Excerpt from Chapter One Hero Ever After by Sarah Ready
I love heroes. Everything about them. Their strength, their honor, their devotion, their pursuit of the ultimate goal in the face of unsurmountable odds. A hero always does what’s right, always wins, no matter what. Right now, more than anything in the whole wide world, I need a hero. I’m broke, widowed, a whisper from the edge, and my baby girl’s dying—she wants a hero, and by all that’s holy, I’ll get her one. I’ll get her the greatest superhero of all time. I’ll get her Liam Stone.
I glance to the backseat of the car. Bean’s strapped in her car seat. Her sixth birthday was last week and she’s working through the pile of comic books that she got for her present.
“Do you think he’ll lift a car?” she asks. “When he fought The Red Spider he lifted a car over his head and crushed him.”
I take my eyes off the washed out dirt road and look in the rearview mirror. “I don’t know, Bean. I don’t know if retired superheroes still do that stuff.” Two lines pucker between her forehead as she thinks my answer over. “But he’ll still train me?”
“If I have to wrestle him to the ground and force him.”
She giggles and I nearly lose my breath at the happy sound.
“Mama, you can’t beat Liam Stone. He’s strong as two hundred men, quick as a rocket, and smarter than Einstein, aaand he’s devoted to helping the misfortunate.”
“Downtrodden,” I say with a wry smile.
“He’ll be happy to see me. I bet he’s been wanting a protégé for years. All the best heroes have ’em.”
I raise my eyebrows. Since when did she start using words like protégé? “You let me do the talking, Bean.”
“I know.” She buries her nose back in the comic book. I can barely see the top of her bald head over the bright cover of the comic.
I breathe through the pinch of panic that comes every time I see evidence of her being sick. Push it aside.
Anyway, we’ve made it. We’re ten miles outside of Centreville where Route 511 crosses Route 511B and turns onto Pine Tree Road. Southern Ohio is full of fallow land sold for cheap, you can snatch up hundreds of acres, and be left alone for the rest of your life. Which is, I guess, what Liam Stone was hoping for. He bought the land two years ago when he literally fell from Hollywood stardom.
At first, everyone in town was starstruck, waiting for the day he’d come to Main Street so they could go gaga over him. But he never came. Two years on, no one in town has ever laid eyes on him. And no one has ever been brave enough to come out and introduce themselves—extend a neighborly hello. Nope, we’ve all just left him alone.