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Drowning to Breathe(4)

By:A.L. Jackson

Did she have any clue how tangled I was in Jennings’s life-sucking web?

My words were strained. “That’s where you’re wrong. I know exactly what that asshole is capable of. That’s what scares me most.”

Another rush of chills trembled through her, and she nodded as if she were attempting to make sense of her own questions. “I can’t believe you know him.”

Biting laughter escaped me before I could stop it as I was struck with another rush of doubt. “But didn’t you already know that, Shea?”

God, I was so back and forth. Swinging from sympathy and care to wondering if she was some kind of mole planted in my life with the sole purpose of ripping it apart.

Her chin quivered. “I would never have kept this from you as long as I did if I’d known.”

“Then how?”

Helpless, she lifted a shoulder. “I don’t know. Why were you in Savannah, Sebastian? You’re the one who came into my life. I had no idea Martin was a part of yours.” She squeezed her eyes closed, like maybe she didn’t want to ask the question, before she opened to me. “I need to know how you know him.”

More bitter laughter, and I paced again, wiping the back of a hand over my mouth like I could wipe away the sour taste.

I cut my attention to her. “Told you I might still be going to jail, Shea. Told you I wasn’t any good for you because every time I turn around I’m doing something to threaten my freedom. And my freedom is threatened because of him…because he fed my baby brother pills, then walked away and left him for dead.”

A shocked sob wracked through her and she covered her mouth with her hand. “Oh my God. No.”

She blinked what seemed a million times, seeming to withdraw, like she wanted to shrink back into her bed and disappear.

Awareness slammed me hard and fast, and I reached for her, framing her face in my hands as my own terror barreled through me. I saw it, Shea’s truth. “What did he do to you?”

She squeezed her eyes closed, withdrawing further.

I tightened my grip, and the demand scraped up my throat. “Tell me.”

She shook her head against my hold. “I can’t.”

“You can’t, or you won’t?”


It felt like she burned me.

She gasped when I suddenly released her. Eyes narrowed with regret, I studied her. She looked so small sitting at the edge of her bed. Fucking broken, still the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. All her colors striking bold. All that black and white, the deepest red and the darkest dark, trust and light. An outright fear distorted it all.

Like maybe she was begging me to see inside at the same time as she was shutting me out.

My phone rang from my jeans pocket, and my attention went back to what was most important—the tiny girl who’d been ripped from her home.

“It’s Anthony,” I said when I saw his name lighting the screen.

Hope swept her features.

I put the phone to my ear. “Anthony, tell me you have news.”

His heavy sigh traveled across the line. Foreboding. I sucked in a breath.

“I do. I’m just sorry it isn’t the kind of news you want to hear, Baz. I got word Martin Jennings made a public statement an hour ago. He’s playing the concerned father card. He says he knew he had to step in when he discovered you and Shea were dating. He’s using the assault against him and your past possession and theft convictions as his ammo. He’s claiming you’re only with Shea to get back at him and using his daughter as a pawn.”

The bastard was saying I was dangerous.

Which when it came to Martin Jennings, I was. A fucking loose cannon. I knew in my gut that asshole’s involvement with Mark and my baby brother went far deeper than any of us fathomed.

And now it involved Shea and Kallie.

I turned away from the terror blanketing Shea’s expression when she saw mine drop, unable to look at her as Anthony confirmed what I’d worried about most.

The shit going down in my life would be responsible for taking Shea down.

Knew it the second I saw him step from that car—Jennings was here because of me.

You were warned you’d regret fucking with me.

Point-blank, that’s what he’d said with a devious smirk on his face. Same thing he’d warned at that doomed mediation.

Running a hand down the tense muscles at the back of my neck, I studied my feet as I paced the floor.

All along I’d known I was bad for her. All. Along. There wasn’t anything right in my life, so how could I be right for her? But I’d pretended for so long I could possibly be that guy, I’d begun to believe it. Believed it when Shea had accepted me back after she’d found out who I was, because she recognized the man hidden underneath. Reached in far enough to touch him. To bring him to life through her beauty and light.