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Authors: Jade C. Jamison

Rock Bottom (Bullet)

BOOK: Rock Bottom (Bullet)
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ROCK BOTTOM

(Bullet #2)

 

Jade C. Jamison

 

 

Rock Bottom

 

The much-anticipated sequel to
Bullet.

 

Ethan Richards has fought depression and a host of other demons all his adult life, and it’s caused him to lose everything—his wife, his son, his friends, and he almost loses the one thing that means the most to him—his band.  He hits rock bottom and believes there is no way out.

 

Enter Jenna McCormick, a feisty drug and alcohol counselor, a woman with her own share of troubles.  She finds Ethan intriguing but keeps him at a distance while trying to help him face life without crutches.  She feels a spark but denies it, knowing that a relationship with unstable Ethan could be dangerous for both of them.

 

Ethan knows what he wants, though, and isn’t used to being told no.  Jenna isn’t willing to risk Ethan losing his tenuous grip on sobriety, however, and is prepared to deny her deeper feelings to help Ethan climb out of his hole, but he learns how to let go of his pain when he finds that someone is prepared to walk with him through the shadows.  Can he convince Jenna that they should take a chance on love or will they forever deny their feelings in an effort to keep Ethan on the straight and narrow?

 

“You planning to help me set the room up?”

Ethan smiled and walked in behind her.  “I’d be happy to.”

He started unfolding chairs and setting them up while Jenna filled the coffee pot up with water.  When she started filling the filter with coffee grounds, Ethan asked, “So…do you have any plans tomorrow night?”  She took a deep breath. 
No.
  That was what she’d feared.  Before she could respond, he said, “I ask because I have two tickets to a band out of Pueblo I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about, and I don’t want to go by myself.”

She couldn’t resist.  “What kind of music?”

She didn’t turn around to see the look on his face, but she could hear the smile just the same.  “What kind do you think?”

It was a lie when she said, “You might be into jazz for all I know.”  She’d known a little about him and his band before he’d come into her life, but since he’d become a regular in her group sessions, she’d done quite a bit of research.  She knew damn good and well that he was a heavy metal lover just like she was.  She thought she’d read that his favorite band was Suicide Silence.  So she didn’t think he was inviting her to a jazz concert…but one never knew.

He started laughing.  “Yeah…I look like the jazz type, don’t I?”  He unfolded another chair and set it down.  “Actually, I respect the hell out of jazz.  But you’re right.  Not a jazz band.  Metal.  Their name is Pretty Little Lies.  Have you heard of them?”

“No.  But I don’t get out much.”

“Well, we can change that.”

She switched on the coffee pot and then turned around to face Ethan.  “I really don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Yeah, I kind of gathered that from previous conversations.  I want to make you a deal, though.”

She couldn’t resist, even though she knew it was the worst idea ever.  “And that would be?”

He set down the last chair and walked over to her.  “We just go as friends…you know, to have fun.  No pressure.  Nothing at stake.  Just two music lovers going to enjoy a band.”

Her eyes searched his.  She couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or just shining her on, but he was irresistible to her.  She sighed.  “Okay, all right.  And then do you promise to stop bugging me?”

“Bugging you?  I’m bugging you?”

She smiled.  “You know what I mean.”

He smirked.  “Maybe.”  He knew he had to move quickly.  “So can I get your number before people come in so we can work out the details tomorrow morning?”

Against her better judgment, she gave him her cell number, and he added it to his phone.  He’d just stuck his phone back in his pocket when the next person arrived for group.  He winked and took his seat and damned if she didn’t find herself distracted for the rest of the night.

BOOKS BY JADE C. JAMISON

 

Stating His Case

Fabric of Night

Worst Mother

MADversary

Then Kiss Me

Old House

 

TANGLED WEB
SERIES

 

1 Tangled Web:  A Steamy Heavy Metal Novella

2
Everything But

 

BULLET SERIES

 

1 Bullet:  An Epic Rock Star Novel

2
Rock Bottom

 

NICKI SOSEBEE SERIES

 

1 Got the Life

2 Dead

3 No Place to Hide

4 Right Now

5 One More Time

6 Lost

7 Innocent Bystander

8 Blind

 

 

Copyright

 

Copyright © 2013 by Jade C. Jamison

 

Cover image © iStockphoto

 

All rights reserved.

 

The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously.  Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.  Characters and names of real persons who appear in the book are used fictitiously.

