Home > Broken Wings (Dark Legacy #1)

Broken Wings (Dark Legacy #1)
Author: Jaymin Eve, Tate James


Death. So fucking final. I’d never realized just how final until that fateful night.

“Riley, hold on, honey!” my dad yelled as our car screeched and he swerved across the icy road, but there was no way for him to stop the inevitable.

Black ice.

Ancient car.

No chance.

We hit the embankment and the car rolled over and over. Since I was the only one with a seatbelt on—my parents’ had both jammed the day before, due to either cold or age probably—it held me locked in place as we tumbled.

They screamed my name, but I was beyond words. I was just plain screaming in terror. My mom’s side of the car slammed into something, halting us abruptly, and then there was silence. My head and ears rang as I fought against the darkness. I’d definitely hit my head at some point, and sharp pains in my chest and hand threatened to pull me under further, but I had to help my family.

Through the haze, I could have sworn a shadow moved outside my window, but my focus was shot to shit and couldn’t hold onto anything solid. My mom made a noise then, a whimper which almost broke through the ringing in my head, but that pained, terrified sob was cut off swiftly, and I heard a thump.

I wanted to call out for her, but consciousness slipped my grasp, and an infinite amount of time passed while I hung heavily against my belt.

When hands touched me, they grabbed onto my arm first. The shot of intense pain to my system dragged me completely into the blissful darkness of unconsciousness.

I woke to the strong smell of antiseptic. Blinking through the heavy haze, I tried to focus, but an incessant rhythmic beeping kept trying to drag me under again. “Riley Jameson?”

My eyes caught a flash of dark blue. Cops.

“Riley, we need to tell you something,” he tried again, but I was already shutting down. The darkness once again taking hold.

The second time I emerged from the pressing veil in my mind, I found my best friend, Dante, sitting by my side. His head was down, cradled in his tattooed hands, as his elbows rested on the side of my hospital bed. There was less fuzziness in my mind now, and before I could stop it, a whimper crept up from my chest and escaped.

His head snapped up, and I met his light, seafoam green-eyed gaze. I’d seen this look on his face only one other time and that had been a really bad night for all involved.

“Riles!” He reached out and touched my right hand, scooping it up and squeezing tightly. I barely felt it over the pounding in my chest and the panic trying to gain traction in my cloudy mind. I lifted my left hand to rub at my face, but it felt heavy and lifeless. I was too out of it to pay attention to why, so I just dropped it to the bed again.

“Are you okay?” he asked, leaning further into me. “Should I call the doctor?”

I shook my head. “No,” I rasped, my throat dry.

A cough shook me then, and Dante turned away to grab a cup of water. He was dressed in his usual black, ink visible on any uncovered skin. His head was shaved short again, that thick dark hair barely a quarter of an inch long.

It seemed like years since I had seen him last, when it was…

“How long have I been here?” My words were clearer this time, and I sighed in relief when he placed the straw against my lips and I sucked in the cool water.

He set it back down before taking my hand again. “Three days. You’ve been in and out of consciousness.”

“What happened?” I whispered, not wanting the answers, but understanding I needed them anyway. A screech of tires played through my mind and then screaming, but the finer details were fuzzy.

His strong jaw tightened. Dante was a big guy, almost six and a half feet, tough, and relentless when he wanted something, yet in that moment, he almost looked scared. Which made me search for the oblivion of unconsciousness again. It was too late, though; apparently my brain thought I had slept enough.

“Your car slid on black ice,” he said, his voice rumbling. “You hit an embankment, and it started to roll. You were the only one with a seatbelt on, Riles.”

Panic built in my chest, a pressure so intense I wondered if I might have been having a heart attack. “Where are my parents?” I asked, my voice breaking as that pressure increased.

I wasn’t religious at all, but in that moment I started to pray.

Please, please let them be okay.

“Riles … they … they didn’t make it.”

He said it as quickly as possible, like he was trying to get the words out before he couldn’t.

A keening cry left my lips, and I sucked air in, trying not to scream. He leaned farther into me, like he could protect me from this truth, but there was no protecting me from it. The only people I had in the world. The only people who gave a fuck about me … were no longer here.

I lost my battle with the pressure then, and I screamed, a high pitched cry I’d never heard from myself before, and the ache in my chest increased to where I dry heaved over the side of my bed. Dante must have called someone, because I heard people rushing into the room, and then there was cloudiness in my head as darkness took me again.

