The Ghost (Ghost #1)

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Chapter 26

Lia



I'm lying in the bathtub, the hot water soothing my nerves and tense muscles. That shit with Declan has to stop, he went too far. I will not fucking allow him to disrupt my life again.

After reading his message I blocked his number, but I’m sure that won’t deter him for long, I’ve known him long enough to know that. Blake got really angry, too. I’m afraid he’ll do something stupid, like confront that dick or something. The whole situation is stressing us both out. Blake has not let me go for the whole night, keeping a tight hold on me that I barely escaped in the morning.


I lean my head on the edge of the tub, playing with the bubbles as I ponder over my past with Declan.


I met him through my dad, the adoptive one. He was a good friend at first, but then he got... obsessed, going as far as demanding that I move in with him. I was barely 13 at the time, still having trouble being around people, so of course neither my dad nor I agreed. I mean, it just screams fucked up to ask a 13-year-old girl to move in with a 17-year-old boy. My dad beat him up pretty bad for even suggesting that, aware of my aversion to men’s touch. He was really protective of me in that aspect, since he knew about my past and my time on the streets.


My dad was the first man I let myself open up to.



5 years ago

The young girl was sitting behind the dumpsters in a dark alley in an unknown neighborhood, trying to hide from the world. Hidden in a corner, with her knees pulled up to her chest, she made herself small and unnoticeable, the huge hoodie she's been wearing for weeks failing to keep her warm as her fever got worse. She kept listening closely into her surroundings so no one would be able to sneak up on her. Anything could happen.


After a while her stomach started growling in hunger; the girl hasn’t eaten in 3 days, surviving on water she kept in her small bottle. Suddenly she heard some door open and heavy footsteps heading her way. She tried to make herself even smaller, pulling her knees tighter to her torso, ignoring the pain in her back, hoping that whoever is out there will not notice her. But the luck was not on her side and a big burly man stepped in front of her, blocking her way out. She didn’t see his face from under the hood that covered her face, but she could tell he was not old, maybe in his mid-thirties, with a short beard on his face and bulging muscles that could break her in half if he wanted.


He crouched in front of her and reached his hand out to pull the hood off her face, causing her to whimper.

“Hey little one, what are you doing here?” He tried to ask in a gentle tone but his deep gruff voice made it impossible, getting another scared whimper from the girl.

“Hey, I’m not going to hurt you, little one.” He assured her, but she knew better than to trust a man.

Realizing he would not get an answer from the girl, the man sighed as he placed a paper bag in front of her, gesturing at her to take it. Whatever was inside the bag smelled so good it made girl’s stomach to growl loudly, catching man’s attention.

“You’re hungry, aren’t you?” He asked, already knowing the answer. “It’s okay, you can take it. It’s for you.”

“No.” The girl mumbled, scared of the price she would have to pay. She got tricked once, only weeks ago and ended up being used and beaten by some man. He kept saying it was the price for the food as he mangled her body. She didn't take anything from anyone ever since.

“I can tell you’re hungry, little one.” The man sat down cross-legged in front of her.

“I don’t want to pay.” The girl whispered so quietly the man almost didn’t catch it.

“What do you mean ‘pay’?" He asked, sounding genuinely curious, but there was also a worried undertone in his voice.

“The food. It’s not free. It hurts to pay.” The girl was full on sobbing now, scared. She had no way out and the man could do whatever he wanted to her without anyone knowing.

“What do you mean it hurts to pay?” He asked cautiously, trying so hard not to scare the little mouse in front of him. She looked up to him, causing him to gasp at the state of her face. It was covered in bruises and the cut below her hairline looked red and irritated.

“Who did that to you?” He softly whispered, realizing his normal tone was too hard for the girl.

“A man. He give me food. He say I pay for it. He hurt me.” The girl could not speak properly through her sobs.

“He asked you to pay for food? With what?” The man asked barely restraining his anger, hoping his assumption was wrong.

“My body.” The man cursed under his breath at this, causing the girl to whimper and scramble closer to the wall, away from him.

“I will not hurt you, little mouse. I will not ask you to pay for food, okay?” He told her honestly, scurrying a little closer to the girl.

“You won’t?” She asked, hopeful.

