Home > Until the End (Sea Breeze #9)

Until the End (Sea Breeze #9)
Author: Abbi Glines

Chapter One

Present Day


“Daddy, watch this!” Daisy May exclaimed excitedly. As if she didn’t already have my complete attention.

“I’m watching,” I assured her.

She ran and began doing cartwheels across the backyard before flipping backward into what I now knew was called a back handspring. My baby girl was a little gymnast, and with that came a lot of practices. But every time she beamed at me and said, “Daddy, watch this!” I couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather watch.

The past two and a half years of being my little girl’s daddy had been some of the best years of my life. Only one other smile moved me as much as Daisy May’s.

Trisha stepped out the back door, smiling at me, with two glasses of lemonade in her hands. That smile was the other one that owned me. Daisy May had become my little girl a few years ago, but Trisha had been my girl for much longer. I had been entranced by the teenager who wouldn’t give me the time of day, and completely captivated by the woman she had become.

She was the best mother in the world if you asked Daisy May, Brent, or Jimmy. She was the most incredible woman in the world if you asked me. And she knew damn well we all adored her.

“You nailed that, Daisy, baby,” Trisha cheered, and Daisy May instantly lit up. Our little girl had lived the first seven years of her life without the love of a mother. The woman who had given life to our children hadn’t been able to love anyone. She’d been angry and bitter and had neglected not only the children we now claimed as our own but her oldest son too—one of my best friends, Preston Drake. He’d been the only love these kids had known until their mother overdosed, leaving them in need of a home. Preston had been ready to take his younger siblings in, but Trisha and I had fallen in love with all of them. When we’d asked him to let us adopt the kids, he had agreed. He’d wanted them to have a home life with parents who loved them. Something he had never experienced.

They all worshipped the ground Preston walked on. He was still their older brother, and he watched them every Thursday night and any other time Trisha and I needed a night out alone. It was a family unit that worked.

I was one lucky son of a bitch.

“Momma, do you think I’ll make the team next week?” Daisy May asked as Trisha handed her a glass of lemonade.

“I think you’ve worked hard and you have as good a chance as anyone. But no matter what happens, you are number one to us.”

Like always, Trisha knew the right answer to everything, and Daisy May beamed at her.

“Preston said he would be there,” Daisy May said, plopping down on the grass beside me.

“Then he will be. You know he wouldn’t miss your tryouts for anything,” I replied, taking the glass Trisha held out for me—then pulling her down onto my lap. I liked having my woman in my lap. Always had.

“I’m nervous,” Daisy May added, then took a sip.

Trisha reached over and pulled Daisy toward us and tucked her under her arm. “We will be right there cheering you on. You’ve worked hard, and no matter what happens, you will be our star. We will be so proud of what you’ve accomplished. Most of those girls have been taking gymnastics since they were very young. You’ve managed to get a chance at the team in only two years! That right there is a reason to be proud.”

I loved this woman. She could make anyone feel better. I was sitting out here, getting nervous thinking about Daisy May trying out to make the competitive team, and Trisha wasn’t making just Daisy feel better—my nerves were easing too.

Truth was, I didn’t like the idea of anyone telling my baby girl no. But Trisha kept reminding me I couldn’t fight all their battles in life. It was so damn hard, though. They’d suffered enough in their earlier years.

“Next week I get to be a flower girl again,” Daisy said, grinning up at us. She didn’t stay focused on one thing too long. She was already thinking about Preston and Amanda’s wedding.

“You have several weddings coming up. But I imagine next week’s is the one you’re most excited about,” Trisha said, ruffling Daisy May’s brown curls.

“Yep! I can’t wait. Amanda said me and Brent and Jimmy get to all stand up there with them when they say their . . . uh . . . them things they say. I forgot what it’s called.”

Trisha leaned back against me as I chuckled. “While they say their vows,” I said, and Daisy May nodded.

“That’s it. We get to stand up there. And Jimmy gets to hand Preston the ring. The one he puts on Amanda’s finger. And I get to give Amanda the surprise . . .” Daisy’s eyes got big and she shut her mouth.

“What?” Trisha asked before I could.

Daisy May shook her head and grinned, then twisted an imaginary lock on her lips and tossed away an equally imaginary key.

Apparently, Preston had some kind of secret only Daisy May knew about.

“Well, now I’m even more anxious for the wedding,” Trisha said as she sank farther into me. My arms were wrapped around her waist, and I was beginning to think about where I’d like to move my hands. My wife was smoking hot. She always had been. It never got old seeing her in a pair of tiny shorts and a tank top. This body could stop traffic.

Our fifth wedding anniversary was coming up in four months. I had already prepared Preston that I’d need his help. I intended to take her somewhere special. We’d never had a real wedding. We couldn’t afford one. But I had been desperate to make her mine. Back then I kept thinking she’d figure out she could do better and leave me. When I had convinced her to go to the courthouse and become mine forever, I hadn’t thought about the fairy-tale wedding she deserved. I had just wanted Trisha.

It was time my woman had the fairy-tale wedding she deserved right before we went on the honeymoon we’d never gotten.

The first time I’d seen her, she had taken my breath away. Getting her attention had been one hell of a ride. She’d been so determined to stay away from me. Or any man. Then I’d found out why . . . and I’d sworn to myself she’d never have to live in fear again.

Falling in love with Trisha had changed my life. My friends and family had said I was an idiot. I was throwing away my future. Butch Taylor, my father, had never been a big part of my life until I had become a high school football star. For once I had a parent who gave a shit about me. It had been something I’d craved since I was a kid. Making him proud and proving I was worth loving had been what drove me to work harder. My dream was within my reach. I had my father cheering me on, and I would make it to college and then—I knew—I’d play pro ball.

