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Broken but Breathing(Jinx Tattoos Book 2)

By:Shyla Colt

PROLOGUE

Estelle Noll never minded storms. The sound of the rain dancing on the  rooftop made her smile. The fresh scent and the coolness it always  brought were a welcome break from the sweltering summer heat. She sat on  the plush grey window seat, viewing the world through the pane of  glass. They cracked the screen earlier in anticipation of what was to  come. The distinct aroma that came from wet concrete was nature's  perfume. She couldn't wait to breathe in the crisp, clean scent.

I'm an unrepentant pluviophile. A total lover of rain who found joy and  peace in the precipitation. The corners of her lips curled up as her  mind went to her mother, Jane Abbot, and her father, James. They gifted  her with her appreciation of books, rain, and whimsical things. The  English-born couple loved classic literature, and wove wondrous tales  about their life in Kent, England.

They'd returned to their hometown five years ago, and Estelle missed  them more every day. Soon they'll be back to prepare for your birth,  little one. She rubbed her rounded belly.

A tiny foot kicked in response, and garnered a smile. There's a living,  breathing being inside of me right now. Wonderment filled her. For five  years she and Everett tried to have a baby. Therefore, with his low  sperm count and her endometriosis this bun in her oven was a tiny  miracle.

"I can't wait to meet you, Emma," she whispered. Content, she glanced at  the worn copy of her name inspiration, Great Expectations, in her lap.

The wail of sirens brought her from Pip and Estelle's childhood. Tornado  warning. The warnings were common this time of year. Closing her book,  she studied the sky rapidly changing color. The hairs on the back of her  neck and arms stood on end; a sense of unease flooded her system. She  closed the book and slid off the cushion, narrowing her eyes. Had the  sky taken on a green hue? The wind had picked up. The branches on the  trees shook violently in the wind.

"Stell." Everett strode into the room. The terse tone and clipped words made her hackles rise.

"What's wrong?" she asked, standing to greet him.

"We need to go downstairs. The bathroom is the safest place. They spotted a funnel nearby."

Goosebumps covered her flesh. A fine sheen of sweat broke out on her  forehead. She toyed with the hem of her maternity top, worrying the  material as she rubbed it between her forefinger and thumb.

He moved to the window and struggled to close it. "I'll close this. You go downstairs, now."

The bass in his voice put her in motion. Fear slithered its way through  her body; worry sat in her stomach like a stone, cold and unyielding. A  lump formed in her throat. She gripped the bannister, careful not to  trip as she waddled her way down the stairs. Balls of ice hit the  windows, walls, and roof with loud cracks.

She jogged toward the bathroom. Fear drove her into the tiny room. She  perched on the toilet seat, eager to have Everett in her line of sight.  Taking deep breaths, she attempted to keep the panic forming at bay. Her  stomach soured. She rocked back and forth to comfort herself and the  squirming bundle in her belly. The attempt failed. His footsteps pounded  on the steps.

He appeared in the doorway a few moments later. His face was pale as a  sheet, and the crow's feet in the corners of his eyes stood out. Lips  drawn in a straight line, and dark eyes full of sadness, he presented a  grim picture. He doesn't think we're going to make it. Tears blurred her  vision, and her shoulders shook as she tried to hold in her sobs.

He sat on the edge of the tub and gripped her chin. "Hey. I need you to  calm down for Emma, okay? I won't let anything happen to you or the  baby. We're going to get into the tub, stay down, and pray our asses  off. We'll be interviewed on the news when all this is over. Okay?"

She swallowed the hysteria threatening to rise in her throat like  carbonated bubbles full of crazy and nodded. Their lips met in a kiss  that smacked of desperation. She poured every ounce of love she held for  this man into their mouth mating. Surfacing for air, breathing heavily,  they stared into each other's eyes. She saw everything in his hazel  orbs-the fear, the joy, and the determination. Everett Noll had never  let her down when it counted. He wouldn't start now if he could help it.

"I love you, Estelle."

"I love you, too, Everett." She had to yell to be heard over the roar that sounded like a massive waterfall.

"Let's get in. It's go time." He stood, holding her hand as she slipped  into the porcelain basin and rested on her side. She held her belly,  wishing she could cradle the babe moving around inside of her in her  arms.

