Home > Trusted & True (Men of Haven #7)

Trusted & True (Men of Haven #7)
Author: Rhenna Morgan


Chapter One


   “Hi, my name’s Callie, and I’m an alcoholic and drug addict.” Off and on for over six years, those exact words had rolled off my tongue countless times. Today, the quaver in my voice made it sound like it was day one.

   The people seated in the circle around me echoed back a strong and friendly, “Hi, Callie.”

   And then there was nothing but silence.

   Silence and a host of patient expressions aimed my way while I clasped my sweat-slick, shaking hands a little tighter in my lap. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t recognize a single face in the room. None, that is, except my sponsor who’d helped me move over the weekend and now sat on my right.

   I cleared my throat before I spoke—not that it did much in the way of adding confidence. “So... I’m new to the Dallas area.”

   Nope, not really true. Try again, missy.

   Shrugging, I let out an exhale on a self-deprecating chuckle. “Okay, returned is probably more like it. I left here a little over six years ago for Louisiana. It was either go to treatment there, or pay for my drinking and drugging with a bullet to the head.”

   I glanced at my sponsor, Maggie, beside me.

   Damn, but that woman was an angel. Hard as hell when she needed to be and never let me off easy when I had my head up my ass, but seemed to have an unlimited supply of patience where I was concerned. She smiled and dipped her head in encouragement.

   Letting out a slow breath, I wiped my hands on my jeans. “The thing is, that trip to rehab didn’t work. I mean, it did for a bit. And it definitely screwed up my being able to stick my head in the sand about my using, but it took me another six trips through hell before this time around.”

   That horrifying sensation of having an invisible noose wrapped round my throat cinched a little tighter, remembering what had finally brought me to where I was today. “Three hundred and seventy-two days ago, I woke up naked in a bedroom I didn’t recognize to the sound of gunshots. Not that waking up naked in an unfamiliar house was all that abnormal, but gunshots and a whole lot of yelling and screaming...yeah, that scared the living hell out of me. Worse, I was still fucked up enough I couldn’t move very well and didn’t have the sense God gave a goose. I ended up jumping out of the bedroom window half-dressed and earned myself a broken forearm and some pretty scars from broken glass.”

   I ran one finger across a particularly nasty one that cut across the back of my wrist, the blood that had covered my skin that day still vividly bright in my mind. “I spent a long time that day tryin’ to call someone—anyone—to come help me.” I shook my head at the empty center of the circle before I met the gaze of a late twenties or early thirties man right across from me. He didn’t know me any more than I knew him, but he knew exactly what I was talking about. The recognition—the understanding—was right there in his eyes. “No one would take my calls. I had no money. Nowhere to go. No friends or family who’d have anything to do with me. The only thing I had to claim for myself was another fucked up situation...and that’s when I hit my bottom. Not so much because of how banged up I was, but because I had nothing. No self-respect. No life. No love. No home. Nothing. And the really sad thing? I found out the next day that the house I’d been in? Whoever was shooting it up left no one alive. If the gunner had shown even a few hours earlier, a gunshot wouldn’t have been loud enough to wake me up, and I’d be dead, too—with absolutely no one who’d mourn me.”

   Finally, some of the weight on my chest lifted and the air-conditioning finally registered against my clammy skin. I jerked my head toward Maggie. “I called my sponsor. Or at least she’d been my sponsor before the last time I jumped off the wagon. I wasn’t too sure she’d be willing to talk to me after ignoring everything she’d shared with me before, but she told me she’d never walk away from me if I was willing to do the work. So, I started going to meetings again and really working the steps instead of paying lip service to them. Now, here I am a little over a year later—finishing my unpacking on Independence Day, which I think is ironic as hell—and ready to face my past by making some serious amends. And let me tell y’all... I’m terrified. I mean, it’s one thing to own up to my character defects, but facing the people I hurt and seeing if they spit in my face?” I shook my head. “I’m not all that sure I’m ready for it. But I know I need to. I know working the steps and clearing out all the trash cluttering my life is the only way I’m gonna make it sober. And I want that. I really want it. I want healthy friends. I want a chance to have my sister in my life again and to show her there’s more to me than just drugs and alcohol and problems.”

   I scanned the people in the circle and forced the muscles in my shoulders to relax. “So, yeah. That’s why I’m here joining a new group and what I’m out to do. If you guys have a call list or some regular times you meet up for coffee, I’d sure appreciate healthy people to hang with while I’m looking for a job. And thanks for letting me share.”

   Maggie’s hand covered mine and a host of people around the room offered a litany of Keep coming back and Glad you’re here.

   Yeah, ninety-nine percent of the people around me were strangers and their responses were about as standard at an AA meeting as a postage stamp on a letter, but I needed every one of them.

   This was actually happening.

   I was within short-range driving distance of all the bullshit I’d left behind and speeding toward very possible, if not probable, rejection.

   But it was what I needed to stay sober, and this time I wasn’t going to rob myself of the chance at a good life. Of having some self-respect and an existence I could be proud of—whether it meant staring rejection in the face or not.

   Twenty minutes and a group recitation of the Lord’s Prayer later, the meeting was over and the roomful of recovering alcoholics just like me were on their feet, sharing hugs and handshakes, and cleaning up.

   Her red hobo bag already thrown over one shoulder, Maggie tucked her empty water bottle under one arm and folded up her chair. At sixty-two years old, she had the same or more energy than some twentysomethings and had a penchant for the gaudiest jewelry on the planet. She loved the sun almost as much as she loved to laugh and her skin showed it, the overexposure and constant smiles etching deep wrinkles on her face. “They seem like a quality group. Lots of sobriety in attendance. Got at least one meeting a day and it’s close to your new place, too. That’ll come in handy.”

   I snickered under my breath and followed her with my own chair to the rack designated for stowing them away until the next meeting. “Is that your crafty way of telling me I’d be wise to hit as many meetings as possible while I settle in?”

   “No such thing as too many meetings, little girl. Not even for me, and I’ve been sober almost half as long as I’ve been alive.” She paused and considered me, her brown gaze cutting right to the core of the matter in no time. “How ya holding up?”

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