Holding You (Holding You #1)


by Jewel E. Ann

Prologue

“Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

~Edna St. Vincent Millay

Why is my heart still beating? My body is numb and it’s the only thought floating through my mind. I’m dead, yet my heart still beats.

“Ma’am? Is there someone we can call, family or friends?”

Th-thump, th-thump, th-thump. It’s the sound of limbo. My soul is desperate to leave my body but it doesn’t know where to go. Th-thump, th-thump, th-thump. It’s the last drops of water before the well runs dry. It’s the last seconds on the clock before the bomb ignites. It’s the final moment before being sucked into the abyss.

“Ma’am, we’re going to take you to the hospital and have you examined. You’ve inhaled a lot of smoke and we may need a chest x-ray and some blood tests.”

Th-thump, th-thump, th-thump … then total darkness.

CHAPTER ONE

“Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.”

~George Carlin

Leaving the Midwest was my goal. I craved oceans and mountains. So when I got my big chance to make my escape, I loaded up the moving truck and said goodbye to Chicago and hello to … Milwaukee. My mom, God rest her soul, was right when she said, “Mother knows best,” and “bloom where you’re planted.” I’d spent all of my youth waiting for her to express her opinions on things so I could form my own. Mine being the opposite of hers.

At thirty-one I was settling into my new life, the one that started over after the crappy hand of cards I was dealt in my early twenties. Finding my purpose in life was overrated. Merely existing was enough. I focused on the moment by immersing myself in the lives of other people through volunteering and providing assistance for the less fortunate. It sparked a positive energy in me that I needed. At least, that’s what I envisioned. Seeing true hunger and families of five sleeping on the floors of rundown apartments gave me the necessary resolve to unofficially graduate myself to step five in the grieving process. Acceptance.

Milwaukee was magnificent in the spring. I loved living by the water. It wasn’t the Atlantic or Pacific, although Lake Michigan wasn’t a shabby body of water either. The majestic view never ceased to amaze me. Living so close to the water had become symbolic of my state of being, always teetering on the edge of drowning, a swaying pull from both directions.

Being a self-proclaimed free spirit, I never missed an opportunity to stop and smell the roses, or the lilacs in the spring. The connection I felt to nature and all life had magnified in intensity over the years. Sometimes it was a curse as much as it was a gift. My “connecting to nature” was often misconstrued as having my head in the clouds.

The crisp spring air seduced me. Closing my eyes, I raised my arms up like angel wings, tilted my head back to feel the glorious sun bathe my face, and inhaled a slow deep breath, taking a small moment of earthly pleasure as I smelled the most exquisite fragrance.

A horrifying clash of sounds jerked me back to reality. Expelling the air from my lungs, I felt as if the wind was literally being knocked out of me.

“ADDY, WATCH OUT!”

A car’s horn, screeching tires, a familiar voice.

I was drowning in sensory overload. The essence of lilac still filled my nose. A tingling chill washed across my skin, my vision was hazy from the sun, the salty taste of blood filled my mouth, and shouting voices vibrated through my ears.

“Adler Sage Brecken what are you doing?” Mac squealed in a winded panic.

My best friend’s face came into focus. Her green eyes were tight and brows furrowed behind a wispy curtain of windblown strawberry blonde locks. I struggled to decipher if her look was one of anger or concern. Her mouth was twisted into a grimace and it was never a good sign when she used my full name. I released my bloodied lip from my front teeth that had dug into it with the adrenaline rush. Taking another deep breath, I started to explain myself when my mind registered a deep angry voice coming toward me. I held up my finger to stop Mac from speaking and tilted my head in the direction of the sound. Although clearly agitated, the voice was laced with a hint of Spanish accent.

Did I just hear someone call me a spaced-off, seventies throw back, pot-smoking, dumb blonde? What the hell?

Looking down I realized I was standing in the street and, as if in slow motion, my peripheral vision picked up a pair of men’s black leather designer shoes just a few feet from me. Directly in front of me was a white SUV with the words Range Rover in chrome. Turning to my right, I homed in on a white linen, button-down shirt exposing the top of well-defined chest muscles covered in the perfect shade of olive skin. Glancing upward, my eyes captured a strong, sharp jaw line, ruddy lips pursed in a formidable line, a Roman sculpted nose, reflective chocolate eyes framed with thick long lashes, and a full head of disheveled black hair. As if I had all the time in the world, I finished my sight-seeing tour by working my way back down Michelangelo’s clothed version of David to those shoes that presumably cost more than most people’s monthly rent.

“Hello? What the hell is your deal?” David growled between his clenched teeth.

“She’s just got a lot on her plate today, sir, sorry for the near accident, glad everyone’s okay. Come on, Addy.” Mac huddled me to her side, looking over her shoulder at the almost accident, and pulled us toward the sidewalk.

I jerked away from her grip and crossed over into David’s personal space. My squinted blue eyes darted up to his firm dark gaze, demanding his attention.

“First, I was not spaced-off,” I call it meditation, “second, my style is organic and earthy, not seventies throw back,” maybe modern hippy, “third, I don’t smoke pot,” anymore, “and finally, I may be blonde, but I am NOT dumb!” I didn’t back down one inch, partly to prove I was a force to be reckoned with and partly because my nose had found a new fragrance. Despite the aphrodisiac effect it had on me, it was probably some ridiculously expensive cologne made from thousands of poisonous chemicals, and I cringed just thinking about the headache I would get from the toxic cocktail. However, in that moment my body was producing extra moisture in all the right places and everything about David was a heady combination. Especially that damn sexy accent.

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