A brand new second chance romance is available now from A.L. Jackson, and I have a sneak peek for you.
Faith had that little girl hooked protectively on her hip. The kid had her head tucked under Faith’s chin and her thumb in her mouth as she stared out at me with the same color and depth as Faith’s knowing eyes.
It brought a lump the size of the boulder up to lodge itself in my throat.
I tried to swallow around it.
The anguish and awe and fucking jealousy.
Instead, I blinked and tried to pretend like it didn’t hurt so damned bad.
Faith stood on the porch looking like some kind of maternal angel holding her perfect match, light all around her, the girl glowing that glow that had always made me feel like I was sinking my fingers into something good.
She covered her little girl’s ear with her hand, her words seething from between pursed lips. “What the hell do you think you’re doing, Jace Jacobs?”
I hauled a heavy box out of the back of my car. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
Low, disbelieving laughter made its way around that lump in my throat. “Trespassing, huh?”
“You are on my land after I asked you not to be.”
“You want to call the police? Go for it. I’m sure Mack would love to pay a visit.”
So maybe my tone was antagonistic, but she needed to know I wasn’t backing down.
Frustration billowed from her, her attention darting from the pile of wood I was making, to my face, and then to my chest before she jerked it away, gulping for something to say.
She hugged her little girl tighter, her words turning to a whispered plea. “I told you, you don’t get to do this.”
“What, help you?”
A huff of air puffed from that delicious mouth. Incredulous. Breaking with the day.
I was nothing but a fool because I wanted to get lost in that sound. In her voice and her need and her despair.
Take every bit of it away.
Fill the spaces that’d gone bad with something good.
Bitterness pounded at my ribs.
That was kind of hard to do when I didn’t have anything good to offer.
Maybe for once, I could do something that would make a difference in a positive direction.
Maybe even for Joseph.
I just prayed he wasn’t looking down and hoping I’d have a slip up with the saw and cut right through an artery rather than the wood.
“You know this isn’t about you helping me.”
“That’s exactly what this is about, Faith. I’m here to help you.”
I’m here to protect you. Take care of you until I get you out of this mess. God knows, if I wasn’t such a selfish bastard, I might have been able to stop it from happening in the first place.
Moving back toward the steps, I dumped the huge box that held the saw and table onto the ground before wiping more sweat away.
I could feel her. The emotion that came from her, like it was pinned to the air, caught up in the stagnant heat waves with nowhere to go.
“I don’t want your pity,” she finally whispered. There was no missing the grief coming through on the words or the way they cracked with the sob she was trying to hold back.
Funny, considering it was me who’d never wanted this girl to pity me.
She was the one who’d made me strive to be better.
Change my situation.
Made me see I didn’t have to be another victim of circumstance.
I dropped my gaze to the ground, hands on my hips, my chest heaving.
Knowing I wasn’t equipped to handle this.
What I felt and what she was going through.
The impact of her grief and my regret colliding might send the rest of the house crashing to the ground.
I had to suck it up and lock that shit down. Remember why I was there.
Standing at the base of the steps, I looked up at her. Her little girl had pried her head free of her mother’s chin, her eyes wary and curious as she peered out at me.
A tremor rolled through my chest.
I tore my attention from the little girl and turned it on Faith, which wasn’t exactly helping matters, either.
My eyes narrowed in emphasis, praying she’d get it. “Pity you? I don’t pity you, Faith. Does it kill me that you’re going through this? Am I worried about you? Do I want to go on a mission to track down whoever is threatening you? Do I wish I could fix it? Yes. But there’s a big difference between the two.”
Those chocolate eyes swam with moisture, and she hiked her little girl up who was sliding down her body, running her hand over the back of her head.
I wasn’t entirely sure which of them she was comforting, the two of them clinging to the other, each the other’s support.
“You can’t say those things to me.”
I stepped onto the bottom step, hand clenching the railing to keep myself from getting any closer. From rushing the rest of the way onto the porch and pulling her against me.
Was surprised the rickety wood didn’t bust in two from the force.
Because my muscles flexed and contracted and tightened.
Body roaring. Demanding I make a claim.
She’d always been mine.
“I’m only speaking the truth.”
The little girl popped her thumb from her mouth, grinning up at her mom. “The truth is good, Mommy. Always, always tell the truth.”
Her tiny voice nearly bowled me over, the little thing dropping all her L’s. It sent her voice into this sweet, innocent drawl.
Guilt blazed a path through my insides. Hurt lining the middle of it. My head trying to shut the little girl out, ignore her, hate herlike the bastard I was, while my spirit threatened something I couldn’t allow it to feel.
“We’re barely making it, Jace. Barely surviving. I can’t have you here making things harder on us.” Somehow there was an apology in her voice, as if she were the one who should feel ashamed.
“And the only thing I’m here for is to lighten some of that load.”
Stupidly, I took another step up, getting closer to her and that little girl who sent a tumble of fear sliding beneath the surface of my skin. “Please, Faith. Let me help you. Let me be here until Mack figures out who is doing this.”
She blinked, turning her head away. It was almost like she couldn’t keep looking at me and hold her ground. “It feels too complicated. Everything’s twisted and mixed in a way it never should have been.”
I felt them slicing right through the center of my chest.
She’d always been so honest. So damned, brutally honest.
Wearing that beautiful heart on her sleeve.
And I’d been the asshole who’d reached out and plucked it free.
Smashed it in the palm of my hand.
I’d known it then.
I knew it still.
“I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but coming here, helping you . . . helping her?” I gestured with my chin toward her child. “It’s not one of them.”