Written for the Fandom for Tsunami Compilation

Thanks to our wonderful beta Coachlady1, we love you!

For those of you who follow Down at the Lone Star, this outtake takes place before Edward and Bella meet each other. It will give you a little insight to their past. It's not the type of story you are used to seeing from us. We're going to a darker place than normal at times, with themes that may be upsetting to some.

Come, join us.

Bella

"Jake." I say his name over and over only to try to drown out the sound of his grunts and the creaking of his bed as he thrusts into me. I feel numb. It's been like this for a while now. I've been this way for a while. Just numb.

"Lift your leg higher, Bella. It's like I'm fucking a corpse."

So I do, because right now I'm incapable of actually making any decisions myself. If I'm being honest, the numbness started long before the day my life came crashing down. Before I heard the words, "He's gone."

Growing up the daughter of a police officer, there is always the possibility that someone is going to come to the door to break the news that your father has died in the line of duty.

"That's it. See? That feels so good, fuck…"

But Charlie didn't die in the line of duty. He died doing what he loved best: fishing with his best friend. And I wasn't told by one of the police officers, it was Jake who told me. He wrapped me in the warmth of his muscular arms and held me because, being my boyfriend and everything, that's what he was supposed to do. I should have felt comforted, but I didn't feel anything. I hadn't been feeling anything for Jake for months.

His massive hand roughly palms my breast, before his lips attach to it and he sucks the nipple into his mouth. He makes a slurping sound that causes me to shudder, and not in a good way.

He thinks it's turning me on, so he sucks harder. I turn my head to look at the digital clock beside the bed. It should be over soon.

It's not that there's anything wrong with Jake. I do love him in my own way. He laughs all the time, usually at some ridiculous thing I've done, and everybody says we're great together. But Jake doesn't really want to understand me. He's never even tried. Sometimes I wonder if he really cares about me at all, or if he's just with me because it's convenient. You know, it's a comfortable routine we have and sometimes that's hard to break.

"Fuck, yeah. This would feel so much better if you'd get waxed, again. It's been a couple of weeks. Right there…" He hitches my leg higher, his fingers digging into my flesh to the point where it's almost painful, and I welcome it. It's a sign I'm still alive, that I actually am capable of feeling something.

Our relationship now is entirely one-sided and based on what he wants. It didn't start out that way. During the first couple of years I was in college, our relationship was perfect. Charlie was beyond ecstatic that we were dating, and Billy welcomed me with open arms.

He was always showing up outside my classes to surprise me, whisking me off to some secluded spot where we would fuck like you do when you can't get enough of each other.

"You love my cock, don't you?" I moan a response, biting down on my lip to keep from telling him the truth. I used to. I used to love it a lot. Now, I could take it or leave it. How sad is that?

I've actually faked headaches to get out of having sex. I shouldn't be a therapist. I need to be seeing one myself.

Somewhere between last summer and the start of my final year, things between us started to change. He didn't come to surprise me after classes anymore. He spent most of his free time with Sam as they started their construction business, which is currently thriving.

I missed him, and the one time I came to surprise him at the construction site, he yelled at me and told me I was distracting him. I went home and cried myself to sleep. It was the first of many nights I would.

From there, things spiraled downward. We never really fought; we just stopped talking. I think that's where my passion to try to dissect relationships comes from. I think screaming at each other would actually be therapeutic for us. I think silence is quite effective at driving a wedge between people.

That's what happened in the months before Charlie died. The silence between us grew, and we drifted farther and farther apart. Jake was exhausted after work, and I needed to study. So, when I wouldn't drop everything on the rare occasions he came over to visit, he would fall asleep on my bed while I studied at the tiny wooden desk in the corner of my room. I would curl up beside him when I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore and pass out from exhaustion, praying that when I woke up, he'd be back to the Jake I fell in love with. But he never was.

"I could fuck you all day." I highly doubt that. You'll be done in three minutes, or maybe it's two, now.

My mind is wandering.

There are other things that have served to get us to where we are right now. He calls my goal of wanting to become a therapist "ridiculous."

"People don't want to talk about their feelings," he says frequently, adding, "and anyone who thinks they do, is just stupid."

I guess I'm lumped into that category—the stupid category.

He reaches down between us, his fingers finding my clit. I'm shocked at the involuntary reaction my body has. That actually felt good. I arch toward him. He pounds into me harder.

