All In (Full Tilt Book 2)(3)

By: Emma Scott


The woman narrowed her eyes at me, sizing me up. “Two nights ago. Like she was sneaking out, stealing her own things. Nervous.”

My heart’s pulse slowed to a heavy clang of dread. “She took stuff with her?”

“Boxes. Suitcases.” The woman ran her hands down her flowered housedress. “And these strange glass bottles with cords coming out of them. Don’t know what on earth—”

“Lamps,” I said dully. “They were lamps made from old whiskey bottles.”

“If you say so.”

I rubbed the stubble along my jaw. The tension had seeped out of my body, the grief now seeping back in.

“She left a letter with me,” the neighbor said. “Asked that I only give it to Beverly, Teddy, or Henry Fletcher.” The woman peered at me. “Are you one of those?”

“I’m Theo Fletcher.” I cleared my throat. “She calls me Teddy. Called. Calls.”

“Hold on.” The woman went into her place and came back out with a piece of paper folded in half. My eyes scanned over the words:



I can’t stay here. I tried but it’s too much. I love you all. I’m sorry.

Kacey



The note fell from my hand like a dead leaf, rocking through the air to land at my feet. The neighbor said something softly and retreated into her apartment. I stood alone on the walkway, staring at Kacey’s door.

I’m sorry, Jonah, I thought, the words blasting louder and louder with every beat of my heart.

I had one job here. Not even. Half a job. And I’d failed.





Theo



Six months after the funeral…



The alarm blared at six a.m. I snaked out my hand and shut it off. For a few seconds, I was good. Everything was all right. Then I remembered Jonah was gone and the rest of the day sledgehammered into my chest.

I sucked in a breath and stared at the ceiling until the first wave passed, then immediately threw off the covers. The best part of my day was those first three seconds. Then I had to immediately get up, get ahead of it. Keep moving, otherwise I’d lie in bed all day like an ass, pissing and moaning over what I couldn’t change. Get up, shake it out of the covers and kick it under the bed.

A small voice inside whispered I’d better clean that shit out and fucking deal with it before I exploded.

I was dealing. I was getting up. Going to work. Doing my goddamn best.

My gym clothes were waiting at the foot of the bed where I’d set them the night before. I dressed, hit the kitchen for some water and a protein bar. The morning sun glinted off the glass paperweights on the windowsill, all Jonah’s creations. One had a sea life scene inside. The sunlight cutting through the glass made it look alive. It was Kacey’s favorite. She once told me she thought it looked quiet inside the glass. Peaceful. The watery composition made her feel safe when she woke up the first time on Jonah’s couch.

I looked inside the sphere and felt suffocated. Trapped. Immobile, like the sea life.

In my truck on the way to the gym, I passed Jonah’s old place, then Kacey’s three blocks later. Both empty now. Except for Jonah’s glass paperweights sitting on my windowsill and a handwritten note, everything belonging to them was in a storage unit at the north end of town.

Idling at a red light, my thoughts returned to her four scribbled lines, mulling over them like song lyrics. Followed by the chorus: I failed Jonah…

A honk from behind jolted me: the red light was green. I hit the gas, tires screeching, then eased off and forced myself to chill the fuck out before I got in a wreck.

At the gym, I lifted and pressed until my arm muscles were screaming and the sweat poured down my face. I did sit-ups until I thought I’d puke, then set a bar over my shoulders and did squats until my legs were shaking.

I worked out for two solid hours, trying to sweat out the feelings buried in my guts. It left me exhausted and wanting more sleep—I didn’t get much these days—but rest wasn’t part of my routine.

I showered, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, and went back to my place to cook up some lunch. I sat at my kitchen counter, the Small Business Management textbook open. An enormous fried egg, bacon, and tomato sandwich on my left, my laptop on my right. I had midterms coming up and the payroll tax stuff was giving me grief.