 

Visit Jade’s website:

http://www.jadecjamison.com

 

Follow Jade on Twitter:

http://twitter.com/@JadeCJamison

 

Send Jade an email:

[email protected]

 

Like Jade on
Facebook:

http://facebook.com/JadeCJamison

 

 

There are so many blogs I feel gratitude for, too many to name, and I’m afraid I’d forget a name or two if I tried to name them all.  That said
, there is one blog I feel really helped
Bullet
, the first book of this series, get noticed.  It had a good buzz beforehand, but this blog encouraged me to have a blog tour and then hosted it for me, getting it lots more exposure than it would have had without their help.  In this blog are three wonderful women I am proud to call friends, and I dedicate Ethan’s book to them…

 

Shh Mom’s Reading

Kim Box Person

Denise Milano Sprung

Christine
Bezdenejnih Estevez

 

 

 

Author’s Note

 

One of my friends (also a member of my Street Team), affectionately known as Lolly, alerted me to the Japanese practice of
kintsugi
(also known as
kintuskuroi
). 
Kintsugi
is the practice of repairing broken pottery by filling the cracks with gold or silver.  The pottery afterward is strikingly beautiful.  Here’s what Lolly told me:  “Ethan is probably more beautiful now after being broken & his heart repaired !!!”

 

As Ethan’s storyteller, I think Lolly is absolutely right.  I hope you too think Ethan is now stronger and beautiful for having gone through what he has.

 

 

 

Prologue

 

HEY, YOU.  YEAH, you.  Wipe that fucking look off your face.  I know you think you know me.  Like everyone on this whole goddamn planet, you hate my ass.  I realize I deserve part of it, but you’ve only heard Valerie’s side of the story.

Wait a second…before you go off on me, hollering and screaming about what a rat bastard I am, all I ask is that you hear me out.  You only know me from the press.  That’s it.  You know me from interviews—not just mine, but ones from my
bandmates and my ex-wife too.  You might even presume to know me because you’ve seen me onstage once or twice.  You’ve heard other people talking.  Yeah, and you’ve heard what Valerie has to say.  But I’ll tell you one thing—you don’t know
shit
about me.  Probably the only person who really knows me is Brad…and even
he
doesn’t know everything.

Am I a real shithead who doesn’t deserve to be listened to? 
Maybe.  If you like having a target for your hate and anger, then you won’t want to continue.  I know it’s easier to have a black-and-white picture.  Gray isn’t always easy to process.  But guess what, folks?  I’m deep in the gray…and, if you’ll take a few moments to learn more about me, you might find it a little harder to judge me.

But I leave that up to you.

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

JENNA MCCORMICK RAN her long, slender fingers through her auburn hair.  She was trying to focus on the words of the man everyone called
Jay Bird
.  He was reed thin—although Jenna could tell he’d gained weight since she’d last seen him.  He wasn’t a bad-looking guy, but he’d lived a hard life, especially during the last five years.  His hairline was receding and he had lines on his forehead.  He hadn’t shaved in two or three days.  Jenna noticed, though, that he looked
good
, better than ever.

They were talking about triggers.  “Stress, you know?  That’s mine,” he said.

Jenna felt her green eyes narrow and she leaned forward in her chair.  She was glad she could phone in her performance, because her mind just wasn’t with it tonight.  “Jay, stress is a trigger for everyone, and you can’t completely avoid stress.  Can you instead figure out specifically what makes you run back?  Is there a specific stressor that does it?”

He didn’t ask what she meant, because he knew.  He’d been coming to the
Thursday night drug and alcohol support group for three months now, faithfully.  He started answering her and, while she was able to process his words, she wasn’t fully engaged.  No, tonight she was thinking about her own sordid past with alcohol.  She had never been addicted to it, but she came from an alcoholic family.  Both her parents had been alcoholics, and—after leaving her home—she first spent years trying to heal herself, and then she studied dependence in college before becoming an addiction counselor.

So tonight, discussing triggers was an im
portant topic for the folks in group to discuss, but—since she’d never fully identified her own triggers—it made her mind wander as she tried to discover what they were.  She wasn’t an addict, but her behaviors—while tempered—were those of a child from an alcoholic family.  She’d run for years and buried the pain.  She’d sublimated it and tried gaining acceptance from unsavory people.  But she knew she didn’t want to be like her parents and fought against her nature.  College had been her way out, but her baser nature still played on the dark side.  It wasn’t until her last boyfriend that she’d decided she needed healing for herself as well…once and for all.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until times like these—when she was probing her clients, pressing them for details and asking them to dig deep—that she felt comfortable enough exploring her own past and behaviors.  She couldn’t discuss them with these folks, though.
  She was here for them, not herself.  She had the errant thought that she really needed to start seeing her shrink again when Jay managed to grab her attention.

