Scorched (Frigid 2) - Page 53

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My shoulders rose with a deep sigh. Last night had been such a disaster. I hadn’t planned on drinking as much as I had, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know why I’d done it. After what happened between Tanner and me, I’d been a nervous wreck, especially after Kyler and Syd had returned. Besides being thoroughly confused, everything had changed between us. I could no longer be around him and see him just as a friend. Now I was conscious of every little thing I did or said in front of him, and looking back, I knew I had let my head make more of a deal out of his behavior Thursday night than it should have and I had started drinking yesterday so I could relax. That had been the plan, but like Tanner had said, I hadn’t stopped.

I never stopped at one or two drinks, because I didn’t know how.

Closing my eyes, I let myself sink into the cushion as I sipped the tea. A huge part of me wanted to shout at the top of my lungs that I didn’t have a problem. I wasn’t the dreaded A-word. I knew what an alcoholic looked like.

An image of my father formed in my thoughts.

For many, many years, he’d hidden the truth from his colleagues, but not from us. Every moment he was home, he drank. Didn’t matter if it was my birthday or Brody’s. Or Thanksgiving or Christmas. So many special moments he’d missed, passed out on the deck or in his bedroom. Ten years ago, when Mom had threatened to leave him, he’d sobered up, started going to AA meetings and all that jazz. It had been a rough start and he’d had to take a sabbatical from his practice, but he’d made it through.

I wasn’t like my dad.

I didn’t drink every day, but…as I drew in another shaky breath, I opened my eyes. I wasn’t stupid. Alcoholism didn’t mean someone drank all the time, but I didn’t have that problem. No way. I would not slip down that rabbit hole, especially after seeing what it had done to my family. I wasn’t that weak.

Maybe I did drink too much on occasion. Okay. I totally did that. And maybe very few people who knew me in real life actually took me seriously because of it. And maybe… God, I was a mess with or without a drink sometimes.

A lot of times.

Sipping the tea, I let my gaze wander over the tall pines surrounding the backyard. What in the world was I going to do about Tanner? Just the thought of him caused my chest to clench. He thought I was a mess.

That…that had hurt. Still tore through me, because I was a mess. I’d proved that last night, hadn’t I?

Blinking back the sudden rush of tears, I gave a little shake of my head. I felt like I’d disappointed him somehow. Like I had let down my parents when I’d told them I no longer wanted to go to med school. Like I’d disappointed Sydney when she had kindly suggested that I talk to someone when she discovered I had anxiety attacks and I’d told her that I didn’t need to talk to anyone.

But worse yet, I was disappointed in myself, and I couldn’t go back and change anything.

The last couple of times that I’d had that feeling of being overwhelmed and out of control, I’d been able to stop it before I’d needed meds. It had been well over a year and then some since I’d actually had one. If I hadn’t been so drunk, I knew I would’ve been able to stop it. I just knew it.

The sliding glass door opened and I looked over, my heart lodging in my throat when I saw that it was Tanner. Sleep clung to his eyes. The shadow of growth along his jaw gave him a rough, sexy appearance. Normally, he was so clean-shaven. He only had on a pair of flannel bottoms as he stopped in the middle of the deck, raising a hand and idly rubbing his palm against the center of his chest.

I was struck mute, partly embarrassed about last night, and his disheveled look was really just too damn attractive for this early in the morning. When I rolled out of bed, I looked like a redheaded Chewbacca.

“Hey,” he said, his voice gruff as he lowered his arm. “You’re up early.”

I nodded, clutching my tea to my chest. “I…I got a lot of sleep last night.”

He nodded slowly, and when he didn’t respond, the silence stretched out between us until it became so awkward that my cheeks started to burn. I was about to get up and flee, which probably also included shoving my head under a blanket, when Tanner cleared his throat.

“Mind if I sit?” He jerked his chin at the space at the end of the lounge chair I sat on.

Pressing my lips together, I shook my head. Quiet, I watched him sit down, resting his arms on his bent knees. I knew we were going to have a talk after last night, but I’d really hoped it wouldn’t be this soon, because I had no idea what to really think about everything and I felt like I needed a hard drink to fortify myself for this conversation.

Well, that wasn’t the right thought to have, all things considered.

He angled his head toward me and his troubled gaze met mine. My stomach dipped as his shoulders tensed. “About last night,” he started, voice low. “I want you to know that… what you went through? The anxiety attack? I wish I’d known you had those.”

And I wished he’d never found out.

“I would’ve liked to have been able to help you through it, but I want you to know that I don’t think anything… weird about it. That I don’t think any differently about you because of it.”

Only a very little part of me believed that to be true.

“I want to get back to all of that. I want to learn more about it,” he continued. “But, first, I need to tell you this. I shouldn’t have said what I did, the way I said it.”

Tags: Jennifer L. Armentrout Frigid Romance