Dark Haven Illusion (The Children Of The Gods Paranormal Romance #47) by I. T. Lucas

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Anastasia





Three months ago.

Safe Haven Retreat, Oregon Coast



“Welcome to Safe Haven, Ms. Gaboviv.” The counselor smiled and offered Anastasia her hand. "My name is Margaret, I was assigned to be your personal counselor, and over the next two weeks I will be guiding you on your journey of self-discovery.”

“Nice to meet you, Margaret.”

“Please, come in.” The woman motioned for Ana to enter her office.

The counselor appeared friendly, and her smile was genuine, but she didn’t seem nearly as content and tranquil as Ana expected one of the retreat’s top counselors to be.

Tension lines marred Margaret’s forehead, there were dark circles under her eyes, and even though she looked to be in her mid- to late thirties, there were gray strands interwoven in between dull brown ones. She was also too thin, but not in a fashion-model kind of way.

The woman looked worn out.

Her haggard appearance called into question some of the incredible results for one’s well-being promised by the resort’s literature.

After all, if the staff hadn’t attained spiritual enlightenment and tranquility, what chance did Ana have?

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, though.

They had to oversell the benefits to lure people into shelling out over eleven thousand dollars for a two-week stay in their so-called resort.

Luxurious, it definitely was not.

Whatever.

Ever since Ana had stumbled upon Safe Haven’s website, she’d been obsessing about trying it out. Now that she was here, she was not going to let her skepticism stop her from giving it a fair chance.

Besides, it was her father’s money, which he had no shortage of and no problem spending on her.

No questions asked.

Regrettably, he didn’t do that out of love, but rather out of guilt. Her father used money to compensate for being a crappy parent, whose communications with his daughter amounted to a once-a-month, two-minute phone call.

When she was younger, Ana had thought that he avoided her company because of the voices in her head. Her father hadn’t made it a secret that having a daughter with a mental problem was an embarrassment that he preferred to pretend didn’t exist.

Except, she hadn’t mentioned the voices to him or anyone else in years, but his attitude toward her hadn’t improved. It must have been something else.

Was it because she looked and sounded so much like her mother? Perhaps he just couldn’t stand looking at her or hearing her voice?

Her mother’s tragic death had dealt a heavy blow to both of them, but more so to Ana than to her father. His way of coping was to forget all about the woman he’d loved, push away the daughter who reminded him of her, and start a new life and a new family.

Nevertheless, her father wasn’t the reason she was sitting across from a counselor in a spiritual retreat.

“So, what brings you to Safe Haven, Anastasia?”

The main reason was the damn phantom voices that made her feel like a misfit for most of her life. But she wasn’t ready to share that information just yet. First, she had to get a feel for the place.

Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, Ana had no shortage of issues that she could bring up.

“In a nutshell, I feel like I’m drifting aimlessly through life. I lost my mother when I was young, I’m not close to my father, and I don’t have any real friends. I need to find a meaning and a purpose for my life.” She looked at the poster hanging on the wall behind the counselor and read one of the retreat’s slogans. “I seek contentment and tranquility.”

Margaret flashed her a bright smile. “Then you came to the right place.” She glanced at the open file on her desk. “I see here that you are a third-year law student. Do you enjoy your studies?”

“Not really.”

“So why do it?”

“My father wanted me to become a lawyer, and I wanted to please him.” Ana grimaced. “Except, nothing I do ever does, so why bother, right?”

In fact, the answer to that was simple. As long as she did what he expected of her, the money kept coming. Hopefully, he wouldn’t stop her allowance if she dropped out.

Ana hadn’t reached a final decision on that yet, which was another reason for coming here and embarking on a journey of self-discovery. Perhaps at the end of the two weeks things would become clearer, and she would figure out what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.