Fighting to be free, p.28
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       Fighting to Be Free, p.28

         Part #1 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley
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  slapped his shoulder as hard as I could, resulting only in making my hand sting from the blow. “Ouch,” I muttered.

  “You okay?”

  I laughed incredulously and rolled my eyes. “Screw you,” I snapped. He needed to give up the kind-and-caring-boyfriend routine. The stupid boy was a murdering car thief who worked as part of a gang. This was the real Jamie Cole, not the illusion that he’d shown me for the last six months.

  “I’m sorry,” he whispered, his face a mask of sorrow.

  “Sorry just doesn’t cut it,” I retorted.

  He sighed deeply. “This is exactly why I didn’t want you to know. I can’t stand this, this hardness, this revulsion, not from you,” he said quietly.

  “This hardness is because you lied to me about who you were!” I practically screamed as I slapped his shoulder again for emphasis, this time ignoring the pain in my hand.

  “I was scared of how you’d react, Ellie! I guess now I know, and I was right to have been scared.” He ground his teeth and shook his head.

  I snorted. “You don’t know how I would have reacted. You should have told me and let me decide if I could deal with it; it wasn’t your choice, that wasn’t fair.”

  He raised one eyebrow. “And how would you have reacted to being told that I was a convicted murderer? Would you have given me the time of day? Would you still have fallen in love with me? No, you wouldn’t!” he replied, throwing his hands up in exasperation.

  “Well, it’s too damn late to find out now, huh?” I glared at him for a few minutes while he just stood there, looking at me apologetically, seeming to be choosing his words, or maybe he was just waiting for me to bitch him out some more. I sighed. I just needed to know once and for all; this was killing me slowly. I thought I knew who he was as a person, I thought I knew all of him, but I was so totally wrong, and that was what hurt the most. Betrayal was probably the word that best described my emotions; it was almost like he didn’t trust me with his secrets.

  “Jamie, just … just tell me what happened. Was it an accident? If it was, then that’s different. If you didn’t mean to kill her, then it’s something different entirely. Please, just tell me what happened,” I begged, hanging blindly on to the small hope that it had been an accident.

  Jamie took a step back, his eyes tightening as he looked at me with a bewildered expression on his face. “Her? What do you mean, her? Why are you assuming it was a girl?”

  I frowned. “I thought … You said she was murdered.” I stumbled over my words and suddenly his whole posture seemed to tighten as he practically glared at me.

  “Sophie? You’re talking about Sophie? You think I killed my little sister?” His voice was full of acid as he straightened his shoulders, raising himself to his full height so that he towered above me.

  I flinched from the abrupt change in tone. “Yeah?” I confirmed weakly, but it came out as more of a question because of his disbelieving expression.

  He made a strangled growling sound as his eyes burned into mine. “Seriously, even after all the time that we’ve spent together, you really think that I’m capable of murdering my own sister?” His tone was truly menacing, and for the first time, I could see the “hard Jamie” that he said he turned into when he was working.

  I didn’t know what to think now; confusion was settling over me. He looked so angry with me for suggesting it that I actually felt terrible for even entertaining that thought. Obviously this wasn’t about his sister, I should have known that. I’d jumped to the wrong conclusion, I could see that now.

  “I just put two and two together,” I replied quietly.

  “And came up with thirty-fucking-five,” he barked, sneering at me. An involuntary whimper left my lips as he stepped forward. His whole body language was menacing and intimidating.

  “I thought it was an accident or something. I was hoping it was an accident,” I explained, trying to look away from his accusing eyes as he advanced on me.

  His teeth ground together as he stepped even closer, so close that I stepped back to get some personal space and bumped into the wall behind me. He bent down so our faces were on the same level, our noses almost touching as his hard brown eyes met mine.

  “So that’s the type of person that you think you fell in love with? If you think I’m capable of murdering a little girl, then what’s to stop me from killing you, too? I could do it, you know. I could put my hands around your neck and snap it like that,” he growled, snapping his fingers on the last word. “I could cover it up too, have someone bury you somewhere your parents would never find your body. Easy, I could get away with it this time.”

