Home > Savage Love : A Stand-Alone Romance

Savage Love : A Stand-Alone Romance
Author: Cassia Leo

 


Part 1

 

 

“Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always.”

Dante

 

 

Prologue

 

 

The snowfall picks up as we cross the floating bridge over Lake Washington toward Washington Park. I don’t turn on the music in the truck, in case Colette wants to talk during the drive, but so far, she hasn’t spoken a word. At least the silence gives me time to think about what I’m going to say when we get there.

I haven’t been to my childhood home since the day I hired a property manager to take care of the house while it sits empty and unused. Earlier today, when I debated whether I wanted to bring Colette to the place where my life changed in an instant, I was certain I wouldn’t take her inside. Now that we’re on our way, I know I have no choice.

If she’s going to understand who I am and why I did what I did, she needs to know everything. She deserves to know the whole story from the beginning.

She knows my dad died before I had my first girlfriend. But she needs to know that he never got the chance to sit me down and teach me how a woman should be treated. How I learned the basics of love from the poor father figures my mother latched onto in the throes of her grief.

She needs to know that the one thing I learned on my own is there’s a fine line between love and hate. Even love can sometimes feel like an act of violence. It’s not just the intent that matters. Though my intentions with Colette have always been pure, my actions—and inaction—have often spoken louder.

Looking back, I’m certain I’ve loved her since the day we met. Despite my distractions that day, Colette made me feel like we were the only two people who existed. She made falling in love feel like it could really be that easy.

But everything changed after that night. Suddenly, we were the only two people who existed in our mutual universe of pain. I knew she was the only one who could ease my suffering. I never thought I’d become the only person who could soothe hers.

I wish telling Colette the truth didn’t come with the risk of losing her. I want someone to promise me everything will stay the same after I come clean. That when I wake up tomorrow, I’ll be holding Colette in my arms.

But there are no guarantees in love; especially not the kind of love we share.

I hate myself for the pain I’ve caused her. But if I don’t tell her everything, she may never know how agreeing to stay with her that night destroyed me. And she deserves to know.

As I pull my truck in front of the two-story brick house where I grew up, the silence in the truck is crushingly heavy. It won’t stay that way for long. Because tonight, I’m telling Colette the true story of how our love began. I just hope to fucking God this isn’t how it ends.

 

 

1

 

 

A Lesson

 

 

I shouldn’t have downed that second dirty martini in one gulp. I drew too much attention to myself. The bartender hesitated when I ordered martini number three. He’s glanced at me with those mesmerizing moss-green eyes at least four times while making my cocktail.

Here he comes.

“Where’s my drink?”

He leaves the martini he just prepared on the back bar and approaches me. A smile spreads across his handsome face, and not a single wrinkle appears at the corners of his eyes. Though he carries himself with the confidence of an older man, he’s young for a bartender; can’t be more than twenty-five. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking, considering tomorrow’s my twenty-second birthday.

“You’re throwing ’em back pretty swiftly. We have a three-drinks-per-hour limit.”

I stare at him for a moment as my face starts to go numb. “Are you kidding me? I’ve only had two drinks. You can’t cut me off at two drinks!”

He tilts his head, unamused by my outburst. “I’m not cutting you off. Just giving you a minute to catch your breath. Can I ask you a question?”

“No, but you can tell me where the nearest bar is. Preferably one within walking distance that doesn’t employ sanctimonious bartenders.”

He laughs heartily, and—God help me—it’s such a gorgeous sight. It’s an open-mouthed, throw-your-head-back kind of laugh, the generous kind that fills a room and simultaneously fills your heart with joy. If you have space in your heart for that sort of stuff.

The deep resonance sends a chill coursing through me, raising the hairs on my arms, but in a different way than the antiseptic smell of a hospital corridor or a two a.m. knock on my bedroom door.

“Okay, I’ll give you the drink—on the house, even—if you answer one question.” He’s still smiling, completely oblivious to the dark place my mind has wandered off to. “Why do you drink something you hate? Is it a form of self-punishment?”

I stare at him in confusion. “That’s two questions. Two pretty rude questions, at that. What makes you think I hate dirty martinis?”

“Could be bartender wisdom. Or the look of intense disgust on your face every time you take a sip. Or the way you gulp it down instead of sipping it.”

I glare at him. “So, you’re sanctimonious and a smart-ass?”

“I aim to please,” he says, flashing me dangerously sexy grin. “Let me make you a drink you’ll actually like. On the house, of course.”

For the first time in weeks, I have to suppress a smile, but the feeling quickly recedes as guilt sets in again.

“I won’t say no to free liquor.”

Not today.

He smiles at my response as he sets off to create my perfect cocktail.

As I watch him, my phone buzzes in the pocket of my jean shorts. Pulling it out, my chest aches when I glimpse the identity of the caller. I don’t want to answer, but today is not a good day to start ignoring my mom’s calls.

“Yeah.”

“Where are you? We thought you were going back to the house, but no one’s answering the landline.”

My mom’s voice is hoarse from the howling cries she expelled less than an hour ago at my sister’s bedside. It’s a memory that will be burned in my mind for the rest of my life. One of the many memories I hope to erase with a little help from my new bartender friend.

“I’m just getting something to eat,” I lie, hoping she can’t hear the guy who just sat down a few barstools away from me as he barks his beer order.

“Are you okay?” she asks, her voice wavering as she probably remembers how not-okay her other daughter is.

I sit up a bit straighter, as if this will disguise how tipsy I sound on the phone.

“I’m not going to do anything stupid. I just need to be alone right now.”

She’s silent for a while as she contemplates whether I’m telling the truth. Or maybe she’s wondering if she can even set aside her own pain to be what I need her to be right now.

“She’s okay,” she mutters to my father as she seems to decide I’ll be fine without her. “Will you be coming home tonight?”

I consider whether I should go back to our house in Duvall—a forty-minute drive from the hospital—or if I should stay at my parents’ second home. Their Laurelhurst apartment is a fifteen-minute walk from here. Obviously, I can’t drive if I’ve been drinking. But the idea of spending an entire night with my two grieving parents sounds as appealing as tearing out my own fingernails.

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