Jake isn't a bad person. He took me in after Charlie died, when it became apparent that I couldn't really function. For that, I'll always be grateful. I was unable to make a single decision regarding the funeral. Jake and Billy handled all the arrangements, including selling the house. I never even got to go through Charlie's things or to keep anything from my childhood. All I have of him now is memories.

I know that technically speaking for the first few weeks after Charlie's death, I was in shock. I wasn't able to deal with my feelings, and I had no one to talk to. I only had Jake and Billy—both of whom were company, but who wanted nothing more than to watch television in peace.

I didn't want to complain. I didn't want to be a burden to them. They helped me when I didn't have anyone, and I guess I feel that I owe it to them not to be a bother. I highly doubt either one of them would really listen, anyway.

He breathes into my ear. I hate it when he does that. I automatically turn my head and he thinks that means I want him to put his tongue in my ear. It's kind of disgusting, but I don't complain.

It's almost over and I may actually have an orgasm this time.

Even though I know I'm still not dealing with Charlie's death the way I should, at least I'm not alone. Two voices hollering orders at me for more beer and refills on snacks is better than my sitting with my knees curled up, slouched against the kitchen cupboards, staring into space.

That's how I was when Jake found me the day after Charlie died.

He told everyone he was worried about me. He seemed like the only one who was. Everyone else thought I'd be strong just like Charlie was. Stoic, never complaining, never letting on that anything was wrong. Charlie was that way from the day my mom left—a carefully constructed facade for the outside world, while on the inside, he suffered in silence.

Mom's leaving was devastating for him, a fact he would never admit. His entire world crashed down and he was left to deal with the raging hormones that accompany an impressionable sixteen-year-old girl.

Mom didn't come to the funeral. She sent a small bouquet of white carnations and a card that said, "I'm sorry." She never even called me to see how I was doing. I've learned that when it comes to my mother, to keep my expectations low and I won't be disappointed.

"I'm cumming, baby." No shit, Sherlock.

Charlie, on the other hand, I could always count on. He was a quiet man. I did all of the talking, with the occasional head nod from him thrown in just so I knew he was listening. He taught me how to drive and how to fish. The look of pride on his face when I got accepted into the

Psychology Program is something I'll always remember. He hugged me and then took me for steak and cobbler to celebrate. He nodded and smiled, enjoying his meal, happy to be listening as I nattered on endlessly about the Program.

That's something that has changed since I moved in with Jake. He says I talk too much. So I've stopped talking any more than I have to, and I think he likes it that way.

Except now, when he's fucking me.

Now he wants to hear me, and I say his name more for me than for him. Maybe this time, if I say it loudly enough, I'll feel something again, something other than what I've been reduced to.

I'm a textbook case, something that should be studied and analyzed. What happened to me? I feel like I'm drowning and there's no one to pull me back to the surface.

When Jake and I started dating, I had a plan. I was going to finish my psych degree and start my thesis, with a goal to go into couples counseling. Ironic, isn't it? That the person who wants to helps other people with their relationships has a fucked up one of her own?

"Come on, Bella, let me hear you," he says, thrusting harder. So I let him hear me. It will be over faster this way. I've stopped getting much out of sex. It lasts all of about five minutes, if I happen to be lucky. Gone is the foreplay, the innuendo that used to drive us mad, the way he used to make me feel—it's all gone.

Replaced by this: grunt-thrust-grunt-fuck-grunt.

At least he's consistent.

He practically collapses on top of me, his massive arms flopping on either side of my body. I'm crushed into the mattress, pinned under him. It's hard to breathe. He doesn't care.

"We need to do this more often," he remarks, abruptly rolling off me and waltzing out the door toward the bathroom.

I hear the sound of the metal hooks on the shower curtain being pulled back then the turn of the faucet. I register the water starting to pound down on the ceramic tub. I need to clean it tomorrow. I throw my arm over my eyes and try to will a feeling… anything at all will do at this point. But there's nothing.

"Bells?" Jake's voice drifts from the bathroom to me as he takes a piss in the toilet. He didn't even bother closing the door.

"Yeah?"

"Can you pick up some Irish Spring at the store? I hate that girly shit soap you buy."

DATLS

With Jake's messy grocery list in my hand, I wander the aisles in Thriftway aimlessly, trying to make the task last as long as possible. I can feel everything I've worked for slipping away from me. I feel lost, trapped, like I'm never going to get past this gaping hole in my chest.

