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Drowning to Breathe(3)

By:A.L. Jackson



Left him there to die.

Wasn’t like I’d thought all that highly of him before then. Asshole had screamed nothing but seedy pretention and greedy arrogance. Like the snake he was, every strategic move he’d made had been to bring him one step closer to whatever devious goal he’d set his sight on.

Money.

Power.

Insatiable gluttony.

But that night was the first time the name Martin Jennings became synonymous with destruction. With the highest kind of threat.

Rocking, she hugged herself tightly. She breathed the admission toward her lap. “Biologically, yes, but in every other way, no.”

Rapidly I blinked and began to pace, raking my hands through my sopping wet hair as I tried to process the fuckery that had spun my life out of control. One disaster after another.

Trouble.

Knew it the first time I saw her. There was just something about her that wouldn’t let me go. Something deep and unfathomable. Funny, I’d still felt like I needed to protect her from the depravity that seemed to make up the definition of who I was.

And here she was, pouring on another layer.

Guess I was right. That shit found me anywhere I went.

Swinging back toward her, I stared her down, unable to contain some of the anger pushing its way free. “You lied to me? After all this time…after everything we’ve been through, you let me go on believing Kallie didn’t have a father?”

“She doesn’t have a father. He has never been her father.”

My laughter was bitter, and I began to storm around the room, my feet eating up the floor while vile images of that sick bastard Jennings touching my girl ran through my brain on an unbearable loop.

I flew back around, my head bent down and cocked to the side as I approached her. Like maybe if I looked close enough, I could see everything she’d been hiding. “I thought we were finished with all the bullshit and lies. I thought I knew you.”

My face suddenly pinched up with the hurt she’d inflicted. Because it was the truth. She’d gutted me. I’d trusted her, and here I was, uncertain if I’d been the pawn in some twisted game.

Everyone wanted a piece of Sebastian Stone.

Now I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d been played.

My eyes locked on her. Soft and frail and glimpses of that light fighting for a comeback.

God, how could I even think for a second this wasn’t real?

I fisted my hand at my chest, giving her raw honesty. “I gave you my fucking heart, Shea. All of it. Wanted to claim Kallie as my own. Wanted everything with you, and now it turns out I know nothing.”

Tears distorted her voice, and her own truth bled free. “Do you really think you don’t know me, Sebastian? Do you really think you don’t know every single thing that counts? This room…this house…me being a mother to Kallie…loving you.” She emphasized the last, and it struck me deep.

Tonight was the first time I’d truly accepted she could love me. Accepted maybe I deserved to love her back.

Creases deepened at the corners of her eyes. “Those are the only things in my life that count.”

Fear welled up as frustration, and I fisted my hands at my sides. “You think it doesn’t count that prick Jennings had the power to just roll in here and steal Kallie away from us?”

I took a step forward and lowered my voice. “You think that doesn’t matter? And you want to know the sick part, Shea? The only fucking thing I want right now is to comfort you. Make it better. Fix it. And I don’t even know what the fuck I’m fixin’. You lied to me…for months. I’m not sure I even know who you are.”

“You know me,” she pled. More tears fell, and she sniffled and inhaled. She brought those eyes up to mine. Something fierce billowed out from within them.

Her voice was a whisper, but there was no mistaking the strength behind it. “Yes, I lied to you. But it’s a lie I’ve told everyone, including myself. It’s the only way I knew how to survive. It was the only way Kallie and I could live a normal life. You don’t know what that man is capable of, and if lying about his existence kept my daughter safe, then I would do it a million times over.”

I swallowed hard. I’d be nothing but a hypocrite if I said I didn’t understand. How many secrets had I kept locked up tight, refusing to show them to protect my family? My brother? The band?

I mean, fuck, Shea’s and my entire relationship had been built on a foundation of lies. I was the one who’d kept my identity hidden in the first place. Now I knew what that shit felt like.

But her being Delaney Rhoads and wanting to leave behind a life she didn’t want was one thing. Martin Jennings being Kallie’s father was a whole different story.

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