TRAY - PROLOGUE

Holding the hand of the only woman I had ever loved, I kissed her fingers and tried with everything in me to give her the strength she needed to survive this. She needed to fight. She needed to win this battle, but the cancer was too far gone. It started in her stomach and spread throughout her body faster than we ever thought was possible. The doctors gave her a month to live, but it had only been a week and her body was failing her. Fast.

“Mama.” I cupped her hand, kissed her palm, and stared at the woman who gave me life. Who brought me into this world and taught me everything I knew. How to be a man. How to be the best I could be. How to make something come from nothing.

“Baby.” Her other hand reached out, cupping my face. “Don’t cry for me, Trayce. It’s time. It’s God’s will.”

“Why is he taking you from me?” I cried, fresh tears rolling down my face.

“Because. It’s to make you stronger.”

I cupped her hand, pushing my face into her palm, and wept. I was no longer a boy but a man, and I still cried like a baby for my mother.

“Look at me, Tray.”

I met her gaze, the image of her blurring in my vision.

“I love you, and I will always be with you. You hear me? Our last name isn’t Lister for nothing.”

I gave her a sad smile. “I wish Dad was here,” I blurted. We’d had a hard relationship growing up because I was like him in so many ways.

“I know, baby.” Mama sighed. “I wish he was here too.”

Inhaling the smooth smoke from the cigarette in my mouth, I blew it out in small circles. The tension in my shoulders eased some, but the rage inside of me never simmered.

Ten years. Ten motherfucking years since my mama took her last breath. Ten years since she smiled up at me. Ten years since she told me she loved me.

I placed the single red rose at the base of the grave, kissed two fingers, and touched the top of the tombstone. Turning on my heel, I trudged back up the path leading to the parking lot.

So much shit had happened in the ten years my mother had been gone. I wanted to tell her everything, but I couldn’t. She wouldn’t hear. Because she was fucking dead.

The rage inside of me screamed for release.

Knowing there was only one way I would get any sort of control over the monster inside of me, I pulled my phone from my pocket.

“Yeah,” came the reply on the other end of the phone.

“Meet me in my room.” I hung up and slid onto my bike, putting my cell away. It wasn’t right what I was about to do, but I needed it. Before I truly lost control and let the monster inside of me win. I had to gain back control. Even if it was just for a little bit.

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