Edge of Recovery (Love on the Edge) (7 page)

BOOK: Edge of Recovery (Love on the Edge)
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It haunted me, and I knew I deserved no less. If it was this bad for me, reliving the night every single time I laid down, and trying desperately to change the outcome, then I couldn’t even begin to imagine what it was for her. I didn’t like to think about it because if I did, then I only realized I was probably still hurting her, after all this time, despite that being the last thing I wanted in the world.

“Oh, Justin.” Charlie’s voice drew my attention, and I peeled my eyelids back. They were wet, as were my cheeks.

What the fuck?

I jerked my hands off the sculpted clay, swiping at my face with my forearms. Charlie stood over me and clicked off my machine, crouching to my eye level.

“Where did you go?” She whispered.

I shook my head, choking on the words.

She sighed and nodded, cutting her eyes to my machine. “That’s incredible.”

I followed her gaze, scrunching my eyebrows together. The lump of gray clay had transformed into a tall, funnel-shaped piece with jagged edges.

Not bad for my first time.

“It looks like a tornado,” she said.

And with that one word, a piece of glass shattered in my head, and I know longer saw something abstract I’d created with my own two hands with my eyes closed. No. I saw a mother fucking tornado.

What were the odds?

I bolted out of my seat and instantly smashed the thing, my fists packing into the clay without the satisfaction of feeling like flesh. I saw Charlie jump out of the corner of my eye, but I didn’t stop. I beat the thing until it resembled nothing but the slop of a mound it had been in the beginning.

My chest heaved as I withdrew my fists, bits of clay sticking to my knuckles. I ignored the other patients in the room, their eyes on my outburst. Charlie’s were the only ones I cared about, but I was too scared to look. Too afraid to see terror or embarrassment or judgment in them.

She moved quickly in my peripheral vision, and I couldn’t
not
look when I saw her scoop up her piece—which looked like a big ass sphere—and smash it against the floor. It didn’t shatter because it wasn’t dry but the sound it made—a squelching plop—and the pathetic, fizzled out disc it sunk into, made me laugh so hard my sides hurt.

Charlie joined in, and it didn’t matter that we looked like two insane people in a room full of recovering addicts—it only mattered that we were the same.

“That felt good,” she said, reeling in her fit of laughter.

I sucked in a sharp breath, wiping at the corner of my eyes with my forearms for an entirely new reason, thanks to Charlie.

She grinned at me and motioned her head toward the unisex bathroom in the back of the art room. “Come on.” She offered her clay covered hand, and I took it instantly.

I used to think surprises “weren’t my thing” until I met her. Charlie had continuously surprised me every day since she became my sponsor.

“Clean yourself up,” she ordered, opening the door for me. “I’ll bury the bodies and be right back.” She winked at me before shutting me inside the small bathroom.

I leaned over the sink, my eyes staying glued to the white marble from habit. As I turned the faucet to find warm water, I drew my courage and slowly looked up.

There was a smile on my face I didn’t recognize. A light in my eyes, underneath the evidence of tears, I’d never seen. I hadn’t deliberately looked in a mirror in so long—I was shocked to catch a glimpse of myself for longer than a moment.

I needed a fucking hair cut.

I chuckled to myself, the sensation of release so strong it made me dizzy, reminding of that first drink after a long absence.

She knocked on the door, and I let her inside.

“You practicing your jokes in here?” Charlie asked, shutting the door behind her.

“No,” I said, and my voice cracked. The room was so small, her frame filling it despite being tiny. There were hardly any places in the clinic—besides the grounds—that were as private as this.

“Scooch,” she said, bumping her hip against mine as she nestled next to me at the sink. She ran her hands under the water, and the clay from her fingers turned the sink gray. “You haven’t even started! Here.” She grabbed my hands, working her fingers through mine, her skin warm and smooth underneath the flow of water and clay and it resonated deep in my core.

God, it’d been too long since I’d felt like this. Been so
consumed
like this.

I was helpless against her, silent as she lathered our hands with soap, and sliding the bubbles up higher where the clay had gotten on my arms.

“I know you think this may not be your thing,” she said, massaging her thumbs into the heel of my palms. “but you’re damn good at it.”

