Hold on to Hope - A.L. Jackson

Prologue

Moonlight poured in through the window where I leaned over the desk, soul twisted in two as I struggled with the decision that had to be made.

Memories spun through my mind in the most violent storm.

Battering and bruising.

I felt chained by them. Forever tied to the past where I’d been condemned.

I’d tried to change it. Tried to fix it. But I’d already caused more pain than one person should have to bear.

The only thing I could do now was sever the ties.

End this before it was too late.

Loving her had been the easiest thing in the world.

Letting her go the most brutal.

Every cell in my body wept with the sorrow of it as I leaned over the piece of paper.

The words flowed over the page.

Bitterness and regret and the little bit of hope she’d left me with.

Before I could do something selfish like change my mind, I stood, grabbed my bag from the floor, and tossed it over my shoulder.

Then I walked out the door and I didn’t look back.

Because I knew there was no atonement for this sin.

No amends that could rewrite what had been written in stone.

Nothing that could change who I was . . .

One

Frankie Leigh

“Oh, God, why is that so good?” I moaned as I swirled my tongue around the finger in my mouth.

You know, all kinds of ladylike.

But hell, when it came to food, manners could jump themselves right out a skyscraper window.

A giggle rippled from my closest friend, Carly. “Um . . . I’m pretty sure the answer to that is sugar. All the sugar.”

Right.

Which was probably why the entire world was staging a war against it, considering it made everything so damned delicious and it was hard to stop once you started.

And here at A Drop of Hope, we were in the business of delicious.

And this frosting was out of this world.

Score.

“God, get this away from me before I eat the entire thing,” I said, shoving the bowl away but not so far that I couldn’t dip my finger in for another taste.

Aunt Hope grinned like she’d won a prize where she worked on whipping up a second batch of lemon drop cupcakes.

“Good?” she asked, teeth raking at her bottom lip as she focused on getting the new recipe right.

“Describing that as good is nothing but a disservice. That is orgasmic,” I said through another mouthful I’d scooped onto my finger.

Sue me.

And besides . . . this was a tester batch. It wasn’t like I was defiling a single health department code. At least, I didn’t think so.

Soft laughter rippled from Aunt Hope where she stood opposite Carly and me at the big work station in the industrial kitchen at the coffee shop and bakery she owned with her best friend, Jenna.

Carly and I had basically been working there for all of forever, ever since we’d begged her to let us have summer jobs way back in high school.

“That good, huh?” Aunt Hope asked.

“Oh yeah. I think this might be my new favorite.”

Carly shook her head with a short chuckle. “You realize you say that about every single recipe Hope creates, don’t you?”

“All except for the bacon cupcakes,” I corrected with an exaggerated gag. “Bacon is for breakfast, or if you want to really get crazy, maybe add a slice or two to your burger. Puttin’ it on dessert is nothing short of blasphemy.”

Aunt Hope laughed. “Always so dramatic, Frankie Leigh. Only you would rank cupcakes up there with heaven and sex. I bet Jack appreciates that.” She said it with a wink, like we were nothing but girlfriends who got to shoot the