Caught in the Chase by Kacey Shea


Prologue





Alicia

Don’t do it. Don’t. Do not ruin what you’ve worked so hard for.

The voice in my head is a mix of my own and that of my sponsor. It pleads for me to stop, turn around, and march right out of this bar before I do something irreversible. My mouth waters though, and thirst consumes and muddles the clarity I’ve worked months to regain. The voice is right. I shouldn’t do this. I shouldn’t, but I’m going to.

Because I’m weak.

Because I can.

Sobriety is so damn hard and after the day I’ve had, I’m tired of the battle. I want to give up. I want to give in. It’s what I deserve.

“Two double shots of bourbon. Neat.”

The bartender is clueless to my internal battle. He gives an impressed nod. “Jack Daniel’s? We’ve also got a Kentucky Owl that’s outstanding.”

“Jack Daniel’s is fine.” There’s no need to break the bank. I’m not drinking for pleasure. No, this is punishment.

It’s not too late. You can leave. You don’t have to do this.

But the letter in my purse says otherwise. The words burn, branding my memory and threatening to torch my very existence. Maybe that’s why I no longer care. Why try so hard to be good when I come from a legacy of lies?

“Want to start a tab?” the bartender asks, setting the full glasses on the dark grained counter that separates us.

Just say no.

“Yeah.” I reach into my bag, careful to avoid the dreaded envelope, and dig out my wallet. My pulse spikes with the thrill as I hand over my credit card. My fingers encircle one of the glasses. I think about moving to one of the booths in the back corner, but somehow that feels even more pathetic. I’m already at a dive bar twenty minutes south of my condo, nowhere near Callie or Jill’s neighborhoods. I might be tossing away ten months of sobriety, but I’m not about to do it in front of my best friends. They’d try and stop me.

“You need something else?” Bartender boy is back. I sense the concern in his eyes as he regards the still full glasses. Or maybe I’m doing a shit job of masking my heartache.

I shake my head and pick up the first glass, meeting his eyes before I tip it back and drink. The liquor burns. The taste is worse than I remember. My eyes water but I swallow it down. “Another.” I slam the empty down, pick up the second, and flash a fake smile. “Keep them coming.”

Anger and determination swirl in my gut along with the amber liquid. I wait not so patiently for the haze to take over. For clouds of bad decisions to chase away my sharp consciousness. Tonight’s is the first drop I’ve consumed since I signed myself up for an outpatient rehab almost one year ago.

Before that, drinking was part of my daily survival. I was a functioning alcoholic, and no one knew how deep I’d fallen because I was a good little addict. Hiding what I didn’t want them to know. No one sees a problem when the fun girl’s had too much. Not when her inhibitions lower and she’s smiling and appears carefree. No one argues when she’s always down for a night of partying or casual sex. Hell, in college that behavior is practically celebrated.

My rock bottom came after almost sleeping with my best friend’s man. I lost Callie that night by doing something unforgiveable. That was the push I needed to take back control of my life.

Or at least, I tried.

Some good that did.

Tonight, I’m throwing it all away.

The two empty glasses on the bartop mock my failure, but they’re soon replaced with fresh drinks.

“So, you waiting on friends?” the bartender asks. His smile is nice, a little crooked but kind. He’s too old for me and not at all my type, but for a moment I wonder if he’ll overserve me if I offer to blow him in the back.

Jesus. What’s wrong with me?

This day. This day is what’s wrong.

“Yeah, he should be here soon,” I lie and smile, hoping that buys me at least another shot.

“Cool.” He nods.

Before he can open his mouth to make casual conversation, I pick up my cell and pretend to appear busy. I have no one to call. No one to talk to. Not about this. Not now.

That’s a lie.

I could call my sponsor, or my brothers, or even Jill and Callie—but then I’d have to admit to everything. Which would require an explanation—the letter—and that’s something I’m taking to the grave.

My body sways to one side, the alcohol doing its job, and I almost fall off my chair. When did I become such a lightweight? Thankfully, the bartender doesn’t notice. He’s busy attending to a couple at the opposite end.