“No I won’t. I swear it to you.” The man crossed his heart with his fingers, smiling gently at the girl.

“Why?”

“I don’t want to hurt you, little mouse.” He told her. “I’ve actually seen you here a few times before, but each time I came out, you were gone. Did you go home?”

“No home.” She cut him off with a small whimper.

“You don’t have a home?” He asked worried. “Then where did you go?”

“Away. There were men here.” The man nodded in understanding. Of course she was afraid of men after getting assaulted.


As he watched the girl in front of him, he noticed she was shivering. It was a warm night, and she was wearing a thick hoodie, so why was she cold?

Getting an idea, he slowly reached out his hand, and ignoring the girl’s scared whimper he put his palm on her bloodied forehead. He pulled away as if she’d burned him.

“You have a fever.” He stated, concerned. “Are you hurt?”

She meekly nodded, deciding to put her trust in the man, as he hadn’t hurt her yet.

“Where?” He sounded frantic now.

“My- my back. The man hurt me when I pay for food.” She sobbed.

“Will you come with me, little mouse? I want to help you.”

“Why?” She asked him wide-eyed.

“Because you’re hurt.” He didn’t wait for her response as he got up. He bent down and put his arms around the small girl, keeping a tight but gentle hold of her as she started thrashing and crying in his arms. He cradled her to his chest and headed towards his car, the food he’d bought for her long forgotten. He could feed her at home.

The girl kept sobbing in his arms, crying out ‘no, no, not again’ over and over again, breaking the man’s heart. How could anyone hurt such a small and cute girl so badly? She couldn’t be older than 10 maybe 11. He couldn’t wait to find the pedophile that assaulted her.



He gently placed her in the passenger seat of his car, buckling her in. She stopped thrashing few minutes ago, seemingly giving up as she stayed lifeless in the seat with tears running down her face.

The drive to his house was tense, to say the least. The girl did not know what to expect; the man was so strong that she couldn’t even get out of his hold. She was terrified, expecting the same thing she went through weeks ago. But she didn’t take the food! Why did she have to pay?! The man tricked her; he lied, saying he wouldn’t hurt her and she stupidly believed him. She was helpless, he could do anything he wanted and she wouldn’t be able to stop him.

She was so lost in her head that she didn’t even notice when the car stopped and the man opened the door on her side, unbuckling her. She wanted to run away, but the man’s big body had her pretty much caged in the car. She started sobbing again when he picked her up from the seat like a baby, balancing her on his hip as he walked towards a huge white house.

He hadn’t put her down as he walked through the house, only releasing her when he placed her on the counter in the bathroom. He locked the door from the inside, so she couldn’t get away. Her body was shaking with sobs as she watched the man, terrified of what he’s going to do to her. He started filling the tub with water, pouring something inside that created bubbles. She watched entranced as the water rose and the amount of bubbles increased, her fear temporarily forgotten. She didn’t notice the man pulling out some box from the cabinet and then walking up to her. She scrambled back in shock as his huge form appeared right in front of her.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, little mouse. I tried to get your attention, but you didn’t reply.” He sounded worried. “I need you to take off your clothes, so you can take a bath. Is that okay with you?”

“No, no, please no. I didn’t take the food. Please no.” She started crying as he reached to pull off her hoodie.

“I promised I would not hurt you, little one. I won’t do what that man did. I just want you to take a bath. I have to tend to your back. You said it hurt.” He patiently explained, keeping his worried gaze on her, letting her see he’s being honest.

“You won’t hurt me?” She asked, looking at him from beneath her lashes.

“No I won’t. I will never hurt you.” He sincerely told her. He decided he’s going to keep the girl with him, safe.

He started pulling off the dirty hoodie of her small body, but had to stop when she suddenly screamed in pain.

“What’s wrong?” He frantically asked, not knowing what caused her pain.

“My back! It hurts!!!” She cried out.


He gently turned her around so she was sitting sideways on the counter, her legs now swinging over the side of it. He began to delicately pull her hoodie away from her skin, again stopping when she cried out. The back of the hoodie was covered in dried blood and was sticking to her skin, causing her pain with every inch he pulled away. He apologized each time she cried out, his heart breaking for the poor little girl. After a long while he was finally done, but the sight in front of him caused him to curse loudly, getting a scared whimper from the girl. Her back was marred with what looked like whip marks, probably from a belt. They were wide, deep and bloody, but the most concerning part was the fact that they were all infected. That’s what caused her fever. She must’ve been in so much pain!


