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Bad For Me(8)

By:Codi Gary

“I’ve got you; I promise.”

Tristan’s deep voice echoed through her mind, a ghost from her past that she just couldn’t shake.

Especially when he wouldn’t let go.

Once he’d gotten out of the psychiatric hospital, Tristan had called her, over and over. She’d changed her number several times, but when he started following her—never too closely, or he’d have violated the restraining order she’d taken out on him—she’d realized he would never stop. Soon, Callie began looking for a new job, far away from her past.

After three months of living quietly in Rock Canyon, her lawyer had forwarded the first letter. Callie had never told her lawyer to stop, mainly because she was afraid of agitating Tristan. Instead, she just shoved them, unopened, into a drawer in her living room. One day, she hoped she’d have the courage to read what he had to say—but she knew she’d never be able to see him again. How could she face him after what he’d done to her, her mother, and their dog?

“Are you all right, Callie? You seem distracted.” Fred broke into her memories.

“Yeah, sorry.”

“Is something bothering you?”

Nothing I want to talk about.

“No, I was just thinking of stuff I have to get done.”

“My older son, Everett—he does that to me. I’ll be having a conversation with him, and all of a sudden it’s like he’s in another world.”

At the mention of Everett’s name, Callie’s heart tripped up. “I was going to tell you, I met Everett today.”

“Did you? How did he seem?”

Charming. She didn’t dare say that aloud, though. Meeting Everett had been a surprise, and she’d barely caught herself before telling him how she knew his father. She never talked about her alcoholism and wasn’t about to advertise it to a man she’d just met.

Especially considering how she’d been drawn to Everett and his smile. The scars on his face hadn’t diminished his handsomeness; instead, they actually seemed to accentuate it. She’d avoided his light brown eyes because they were beautiful, like the crisp autumn leaves that fell from the trees in November. Her reaction to them had struck her dumb.

Well, for a minute or so, before his easygoing nature had helped let her guard down. He’d even made her laugh, which was something that rarely happened. Yet with the battle-scarred marine, her laughter felt effortless.

“He was nice. He bumped into me while I was reading my paper, and when it ripped, he bought me a new one.”

“That sounds just like him. He’s a good boy. Would give the shirt off his back to a stranger if he needed it.” Fred paused, and Callie looked up in time to catch the flash of pain in his eyes. “I worry about him, though.”

Every fiber of her being wanted to ask why, wanted to press for more, but she didn’t want to seem like she was fishing for information.

“I just think he spends too much time alone,” Fred continued. “When he first got home and was recuperating, I understood, but he’s had time. He should be out, getting reacquainted with the world. And so should you, missy,” Fred added, patting her hand.

“Oh, come on, I’m in touch with the world.”

“Watching the news doesn’t count.”

“Does reading it?” she asked.

“No. I just mean, you should be out there, meeting a young man. A real man.”

Callie’s mouth twitched. “Oh yeah? And where do I find all these real men?”

“In the country, at church, on farms,” Fred said, holding his fingers out as he named off places. “You would be surprised where the perfect man might show up.”

His words caused a familiar ache to settle in her chest, but that wasn’t his fault. Her thoughts drifted back to high school, when she thought she’d met the perfect blue-eyed boy in her sophomore English class. He’d come walking in, and the minute he’d caught her gaze, she’d known he was meant to be hers. Which was proof enough that there were too many outside factors for anyone to be perfect for another. There was no right one, no “forever and ever, amen,” no matter what Randy Travis sang. There was happy for now. There was getting some good years together.

And then there were irreconcilable differences.

“Callie, I swear, girl, you’re a million miles away and fading fast.”

Fred’s comment pulled her back again, and she shook her head. “Honestly, I think I just haven’t had a good run in a while.”

After she’d joined AA, she’d started running in the morning and at night. Anytime she started to feel helpless or out of control, she took her control back. She wasn’t sure if it was the endorphins or the soreness afterward, but running always put things in perspective. She was alive. She had survived.