Authors: Casey Peeler
(Full Circle #2)
By Casey Peeler
Copyright © 2013 Casey Peeler
All rights reserved.
This book is a written act of fiction. Any places, characters, or similarities are purely coincidence. If certain places or characters are referenced it is for entertainment purposes only. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
The author recognizes all copyright and trademarks that are mentioned within this work of fiction.
Special thanks to
y husband, Billy, and daughter, Carlee, thank you for being there on this adventure. It’s crazy how a year can change our lives. 2013 was a year of firsts, some good and others not the best, but change is good. I can’t wait to see what 2014 has in store for us! I love you both with my whole heart!
My sister, Pam Baldwin, at Paperclutch for the
cover design. You have always been there at any given moment. Cover one was an adventure for both of us, but cover two was a breeze! It is as fabulous as you! Love you!
My parents, Mike and Cindy, thanks for believing in me like you always do! Parental support is important no matter your age!
Chelly Peeler, you’ve had my back from day one. You have helped keep up with reviews at Hardcover Therapy while I finished writing, read
NTB & FC
, read it again, edited, and given advice. We aren’t just family; you truly are one of my best friends, and I couldn’t have done this without you.
My betas, Paige,
Tabby, Pam, and Kristina, thank you so much for your thoughts and feelings that have brought this book to life. I owe y’all!
Paige, you have read, edited, read, edited, read, and edited!
I couldn’t have done this without you! Round two has been amazing! I can’t wait to continue our editing journey!
Southern Charms, my street team, y’all are sweet as sugar! I honestly wouldn’t be where I am today without you! With each like, share, comment, and review, you’ve gone above and beyond each and every day! I <3 y’all!
Cortlan Allen, my cover model, now they see both sides of you! LOL ;)
Brian Harris at Firelight Photography for the cover photos
My family, friends, authors, and bloggers, thanks for your thoughts, posts, shares, tweets, and likes!
For my sister, Pam. Thanks for always being my best friend since the day you entered my life, always having my back, and sticking with me through thick and thin! I love you!
Table of Contents
No Turning Back
We hang up and I finish putting the final touches on my makeup. As I add a little more highlight to my eye shadow, there is a knock at my door. “Hold on a sec!” I yell. I finish my left eye and walk to the door with the brush in my hand. I open the door to see Joe sitting on the floor across the hall holding an empty fifth of Jack Daniels. He pulls his piercing eyes toward mine, and I’m not sure what is going on in there, but something is beyond wrong. He staggers as he stands. He walks toward me, and if I didn’t know better,
I would say he is about to cry.
“Joe, you’re scaring me. What’s wrong? Is it your grandma?” He shakes his head no. He looks like he is trying to talk, and I’m unsure if he doesn’t want
to or if the news is that bad.
As he reaches my doorway, he takes his hand and embraces my cheek. “I’m so sorry, Squirrel! I’m so, so sorry.” He begins to sob. I pull him close, wrap my arms around him and try to comfort him. I have no idea what is wrong, but I will help him fix it.
“Joe, what are you sorry for?” I take his face in my hands, and he looks into my eyes. He says the words I never thought I’d hear.
“It was me, Squirrel.”
My mind is completely confused. What the hell is he talking about? Oh. My. God. Please tell me it isn’t so. There is no way. It can’t be. I take a step back without moving my eyes from him.
“What do you mean, it was you?” I can feel my heartbeat beginning to increase and my chest beginning to move double time.
“I’m so sorry. I… I… helped Dylan.” I stop and replay the words over and over in my head. Then it hits me like a Mack truck. I start to shake my head no as tears fall down my face. This cannot be happening. He nods his head yes, and this is all the reassurance I need before I lose my damn mind.
The heat begins to rise to my face. My insides begin to tremble, and I use every ounce of my being to fight back. “Get o
ut!” I grit through my teeth. “GET OUT! I said!” He continues to stand there. My voice crescendos to a screeching yell. I make my way toward him as I say the words one more time with an added choice word. “Get the FUCK out now!” I walk up to him and try to push him out of my room. He doesn’t budge. I begin to scratch, punch, spit, and use words that I never knew were in my vocabulary as tears continue to stream down my face. “G-g-g-get out!” I cry.
An audience has begun to build around my doorway. Joe attempts to move from my room, but not before I realize someone else is removing him. Tori, Anna, Jenny, Cassie, Caroline, and Georgia are trying their damnedest to move him.
Tori is at a loss for words, which I have never seen. The world is revolving around me, but I am completely still.
Joe is in the hallway, and I hear Georgia. “Joe, I think it’s time you left. I don’t know what the hell’s going on, but you will not hurt her. Do you hear me?” She is talking like she is my mother. “If I hear one word about Dylan Sloan, you or anyone else involved, I will hunt you down and whoop your ass myself. Got it?!” Tori’s face is
puzzled with the mention of Dylan’s name. “Get the hell out of here before I call campus police.” Joe does not talk. He takes his fifth and stumbles down the hall. The girls are completely shocked, and Georgia rushes to my side.
