Home > Found Underneath (Finding Me #2)

Found Underneath (Finding Me #2)
Author: K.L. Kreig

Prologue

 

 

One day before meeting Willow Blackwell

 

 

Regardless of what the female population thinks, simply because a man chooses to remain single does not mean there is something wrong with him.

Take me for example.

I am not broken.

I am not damaged.

I’m not a sociopath, a narcissist, or a recluse.

I don’t have a black soul or a shattered heart.

Life hasn’t beaten me down to the point where I don’t think I’ll make a sufficient mate.

I haven’t had a bad relationship or met a woman who “ruined me” for all others. I am not pining for the “one that got away.”

I’m a normal, down-to-earth guy who has made a conscious choice not to be tied to one woman for life.

From the time I was four and the smell of success pulled me under her seductive influence, I knew having a wife and family would only interfere with my life, not enhance it.

And I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, but why settle for a single entree when a whole buffet is at my disposal?

I work hard. I play harder. And I like the little gig I’ve set up for myself. It works well, and you know what they say about things that aren’t broken.

No, I’m happy just the way I am.

Free and unattached.

A self-proclaimed bachelor for life.

My life is perfect the way it is, and there is no woman I will ever meet who could possibly change that.

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

Present Day

 

 

My hands are trembling. My stomach is a wreck…knotted and churning. Acid made purely of anxiety eats me raw. It keeps crawling its way up my esophagus and I keep shoving it back down.

I’m trying not to overreact. I want to give Annabelle the benefit of the doubt, but…should I? She’s not exactly Snow fucking White and four years ago, she was as far from a Disney princess as a girl could get.

Drug abuse strung her out, changed her, almost stole her from us. If I hadn’t saved her when I did, if she hadn’t decided she’d reached rock bottom, I’ve no doubt she’d be long gone. Living in a crack house or resting peacefully beside my younger brother who died two days after birth.

I replay words over and over from an asshole who wants my woman, wishing they were different. Praying they’re wrong.

“Am I playing, Shaw?” he sneers. “You picked up your sister that night from the police station. Miraculously got her off on coke possession charges. Wasn’t she soaked to the bone? Distraught? What bullshit story did your drug addict sister feed you that you bought with the gullibility of a five-year-old?”

A loud horn to my right jolts me. I yank the wheel to the left, realizing that I’ve drifted into the right lane.

“Watch what you’re fucking doing,” a woman with three kids lined in the back seat yells out the window she’s rolled down specifically to berate me. She flips me the finger before tearing off through a yellow light that turns red halfway through, while I stop.

Good role model, that. Don’t follow in her footsteps, kids.

While the engine idles, my mind drifts, and I reluctantly remember the night that’s etched in my memory forever.

 

“Merc, you need to get down here.”

“What is it?” My stomach churns. I already know the answer.

“It’s your sister. And she’s pretty out of it.”

Fuck. Annabelle, what have you done now? The second I hear Bull’s words, I grab my keys and head out the door. I slide into the driver’s seat and start the car, the engine quiet. The Bluetooth kicks in. “Did you call my parents?”

“I should have but…” Bull hedges, his throaty voice ringing through my speakers.

Relief swarms me. “Thanks, man. Be there shortly.”

I immediately call Noah and we arrive at the Seattle PD half an hour later. When we step inside, soaked due to the downpour, we’re greeted by Captain Ryan. Captain Cade Ryan, or Bull, as we affectionately referred to our best defensive linebacker in high school, also happens to be a good friend of Noah’s and mine.

“What’s going on, Bull?” I ask, trying to keep my shit together.

He shakes his head and starts down the hall to our left. We silently follow corridor after corridor until we stop at a closed wooden door. Only then does Bull address us. Well, me.

“Your sister needs serious help, Merc. Professional therapy. Detox. I could book her on Schedule 1 CDS possession right now and get it to stick. That’s up to five years if convicted.”

My eyes close as despair makes it impossible to hold my head up. “What did she have?” I ask, glaring at the matted carpet flooring that probably used to be light brown twenty years ago. Now it’s just a snarled sea of mud, bad decisions, and ruined lives.

“Cocaine.”

“Fuck,” Noah and I curse loudly at the same time.

“Look, I’m not even sure it was hers. She says it wasn’t, of course. A baggie was in the bushes beside the vehicle, and there were three other girls inside, but it’s obvious she’s been using something.”

“Where did you find her?”

“Holsteen Road. She and three other girls. She wasn’t driving but it was her car. They were picked up for speeding and erratic driving.”

I pin him with a desperate look. Annabelle is just shy of her seventeenth birthday, and a conviction will ruin her future. Kiss scholarships and college good-bye. Generally, a drug possession charge would only result in probation…if it was your first run-in with the law, especially with the best lawyers, which I happen to have access to. But this isn’t her first. And this is a hell of a lot worse than a few dime bags of weed. She could be in real trouble here.

“What now?”

The air is weighty with indecision at my unspoken and unfair request of a fucking police captain. How do I make this shit go away?

After making me wait what seems like an agonizing amount of time, he finally offers, “She goes right from here into inpatient rehab. No less than thirty days.”

“I can do that.” I almost weep at this gift Annabelle’s being given, but she probably won’t see it that way. She’ll see it as worse than a prison sentence.

“Get her help, Merc. I see her in here again and there’s nothing I can do. And any of you breathe a word of this to anyone, it’s my badge.”

Emotion clogs my throat. I nod but can’t respond. Noah does instead. “We understand. Thanks, Bull. We got you covered.”

When Bull opens the door, I’m momentarily frozen at the tiny, fragile thing sitting in a metal chair at a matching shiny oblong table. Cheeks streaked with tears and mascara. Red-rimmed, haunted eyes. Disheveled blond hair. A swollen cut on one side of her lip. Her clothes are askew, her top ripped. She has scratches up and down one arm. All one hundred pounds of her is soaked to the bone.

She looks like she could shatter with a simple breath.

“Bluebelle, what have you done to yourself?” I choke, unable to keep a tear from leaking.

In slow motion, she looks up. My breath catches at deadened icy blue eyes that latch on to mine. It takes her several seconds to realize it’s me and when she does, she launches herself from the table and runs into my arms like she used to when she was a little girl. Every limb winds around me and she sobs uncontrollably.

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