Page 99 of We Were Once

The kitchen in jail was my safe place. My thoughts, my feelings, whatever was troubling me was worked out while scrubbing dirty pots and pans. Scouring the grill top is a good way to relieve stress, wearing my muscles out while my mind works through what happened.

What just happened?

Chloe Fox just happened like she happened six years ago.

She’s coincidences and destiny, our lives entangled in ways that can never be fixed. I didn’t look her up over the years, not to see if she graduated or what medical school she attended. Weddings and obituaries were never checked. Yet there she is just like she always said she would be—a doctor working the ER against her daddy’s wish.

Fuck Norman Fox.

That is definitely not a memory lane I’m traveling down tonight. I may have almost cut my finger off, but the outcome wasn’t so awful. I’m not letting him back in to ruin it. Again.

Exhausted, I fall into bed just after three. I never liked the hours of working at a restaurant that stays open late, but it’s kept me out of trouble. The kidnapping charge was dropped, but I still served over almost three years for reckless driving and stealing a car, keeping me locked up long enough. So I need to be on my best behavior. The record will follow me forever, and the lessons learned have been ingrained.

Even after probation, I walked a straight line on the legal side. Busy is the best way to forget your troubles. Keeps your mind on the task at hand instead of the things we lost control of.

Like the situation that landed me in jail.

I scrub my hands over my face and close my eyes. Doesn’t matter how tired I am, Chloe’s touch is felt on my hand, in the wound, and deep inside my chest. “What a bizarre night,” I grumble, rolling to my side.

Sleep doesn’t come easy, but it hasn’t in many years. When I find it, I relive the life I used to have, the one when I wasn’t as tough as I am now, not so hard, not full of the anger that I keep hidden inside most of the time. At one time, I had options, opportunities, and the future of my choosing.

I no longer worry about what everyone else sees for me and follow my own path. At least that’s what I tell myself. It’s the only control I have these days. That and how I run my kitchen.

It’s not needed as much anymore, but tonight seems justified to revisit old habits. Climbing out of bed, I pad my way across the oak floors into the living room. The dim light of the moon peeks in at the corners of the shades illuminating the shelf where I keep the liquor. Two fingers of my old friend, Jack Daniel’s, fills the glass, and I shoot it all before I talk myself out of it. The burn down my throat reminds me it’s been a while since I’ve drowned my sorrows. Though drowning might be an extreme.

Relaxing fits better. I return to bed to do just that.

Seeing Chloe Fox again has my mind wired and my body tense. Visions of her crying, apologizing the last time I saw her still invade my thoughts frequently. Didn’t matter if I was drowning in liquor or women or escaping in the kitchen of a restaurant that needed saving as much as I did, nothing has managed to erase the accident and her tears from my brain.

Grabbing the other pillow, I shove it on top of my head. Fucking hell. Go to sleep, Evans.

Go to sleep and forget that tonight ever happened.

Forget those eyes that used to sparkle like jewels.

Forget that smile that unlocked yours.

Forget the way she made you feel alive from her touch.

Forget everything about her, especially that you know how to find her again.

Forget that once she was your anchor.

36

Chloe

Joshua Evans isn’t the same boy I once knew.

He’s a man who’s lived a life that has changed him. His jaw was harder. His eyes were more piercing. The softness that once lightened his expression has matured. I’m not sure if jail or life or both is to blame, but I wasn’t exactly an angel the way I was ogling him.

Did he notice me when I stared too long? When I bit my lower lip while taking in his handsome face? Every fiber of my being was awakened when he looked at me. And he seemed pleased to know I followed through with my plans. Why?

Shouldn’t I be despised?

He dumped me. The hate I saw in his eyes at the jail frequents my nightmares, so I shouldn’t justify the kinder ones I saw earlier. He hurt me, and I hurt him. I could live with the consequences of my own failings but living with the aftermath of failing him was unbearable. It’s a vicious cycle we’re living in.


Tags: S.L. Scott Romance
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