Mascara runs down my face. I fall to the floor, and every ounce of fight I have is long gone. Georgia embraces me, and a dark, deep sob escapes my chest that I have been holding back for seventeen months. Georgia reaches across to my bed, picks up my phone and scrolls through my contacts. She finds the only one that has ever mattered and hits
“Char-coal, what’s goin' on?”
“Cash, this is Georgia.” There is a long pause. “Joe is helping Dylan.”
Silence. Complete silence.
“Cash, did you hear me?” Georgia states cautiously.
“Georgia, what do you mean, it was Joe?” Cash grits through his teeth.
Georgia takes a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale. She chooses her words carefully. “We were getting ready to go to Whiskey River, and Joe showed up here tonight. He was drunk and crying. He just kept saying he was sorry, but we didn’t know what for. Then, he just blurted it out.”
“Georgia, I’m heading to the truck now. Don’t leave her alone. I’ll be there as fast as the F250 can go.”
Georgia has a complete change in demeanor as she looks at me. I begin to shake harder as waves of countless emotions pass through me. I want Cash. I need Cash, but Georgia thinks otherwise because I can see it in her eyes.
“Um, Cash, I think you need to stay in Grassy Pond.” As Georgia speaks, I completely stop. My tears and sobs extinguish. The only thing that remains is the trembling from my head to my toes, but I’m fully pulled out of my meltdown. I knew she wanted to tell Cash to stay home, but to actually go through with it is a different story. No one has ever told Cash no when it comes to me. I can hear him through the phone, and I know it’s a cluster of four-letter words. He’s not going to listen to her. Georgia is trying to get in a word, but all she manages are parts of syllables. Finally, she takes a breath and makes him stop in his tracks.
“Hear me out, Cash. I’m here, and you’re there. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you can’t always be here to rescue her. Let the girls and me see if we can help things. If in a few hours it’s not going okay, then you can come. All right?”
Oh hell, what is he thinking? I know he isn’t going to just wait in Grassy Pond. I listen as he begins to speak loudly enough that the speakerphone isn’t needed.
“I can’t do that! I can’t just let someone hurt her again. If I don’t come to help Charley, at least I can beat Joe’s ass. Something… I’ve got to do something!”
“Exactly, Cash, you can let her do this alone. Isn’t that what she’s been wanting? Here’s your chance to show her how much you really love her. I promise either I will
call or she will in two hours.”
“Can I at least talk to her?”
Georgia takes the phone and hands it to me.
“Char-coal, will you talk to me?” I hear the truck crank.
“You’re on your way?” I question. Georgia darts her eyes at me.
“I was already in the truck by the time Georgia and I finished our conversation. I haven’t left the farm. What do you want me to do?”
As I wipe the tears and mascara from my eyes, I take a minute and realize that Georgia is right. This is my opportunity to do this without a guy in my life. Here goes nothing!
“Cash Money, as much as I want you here with me, this is my chance to make it on my own. I’m not sure that I can, but Georgia’s here. I only have to make it through exams, and then I’ll be home.”
I hear Cash take a deep breath before saying the words I never thought would come out of his mouth.
cause you asked, Char-coal. I’ll stay here until you need me, and then I’ll be there fast as lightnin’. I do have a question for ya. Do you want me to tell Tessa?”
My heart stops, and my hands begin to shake. No, Tessa can’t know. Tessa knows just what she needs to know. She will worry herself sick if she knows all this mess with Dylan is still going on, a
nd she only knows half of it.
“Please don’t tell Tessa. Cash, promise me you won’t call her,” I barely say as I start to sob again. I attempt to pull it together or he will change his mind for sure.
“Are you sure you’re okay without me?” Cash questions.
“No, but let me try. I promise I’ll call you in a little while. I love you, Cash Money.”
“I love you, too, Char-coal. Now, promise me you’ll call.”
“I will.” We disconnect the line, and it’s one of the hardest things I have ever done. It’s like my heart is breaking all over again, just like when I drove away from the club that December night. There is one difference though. This time I know that it’s for the right reasons, even if I don’t think I’m strong enough.
After taking the phone from my hands, Georgia places it on the floor and sits next to me. She pulls me in to her little short self, and I fall apart completely. She wraps her arms around me and doesn’t let go. The tears continue to fall, and she holds me for what feels like hours. We don’t talk; we just sit. Georgia is the friend that I have always needed in my life. I know now why God changed my plans this summer. He knew that I needed friends outside of Grassy Pond, and Georgia is at the top of this list. As my breathing begins to level, there’s a knock at the door. It’s Tori.
“Um, Charley, I don’t know what that was about, but I’m here for ya. We aren’t going tonight. You need us more than a night a
t a bar.” I shake my head no.
“Y’all go on. There’s no need to join this pity party. I’ve been here before.”
Tori looks at Georgia, shrugs her shoulders and leaves the room. Well, damn, I didn’t think she’d bail that fast! Before I have time to realize what is going on, the girls of Kluft are in my room dressed like they are ready for a night out on the town, but instead of booze, they have sodas and pretzel sticks.
Everyone piles on my floor, and we sit in silence. They need to know what’s going on, but I don’t know if I can t
ell them or if I even want to.