Broken but Breathing

By: Shyla Colt

(Jinx Tattoos Book 2)


PROLOGUE

Estelle Noll never minded storms. The sound of the rain dancing on the rooftop made her smile. The fresh scent and the coolness it always brought were a welcome break from the sweltering summer heat. She sat on the plush grey window seat, viewing the world through the pane of glass. They cracked the screen earlier in anticipation of what was to come. The distinct aroma that came from wet concrete was nature’s perfume. She couldn’t wait to breathe in the crisp, clean scent.

 I’m an unrepentant pluviophile. A total lover of rain who found joy and peace in the precipitation. The corners of her lips curled up as her mind went to her mother, Jane Abbot, and her father, James. They gifted her with her appreciation of books, rain, and whimsical things. The English-born couple loved classic literature, and wove wondrous tales about their life in Kent, England.

They’d returned to their hometown five years ago, and Estelle missed them more every day. Soon they’ll be back to prepare for your birth, little one. She rubbed her rounded belly.

A tiny foot kicked in response, and garnered a smile. There’s a living, breathing being inside of me right now. Wonderment filled her. For five years she and Everett tried to have a baby. Therefore, with his low sperm count and her endometriosis this bun in her oven was a tiny miracle.

“I can’t wait to meet you, Emma,” she whispered. Content, she glanced at the worn copy of her name inspiration, Great Expectations, in her lap.

The wail of sirens brought her from Pip and Estelle’s childhood. Tornado warning. The warnings were common this time of year. Closing her book, she studied the sky rapidly changing color. The hairs on the back of her neck and arms stood on end; a sense of unease flooded her system. She closed the book and slid off the cushion, narrowing her eyes. Had the sky taken on a green hue? The wind had picked up. The branches on the trees shook violently in the wind.

“Stell.” Everett strode into the room. The terse tone and clipped words made her hackles rise.

“What’s wrong?” she asked, standing to greet him.

“We need to go downstairs. The bathroom is the safest place. They spotted a funnel nearby.”

Goosebumps covered her flesh. A fine sheen of sweat broke out on her forehead. She toyed with the hem of her maternity top, worrying the material as she rubbed it between her forefinger and thumb.

He moved to the window and struggled to close it. “I’ll close this. You go downstairs, now.”

The bass in his voice put her in motion. Fear slithered its way through her body; worry sat in her stomach like a stone, cold and unyielding. A lump formed in her throat. She gripped the bannister, careful not to trip as she waddled her way down the stairs. Balls of ice hit the windows, walls, and roof with loud cracks.

She jogged toward the bathroom. Fear drove her into the tiny room. She perched on the toilet seat, eager to have Everett in her line of sight. Taking deep breaths, she attempted to keep the panic forming at bay. Her stomach soured. She rocked back and forth to comfort herself and the squirming bundle in her belly. The attempt failed. His footsteps pounded on the steps.

He appeared in the doorway a few moments later. His face was pale as a sheet, and the crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes stood out. Lips drawn in a straight line, and dark eyes full of sadness, he presented a grim picture. He doesn’t think we’re going to make it. Tears blurred her vision, and her shoulders shook as she tried to hold in her sobs.

He sat on the edge of the tub and gripped her chin. “Hey. I need you to calm down for Emma, okay? I won’t let anything happen to you or the baby. We’re going to get into the tub, stay down, and pray our asses off. We’ll be interviewed on the news when all this is over. Okay?”

She swallowed the hysteria threatening to rise in her throat like carbonated bubbles full of crazy and nodded. Their lips met in a kiss that smacked of desperation. She poured every ounce of love she held for this man into their mouth mating. Surfacing for air, breathing heavily, they stared into each other’s eyes. She saw everything in his hazel orbs—the fear, the joy, and the determination. Everett Noll had never let her down when it counted. He wouldn’t start now if he could help it.

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