  I raised my chin, keeping eye contact with him, knowing he was angry and just trying to push my buttons and scare me. But the thing was, I wasn’t scared of him. “You wouldn’t hurt me. You love me,” I said confidently.

  His hands traced up my sides, making my skin prickle like it always did when he touched me. They came to rest on my throat. His fingers wrapped around my neck, his thumbs applying the softest pressure against my larynx.

  “I loved her too, but I still killed her.” His grip tightened just enough to let me know where his hands were, but he applied no pressure at all.

  Somehow I knew it wasn’t true. From how he’d reacted, how angry he’d gotten when I said the words, I knew he hadn’t done it. He was clearly outraged and hurt that I had even suggested it in the first place.

  I didn’t break eye contact as I shook my head awkwardly because of the placement of his hands. “Jamie, just cut the act. You wouldn’t hurt me, so stop acting like you would. I’m not scared of you.”

  His jaw tightened as he moved even closer, pressing me into the wall with his hard body. “You should be, Ellie. The information that Miles gave you was right; I am a convicted murderer, and not the accidental kind, either. I did kill my baby sister. I also beat someone to death with my bare hands, the same hands that are currently wrapped around your throat. Don’t think I’m not dangerous, Ellie. I don’t regret what I did; I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

  My brain struggled to comprehend what he was saying; everything was so jumbled in my head that it was making my ears ring. Looking at Jamie as he pinned me against the wall, I knew only one thing: He would never hurt me.

  Behind the tough, scary act, his eyes were begging me to stay and love him unconditionally.

  I raised my hand and gripped his wrist, pulling his hand away from my throat as I shook my head. “Stop it. It’s not gonna work. Now just tell me what you should have told me six months ago, and stop trying to scare me away from you so that you don’t have to deal with it,” I ordered.

  His face softened as he looked at me, shocked. He’d truly expected me to run out of here screaming. He closed his eyes as I slid my hand down his arm to take his hand, squeezing gently to prompt him. It didn’t really matter what he said next, I’d already made up my mind; his past was his past, and it had no bearing on the future I still envisioned for us. Yes, I wanted to know the truth, but only so that nothing could ever come between us again.

  “I love you, Jamie, but no more secrets. Stop shutting me out, please,” I begged.

  He groaned, resting his forehead against mine, his shallow breath blowing across my lips. His other hand, the one that was still wrapped around my throat, moved to the side, cupping my neck instead, his thumb stroking my cheek softly.

  “It’s bad, Ellie,” he whispered.

  I nodded, trying to prepare myself once and for all to hear about his past. I was confident in the knowledge that no matter what came out of his mouth, I was doomed to be in love with him.

  I wrapped my free arm around his waist, holding him tightly as he spoke. “Ralf Montague. He was my mom’s pimp, and the prick who killed my little sister right in front of me. That’s who I murdered.”

  CHAPTER 26

  I HELD MY breath as I digested his words. First off, his mom was a prostitute? And secondly, her pimp had killed Jamie’s sister right in fron
t of him? He had been a fourteen-year-old boy and watched his sister get murdered? I didn’t know what to feel more, horror at the whole situation, or pity because no one should have to see anything like that. I tightened my arm on his waist, clamping him to me as his uneven breath blew across my face.

  “Oh God, Jamie, I’m so sorry.” My chin trembled as I struggled not to burst into tears for him.

  He nodded, pulling back, his eyes dropping to the floor. I’d never seen anyone look so sad and defeated in my life. It was gut-wrenching to see such a strong and beautiful person have so much pain etched across his face. “So there you go. Happy to be included now?” he asked acidly.

  My mouth dropped open in shock as he pulled away quickly and turned away from me, his back stiff as he fisted both hands into his hair. I didn’t know how to answer. Yes, I was happy to be included because I wanted to be included in every part of his life, but in another way, hell no; I wished I didn’t know that information. I had a feeling that what he was going to tell me about his childhood was going to make me cry myself to sleep for days when I thought about what he’d been through.

