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Somebody Else’s Sky (Something in the Way #2)
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If I closed my eyes, I could still see them—all blonde sunshine, ocean-blue eyes, and long limbs. The glint of Lake’s gold bracelet. Pink cotton candy on Tiffany’s tongue. My scenery may have changed from heaven to hell, but some things never would: my struggle to do right by both sisters. To let Lake soar. To lift Tiffany up. The sacrifices I made for them, I made willingly.
A better man would’ve walked away by now, but I never claimed to be any good. I only promised myself I’d keep enough distance. If I’d learned one thing from my past, it was that love came in different forms. You could love passionately, hurt deep, die young. Or you could provide the kind of firm, steady support someone else could lean on.
Lake was everything I wanted, and nothing I could ever have. I was nobody before I knew her and a criminal after. The way to love her was to let her shine—even if it would be for somebody else.
Book two in the Something in the Way series.
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Fourteen months earlier
With my back against a concrete wall, I stared out at the jail yard and flicked ash from my cigarette. If I could look at anything other than electric fencing, concrete, sand, and sweaty men, I would. In ten months, I’d memorized this view. California desert stretched far enough to make the mountains seem an unobtainable freedom, June heat turning the horizon into a watery mirage.
It was still better than staring at the underbelly of a top bunk. I’d be doing that later, but not for much longer. I’d gotten some good news the week before.
“You wouldn’t believe this bitch,” Wills said, clutching a handwritten letter as he paced a strip of dead grass, the bottoms of his orange pants dragging. “She’s threatening not to bring Kaya for the rest of my sentence.”
“So?” I asked through my next drag.
“Cecelia’s going to keep my baby girl from me? Fuck that.”
“She said the same thing last month. And the month before.”
“This time it’s for real. I can just tell.” He ran his hands back and forth over his buzzed scalp, crinkling the paper. “She does this just to fuck with me.”
We’d had this same conversation at least twice a month since I’d arrived. The first time my cellmate had gotten a letter and gone off the handle, I’d told him not to call his girl a bitch. That’d gotten me a riot of laughs from the guys in cells around us. The time after that, I’d asked why, if he’d cared so much about his ‘baby girl,’ he’d held up a gas station at gunpoint, knowing where it could land him?
That time, the laughter never came. “Providing for my family,” he’d said, getting in my face, his chest inflated. “Think you’re better than me, pretty boy?”
Wills was small but built. I had almost half a foot on him and most of the other guys, too. Only a few matched me in height. When I’d arrived, I’d been skinny compared to them but after ten months of lifting and a prison job in construction, I’d bulked up.
Wills’d shoved his hands into my chest, but I hadn’t budged except to raise my eyebrows. He’d backed off, schooling me loudly enough for everyone to hear. “Don’t tell me how to take care of my daughter. Respect.”
Respect. Number one rule in the yard. People my size got more passes than most, but that alone didn’t earn me respect. I had to command it. I couldn’t take any shit.
Wills used my cigarette to light his. He pointed to a spot on the page, but his hand shook so badly, I wouldn’t’ve been able to read it if I’d cared enough to try. “Right here,” he said, butt dangling from the corner of his mouth. “‘You won’t see Kaya again until she’s eighteen,’” he read aloud. “‘By then she’ll probably be two kids deep because of you, and you won’t even be there to experience it.’” Wills looked up at me. “How fucked is that?”
“Fucked,” I agreed.
“Cecelia was the only woman I ever loved.” He aimed his beady eyes at me, and they flashed with excitement. “Too bad she turned out to be such a cunt.”
I wiped sweat from my temple with my sleeve. “Fuck off, Wills.”
“Aw, come on, Sutter. Don’t be such a pussy. Just once, I’d like to hear you rail against that blonde bitch of yours.”
I had to let his shit-talking roll off my back or it’d get me into trouble, and now that I could almost taste freedom, I had to watch my temper. Instead of beating his ass, I got him where it hurt by ripping the cigarette out of his hand and flicking it into the dirt.
He scrambled after it, popping it right back into his mouth. “Asshole.”
The guys talked a lot of shit about who they’d fucked, how, and the ways they’d been fucked over by the women in their lives, and no matter how hard I tried to ignore it, my mind always went to the same place—my sister, my aunt, my mom. Lake and Tiffany. I never spoke of them in there. The guys could be brutal. Sinister. Especially from where they stood, behind bars, already ensnared by the law.
I took my last hit of nicotine right on schedule and tossed the butt. With the hem of my shirt, I cleaned my face of dust and sweat as I went to sit outside the visitor’s room.
I waited thirty minutes to hear my name. “Sutter,” CO Jameson called. “Your blonde’s here.”
I’d stopped keeping track of time, but I always knew the first and last Friday of each month thanks to “my blonde.” Not only had she scheduled work to have those days off, but she drove three hours each way to be here, and that was about as much as anyone had done for me lately. Maybe since I’d left my aunt’s at eighteen.