Home > These Dead Promises (Darling Hill Duet #2)

These Dead Promises (Darling Hill Duet #2)
Author: L A Cotton

 

DARLING HILL

 

 

These Dark Hearts

A Darling Hill Prequel

 

 

* * *

 

These Dirty Lies

A Darling Hill Duet: Book One

 

 

* * *

 

These Dead Promises

A Darling Hill Duet: Book Two

 

 

Harleigh


“So, girls,” Michael said across the table. “What did you both get up to yesterday?”

Celeste shot me a startled look, clearing her throat and grabbing her glass of water.

“Uh, we… Miles… and—”

“Didn’t you say you were hanging out with Mulligan and Miller?” A smug smirk played on Max’s face, and I tightened my grip on my fork a little, wishing I could stab it in his hand.

“Uh, yes. Yeah. We uh… we stayed over at Miles’s.”

“You did, huh?” Michael frowned. “Well I hope you slept in one of the guest rooms, Celeste.”

“Daddy!” Her cheeks flamed as she dipped her eyes and focused on her plate.

“I always did like Miles,” Sabrina said, helping herself to another glass of wine. “But he’s a little bit… what’s the word… dimwitted.”

“Mom.” Celeste balked, her eyes snapping to her mom. “Miles isn’t dimwitted. He’s… nice.”

“Nice, yes. But his parents are concerned he won’t get the grades required for Columbia.”

“I’ve already told you, I’m not sure I want to even apply to Columbia.”

“Now, sweetheart, don’t be so hasty.” Michael sat back in his chair, surveying the three of us. His children. Two he wanted. One he didn’t.

When Celeste had woken me earlier, informing me they were back from their trip and wanted us to eat together, I’d almost laughed in her face. We rarely ate together. Not after those early days, when I’d first arrived and they’d tried to coax me out of my room for dinner.

Since I’d returned from Albany Hills, I could count on one hand how many times we’d eaten as a family. So color me suspicious that they chose today of all days.

Besides, the last thing I wanted to do was sit around and play happy family knowing Michael had made sure to drive a wedge so deep between me and Nix that there was no coming back from it.

My eyes flickered to Max and his smirk grew, only fueling the fire in my chest. “You and Miller are getting close, huh?”

I narrowed my eyes, wondering where the hell he was going with this. It was a game, that much I knew. But what was his end goal?

And why hadn’t he told his parents yet of his suspicions about me and Nix?

“Harleigh,” Michael said, and I blinked over at him. “Is that true?”

“I… we’re friends.” My brows crinkled, anger pulsing inside me, making it difficult to concentrate.

“After our conversation, I got the distinct impression you weren’t.”

“It probably isn’t a good idea for the two of you to—”

“Sabrina.” My father shook his head, patting her hand.

“At least she’s hooking up with Miller and not that kid from across the reservoir. What’s his name again? Wild? Wiler? Wilder.” Max grinned triumphantly. “That’s the one, Phoenix Wilder.” He sat back as if he’d pulled the pin on a grenade and intended on watching it detonate.

A ripple went through the room as Celeste stared wide-eyed at me and I glared at Max. I didn’t think I’d ever hated anyone more than I hated him in that moment. And for someone who harbored a lot of hatred in her heart, that was saying something.

Michael cleared his throat, muttering, “Max, that’s enough”

“Sorry, Dad. I know you don’t like talking about—”

He slammed his hand down, making the glassware clatter. “I said, that’s enough.”

“Harleigh knows better, don’t you?” Sabrina said, concern and something akin to disgust glittering in her eyes. “She understands that she left that life behind when she came here.”

My heart sank.

They would never accept Nix.

They would never accept me hanging around in The Row and clinging onto my past.

Michael watched me, his eyes boring into mine. He didn’t say anything, but that only made it worse. The tension crackling around us.

Harleigh?” Sabrina repeated, and I blinked over at her.

“Y-yes.”

It wasn’t an answer to her question, but she read it as one, and I didn’t correct her.

“Good.” She gave me a curt, dismissive nod, as if that was that. As if it wasn’t worth talking about because it wasn’t even possible that I would ever try to rebuild bridges with Nix or anyone from my past now that I lived here. I had this nice shiny life in Old Darling Hill. What more could I possibly need?

My skin felt too tight, the air too thin as I shifted uncomfortably in my chair. I knew dinner with them was a bad idea.

Anger bubbled inside me: hot, fiery anger. I was burning up, sweat trickling down my spine as I sat there and tried to rein in my emotions.

Celeste tried to catch my attention, but I ignored her, my gaze wholly fixed on Michael.

My father.

The man who had cast me and Mom aside like we were nothing more than dirt on his shoe. I still didn’t understand his true motivation for coming for me that day. Did he think it would place him as my savior? Or was it years of guilt that had brought him to the police station that morning?

Time might have smoothed the cracks, eased some of that betrayal. But now I knew the truth—now I knew he was responsible for keeping Nix away from me—there would be no forgiveness. It had only reaffirmed what in my heart I knew to be true. Michael Rowe was a cold, selfish, heartless man.

And one day, I would find a way to ruin his perfect life, the way he’d ruined mine.

 

 

“Oh my God,” Celeste whispered as we reached the roof terrace. “That was…”

“Yeah.” A heavy sigh left my lips as I flopped down into the rattan egg chair. Celeste sat on the small cube and gave me a weak smile.

“What are you going to do? About… you know.”

“I don’t know.” I clutched my cell phone, staring at the blank screen. Nix had already texted me. Twice to be exact. He wanted to see me tonight. But Max knew.

Somehow Max knew.

And I didn’t doubt he was going to lord it over me and use it to his own ends.

My cell vibrated, startling me, and sending my heart into a downward spiral.

“Is it…?” My eyes collided with Celeste’s and I nodded. “Well,” she urged. “What does it say?”

I read Nix’s text, blood roaring between my ears. “Can I see you tonight?”

“Yes. Say yes.”

“I-I can’t.”

“What?” She frowned. “Of course you can.”

“It’s too risky. I need to think…” I needed to catch my breath.

Last night had been like all my dreams come true. Being with Nix, feeling his weight on top of me, him moving inside me… I would never forget how amazing it felt. But if Max knew, if he had proof and told Michael, I couldn’t risk it. Not yet.

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