Until my dream changed the day a pair of the prettiest blue eyes I’d ever seen stared at me across the parking lot one morning before school started. That was the first day of my sophomore year, and it would be another twelve months before I would be able to get Trisha Corbin to even speak to me.

With one look, that girl had changed my dreams.

Chapter Two

Eight years ago . . .


Most kids agonized over going back to school. I sat on the bus, listening to others talk about their summers on the beach, sleeping late, going to parties, and how much they dreaded school. It was like they were speaking a different language. A foreign world I knew nothing about.

I glanced over at the seat across from me, at my younger brother, Krit, and his best friend, Green. Krit was as relieved as I was to be going to school. We had looked forward to this day all summer. Having an excuse to escape the life we lived at home was a blessed relief. Green was excited because they were eighth graders now. Two years ago Sea Breeze had moved the eighth grade to a section of the high school building because the middle school had gotten too full. They were still separated from the high school students for the most part, but they would use the high school’s cafeteria and gym.

My brother had grown at least six inches this summer. He reminded me of a weed. Overnight he’d gone from scrawny kid to tall and slightly intimidating. Didn’t mean his mind had caught up to his almost six-foot-tall frame, though. He was still a kid. A scared kid. One who needed me to protect him. Even if I did have to tilt my head back to talk to him now. He had passed my five feet eight inches sometime around June.

I crossed my legs and tugged at my shorts. Not that it helped. There had been no money for me to go buy any school clothes this year. I had to wear last year’s things. Krit had grown way more than I had, and he’d required an entirely new wardrobe. Every dime I’d made lifeguarding at the pool went toward buying him decent clothing at the consignment shop.

The problem with me wearing last year’s things was that, although I hadn’t grown in height, my br**sts and butt had gotten bigger. So although I was still five eight, same as last year, my shorts were shorter. I wasn’t sure how my legs had gotten longer, but they had—or my butt was just taking up the extra room.

My h*ps seemed wider too. That probably wasn’t helping either. Krit turned his head to see me tugging on my shorts, and I stopped. The frown that wrinkled his forehead told me he wasn’t happy. We had argued about me spending all my money on his clothes. He’d said he needed two pairs of jeans and two shirts. He could wash them every day. I refused to let him go to school in only two outfits that fit him. I had plenty. I would just need to go on a diet and make them fit me right again.

I wasn’t sure how I had managed to gain weight, but that was all that made sense. This was my fault. Not his. I smiled at him reassuringly and acted like the short length of my shorts was no big deal. Picking up my book bag, I placed it in my lap as the bus pulled to a stop in front of the high school.

“We’re here,” I said, standing up.

“They’re too short. I told you to buy new ones,” was Krit’s response. He wasn’t going to let that go.

“My butt and h*ps got big. I just ate too much over the summer. I’ll lose weight and it’ll be fine,” I told him. “Now, forget it and focus on school.”

“We don’t get to eat enough for you to have gained weight,” he snarled.

“Please, for the love of God, don’t lose weight. It would break my heart,” Green said with a flirty grin.

Krit shoved him back down in his seat and scowled at him. “Don’t. Seriously, dude. Don’t.”

I was used to Green’s flirting. He’d been at it since last year when he discovered he loved girls. It was only getting worse. I knew he was harmless, and I remembered when he was scared of the dark and wore Superman underwear. He was like my other little brother.

“I don’t like you in those shorts. Shows too much,” Krit said in an angry whisper as we stepped off the bus.

“I’m fine. No one is looking,” I told him.

He lifted his eyebrows at me. “Really? You’re gonna tell me shit like that and expect me to believe it?”

I started to tell him to shut it, when my heart rate picked up and my breathing hitched. He was here. I hadn’t seen him yet, but I knew he was here and he was close by. My body always reacted that way when Rock Taylor was around. It had been like that since I’d stepped off the bus the first day of school last year and made eye contact with the most beautiful boy I’d ever seen.

For almost three hours I had waited anxiously for another glimpse of him. Then finally at lunchtime I saw him again. He had a girl on each arm, and one even sat on his lap while he ate. His friends were all the same. Girls acted ridiculous to get their attention, and threw themselves at the guys, who seemed to think it was their due. Like they were supposed to get to pick and choose females. When Rock had gotten up to leave the cafeteria, he had looked back at me and winked. Right before another girl grabbed his arm and he walked out the door with her. By the end of the day I knew more than I wanted to know about Rock Taylor.

“Is that Rock Taylor?” Krit asked in awe. As if Rock were a celebrity. The guy was a high school football star. So what? He was gorgeous and talented, I would give him that much. But he wasn’t anyone I wanted my little brother idolizing. Rock Taylor used girls. I’d seen it firsthand. Over and over again.

But no matter how many girls I’d seen in the bathroom in tears on a Monday morning when Rock had ignored them after sleeping with them on Friday night, my body still reacted to him. Like it was on high alert. I understood why girls always went willingly into his arms, even while knowing it would end badly.

The difference was, I had real issues to deal with. Survival being the number one issue. For me and my brother.

Ignoring Krit’s comment, I changed the subject. “Do you have your schedule? And remember, give yourself at least five full minutes to get from the upstairs classrooms to the downstairs classrooms. Don’t be late for lunch or you won’t have enough time to get your tray and eat. And eat it all. Okay?”

Krit gave me a crooked grin. “I got this, Sis. Seriously, chill.”

He was going to be a hit here. He had been in middle school. Krit had always been a beautiful child. Girls were noticing that more and more. I was proud of him, but I also hated for him to define himself by his looks. He had so much more inside him.

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