The Way Things Are

#SampleSunday : Breathe

Good morning and HAPPY SUNDAY-FUNDAY!

I wanted to share a short excerpt from The Way Things Are: The Truth Duet, Book Two! 

Both Levi and Ava live with anxiety and they use various things to manage it. Meditation is one of the things they do together.  

These two are navigating some high stress situations and even though they check in with each other often, sometimes they argue and don’t check in to make sure they’re on the same page. This scene takes place after one such occasion. 

I hope you enjoy it! 

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Evening came a bit earlier than usual and Ava's building was draped in shadow when he pulled up to the curb.

Levi climbed out of Misty and looked up at her window. She stood there, wearing a bulky knit sweater and holding a cup of something to keep her warm, and looking down at him where he stood. Suddenly he wanted to tell her everything—needed to. He couldn't even remember why he decided to keep anything from her.

She was standing in the open door when he reached the top of the steps.

“I'm sorry,” she said, the words wispy and watery with tears. “I wasn't thinking. I didn't realize how difficult this has been for you to deal with—”

“Because I haven't told you.” He stepped inside and closed the door behind him.

She lifted her chin and her hands dropped to her sides. “I know you did it to protect me. And I allowed you to because I didn't want to deal with all of the feelings. That wasn't fair to you.”

He nodded. “And I kept it from you for the same reason. Keeping it from you was easier than dealing with the fact that I’m—” The words stalled in his throat and the weight of it all nearly crushed him. He wanted to sink to his knees, but he fell into her arms instead. “I’m scared, Ava. I'm terrified that they'll get off. That we'll have to alter our lives completely. I'm terrified that they might hurt you — ”

“Oh, Levi,” she whispered. Holding him up as the anxiety poured out of him in frustrated tears.

“It shouldn't be this hard. Doing the right fucking thing shouldn't be this hard!” he ground out.

“I know.” Her hand rubbed soothing circles on his back. “I shouldn't be this hard.” She pressed soft kisses into his neck and the side of his face and gradually he began to calm down.

When he’d regained some of his composure she turned from him and grabbed a couple of floor pillows that she kept stacked in the corner.

“Get out of those clothes,” she said.

Levi looked down and realized that he was still wearing his tie and slacks except now he looked disheveled and not at all hero like. He watched her as she gathered candles, turned off the lights, and turned on some music. It was a mellow instrumental electronica that Ava always said helped her to sink deeper into her meditation. Before he met her, he typically meditated in silence, but Ava liked to tap into all the senses: taste, touch, smell, sound, and sight. While he unbuttoned his shirt and stripped off his slacks, she went into the kitchen to grab some water and fruit.

Levi sat down on the floor pillow and Ava set across from him. She took his hands in hers.

“You want to start with four-part breathing?”

He nodded even though catching his breath felt impossible right now. Four-part breathing was her favorite relaxation technique. It was the one she used before her testimony and he had to it admit that it was the most effective.

“Close your eyes,” she said softly.

It was hard for him to take his eyes off of her in this moment. She was so beautiful and her love and strength beamed out of her like a warm, soothing light. It covered him and he wondered why he had put so much effort into keeping his feelings from her.

Slowly, he let his eyelids sink closed. She counted down from five and at one he began the breathing exercise he’d taught her in the front seat of his Monte Carlo.

Deep breath in for four counts…

As he filled his lungs, he filled his mind with positive thoughts. Thoughts of her and the life they would have together when this was all over. On the four count exhale he brought his attention to her touch — the slow caress of her thumbs on the backs of his hands. The place where their bare knees touched, her breath on his face as she exhaled on the same four counts.

Inhale…

“I am attracting positive energy into my body…” Ava whispered. “I fill myself with it and pour it into you.”

Exhale…

And this time her breath felt like tiny bubbles of effervescent energy, bursting on the surface of his skin, soaking deep into his pores.

Inhale…

He sank into that deep place in his meditation; in that place where energy filled him until he felt restored.

They kept up the four-part breathing exercise until he was so relaxed that he felt weightless and high. She helped him lie down on the pile of pillows and cuddled with him.

“We’re in this together,” she said softly. “We can’t make it through alone. I’m with you. I need to know and believe you’re with me, too.”

Levi didn’t trust his voice so he grunted in agreement and pulled her closer. A thin tendril of shame tried to work its way into his mind. He’d crumbled in front of her. He’d allowed her to see him weak  and vulnerable and he never wanted her to see him that way. “I’m sorry that I…” He swallowed around the hard lump growing in his throat. “I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to be strong for you.”

“Levi… that’s not what I meant and more to the point, you can’t be the strong one all the time. Neither of us can. We’re supposed to bear this weight together. That’s the only way we can lift it.”

“Earlier… I blamed you for all of this and that wasn’t right.” He licked his lips, they felt dry and tender. Ava reached for the bowl of fruit — orange slices and pineapple spears — and placed it in the middle of his chest. She propped herself up on one elbow and fed an orange slice to him. He bit down on the slice and the burst of citrus was startling in his heightened state.

“Right or wrong, some of the blame is mine,” she said, a quiver of emotion in her voice. “I’m surprised you don’t resent me.”

“Resent you? Ava, no — ”

“But you should. Your life is permanently altered because of all this… because of me.”

“Ava Marie, I could never resent you. And yeah, it’s fucked up that Emil’s death and corruption at my precinct are part of our story. I wish it wasn’t. I wish we hadn’t met and fell in love under such horrible circumstances, but … you know what?”

She was crying now. He rubbed her back giving back the comfort she had given him.

“What?”

“This thing has bonded us together in a way that nothing else could. It made this bond strong. We’re fucking unbreakable.”

“Well, we’ve sure as fuck been through the worst of it and managed to stay together. I can’t imagine anything that could possibly break us apart. Not even an outside baby.” She narrowed her eyes and pointed a finger at him. “That isn’t permission to go out and make one.”

Levi barked out a surprised laugh. “I’m not gonna make any outside babies. I only want to make babies with you.” He picked up a spear of pineapple and traced her bottom lip until she opened her mouth and took a bite. A smile curled up the corners of her mouth as she chewed.

“We’re gonna be together forever, huh?”

“You’re fucking right we are.”

“Then I’m ready for any and all changes that might come.”

“Okay,” he said with a nod. “Me too.”

They were strong people. Strong and proud. In that moment, Levi vowed to not to let his pride get in the way again because they were definitely stronger together.

Thanks so much for reading!

If you enjoyed it, please grab a copy of The Truth Duet on Amazon for free with your Kindle Unlimited subscription.