Traded(103)

By: Rebecca Brooke



As my body went down in fire quicker than I ever thought possible, I cried out, repeating his name over and over until I was hoarse. Ashton followed almost immediately, his breath coming in sharp pants.

There was a thud as his head hit the door behind me. Slowly, we regained our strength and I unhooked my legs from around his waist, allowing him to set my feet back on the floor.

Ashton stared into my eyes, lightly caressing the bruise that was most likely forming right beneath my eye. “Elena, I love you so much. You are my whole world.”

Tears blurred my vision and I couldn’t stop them from falling. “I love you too. Thank you for saving me.”

“I didn’t save you. You saved yourself.”

And for the first time in my entire life, I felt at peace. I had a wonderful man who loved me and who showed me how true love should be. He taught me to stand on my own two feet and introduced me to a world of pleasure I’d never known before.

I was pretty sure life couldn’t get any better.





EPILOGUE





Ashton




Five weeks had passed since the night Elena was forced to kill her ex-husband to save her own life, and it was taking time for her mind to heal. After a thorough investigation, the police declared it self-defense, but it was hard to get Elena to see that at first. Nightmares plagued her, making her restless and tired. I did my best to wear her out each night. Exhausting her so she had no option but to sleep.

But none of it stopped her from going to the theater each night, performing her best. She proved to me that you can do anything you put your mind to.

It gave me the courage to talk to my dad about his business. Elena made me realize that it was better for me to collect the debts than Miller or my dad. Apparently, I was more sympathetic. Either way, I agreed to collect debts only. The loans had to be taken out with them.

It was her final performance. She’d told me that, while she was sad to see it end, she was excited to keep increasing her experience in the theater world. Alan said she could work on any show he had. That brought a smile to her face so large I wanted to sponsor a show for him just to see it again.

The lights dimmed and I sat and waited for my favorite part of the play. The curtains opened and her voice took over. It was beautiful and soothing. Then she entered the stage and all thoughts of the rest of the show fled my mind.

The gorgeous vixen standing on stage was the woman of my dreams. We might have got here through some fucked up circumstances, but I wouldn’t trade a moment with her. More than anything, I wanted her to be my wife. Someday she’d be ready, and when she was, I’d be there waiting to slip a ring on her finger.

Who would have guessed when I walked into the stadium that night, that I wouldn’t just be trading for money, but for the rest of my life.





ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS



Writing Traded was a new experience for me. Taking on a subject like domestic abuse was harder than I expected. Not only for the difficulty of writing, but the emotional experience that comes with it. So many times I wanted to yell at Elena and I had to remind myself of all she’d been through. All of that abuse shaped her into the woman she was, but she rose above it, proving that we all deserve to be treated like a princess. Never settle for less.



Sommer and Lauren, this cover is beyond anything I ever imagined. From the beauty of the picture to the way the design represents Elena and Ashton’s story. Thank you for bringing my vision to life.



Writing about something outside of my comfort zone took so much, but with a story like this research can only get you so far. Mecca, I can’t thank you enough for your expertise. You helped me to understand everything Elena had gone through.



Kelley, Christine, and Miranda, thank you for all of your beta notes. Each set helps me to improve my writing bit by bit. I also must thank you for spreading the word about my books and introducing me to new readers.



As always, Brandy, thank you for listening and letting me bounce ideas off of you. Just talking it out helps me every time I get stuck. Thank you for pushing me and helping me to get this story done.



Ryn, I’ve missed you. You take my words and make them pretty. Let’s just say, punctuation is not my friend. You helped me to take Traded to a whole new level. Thank you so much for everything.

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