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Eye on the Prize: The Art of Deception

Eye on the Prize: The Art of Deception

Автором KC Avalon

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Eye on the Prize: The Art of Deception

Автором KC Avalon

Длина:
276 pages
4 hours
Издатель:
Издано:
Feb 12, 2021
ISBN:
9781393161196
Формат:
Книге

Описание

Most children have all of the material possessions that they desire at their fingertips. Marco had nothing but was happy and content until he suffered a tragedy that permanently changed his life without warning. While the rest of the world kept moving, Marco struggled and felt deprived. His dreams were shattered, and he paid his dues as far as he was concerned and was entitled to the fortune that he deserved for the pain he endured. No ordinary career was going to cut it. Now was the time for some double-dealing, and if some people needed to be deceived in the process, so be it. Marco needed to keep his eye on the prize.

 

Avalon's unadorned prose and measured pace effectively establish the characters. An absorbing thriller with an unforgettable ending. - Kirkus Reviews
The plot includes a number of twists and turns, making the book an exciting, page-turning read. Eye on the Prize is a gripping suspense novel for fans of the genre. - Reader's Favorite

KC Avalon delivers a dramatic new novel with more than enough psychological complexity within this twisting read to be highly entertaining. - Self-Publishing Review

Издатель:
Издано:
Feb 12, 2021
ISBN:
9781393161196
Формат:
Книге

Об авторе

KC grew up in Philadelphia and lives in Southern New Jersey with her husband of 30 years, two grown boys, and two Pomchi's. She enjoys the beach and reading.

Связано с Eye on the Prize

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Eye on the Prize - KC Avalon

Prologue

He was working late at his office in Dewey Beach, anxiously pacing back and forth. It was surprising that he didn’t wear a hole in the carpet. How did his life spin so far out of control? He had carefully planned and calculated every step, down to the last detail. The one thing he never expected was his greed. He never had possessions growing up, and once he did, he wanted and needed more. There was a lot of pain and suffering in his childhood, and somehow, he justified his actions because he genuinely believed he deserved all of his luxuries.

In addition to material things, he loved having money. It made him feel like a king, and he longed for more. He gave into temptation and stepped on people as if they meant nothing to him. Power blinded him, and in his pursuit of happiness, he lost track of the rules and boundaries. It was a dangerous game of deception. He behaved foolishly, and now he was desperate to put his life back together by making some changes.

A loud boom outside startled him out of his deep thoughts. How fitting was it that the sound arrived precisely at the witching hour? It was 2 a.m., and he was on edge and too paranoid these days, regardless of the time of day. Several individuals were understandably furious with him. It was the extent of their anger that put the fear of God into him. The thunder was rolling as the building shook. The weather had been nasty all day long as if it were seeking revenge. The rain was pelting the side of the building like bullets. The howling of the wind sounded like menacing ghost voices. Lightning lit up the sky for a split second and then disappeared into the darkness. Although it was dark, he knew the waves were monstrous and mighty with foam spitting as it sprayed and punishingly pounded into the sand.

He was done struggling with his emotions and trying to sort out his life, for one night. Maybe a good night’s sleep would help him brainstorm a reasonable last-minute solution to his unfavorable situation. Tomorrow was another day. He turned off the lights in the office, set the alarm, and locked up. The storm was ominously daring him to go outdoors.

Halfway to his car, he felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing up on edge as if they could sense peril. Something was wrong, and the foreboding feeling seemed to be the powerful force of his intuition trying to guide him. The little voice in his head was trying to warn him about something he could not put his finger on. Maybe it was his anxiety causing so much doubt. It didn’t take long to find out. Suddenly he felt the cold steel barrel of a gun press against the base of his skull. An impatient voice cut through the sound of the wind.

Keep walking. Don’t make a sound or try anything stupid, or I will blow your fucking head off.

I received your message loud and clear the other day. There is no need for the theatrics.

Shut up before I pull the trigger now! The stranger was rudely shoving him toward the back of his car.

The trunk popped open. Without any hesitation whatsoever, the strong hooligan opened the car door, pulled him by his hair, and unceremoniously threw him inside the Goddamn trunk. A gag was roughly thrust into his mouth, and his hands were tied tightly behind him. His kidnapper decided to show him no mercy, especially since his orders were disobeyed. The trunk slammed shut, and he plunged into complete darkness. He was all alone, yet his heavy breathing sounded as if someone was next to him. The hopelessness of the situation filled his body with dread. He never anticipated his good fortune would come to an end. All at once, he became paralyzed with fear. Was he going to die?

