Dateless (Collins Brothers #1) - L.A. Casey

PROLOGUE

Ina

* * *

One week ago …

* * *

Breathe, Ina. Just breathe.

I repeated the consoling thought as I carefully counted the wad of cash notes in my hand one more time. Three thousand, seven hundred and ninety euros. It was all here. Every single euro I had secretly and meticulously saved over the past five years under the watchful, soulless eyes of both my father and soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. It wasn’t much, not by a long shot, but every cent represented my new beginning, my chance at a new life that included nobody but myself.

With trembling hands, I removed fifteen euros for my train fare from Kildavin, Carlow, to Connolly Station in Dublin’s City Centre before I tucked the rest safely into my purse. I knew the price without giving it a second thought. I had already researched the ticket price online multiple times over the past few weeks as I chose the best departure time window. I couldn’t prepay for my fare with a credit or debit card because I didn’t have either. I had nothing to call my own, bar some clothing, but I knew that was part of the ownership Daddy wielded over me.

He only gave me what I needed to survive, which clearly didn’t amount to much in his mind.

Over the years, it had deeply hurt me how he had never doted on me like a father should with his only daughter, his only child. I had cried myself to sleep many nights because he treated me like nothing more than a house slave, but now that I was so close to ridding myself of my father and the constricting life that I had with him, I found that I was glad he gave me the bare minimum in everything from physical possessions to love and emotional support. It solidified in my mind that the plan I had created to leave was the right one. The only person who could look after me was me. I didn’t want to start another year of my life stuck in the same hole I was wallowing in, so I decided that today, my twenty-seventh birthday, was the day I would start over. I was done leading a life where I merely existed for someone else.

I wanted my independence. I wanted to be my own person, and I was making it happen tonight.

The last train to Dublin left at half past seven, and I planned to be on that train no matter what. I had gone about my day as usual. I woke up before the sun rose, cleaned the house from top to bottom, did a few loads of washing, prepared breakfast, and lunch for my father, hung the washing out on the line, and then worked in the office until it was time to prepare dinner and take the washing in to be folded and put away. I crushed two of Daddy’s sleeping tablets and mixed them into his evening drink. He suspected nothing as he downed his whiskey while he wordlessly ate his dinner. He moved from the kitchen to his parlour.

Within ten minutes, he was sleeping in his recliner with a football match on television.

Hearing Daddy snore was my green light to leg it. Knowing that Finn Baxter, my now ex-boyfriend, would be out with his other girlfriend, the one he had been fucking behind my back for almost a year, the very one he thought I knew nothing about, gave me peace of mind that my getaway would be a clean one. I placed a detailed letter I had written that morning on the kitchen counter next to Daddy’s bottle of whiskey.

In it, I stated I was leaving to start my life over and didn’t want him or Finn to come after me. I outlined that my life with him had been controlling and utterly miserable for as long as I could remember. I underlined that he would never see me again, and this was goodbye. There was no room left for doubt. Daddy would know that I would never come back and that he would be alone in his life and business from this day forth.

I grabbed the handle of my suitcase, tucked strands of my raven black hair behind my ears, then left the house I had grown up in without looking back. It wasn’t until much later, when I disembarked the train at Connolly Station in Dublin’s City Centre, that I realised I was smiling. I felt like I was breathing easily for the first