I licked my lips, watching her, feeling her touch, reveling in both. My silence must have given her pause because she stopped, her eyes slowly meeting mine.

“Is this okay?” she asked, slightly breathless. “I know some people don’t like being touched, but I tend to forget to ask.”

She pulled away from me.

“Yes,” I said quickly. “It’s fine. I’m fine.”

Retaking my hands, she continued to lather and rinse until there was no gray left, only clear, warm water. She looked up at me as she grabbed a wad of paper towels next to her and handed them to me. I dried off, my skin already craving her touch.

A fleck of gray sat just beneath her eye and I reached up to smooth over it with my thumb before thinking. She didn’t flinch away from my touch. She did the opposite. She sighed and stepped closer to me. Her green eyes were open, honest, and in them I saw a flicker of the want I felt rushing through my blood.

There was nothing I wanted more in that instant than to claim her mouth and see what she tasted like.

And knowing that, feeling the slam of need surging through me, I backed away as quickly and as far as the small space would allow.

“Justin,” she whispered my name, not giving me the space but instead closing the distance until her chest pressed lightly against mine. “Don’t pull away from me. Not here.”

I looked down at her but kept my arms locked at my side when all they wanted was to wrap around her hips and heft her up to my level. I wanted her, wanted what it looked like she begged of me but I would not breach the professional line between us.

“Talk to me,” she said, remaining still.

“I can’t.”

“You can. You know you can.”

“No, Charlie, I can’t. You don’t get it. I’m not
good.
There is nothing about my past, the reasons why I’m here, that is clean.”

“And you think what I’ve shared with you is a fucking bubble bath?” She arched a brow at me, her eyes lit and on fire.

“No, of course not---“

“Then snap out of it!” She placed her hand on my chest. “I can feel this, Justin. I can see the torture in your eyes every single day, and it’s killing me because I know if you’d just open up a crack I could help you.”

My heart pounded underneath her hand, so hard I’m sure she could feel it. I nearly spilled my entire guts on the floor right there, ready for her to give me my final judgment but I held back.

“You sound like Thomas,” I said. “You both are so sure I’m fixable.”

“You are.”

“No. I’m beyond broken.”

“Well, so am I. So are more than half the people in this building. But that is the beauty of broken things. They can be reworked, adjusted to build something even more beautiful than the original.”

I rolled my eyes. “I never was and never will be
beautiful.

“That’s where you’re wrong.” She raised her hand, stroking the stubble on my jaw. “You are beautiful. I see you. I see every dark, aching piece of you, and I know it sounds insane, but I
get
it.”

“You don’t know a thing about me.”

“Please,” she huffed. “I know you, Justin. I know you’re drinking to kill the pain of some wrong you’ve done because you’ve done nothing but berate and blame yourself since I met you. I know you push people away because you’re afraid you’re doomed to repeat the mistakes of your past. I know that you push drugs but not enough for the buyer to inflict any real harm to themselves—other than delay their rehabilitation—and I know that I should’ve turned you in the second I knew for sure.”

It’s as if the girl had sliced me open on day one and peeled apart my layers, exposing all my flaws. She just didn’t know all the details of my secrets. “Why didn’t you?”

“Because
I see you
. There is more than what you project. So much more.”

“You don’t know that.” I banged the back of my head lightly against the wall, tearing my eyes away from her. She was too close—not only in unraveling me but in proximity. It would only take one move of my hand, and I could crush her against me.

“I do. And you will too, in time. You just have to give me a chance.” She licked her lips. “Can you do that for me? Please,” she whispered the last word, her mouth inching closer to mine.

My dick throbbed with her so close, with her strawberry scent in my air, her soft body touching mine, but I didn’t move. Couldn’t move.

“Tell me I’m not just some ex-junkie with a crush on her Sponsee. Tell me I’m not crazy. That you feel this too.” She held her position, so close to my lips I could feel her breath on my skin.

