About the Author
Abbi Glines is the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Rosemary Beach, Field Party, Sea Breeze, Vincent Boys, and Existence series. A devoted book lover, Abbi lives with her family in Alabama. She maintains a Twitter addiction at @AbbiGlines and can also be found at Facebook.com/AbbiGlinesAuthor and AbbiGlines.com.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Breathe Chapter One
This was it. Finally. The last stop on my tour. I shoved open the door to my private suite, and Kane, my bodyguard, closed it firmly behind me. The screaming on the other side of the door had only made my head hurt. This had been fun once. Now all I could think about was getting away from it. The girls. The relentless schedule. The lack of sleep and the pressure. I wanted to be someone else. Anywhere else.
The door opened and quickly closed behind me. I sank down onto the black leather sectional sofa and watched my younger brother, Jason, as he grinned at me with two beers in his hands.
“It’s over,” he announced. Only Jason understood my feelings lately. He’d been with me through this crazy ride. He saw my parents’ need to push me and my need to push back. He was my best friend. My only friend, really. I gave up trying to figure out who liked me for my money and fame a long time ago. It was pointless.
Jason handed me a beer and sat down on the sofa. “You killed it out there. The place was insane. No one would ever guess you were looking forward to running off to Alabama in the morning to hide away all summer.”
My agent, Marco, had told my parents about the private island on the Alabama coast. They were so ready to have somewhere other than our house in LA that they’d jumped at the idea.
Going back to my hometown—Austin, Texas—hadn’t been something they wanted to do. Too many people knew who we were.
The security Sea Breeze offered had always allowed me the freedom I’d lost when the world had embraced me. For a few weeks every summer we were a family again. I was just another guy, and I could walk out to the water and enjoy it without cameras and fans. No autographs. Just peace. Tomorrow we were headed back there. It was our summer break. But this year I was staying the whole damn summer. I didn’t care what my mother or my agent thought I should do. I was hiding out for three months, and they could all kiss Marco’s ass. What had started as my mother’s insistence that we spend the summers together in Alabama had become mine. I needed time with just them. I rarely saw them the rest of the year. It was the only house we had to call ours. I had my house in LA, and my parents and Jason had theirs.
“You’re coming down, right?” I asked him.
Jason nodded. “Yeah. I’ll be there, but not tomorrow. I need a few days. Mom and I had an argument about college. I want to give it a few days before I face her again. She’s driving me crazy.”
Our mother was a micromanager when it came to our lives. “Good idea. I’ll talk to her. Maybe I can get her to back off.”
Jason laid his head back on the leather. “Good luck. She’s on a mission to make me miserable.”
Lately I felt like she was doing the same to me. I no longer lived with her. I lived independently. I was the one who paid her bills. Why she thought she could still tell me what to do was beyond me. But she did. She always thought she knew what was best. I was done with that, and so was Jason. I’d talk to her, all right. She needed to remember who was actually in control here and back off.
“Take a few days. Enjoy yourself. Let me prep Mom for the fact that I’m not going to allow her to control your life. Then come south,” I told him before taking a long drink of my beer.
“Mom, are you going to work today?” I rolled my eyes at my very pregnant mother, who lay sprawled out on her bed in her panties and bra. Pregnancy made Jessica an even bigger drama queen than before having unsafe sex with another loser.
She moaned and covered her head with a pillow. “I feel awful, Sadie. You just go on without me.”
I’d seen this coming a mile away before school even let out. The last day of school landed yesterday, but instead of being able to go out and be a normal teenager, I was expected to make the money for us. It was almost as if Jessica had planned on me working in her place all along.
“I can’t just go to your workplace and take your position. Haven’t you explained the situation to them? They won’t be okay with your seventeen-year-old daughter doing your job.”
She pulled the pillow from her face and tossed me a sulk she’d perfected years ago. “Sadie, I can’t continue cleaning house with my stomach the size of a beach ball. I’m so hot and tired. I need you to help me. You can do it. You always figure stuff out.”
I walked over to the air conditioner and turned it off. “If you’d stop running it at a continuous sixty-eight degrees, we might be able to get by on less money. Do you have any idea how much it costs to run a window unit all day long?” I knew she didn’t know, nor did she care, but I still asked.
She grimaced and sat up. “Do you have any idea how hot I am with all this extra weight?” she shot back at me.