Chapter 1

Marco had no clue what it looked like to live a life of luxury. He grew up in a single-wide twelve foot by sixty-foot aluminum rusty trailer on concrete blocks in a small town not worth mentioning. He lived in an area where most people drove through without stopping. Certainly, no one would voluntarily choose to live in this godforsaken place, let alone visit. The trailer park was unappealing, and the trailers should have been deemed uninhabitable. The playground consisted of corroded and broken swings and a roundabout that screeched as it spun, making blood curdle. The homes were old and unkempt and in desperate need of repair. Aluminum siding was falling off, doors barely closed, and people parked their cars on the lawns. No amount of landscaping could cover up the eyesore that he called home. It was one step above homelessness.

Marco never met his dad since he split the minute after he found out that his mother was pregnant. She adamantly refused to get an abortion, and he wasn’t ready to be a father. He wanted nothing more than a girlfriend to have sex with and made it very clear that kids were not a part of his future. Not today or ever. True to his word, Marco’s dad never attempted to acknowledge or get to know his son. It was as if he never existed. His mother gave up hope of any future with a man who refused to accept or acknowledge her son. She thought that he would have a change of heart once Marco was born. Who could deny the preciousness of an innocent baby?

Unfortunately, she was wrong again because Marco’s sperm donor of a father could care less about the life he helped create and left town without ever looking back. Things happen for a reason, and it was for the best since a selfish and uncaring man would never make a good father.

Eventually, Marco’s mom accepted that she needed to move on and stay clear of losers. There wasn’t a lot of spare time since she raised a child alone, so she needed to wait to even think about dating. Luckily, she met Marco’s stepfather at the grocery store, and they hit it off right away. He would have dinner with her and Marco, and they became a little family. Six months later, Marco’s mom remarried and found more joy than she had in a long time. It was easy to marry such a good man, especially since it didn’t faze him to raise another man’s child. The three of them were a happy family who enjoyed each other’s company. For once, life was memorable and meaningful. Two years later, the couple decided to expand their family. They welcomed a bouncing baby girl before Marco’s fourth birthday. She was a month premature when she was born and caught a respiratory virus while in the hospital. Initially, the doctors expected her to stay a week or two until she reached a healthy weight. Since she needed medicine and nebulizer treatments many times a day, her stay was prolonged. Nadia came home six weeks after she was born. Baby Nadia’s round the clock care came at a high price.

The hospital bills were out of control and more than the family could handle. Marco’s stepdad was a truck driver with no health insurance. His mom decided to get a job as a waitress on the night shift to help with the bills since they were piling up. His stepdad was picking up extra shifts, and his mom was working every night. Due to the lack of sleep and money, tensions rose, and their fights escalated. They paid what they could every month toward all of their debt, but it was never enough. The hospital repeatedly threatened to sue, and the pressure was too much to handle. The couple took it out on each other with screaming matches. He never laid a hand on her, but there was resentment on both sides due to the hopeless situation. The honeymoon phase was gone forever, and the tiny trailer seemed to get smaller every day as the fights grew bigger. The walls finally closed in, and the marriage crumbled and was beyond saving due to the tremendous stress. It wasn’t healthy for the kids to live in a toxic environment, so they mutually decided it would be best to end the marriage and worked out an amicable agreement.

Marco was content, knowing that his little sister had a father who cared about and loved her. She spent every weekend with him. Marco visited occasionally but chose to stay behind with his mother to help out around the house. When Nadia was away, Marco appreciated the one-on-one time spent with his mother. During the week, she worked most nights, and his stepfather drove a rig, leaving Marco in charge of caring for his little sister. He never complained about his responsibilities and became the man of the house. Instead of going to parties, sports events, and hanging out with friends, he became the caretaker making dinner, doing laundry, checking homework, and getting his sister to bed on time. It’s not like he had an absent parent who partied and dated. His mother worked harder than most people and did what was necessary to survive.