I abandon the cart, his mega pack of Irish Spring, and the t-bone steaks he requested, bolting for the door, while my heart races.

For the first time in weeks, I'm deciding where to go. I'm calling the shots. It feels good to have a plan that hasn't been given to me on a sheet paper ripped out of the pad by the phone.

The windshield wipers on the truck provide a slow, methodic rhythm as the rain pounds down. Of course it's raining. I suppose that's fitting. Charlie never minded the rain, or if he did, he never talked about it.

I pull to a stop, not bothering to shut the door to the truck. I yank my faded yellow hood on my jacket up over my head. That's one thing Charlie wasn't shy about voicing his opinion on.

"Make sure you take a coat, Bells. I don't want you getting sick in the rain."

My shoes sink into the mud, my socks immediately getting soaked as I trudge down the path. I don't bother avoiding the puddles. The rain mixes with my tears and I don't know where one stops and the other begins.

The tombstones blur in front of me. White, black, varying shades of gray, holding the names of loves lost, dates of their births and deaths, the dashes between them signifying everything that matters.

His is at the end of one of the rows. I sink to my knees beside it. The grass is just starting to grow over the mound of dirt he lays beneath. I flex my fingers into it trying to feel something, my forehead resting on the gray stone.

My fingers trace the engraved letters. Three simple lines.

Charlie Swan

Beloved father and friend

Never to be forgotten

"I won't forget, Daddy." I sniff back the tears. "I promise."

The rain continues, unrelenting as I shift to sit down. I bring my knees into my chest, ignoring the fact that I'm drenched and freezing.

"The Mariner's actually won a game. You would have loved it. Jake says they might have a shot this year." I huff a laugh, shaking my head. "That's all he really talks about." I rest my chin on my knees, staring at the patchy grass. "I wish you were here," I whisper.

I stay with him until night falls and the chilled state of my body forces me to leave. He wouldn't want me to sit out here all night freezing.

I don't remember driving back to Jake's place. I feel like I'm on autopilot, just going through the motions.

"Where the fuck have you been?" Jake barks at me from his standard spot—the aging recliner in the living room. I'm sure his ass will eventually wear a hole in the spot it sits in ninety percent of the time when he's home. "You're soaking wet. Did the truck finally bite the dust?" He turns back to the TV.

Apparently, it's more interesting than me.

"I went to visit Dad." I blow on my hands after hanging my soaked jacket up on the hook beside the door.

He looks outside and then glances back to me, scowling slightly while the rain drips off my hair and onto the floor. "That wasn't the smartest thing you've ever done. What's for dinner? Dad's out for the night, so it's just us."

That's it? No asking about how I am after spending the better part of the day at Charlie's grave?

No offering to get me a towel or run me a hot bath. You're not even going to get off your ass and give me a hug or ask me how I am?

But instead of confronting him, like I know I should, I wander into the kitchen, and with frozen hands, I set to task on dinner.

DATLS

I'm in bed facing away from the door, willing sleep to come. I wanted to try to talk to Jake tonight, but that plan came to an abrupt end thanks to Sam and his last minute idea to hit the bars in Port Angeles.

Jake went willingly, of course, and I didn't even bother to try to stop him. I know that this relationship is on shaky ground. I know I can't avoid having a conversation about what we're doing for much longer. I also know it's something neither one of us wants to get into.

The truth is, without Jake, I don't have anyone. Another frightening truth? Even though I'm technically with Jake, I don't think I've ever felt more alone. I fight back the tears I can feel threatening. I've cried enough today already.

I tuck under the sheets and shut my eyes, telling myself that tomorrow will be different.

Tomorrow I'll talk to him and try to figure this out. Tomorrow I won't cry. Tomorrow I can try to start over.

I'm jarred from my restless sleep by the slamming of the front door. I can hear his drunken laughter, keys falling to the floor, a thud, followed by a loud "Ow!"

I hear him stumble his way into the bathroom, lifting the toilet seat and pissing, probably not even hitting the bowl in the process.

I shut my eyes tighter, hearing the creak of the hardwood and the clank of his belt buckle as his jeans hit the floor.

I smell whiskey on his breath as his lips find my ear and his hand slides down my back to cup my ass. I can feel him hard and wanting against me.

