Sweet addiction – CHapter TWO
I smile because it’s exactly what her brother told me. “Yeah, that’s what Zach said. He had to leave on another mission and he begged me to let him tell your dad, but I didn’t want you all to know. I had to deal with it on my own. I had to get it under control before I could trust myself to be around anyone. I mean, heck, Abby, Alexis was four years old. She didn’t need to be around me like that, and I know you. I know your mom and dad. You all would have made me come here, and I was so messed up, I would have destroyed the only family I’ve ever known. I couldn’t do that.”
“Davis…” She shudders. I tried to hide the emotion in my voice, but I know she heard it. I was twenty years old when her brother joined the Army. I’ve been her brother’s best friend for twelve years, and when her family found out I grew up in foster homes across Texas and didn’t have a family of my own, they tried to make me a part of theirs. Abby was young then—heck, I always thought of her as Zach’s little sister—but as she got older, I couldn’t help but appreciate the woman she was becoming. Eight years younger than me is not a big difference now, but none of that matters anymore. Absolutely nothing can come of Abby and me.
With her sitting on the arm of my chair, all my senses are heightened. She puts her arm at my back, and I lean into her. Her arm barely reaches around me to my other shoulder, but she pulls me against her until I’m resting my head against her chest. She means to comfort me, but right now, I’m feeling anything but solace. Being this close to her has me on edge, thinking things I shouldn’t be thinking. Unable to resist, I wrap an arm around her, hugging her back. Her voice is just a soft whisper against the top of my head. “We could have handled it, Davis. We could have been there for you.”
I don’t pull away, but I do stiffen. “I didn’t want you to have to handle anything. I didn’t want to bring your family my problems.”
She laughs. “We may not look it, but we’re pretty good when it comes to dealing with things. I mean, they handled me and my teenage pregnancy pretty well. We handle it when Zach goes on those long missions and we don’t hear from him for weeks at a time.” She squeezes me tighter. “We could have handled this too, Davis.”
I do pull away now. By the tone in her voice, I know exactly what she’s thinking. Pity fills her voice, and I hate it because the one thing I didn’t want her to know about me is the first thing I tell her when I see her. I regret telling her, but I know I did the right thing. If I’m going to be around her family—around her daughter—she has to know. She’ll probably never look at me the same way again, and she’ll know I was weak, but I do my best to be completely honest with her. “I’m fine now, Abby. I mean, I know I’ll always be an addict, but I celebrated one year of being clean last month.”
She nods. It’s obvious she wants to say something, but she doesn’t.
For just a second, I allow myself to sit here and take her all in. She’s so close, I could easily lean just a few inches in and be close enough to press my lips to hers. But I can’t. No matter how long I’ve thought about it, dreamed about, or imagined it in my mind, I can’t do it. It takes all the strength I have to get up from the chair and put some distance between us. When I’m safely across the room from her, I cross my arms over my chest, ready and needing to change the subject. I point at her.
“What about the ex? He still giving you trouble?”
For just a second, she looks at me unsure. “I’m sorry,” she says, pointing at the spot I just vacated. “I didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.”
I shake my head “You didn’t. But are you avoiding the subject of your ex?” I hate to bring up her ex-boyfriend and the father of her child, but it’s been on my mind.
She blows out a breath, and finally the smile returns to her face. “That’s a funny story, really.”
My jaw tightens. “What does that mean? You didn’t take him back, did you?”
She blurts out a laugh. “Not a chance. He cheated on me. That’s never happening.”
It makes me feel better to hear her say she’ll never take him back. She definitely deserves better. “Okay, so what’s the funny story then?”
“Remember that time around three years ago when you and Zach were on leave and came to Whiskey Run?”
I don’t even blink even though I know exactly where this is going. “Yeah, I remember.”
She laughs as she looks at me curiously. “Well, it’s funny because that was about the time I was barely making it through college. Wayne hadn’t paid a lick of child support, I was stressed out, and I was this close to just quitting college because it was all so overwhelming.”
I nod, but I don’t say a word, letting her finish.
She tilts her head to look at me. “Well, I confided all that in Zach and didn’t think anything of it. Until the day after you two left and Wayne came to see me. He said he sold his Camaro and gave me a check to pay all the child support in full. He hasn’t been late since. He’s not father of the year or anything, but there was definitely a change in him. He’s more involved in Alexis’s life, and he’s good to her.”
