Chapter Six

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Raw, red, wine-heart, mine. The tang of flight. High. Falling into fine. Drink tart and taste her art. -Jackson Killian

Chapter Six

I was served later that day. And I knew why. I'd been on the internet investigating family law and found that it wouldn't be considered kidnapping if I left the state with Quinn unless there was a court order.

Jackson was making it legal. I was in possession of something he also owned and he was going to force me to share.

Quinn was watching a video in the living room when the knock sounded at my front door. I opened it with a heavy heart, somehow knowing it wasn't a friend. James stood on the stoop, a stiff pumpkin-colored envelope in one hand and an apologetic expression on his face.

"That didn't go well, Kate."

My voice shook as I answered him. "You're right about that."

"Can I come in?"

I gestured that he could, then shut the door behind him and led him into the kitchen.

"You want coffee?" I turned away and opened the cabinet to find the nearly empty bag of grounds. I set it on the counter.

Then I burst into tears, covering my face with my hands.

I resisted when James tried to pull me into a hug, but then I acquiesced, sobbing quietly into his shoulder with a desperation I hadn't felt in a very long time. He held me tightly, the way my dad did when I was little, one hand pressed against my hair, holding me close. His other arm was firm around my back and he rocked, ever so slightly, but didn't say anything.

His flannel was soft from wear and it smelled faintly of detergent. And it was absorbent, the most important thing.

"What's he going to do?"

"I don't know, Kate. I really don't. I think he's reacting right now. Out of fear, mostly."

"I'm not going to kidnap his son. I have nowhere to go."

James was quiet a moment, not letting go of me.

"I think it's that side of you that has him scared. He doesn't know you have nowhere to go, and he thinks of you as an opportunist. If you had somewhere to go, but absolutely wouldn't, or declared it to be wrong, maybe he would be different."

If I could run, would I? I didn't think so. If I could run, I could theoretically also dig up a lawyer and fight.

I pondered the still crisp envelope full of bills I kept hidden, taped to the backside of the Alphonse Mucha art print hanging over my dresser. Jack's money, somehow still untouched. Unspent. How ironic if that became my fighting capital.

I had a vague notion that I was saving that cash for Quinn. For an emergency.

A shivering sigh staggered out of me. James gripped the sides of my arms, pushing me back and bending to look into my face, which I scrubbed with my palms as if I could erase it. It felt swollen and warm from the force of my outburst.

"Kate, listen. Listen to me, okay? He's not going to take your son from you." James' fingers tightened on my arms, as if he wanted to pull me back into his embrace.

"No?"

"No. And he probably couldn't if he wanted to. The law favors the mother; you have to know that." He gave me a little shake, as if the gesture could make room inside me, as if he could get me to see reason if he just cleared space for it.

There was a time, even a few hours ago, when I thought that no matter how angry Jackson might be with me, he wouldn't hurt me like this.

Maybe he didn't understand how much it could hurt. Then again, maybe he did.

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