Marco’s mother never remarried or brought men back to the trailer. Her kids were her life, and she put that responsibility above anything else. She wouldn’t know what to do without Marco and felt bad for burdening him and forcing him to grow up quicker than usual. He pitched in with minimal complaining and helped her tremendously. It was unbelievable how fast the years flew by. Marco was twelve years old, and Nadia was eight. She would love the opportunity to stay home with her kids, but the option wasn’t available if she chose to support her family. Some days were more challenging than others.

She was a strong woman, but sometimes it was necessary to give in to crying in the shower where no one else could see her crumble and feel sorry for herself. Life seemed unfair at times and was far from easy.

On a rare Friday night off from work, Marco was lounging on the couch comfortably watching television with his mother. She smiled lovingly and was proud of her son.

Marco, you know that I think it is sweet of you to spend time with me, but I am going to have to put my foot down and insist that you get out of this house tonight. You are almost a teenager and should be having fun with your friends instead of worrying about your mama and being stuck in this claustrophobic shoe box. Tonight, is the most important night for your football team and this town. You cannot miss the game of the season. I will not allow it.

Why don’t you come with me, mom? It will be a lot of fun.

"I would love to go, but I am exhausted. It has been an excruciatingly long week on my feet at work. I plan on going to bed

as soon as you leave. You better get going so that you get there before kickoff."

Are you sure, mom? You won’t be mad?

Not one bit. Go and have some fun for a change and stop worrying about me. You deserve a night out. I will see you as soon as you get back home. Wake me up so that you can tell me all of the details.

Free time for Marco was almost non-existent, so he didn’t need to be told twice. It would be great to see some of his friends.

Thanks, mom. I love you.

As he was about to run out, he stopped and turned around to give his mom a big hug. He may be twelve but secretly liked a hug now and then. Before his mother could change her mind about letting him go out for the night, he ran out of the house and pedaled his bike into town as fast as his legs would take him until he arrived at the football field. It was a beautiful fall Friday night in early October and perfect weather for a football game. His bike tires crunched the leaves on the ground as he traveled. The sun was setting as it peeked behind the trees, making the leaves on the maple trees appear a fiery orange, yellow, and red. Marco admired the view as the vivid colors looked like an artist’s canvas. It was very picturesque. The crisp cold air was sneaking in and would not affect the crowd in the stands since they were sitting close to one another.

MARCO HURRIED TO THE student section of the bleachers as the game was about to begin. His home team was preparing to play their rivals. There was no love lost on either side, and each group was playing for bragging rights. The game was a nail biter, with the score bouncing back and forth. Fans added to the already competitive environment, and emotions were running high. The score was too close for comfort, and time was not on their side. With less than a minute left, the rival team had the ball and were marching down the field with a purpose. After the next play, they were within scoring range. Twenty seconds remained on the clock! The game and the entire season were on the line. A hush fell over the crowd as the quarterback stepped back to throw a touchdown pass. Everyone was anxiously holding their breath as the ball seemed to move in slow motion. A defender crashed through the line on the left side to strip-sack the quarterback while unmercifully tackling him to the ground. Another defender picked up the loose ball to run it in for a touchdown with three seconds left.

The home team fans celebrated and went crazy with excitement. The loud cheers filled the air like electricity. Marco witnessed the most spectacular game that fans would talk about for years to come. He was sitting next to the coolest girl in the school. KC was his middle school crush, and he spent hours daydreaming about her. He was too shy to do anything about it, though. They were so caught up in the moment that Marco high-fived KC, and she went in for a quick kiss on the lips. Time suddenly stood still as if they were the only two people in the stands. What just happened? Her kiss caught him completely off guard, and there was not enough time to react. She ran off to be with her friends immediately after kissing him. Wow, could this night possibly get any better? His mom was spot-on about him needing a night out of that tiny trailer. It felt great, and he was so pleased to witness the game of the year.

Marco hung out to talk to some of his friends before going home. It was the perfect night, so why not make it last a little longer? The parking lot emptied, and only a handful of people were left, which meant it was time to go. He pedaled his bike home with more excitement than the ride to the game. Marco was counting down the minutes so that he could thank his mother for suggesting that he go out tonight. It just so happened to be the best suggestion ever. She would want all of the details about the big team win and his first unexpected kiss with KC. He thought he smelled a bonfire on the way home, which was perfect for a nice fall evening, but it seemed to get stronger the further he pedaled. The smell of smoke lingered heavily in the air. All of a sudden, fire trucks were speeding past him with their sirens blaring. They were driving so fast that Marco could feel the wind from the passing trucks. There must be a massive fire, and it was somewhere close.

