Craving absolution, p.1
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       Craving Absolution, p.1

           Nicole Jacquelyn
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Craving Absolution


  Craving Absolution

  by Nicole Jacquelyn

  Edited and Formatted by:

  Pam Berehulke

  Bulletproof Editing

  Cover Artist:

  Sommer Stein

  Perfect Pear Creative Covers

  Copyright © 2014 by Nicole Jacquelyn

  All Rights Reserved

  Dedication

  To the girls who don’t feel comfortable in their own skin.

  Someday, you will.

  And it will be spectacular.

  Prologue

  Farrah

  My feet were asleep. I’d been kneeling for so long with my ass resting on them that they’d gone past the tingling stage and had moved straight into the can’t-feel-them-at-all stage. It was a bit of a relief, the only relief I was feeling at the moment. I’d been vomiting or dry heaving for what felt like forever, in between moments of falling asleep with my head on the toilet, so any part of my body that I didn’t actually have to feel was a blessing. Even my fucking fingernails were tired.

  I was in my underwear with my arms wrapped around the seat of the toilet, shivering on the bathroom floor when he found me.

  I’d fallen asleep early the night before, not even taking the time to wipe off my makeup or brush the hair spray from my hair. Remnants of black eyeliner had turned to streaks of black all over my face, and my bouffant hairstyle had morphed into bed head that would take an entire bottle of conditioner to salvage. Needless to say, it wasn’t my finest moment.

  Any other time, I might have been embarrassed that he’d seen me that way. I’d come so far in the past few years, and I never wanted him to have to save me again. I wanted to be a person he knew he could count on. Solid. Dependable. But at that moment, I couldn’t feel anything but relief.

  Thank God he was there.

  I raised my head wearily, opening my mouth to call his name, but before I could utter a word I started heaving painfully again, dry heaves that made my body jerk and my stomach muscles scream in pain. He stood there watching me silently until I was spent, and at first I didn’t realize anything was wrong. I was too busy resting my forehead against the cool porcelain, completely unconcerned with anything beyond swallowing over and over, trying to keep the retching at bay.

  By the time I noticed how odd it was that he just stood there, he’d begun to speak in a low hiss.

  “I can’t believe this shit.”

  I turned my head to the side in surprise, so exhausted that lifting it was out of the question.

  “You told me you were done with this shit. Gram’s been calling you for fucking hours, Farrah. What the fuck?”

  “Sick,” I mumbled, closing my eyes. God, I was so tired. Why wasn’t he helping me? Couldn’t he see that I needed his arms around me?

  “Yeah, looks like it,” he said with a sneer.

  I blinked back at him, my eyesight blurring as sweat broke out on the back of my neck. Something was wrong. What the hell was happening?

  “Gram called and said she couldn’t get a hold of you. So I thought, thank God I’m in town, right? Because I was afraid you were hurt, dead on the side of the road somewhere—”

  His voice started going in and out. I tried to focus on what he was saying, but his words seemed to just fade to nothing and then became inordinately loud.

  Was he yelling? It sounded as if we were in a tunnel.

  “Same old shit . . . fucking druggie . . . done with this . . .”

  “Cody—” I groaned, trying to cut him off. It wasn’t what he was thinking. Couldn’t he see that this was different? He must not have heard my voice or maybe he just chose to ignore me, because within seconds he was turning away from the door as the first sharp pain burst through my belly, stealing my breath.

  Oh fuck. Where was he going?

  He couldn’t just be leaving me. There was no way he would leave me. He wouldn’t do that.

  Oh God.

  Oh God.

  But I was wrong.

  I wasn’t sure how long I lay on the floor after he was gone. It could have been minutes or hours before I had the strength to drag myself out of the bathroom and across the hall to where my purse lay on the floor in my bedroom. The pain was nearly overwhelming, and tears ran down my cheeks as I fumbled around for my phone. I knew it was in there somewhere, and I keened in frustration as I fumbled past my wallet, makeup, and hair supplies.

