Sweet addiction – CHapter one


I’m sitting in the driver’s seat looking up at apartment 1C, debating on whether I should get out of my car or not. I can see the front door clearly from my spot on the side of the road. There are no flowerpots or rocking chairs on the porch. There’s not a welcome mat in front of the door, and the window shades are drawn closed, not allowing the sun to shine in or anyone to see out. There’s nothing that says I should be walking up there and knocking on the closed door.

But that’s exactly what I need to do.

I grip the steering wheel until my fingers turn white, and I force myself to loosen my grip. This is not a big deal. Davis Jones is my older brother’s best friend. They served in the Army together for years until they went to a private organization. Davis has come to my family’s house when he was on leave plenty of times. Well, he did until two years ago. He hasn’t been there since he was hurt.

When my brother called me from some unknown location in the Middle East to tell me that Davis was in Whiskey Run, I didn’t believe him. He’s often teased me about the tiny crush I had on his best friend, and I thought it was all a joke. At least until he told me that Davis really is living just a few miles down the road from me and is working at the Heroes Rehab Center. Two years ago, Davis lost his leg in an explosion, and I haven’t seen him since. Not because I didn’t want to see him. Damn, I wanted to see him more than anything, but I also knew that I was just Zach’s little sister, and Davis didn’t need—or want—me around.

He was across the U.S. then, but now, with him in my hometown, I don’t have an excuse. He’s literally five minutes from my house, and there’s no way I’m going to let another day go on without at least checking in on him. I may tell myself I’m doing it for my brother, but a big part of me knows that I’m doing it for me. I need to see him.

I get out of my old but trusty SUV and stand in front of the building. “One foot in front of the other,” I mutter before I slowly make my way up the sidewalk that leads to his apartment.

When I get to the small porch, I take a deep breath and knock on the door before stepping back and waiting for any kind of noise from the other side.

I’m already looking for reasons to walk away, convincing myself I can try again another day when there’s a thud on the other side of the door and then suddenly it swings open. For just a second, I stand here with my mouth hanging open. My first thought is he’s a lot bigger than I remember. He towers over me, and I have to lean my head back to look at him. His shoulders are broad, filling the doorway. His jaw is pulled tight, and his gaze narrows as he stares back at me. His hair is long and wavy, covering part of his face. It’s nothing like the buzz cut he’s worn since I first met him.

When he continues to frown at me, I’m about to apologize and leave because it’s obvious he’s not happy I’m here. “Hey, Davis…”

Before I can get the whole sentence out, he steps out of the door and onto the porch with me. This close, he’s even bigger, and I suck in a deep breath as his fresh and clean scent fills my nose. He’s still not smiling, but his face softens, and he whispers my name. “Abby.”

Before I can say anything, he opens his arms wide and pulls me against his body. I’m in shock because this was not what I was expecting at all, but I’m not dumb. I’m going to take full advantage of being held by him. I let my head rest against his chest and put my hands at his waist. He has one hand at my back, and the other is at the base of my neck, holding me to him as if he doesn’t want to let me go. I’m not sure how long we stand here, just like this, but he rests his cheek on the top of my head, and I close my eyes trying to commit all of it to memory—the smell of him, the feel of his hands on me, the way his hard body is pressed against my softer one—I take it all in silently, willing him to stay right where he’s at.

It’s a car horn from a person driving by that finally pulls us apart. His cheeks are ruddy as he looks at me. “Sorry about that. I mean, I wasn’t expecting you, that’s all.”

Is he making excuses for why he hugged me the way he did? Is he regretting it already? With a smile that doesn’t quite reach my eyes, I shrug my shoulders. “Don’t apologize. I was nervous about stopping by. I thought you wouldn’t have a clue who I was and it was going to be awkward, so yeah, uh, this was better than I thought it would be.”

I barely contain my cringe. Geez, even now after all this time, I ramble when I’m talking to Davis.

He points to his front door. “You want to come in? Or we can sit out here if you’d rather.”

I shrug, and he gestures for me to go inside. “I have a place to sit inside. Let’s do that. Unless you’re in a hurry to get home.”

I shake my head and walk inside the apartment. “No hurry. Alexis is with Mom and Dad.”

I walk past him inside and then straight to the couch and sit down, wrapping my hands together in my lap.

“Sorry about the place. It’s pretty bare, but I haven’t had much time to decorate or go shopping.”

I shake my head as if it’s not a big deal. Honestly, I hadn’t even looked around the apartment because from the first moment, my eyes have been glued to him. “I’m the one that should be apologizing. I’m sorry for just dropping in on you.”

He waves me off. “How’s Alexis and Brenda and Rick?”

I breathe a little easier when he asks about my daughter and my mom and dad. This I can talk about easily. “Alexis is six years old and in kindergarten. She loves school and is growing up way too quick. Mom and Dad are good, but I hope you know that as soon as they find out you’re in town, they’re going to be showing up on your doorstep.”

His eyebrows lift. “You think they want to see me?”

I almost laugh, as if he’s just told a joke or something. But when he doesn’t even crack a smile, I realize he’s serious. I lean forward, wishing I was close enough to touch him, but he’s standing up across the room, with his arms crossed over his chest. “Yes, they definitely want to see you. Mom is going to be mad that I came here today without bringing her. But I wanted to check with you first… before I unleashed the whole Campbell family on you.”