FIVE MINUTES LATER, Marco turned onto his street. He saw the fire trucks parked outside of his trailer to his dismay, and there was a great deal of commotion. His heart began to beat erratically and felt like it was going to jump right out of his chest. The intensity of the situation hit him hard. He threw his bike aside and ran the rest of the way to the trailer. Angry flames were destroying the trailer and anything in its path, and thick black smoke hung in the air like dense clouds. The fire was angrily roaring out of control and was not about to stop until it destroyed everything. Marco anxiously scanned the crowd but did not see his mother. He was frightened since it could only mean that she was still inside. Dread filled him as he fought his way through the caution tape only to have the fire chief block his path.

Son, I am afraid that I have to ask you to step back and let the firefighters do their job. You cannot go into the house! It could collapse at any minute.

Let me go. I live in this house, and my mother is inside. I need to help her get out safely. I don’t see her outside, so I know she is trapped inside. He screamed, Please go and help her! Do something!

He usually found flames to be mesmerizing because it looked like they were dancing. Not in this case. This scorching fire was full of rage and hunger and true to the chief’s word; it did not take long at all for the trailer to collapse. Marco was screaming and crying hysterically for his mother. This absolute nightmare could not be happening to him! Unfortunately, the safe words the family used were not going to extinguish the fire and keep his mother out of harm’s way. The safe words for Nadia and Marco were Harley Quinn. If they used these words when talking to their mother, she would know that they were in distress. Harley Quinn was Nadia’s favorite character in the Batman cartoons. Both children loved watching Batman and idolized him. Marco stood there, utterly helpless while watching the fire incinerate the only home that he ever knew with all of his family’s belongings. Anyone who could hear Marco’s cries and pleas for help felt utterly heartbroken and helpless.

Mama! Where are you? Please come out. Please! I need you!

One firefighter burst through the trailer door as the trailer was collapsing. The fire chief called off the rescue thirty seconds earlier since he was concerned for his men’s safety and did not intend to lose more lives or take a chance of injuries when the trailer collapsed. A fireman emerged carrying his mother over his shoulder, and her body was limp in his arms. He made direct eye contact with his chief and shook his head sadly.

Marco witnessed the exchange between the two men. He wailed at the top of his lungs, NOOOOO!

His mama was gone forever. Hours ago, she was alive and well.

Now she was placed gently on a gurney, and the paramedic checked for a pulse, hopelessly knowing that he would not find one. They tried a defibrillator after performing CPR. Nothing was able to bring her back to life. His mom was sleeping in her bedroom when the firefighters found her. As a result of the swelling from the intense heat of the fire, the door was stuck. The flames took over, but the smoke did most of the damage before anyone could get to her. The fire destroyed Marco’s entire world. He needed to say goodbye to her before they took her away from him forever.

He slowly walked over to his mama with dread lying heavy in his heart. Silence fell over the crowd that had gathered to pray for everyone’s safety. It was silent as they were speechless and overcome with grief when they saw Marco’s mom’s lifeless body.

Marco was crying, and his words came out between sobs as tears poured down his face unashamed. The crowd shed tears with him as they listened in on a private moment.

Mama, please don’t leave me. I am not old enough to take care of myself. Open your eyes. I am begging you. If you do, I promise I will behave and never give you trouble again. I love you so much. You are a good mother who works hard and never complains. I rushed home to tell you what a great night I had at the football game. The game was thrilling, and our team won with a few seconds left. If that wasn’t exciting enough, I kissed a girl for the first time. Mama, please forgive me for going out tonight. I should have stayed home with you. If I came back after the game was over, maybe you would be able to answer me right now. Maybe I could have done something to save you. I am so sorry. Can you open your eyes for me? You can’t die on me! Who is going to give me advice and take care of me? It’s not fair! I promise to do whatever you want if you come back to me. Anything you say, just name it. Please don’t die. Mama?

The fire chief did his best to keep his composure as he walked over to Marco. He did his best to console the heartbroken boy by wrapping him in his arms. There were tears in his eyes, and the crowd felt helpless to help the poor boy. The chief looked into Marco’s eyes.

"Son, I know this is the hardest day of your life. I am so sorry about your mama. I would do anything to be able to bring her back to you. She is a good woman and is going to live

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