When Brock Fitzgerald is welcomed back into his family thanks to the sympathy of his sister-in-law Evelyn and the tolerance of his twin brother, Austin, he understands that this may be the best he’ll ever get for himself. Years spent partying, drinking, and screwing his way through life have left him drained, exhausted, and accepting of his many weaknesses. He’s grateful for the second chance he’s been offered, even as he continues to battle his demons, including one that leads him back into co-dependency with his oldest girlfriend.
Kayla Hettinger never imagined that once she declared herself clean after several near-overdoses of opiates she’d find herself tending bar for her brother’s fiancée Melody, and enjoying what life she’d managed to build. When she strikes up a friendship with Brock over shared experiences and ginger ale, she discovers something needier and more frightening inside herself—and in Brock—than either of them feels equipped to handle.
Breaking through the clutter of addiction and despair only to find your soulmate waiting on the other side seems like the stuff of fairy tales—until Brock and Kayla accept that being dependent on one another is the only way they’ll survive.
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She was tall, very thin, with huge, greenish-brown eyes, full lips and sharp cheekbones. Despite the heat, she wore a long-sleeved version of the FitzPub T-shirt, which engulfed her as if she were playing dress-up with someone else’s clothing. She smiled at him—if he could call it that since it was more a soft lifting of the corners of her lips for a few seconds, before she busied herself, pulling empty glassware out of the bar-level dishwasher and stacking them on their appropriate shelves.
“Who is that,” he whispered to Melody.
“Huh?” She looked up from her phone. “Oh, that’s Kayla. She’s Trent’s sister.”
“Trent? Your main man? Captain Business?”
She rolled her dark eyes at him. “Yes. Him.”
“Ah, I see.” He eyed the new chick’s rear view as she stretched to reach the highest shelves with the clean glasses. “I also see the resemblance.”
Melody shot him a look. “Hands off, lover boy,” she warned. “That girl is a hot mess.”
“Yeah? And I’m not?”
“Whatever. Listen, Trent and I are having people out to the lake house in a few weeks, once this craziness is done here. You’re invited. Bring a date.” She blew him a kiss and headed around the bar and into the kitchen, talking six miles a minute en Español.
“We’re a regular United Nations around here, aren’t we, Princess?” He kissed Rose’s chubby knee and sat a few minutes, watching Kayla work. She was graceful, like a dancer, but never met anyone’s eyes for very long. She had a habit of tugging the already overstretched sleeves of the shirt even farther, as if hiding something.
And like that, he realized he was gazing at a fellow junkie.
“Takes one to know one, kid,” he said, raising a finger to get her attention.
“Hi, I’m Brock Fitzgerald,” he said, holding out the hand that hadn’t gotten befouled earlier. She did that weird almost-smile thing again and touched her fingertips to his before giving her sleeve another tug.
“Kayla,” she said, her voice soft and sing-songy. “Nice to meet you. This is your place?” She gestured around the bar.
“Ha! Hardly. Or better yet, I wish. It’s my brother, Austin’s place. Well, his and Evelyn’s I guess.” He pulled Rose down, mainly because his neck was getting a little too warm all of a sudden. “This beautiful creature is Rose Fitzgerald. My niece.”
“I see,” Kayla said as she observed the girl from a safe distance. “So what can I get you Mr. Fitz—?”
“Oh Jesus, please do not call me that. It’s Brock. And I need a double IPA and a ginger ale. I’m running the beer up to Evelyn.” He smiled by way of covering his embarrassment at drinking ginger ale.
But her smile went a hair past ghostly as she pulled a to-go cup with a straw from under the bar and sipped. “I love the ginger ale myself,” she said, before turning to pour his drinks.
Yep, he thought, as he held Rose on his lap and she slapped both hands on the bar top before grabbing the coaster and trying to cram the entire thing into her mouth. “Too many carbs, doll face,” he said, taking the thing away from her and holding it over his head while she worked her way into a snit. “Somebody needs a nap,” he said, tossing the half-masticated round of cardboard toward the garbage behind the bar, missing by half a mile.
Kayla picked it up and threw it away then put the two drinks on the bar, well out of Rose’s reach. “So, how exactly are you going to get two drinks and that,” she pointed her elbow at Rose, “up to Evelyn’s office anyway?”
“Easy peasy,” he said, slipping the girl back up to his shoulders. But she had other ideas and went stiff as a board, as her snit worked its way into a full-throated howl.