Page 3 of Burned (Ignite #1)

I stood by and watched as he slipped further and further away from me and became more and more bitter.

Even though I’m naturally a quiet person, I believed I was strong and confident and would never rely on someone else for my happiness. Every time I forgave Jordan and believed his promises, my confidence and my strength slowly disappeared until I couldn’t imagine my life without him, no matter how bad it got.

I hate myself for allowing him to manipulate me this way. I hate that I gave up on my dream of art school to help him achieve his goal of being a tattoo artist and he pissed it all away. I hate that when I look in the mirror I can’t stand the woman looking back at me. I hate that he’s always known the hold he’s had on me, that he’s always known my threats were empty.

Until a month ago.

When I caught him in another lie, I didn’t break down and cry like I did in the past. I didn’t curl up in our bed fighting tears while contemplating whether or not to even tell him I found out he’d been lying to my face again because I was more scared of losing him than of dealing with his betrayal. I stood in the kitchen staring at a bottle of OxyContin, a razor and a small plastic tube that he used to snort the pills for a greater high and I felt… nothing.

I found the items in a zip lock bag in the back of his sock drawer. I discovered them after I questioned him about money missing from our account and he told me with a straight face that the two-hundred dollars supposedly went to pay a speeding ticket. When he left the house to run to the store, he forgot his cell phone and I’m not proud of the fact that I went through his text messages as soon as he walked out the door. I didn’t even get upset when I saw a text from an unknown number minutes before he left that simply said “$200 for 20—20mg.”

I blindly set the phone down on the counter and started searching the house until I found what I was looking for. When he came home with a gallon of milk, a good effort on his part to make me think he really went out just to go to the store, I tossed the bag of paraphernalia at him and he caught it with a guilty look on his face.

He tried; I’ll give him that. He attempted to make up yet another lie. That bag of pills was from months ago. It’s not what it looks like. I’m not doing that shit anymore.

I looked at him, this man who had been my whole world for seventeen years, thought about all of our ups and downs and everything we’d been through together and I felt nothing. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t hurt… I was nothing. I was empty. I’d cried enough over him in seventeen years that I couldn’t make the tears come even if I tried. Even though he attempted to make excuses and beg for my forgiveness, I think he could tell by the look in my eyes that this was the final straw. He could continue with his addictions and he could continue screwing up his life, but I would no longer be along for the ride.

It took two hours of me telling him to go before it finally sunk in. Two hours of me ignoring his pleas with a stony look on my face before he finally understood and began to pack his things. When a woman can look you right in the eye and tell you she just doesn’t care anymore and can do it without any emotion clouding her features, it’s time to take her seriously.

I didn’t care if he killed himself with his addictions. I didn’t care if I never felt the soft touch of his lips against my own again, I didn’t care if we never laid in bed together at night giggling about an old memory, I didn’t care if he was the only man on earth who had ever known my body and I’d never feel him inside of me again.

When the tears never came and all I could think about was that I just wanted him gone, I knew there was no turning back.

I was done.

Chapter 3—Slow Burn

“I CANNOT BELIEVE we are at this bar. I suddenly feel really old,” I complain, glancing around the small dive bar in town we frequented in college.

“Oh, shut it, Finnley. We are not old,” my best friend, Phina, scolds.

I watch as she flips her long red hair over her shoulder and scans the room. “Okay, so we’re a few years older than most of the people in this place, no big deal.”

“A few years? I’m pretty sure I used to babysit that guy at the end of the bar,” I tell her with a roll of my eyes.

The guy in question looks over at me and raises his bottle in my direction in a silent toast. I grimace and quickly look away, bringing my beer to my lips and taking a huge swallow.

“He’s hot. Did you seriously used to babysit him? Damn,” Phina says with a low whistle.

“That’s disgusting. The last time I saw him he was ten.”

She shrugs and takes a sip of her rum and Coke. “Well, he’s definitely not ten anymore. The things you could do to him would be completely legal.”

My best friend, Seraphina Giordano, is amazing and the closest thing to a sister I’ll ever have, but the stuff that comes out of her mouth sometimes makes me question her sanity. We’ve been friends since the first day of high school. When her name was announced and a few students chuckled at the unusualness of it, she put her hands on her hips and stated, “My name means fiery one. Don’t piss me off or I’ll burn your ass.” Her little outburst earned her an afternoon in detention, but there were no more giggles during roll call. Phina oozed confidence and assertiveness and I wanted to be just like her.

She has been by my side through every one of my joys and every one of my disappointments. In the month since Jordan and I separated, she has been my rock. Instead of telling me I-told-you-so and going on about how I should have left him years ago, she stood by me in companionable silence while I worked through my emotions. After four weeks of pouring myself into my job and ignoring every single text, phone call and voice message from Jordan trying to guilt me into letting him come back home, she finally convinced me to get out of the house and take my mind off of everything.