Mack (King #4)

Written By: Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Mack (King #4) by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff





DEDICATION




To Anson and Marleen, my desert spirit guides.

“Anson! Look! It’s soooo beautiful!”





MACK





PROLOGUE


MACK





Most know me as Mack, though I have gone by many names and have lived many lives—each ending in misfortune. Each making my heart grow colder and harder.

This is my story—a tragedy without hope, so don’t try. Don’t wish for an ending filled with love or a moral lesson that lifts your soul. That’s impossible for a man like me, because I have done too many terrible things.

So turn back now if that’s what you’re looking for. Run the other way.

The only ending you should expect is mine. And I pray that this time my death is an irrevocable one.





CHAPTER ONE


TEDDI





“You’ve nailed it,” I mumbled to myself, eyeing my black pencil skirt and pinstriped blazer in the mirror, confident that no one would ever learn my little secret.

Or would they?

I swiveled in my black heels one last time before realizing I was running late for my first day.

Yep. A new job.

Thus the reason for my new look—dark brown hair cut into an A-line and extra-thick, black-framed glasses (instead of contacts) to play down my green eyes.

Of course, just because I looked more grown-up and serious didn’t mean the staff would accept a twenty-eight-year-old woman named Teddi (short for Theodora) as the new director of the Santa Barbara Mental Health Treatment Center. I could hardly accept it myself.

However, my youthful appearance only held the number two slot on my list of concerns. Coveted number one was the sort of obstacle a conservative suit could never resolve. I only hoped that no one caught on.

No one has yet, I thought to myself. Really, only my parents knew the truth.

Whoa. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t some breed of degenerate. I was what most considered lucky—a child prodigy who skipped several grades, graduated high school just shy of sixteen, and finished my PhD in clinical psychology from Colombia at twenty-two, which included taking a year off from my studies to try to find myself.

A disastrous failure.

Because for every ounce of academic intelligence I possessed, my emotional intelligence decreased by an equal amount. Yes, my brain was broken. So in laymen’s terms, I got everything and I got nothing. A computer had more genuine empathy, yet I could probably build one from a blueprint if I had to.

So what was wrong with me?

Who the hell knew? But the doctors explained it as this: the deep emotional part of my brain was shut off.

That wasn’t to say I didn’t have emotions. I had some, although nothing anyone would classify as normal. A normal person, for example, would feel happy when her boyfriend of two years proposed. I’d felt…indifferent. Just like I felt when I caught him four weeks later pounding his dick into my best friend while I was supposed to be at work. While he wore my lingerie. My brand-new, untouched wedding-night lingerie.

The appropriate response would’ve been outrage; however, the best I could muster was the conclusion that fate had intervened at an opportune moment and done me a favor.

So, as you might guess, this lack of emotion was what drew me to psychology—the study of the mind and emotions. And it was why I owned a collection of Spock T-shirts.

Yes. I really did. And that was as close as you came to humor when you’ve spent your whole life trying to understand why you’re broken.

Anyway, now you see why it was a miracle that I was given the opportunity to run a center. Because while my analytical mind could pinpoint schizophrenia or bipolar disorder from a mile away, and I immediately knew the most effective treatment for every patient I met—it was my gift—I found it difficult to connect to people. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t be useful in this world. I just went about helping people in a logical way.

Watch out, Spock. Here comes Teddi.

“See you later, Bentley.” I turned and patted my dog’s head—a Jack Russell with a serious staring problem—and then grabbed my keys to my new black BMW (a little congrats gift to myself) before heading out the front door of my two-bedroom beach house.

This is it, Ted. Don’t f*cking blow it.

~~~

My new administrative assistant, Shannon—a middle-aged blonde with a passive-aggressive smile—greeted me at the center’s reception. The one-story glass building, with excessively vibrant landscaped grounds, was a mere ten minutes from downtown Santa Barbara and contained two hundred beds, fifty of which were reserved for long-term care. The rest were for the weekend benders, meltdown moms, and variety of people simply going through an anxiety rough patch. Substance abusers and alcoholics went to the rehab center across town.

“And here is our resident patient ward,” Shannon said, gesturing toward the set of beige double doors with small windows to prevent the staff from slamming into one another. “Fifty patients who receive around-the-clock care, including one-on-one and daily group therapy.”

Shannon pushed through the doors, and I followed along, feeling a bit like I was being led on a tour of a people zoo.

“These first ten rooms are for our suicide watches. The others are a variety of conditions—PTSD, chronic postpartum, eating disorders. The usual.” Shannon strolled along the hallway, waving her hands toward the different doors as she spoke.

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