Authors: K.A. Tucker
Tags: #romance, #love, #loss, #tragedy, #contemporary, #new adult
Copyright 2012 K.A.Tucker
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without
written permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. The names,
characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s
imagination or have been used fictiously and are not to be
construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead,
actual events, locales or organizations is entirely
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in
Tucker, K. A. (Kathleen A.), 1978-
Ten tiny breaths [electronic resource] / K.A.
Issued also in print format.
ISBN 978-0-9916860-1-8 (PDF).--ISBN 978-0-9916860-2-5
PS8639.U325T46 2012 C813'.6 C2012-907108-0
Editing by Tee Tate/Ami Johnson
Cover design by Extended Imagery/Carl Graves
Published by Papoti Books
~To Lia and Sadie~
May your angels always protect you
For your continued support
~To Heather Self ~
All the purple and green feathers in the world
Table of Contents
“Just breathe,” my mom would say. “Ten tiny
breaths … Seize them. Feel them. Love them.” Every time I screamed
and stomped my feet in anger, or bawled my eyes out in frustration,
or turned green with anxiety, she’d calmly recite those same words.
Every single time. Exactly the same. She should have tattooed the
damn mantra to her forehead. “That makes no sense!” I’d yell. I
never understood. What the hell does a tiny breath do? Why not a
deep breath? Why ten? Why not three or five or twenty? I’d scream
and she’d simply smile her little smile. I didn’t understand it
I do now.
A soft hiss ... my heart thumping in my ears. I hear
nothing else. I’m sure my mouth is moving, calling out their names
Mom? ...Dad? ...
but I can’t hear my voice. Worse, I can’t
hear theirs. I turn to my right to see Jenny’s silhouette, but her
limbs look awkward and unnatural and she’s pressed up against me.
The car door opposite her is closer than it’s supposed to be.
I’m sure I say. She doesn’t respond. I turn to my
left to see only black. Too dark to see Billy, but I know he’s
there because I can feel his hand. It’s big and strong and it
envelops my fingers. But it’s not moving … I try to squeeze it but
I can’t will my muscles to flex. I can’t do anything except turn my
head and listen to my heart pound like an anvil against my chest
for what feels like an eternity.
Dim lights … voices …
I see them. I hear them. They’re all around,
closing in. I open my mouth to scream, but I can’t find the energy.
The voices get louder, the lights brighter. A reedy gasp sets my
hairs on end. Like a person struggling for their dying breath.
I hear a loud
snap, snap, snap,
someone pulling stage light levers; light suddenly pours in from
all angles, illuminating the car with blinding power.
The smashed windshield.
The twisted metal.
It all suddenly disappears and I’m falling
backward, crashing into cold water, sinking further into the
darkness, picking up speed as the weight of an ocean swallows me
whole. I open my mouth to search for air. A lungs worth of cold
water greets me in a rush, filling me inside. The pressure in my
chest is unbearable. It’s ready to explode. I can’t breathe … I
I hear my mom instruct, but I
can’t do it. I can’t get even one. My body’s shaking … shaking …
“Wake up, Dear.”
My eyes fly open to find a faded headrest in
front of me. It takes me a moment to find my bearings, to calm my
“You were gaspin’ for air somethin’ fierce,”
the voice says.
I turn to find a lady stooped in the aisle,
concern on her deeply wrinkled face, her twisted, old fingers on my
shoulder. My body curls into itself before I can stop the knee-jerk
response to her touch.
She removes her hand with a gentle smile.
“Sorry, Dear. Just thought you should be woken up.”
Swallowing, I manage to croak out, “thank
She nods and shifts back to take her seat on
the bus. “Must have been some kind a nightmare.”
“Yeah,” I answer, my usual calm, vacant voice
returning. “Can’t wait to wake up.”
“We’re here.” I give Livie’s arm a gentle
shake. She grumbles and nuzzles her head against the window. I
don’t know how she can sleep like that, but she’s managed to,
snoring softly for the past six hours. A line of flaky, dry spit
snakes down her chin.
. “Livie,” I call
again with an impatient bite in my tone. I need off this tin can.
I get a clumsy wave and pouty “don’t bug me,
I’m sleeping” lip.
“Olivia Cleary!” I snap as passengers rustle
through the overhead compartments and gather their belongings.
“Come on. I’ve got to get out of here before I lose my shit!” I
don’t mean to bark, but I can’t help it. I don’t do well in
confined spaces. After twenty-two hours on this damn bus, pulling
the emergency hatch and jumping through the window sounds
My words finally sink in. Livie’s eyelids
flutter open and half-dazed blue irises stare out at the Miami bus
terminal for a moment. “We made it?” She asks through a yawn,
sitting up to stretch and scope out the scenery. “Oh, look! A palm
I’m already standing in the aisle, readying
our backpacks. “Yay, palm trees! Come on, let’s go. Unless you want
to spend another day going back to Michigan.” That idea gets her
By the time we step off the bus, the driver
has unloaded the luggage from the undercarriage. I quickly spot our
matching hot pink suitcases. Our lives, all of our belongings, have
been reduced to one suitcase each. It’s all we managed to throw
together in our rush out of Uncle Raymond and Aunt Darla’s house.
