Home > All of Me (Confessions of the Heart #2)

All of Me (Confessions of the Heart #2)
Author: A.L. Jackson

Prologue

Grace

A chilly breeze twisted through the intense blue sky.

A warning of the coming winter.

A cold, quiet whisper.

A premonition.

His voice twisted with seduction as he murmured the words close to my face. “I warned you who I was.”

Selfish.

Greedy.

Incapable of love.

The devil.

Maybe I’d been the fool who hadn’t believed him. The one who’d seen more in him. Something better than the powerful, callous man who stood in front of me right then.

I hugged my arms across my chest as if it could shield me from the brutality of his words. As if they could protect me from the truth I should have seen all along.

“No, you’re wrong. You’re so much more than that. I know you are. I’ve seen it.”

“You only saw what you wanted to see.”

“You told me you loved me. I trusted you. I trusted you with everything.”

“And look what that got you.”

A gust of wind whipped through. The spindly branches of the ancient oaks hissed and howled, sending a tumble of dead, dried leaves across the ground.

It stirred the chaos that raged inside me.

I don’t believe you.

I don’t believe you.

My spirit screamed it while my mind struggled to accept the reality. The truth that he could hurt me this way.

It ripped and tore at my insides.

Loss.

A grief unlike anything I’d ever felt.

Hope scattering like the leaves.

“How could you do this?” I forced myself to look up at his beautiful face.

Too beautiful. Too mesmerizing. Too dangerous.

“How could you, when you know what is at stake? When you know how badly I need you? I trusted you.” The last raked from my raw, aching throat.

As raw and aching as my heart.

He reached out and brushed his fingertips down the side of my face.

Tenderly.

A stark contrast to the wickedness that blazed from his soul.

Then his voice twisted with that dark, bitter hatred—hatred I was sure was completely directed at himself.

“You shouldn’t have.”

One

Ian

“Ian, my good man.” Kenneth Millstrom clapped me on the back. “How are you tonight?”

Good man.

Right.

As I shook the hand he extended, I kept myself from scoffing at the way he’d phrased his greeting.

Grin and bear it.

“Terrific, Mr. Millstrom. How are you?”

“Better than you can imagine.”

I let out a low whistle as I edged back, still shaking his hand as I took in his appearance.

“Look at you. Are you trying to make the rest of us look bad? Leave some ladies for the rest of us, why don’t you? It’s hardly fair.”

The guy was in his late fifties and stuffed into his tux. He was also the senior partner in my firm, so that meant I had my nose shoved so far up his ass I was surprised I hadn’t convinced myself that the sky had turned brown.

But a man had to do what a man had to do.

I had one singular goal. And I’d do whatever I had to do to reach it.

Kenneth chuckled. “Ahh . . . no need to worry, son. My Sally is plenty for me. I’ll leave the rest of these young things to you.”

One thing I had to say? Dude loved his wife. I didn’t get it. But whatever.

He took a sip of his champagne before he lifted his flute and gestured around the packed ballroom. It took up the entire top floor of the posh, historic hotel in Charleston, South Carolina.

It was where our annual gala was being held, the fundraiser a mecca for Charleston’s elite year after year.

“So, what do you think?” he asked.

My eyes scanned the room.

People mingled in gowns and suits and tuxes.

Voices lifted and laughter loud.

Egos bloated.

Pretension so heavy there was no air left in the glitzy room.

Sucked dry by the people parading around in their pompous best.

There they all were, acting like they actually cared about what they were raising the money for when, really, they were only there for the sake of being seen.

I hated this bullshit.

But it didn’t really matter what I felt, did it?

I sent Kenneth my best counterfeit grin. “It’s fantastic. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a Saturday night. You’ve outdone yourself this year.”

“You think so?” he asked, just begging for the affirmation, chest puffing out, meaty palm clutching his flute.

“Absolutely.”

So yeah. I was laying it on thick.

But the thing was? I was right there. So close to getting what I wanted that I could actually taste it. A sweet, frantic desperation that danced on my tongue and spun through my insides. Fingers itching to finally possess the prize.

