Fire Inside: A Chaos Novel

Fire Inside: A Chaos Novel by Kristen Ashley Read Free Book Online

Book: Fire Inside: A Chaos Novel by Kristen Ashley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Kristen Ashley
Tags: Chaos 2
didn’t want to know she was sitting alone in the big house on all that land in that exclusive estate where I grew up, close to the country club, every single resident a snob.
    I didn’t want to know she was alone because Dad was either working or on a business trip.
    I didn’t want to know these were his ready and oft-used excuses, otherwise known as flat-out lies, for leaving Mom alone for a night, a weekend, a very long weekend and all of this so he could be with his mistress of thirty years.
    I’d seen him with her more than once. He wasn’t careful. He was arrogant. He kept up the pretense of the secret even knowing it wasn’t a secret and hadn’t been for decades. He even gave Mom filthy looks when she was drinking even though she was drinking because the love of her life had two loves of his and he expected her to share though he’d never asked if she would. So she’d made the decision to do so because he was the love of her life but also because, without him, there would be no big house close to the country club and she wouldn’t be getting slaughtered on forty dollar bottles of wine and top-shelf martinis.
    “Mom, how about you call me tomorrow? We’ll talk then. Now, I really have to get some sleep.”
    This got me nothing and I knew what that meant. She was pouting. When I was a kid, I wondered if Dad wouldn’t have found another woman if Mom hadn’t acted like a spoiled brat. It was only later, when I grew up, that I knew it didn’t matter if she pouted or was spoiled. You didn’t do that to someone you loved.
    Not
ever.
    Elliott would never have cheated on me. Other boyfriends had and it hurt. No, it
killed.
    Elliott did not, would not. He didn’t even glance at other women when we were out.
    For Elliott, it was only me, and if I’d had him for the lifetime I was meant to have him, I would have lived that lifetime knowing, without a doubt, it would always
only
be me.
    “Okay, baby girl,” Mom slurred, bringing my thoughts back to her. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
    She didn’t sound disappointed, she sounded crushed. She was hurting. She was lonely. She was wondering, as she had been for decades, where she’d gone wrong.
    So, of course, I felt daughterly guilt. I should be there for her.
    I just couldn’t help. I’d tried. I’d failed. Taking these phone calls. Having gentle discussions trying to bring her around to talking about what she was drowning in booze, discussions she always firmly veered in another direction. Sensitive talks about how she might want to lay off the wine a bit, more talks she firmly took in another direction.
    Years of it.
    I had nothing left to give.
    Still, I tried again, “We’ll have a long chat, Mom. Promise.”
    “Okay, baby,” she whispered.
    “Love you, Mom, to the moon and stars and beyond,” I whispered back what I’d whispered to her since I could remember, since I was little and she tucked me in my pink bed with my pink sheets and pink, filmy canopy, my stuffed unicorns all around.
    “Love you, Lanie, to the moon and the stars and beyond,” she replied quietly the words she’d taught me to say.
    “ ’Bye, Mom.”
    “ ’Bye, baby girl.”
    I sighed, hit the off button. Then, with my fingers curled around my phone, I put my forehead to my knees.
    My life
stunk.
    Every bit of it.
    Therefore, I started crying and did it like I did just about everything. I let it all hang out and thus, got lost in it.
    This meant, when a hand curled warm and tight around the back of my neck and I heard Hop mutter, “Jesus, baby, what the fuck?” I jumped a foot, screamed a little bit as my head flew up.
    He was crouched in front of me, staring at me with his usual intensity but there was more, a lot more, and all of that was about concern.
    When my head came up, his hand didn’t move. It tightened.
    Warm.
    Warm and sweet.
    Do… not… process, Lanie!
    I stared at him.
    Then I blurted, “What are you doing here?”
    “Wallet fell out of my jeans,” he

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