  Because I had no words, I did the only thing I could think of. I stepped closer to him and pressed my face into his shoulder blades, breathing him in, circling my arms around his waist. His stomach muscles tightened under my hands as he drew in a sharp breath.

  “Will you tell me what happened?” I asked quietly, my voice muffled because my face was still pressed against his back.

  “Ellie, what difference does it make? He killed her, so I killed him, that’s all there is to it.”

  I shook my head and moved in front of him, not letting him out of the cage that I’d made with my arms. “That’s not all there is to it; there’s more, much more, I can tell. Please? I love you, Jamie, I want to help you. It’s not good for you to keep all that stuff bottled up inside you, you’ll go crazy,” I whispered, gripping the back of his shirt. “You can talk to me. You can tell me anything,” I encouraged him.

  He gulped and closed his eyes. There was a tightness to his mouth that I longed to kiss away so he would smile again. “Fine,” he finally said with a sigh, his arms dropping to his sides as he gripped my wrists and unwrapped my arms from his waist. “Let’s go sit down then or something.” He didn’t wait for me but let go of my hands and stalked away into the living room.

  I took a couple of deep breaths and looked at the ceiling, fighting my building horror. When my fried nerves seemed to be under control, I turned and followed after him. I just about had time to notice that the room was bare apart from a few things scattered here and there. He’d already put most of his stuff into storage; all he had left out were his clothes and what had come with the apartment when he rented it.

  Jamie was sitting on the sofa, his shoulders slumped, his head in his hands. My weary legs carried me over to him and I plopped down in the space next to him. I didn’t know what to say or do to make him feel better, so I remained silent. It wasn’t long before he started talking.

  “My dad died when I was two, so it was always just me and my mom on our own. Things were hard on her; she had no qualifications and couldn’t find a job, so she started sleeping with men for money. She’d bring them back to the house, and I’d get locked in my room so that I couldn’t interrupt or anything. I didn’t really know what was going on at the time, it was only as I got older that I realized what she was doing.” He cringed, fisting his hands in his hair. “She got pregnant. I don’t know who Sophie’s dad was; no one ever stuck around, so I assume it was one of her clients.”

  His gaze flicked to me, so I tried to keep my expression neutral even though I was crying on the inside. His voice was so full of pain already that it hurt me to listen to it. I nodded encouragingly. I wanted to take his hand, but my body was frozen in place, just waiting for the rest of it. My eyes shot to one of the scars on his neck; you could only just see it under the collar of his T-shirt. Silently I wondered how it got there, and how he’d gotten all the marks that were on his body.

  “I was seven when she was born, and from that day, I had to grow up quickly. My mom, she never bonded with Soph, she never held her for longer than necessary, never smiled at her. Even at the age of seven I knew something was wrong, so I tried to be the best brother in the world to make up for the fact that my mom never seemed to want to be in the same room as her.”

  I gulped and tried not to hate his mom, but the more he spoke, the more I wondered how a person such as her could birth an amazing person like Jamie.

  “I used to play with her all the time, feed her and change her and stuff. I made it into a kind of game, and we got through it. When Soph was about one, things got worse. My mom started taking drugs.” He blew out a big breath and shook his head. “That was about the time that she forgot she even had two kids. She was barely home at night or on weekends. I was eight, and I’d be left home alone with Sophie. My mom would forget to buy food, or she wouldn’t have the money for it because she’d wasted the food money on drugs. During the week I used to get Sophie dressed and give her breakfast, then I’d put her in her crib and go to school. When I’d come home she’d still be in there, her diaper dirty because I hadn’t been there to change it. Sometimes she’d get such bad diaper rash that it’d bleed. Know what, though? She didn’t even cry when she was left in there all day. It was kind of like she knew that no one would come and get her, so she never bothered. The whole time my mom would just be passed out on the sofa or working.”

  “Oh God, Jamie,” I mumbled. My eyes prickled with tears as I imagined an eight-year-old boy trying to be a dad to a one-year-old baby while his mom spent their money on drugs. It was horrifying.

  He smiled weakly, still not meeting my eyes. “I was eight and a half when I first broke the law,” he stated. “I went to the local store, and I stole a loaf of bread and a pack of ham so I could feed my baby sister.” He hung his head as if he was ashamed to admit that.