He tightens his arms around himself, and finally his lips lift into a small smile. “Maybe I’ll go over there to see them tomorrow.”

I know they’d love to see him, so I nod my head. “They’d love that, Davis.”

He lets his hands fall to his sides and then takes a few steps to the chair opposite of me. For the first time, I notice his limp, and I have to bite my lip to hold back the emotions that overwhelm me. It’s like it was yesterday instead of two years ago that my brother called us to tell us that Davis had been hurt. We were going to go see him in the hospital, but he refused visitors. For the last two years, he’s avoided my family, which is why I was so nervous about coming here today. “So… Whiskey Run? Are you going to stay here long?”

He has his elbows resting on his knees as he weighs me with a look. “I’m not sure. I have a few months of rehab left, and Walker brought me here to finish it out. He offered me a job at the rehab center, and I took it on a temporary basis.”

I tilt my head to the side. Everyone who lives in Whiskey Run knows Walker. He owns a lot of businesses and apartment buildings here. He has a compound on the outskirts of town, and he’s the one that funded the new rehab center next to it. “How do you know Walker?”

His eyes widen. “Through work.”

My forehead creases as I try to make sense of things. “Through work? You mean, you were a mercenary for him?”

He leans forward. “How do you know about that?”

I roll my eyes because obviously he doesn’t know how small towns work. “Everyone knows that Walker has some sort of mercenary team that he runs out of the compound. People don’t talk about it… but they talk about it.” I don’t want to get my brother in trouble or anything, but this is his best friend I’m talking to. “When you guys left the Army five years ago and went private, I just put two and two together. I’ve asked Zach plenty of times, but he would neither confirm or deny it. But it made sense.”

He shrugs, and I try to hide my disappointment that he doesn’t feel like he can talk to me about it. I blow out a breath. “I’ve heard it’s nice. The rehab center, I mean.”

He nods. “It’s really nice. The facility and equipment is top of the line. I can already tell an improvement since I’ve been here.”

There’s something about the way he said it that has me asking. “How long have you been here?”

He winces, and I know instantly that he doesn’t want to tell me, but I also know that he won’t lie to me. “A month. I’ve been here a month.”

I try not to let the hurt reflect in my voice. “You’ve been in Whiskey Run a month and you haven’t come to see us… to see Mom and Dad?”

He shrugs. “I wasn’t sure you’d want to see me.”

I gasp. “Wouldn’t want to see you? Davis, we understood why you didn’t want to see anyone right after the accident. We weren’t offended… we were worried. Zach kept telling us to give you time, but maybe we shouldn’t have listened to him, maybe we should have forced you to see us. I don’t know.”

He looks down at his boots, and his voice is softer. “What all did Zach tell you, Abby?”

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to know, so I tell him honestly, “Zach told us you lost your leg while you were on a mission in Afghanistan. That an IED went off, and you were lucky it was just your leg. He said you were having a hard time with recovery but were getting better every day.” When he’s still not looking at me, I ask him because I have to know. “Why? Is that not true? Are you okay?”

Davis drags in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “Yeah, I’m fine now.”

The way he says it has me asking. “What does that even mean? Fine… now.”

He lifts his eyes to mine. His brown eyes are dark and troubled, but I can’t look away. “Talk to me, Davis. What is it that Zach didn’t tell us?”

“It wasn’t just me. Every one of us—seven of my brothers—were on that mission. Six of us were injured, and one died. It was a relief that your brother was not physically hurt.”

I know I need to keep my thoughts to myself or else he’s not going to continue, but I can’t stop myself. “Zach was with you that day?”

His eyes jump to mine and widen, as he realizes he’s said more than he should have. “Yes, Zach was there. He was sent back with the package, and thank God he was because….” He stops, and I see the pain on his face, thinking about what could have happened to his best friend and my brother. He lets out a long, shaky breath. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have told you.”

I slap my hand on my leg. “Davis, I’m not stupid. I know you and Zach think of me as a child and that I can’t handle things, but I can. I knew that he was probably with you. You guys are almost always together. And it’s obvious he’s a different man since then.”

We are both quiet, and all I can think about is when I see my brother again, I’m going to hug his neck a little tighter. When Davis continues, I can hear the pain in his voice.

“After the accident, I had to take meds for the pain.”

I nod. “Of course you did. I’m sure you had to.”

He swallows. “Well, when I did, it sort of got out of hand. The pills numbed the pain of my leg, and well, everything, really. I didn’t have to think about things or deal with anything, so I stayed, uh, medicated.”

I tilt my head to the side, waiting for him to continue. “I’m not proud of myself, Abby. I took the easy way out and let the pills take care of me and all the shit I was dealing with.”

I scoot to the edge of my seat. “Is that why you didn’t want us to come see you, even months after the accident?”

He gulps. “Yeah. I was a mess. I didn’t want you or your family to see the man I’d become. It was bad, Abby.”

I can’t sit here any longer. I shoot up from my seat and make my way over to Davis. Sitting on the arm of his chair, I put my hand on his shoulder, and even though his muscles bunch under my touch, I don’t let go. “We could have been there for you, Davis. We could have helped you.”