The Endless Road to Sunshine by Nicky James

Chapter One


Jason

“You don’t have to do this.” Levi touched my elbow, but I jerked my arm away, staring at the high-security prison beyond the parking lot.

Thick, gray, concrete walls and razor-wire fences were all that kept the monsters of the world at bay. If the courts were to be believed, one of those monsters was the man I’d loved with all my heart for almost twenty years.

My soulmate, or so I’d thought.

My husband.

This didn’t feel real. None of it felt real.

“I have to know.”

“You already know.”

“I don’t,” I snapped.

I did.

Closing my eyes, I ignored the steady racing of my heart as I fought for control. Levi didn’t deserve my anger. It wasn’t his fault.

“Until he looks me in the eyes and tells me it’s true, I can’t know for sure.”

“And what makes you think he’s going to do that?” Levi came up beside me, bumping his arm against mine.

Silent support.

I didn’t know where I would be without him. My entire life had crumbled over the past year and a half, and I could barely keep my head above water. When the media had dissected every aspect of my life, when my family had chosen to abandon me, when my career had imploded, ending in ruins, Levi was the one person who’d stood strong. He was an immovable object in my shattered world.

“He’ll tell me.” I sounded more confident than I felt.

“I’m not going to talk you out of this, am I?”

“Nope.” Decision made, I headed for the guard post that led into the prison compound.

Levi hustled and caught up, cursing under his breath. “At least let me come in with you. I don’t want him to think he can—”

“I’ll be fine.”

Levi snagged my arm, halting me and forcing me to face him. He stood a few inches shorter than my six feet and lacked any essence of intimidation. We were the same age, forty-three, only Levi wore it better since life had beaten me so thoroughly over the past eighteen months. The trauma had left me feeling decades older. There were days I wanted to crawl in a hole and die.

Like yesterday. Like the cold morning of April tenth when a thumping knock at my front door marked the beginning of the end.

In a business suit with his auburn hair gelled neatly in an artful sweep, it was hard not to be affected by Levi’s astute glare. He was always poised and level-headed, and I didn’t have the capacity left to fight with him.

“You’re emotional and angry, Jason. I get it. Anyone in your shoes would be, but this isn’t a good idea. Nothing good will come from this. You’re torturing yourself. Let it go. Let him go. He made his bed. Trust the system. Trust your gut because you know it’s right. Don’t do this to yourself. I’m begging you. I don’t advise it.”

I studied every inch of his face, heard every word that passed through his lips. “Are you saying that as my lawyer or my friend?”

Levi’s shoulders slumped on a heavy sigh. “Does it matter? Will either answer sway your decision and stop you from going in there?”

“No.”

“Jason—”

“I have to know.” I clutched my chest over my heart. Those four words caught in my throat and came out more wet with emotion than I’d have liked. I looked away, blinking hard to ward off the imminent tears. “I need to hear him say it. I don’t expect you to understand.”

Levi touched my arm and squeezed. “Okay. All right. You do what you think you have to do. I’ll be here when you’re done.”

I nodded. It was clipped and tight like every muscle in my body had been over the past year and a half. I ached with the strain, and I was so fucking tired.

My feet took me toward the guard post where a gruff man in a uniform let me inside and explained where I had to go to secure visitation rights with my husband. Since the day the police had taken him away in cuffs, this was the first time I’d chosen to see him one-on-one. The whirlwind that had been my life to this point had held me back.

But it was over now.

The jury had decided. The gavel had fallen. Morgan wasn’t coming home. Ever.

The nightmare was real. The things he’d done were unbelievable.

How had I been so oblivious?

I’d called ahead to see what I needed to know before visiting an inmate at a maximum security prison, so I wasn’t surprised when I had to fill out a few forms and empty my pockets into a bin before going through a metal detector.