  The lump in my throat seemed to get bigger as I struggled to swallow. Suddenly my body seemed to thaw out, and I could move. I scooted closer to him on the sofa and put my hand on the back of his head, resting my chin on his shoulder, looking at the ceiling so that the tears wouldn’t fall. His body was trembling against mine, and I realized that I’d never hated anyone as much as I hated his mother for letting him go through all of that. He’d never even had a childhood. Most eight-year-olds would probably pitch a fit because they wanted the latest G.I. Joe, but the starving eight-year-old Jamie was stealing food to feed himself and his sister.

  “Sophie was an amazing kid. She was so happy, so loving and adorable. I did everything I could to keep her safe and smiling. I’d steal practically everything she needed: food, clothes, medicine. My mom was barely around, so it was just us, really.” His voice broke and I could hear the agony in his tone.

  “Why didn’t you tell someone? A teacher or something?” I asked quietly.

  He snorted and shook his head. “I couldn’t. I knew that we’d be taken and put into foster care or something, and I didn’t want to lose my sister. They would have split us up and I never would have seen her. I couldn’t have that. I was scared to be alone; I guess I was selfish in that respect. I should have thought about what was best for her in the long run, but I selfishly thought that I was what was best for her. Now I wish I’d told someone, though. Maybe if I had, then she’d be alive. Hindsight can sometimes give you nightmares,” he replied sadly.

  I gripped the back of his head and pressed myself to him tighter. “You aren’t selfish, Jamie. Jeez, don’t ever think that!” I said fiercely as a lone tear escaped down my cheek.

  He turned his head, and his eyes finally met mine for the first time since this whole revelation began. “Ellie, don’t try to make me feel better. I don’t need your pity looks.”

  My fingers twisted in the back of his hair as I pressed my forehead to his and squeezed my eyes shut. “Jamie, you can’t stop me from feeling these things. I love you, so of course it
’s going to upset me that you went through all that. If I told you these things about my childhood, would you be able to stop yourself from feeling sorry for me?” I asked incredulously.

  He sighed, his warm breath caressing my cheek and ruffling the hair at my neck. “I guess not.”

  I sniffed and nodded, pulling back and resting my chin on his shoulder again. We were almost at the worst part now; I just needed to brace myself for the impact. “Who was the guy who killed her?”

  His body tightened when I asked that; his jaw snapped shut with an audible click as his hands clenched into fists where they rested on his knees. “My mom got with Ralf when I was ten. They kind of dated, but he used to pimp her out, too. She loved him more than anything, more than me and Soph. He moved in with us and things got better in some ways and worse in others.”

  “What do you mean?” I asked, not entirely sure I wanted to know the answer.

  He shrugged. “At least there was food in the house once he moved in.”

  I narrowed my eyes at his detached tone. “What got worse?” I asked. He groaned and looked at me pleadingly, as if he didn’t want to talk about this anymore. “Jamie, please? What got worse?” I repeated.

  “Ralf was a sick asshole. He … he got off on hurting people. Me especially,” he answered.

  “He was the one that—” I couldn’t say it, so I traced my finger on a small round burn mark at the base of his neck.

  He nodded, seeming to look anywhere but at me. “Yeah. He used to like it. You understand what I mean by that?” he asked.

  Like it …

  “Oh God,” I muttered as I realized what he was talking about.

  Jamie nodded again, shrugging me off him as he stood, rubbing one hand on his arm as if he were cold. “Yeah, he’d get drunk, and she’d be off earning him cash, so he’d have a little fun by kicking the shit out of me. Afterward, he’d tell me to clean up my wounds and stuff. He’d watch me do it and … touch himself.”

  Images of that seemed to flood my brain. I had been right earlier; this information was definitely going to make me cry myself to sleep for weeks.

  “Did he ever”—I took a deep breath—“touch you?” My voice came out too high pitched as horror and anger seemed to build up inside. Bile rose in my throat as I wondered how much worse this conversation was going to get.

 
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