After carefully taking off her baggy pants that were clearly not hers, he picked her up and gently placed her in the tub. He took a fresh sponge from the cabinet, lathered it up with the delicate soap that would not irritate her wounds and for the next 2 hours kept cleaning his little mouse, having to change the water twice.


The warm bath seemed to relax her so much that she almost fell asleep in the tub. He wrapped her in a huge fluffy towel then carried her on his hip to the bedroom, holding his first-aid kit in the other hand. He sat on the edge of the huge bed, sitting her small form on his lap with her back was facing him. He cleaned her wounds as well as he could, but she would still need a doctor. The infection was serious enough to leave scars in the future.


After he was done with cleaning her back, putting a patch over it, he gently turned her around to sit sideways on his lap as he tended to the cut on her forehead. Thankfully it was not deep enough to need stitches, so he just disinfected it and placed a bandage. Sitting her on the bed, he went to put away the kit back in the bathroom then headed towards his wardrobe to get her something to wear. She was so damn small that his clothes would most likely fall off of her, but she couldn’t stay in the towel. He picked up a long sleeved shirt, so she wouldn’t get cold, and clean boxers. His pants would definitely fall off.

He dressed his little mouse after cutting a hole in the elastic band of his boxers and pulling it extremely tight. He was not a small man, so the difference between their sizes was huge. The shirt swallowed her whole, making her look even cuter than before. It reached past her knees and the sleeves had to be rolled quite a few times in order for her hands to be visible.

Once he was done, he picked her up again, settling her on his hip then walked to his kitchen to feed the cute girl. He worked around the kitchen swiftly, preparing her food with only one hand, her weight on his hip not hindering him at all. He heated up some leftover pasta with chicken and vegetables from his dinner. He kept carrying his little mouse around as he put the food on the table then picked up some juice from the fridge.

He sat at the table, placing the girl sideways on his lap, supporting her back lightly, careful not to hurt her more. She’d been quiet ever since he put her in the bathtub, but the smell of food in front of her brought a startled gasp from her. She whipped her head around to look at him, looking scared and unsure.

“You don’t have to pay for food as long as you’re with me, little mouse. I’ll take care of you from now on. Would you like to stay with me?” He asked her.

The girl could not believe her ears. Stay with the man? But she didn’t know him and he didn’t know her.

“This would be your home.” He added, seeing the uncertainty in her eyes.

“Really?” She asked him hopeful. She wouldn’t have to stay on the streets? Was this really happening?

“Really, little one. By the way, what’s your name? I can’t keep calling you ‘little one’.” He asked, chuckling at the end.

“L-Lia.” She responded after thinking about it for a moment. It's been so long since she heard her name that she almost forgot it.

“Nice to meet you, Lia. My name is Tyson Clarke.” He introduced himself, just as her stomach growled loudly. “Let’s get that tummy fed, hmm? When was the last time you’ve eaten?” He asked as he picked up his fork and started feeding the little girl.

“Few days ago.” She admitted shamefully, as she chewed on the delicious food.


Tyson kept feeding her, asking her about her life between bites. Then he carried her to the living room, where they watched a cartoon movie before putting Lia to sleep. She grabbed his shirt when he tried to leave the guest bedroom he put her in, asking him if he could stay with her. She looked so scared and vulnerable he decided he couldn't just leave her like that. He picked her up again and took her to his own bedroom. After she fell asleep he contacted a doctor that was his friend to come in tomorrow to take a look at her, warning him about the state of her back.



Lia stayed with Tyson since then. He adopted her about 4 months later. He taught her how to cook, how to take care of herself, how to fight. He was a retired MMA fighter and she quickly mastered each fighting style he taught her. He even got her a tutor, so she wouldn’t have to go to school. She was deadly afraid of going to school after living on the streets for so long, especially with all the strangers there, but the stronger she got with her training, the more confident she became.



Soon she was undefeated, both in academics and on the ring.

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