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Kiara Collins is a rich girl, while he is an orphan. They are from two different worlds but their lives collide when he works for Kiara’s parents. Despised, bullied, and betrayed, things just don’t work for Michael King. Cruel as the fate is, it can never make him shudder, let alone broken. He becomes a man he can’t have by taking everything she owns, leaving her with nothing! However, he realizes she’s the only woman he loves…but she’s already gone. Will they meet again?

PROLOGUE - THE LITTLE BOY

PROLOGUE  - The Little Boy

In the dimly lit room, the little boy huddled in a corner, and his small frame was shrouded by the shadow. The darkness seemed to engulf him and wrapped around his tiny body like a heavy cloak. His eyes darted around the room and there were stray beams of pale moonlight sneaking through the holes of the walls.

His face, once radiant, cherubic, and cute, was no longer the same. It has marks from Leilani’s nails. His tousled hair, matter with dirt and dried tears framed his tiny face. He clutched a small teddy bear to his chest, and his delicate fingers squeezed the plush toy tightly because it was a gift from his mother.

Cobwebs clung to the corners of the room and the air was heavy with a musty scent. His breath was shaky and shallow as he tried to control his stomach from grumbling with hunger. His eyes were open but he couldn’t see anything inside the room.

Nevertheless, he knew where Leilani kept the old shoes and slippers. His sleeping space was so tiny but it was fine for Michael. He would just tell himself that his body was tiny room could accommodate him. He would fit on his bed as long as he slept on his side, and hug his knees.

The pain and sting from Leilani’s whip didn’t bother him anymore. His body had grown accustomed to it. After all, who wouldn’t get used to it when almost every day, the tail of the stingray played on his young skin?

He wanted to cry and ask for help but he knew it would only hurt him more. Besides, without Leilani, he could have been dead a long time ago. If the woman had not taken him in, he would possibly be wandering the streets, homeless and with no place to sleep at night.

His small legs were already covered in welts from Leilani’s daily beatings. He couldn’t understand why she had to hurt him physically when he was an obedient child. He did everything she asked. Initially, Leilani was kind to him but her kindness was short-lived. He was only ten years old, and yet, he was already doing the cooking, washing, and cleaning. Leilani always told him to earn his keep.

Since they lived in a squatter’s area within the busiest district of Claybourne City, their neighbors were aware that Leilani had been maltreating him, but they couldn’t care less! There was a police station nearby but he was only allowed to go as far as the bakeshop. He tried to defy Leilani’s orders once, but when he got home, she punished him. Since then, he never dared to defy Leilani’s words.

When his stomach grumbled again, he took a breath while thinking about how he would sleep at night. His stomach was empty and he was dying to eat something. He could ignore the pain from his wounded skin, but he felt he couldn’t bear the extreme hunger.

“Mom, where are you?” Michael whispered in the air, hoping that his plea would be heard. He was suffering in pain, both physical and emotional, and if he didn’t act quickly, his suffering would continue. So, he got up and searched in the darkroom for his medicine  - a crushed penicillin that he would use on his wounds.

In times like this, Michael wished to be with his parents. If only he was with them, maybe his life would have been different. Perhaps, he wouldn’t go hungry, and his skin wouldn’t have marks from Leilani’s cruelty.

Leilani was a big eater. Whatever was left on the table would only be his food. Unfortunately, most of the time, there was nothing left for him, and it was the reason why she was angry and beat him. He had been hungry since that afternoon, so he asked her for coins to buy some bread. Slowly, Michael got out of the tiny room and dragged his tiny legs toward the living room where Leilani was watching television. As soon as she saw him approaching, she raised an eyebrow.

“What is it this time, Michael? Didn’t I tell you to go to sleep?” she asked angrily.

“I can’t sleep. I am so hungry,” he replied and she just rolled her eyes before tossing a coin to his direction.

“Go and buy some bread!”

With a coin in his hand, Michael felt hopeful because he would be able to eat. His small, grimy hand tightly clutched the single coin as he ventured outside. As he stepped onto the uneven pavement, a smile formed on the corner of his lips.

The streetlights buzzed overhead, and his heart pounded with trepidation as he continued to walk. When he reached the edge of the sidewalk, he hesitated for a moment while peering left and right. With a deep breath and all the courage his young heart could have, he took that fateful step onto the bustling street.

But in an instant, his world turned upside down. A sudden screech of tires and the deafening blare of a horn filled his ears as a speeding car with blinding headlights, was coming toward him. Panic surged through his veins as his legs froze in the moment. He couldn’t move!

Then, the car struck him with a force that sent him sprawling on the road. The precious coin rolled over from his hand as if mocking his misfortune. Pain surged through his fragile body but amid the chaos and anguish, his thoughts remained fixed on the lost coin and the bread it would never buy.

Passersby rushed to the scene and someone called for an ambulance. Another kind soul cradled him, and if he wasn’t mistaken, the woman cried, and he wondered who cried for him. Was it Leilani?

Slowly, he opened his eyes and saw Leilani squeezing her way into the crowd. His eyes pleaded for Leilani’s help but she quickly walked away. At that moment, his young heart was heartbroken that Leilani would remain hard on him even when he was dying!

“Leilani, wait! You know this child, right?” someone stopped her from leaving the scene.

“No, I don’t know him,” Leilani replied before turning her back.

 slept

CHAPTER 1 – Crushing on Him

Kiara’s heart raced with excitement as she made her way to the garden. For weeks now, she had been looking forward to their daily encounter and she was eager to catch a glimpse of the handsome gardener, Michael. His rugged charm and the way he effortlessly worked with the plants had captured her attention.

As she approached the garden, her steps were light and her eyes were sparkling with joy. She couldn’t help but hope for a warm smile and perhaps even a friendly greeting from Michael. However, as she turned the corner and saw him tending to the vibrant flowers and lush greenery, his expression remained stoic, and then, he glared at her.

“Hi,” she greeted him immediately while hoping that he would smile back.

“You should just focus on your assignment, Kiara. Aren’t you wasting your precious time in coming her every afternoon?” he asked.

Kiara’s excitement began to wane as soon as she heard his questions. She was disappointed because she had expected a warm w

Heroes

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