Tiny Threads (Snapdragon Book 1), страница 1
Snapdragon, Volume 1
Published by Enchanted Publications, 2016.
This is a work of fiction. Similarities to real people, places, or events are entirely coincidental.
First edition. November 15, 2016.
Copyright © 2016 Jami Denise.
Written by Jami Denise.
Table of Contents
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Further Reading: Damned Sinner
Also By Jami Denise
About the Author
For Misty and Erin.
Thank you for being my soul sisters.
There aren't even words. I love you.
For Skylar, thank you for sharing your name with me for our little story. You're my angel.
I remembered a time in my life when I’d been a sound sleeper. As a kid, nothing woke me. I’d sleep like a log, no matter where I was.
How I wished that were still true.
It was like my subconscious was constantly on alert. Maybe it was the instincts of a mother, or just old age, but my brain knew something was wrong, and when I reached over to the other side of the bed, I found that was true.
My husband wasn’t home yet.
Tired and ticked off, I threw my legs over the side of the bed and padded out of the room to find my phone. I flipped the switch in the kitchen, squinted just enough against the glare of the light to find my purse on the counter and dug around until I had my phone in hand.
I punched his number onto the screen—a little harder than necessary—and waited for it to ring. It’d been almost four hours since he said he’d be home, and my heart seized with worry. He always met up with his brother, Glenn on Thursday nights to watch sports, but he was always home right after dinner. I never had a problem with that. What I did have a problem with was waking up scared he was in a ditch somewhere. He knew me well enough to know I worried all the time.
His phone chirped from the other room, so I followed the sound into the den. There he was, sprawled out on the battered old sofa with his dumb dog curled up on the floor next to him. I sighed, relieved he was home safe, but irritated.
My first instinct was to wake him up and bitch about how inconsiderate he was, but I reconsidered. What good would it do? I was too tired to talk, and with the way he’d been acting, it probably wouldn’t do any good, anyway.
Instead, I left him to sleep in his ragged jeans and T-shirt with his stupid dog and returned to our room.
* * *
My very rambunctious five-year-old woke me the next morning, jumping on the bed and giggling like a little lunatic. The mattress groaned in protest, and my overly tired body protested just as much.
“Ma, come on. Get up! We’re going fishing with Papa Joe!”
Their fishing trip. After getting up in the middle of the night looking for Royal, and then staying up for hours lost in thought, the morning was not getting off to a good start.
“I'm sorry, Bubba. I forgot. Give me a few more minutes and I'll be down. Are your sisters awake yet?”
“Yup. I don’t know what they’re doing.” he said, shrugging his shoulders.
I laughed. The poor kid spent most of his time wondering where they were or what they were doing. He just couldn’t help himself. He adored his sisters, even when they were less than nice to him.
“Can you go find Skylar for me? She can start packing your lunches, and I'll be down in a sec to make your sandwiches. Where's Daddy?” I asked.
“He's loading the truck, Ma.” He gave me a wild look, as if to say, why are you asking stupid questions.
“All right. I'm up.” I chuckled. Clearly, he wasn’t in the mood for conversation.
He darted out of the room, and I followed, wrapping my old pink robe around me as I stumbled through the house. I detoured to the garage before heading into the kitchen. A quick word with my husband—alone—needed to happen. Anger wasn’t a good emotion to leave untended, and I was still angry with him about the previous night. I slipped into the garage and found him standing in the bed of the truck, loading equipment.
“I didn't hear you get in last night.” My voice was small and scared. I didn't like it.
Without turning around, he answered. “Yeah, it was late. Didn't want to wake you.”
His tone made my stomach drop. I was sick of his indifferent, ugly attitude. Pure determination moved my legs until I stood at the side of the truck in front of him. I needed a read on his expression—to gauge his mood. That’s where we’d been, walking on eggshells with each other. What I found on his face made me sad. He looked tired.
“That was thoughtful, but I worry. I woke up in the middle of the night and you weren't there.”
I pulled my robe tighter across my body and wrapped my arms around my torso. I hated the unspoken tension between us, but I was too tired to hash it out for God and all the neighbors to hear. But we needed to talk, and one way or another, I’d get him to sit down and do just that when he got back.
He finally looked at me from under his arm and latched the cover of the toolbox closed. “I was exhausted, Jenna. I crashed on the couch. It’s not a big deal. It's not the first time it happened, and it won’t be the last. Just because you happened to notice this time doesn't mean shit.”
My stomach roiled. Up until a few months before, we’d never slept apart. If we were under the same roof, we were next to one another.
Not in the mood to argue, I let it go.
“Be sure to keep a good eye on Benji. You know how he gets,” I told him., and turned and walked away without letting him answer.
Tears stung my eyes, but I held them back as I walked through the house. I didn’t want the kids to see me upset. They sensed something was off with us—I could see the concern in their eyes. I didn’t want to add to that. It was our duty to fix it, not make it worse.
