Seeking Vengeance:Callaghan Brothers, Book 4

By: Abbie Zanders

Callaghan Brothers, Book 4



Acknowledgements


Special thanks to Aubrey Rose Cover Designs for this amazing cover!

Special thanks also go to some very special ladies – Deb, Anjee, Shelly, and Carol (and a few of you who prefer to remain unnamed – you know who you are) - for reading the first draft and making invaluable suggestions. This is a better story because of them.





Prologue




“Jesus Christ, NO!” Nick cried out. Tears filled the pale gray eyes of the fourteen year old boy, obscured by the curtains of jet black hair that fell freely about his face. He was thin for his age, but appearances were deceiving. He had more lean, sinewy muscle than his contemporaries, and he was faster than the star sprinter on his junior high track team. Organized sports was not something Nick Milligan was familiar with, though. His muscle and speed came purely from the basic human instinct to survive in a world where the weak didn’t stand a chance.

His twin sister’s eyes were moist as well, but she refused to cry. Crying was for little girls, and she was no little girl anymore. Nick had protected her as much as he could, but there was only so much he could do, no matter how much of a man he had already become.

The look of torment on his face was heartbreaking. He’d already suffered so much, hoping that by doing so she might be spared, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. While they shared the same lithe, athletic build, Nicki was blossoming into womanhood, and had drawn the attention of the one man from whom Nick had hoped to protect her above all others.

“It’s alright,” she tried to console him. Even when she was about to cross the threshold into Hell itself, she had such strength, such courage.

“It’s NOT alright!” he yelled, making her wince. The last thing they needed was to draw attention to themselves. The little back alley was located in one of the nicer sections of town, where even the garbage bins were scrubbed regularly and the pavement was kept free of debris by regular sweepings. It had afforded them a place to hunker down when they had nowhere else to go. Unlike downtown, the people who lived in the apartments around here would call the police if they suspected something amiss.

“Keep your voice down!” she hissed, reaching out for his arm. Nick took a deep breath and nodded, though he couldn’t see where it made a difference now. There was no place they could hide, not anymore.

“We can leave, Nicki,” he said desperately, unwilling and unable to accept the ugly truth. We can run away, just the two of us.”

“And go where? Do what?”

“We’ll figure something out.”

She smiled sadly, far too knowing for a girl her age. “Benny will make an example out of her.”

“Who cares?” Nick spat.

Her pale eyes shone with censure. “You should. She’s our mother.”

“Some mother,” Nick sneered, the sound tinged with hate and disgust. Charlene Milligan was their “mother” only on paper – on the birth certificates filed somewhere in the state capitol, and as their legal guardian when the assistance checks came. Not that they ever saw any of it. The clothes on their back came to them the same way everything else did – by stealing and scrounging and doing unspeakable things for them.

“At least I’ll have a warm place to sleep and a roof over my head,” she said. It was little consolation, but winter was right around the bend and they had to be practical. “Maybe they’ll even put us up in the same house.”

“You have no idea what’s going to happen to you, Nicki,” he said, his eyes haunted. But Nick did.

“You survived,” she said, lifting her chin and piercing him with those pale gray eyes so like his own. Nick turned away. He couldn’t stand the fact that she knew what he had been forced to do, the things that had been done to him, all in “bartered payment” for the money Charlene owed the local drug lord. At one time Charlene had whored herself in trade, but the years and the regular abuse hadn’t been kind to her, and she didn’t bring in as much as she used to. So she did the next best thing. She offered up her children as payment instead.

For a long time, they hadn’t even realized it was wrong. It was the only world they knew.

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