a risk assessment consultant in the private sector, and judging by the scars and wounds he brought home after assignments, he didn’t stop at merely assessing the risks.

“Stay safe, buddy,” I settled for saying these days. “We’ll hit up the bar on Friday. First round’s on me.” We always went to the same place at the marina. “Ask Jake to join us. He ships out soon too, doesn’t he?”

Darius came from a big family of five brothers and two sisters, and three of the guys were involved with the military, Darius included. He might say he was a risk assessment consultant, but… Then there was his eldest brother, Jake, who was in the Army. Ryan, a year younger than Darius, was a Marine currently deployed in Iraq.

Darius nodded with a dip of his chin. “I’ll ask him.”

“Where’s he off to this time?”

“Afghanistan again.”

I’d never understand that level of care. I’d cared about a single person to the extent where I’d take a bullet for him, but I couldn’t say I felt the same way about our country. I hadn’t lost my footing; I’d never had it. I didn’t feel patriotic, I didn’t have a cause to fight for, I…just didn’t care. But it did bother me to have a friend of mine risking his life for…what? People like me?

What a fucking waste.

Jake was such an optimist too. It was his faith in humanity that’d eventually pushed Darius and me closer as friends. He and I shared similar views on the world.

“I should probably head home.” I glanced at the door, reluctant enough that Darius picked up on it.

“Everything okay?” he asked. “How’s the divorce coming along?”

“Swell,” I drawled. “There’s nothing like sitting there and seeing your wife ticking off all the times you cheated on her on her fingers.”

Darius shook his head. “So, she’s taking you to the cleaners now, eh?”

I shrugged. There wasn’t that much to take, but I was ready to start over with nothing. “Thank fuck we never had kids. I’d be paying alimony till I died.”

The only thing that made me bitter about the divorce was that I’d no longer be able to hurt her. After everything she’d done to me… She’d walk away. She’d start fresh, while I was stuck here dealing with the scars she’d given me. Oh, she thought I was bad for cheating on her? I wouldn’t have done that if she hadn’t betrayed me in the first place. Fucking whore.

Screw it. We weren’t divorced yet. There was still some pain I could inflict.

 
Thursday was a good day to fuck a student in the bed I shared with my wife.

“Oh my God,” Amber moaned. “Harder!”

She was really thankful for the C+ I’d given her. Tomorrow, she’d graduate high school and fuck off from our little town.

Good riddance.

She was a dumb little bitch who’d had to take her sophomore year twice, but she took my cock well enough.

I gripped her hips tighter but slowed down a bit. Angie was due home any minute, and I wanted to blow my load in Amber’s pussy right around the time the door opened downstairs.

“Please, Avery,” Amber begged.

“Don’t use my fucking name,” I told her. I ground into her and reached under her middle, then slipped a hand between her legs.

She gasped as I rubbed her clit, and she asked if she could lie on her back.

“No.” I didn’t fuck missionary. I didn’t wanna see their faces.

More than that, I didn’t want them to see me once I’d shed my button-down, and I was only wearing my undershirt now.

After a few more minutes, I finally heard a car pulling in. The sound drove a shit-ton of lust into me, and I let go. I reveled in the physical pleasure and fucked the girl harder. Like she wanted me to.

I groaned.

I peered down to see my cock disappear in and out of her wet pussy. If I’d succumbed to her advances sooner, maybe I would’ve been fucking her up the ass by now. Something to consider with the next student who hit on me by giggling and saying they were eighteen now. Nineteen, in this girl’s case. Since she was an idiot who’d been held back.

“I’m so close,” she whimpered.

I don’t care.

I sucked in a breath, getting close too, and swiped the pad of my thumb over her asshole.

As I heard the familiar sound of Angie’s keys hitting the glass bowl in the hallway, I sped up and chased my orgasm. With a few seductive strokes on the girl’s clit, I had her crying out her climax, and I followed a beat later.

Fuck.

I shuddered and rocked deeper, spilling into the condom in several bursts.

“Avery!” Angie yelled up the stairs.

“Oh my God,” Amber breathed. She quickly fell forward on the mattress, only to roll off the bed and scramble for her clothes.

The panic in her eyes was almost funny.

I took my sweet-ass time instead. By the time Angie had reached the second floor and could see me in our bedroom, I was pulling the condom off my cock and throwing it in the wastebasket by my nightstand.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Angie seethed and threw me a lethal glare, which she promptly slid to Amber. “Get out!”

I kept my mouth shut as Amber frantically put on some clothes and rushed out of the room, and then I reached for my jeans on the floor and stepped into them.

“You make me sick,” Angie spat.

“Feeling’s mutual, darling.” I zipped up carefully and let out a breath. “Damn, she was tight.”

She hadn’t been. How could she be, when she’d fucked her way through the lacrosse team.

Tears of rage burned in Angie’s eyes. “You don’t even try to hide it.”

I offered her a smile. “Go fuck yourself.”

Sometimes, I wanted to say a lot more. Sometimes, I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to understand why she’d betrayed me the way she had, but then I’d be giving her the satisfaction of knowing she’d ruined me.

“You’re evil, Avery. I sincerely believe that now. I haven’t done anything to deserve this. You’re just plain rotten—inside and out. God, I fucking hate you. I can’t wait till my apartment’s ready.”

That goddamn soundtrack restarted in my brain.

God only knows…

“I think you hate yourself more than you can hate me.” I walked toward her slowly. “You hate yourself because you’re still in love with me.” Coming to a stop right in front of her, I met her fiery glare, so full of anger and heartbreak, and I cupped her cheek gingerly. “You hate that I can play with you like this.” I dipped down and dropped a soft kiss to her cheek. She let out a choked cry and shook her head. “Don’t deny it, darling. You want me so fucking much, and you can’t stand it.” I exhaled and shifted a hand between her legs. “Feel what I’m doing? Seconds after I fucked someone else, you let me touch you.”

“I hate you, Avery,” she cried.

“I know you do.” I kissed her cautiously on the lips and decided to see how far I could go. “But a part of you is desperate to hear me say how much I love you.” I caused her to go rigid when I unbuttoned her dress pants, but she didn’t stop me. “You want to hear how special you are. That you’re the love of my life.” There we go. As I flicked the tip of my tongue against her upper lip, I slid my hand down her pants and gently cupped her pussy. “You want to be my only one.” Carefully pushing her panties aside, I used my middle finger to tease the spot over her clit. “I could probably get you to suck my cock right now—which was just inside another girl.”

Finally, she broke down. She shoved me away, and my back hit the doorframe. Then she righted her clothes and sobbed her heart out on the way to the bathroom.

And still, whatever she felt right now didn’t come close to how I felt. How she had made me feel.

I’d fucking begged her to stop.

She’d gone behind my back anyway, certain that she was right. Certain that I would, what, thank her in the end?

God only knows…