No matter, I tell myself as I throw an arm over my sister’s
shoulders in a side hug. We have each other. That’s all that
“It’s hot as Hell,” Livie exclaims at the
same time that I sense a trickle of sweat run down my back. It’s
late morning and the sun already blazes down on us like a fireball
in the sky. So different from the autumn chill we left in Grand
Rapids. She pulls off her red hoody, earning a string of catcalls
from a group of guys on skateboards, ignorant to the ‘do not enter’
sign in that part of the covered parking lot.
“Picking up already, Livie?” I tease.
Her cheeks explode with pink as she slinks
over to hide behind a concrete pillar, out of view.
“You do realize you’re not a chameleon,
right? ... Oh! The one in the red shirt is coming over here right
now.” I stretch my neck expectantly toward the group.
Livie’s eyes flash wide with terror for a
second before she realizes I’m only joking. “Shut up, Kacey!” she
hisses, smacking my shoulder. Livie can’t handle being center stage
to any guy. The fact that she’s turned into a raven haired
knock-out over the last year hasn’t helped her avoid that.
I smirk as I watch her fumble with her
sweater. She has no idea how striking she is, and I’m okay with
that if I’m going to be her guardian. “Stay clueless, Livie. My
life will be so much easier if you’re oblivious for the next, say,
She rolls her eyes. “Okay, Miss Sports
“Ha!” In truth, some of the attention from
those asshats probably is directed at me. Two years of intense
kick-boxing has given me a rock-hard body. That, topped with my
deep auburn hair and watery blue eyes garners loads of unwanted
Livie is a fifteen year old version of me.
Same light blue eyes, same slender nose, same pale Irish skin.
There’s only one big difference, and that’s the color of our hair.
If you put towels over our hair, you’d think we were twins. She
gets her shiny black color from our mother. She’s also two inches
taller than at me, even though I’m five years older.
Yup, to look at us, anyone with half a brain
can tell we’re sisters. But that’s where our similarities end.
Livie’s an angel. She tears up when children cry, she apologizes
when someone bumps into her, she volunteers in soup kitchens and
libraries. She makes excuses for people when they do stupid things.
If she was old enough to drive, she’d slam on the brakes for
crickets. I’m … I’m not Livie. I might have been more like her
before. But not now. Where I’m a looming thundercloud, she’s the
sunshine breaking through.
“Kacey!” I turn to find Livie holding a taxi
cab door wide open, her brows raised.
“I hear dumpster diving for food isn’t as fun
as it’s cracked up to be.”
She slams the cab door, her face twisting.
“Another bus it is.” She gives her suitcase an irritated tug over
“Really? Five minutes in Miami and you’re
already starting with the attitude? Do you want to eat garbage,
Livie? I’ve got sweet fuck all left in my wallet to get us past
Sunday.” I hold out my wallet for her to inspect.
She flushes. “Sorry, Kace. You’re right. I’m
just out of sorts.”
I sigh and immediately feel bad for snapping.
Livie doesn’t have an attitude-riddled bone in her body. Yeah, we
bicker, but I’m always to blame and I know it. Livie’s a good kid.
She’s always been a good kid. Straight-laced, even tempered. Mom
and Dad never had to tell her anything twice. When they died and
Mom’s sister took us in, Livie went out of her way to be an even
better kid. I went in the opposite direction. Hard.
“Come on, this way.” I link arms with her and
squeeze her as I unfold the piece of paper with the address. After
a long and laborious conversation with the elderly man behind the
glass partition—complete with a game of charades and a pencil
diagram on a city map circling three transfers—we’re on a city bus
and I hope we’re not heading toward Alaska.
I’m glad, because I’m beat. Aside from my
twenty minute catnap on the bus, I haven’t slept in thirty-six
hours. I’m tired and worried and I’d much rather ride in silence,
but Livie’s fidgety hands in her lap kill that idea quickly. “What
is it, Livie?”
She hesitates, furrowing her brow.
“Do you think Aunt Darla called the
I reach down to squeeze her knee. “Don’t
worry about it. We’ll be fine. They won’t find us and if they do,
the cops will hear what happened.”
“But he didn’t
anything, Kace. He
was probably too drunk to know which room was his.”
I glare at her. “Didn’t
Did you forget about that disgusting old-man hard-on that pushed up
against your thigh?”
Livie's mouth puckers like she’s about to
“He didn’t do anything, because you bolted
out of there and came to my room. Don’t defend that asshole.” I’d
seen the looks Uncle Raymond gave a maturing Livie over the last
year. Sweet, innocent Livie. I’d crush his nuts if he stepped foot
inside my room and he knew that. Livie though …
“Well, I just hope they don’t come get us and
bring us back.”