  I’d never been more scared in my entire life.

  Somehow, I eventually tipped the purse completely over and my phone came tumbling out. My hands shook so hard it took me two tries before I could find the contact I needed, and by that time I was weeping in agony.

  “Hello?”

  “Gram.” I moaned pitifully, pulling my knees to my chest until I was curled into a ball. “I think something’s wrong with the baby.”

  “Oh God, Farrah! I’ll be right there, darlin’. Hold on,” she ordered as my best friend’s toddler tried to talk over her in the background.

  I dropped the phone in relief, wrapping my arm around my waist and rubbing softly as I gingerly lay down on my side. A few seconds later Gram’s shadow passed by my window, and sobbed in relief as I heard her slam open my front door.

  Knowing that I would soon be safe had my mind racing back to the look of absolute disgust in Cody’s eyes, and I bit the inside of my cheek to keep myself from screaming.

  He’d assumed I’d betrayed him, and he was going to lose his fucking mind when he learned his mistake. I knew him; over the past couple of years his thoughts and feelings had become more familiar to me than my own, and I knew he wasn’t going to recover from this.

  Cody had become yet another person who let me down, something he’d promised over and over again would never happen.

  He was the betrayer, I thought, before mercifully passing the fuck out.

  Before . . .

  Chapter 1

  Casper

  When my parents were killed in a home invasion and my sister, Callie, hooked up with her boyfriend, Grease, I couldn’t understand what the hell was in his head. I mean, I knew that my sister was beautiful. She got the best traits of both our parents, and I knew guys dug her. But their relationship was just different from the very beginning. It was like Grease couldn’t stay away from her. He was determined to protect this scared sixteen-year-old kid—to claim her as his—even though he barely knew her.

  I didn’t get it, and it freaked me the fuck out. All I could see was that he found this vulnerable chick, and he wanted in. The four-year age difference between them was enough to make me nervous. It didn’t take very long before I knew he was legit, though. Solid. For whatever reason, fate or circumstance or a fucked-up sense of responsibility, it was clear that Grease felt something really strong for my sister, and he just wanted to take care of her. He set her up on a pedestal and it didn’t matter what stupid shit she did, he never let her fall off. Still, even though I trusted him and knew he was in it for the long haul, I didn’t understand it.

  Until suddenly, while I was sitting in a dive bar and holding a beer I wasn’t legally old enough to drink, it became startlingly clear.

  The girl was beautiful—blonde-haired, blue-eyed perfection. A messed-up, twisted girl wrapped in sexy packaging.

  My sister’s best friend. Farrah.

  In less than a minute I wanted her, and seconds after that I learned she was taken.

  Another girl with a man far too old for her. Fucking story of my life. His name was Echo, and he was big, scary, and wearing a leather vest that told me he belonged to the same motorcycle club as Grease. Farrah looked at him as if he were the answer to all her prayers. I made the decision then, watching her dance for him in the middle of the bar, that I’d do whatever I could to
take her from him . . . even if he gutted me for it.

  If I knew then what I’d find out later, I would have stepped up sooner than I did and saved her from the shit she’d have to endure. Life had a way of punching you in the throat when you least expected it, and to say we hadn’t expected it would be an understatement.

  Not long after I’d first really noticed Farrah, Callie and I were packing up her apartment, and Farrah was on her way over to help. I’d been in the bathroom, splashing my face with water and trying to not act like a complete pussy at the thought of seeing Farrah again—the girl who’d been starring in all my fantasies—when I’d heard a car backfiring outside my sister’s apartment. It took me seconds, just seconds to realize that it wasn’t a backfire, but that was too long. I’d watched Callie bounce out the door like a kid on a playdate less than ten minutes before, and my stomach dropped as I realized she and Farrah were outside.

  Outside with a noise that sounded like a shitty car, but I instinctively knew wasn’t.