I headed straight to the kitchen to start on the food for the trip. I’d pulled out some plastic containers from the cabinet and turned around to see Skylar trudging into the room.
“You need help, Ma?” she asked through a yawn.
I chuckled and nodded at the melon on the counter. “You could slice that up. I think I have everything else ready to go,” I told her.
Skylar was my sweet girl. All my girls had inherited their father’s hazel-green eyes, but hers were much deeper, like the canopy of a forest. My mom always said she was an old soul, and I had to agree. She had a heart so big I often wondered how that small organ held so much compassion. Always the voice of reason, she tried in vain to keep the peace around our humble home. And that included helping me out every chance she got.
I rubbed her arm, gave her a small smile, and went back to gathering the ingredients for the sandwiches. I slapped on peanut butter and jelly, smooshing them together and then slid them into the plastic sandwich bags. Once they were all wrapped up, I dumped them in the larger bag and put them aside.
“Skylar, when you're done with that,
I gave the counter a quick wipe down and made my way upstairs to pack Benji's backpack. However, the sound of my daughters arguing in the next room drove me in to see what the newest calamity was all about.
There was always a damn calamity.
I pushed Macy's door open to find her and Delaney face to face, flushed and angry and ready to pounce. “What's going on in here?”
Macy spun around, blonde hair flying around her shoulders, and threw her arms in the air dramatically.
“She needs to stay out of my room! I knew she was sneaking in here and taking my makeup, and now I've caught her! I just bought that mascara!”
I huffed and held my hand out for Delaney to give me the tube. “Come on, Laney. You know you aren't allowed to wear makeup yet, and you are never allowed to take things from your sister's room without her permission.”
It was difficult to instill privacy and boundaries with three teenage girls in the house. They all liked the same things, so sharing should’ve been easy. It wasn't. They were stingy and bitchy about their things, but I tried my best to make things peaceful. I wasn't always successful.
I envied them in a lot of ways. As an only child, I’d always wanted a sister. When I married Royal, I couldn’t wait to fill our home with children. Days when they showed their claws made me wonder why.
“Mom! It's totally not fair. All the rest of my friends get to wear makeup!” she howled.
I rolled my eyes. Same old conversation. I’d gone around and around with Laney about it, and I was done.
Delaney was my spitfire—a wild-eyed character full of spunk. Her spirit was as free as a red-tailed hawk. Being the baby girl gave her a slight advantage, and she used her cherubic beauty to steer things her way. Royal and I both knew we’d have our hands full with her. When she'd look at you with those eyes—the way they changed color like the inside of an abalone shell—you were a goner.
“You can't wear makeup until you're sixteen. I'm not having this conversation with you again. Your father said no, so... no.”
“And stay out of my room!” Macy belted out as Delaney marched away from us.
I gave her a disapproving glare and handed over the mascara. “You can't scream at her all the time, Macy. Do you remember me screaming at you that way when you'd sneak off with my things? That is not the way to deal with it,” I chided.
She rolled her eyes and slammed the tube in the drawer. “I'm sick of it! I want a lock.”
I laughed quietly and shook my head. “Uh, yeah... that is so not going to happen. Your dad would bust the door down with an axe. Maybe if you offered her something it would pacify her. She just wants to be like you, Macy. Take it as a compliment.”
My over-the-top daughter threw her long blonde hair over her shoulder and turned away from me without another word. Silent treatment. Some days I welcomed it.
“Say goodbye to your dad and Benji. They’re leaving,” I told her over my shoulder.
I didn't get an answer, and I didn't expect it. I returned to Benji's room, grabbed his belongings, and headed down to kiss them goodbye. The house was never right without my boys in it. Too much estrogen clogged up the energy and made things dull.
When I returned to the garage Royal was latching the boat to the truck hitch, and I couldn't help the overwhelming wave of lust that flowed through me as I took him in. Even after twenty-something years, the man made my heart race and my hormones boil.
I resented that I was still so affected by him, especially when I was ticked off at him. But the way the muscles in his back stretched and unraveled as he worked left me breathless. In only an undershirt and khaki shorts, he was still the most handsome man I’d ever seen.
* * *
The first time I saw Royal was the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I was fifteen and alive with the energy of a girl on the brink of becoming a woman. My best friend, Tara, had finally gotten her license and her father bought her a brand-new car. We couldn’t wait to speed away from the city limits and see the world beyond.
Unfortunately, our world was pretty limited, so our first stop was the beach. Even though it was only an hour away, it was equivalent to a big city to us. Most of the kids in the area hung out there, especially during the summer.
When we pulled into the gravel parking lot, I watched in amazement as kids piled out of cars like ants, crawling through the sand toward the water. Music poured out of car stereos, and laughter and lively conversation filled the air. It was so alive... exciting.