It took all my restraint to keep from reminding her that she got this way because she hadn’t used a condom. I bought them for her and made sure her purse always contained several. I even reminded her before she went out on dates.
Remembering who the adult was in our relationship could be difficult at times. Most of the time it seemed to me our roles were reversed. Being the adult, however, did not mean she made smart decisions, because Jessica simply did not know how to be responsible.
“I know you’re hot, but we can’t spend every dime we make on the air conditioner,” I reminded her.
She sighed and flopped back down on the bed. “Whatever,” she grumbled.
I walked over to her purse and opened it up. “All right, I’m going to go to your job today, by myself, and I hope they allow me inside the gate. If this doesn’t work, don’t say I didn’t warn you. All I am qualified for is minimum-wage jobs, which won’t pay our bills. If you would come with me, I would have a better chance of landing this position.” I knew as I spoke the words that I’d already been tuned out. At least she had managed to keep the job for two months.
“Sadie, you and I both know you can handle it by yourself.”
I sighed in defeat and left her there. She would go back to sleep as soon as I left. I wanted to be mad at her, but seeing her so big made me pity her instead. She wasn’t the best mom in the world, but she did belong to me. After I got my clothes on, I walked past her room and peeked through the door. She softly snored with the window unit once again cranked to sixty-eight degrees. I thought about turning it off, but changed my mind. The apartment already felt warm, and the day would only get hotter.
I stepped outside and got on my bike. It took me thirty minutes to get to the bridge. The bridge would take me from Sea Breeze, Alabama, onto the exclusive island that was connected to it. The island wasn’t where the locals lived, but where the wealthy came for the summer. Jessica had managed to snag a job as a domestic servant at one of the houses that employed full staffs. The pay was twelve dollars an hour. I prayed I would be able to take over her position without a hitch.
I found the address on her employee card I’d retrieved from her purse. My chances of getting this job were slim. The farther I pedaled onto the island, the larger and more extravagant the houses became. The address of my mother’s place of employment was coming up. She, of course, had to work at the most extravagant house on the block, not to mention the very last one before the beach. I pulled up to a large ornate iron gate and handed Jessica’s ID card to the guy working admittance. He frowned and gazed down at me. I handed him my driver’s license.
“I’m Jessica’s White’s daughter. She’s sick, and I’m supposed to work for her today.”
He continued to frown while he picked up a phone and called someone. That wasn’t a good thing, considering no one here knew I was coming in her place. For good. Two large men appeared and walked up to me. Both sported dark sunglasses and looked like they should be wearing football uniforms and playing on NFL teams instead of black suits.
“Miss White, can we see your bag, please,” one of them said, rather than asked, while the other one took it off my shoulder.
I swallowed and fought the urge to shudder. They were big and intimidating and didn’t appear to trust me. I wondered if I seemed dangerous to them, all five feet six inches of me. I glanced down at my skimpy white shorts and purple tank top and wondered if they’d considered the fact that it would be impossible to hide weapons in this outfit. I thought it somewhat strange that the two big guys were reluctant to let me in. Even if I happened to be a threat, I do believe either one of them could have taken me blindfolded with his hands tied behind his back. The image popped into my mind and made me want to laugh. I bit my bottom lip and waited to see if dangerous little me would be allowed entrance through the bigger-than-life iron gates.
“You’re free to enter, Miss White. Please take the servants’ entrance to the left of the stone wall and report to the kitchen, where you will be instructed how to proceed.”
Who were these people who needed two men the size of Goliath to guard their entrance? I got back on my bike and rode through the now open gates. Once I made it around the corner, past lush palm trees and tropical gardens, I saw the house. It reminded me of houses on MTV Cribs. I never would’ve guessed houses like this even existed in Alabama. I’d been to Nashville once and seen houses similar in size, but nothing quite this spectacular.
I composed myself and pushed my bike around the corner, trying to not stop and stare at the massive size of everything. I leaned my bike against a wall, out of sight. The entrance for the servants was designed to impress. At least twelve feet tall, the door was adorned with a beautifully engraved letter S. Not just tall, the door was really heavy, causing me to use all my strength to pull it open. I peeked inside the large entry hall and stepped into a small area with three different arched doorways ahead of me to choose from. Since I’d never been here before, I didn’t know where the kitchen might be located. I walked up to the first door on the right and looked through the opening. It appeared to be a large gathering room, but nothing fancy and no kitchen appliances, so I moved on to door number two, peeked inside, and found a large round table with people sitting around it. A large older lady stood in front of a stove unlike any I’d ever seen in a house. It was something you’d find in a restaurant.