“I don’t know
why
it stresses me out so bad, but it does.”

Oh, shit.  What was he talking about?  What did he say stressed him out?  She tried to focus, pulling into her subconscious, the part that would have been listening to him while her conscious mind had been worrying over her own issues.  She remembered he’d started talking about his girlfriend.  Yeah, that was it.  And she’d start harping on him about bills.  That led to worry over finances…yep, that was it. 
Money woes.  A typical stressor.  But she knew for Jay it led back to his childhood—his divorced mom working as a bartender, not earning much money, getting by however she could.  They’d moved a lot, and his mom had done a few questionable things to keep him clothed with a roof over his head.  Food stamps weren’t daunting; the guys his mom had dated were.  So having the money problems today was bad enough but add his screeching girlfriend, and he just couldn’t take it.

Yeah…Jenna could relate to childhood problems making
it hard to deal as an adult.  Then she took a deep breath.  Tonight was
not
about her.  It was about Jay and the other eight people in the room (another fact that concerned her, because there should have been more people there, but now was not the time to dwell on
that
either).

Fortunately, her clients in the room were used to moments of silence from her.  She’d often take her time arranging her words so that they were gentle yet firm.  She would spend time considering and pondering what she would say, and they were accustomed to that.  So she’d leaned over, resting her elbow on her knee and propping her chin on her fist.  She’d been able to use that time to figure out what Jay had said and how she would respond, and no one would be the wiser.  “Okay, Jay…so you’ve discovered one of your triggers.  That’s the first step to healing.  Did you give in?”

He wiped sweat off his brow.  “No.”

She smiled and nodded.  “That’s good.
”  She took a deep breath.  “So what have we talked about?”

He shook his head.  “Well…I can’t really avoid my girlfriend or money problems, can I?”

“That’s true.”  She sat up in her chair.  “Do you think you should just live in a homeless shelter and be lonely?”  He grinned.  “Of course not.  But maybe you can ask your girlfriend to go easy on you when it comes to money matters.  And maybe you can take a budgeting class or talk to a financial counselor so you can maybe get a handle on your money problems.  Both of you could do it together.  I guarantee feeling in control of your money would help.”

He took a deep breath. 
“Yeah.”

The overweight middle-aged man next to him said, “I’d kick the bitch out on her ass.  Women
ain’t worth the hassle.”

Her youngest client—a twenty-year-
old kid—said, “They never are.”

Like he’d know.
  Veronica, the woman sitting next to the kid, said, “Hey, enough woman bashing.  It just so happens to be one of
my
damn triggers, you assholes.”

The three men got silent, and Jay had a sheepish look on his face.  “Oh, shit.  Sorry.”

Jenna cleared her throat.  She could see the clock on the wall—they had five minutes left.  “Bottom line, folks…you can’t just categorize
anyone
.  You have to look at people as individuals, and even then…well, you don’t see the whole story.  You’re only judging by what you see on the outside.  You’re often just seeing the tip of the iceberg.”  Or, in her case, they were seeing her carefully honed persona, the parts of her she didn’t mind them seeing.  They didn’t know the real her, and the only reason why she had a good handle on any of them was because they’d opened themselves up for her to examine.  They had trusted her, and she had to treat that trust with kid gloves.  Damned if she too was going to become a trigger.

“Now…back to Jay.  This week, I’d really like for you to look for alternate ways to deal with money stress and your girlfriend.  You know those are triggers for you, so you need to come up with a plan for how you’ll handle it.  Even if you get your budget completely under control and you feel like you can take anything, what happens when your water heater goes out the day after your car dies and
that’s after you just dropped all that money on a swamp cooler because you’re sick and tired of the heat in the summer?  I hate to remind you of this, Jay, but life throws curve balls like that, and you have to be prepared.  So…you have some homework. I want you to give this some thought.  Tell me your plan.”  She looked around the room.  Everyone tonight had had a chance to speak, but she always liked to end the evening with a suggestion for everyone and give them a positive thought.  “If the rest of you haven’t considered that thought as well, then you also have homework.  Once you’ve identified your triggers, you’ve got to go a step further.  If you can, just avoid the situation entirely.  For instance, if I know my friends are going to have a party with alcohol and I just can’t be around it, then I politely turn down the invitation.  True friends will understand.  If I know walking down a certain street will remind me of getting high, then I don’t walk down that street.

“Sounds simple, right?  And it is.  But it takes willpower sometimes, and guys, guess what?  I know you’ve all got nerves of steel.  You’ve pulled yourselves up from the depths and survived.  You guys are stronger than steel, and don’t let yourself believe otherwise.

