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Drowning to Breathe(9)

By:A. L. Jackson



She looked at me simply. “I was wrong. I want to blame him for all this…but I can’t do that. I’m pretty sure he’s the guy who would do anything to make sure you’re happy.”

Simple, simple dreams.

They moaned from within.

A simple girl who loved a simple boy.

How ironic the one thing I’d ever hoped to want with him was being dangled right in front of me.

A family.

But both Sebastian’s and my situations were the furthest from simple.

April glanced back at the door Sebastian had disappeared through. “Why didn’t you tell him?”

I swallowed over the lump of emotion locking my throat. “I was going to…the night when I found out who he was. When I finally admitted I loved him. I was ready to tell him everything. Ready to trust him with everything.”

He was the first person I did.

Trust.

Sadness tugged at one side of my mouth. “As much as knowing who he was scared me, it felt like it was meant to be. Like maybe no one could understand us the same way we could understand each other.”

I gave her a helpless shrug. “He left me before I had the chance. Then he was back and everything happened so fast. Kallie almost drowning…the paparazzi…the pictures. I tried to tell him again tonight.”

Right before the social worker showed up at my door.

But now that I knew his connection to Martin, I found I couldn’t open my mouth to tell him everything. The things he clearly demanded to know. He thought I didn’t trust him. That was a light year from the truth.

I was scared for him.

I knew Sebastian. And I also knew the things Martin was capable of. The wicked things he’d done. At least some of them. Surely my knowledge barely dipped a finger in a bottomless barrel of malevolence.

Even when no proof had been found, I carried no delusions. Martin had been responsible for what was done to me. Every self-preserving part of me was certain. And I knew if Sebastian knew what he’d done, it would shred the last of his paper-thin control. In his compulsive need to protect and defend, he’d destroy everything important to both of us. I couldn’t risk that. Not for him or for me.

I held too much hope that what we shared was bigger than all of it and together we’d fix this, just like Sebastian had said.

Softly, she tilted her head to the side. Telling. Comforting. “He’s shocked…scared. But the only thing clear in this horrible situation is that man loves you.”

“Yeah,” I quietly agreed, because I didn’t question that either. I just hoped I hadn’t hurt him so deeply he could no longer see it.





IN THE DISTANCE, LIGHTNING flashed as the storm headed north out of Savannah. The roads were wet, and streetlamps glowed in the foggy haze. My headlights glinted through the mist, creating the illusion of misshapen stars that shone too bright against my eyes.

I shivered, still fucking soaking wet, my insides just as cold as my skin.

I rubbed a hand over my face and tried to focus.

The river walk was almost deserted. Quiet at this time on a Sunday night.

It seemed ludicrous my first damned instinct was to go to Charlie’s to seek the reprieve offered within those old walls. But it, too, was closed for the night. The face darkened, as if the hope I’d found there had also been shut down.

Nowhere else to go, I headed back to Tybee Island. Twenty minutes later, I pulled into the drive in front of Anthony’s beachfront vacation home.

Sighing, I cut the engine and stepped out into the night. My boots crunched on the gravel and thudded up the seven steps leading to the sweeping entrance. I unlocked the door and entered, having no fucking clue where to go from here, because God knew this wasn’t where I wanted to be.

Inside, floor-to-ceiling windows took up the entire wall facing east, the waning storm eclipsing the stars in the sky. The main room was open to the lavish kitchen in the back where Ash, Lyrik, and Zee stood around the island, nothing else to do in this town that was locked down tight on a Sunday night. The smiles on their faces dropped when they saw the expression on mine.

Ash frowned. “Back already?”

Last thing they’d known, the pictures on the Internet had been taken down, and I was heading back to Shea’s with my heart on my sleeve. Wondering if she would kick me to the curb once she realized being with someone like me was too much to deal with, the paparazzi hounding us at every turn, making up lies to satiate their thirst for drama.

Little did we know what was actually waiting to bring us to our knees.

Agitated, I drove my hands through my hair.

“…and?” Ash prodded.

“And it turns out I don’t know two shits about Shea.”

Perplexed, Ash set his beer on the counter, and Zee and Lyrik straightened as they caught onto my agitation.

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