This had to be the place. I stepped through the arched opening.
The lady standing noticed me and frowned. “Can I help you?” she asked in a sharp, authoritative tone, though she kind of reminded me of Aunt Bee from The Andy Griffith Show.
I smiled, and the heat rose, threatening to spike out the top of my head as I watched all the people in the room turn to face me. I hated attention and did whatever I could to draw little to myself. Even though it seemed to be getting harder the older I got. As much as possible, I tried to avoid situations that encouraged other people to speak to me. It’s not that I’m a recluse; it’s just the fact that I have a lot of responsibility. I figured out early in life that friendships would never work for me. I’m too busy taking care of my mom. So I’ve perfected the art of being uninteresting.
“Um, uh, yes, I was told to report to the kitchen for further instructions.” I quietly cleared my voice and waited.
I didn’t like the once-over the lady gave me, but since I was here, I had no choice but to stay.
“I know I sure didn’t hire you. Who told you to come here?”
I hated all those eyes on me and wished Jessica hadn’t been so stubborn. I needed her here, at least for today. Why did she always do these things to me?
“I’m Sadie White, Jessica White’s daughter. She . . . uh . . . wasn’t well today, so I am here to work for her. I’m . . . uh . . . supposed to be working with her this summer.”
I wished I didn’t sound so nervous, but the people stared. The lady up front frowned much like the way Aunt Bee looked when someone made her angry. It was tempting to turn and run.
“Jessica didn’t ask about you helping her this summer, and I don’t hire kids. It ain’t a good idea with the family comin’ down for the whole summer. Maybe during the fall when they leave we can give you a try.”
My nervousness from being the center of attention immediately disappeared, and I panicked at the thought of our losing this income we so desperately needed. If my mom found out I couldn’t work for her, she would quit. I pulled my grown-up voice out of the closet and decided I needed to show this lady I could do the job better than anyone else.
“I can understand your concern. However, if you would give me a chance, I can and will show you I’m an asset. I’ll never be late to work and will always complete the jobs assigned to me. Please, just a chance.”
The lady glanced down at someone at the table as if to get an opinion. She moved her eyes back up to me, and I could see I’d broken through her resolve. “I’m Ms. Mary, and I’m in charge of the household staff and I run the kitchen. You impress me and you have the job. Okay, Sadie White, your chance starts now. I’m gonna team you up with Fran here, who has been working in this home as long as I have. She’ll instruct you and report back to me. I will have you an answer at the end of the day. Here is your trial, Miss White. I suggest you don’t blow it.”
I nodded and smiled over at Fran, who was now standing.
“Follow me,” the tall, skinny redhead who appeared to be at least sixty-five years old said before she turned and left the room.
I did as instructed without making eye contact with any of the others. I had a job to save.
Fran walked me down a hallway and past several doors. We stopped, opened one, and stepped inside. The room contained shelves of books from the floor to the ceiling. Large dark-brown leather chairs were scattered around the room. None faced any of the others or looked to be used for any type of visiting or socializing. The room was clearly set up to be a library. A place where people could come, find a book, and lose themselves in one of the large cushy chairs.
Fran swung her arm out in front of her, gesturing to the room with a bit of flair. It surprised me coming from an older lady. “This is Mrs. Stone’s favorite spot. It’s been closed off all year. You will dust the books and shelves, clean the leather with the special cleaner, and clean the windows. Vacuum the drapes; clean and wax the floors. This room must shine. Mrs. Stone likes things perfect in her sanctuary. I will come get you at lunchtime, and we will dine in the kitchen.”
She walked to the door, and I heard her thank someone. She stepped back inside, pulling a cart full of cleaning supplies. “This will have everything you need. Be careful with all framed artwork and sculptures. I warn you, everything in this house is very valuable and must be treated with the utmost care. Now, I expect you to work hard and not waste any time with foolishness.” The tight-faced Fran left the room.
I circled around, taking in the extravagance of my surroundings. The room wasn’t really big; it just seemed full. I could clean this. I hadn’t been asked to do anything impossible. I went for the dusting supplies and headed to the ladder connected to the bookshelves. I might as well start at the top, since dust falls.
I managed to get everything dusted and the windows cleaned before Fran returned to get me for lunch. I needed a break an...
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