Lottie’s Hidden Love by Lisa Wood

PROLOGUE

Lottie

The door vibrated against my back as Edward pounded on it. I had all of the lights off in the house and was in the only blind spot in the house. The tears streamed down my face and I did my best to hold my breath so I wouldn’t make any noise.

Charlotte!! I know you’re in there! Open the damn door. Charlotte!! Do I need to kick this door in?”

Checking my pocket for my phone, I groaned as I realized I’d left it sitting on the kitchen counter when I’d heard the car door slam. I didn’t know what it was about his car, but I could always tell it was him. Maybe it was because I heard it so often. He was everywhere I went. Work, home, the grocery store, and gas stations. I didn’t go to friend’s houses anymore. I changed my routine everywhere I possibly could, but somehow he always found me.

The police were absolutely useless. Edward Montgomery came from old money. His family was influential in all the worst ways. They were willing to bribe or extort anyone, not only to get the things they desired, but also to cover up all of Edward’s numerous transgressions.

We had only dated for two months. In that time, he had managed to totally isolate me from my friends. He was controlling and cruel, quick to point out any perceived flaw. The first time he hit me, I was done. I broke up with him on the spot. That was six months ago. He sent flowers to my work, begging for forgiveness. The indigo-stained roses would have been cool if they hadn’t been associated with fucking Edward. At first, when I found gifts on my porch, they were things like candies or stuffed animals and always with the specialty roses. Then, after a month or so, the gifts took a darker turn. He would tie little nooses on the stuffed bears. The candies would come with nasty notes. The roses were dead and withered, Last week, I came home to a dead rat on my door mat with a note that said, If I can’t have you, no one can, tied around its neck.

I went to the police, rat and all, and was told I had no way to prove it was him who put it there. I jumped when the pounding started again, this time at my living room window. I was surprised it hadn’t broken yet. I just had to wait for him to finish his trip around the house. He would bang on every window and scream at me and then he would climb back into his $100,000 car and drive back to his Beverly Hills mansion. Neighbors had called the cops, their experience the same as mine.

Today, I’d lost my job. It was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak. I thought back to this morning and cried even more. My boss, Nadine, was the sweetest woman in the world. She had been more than patient with the missed days and all of the drama associated with Edward.

“Lottie, can you come in here for a minute, please?”

I stood up from my desk and walked into her office, closing the door when she motioned me to.

“Is everything okay, Nadine?”

I knew as soon as I saw her face that things were anything but okay.

“Lottie, sweetheart, you know how much I love you. I understand why you’ve missed shifts and I’ve worked with you changing shifts around to try to manage things with that ex of yours. It’s been easy enough to manage with the other girls happy to help out but now it’s started affecting my business.”

“What do you mean?”

“There are some things that have happened that I didn’t tell you about because I didn’t want you to worry. I was able to ignore random ‘gifts’ on the doorstep. Six weeks ago, I got notice that I had failed a health inspection. After two days fighting with the health department, they finally admitted there had been a mistake, that it had been for a different business. I didn’t think a whole lot of it. A month ago, I got notice that I’d failed to pay our water bill for the previous two cycles. Again, after lots of time arguing with them, I was told it was a computer glitch. I started to question whether or not it was coincidence.

“Yesterday, I had an appointment to renew the mortgage on this place. Honey, I was turned down. I’ve done business with Montgomery Financial for forty years.”

“Montgomery Financial?” I asked, a sinking feeling in my gut.

“Lottie, I’m so sorry, but I have no choice but to let you go. I’m happy to help you in any way I can.”

“I understand, Nadine. I’m so sorry to have caused you problems like this,” I said sadly, tears welling in my eyes.

“Don’t you dare!” she said so vehemently that I jumped a little in my chair, “None of this is your fault. This falls squarely on the shoulders of Edward Montgomery and his gaggle of unethical pieces of shit he calls family.”

If it weren’t for the seriousness of the situation, I would have laughed. Normally, this classy woman wouldn’t say shit with a mouth full of it, but Edward had brought out her inner potty-mouth. I stood when she did and let her wrap her arms around me. I finally lost the battle with my tears and they coursed over my cheeks, onto her shoulder. I gathered my things and said goodbye to the other girls. When I walked out the door and saw Edward sitting in his car across the street, it was all I could do not to go over and punch him in the back of the head. I took a deep breath and drove a very long scenic route home.

After a couple of well-timed red lights, I managed to lose Edward. I pulled into the garage, went inside, and turned all the lights off and went into the kitchen to get a snack. Things had gotten so bad, I had taken the bulbs out of the fridge, stove and microwave so that I could get something to eat without him knowing I was there. I had only managed to grab a package of Mr. Noodles out of the cupboard when I heard the car door.

He was never going to leave me alone and I feared, eventually, he would kill me. I had to leave. I’d go somewhere he would never think to look. While he banged on my windows and screamed like an idiot, I tried to figure out my next steps. I was a California girl by heart, but I felt as though I needed to consider something a little further; maybe somewhere colder.