I learned at a young age that I was the sun. It was up to me to make the world gravitate around me.

If I wanted something, I reached out and took it. Made it mine. I didn’t wait around to stumble upon something good. For something to fall into my lap or for some good fortune to come my way.

I worked for it. Gave it whatever it took. What was it they said? You can’t win if you don’t play?

I played hard, and I fought harder.

Took what I needed because I couldn’t sit around relying on someone else to hand it to me.

Some people might call me an asshole. Callous. Ruthless.

Fuck that.

I called it tenacity.

I was a warrior.

A survivor.

I’d never go back to that place where I was hungry. A scared little kid dressed in tattered, dirty clothes, curled up in a ball on a filthy floor with an empty stomach and bruises littering his body.

Begging for someone . . . anyone to help.

The only person who ever had was my brother, Jace. He’d been my protector. The one to stand up and take the blows, the one to lie and steal, providing for me the only way that he could.

He taught me from the get-go that the only thing we had was each other. He and my best friend Mack were as far as my trust went and that was exactly where it ended.

Because I’d never allow myself to go back to that disgusting place of depravity and poverty and desolation.

A memory hit me faster than I could stop it.

Disgust crawled beneath the surface of my skin. I almost wanted to squeeze my eyes closed against the image. To refuse it. Forget it.

But I didn’t.

I held on to it.

Embraced it.

Let it become a weapon and a reason.

Truth was, there was no forgetting exactly how that horror had felt. I’d been seventeen when I’d stood there in that doorway, blinking into the hollow, vacant room. Death screaming back.

It was the exact moment I’d felt a light go dim inside me, and I could physically feel the darkness rushing in to take its place.

It had obliterated a hope and a love and a loyalty that I never should have felt in the first place. I’d been nothing but a stupid kid who’d clung to an idea that was ignorant and pathetic.

It was the first moment in time when I knew I would do whatever it took to make it. When I’d made an oath to myself I’d never again allow someone to hold me back or push me down.

So, there I stood.

One step away from the goal I’d set for myself that day. I’d promised myself that whatever direction I went, whatever career or profession I chose, I would land at the top of it.

I’d reach the pinnacle even if my fingers and nails were ripped to shreds and bleeding from clawing my way there.

Even if it meant pinning a fucking fake smile on my face and pretending like I wanted to be here.

Besides, it wasn’t really Kenneth’s fault that he was the bossman. He actually was a decent guy. Didn’t mean that I liked that what he said was final. That he was the one who held my ultimate success in his hands.

There was always a hierarchy.

I was almost to the top of it. I wouldn’t stop until I took his place.

Kenneth sent me a searching glance, right back to business. “How’s Bennet? Tell me you’re keeping him happy.”

Lawrence Bennet.

My guts curled with the name. Lawrence Bennet was one of the firm’s biggest clients. One I’d brought on.

He’d taken me under his wing when I was seventeen. Becoming a father figure when my life had gone to shit. Getting behind me on my quest to become who I was today.

Hot Series
» Vampire Academy Series read online
» Crossfire Series read online
» Fifty Shades trilogy read online
» Kate Daniels Series read online
» Black Dagger Brotherhood Series read online
» Cassandra Palmer Series read online
» Rosemary Beach Series read online
» Sea Breeze Series read online
» Too Far Series read online
» Shatter Me Series read online
» Thoughtless Series read online
» Marriage to a Billionaire Series read online
Most Popular
» Next In Line (Wait With Me #2)
» My Bad (Bear Bottom Guardians MC #4)
» How About No (Bear Bottom Guardians MC #3)
» Talkin' Trash (Bear Bottom Guardians MC #2)
» Mess Me Up (Bear Bottom Guardians MC #1)
» Of Blood and Bone (Chronicles of The One #2
» Year One (Chronicles of The One #1)
» Arrogant Devil
» Hotshot Doc
» Not So Nice Guy
» The Beau & the Belle
» The Fortunate Ones