  I’d barely been breathing as I sprinted out the front door and down the stairs, and the scene I witnessed outside would be burned in my brain for the rest of my life. Farrah’s man had been shot down in some fucked-up ghetto drive-by shooting, and by the time I got to her, she was practically covered in his blood. He was already dead, blood pooling around his body, as she kissed him. She’d kissed his slack mouth as if she were saying good-bye, as if they weren’t covered in blood and he wasn’t already gone. I’d wanted to fucking drag her away, to knock her out so she didn’t see it, but the damage was done.

  It was weeks before I realized it, but my grand plan to steal her away from him no longer mattered. It fucking sucked, but I didn’t know the guy and couldn’t find it in me to care about his death. The only thing I cared about, the only thing I could see, was the way Farrah had completely shut down after he was gone.

  Stealing her away from Echo would have been a thousand times easier than trying to compete with his ghost.

  Besides, there wasn’t even anything left to steal. The girl I’d watched was gone. I never stopped wanting her, watching her as she spiraled, and silently willing her to get herself together, but it didn’t seem to matter. Farrah was hell-bent on killing herself, drinking until she passed out or blacked out, tattooing shit all over her skin that I knew she’d hate if she ever snapped out of it, and piercing holes all over her body. She didn’t want anyone’s help, and was determined as all hell to keep everyone at a distance.

  The more I saw, the more I understood Grease’s overwhelming need to fix everything so my sister could breathe easy. I became Grease, but unfortunately for me, Farrah didn’t become Callie. She didn’t want anything to do with me.

  The first few times I carried her out of a party, I’d followed her there, blending into the woodwork so I could keep an eye on her. After that, I’d get calls from different guys, mostly MC members that I’d met through Grease, who felt some sort of responsibility toward Echo’s old girlfriend and knew I’d come get her after she’d gone too far.

  On the occasions I’d dragged her home, she bit me and scratched me, kissed me, put her hand down the front of my pants, sobbed into my neck, and left the occasional hickey. I carried her out of parties belligerent, bubbly, weepy, horny, passed out, and resigned. I never knew what I’d be walking into, and I didn’t care. I would have walked through fire for her—a woman who hated me for taking care of her. It was a compulsion I couldn’t seem to get a handle on.

  Farrah’s downward spiral stopped abruptly when my sister’s boyfriend was arrested and sent to prison for breaking his probation connected to an old assault charge. It was as if the moment Callie needed her, she snapped out of the fog and immediately went to work. The bond between the two of them was odd, but I didn’t question it. I just continued to watch and wait, just as I’d done for so long.

  By the time I headed back to school that fall, Farrah and I had formed an uneasy alliance, a quiet but important connection that I hated to walk away from, but I did it anyway. I took off for Yale and left her behind, relieved that she finally seemed to have her shit together.

  I worked my ass off at school, writing papers for both my own classes and for pompous douche bags who’d gotten into Yale with their daddy’s money, then used that same money to pay me to write their fucking essays. I didn’t mind it, though; it gave me enough cash to fuck my way through sorority girls, and to go home to visit Callie and my grandmother whenever I could.

  Along the way, I kept tabs on Farrah through visits home and phone calls with Callie, but we didn’t talk, and I didn’t try to contact her outside the times where it was impossible to avoid each other. She seemed embarrassed that I’d seen her at her worst, so I tried to give her space. I didn’t want to be a reminder of that time in her life.

  My IQ and numerous scholarships had gotten me sent to boarding schools across the country, away from my family since before most kids my age were wiping their own asses, so I wasn’t homesick at college like many of my classmates. When I got to Yale I thought about Farrah every day, but life was simple for me at school—no drama or responsibility outside of getting my class work done on time. It was a bit of a relief.

  I was used to being alone, the misfit, the scholarship student who wore plain Nikes in a gym full of whatever expensive brand was popular that season. I understood it; it was comfortable. So when I got a call from Gram telling me that Callie had been attacked and I needed to get back to Sacramento, I’d had no idea that I would never step foot on the Yale campus again.

