One Tiny Lie (Ten Tiny Breaths, #2)

One Tiny Lie (Ten Tiny Breaths, #2)
by K.A. Tucker

To Lia and Sadie, your lives are always yours to live.

Paul, for daddy day care.

To Stacey, a true writer’s agent.

I walk away.

I walk away from the voices, the shouts, the disappointment.

I walk away from my deceptions, my mistakes, my regrets.

I walk away from all that I am supposed to be and all that I cannot be.

For all of it is a lie.


Too Perfect


“Livie, I think you’re completely f*cked up.”

Chunks of cheesecake fly out of my mouth and splatter against the deck’s glass panel as I choke on my fork. My sister has a twisted sense of humor. I automatically attribute her declaration to that. “That’s not funny, Kacey.”

“You’re right. It’s not.”

The way she says it—her calm, gentle tone—sends a strange ripple through my stomach. Wiping off the gob of cheesecake from my bottom lip, I turn to search her face, looking for a tell—something to expose her game. I see none. “You’re not serious, are you?”

“As a heart attack.”

A bubble of panic rises into my throat. “Are you on drugs again?”

She answers with a flat glare.

I don’t take that as truth, though. I lean forward and peer into her face, looking for the signs—the dilated pupils, the bloodshot whites—the traits of a user that I came to recognize when I was twelve. Nothing. Nothing but crystal-clear blue eyes staring back at me. I allow myself a small sigh of relief. At least we’re not heading back down that road.

With a nervous giggle and no clue how to respond, I bide my time with another mouthful of cake. Only now the mocha flavor has turned bitter and the texture is gritty. I force it down with a hard swallow.

“You’re too perfect, Livie. Everything you do, everything you say. You can do no wrong. If someone slapped you across the face, you’d apologize to them. I can’t believe you don’t deck me for some of the stuff I say. It’s like you’re not capable of getting angry. You could be the love child of Mother Teresa and Gandhi. You’re . . .” Kacey pauses as if searching for the right word. She settles with, “Too f*cking perfect!”

I cringe. Kacey tosses F-bombs around like some people toss pennies. I got used to it years ago, and yet each one of them feels like a punch to the nose right now.

“One of these days, I think you’re going to crack and go all Amelia Dyer on me.”

“Who?” I frown as my tongue works the last bits of mealy cake off the roof of my mouth.

She waves a dismissive hand at me. “Oh, that woman in London who murdered hundreds of babies—”

“Kacey!” I glare at her.

With an eye roll, she mutters, “Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that Stayner has agreed to speak to you.”

This is getting more ridiculous by the second. “What? Bu . . . I . . . but . . . Dr. Stayner?” I sputter out. Her PTSD therapist? My hands are starting to shake. I place my plate down on a side table before I drop it. When Kacey handed it to me and suggested that we watch the Miami Beach sunset from our deck, I thought she was being sweet. Now I see she was masterminding a crazed intervention that I don’t need. “I’m not suffering from PTSD, Kacey.”

“I didn’t say you were.”

“Well, then, where is all of this coming from?”

She doesn’t give me a reason. She gives me the mother lode of guilt trips instead. “You owe me, Livie,” she says in an even tone. “When you asked me to go into inpatient therapy three years ago, I did it. For you. I didn’t want to, but—”

“You needed it! You were a mess!” That’s putting it lightly. The drunk driving accident that killed our parents seven years ago sent Kacey spiraling down into a rock-bottom haze of drugs, one-night stands, and violence. Then, three years ago, even rock bottom fell out from under her. I was sure I’d lost her.

But Dr. Stayner brought her back to me.

“I did need it,” she admits, pursing her lips. “And I’m not asking you to commit yourself to inpatient therapy. I’m asking you to pick up the phone when Stayner calls. That’s all. For me, Livie.”

This is completely irrational—downright insane—and yet I can see by the way Kacey’s fists are balled by her side and she chews her bottom lip that she’s not messing around. She’s genuinely concerned about me. I bite my tongue and turn to stare out at the setting sun’s last rays dancing over the water. And I consider it.

What on earth could Dr. Stayner have to say? I’m a straight-A student on her way to Princeton and, after that, med school. I love children and animals and old people. I’ve never had the urge to pull wings off insects or fry them with a magnifying glass. Sure, I’m not big on attention. And I tend to sweat profusely around attractive guys. And I’ll probably stroke out on my first date. If I don’t melt into a puddle of sweat before someone even has a chance to ask me out.

All that hardly means I’m two steps away from becoming the next mass-murdering psycho. Still, I do like and respect Dr. Stayner, despite his peculiarities. Talking to him wouldn’t be unpleasant. It would be a quick conversation . . .

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