Home > More of You (Confessions of the Heart #1)

More of You (Confessions of the Heart #1)
Author: A.L. Jackson

Prologue

Faith

Rays of blinding light streaked through the moss-covered branches that stretched across the old dirt road like a living canopy.

It was a road we’d walked together what seemed like a thousand times.

It was our secret spot.

Our sacred spot.

He stared at me from where he stood five feet from me. Big hands stuffed in the pockets of his ripped jeans and guilt written on the lines of his perfect face.

“I don’t care what anyone thinks.” The words poured from my mouth, begging for him to hear.

To listen.

To finally, truly understand.

“I don’t care what kind of trouble we’re in. The only thing that matters to me is that you’re standing right there in front of me.”

Sadness crested his features. Face masculine and striking. Every time I looked at him, it twisted something deep inside me. My love for him was bigger—more important—than anything else in my small, little world.

But that was the thing when I looked at him.

I saw great things. A future spanning out in front of us that would go on forever.

But it was the expression he wore this afternoon that scattered the butterflies in a shock of fear and sent dread gushing in to take their place.

“It doesn’t matter, Faith? How can you say that?” His voice was bitter and hard, every bit of disgust cast at himself.

I took a pleading step forward. “It doesn’t. The only thing that matters is you and me.”

He took a weary step back. It kicked up a plume of dust to hover around his old, worn shoes. “You matter, Faith. Who you are and who you’re going to be matters. And I won’t stand in the way of that any longer.”

Tears burned my eyes. “No.”

He shook his head. “I’m sorry. The last thing I ever wanted to do was hurt you, but that seems to be the only thing I can do. What happened last night is proof of that. It ends right now.”

His broad shoulders heaved as he forced himself to turn around, bitterness and self-imposed rage coming from him in waves as he started up the road.

Panic filled my chest. A crushing force against my aching heart. I rushed for him. “Jace . . . please, don’t do this. Don’t leave me.”

My fingertips brushed down his back. I swore that I could see the snap of energy crackle from the connection. The way it’d always been. This boy my fire.

I could feel his burn when he whirled around. A gasp raked from my lungs when he suddenly captured my face in both of his hands. Those eyes searched my face.

A tender memorization that contradicted everything about this hard boy.

My heart stampeded when he dipped down and took my mouth.

His lips were soft and rough.

Possessive in their goodbye.

I knew that was what it was.

I could feel him taking pieces of me when he dropped his forehead against mine and breathed me in, his eyes squeezed tightly closed.

Pain radiated from him like the heat waves that held to the sticky, summer air.

He reached out and gripped me by both of the shoulders, pushing away from me as if he had to physically pry himself free.

Stripping and ripping and ruining.

The second he stepped back, I could feel the tear run through the center of me.

His gaze remained fixed on the ground when he reeled back around, his head dipped low because he couldn’t bring himself to look at me as he went.

So, it was me who had to watch him go.

I couldn’t stop staring as he trudged up the deserted lane. Spikes of sunlight slanted through the spindly branches, covering him in a golden, glittering light.

So bright he appeared unreal. Tall and strong and gorgeous in his rough, raw way.

An angel in tattered, demon’s clothes.

He’d always viewed himself as the town pariah. The outcast.

The outlaw.

Bringing trouble to everything he touched.

But that troubled boy was my shining star. He’d taught me to have faith that people were so much more than their exteriors and their reputations. Made me have faith that destinies weren’t based on our circumstances but rather what we made of them.

In that moment, I had faith he’d come to his senses. Stop and turn around and realize we were always supposed to be together. No matter what.

But he didn’t.

He just let the connection pull and pull and pull with each of his steps until my heart finally ripped under the strain of it.

It shredded me right in two.

That was the day Jace Jacobs walked out of my life.

And I swore I’d never be fool enough again to let him back in it . . .

One

Faith

Ten Years Later

“Bailey?” I called from the top of the stairs. “Is that you?”

The old house was cast in darkness. Intermittent blips of lightning flashed at the windows as wind howled and whipped at the walls.

The foundation groaned and shook.

But I swore . . . I swore I’d heard a loud creak on the deserted side of the house when I’d made it to the top of the sweeping staircase.

Unease shivered through my senses, and I clung to the banister as I tried to orient myself.

To ground myself.

To latch on to sanity rather than the horror I’d been livin’ for the last three months.

This old house had been my dream. Taking the neglected plantation and turning it into a bed and breakfast. Restoring it to its original beauty.

The gorgeous mansion was three sprawling stories of old-world charm and history. It was hidden on a secluded patch of land about ten minutes outside the small town where I’d grown up.

It was funny how dreams could shift into nightmares in the blink of an eye. How the comfort I’d found in this place could turn into this unbearable feeling of isolation and vulnerability.

“Hello, is anyone there?” My voice trembled as a fresh wave of fear rushed through my senses.

Even with the air conditioner doing its best to pump into the space, I could feel the sweat slick my back in the humid summer air, my breaths panted into the night as I peered into the darkened hallway to the right where I stood at the top of the stairs.

In this spot, the second floor split into two directions. There were four bedrooms to the right and four to the left.

Our rooms were to the left.

Was it my mind playing tricks on me that I’d heard something coming from off to the right?

The problem was, I no longer knew what was real. What was paranoia and what was a true threat.

My heart drummed, this erratic boom, boom, boom that thundered the walls as loud as the thunder that rumbled outside.

Heavy clouds hugged the old plantation while something like chills went skating across my flesh.

Silence echoed back.

But still, those spikes of awareness lifted the fine hairs at the nape of my neck.

“Who’s there?” I called again, my voice cracking like a plea.

Nothing. Tears of frustration and helplessness built in my eyes. No doubt, my mind was conjuring things that just weren’t there.

I was nothin’ but a prisoner to shock and sorrow and a debilitating sort of fear.

I hadn’t been able to sleep for more than a minute at a time for the past three months, and an anxious exhaustion had set in.

My body succumbing while my mind continued to race.

Pictures invaded my mind every time I attempted to close my eyes.

Blood. Blood. So much blood.

His eyes so wide.

His body so still.

I wasn’t sure I would ever recover from the way Joseph had died, from the fact my husband had been murdered, my world rocked by grief and guilt and questions. I’d thought that moment was the lowest low. Rock bottom.

That was until the ominous notes had begun to show up, making demands of me that I didn’t know how to meet.

I hadn’t even been able to comprehend how terrifying things might become. How I’d begin to question everything I’d once thought I’d known.

I squeezed my eyes against the visions that assaulted me, shaking myself out of the spiral I was getting ready to stumble into and tried to convince myself everything was fine.

I had to get it together. Hold the splintering pieces together that were close to shattering.

The only thing left of me was dust and debris and desolation.

Except for one thing.

It was the one thing that got me out of bed every morning. The one thing that made me put one foot in front of the other. The one thing that forced me into believin’ that one day, no matter how hard it was right then, everything would be okay.

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