  By the time I was back with my family, Callie’s body was healing but her mind wasn’t. She was practically comatose, and Grease prowled around the damn hospital like a caged animal. There was nothing we could do for Callie; she had to work through the psychological damage left over from the attack by herself.

  The man who’d attacked her belonged to the same gang that had killed my parents, and the correlation between the two events seemed to have been what pushed her over the edge—but thankfully not before she’d saved herself by killing him with one of Farrah’s handguns. His death left Grease and me at loose ends, and neither of us did the whole “helpless” thing well. Instead, we made plans to take care of the rest of the assholes who’d killed my parents and sanctioned the attack on my sister.

  Then one day in a warehouse in San Diego, I turned my back on everything I’d ever known and fell in with a brotherhood that offered me the first place I’d ever felt at home. I fit there, in a lifestyle that I’d never imagined or understood. I’d somehow gained their respect with my ability to slide into any situation unnoticed. They compared me to a ghost, and started calling me by a new name. Casper. I became a prospect in the Aces motorcycle club, which worked like a probationary period in the club where I had to mostly stand around and clean shit up. Literal shit and vomit, and whatever other messes the patched-in brothers had made.

  After a few months, though, I got a different job. I became a guard dog for the Aces vice president’s daughter, Brenna. God, she was beautiful, the warm kind of beautiful that showed in the way she moved and smiled and listened intently when someone spoke to her. I sat outside her little house day after day, keeping an eye on things while her man, Dragon, did shit for the club. I saw shit that I wished I hadn’t, but kept my mouth shut about it. And then one sunny morning, the threat I’d been watching for showed up.

  I was only shot once, but for the second before I accidentally knocked my ass out on one of the posts of the front porch, it burned like the fiery pits of hell. By the time I woke up just minutes later, I’d lost quite a bit of blood, and I could hear Brenna’s ex yelling at her and beating the shit out of her inside the house. I didn’t know where her little daughter was, and I didn’t know how bad off Brenna was, but I was determined to get inside and do something to help. I was bleeding pretty badly, and the porch was slick under my hands as I’d tried to pull myself into the house, using my boots for leverage.

  God, I’d used everythi
ng I had to try to get in there, my teeth clenched in agony by the time I reached the door, but I failed. I failed her. I heard Brenna moaning and there wasn’t a goddamn thing I could do about it. For the first time since I was fifteen years old, I felt my throat tighten and the back of my eyes burn.

  I wanted to stand up and beat that fucker to death with my bare hands. I wanted to scream for Dragon. I wanted to tell Brenna that she was going to be okay, that I’d get help. And fucking hell, it made no sense, but before I passed out—I wanted Farrah.

  Brenna survived, no thanks to me.

  It took me months before I was well enough to ride my bike to California, even though my shoulder wasn’t up for the long ride, but as soon as I knew I could make it, I took off. I hadn’t seen Farrah or my sister since I’d been shot because Callie and Grease weren’t speaking to each other at that point, and since the moment I’d woken up in the hospital, I’d been itching to head south. I needed to get to Farrah.

  I parked at the apartment complex, the same complex where I’d watched Farrah’s man bleed out on the pavement, and ran my hand over my shaved head. I knew the next few minutes could turn really fucking bad, but I was willing to take the risk.

  I was done waiting for her to get her shit together. I was done waiting for her to get over the man who’d fucking left her to the wolves, but she mourned like he was fucking Gandhi. I was done letting her call all the shots.

  And I was done pussyfooting around her like I hadn’t wanted her for goddamn years.

  Chapter 2

  Farrah

  I’d had a long-ass day. My best friend, Callie, had left that morning to force some kind of showdown with her man, leaving her two-year-old son, Will, with me. I loved the little bugger, but he hadn’t been happy that Callie left, and it had been a rough day for both of us. I didn’t mind watching him, though, even when he was being a pill.

 

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