He lowers my sleep shorts, kissing my neck, his fingers sliding back up my thigh, slipping between my folds.

"You're always sooo ready for me, baby," he slurs, his fingers starting their typical pattern as his hips flex toward me.

I turn my head and his lips find mine. He thrusts his tongue into my mouth. He's had an awful lot to drink. The taste is still fresh in his mouth, spicy and strong. I kiss him back while his fingers continue to pump into me.

I feel a faint tingle, something reminding me that I'm actually still alive. He wants to fuck and I want to feel something other than numb. Maybe this time I will.

DATLS

Edward

I take a minute to sit down and catch my fucking breath. We were a few months into the grand opening of my newest creation, The Lone Star. Six months ago, I finally finished my business degree program at the University of Jacksonville and was ready to put my talents out there.

Most of the graduating class moved forward to vie over the top position in an advertising firm, or compete to become the vice president in some company that would end up going under in the next ten to fifteen years.

I, Edward Cullen, opened a restaurant with the closest people in my life. The love of food is not something that can go belly-up in the near future. With my eccentric sister Alice and her ability to plan and organize, and my brother Emmett who loves people and can make anyone happy with a flash of his inherited dimples, I knew there was no stopping us.

The Lone Star has taken careful planning, and whole lot of sweat and tears, but in the end, I just know that it will be worth it.

The stability that I'll be able to provide for Kate, my girlfriend, my whole reason for existence, is one of the main reasons I'm spending twelve hours a fucking day at this restaurant. I need to secure this business then I can ask Kate to become my wife.

Kate and I met at school. I can't help but grin like a fool just thinking about the way she approached me in The Cave.

The Cave is a common area at the college, a place to unwind after your asshole professors shit on your assignments and make your life a living hell. Apparently, my statistical data on the probability that a failing business can recover was not accurate.

While I stewed in the corner of The Cave, a flash from across the room caught my attention. There, standing across the room, was a beautiful woman, blonde, big blue eyes, and a rack that had my dick standing at attention. She was a vision with a coy smirk on her face.

I quirked a brow at her, silently questioning.

That was the day I began the rest of my life. My heart swells as I think of her. My family loved her from the instant they met her. My mother, Esme, was ecstatic. Finally, a woman that was good enough for her baby boy. My eyes roll at the thought of her words.

I glance up at the clock and realize that I only have another hour before I can head home to Kate. I'm tired as fuck and would love to just crawl into bed and sleep away the rest of my existence, but the love of my life is waiting for me at home.

DATLS

The sun has set by the time I make my way home. As I drive, I think of the plan I've been formulating for a while that will take our relationship to the next level. I want to give Kate everything I have to offer and then some.

I can picture us, living happily in the home my grandparents left to me in their will, in love, married, and hopefully with a kid or two. I want this life and I want it with her.

I pull my Volvo into the driveway and take a deep breath of the crisp ocean air as I shut the door and make my way up the walk.

"Babe?" I call out to Kate as I kick off my shoes. "Katie, I'm home."

I walk into living room. The lights are out and the television is on, leaving a light glow across the room. There curled up on the couch, is Kate, fast asleep. Her perky ass is peeking out from under her tiny sleep shorts and my dick is instantly hard and in need.

I walk up to the couch and kneel down next to her. Gently, I push the stray hair off her face and kiss along her jaw, down to her neck. She moans in her sleep and her eyes flutter open.

"Hi, baby," I whisper as I nibble on her ear. "Wanna shower with me?"

Kate rolls over onto her back as she rubs the sleep from her eyes. "I already showered, Edward. It's late. I'm just going to head up to bed."

"I missed you today," I tell her.

"I miss you every day," she says with a huff and jumps off the couch. As she reaches the stairs, she turns to look at me. "I'll see you… when I see you, good night."

I watch her walk up the stairs, not taking my eyes off her until she reaches the top. I feel like such an asshole, but she has to know that I'm doing this for her, for us. When I hear the bedroom door close, I get up, turn off the television, and head to the bathroom.

The hot water runs over my body, taking the day's worth of stress with it. I know I've been putting my all into the restaurant, but the insanity that I'm enduring is only temporary. The payoff in the end will be worth it.

Still, I feel guilty for my endless hours of work. If I work my ass off for the rest of the week, I'm sure I can pull off an evening alone with Kate, a date night. I can take her out for dinner, just the two of us then a walk along the beach, down to our spot, where we used to go and make out like teenagers.

