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LIGHTNING ON MY SKIN
THUNDER IN MY SOUL
HEAVY ON MY HEART
YOU WERE MY PERFECT STORM
My world stopped turning six years ago.
My best friend. My best girl.
A burning field in the pouring rain.
I survived, but I left the biggest part of me with them.
And now I sift through the rubble of my broken life.
I didn’t want a second chance.
Not for me.
A dancer. A dreamer. Everything I’m not.
She’s the light to my dark.
The sun from another sky.
But sunny days never last.
The storm is coming.
And this time when darkness falls, I might surrender.
Gravel crunched under the tires as my truck coasted to a stop on the shoulder of the two-lane highway. Cutting the engine, I sank against the leather upholstery and looked out at the open field. And for a moment, the thin veil separating then and now slipped away, and it was six years ago. On my back beneath the smoke-filled sky, I’d waited for death to claim me. To put an end to the pain.
I was sure it would.
But then I heard the voices. First Rhenn’s—so faint it was nothing more than a whisper.
And then Tori’s.
But not Paige.
Shifting my gaze to the passenger seat, I almost expected to find her there. But the space was empty. Except for the sealed bottle of Maker’s Mark. Rich, amber liquid whispering promises of peace. Of oblivion.
Lies. All lies.
Because no matter what I drank or smoked or swallowed, peace eluded me. Tranquility had died in this field all those years ago. Crushed under the weight of twisted metal and drowned in the pouring rain.
Grimacing, I dug my fingers into the muscle on my thigh, right over the area where the bone had come through the skin. My leg had suffered the worst of the trauma. Broken femur. Dislocated knee cap. A spiral fracture to my tibia. Maybe if I weren’t a drummer, it wouldn’t have mattered. But the injuries had silenced my beat. Sadly, there was no grave to mark its passing. No monument to the lost rhythm. Just this empty field.
I guess that’s why I always ended up here. In the place where the music died. Right alongside my best friend and my best girl.
Blowing out a breath, I stashed the bottle in the inner pocket of my leather jacket. Two stints in the psychiatric ward at Millwood, and I knew better than to dance this close to the fire. But I didn’t care. I wasn’t planning on drinking it.
Throwing open the heavy door, I braced a hand on the steering wheel and slid off the seat, making sure to land on my good leg. I didn’t bother with my cane. There was no need for pretense.
As I waded into the dried brush, “Blackbird” blared from my phone’s speaker. Tori. I’d lost track of how many times she’d called.
And yeah, I got it. She was concerned.
Less than twenty-four hours ago, we’d been on stage at Zilker Park, capping off the biggest rock festival Austin had ever seen. A Damaged reunion. One last hurrah for the fans. And closure for Tori and me.
Except…nothing felt closed.
And as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t talk to Tori about it. Not now.
She’d finally moved on from her grief. Fallen in love again. And in some strange way, that had brought us back together.
After the accident, we’d drifted apart. And that was a good thing. Something we’d needed to do. Because when we had been together, sharing the same space, it was like the sum of our losses was too big. All-consuming.
Knowing that Tori was out there in the world with a heart as heavy as mine had made my own burden a little easier to bear.
But now I felt the weight of it more acutely than I had in years. A fact I was determined to hide. So, I’d been avoiding her calls.
Reaching the far end of the field, I eased onto the soft ground beneath the burned-out shell of the elm tree where I’d found Rhenn and lost him minutes later.
“Hey, buddy. Guess you know about that gig last night.” My voice fell to a whisper, and I looked down. “Of course you do.” Squeezing my eyes shut, I blew out a staggered breath and pulled the whiskey from my pocket. “It was weird, you know, not having y’all there to celebrate. So I thought I’d bring the celebration to you.”
Twisting off the cap with shaky fingers, I fought the urge to bring the bottle to my lips.
One drink. What could it hurt?
As I pondered throwing away years of sobriety, a gust of wind blew across the field, kicking up topsoil and dust.
Chuckling, I rubbed the sand out of my eyes. “Message received. You don’t have to get all testy about it.”
I wasn’t an alcoholic. Or a drug addict. But booze was still a slippery slope. A year after the crash, I’d landed in rehab from an “accidental” overdose that wasn’t an accident at all. It only took the counselor a week to get to the root of my real problem. Soul-crushing depression—the clinical kind.
They’d fixed me up with medication that kept the dark clouds at bay. Mostly. But I never told anyone about my diagnosis. Somehow it was easier to let people believe I was a drunk.
With a sigh, I turned the bottle upside down. “Miss you, bro.” After the last drop of liquor-soaked into the hallowed ground, I hauled to my feet. “See you on the other side.”
Taking a last look around, I stopped breathing when I spotted a little patch of wildflowers some twenty yards away. Most of the blossoms had wilted on the stems. But a few buds remained.
Red, like Paige’s hair.
After all this time, I’d found her.
My feet moved swiftly with little protest from my bad leg. Brushing a hand over the velvety soft petals, tears spilled onto my cheeks, surprising me. Because I’d never cried for Paige. She didn’t visit me in my dreams. And I couldn’t see her face when I closed my eyes.
That was my penance. The price I’d paid for rejecting her that final night.
But she was here with me now. Her scent on the breeze, and her warmth on my skin. And she gave me the one thing I’d been searching for, even if I didn’t deserve it.
About the Author
I grew up in California with a dream of moving to Seattle to become a rock star.
But when the grunge thing didn’t work out (I never even made it to the Washington border) I set my sights on Austin, Texas.
After quickly becoming immersed in the Sixth Street Music scene…and discovering I couldn’t actually sing, I decided to do the next best thing—write kick-ass romances about hot rockstars and the women that steal their hearts.
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