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Drowning to Breathe(2)

By:A.L. Jackson



I rushed forward and scooped her into my arms just before she hit the ground. There was nothing I could do but pull her to me. Hold her. Couldn’t stop the way my nose went into her hair or the way my mouth pressed to her temple. “I’ve got you.”

I’ve got you.

Did I?

She buried her face in my chest, her arms clinging to my neck as if I could be her rock. “He took her, Sebastian. He took her.”

Her breath seeped all over me. Plea after plea. Like she was asking me to make it better.

Asking me to be a part of it now.

I felt torn in a million directions. Shredded. My love for this girl, the devotion that pumped through me with every violent beat of my heart, at all-out war with the voice that kept whispering I didn’t know her at all.

In what seemed like shock, I carried Shea up the walk and started to climb the porch steps. I twisted sideways to get by April who still clung to the railing. She seemed to be frozen in her own shock.

Wood creaked beneath my bare feet as I walked across the porch. I didn’t stop when I hit the polished hardwood floors inside. I headed for the staircase.

I gulped over visions of the nightmare that had just transpired here—The little girl standing at the top of the landing whispering for her mommy, having no clue how her world was about to be crushed.

As soon as I crossed the exact spot where Kallie had stood, Shea yelped as if she were in physical pain.

“Kallie.” Her gasped name hit the air like grief.

I gritted my teeth and pulled her a little closer. “I know, baby, I know.”

Shea’s room was just as dark as it’d been ten minutes before, the covers still rumpled, and the room smelling like sex. As if we were still back in that moment when I was confessing things I didn’t think I’d ever get to feel.

Love for a woman I never thought I’d deserve.

Love for a child who’d caught me up in a whirlwind of tinkling laughter, unending smiles, and a precious, perfect world filled with butterflies.

Fuck. I wanted it.

I wanted it so bad but now I didn’t know up from down. Didn’t know who was who or where I belonged.

Carefully, I set a drenched, shivering Shea on the edge of her bed. Hunched over, she wrapped her arms across her chest as if looking for a way to hold herself together.

“Don’t move.” I went into the adjoining bathroom and grabbed a couple dry towels from the cabinet. Striding right back out, I wrapped one around her shoulders then began to work the other through the length of her hair.

Slowly, carefully, I looked down at her as she looked up at me. Her face was wet from the rain, but there was no mistaking the ceaseless tears streaming down her cheeks.

Caramel eyes latched onto mine, a molten stir of remorse and shame and outright fear. She reached up and wrapped her delicate hand around my wrist. An electric current streaked down my spine. A rush of light and heat and agony. The threads of that unfound tether that tied her to me pulled softly and steadily and somehow urgently.

I stilled my movements, strung up by her silent charge.

Didn’t matter I didn’t have the first clue who she really was. She still had the power to command all my senses.

Her bottom lip trembled. “I didn’t want you to find out this way.”

I took two steps back and let the towel drop to the floor.

The words wavered between severe and hurt. “Or you didn’t want me to find out at all.”

Wasn’t really a question. Just another accusation that made me sound like a first-class dick, because there was no question in my mind she was hurting.

But shit…who could blame me?

I gave a harsh shake of my head, pissed at myself.

How many times had I wanted to go rooting around in her dark? Fucking drawn to it like it might be my saving breath.

Now here I was, drowning in it.

As if she accepted my anger, expected it, she dropped her gaze to her fingers twisting like blanched bows on her lap. “I didn’t want you to find out this way,” she murmured like an oath. “This is what I was trying to tell you when the social worker rang the doorbell.”

I swallowed hard, feeling my eyes narrowing as I pinned her to the spot with the heat of my glare, with the demand. Because even though I already knew it was the truth, I needed to hear her admit it aloud. “Martin Jennings is Kallie’s father.”

Shea flinched like she’d been struck, lines of horror striking bold across her face.

Terror.

Hurt.

Regret.

All those emotions made my head spin almost as dramatically as it felt like my heart ached.

Sorrow squeezed my chest.

Fuck, I hated him. Had hated him since the second I saw him coming off the tour bus the night I’d gone in to find Austin sprawled face down on the floor. OD’ing on whatever the bastard had fed him.

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