The very thought of touching Kate invades my mind and my cock hardens at the images of her under me, moaning and whispering how good I feel. Instinct takes over as I grip my dick and slowly stroke my hand over it.

Fuck. That feels good.

My knees want to buckle just from the sensation. I lean back against the tile of the shower and work my hand over and over.

Stroke, pump, twist, repeat.

I picture Kate's round ass up in the air, taking all of me inside her. I squeeze my hand a bit tighter and imagine the way her pussy feels as it contracts around my cock.

Oh, fuck, yeah.

My dick explodes in my hand as I brace the shower wall in front of me. It's like I'm sixteen years old or something. It's always been this way where she's concerned.

I shut off the shower, not wanting to waste any more time in here when she's already in bed, hopefully awake and waiting. I towel off quickly, pulling on a fresh pair of boxers. I lift back the covers on my side of the bed and crawl in. The cool sheets are a warm welcome to my exhausted body.

Turning over, I reach for Kate who has her back to me and is facing the wall. I run my hand over her hip and up over the side of her ribs, her tank rising ever so slightly. What happened to our naked nights, as we called them? We used to crawl into bed naked and make love slowly, always waking up hours later in the dark of night to fuck like animals.

I miss that.

I try to pull her body close to mine, but she huffs and pulls away. "Just go to sleep, Edward," she mumbles.

"Good night, babe." I can hear the rejection raw in my voice. "I love you."

I may as well be talking to myself because she doesn't respond.

DATLS

The weeks fly by as The Lone Star gains a new reputation as a new hotspot in Jacksonville. College students who come in to grab a bite to eat become regulars, and the football team devours our dinner specials like animals. Word gets out and our customers double in the span of two weeks. We are definitely in business now; the numbers speak for it.

The bar in the restaurant is always packed. Sometimes, it's so busy that I have to step in and serve the groups of freshman college girls that come in by the flocks. I can't tell you the number of times I've had to get Emmett to save my ass from the sex-driven females that try to get me drunk while they're here.

Not going to happen.

I would never cheat on Kate. That's not my style.

Kate has been more patient with me as of late. She no longer bitches about my long hours, and she goes out with her friends to pass the time when I'm not at home. She needs that for now since I can't be with her as much as I'd like. She's happy again, radiating with life and smiling all the time.

Earlier today, Jasper and I snuck out after the lunch crowd died down and took a quick drive over to Underwood's, a jeweler in downtown Jacksonville. I already know that I want to marry Kate; I just need the perfect ring for my perfect woman.

Jasper and I looked at dozens of rings in the showcases. I was about to lose hope of finding the perfect one when it caught my eye. There, nestled among other creations made by the jeweler himself, was what I was searching for.

It was platinum and held eight diamonds. It was part of the Hearts on Fire collection. Eight heart diamonds, in my mind symbolizing eight on its side, the symbol of infinity. I had it boxed and paid for before the afternoon crowd at the restaurant was due.

I had called her earlier, telling her not to wait up, and then decided to duck out of work early and surprise her by being home hours before she would expect me. I just couldn't wait anymore.

Jasper patted me on the back as I left, his way of wishing me luck.

This was it. Tonight I would ask Kate to marry me.

DATLS

As I drive home, I laugh at myself for being nervous as fuck. The knots in my stomach are becoming fucking unbearable. I pull up to the house, noticing that Garrett's gas-guzzling expensive truck is in the driveway. Garrett was my best friend from college; we met on the first day, both of us business majors. I haven't seen him in a few months, but he now runs his grandfather's company, some important CEO big shot.

I tuck the velvet box into my inside jacket pocket and attempt to open the door.

It's locked.

I fish out my keys and unlock the door. I don't really think twice about the door being locked in the middle of the day while we have company over, but a dark feeling deep inside gnaws, questioning what the fuck is going on.

"Kate?"

I shut the door, peering inside to the empty living room.

"Garrett?"

I kick off my shoes and hear banging coming from the top of the stairs. I don't hesitate to make my way up, listening to the distinct noises coming from my bedroom as I reach the top. I know what I hear, but I don't want to believe it.

I can't.

Just as I reach the door to the master bedroom, I hear my girlfriend, my everything, screaming the way she used to with me.

"Oh fuck, Garrett, you feel so fucking good," she moans.