The days after this were disjointed. The police returned and asked me thousands of questions. About the accident, where we had been going that night, why my parents had chosen to ignore their faulty seat belts despite the icy conditions. Any moron would have known that was asking for trouble, but we’d gone out anyway. Why? I couldn’t remember. Only that it had been urgent.

After they’d gone, a CPS worker came in with an older woman who looked exhausted, and they were the ones to tell me all about the accident. The stuff I didn’t know. The fact my mom’s neck was broken on impact, and how my dad had suffered a severe head injury and blood loss. He’d died at the scene. My injuries were serious, but not life threatening. Mild head injury, fractured wrist, and some cuts and bruises. Dante visited me every day, but I didn’t remember most of it as I sank into a pit of despair and grieved for my family. They were laid to rest four days after my accident, and I couldn’t even be there. Not that I wanted them kept on ice for fuck knew how long it’d take for me to be discharged, but still.

Dante had footed the bill for their funeral, and it was yet another thing I added to the mental tab I’d been running since he’d become my friend years ago. He’d made it a respectful service, or so he told me, but the whole concept made my chest feel like it was being torn in two.

Buried. In the ground. The thought of my parents like that was breaking me, and when Dante told me, I cried more than I thought was possible.

Two days later, as I stared listlessly at the white ceiling, one of my nurses walked into the room.

“Sweetheart,” she said softly.

My heart lurched, because my mom had always called me sweetheart. God, the pain was so bad that I wasn’t sure I could survive it.

I didn’t turn to her, but she continued anyway. “You’re being discharged tomorrow, and someone from child services will be by to pick you up.”

I didn’t acknowledge her words, and wasn’t surprised by them. Mom and Dad were only children, both of their parents had died young, and I had no other family.

I was alone.

And it was now time to find out exactly what that meant for me.

“It’s two months until your eighteenth birthday,” the social worker said, leaning forward so I got a decent view of the cleavage straining against her white button down. “We planned on putting you into a group home here, so you could finish up your senior year, but … something else has come up.”

That got my attention, because I had a feeling things didn’t usually “come up” for almost-eighteen-year-old orphans.

“Did you know you were adopted?” She was blunt, those icy blue eyes seemed to have seen too much already. Probably jaded from her job, and I didn’t blame her.

I adjusted my broken arm then, trying to ease the mild discomfort it still caused me. “Yes, my parents told me when I was younger, but it made no difference to me. Blood or not. They were my family.”

The ache in my chest started to strangle the breath in my lungs, and I gritted my teeth, making a conscious mental effort to shove my emotions aside.

The stages of grief could kiss my ass, because there was no way I was ever getting past this pain and anger. I couldn’t deal with their deaths, I just couldn’t. However, I’d become an expert at compartmentalizing when needed, so I breathed in and out for a moment, then I was able to function again.

She watched me closely, and it wasn’t like she enjoyed my pain exactly, but she did seem fascinated by the way I’d pulled myself together.

“So this thing that came up,” I distracted her from whatever bullshit brewed in her mind. I was not up to being shrinked today, even if this chick did hold my fate in her hands.

“Your birth parents have come forward,” she announced happily, and then she paused like she was waiting for me to cheer.

I leaned into her, narrowing my eyes as I did, fingernails digging into the arm of my chair so I didn’t punch her in the nose. “You talking about the people who threw me away as a child? The ones who gave so little fucks about me, that I’ve never even heard from them once in seventeen years?”

Her smile faltered. “I don’t think you understand how wonderful an opportunity this is. They’re wealthy, very wealthy. You’ll have a proper home. Go to a top school. This is the chance for you to finish out your year with a bang and go to college. Your future will be set.”

If I could have stormed out, I would have, but I still wasn’t completely recovered from my injuries, and it would have taken me far too long to get to my feet. Crossing my arms as best I could with the cast, I met her gaze with my own. “No.”

She blinked, and unlike me, she easily rose to her feet. “What do you mean, no?”

Fuck it. I dragged myself up. “I mean that I will not be going with those assholes. Send me to the group home.”

It was starting to hit me now just how odd this all was. My adoption had been closed, which meant no birth parents involved at all. My mom told me they had no idea who they were, and they’d even tried to find out at one point because of some medical issues. So how the hell were the DNA donors strolling back into my life now? How did they even know my mom and dad were de … gone?

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