Erin Richards

Adventure into the darkness . . . and let the sparks fly!

  • Romance
  • Young Adult
  • Fantasy
stealing twilight

Bittersweet Wreckage

Young Adult Contemporary


Her dad wasn't supposed to die.

He wasn't supposed to have a second family, and her mom wasn't supposed to slip into a prescription drug haze.

And she definitely wasn't supposed to kiss her new “half-brother.”

Ivy Lynwood has spent her life under the oppressive thumb of her abusive father. When the impossible happens, and he's found dead in a boat fire, Ivy thinks her life may finally be turning around. But her newfound freedom is short-lived; just as she and her mother start to move on, they learn that Ivy’s father had a second family—whose mother also died in the boat fire.

Child Services asks Ivy’s mother to take in the orphaned teenagers, and her life spirals even further out of control. Her mother disappears into a drugged la-la land, leaving Ivy to clean up the pieces… while clues of her mother’s guilt in the fire stack up. And for the first time, Ivy falls in love… with the son of her father’s dead mistress. Even though Ivy and Jesse are unrelated, he’s off limits when he moves in with the Lynwoods. Ivy knows she’ll never have the normal family she dreamed of—but can she manage to turn the wreck of her life into any family at all?

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Chapter 1


I spat into the cocktail shaker, poured in exactly four ounces of ice-cold vodka, and measured out a quarter ounce of dry vermouth. The scent of the bitter, herby alcohol caused my nose to scrunch up. The stench reminded me of the compost heap in the backyard. Using tongs, I tossed in six ice cubes, capped the shaker, and shook it three times from top to bottom. Heaven forbid my skin touch the ice. Dad may not recognize the taste of my spit, but he sure as heck could taste lotion or soap residue from my fingers in his drink. Lesson learned the one time I’d used my fingers. The red imprint of his hand had lingered on my face for hours. I’d remember that nosebleed forever. That day marked the second coming of Ivy Lynwood, child of steel.

“Hurry up, Ivy.” Mom breezed past the fully stocked bar in the family room, arms flailing wildly in my direction. “He’s having a freakout because the printer’s on the fritz,” she whispered, a shaky edge of fear in her voice.

And it’s my butt he’ll boot if I don’t appease the Master of Worldwide Jerks. I gave the martini another spritz of spit. My throat tickled. Maybe I had a cold brewing, or the plague. One could only wish.

I strained the drink into a frosted martini glass, dropped in the two-olive toothpick, and finagled a twist of lemon peel onto the rim, dipping it an inch into the liquid. Four inches of peel, no more and no less. The perfect martini coming up. I’d named it the Ivy Spitini.

Mom handed me the special serving tray. An indentation on the bottom held the glass base steady. After the second time I’d knocked a glass onto the hallway floor two years ago and suffered my father’s drunken wrath, she’d bought the tray to spare me. Not only had he made me fork over my allowance for the alcohol and glass I’d wasted, he’d forced me to adopt a Cinderella complex and clean the entire downstairs floor on hands and knees with a handful of microfiber cloths. The Ivy Spitini had been born the next day.

I expertly balanced the drink as I glided through the house to Dad’s office overlooking the Almaden Hills above San Jose. I’d done the job a million times since I’d learned to make his favorite drink at twelve years old. My flip-flops slapped the spotless travertine stone floor, announcing my arrival in his palatial office.

Dad slammed the lid on the printer, the clatter echoing up to the twelve-foot ceiling. “Fix this piece of garbage before I throw it through the window.” He pinned a glare on me, steam practically billowing out his ears, then he pinned the martini with a look of lust, his forked tongue slithering over his bottom lip. He held more love for the Spitini than anything in the world.

“Sure, Dad. Will this be a two-martini night?” I braved the words, white-knuckling the tray.

He snorted, his bright blue eyes darkening and narrowing. “I’m so glad you inherited my smarts over your mother’s dumb blonde genes.”

I’m so glad I inherited Mom’s fine blonde hair over your ugly salt-and-pepper straw head. I bit my tongue, held the tray out. Dad lifted the drink and I held my breath. As always, he slurped a small sip, tasting and weighing the liquid on his tongue, verifying the perfectly measured recipe. Would my second glob of spit heave it over the edge? Something sharp twisted in my stomach.

Dad pulled his lucky corporate-deal tie loose. I pictured the silk worms weaving and spitting to create the flawless tie. “Perfect. Now fix the printer.”

“Then may I do my homework?”