"Better than him?" Garrett grunts.

The sound of skin slapping together vibrates throughout my house. I think I'm going to vomit.

"Oh, God, yeah, you're it for me, baby… fuck me harder."

I can feel the sting of tears before the rage consumes me. My hands ball into fists and I shake my head, hoping, praying that this is a nightmare. I'm going to wake up and she'll be beside me, warm and inviting and right where she should be.

"Mmmm, Kate, you look so sexy riding my dick," Garrett moans.

"I love you. I'm gonna cum," Kate wails, as the headboard to my fucking bed slams harder against the wall.

I burst through the door, not even flinching when it vibrates off the wall.

Garrett looks up and sees me standing in the doorway. "Oh fuck," he mutters.

Kate whips her head around, and her mouth drops wide open. "Ed… Edward…" I watch her jump off him and attempt to wrap the sheet around her naked body, looking back and forth between the two of us.

"Listen, Eddie, I know what this looks like, but…" Garrett starts, scrambling off the bed.

"Shut the fuck up, get dressed, and get the fuck out of my house." I can't even recognize the sound of my voice.

"Edward…" Kate's hitched voice trails as I glare at her.

"Kate, you do not get to speak to me, pack your shit and get the fuck out, too!" I yell at her.

She opens her mouth to say something, but I cut her off. "Now!" I bellow.

Garrett wisely has his jeans on and is buttoning them up. I grab him by the shoulders and haul his ass out into the hallway. "I could fucking kill you." He struggles against my grasp at the top of the stairs. "Why her?" My voice is shaking. It's like I've left my body and I'm watching this sick scene unfold in front of me.

I don't give him a chance to answer as my fist lands squarely in the middle of his jaw. He stumbles down the first few stairs and as he rights himself, he turns to look at me. "She came to me, man. You obviously weren't doing something right." I stay rooted to my spot at the top of the stairs, watching as he walks out the door.

I run my hands through my hair, gripping at the ends. When I look back to the bedroom, Kate is still standing in the same spot near the bed.

"Your fucking legs didn't look broken a minute ago. Get your stuff and get the fuck out."

"I never meant to hurt you, Edward. It wasn't supposed to be this way," she tries to explain, choking back sobs.

DATLS

I have no fucking clue how long I've been sitting here alone in the dark, with a bottle of Southern Comfort dangling from my hand. I don't feel any fucking comfort at the moment. I'm mad as hell. I want to destroy things. I want to hurt anybody who fucking crosses my path and make them see how I feel on the inside.

With the hand that isn't gripping the bottle, I hold the velvet box that I bought today, or yesterday, or was it earlier this week? Who fucking knows? I have no clue what day it is, nor do I care.

I flip the box open and shut, open and shut… It's the only sound in the house besides the big, old clock in the room.

I left Rose a voicemail after Kate left. If anyone can handle things at The Lone Star, it's her. I didn't go into details. I just told her that I couldn't make it back in for a few days and to keep things running.

Kate didn't leave easily. She wanted to explain. I didn't give a shit. I threw a bunch of her clothes and other stuff out the door, slamming it behind her.

I think she's been trying to call; someone has, anyway. I put that to an end by smashing my phone against the living room wall.

I take another pull from the bottle and when I realize that it's gone, along with my future, I throw it against the wall, too.

It shatters.

Like my heart.

I can't go back into my bedroom, not after what I witnessed in there.

I rub my face, trying to ease the pain, but it doesn't help. Where did I go wrong?

Garrett's words replay in my head over and over: "You obviously weren't doing something right."

I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to erase the images, the words, and the hurt. One thing's for sure, I'll never put myself in a relationship ever again.

I will fuck if I want to fuck, but nothing more. No woman will ever put me through this again.

I look down at the velvet box still in the palm of my hand. I open it one last time and send it flying against the wall with the rest of the shit. I don't feel any better, but I don't feel any worse.

I'm just numb.

I stumble to the kitchen, searching out another bottle. I don't give a shit what it is. I blindly reach into the cupboard where I keep the liquor, pulling out a bottle of Jameson's, knocking over several other bottles in the process. I drink straight from it, relishing the burn in my throat. It's simple and easy, and that's what I need right now.

Loving Kate became complicated, and the last thing I need in my life is a complication. I put the bottle to my lips and take another pull, waiting for the burn to take me under.