I find myself nodding my head even though I already knew that Wayne had been toeing the line. “That’s good.”
“Do you know anything about it? I mean, it’s weird that he did a big one-eighty right after you and Zach left, don’t you think?”
I lift my shoulders in a shrug. I’m not going to lie to her, but I’m glad that Wayne has kept his side of the deal. Yes, Zach and I went to find Wayne before we left. There’s no way I was leaving Whiskey Run without talking to him. Not after hearing how hard of a time Abby was having. And yes, I threatened Wayne’s life. I made promises to him that day that I should probably feel guilty about, but I don’t. “How’s teaching?” I ask her, instead of answering her question.
She rests her hands on her knees. “Good. I’m teaching sixth grade this year, and I’m really liking it. But let’s stop talking about me. How are you?”
I’ve never been one to talk about myself, but there’s no way I’m going to just ignore her question. “I’m alive.”
Her face instantly transforms, and it’s then I realize that I gave away more in that statement than I meant to. Yes, obviously I have survivor’s guilt. My therapist tells me that my feelings are normal, but I swear I haven’t felt anything close to normal in a long, long time. “Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. I’m good. I’m finally getting used to the prosthetic, and the pain is bearable.”
The way she looks at me with sadness makes me mad at myself. I don’t ever want to make her feel sad or worried, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I bring pain to others even if it’s the last thing I want to do.
I clear my throat, hoping the emotion doesn’t show in my voice. “I’m sorry. I’m not very fun to be around—”
She cuts me off. “Davis, don’t do that.”
“Do what? I’m being honest with you. I haven’t been myself in a long time. Maybe seeing your folks and Alexis is a bad idea.”
She bolts out of her seat and comes to stand in front of me. Her hand grips the front of my shirt, and she pulls me to her. “Forget it, Davis. Whatever you’re thinking, you can forget it.”
Being this close to her is like a shock to my system, and I’m not thinking clearly. “What am I thinking?”
She shakes her head with a smirk on her face. “You’re thinking that if you leave again, you’re saving us or some nonsense like that. Heck, you’ve already got one foot out the door, but it’s not happening, Davis. Not when we just got you back. You think I’m Zach’s little sister and I can’t handle things, but you’d be surprised by the shit I’ve survived.”
I tense as I listen to her. What exactly does that mean? The fact that she’s been hurt by someone is like a knife to my heart, and I literally feel ill. “Abby—”
Her hand slides up my chest, and I freeze. We’ve never had this type of relationship. We didn’t touch one another; she was always my best friend’s little sister. She was off limits. But now, when it’s just the two of us, and instead of the teenage girl I remember there’s a grown woman in her place touching me, I can barely hold myself back. When her hand cups my neck and her fingers do a gentle massage across my bare skin, all I can do is will myself to keep my hands to my sides.
She licks her lips, and I barely hold back the groan. “Davis, two years ago, you decided you didn’t need us… that we didn’t need you. You don’t get to make decisions for us anymore. I need you. Alexis needs you. My mom and dad need you. All I’m asking is to hang around awhile, get better, and let me decide if you’re any fun to be around or not.”
Looking into her bright blue eyes, I know I can’t refuse her, but what surprises me the most is the fact that I don’t want to. Even though I know I shouldn’t, I find myself giving in. “You don’t have to worry about me being around your family. I really am clean. I haven’t—”
She rolls her eyes and pats me on the chest. “I’m not worried. I know you wouldn’t hurt any of us, Davis.” She shakes her head and is looking at me with hooded eyes. The faith she has in me fills me with a sense of pride. “I swear, sometimes I think I know you better than you know yourself. Come to dinner tomorrow night at Mom and Dad’s. Alexis and I are going over right after school so I can cut their yard, and then we’ll probably eat around five.”
I can’t tell her no. “Okay… but if you talk to your parents and that doesn’t work for them—”
She steps back, putting some distance between us again, and instantly, I miss her touch. “It’s going to be fine. Trust me, they’re all going to be excited to see you.”
There’s a part of me that hopes it’s true, but the other part of me wants to leave and not find out. I’ve led men into battle. I’ve carried friends on my back to safety, and I’ve sat in a small ditch without a working weapon while bombs and guns go off all around me. I literally had a bomb go off ten feet from me. But even with all that… the fear I felt in all those situations is nothing like the fear I have of letting Abby down. And I don’t know how to deal with that.