“As long as you fix me another double in exactly twenty minutes.”

I swished my tongue inside my mouth, prepping for another dose of Ivy’s Special Ingredient.

So began our typical evening at the Lynwood funny farm when Dad graced us with the presence of his magnificent assholeness. After the second Spitini, Mom would be on the receiving end of his attentions in one way or another instead of me. Help was beyond her at that point. She’d made her bed and had wasted plenty of opportunities to set fire to it and vanish into the night. Something—Dad’s money, our big houses, the latest luxury cars, I had no clue what—kept my mother on his right arm like a trophy wife. She was and always would be a doormat to him. I hated him for whatever bound her to him, for whatever kept us living our dysfunctional life. Maybe someday I’d understand. Until then, I counted the days to graduation next year when I could follow my twenty-year-old sister’s footsteps to college. Kristen had split for UCLA and thrown away the map and key to the Lynwood house.

Bending over the printer, I mentally counted the days to my own escape. I didn’t plan on playing bartender or being my dad’s personal slave for the rest of my life. Nor a doormat. I punched buttons on the printer to verify the malfunction, probably caused by his screw-up. How lame was it that MBA Dad hadn’t learned the skills to pull out the empty blue toner cartridge and stick in a new one? Easy enough a dumb blonde…  cat could do it.

The leafy branches in the hydrangea garden fluttered outside the floor-to-ceiling window. I spied the long tail of our neighbor’s tabby peeking above the poufy blue blooms.

“Oh, crap city,” I muttered. Rex, my bud when my father wasn’t home, was poised to jump onto the birdbath and to uncertain death if Dad spied him and the empty birdbath I’d forgotten to fill. Rex left turds in the planters and it pissed my father off. I waved at the cat, trying to shoo him away as if he understood human gestures. Go, go, I mentally shouted to the cat heading for the guitar string factory. I tossed the small empty printer cartridge at the window. It clinked against the glass, scaring Rex away in a mad dart toward his own yard to the left of our driveway.

“Damn it, dial it down, Ivy.”

“Sorry.” I retrieved the ink cartridge. “It slipped.”

“Hurry up and fix my other drink. Tell your mother I’m not hungry. I have too much work.”

Indignation for Mom jerked my movements. She’d spent two hours creating a gourmet meal. Two tasks she did well: cooking and decorating. No doubt, an antianxiety pill was the dessert du jour later. Just the way he preferred her best: pliable, quiet, and flat on her back, a pretty, ill-used and abused rug.

“Anything else you need me to do?” I hung in the double doorway. Ya know, like spoon-feed you, kiss your feet, spit shine your car? I clutched my pendants, clinking the dragon against the silver disc hanging on the chain. I never took my token dragon necklace off. Dragons were protectors and purveyors of good luck. Yeah, I know, I wasn’t super lucky or well-protected. Yet I kept wishing, kept holding onto my dream. Every day I woke up alive, it had served me well.

Without lifting his head, his nose practically attached to his laptop screen, he said, “Finish your homework, then I need you to print, collate, and bind fifty copies of my morning’s presentation. I’ll leave it in your folder on the network marked with today’s date. Melody packed the supplies in the car. Don’t leave fingerprints on the trunk lid either.”

Anger painfully tightened my fingers on the door molding. Don’t they pay your admin enough money? Because you certainly don’t pay me enough to do her job and mine. And isn’t your badass tech company supposed to go green? Shoot, I won’t be able to finish the last book in my favorite fantasy series, I internally wailed. What would The Hollows witch Rachel Morgan do? Load a sleepy-time charm in her splat gun and bang one down on Dad? Or concoct a charm to turn him into a toad for Rex to bat around?

“When you wash my car Saturday, use the new microfiber towels and that spray polish. This time use the new tire black too. You didn’t use it last week.”

“I did use the new stuff.” I risked his outrage to quell my own, locking my knees in place. “Do you want me to try a different brand?” I offered, trying to simmer him down.

“Use your head, Ivy. Now get out.”

Another night of cordial bliss serving the needs of the CEO of Worldwide Jerks ’R’ Us.

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Bookish Quotes

"It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly."

– C. J. Cherryh

"Words are a lens to focus one’s mind."

– Ayn Rand

"Half my life is an act of revision."

– John Irving

"There’s no such thing as writer’s block. That was invented by people in California who couldn’t write." (LOL!)

– Terry Pratchett

"Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences."

– Anne McCaffrey

"I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose."

– Stephen King


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