Who He Is (FireNine Trilogy) Online - S. Q. Williams

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”

~ Helen Keller

I heaved, clamping my chest, staring intently into the demented green eyes. There was a cloud of darkness behind them—anger, frustration, and a menacing glare. Those eyes frightened me every night, yet I’d dealt with it for years. His deep voice grumbled something I could hardly make out because of the blood racing around in my skull. His voice was toxic, deadly.

Through the darkness, I adjusted, but I could see her watching eyes, her partial, wicked smile from the bedroom door. I lay on top of the rough carpet and stretched out my arm, begging her to help me. Instead, she stared, watching as he picked me up from the floor and shoved me against the nearest wall. I winced, trying to keep myself steady, but instead I collapsed against the carpet again, burning my knees and the palms of my sensitive hands.

“Mama, please.” My voice was raspy from my previous yelling—from the excruciating pain he provided. The severity of his wrath left me bruised, tattered. My head hung and my cheek smashed against the carpet. For a moment I felt safe as the room became quiet and spun around me.

Finally she spoke up, her voice almost a whisper. “I’m sorry, Liza, but you knew this was important. When we need money, it’s not a joke. Should’ve done what was asked of you.”

A tear escaped from beneath my swollen eyelids and then I opened them, watching her turn around quickly. I called after her desperately, begging her not to leave me alone with that bastard. More tears fell, cigarette smoke drifted into the room, and then he yelled for me to get up, yanking on my arm.

My knees buckled again and my face slammed into the floor. Blood spilled from my nose and my forehead burned from scraping against the carpet. He threatened that if I didn’t get up, he was going to make the punishment worse, but I couldn’t. I was weak. I didn’t have the strength within me to move anymore. I was blank, nothing, like a thin sheet of paper. Unmoving unless blown by the wind or picked up by someone.

I wanted to dissolve into dust and blend in with the floor to become anything—anyone—but Eliza Smith.

I prayed and wished it would stop, but as he chuckled eerily and muttered something threatening beneath his breath, I knew it was coming. Heavy leather stung the backs of my legs, my hips, my back, my arms, and even my face countless times. I cried out repeatedly, digging my fingernails into the carpet with thick tears streaming, hoping soon I would numb to the pain.

I did eventually.

Gage Grendel…

There were only a few words that could describe him: hot, mouthwatering, and way out of my league. He and his band were out of my league, but apparently not my dad’s. He was their manager, and this summer things were really starting to kick off for them.

I remember exactly how my dad announced the tour to me:

“You need to start packing. We’re going on tour with FireNine!” he said over dinner.

I looked at him, a frown taking hold of my features, before digging into my mashed potatoes. “You mean you’re going on tour. I’d rather stay home.”

“Why? You need to get out and have some fun, Eliza.”

My dad’s personality made me feel so boring. He was spunky, hip, great taste, young-at-heart, all the above. When I’d moved in with him, he took me shopping first thing. He literally ran me to the mall because he said I looked “terrible.”

Apparently he didn’t approve of my sweatpants and the brown T-shirt I’d gotten from summer camp when I was twelve years old. I admit, by the age of sixteen it had gotten a little small on me, but I didn’t mind. I was twenty-one and would still wear it whenever I could because it was my favorite tee. It was a summer I was free of the hellhole.

“Come on, Liza Bear,” he begged. “It’ll be fun. I know you get tired of this house. You do the same thing every day. Eat. Draw. Paint. Sleep. You aren’t tired of that routine?”

“Not really.”

His brown eyes scanned me and then he smirked. “I think I know what it is.” He placed his fork on the table and tucked a lock of his perfectly trimmed hair behind his ear. My dad and