“I feel it,” I said, wanting to say more but the words died on my tongue. This was a tease from God, a trick placing a piece of perfection like Charlie in front of me, only to have her be off limits. Clearly, she didn’t care about the rules—not only losing the opportunity to be a sponsor in the future but quite possibly losing access to this clinic, which acted as a lifeline to her—but that was right now…what would she do later? After she learned who I really was? After I inevitably hurt her? Because there was no other way this would end. I hurt people. It’s what I
did.

“Prove it,” she said. “Show me something real. Something so I know you’re willing to try. That you want to get better. Because that’s the key, Justin. You have to
want
it, or I can’t even begin to help you.”

She had already helped me in more ways than she knew. She’d awoken a piece of my heart that I thought was long dead—the ability to care hadn’t happened since Blake, about myself, about anyone—but I
did
care about her. What she thought and how she looked at me. And it wasn’t that I wanted to change for her because I felt like I had already set those goals before she came around. I wanted to become who I was around
her.
I wanted to be the guy I felt like in her presence. The one who cracked jokes with her like rapid fire, the one who pushed her when she pushed back. The one who wasn’t a raging drunk. The one who was just simply…Justin. Charlie’s version of Justin. He was okay to be around. He was almost pleasant.

I didn’t have a clue how to show her badly I wanted to be him.

“How do I dig out of a hole so deep and so dark I can’t tell which is the bottom and which is the top?” I asked, pushing some of her hair away from her face.

“Easy,” she said, leaning into my palm. “You ask me for a shovel.”

I closed my eyes and exhaled. This girl. She always had the right words. I took my hand away from her cheek and slipped it into my pocket. Pulling out the baggie of a half-dozen pills, I showed them to her. She tilted her head, her eyes slits as she saw one small white pill in particular. I quickly tipped the bag upside down over the toilet and flushed away what would have been over four grand.

Her eyes widened, the specks of gold catching in the light that flickered above us. She smiled. “It’s real then?”

“Yeah,” I huffed. “As crazy as it sounds, it is. I want to get better, Charlie. I just don’t have a fucking clue how.”

Reaching up on her tiptoes, she gripped my face between her hands. “I’m going to show you.”

I moved my head slightly, her lips only a breath away from mine. The closeness of her ignited my core and my mouth watered, craving more.

Her sigh hit my skin as she urged me closer.

Knock! Knock! Two loud bangs jolted us out of our embrace.

“You about done in there? I have to take a piss!” a man shouted from the other side of the closed door.

“Coming!” Charlie said and smoothed her hands over her hair, winking at me.

She went out first, me following right behind her. The guy gave us a sideways glance but quickly shrugged. I stopped him, my hand darting out to block his path to the bathroom.

“You know,” I said, “there are hundreds of bathrooms on the massive property. Including one right outside in the hallway.”

The guy swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down as he nodded quickly. “Didn’t realize you had company.” He raised his hands, and I smacked his shoulder.

“No worries,” I said, walking to where Charlie waited for me in the entryway.

Funny. I actually meant that. Two years ago the attitude the guy gave would’ve merited a fight from me. Now it barely rose my blood pressure. Though, it could be the fact that he saved me from making a huge mistake because I’d been seconds away from claiming Charlie’s mouth. And while I had that fantasy on repeat, there were too many haunting memories reminding me every second of why I shouldn’t cross that line—not to mention the professional forbiddance of the two of us being “romantic.” I would destroy her. Professionally or personally or both. Somehow. Someway. It was in my blood to hurt whatever I cared most about, and right now, that was Charlie.

The knowledge of this didn’t stop me from taking her outstretched hand when I reached her. She intertwined our fingers as we walked down the hallway, her guiding me straight back to my room.

“Never had a girl drop me off before,” I joked.

“I like being your first,” she said, never missing a beat.

Fuck, she
was
my first. The first one to strike a spark after I’d woken the fuck up that awful night I’d hurt Blake, hurt her dog. Shit, it crept in at the worst possible times.

“Tomorrow?” She asked, squeezing my hand.

“You have something planned?” I resisted the urge to bring her hand to my lips.

“You know I do.”

“More pottery?” I laughed, thinking of the tornado, of the smashed pieces of clay that I’d wanted to be that version of my past.

BOOK: Edge of Recovery (Love on the Edge)
3.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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