“But what if you can’t avoid it?  Your cousin’s getting married and you’re the maid of honor.  You know there will be champagne.  So how do you deal with it?  Well, you come up with a plan.  We’ve talked about this before.  You guys know the drill.  But I also want you to think about seeking additional help.  Sometimes there are other things going on that you just need a little more help with—mental and psychological issues that are best conquered with the help of a professional.  You catch my drift?”  Jenna blinked twice, realizing that a lot of her spiel that evening was aimed at herself.  “Anyway, guys, be healthy.  Stay safe.  Keep your eye on the prize.  And…”

They all looked around the room.  They were ready to say the phrase they
often said at the end of their meetings.  “Call your sponsor if you need someone to talk to so you can make it through.”

She smiled.  “Damn straight.  Now go live your life and I’ll see you next week.”

Jenna stood and stretched.  She always had a few stragglers chatting with each other after, and she was glad.  These people here became true friends and genuinely cared for one another.  They wanted to see each other succeed and they wanted to help each other out, so if that meant she got home half an hour later, so be it.

While a couple of people stood around talking, she figured she’d clean up the coffee mess and then put away the folding chairs.  Usually, by then, the stragglers would find their way outdoors to continue their conversation.  Sometimes they’d decide to continue visiting at Village Inn over a slice of pie and a cup of coffee.

They began to trickle out, one by one…all except for Jay.  By the time Jenna was folding chairs, he was helping her.  “Thanks.”

She shrugged her shoulders.  “Don’t thank me.  You’re the one who has to do all the work.”

His smile was warm as he stood next to her, just holding the chair in his hands.  “No, I do thank you.  You believed in me when no one else would.  And you also saw past my desperation.”

“It’s not an easy journey, Jay.  You know that just as well as anyone else here.  But you made the decision to get clean and stay clean, and even though you’re still struggling, you are strong.  You can do it.  I know you can.”

“That’s what I mean.  Even my girlfriend doesn’t have that kind of faith in me.”

Oh…that wasn’t good.  He’d tried going there before.  Jenna knew, though, that it was easy for a recovering addict to latch onto his counselor or other people who were helping him stay on the straight and narrow.  A few months ago, before his girlfriend had moved in with
him, he’d asked Jenna on a date, and she’d managed to convince him that it wasn’t a good idea.  It was too difficult to keep those parts of their lives separate.  He came in for an extra one-on-one counseling session (free of charge) so they could talk more about it.  She explained to him that he felt like he was falling in love with her because he’d grown close to her, trusted her, relied on her to keep him on the straight and narrow.  She showed him, though, that he didn’t really know her and they didn’t have much in common.  It wasn’t set in stone that she’d have to stop counseling him, but she felt it would be ethically wrong to keep counseling him if they pursued a relationship.  He admitted that he needed her counseling and relied on her far too much to lose that connection.

Besides, Jenna knew he loved his girlfriend.

And he had no idea about Jenna’s demons.  She needed a shoulder to lean on too, and his was far too fragile.  She was beginning to doubt she’d find anyone with the strength to carry her.  Well, that wasn’t true.  She’d had a psychologist who’d have done anything for her, but he was twenty years her senior and, while she cared for him, she wasn’t attracted to him.  He had even proposed to her, but it just wouldn’t work.

But back to Jay’s problem.
  “She will find that faith, Jay.  Just give her time.  Remember, she’s seen you at your worst.  She’s seen you hit rock bottom.  Give her time to see that you’re soaring now and will never go back there.  She’ll learn to trust you again.  She just needs time.”

“I guess you’re right.  What can I do to speed up the process?”

She shut the lights off to the church basement and locked the door after she and Jay both exited.  As they walked out into the cool night air, she said, “I don’t think you can.  I think it’s one of those ‘slow-and-steady-wins-the-race’ kind of things.  Just be solid and steadfast and keep up the good work.  It’s a gradual thing, but she loves you.  You’ll earn her trust again.  You’ll just have to be patient.”

He chuckled as they paused on the sidewalk next to Jenna’s car.  “The only time I was ever patient was when I smoked weed.”

Jenna laughed and shook her head.  “Then revel in your impatience, my man.  Have a good night.”

“You too.”
  He started walking down the street, leaving Jenna to her thoughts.  She slid in her white Focus and just rested her hands on the steering wheel.  Jay at least had one thing going for him—someone who loved him.  His girlfriend might have understandable trust issues, but she was
there
.  She knew Jay knew that, and deep down he appreciated it.

But Jenna had no one.  And that was something she’d been trying to accept every day.

The scary part?  She was almost used to it.

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