We grabbed our beach bags and hurried toward the sand. Once we found a spot that wasn't too crowded, we set up our towels and whipped out the tanning oil. In no time, we were propped up on our elbows so we could watch the action.
Of course, the best part was watching the boys. We'd been stuck with the same ones for so long that it was like a farmer's market of man meat for hormonal teenage girls.
My friend Abbie's boyfriend, David, jogged over and invited us to sit with the other kids from school, but we were having more fun being on our own. Eventually, after whining and begging, Abbie agreed, and we moved camp.
I seriously couldn’t stand David. He was a moron, but Abbie just kept going back to him. Just when I thought he couldn’t act like more of a jackass, he started showing off and flipped a sand covered towel in the air, covering me from head to toe with sand.
I was slick and greasy from all the tanning oil, so the sand stuck to me like tiny pellets of glass. I tried to wipe it away, but it was no use. I looked like a snow globe turned upside down, and felt like a fish dipped in cornmeal.
All I wanted to do was cry. And kill him. He tried to drag me to the water so I could wash off, but I was already so humiliated that walking in front of everyone was the last thing I wanted to do. Plus, the water was freezing, and I didn't want to mess up my brand-new bikini.
I was beyond furious.
After nearly ten minutes of arguing with him, he finally told us about the concrete showers in the restrooms.
I stuffed my things in my bag and marched toward the bathrooms, angry and embarrassed. The walk was almost a whole mile through the sand, and my feet were killing me. It was impossible to walk in sandals, but it was hot—making an already horrible situation ten times worse. With each clod-hopping step I made, I’d send sand flying up and around me like a storm and causing it to stick to my legs.
I’d never been more embarrassed in my life.
As I approached the cold grey building, I could hear music coming from behind it. There were a few guys sitting on the ledge of the wood covered patio as I walked up, and I kept my head down and tried to ignore them. They were what Tara called burn outs. They listened to loud, obnoxious music and always made me nervous.
A few of them started walking toward me, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on edge. They were older—much older and a heck of a lot rougher around the edges than the boys I knew at home.
I panicked and ran into the bathroom as fast as my legs would take me, locking myself inside.
And then I started crying.
I was embarrassed for being such a coward, and to drown out the sound of my mortification, I turned on the faucet and splashed some water on my face. I wet the edge of my towel and started sloughing the sand away from my skin. It stung like a bitch, so I moved toward the shower against the wall and turned it on. In no time, I was smooth and clean. I dried off, re-wrapped my sarong, and slung my towel over my bag.
I was in no hurry to walk out of the bathroom, but I couldn't just hide in there all day long. Taking another glance in the mirror to make sure I didn't look all puffy and red, I squared my shoulders and walked out.
As soon as I stepped outside, I was assaulted by a very large, very tanned bare chest. I jumped back, startled, and clasped my hand over my heart. A low, rumbling chuckle pulled my attenti
But he wasn't a boy. He looked like a... man. He was much taller than I was, with stunning hazel-green eyes, broad shoulders, and a heart-stopping smile.
I was shell-shocked. He was not what I expected to see when I walked out, and I found myself unable to move. My breath quickened as he looked me over from head to toe. I could do nothing but stare.
My head told me to book it. Run. Get the hell out of there. I was basically cornered by him and his friends. I was trapped. He crossed his arms across his chest, and I watched in amazement when his pectoral muscles twitched and flexed.
An unconscious shudder shook my body, and I pulled my bag in front of me like a hemp straw shield. A barking laugh from behind him startled me out of the staring contest we were having, and I moved aside so that I could get around him.
“Hey, hey, hey,” he said, slapping the palms of his hands against the concrete wall behind me, caging me in. “Where you goin', cookie?” he asked. He dipped his head lower, trying to lock eyes.
I dropped my chin and stared at my feet. He was so imposing—intimidating—and I started to shake. The tears burned behind my eyelids, and I willed them away.
“Please... my friends are waiting for me,” I said.
A strong, warm finger curled around my chin and lifted my face. I couldn't look away. His eyes were still vibrant and beautiful, but they held concern, and it changed his whole face.
“I'm not gonna hurt you, cookie. I just wanted to say hi.”
“Hi,” I breathed.
He chuckled again, but this time it was melodic and so beautiful that it made my knees wobble. He pulled away from the wall and smiled wider, making the corners of his eyes crinkle.
“What's your name?” he asked.
“Jenna,” I whispered.
“Jen-ah,” he said as he leaned in and whispered in my ear. “I'm Royal.”
I felt my eyes roll into the back of my head when I felt his breath on the skin of my ear. Hearing my name fall from his lips did things to my insides that I'd never experienced. An unattractive and rather embarrassing squeak escaped my lips as he pulled away from me, igniting a mischievous glint in his eyes.