Home > Heaven and Hell (Heaven and Hell #1)(12)

Heaven and Hell (Heaven and Hell #1)(12)
Author: Kristen Ashley

At that time, I’d been married to Cooter for a year and a half. Looking back, I couldn’t say Cooter treated me with love and affection in the three years we were together prior to getting hitched, he’d treated me being on his arm like it was his due. But he’d never been cruel. Then, for whatever reason it commenced, Cooter had started to tear me down three months after we got married. This started small, incidences I could easily sweep aside as bad moods or anxiety due to a change of life, marriage, mortgage, needing to grow up fast and hold down a job in order to take care of home and hearth.

But it quickly escalated.

So by that time, I’d had huge chunks torn from me.

And for some bizarre reason, I thought I was hiding it from the world. Even my mother.

I should have known that no way could I hide anything from Essie Rigsby. First, she was a Mom with two kids and had been, at that time, for twenty-three years. Second, she was far from stupid. I’d never been able to pull one over on her.

Not ever.

And that night, when she sat at the foot of our dining room table, her back to the living room and I’d sat at her side, the wall obstructing me from Dad and Cooter’s view, Mom had not delayed.

Her eyes settled on me, they were troubled, I instantly clawed at the tattered edges of the personality that my husband was stripping from me, pulling them close in the hopes of using them to protect me from what I knew was to come but I didn’t succeed before she leaned into me, her hand cupping my cheek and she whispered, “You know, your Dad and I are always there for you.”

Tears filled my yes and I looked away.

Her other hand came up so she was holding me by both cheeks and she made me look at her again.

“Kia,” she kept whispering, “no matter what, no matter where, no matter anything, we’re always there for you.”

“Okay,” I whispered back.

She said nothing more, just stared in my eyes.

I sat across from her and kept my mouth shut. I didn’t know why then and I didn’t know why while sitting beside Lake Como drinking my favorite drink which was also my mother’s favorite drink and therefore reminding me of her. Maybe it was pride that was not allowing me to admit I made a huge mistake. Maybe I still had hope that Cooter would show me the glory he’d promised to me. Maybe I was in denial and didn’t want to face what was happening to me.

But I said nothing.

And I never did. Not for seven years. Not one of the times I tried to escape him. I said nothing.

Seven years.

I’d lost seven years and that was on me because help was half a mile away.

A tear slid down my cheek and Lake Como went fuzzy.

“Not even a smile?”

My body jerked as the question came from close in a deep, rough-like-velvet voice tinged with something I didn’t quite get, impatience or annoyance, and I twisted in my wrought iron, comfily padded chair and tilted my head back to see Sam standing right beside me.

In the muted outside lights that lit the balcony but didn’t take from the view, I saw his face shift as he whispered, “Jesus, Kia.”

Oh God.


I quickly lifted a hand and dashed it across my cheek, stupidly thinking maybe, even though his eyes were locked on my face, he’d miss it and I casually said, “Hey, Sam.”

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, great. Just enjoying a nightcap,” I answered and his brows snapped together making him look slightly irritated.

“Are you okay?” he repeated.

“Yeah,” I replied then suddenly he bent at the waist, put one hand into the arm of my chair and his face was three inches from mine.

I sucked in breath at this move and his sudden proximity and pressed into the back of the chair but I didn’t have far to go and only gained an inch before he spoke again.

“Okay is not sittin’ alone, drinkin’ with tears in your eyes,” he stated.

Well, I had to admit, he was right about that.

“Uh…” I mumbled.

“Are you okay?” he repeated, this time gently, his eyes holding mine captive and while they did, they were looking deep.

So deep, I was mesmerized and found myself whispering, “I don’t know.”

“That’s a better answer,” he decreed on a return whisper then moved again, swiftly.

He bent to the side, reaching out a long arm; he tagged a chair and dragged it next to and facing the side of mine. Then he sat in it, leaned forward, put one elbow to his knee but reached out with the other hand, capturing mine and pulling it toward him. Then his other hand shifted and both of his hands held mine at his knees.

He did this so quickly, even when he settled I hadn’t come to terms with the fact that Sampson Cooper was holding my hand, sitting next to me and completely focused on me in an intent way that made my entire body feel warm.

“Your man?” he asked.

“What?” I asked back.

“Are you thinkin’ about your husband?”

I shook my head and answered, “No, my parents.”

His hands gave mine a squeeze that felt convulsive before he asked, “Are they okay?”

I nodded. He waited. I didn’t say anything.

His hands gave mine another squeeze, this one a clear prompt.

“It’s a long story,” I said softly and it was. It was also one he would never, ever know.

He held my eyes.

Then he guessed accurately, “You don’t wanna talk about it.”

“No,” I verified his accuracy.

“Right,” he murmured then asked, “You don’t wanna talk about that, you wanna talk about why you sat three tables away from me for three hours tonight and didn’t even smile at me, comin’ or goin’?”

I blinked but my heart started stuttering. I figured this was an improvement, at least it didn’t stop.

Then I asked, “What?”

“Baby, you saw me.”

Well, there it was. I didn’t pull one over on him.


“I, uh… didn’t want to disturb you,” I told him.

“Bullshit,” he shot back instantly and I blinked again at the same time my hand jerked in his so his tightened around it.

“Bullshit?” I asked.

“Yeah, Kia, bullshit.”

My shoulders straightened and I didn’t even tell them to do it before my mouth accused, “Well, you didn’t smile or come say hello to me either.”

He stared at me and it occurred to me, even though I didn’t know him, like, at all, that I could sense that he had been being real but now he was getting mad.

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