The house vibrated, shaking them violently. Her body protested and her  teeth rattled. Joints creaked and moaned. He covered her body with his  own. The heat from his body, the cold, smooth surface of the tub, and  the terror placed her in a crazed limbo. The noise grew loud. It really  does sound like a locomotive. Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with  thee. The rest of the prayer was lost to her screams as the roof ripped  off, and all hell broke loose.         

     



 

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Beep. Beep. Beep. The noise pulled her from the blackness. She moaned,  and awareness exploded inside of her mind like a bomb. She opened her  mouth to cry out. I can't talk. When she went to move her hand, and only  her fingers twitched, panic set in. Her throat attempted to expel the  foreign object, and she began to choke.

A gentle hand rested on her arm. She jerked her head to see who touched her.

A jolt of pain ran up her neck.

"Hey, hey, none of that. We had to place a tube in your mouth. Please  calm down. You'll put out the tube, and that would set your progress  back."

She stilled.

A blurry shape with blonde hair appeared at her bedside.

"Hi, I'm Nurse Amy, and I'll be helping you. I'm sorry about the pain.  They had to lower the dosage to bring you back around. You've been in a  medically induced coma."

Her brain was fuzzy. Baby. What about my baby? Suddenly her head was too  heavy. Her neck failed her, and her head fell back down on the pillow.  Her brain hurt, and she couldn't focus. The thought she'd had slipped  away.

"Don't worry, you'll drift in and out for a while," the kind voice said.

The next time she came to her throat was blessedly clear.

"Oh, thank the Lord you're awake," a familiar voice said.

"Mum?" she croaked. Her throat protested her attempt to talk, and she coughed.

"Don't try to talk, baby. You've been in a medically induced coma for  over two weeks, and they took the tube out two days ago. I'll call the  doctor."

Turning her head, she struggled to focus on her mother. Where is Ev? She  ran her shaky hands down her body and discovered the bump she loved was  gone. Emma? Her retinas ached. She closed her eyes against the invasive  brightness. Something's wrong.

"Bae  … " she coughed the word out, ignoring the gut-churning pain and intense nausea.

"I don't think she knows-"

"Ba- ba-" She coughed and choked.

"I'm so, so sorry, my love. Emma didn't make it."

No. She can't be gone. I can't be here without my little girl. Time  froze. The world burned away around her, leaving her in hell on Earth.  She thrashed as she shook from side to side. Tears burned her eyes and  ran down her face onto her cracked lips. I died in the tornado and this  is purgatory. My punishment for all the sins I committed. She pulled out  the wires running from her to machines. A heavy weight rested on her  chest. She needed to get out of here.

"Stop, you'll hurt yourself," her mother cried, throwing herself over the bed. She pinned Estelle's arms down.

"Ev- Ev-" she called desperately for her husband. He'd lost something precious, too.

"He-he's gone, too."

She opened her mouth and let out a barking, broken, bleeding cry. Unable  to stop, she continued until the nurse shot something into her IV and  sleep stole her.





CHAPTER ONE

Estelle

Two Years Later

Survivor's guilt was a bitch. While she hadn't been suicidal, she'd  certainly lost the will to live. Broken, bleeding, and lost, she crawled  from the darkness into the light. Now she wasn't sure how to behave in  the blinding illumination. Doctor Nimoy said she was ready to step out  of the cocoon she'd created for safety. For two years, she'd slugged it  out with inner demons and a mind which had turned against her.

Life had been measured one day at a time with no vision of the future.  Friends were shut out, and the weight of being the sole survivor had  pressed in on her from all sides. She'd been lost in the inky black  until she began counseling. Then slowly, like a vampire adjusting to the  sunlight, she'd crept out of her cave a bit more each day. Now, what  remained was an empty shell she needed to mold into some semblance of a  person.

It was daunting; it was a monster to battle. The denial and rage had  been easier. That alone kept her engaged and consistent. Anger held less  pain than regret, loneliness, and displacement. She had no purpose or  place. Going back to teaching kids was out. The very thought left her  gutted, shaking, and sweating. It was something she and the doc were  still working on. Old friends peered at her like she had a scarlet A on  her chest. They could never see past the tragedy, so she'd cut them out  of her life. It was the only way to have a chance for normalcy. The one  person who stuck like glue was Everett's older sister, Jolene.

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