Unforgivably Broken (The Broken Series Book Two)

By: Maegan Abel

I don’t know how that tiny part of me knew that something was wrong before the text came through.

But I did.

And as I round the corner, the harsh reality hits me with the heat of the flames. I’m running, but I don’t even remember stopping the car. There’s a crowd nearby, blocking my way. Probably the neighbors, but I don’t really see them. I don’t even slow as I rush toward the house.

There’s yelling, someone pulling me, grabbing at my arm, but I wrench free, feeling so much heat I can’t breathe. I cough, barely able to see through the thick, black smoke that surrounds me.

I’m so close.

“You can’t go in there!” a voice yells, sounding hollow through the mask he wears. His arms are across my body, yanking me backward, away from the front door, away from the house.

“No!” I struggle, putting everything I have into breaking free of his grip, but another set of hands helps him.

“The whole frame is unstable. You can’t go in. It’s coming down any second.” As if on cue, a loud creak sounds, followed by a shower of sparks and ash as the front section of the roof collapses. I cover my head automatically before staring, my eyes scanning the front windows wildly. Or, what were once the front windows. Now, there’s nothing more than gaping holes, every piece of the house burning red, orange, and yellow.

“No!” The word is strangled as I tear free from the numerous hands holding me, scrambling toward the flames. They’re inside. I can feel it.

“Stop!” They tackle me, more of them this time, as they drag me back from the flames.

“My family is in there!” I thrash harder, running on full adrenaline as I watch the fire engulf my home.

“You need to calm down,” someone says as I realize the heat is getting less intense. They’re pulling me away from the house. It’s then that I remember the crowd.

How did I not think of this before?

I turn, looking away from the fire, trying to see past the firefighters to the cluster of people. Maybe they got out.

But the weight in my stomach tells me I’m wrong.

“Hunter Davis was taken into custody just hours after the body was discovered. Davis, whose two silver medals helped Team USA’s Men’s Gymnastics win bronze at the Olympics just months earlier, was named in a suicide note found in the girl’s bedroom. The note accused Davis of raping Hansen weeks prior to her suicide. The note also implicated the gym’s coach, Ensel Romanov, of having knowledge of the alleged rape and not notifying authorities.”

“What are you watching?”

Lili let out a small yelp, slamming her hand down on the space bar to pause the video as she spun toward where I was standing in the doorway.

“Jesus Christ, Zane. You scared the shit out of me.” She let out a shaky breath, her eyes drifting from mine as she avoided my question.

I blinked a few times, trying to clear the remnants of my medication-induced sleep so I could focus. My energy was shot and without my glasses, the tile of the kitchen floor seemed oddly slanted as I took the first few shaky steps into the room. Lili jumped up, moving quickly to help me to the table. It had taken some time to get used to not only accepting help, but needing it at all. It wasn’t a concept I enjoyed but after several fights with Tish, Paige, and even Lili, I was learning to keep my mouth shut and let them help. After all, as the shooting reminded me, I’m not invincible.

“What are you doing out of bed?” she asked, holding me steady as I lowered myself into the chair she’d just vacated.

“Woke up and you weren’t there. I got worried.” I focused on relaxing the tense muscles in my back. “What are you watching?” I asked again, hoping she wouldn’t evade my direct question a second time.

“Old news clips.”

She started to sit in the chair beside me but I grabbed her hand, pulling her toward me. “Come here.” She curled up in my lap, carefully keeping her weight on my right side as she tucked her head under my chin. She sighed, reaching out to press play on the video.

“This is not the first legal trouble for the River Bend Gymnastics Club. Four years ago, Coach Romenav was arrested on child pornography charges after an anonymous tip revealed nude pictures of an underage gymnast on his phone. The same day, the female gymnast, Kylee Camden, went missing. Camden, thought to be kidnapped, was well on her way to the Olympic Trials that year…”

A picture came on the screen then and the tension I felt radiating from Lili’s entire frame nearly overwhelmed me. Her hair was lighter, a dark blonde, and her face was much younger but in the eyes, I could see my Lili. The hardness I knew wasn’t there yet and her carefree smile made my heart ache. It was clear something had changed the girl on the screen into the one curled against me. That was a side of her I’d never seen and would never know.

Lili reached out, slamming the laptop closed, cutting the newscaster off mid-sentence as she spoke of the search for Kylee. I didn’t speak at first, giving her time to sort her thoughts.

“This is why your sister came?” I guessed, trailing my fingers slowly along her bare arm in a gesture I hoped would show that I wasn’t judging. I hadn’t meant to ask the question. I knew I’d told her that her past didn’t matter but after Kaitlyn’s appearance last week and Lili’s distance since they spoke, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t curious.

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