Home > Bayonet Scars #5 - Burn

Bayonet Scars #5 - Burn
Author: J.C. Emery



Prologue

 

The ceramic mug warms from the inside out as I fill it up with freshly brewed coffee. It's my new addiction-- caffeine. The French roast smells divine-- sweet and spicy--and even better when I add a splash of creamer and a teaspoon of sugar. It's not quite sweet enough for me and he's going to object, but I know him better than he thinks.

Left to his own devices, Ian Buckley drinks his coffee black even though he doesn't like it. I know this because when he makes it himself or orders a black coffee, he never drinks but half. But when there's cream and sugar, he can't drink it fast enough. I don't get it-- his resistance to admit that he likes things a little sweet. It's just one of the many things about him that I don't get.

That's okay. I have time to learn about him.

I cross the kitchen, mug in hand, and try to wipe the smile from my face at the sight of his big body at my kitchen table. His back is to me and his shoulders are hunched forward with his arms outstretched on the wooden table. I round the table and place the mug in front of him. He leans back and gives me a small head nod. He's not much of a talker which can drive me a little crazy since I like to talk. He never tells me to shut up though.

Taking my seat beside him, I drag my half empty coffee mug toward me. The mug is sweating from the ice I dumped in it in an attempt to cool myself down. I should be grateful that my parents have been so good to me, but I can't help the irritation that creeps in every time Mom turns the thermostat up another degree. It's sweltering in here.

The dampened ceramic is uncomfortable to the touch, stirring up thoughts I'd rather not have. The wooden desk, damp from my tears. The pain. The sick way they speak to one another. The hate.

My skin crawls with the memory as I try to focus on something else-- anything else-- and wipe my hands on my yoga pants to dry them off. With my eyes cast downward, I take a deep breath and notice that my fingers are shaking.

"You're in your kitchen with Ian," his deep voice says so quietly and so calmly that I barely hear it. I know where I am. I haven't forgotten this time, but helping me seems so important to him that I can't bear to take that away.

When I raise my eyes, I take a deep breath and offer him a small smile. He doesn't relax. His brows stay pushed together and that scowl is still on his face. The raised skin of the scar that runs from his ear to his eye has caught a drop of sweat that has yet to slide down his cheek. He's beautiful in a way I can't make sense of and don't want to.

Without taking his eyes off mine, he brings his mug to his lips, tilts his head back, and gulps the contents then sets the mug down and reaches across the table. He grabs two napkins from the stack that I have yet to put away. I should have gotten to it already. He drops one napkin on the table and uses the other to wipe my mug free of the condensation. He wraps the other around my mug to keep my hands dry.

"Thank you." The words feel so empty in comparison to what he does for me but they're all I have. No nod, or smile, or even a flicker of his eyes tells me he's heard me. Just because I didn't slip into the rabbit hole this time doesn't mean I won't and it doesn't mean I don't need him.

I need Ian Buckley more than I need the breath in my lungs, more than the blood in my veins, and more than a shot of whiskey.

He's everything.

“You’re getting better,” he says. It’s an observation, not a question, but I nod my head anyway. When my hands have stopped shaking, I bring my mug to my lips and take a sip. It’s watered-down now, but a sense of comfort washes over me instantly in a way that I’m sure isn’t healthy.

“I won’t,” he says and his voice trails off at the end. There could be a million things he won’t do, and he hasn’t even finished his sentence yet, but my stomach sinks and fear seeps in. I force deep breath after deep breath in order to stop the shaking.

I’m losing him.

“Fuck, are you okay?” He shoves the empty coffee mug out of his way and leans across the table, taking my hands in his in the process.

“I’m fine.” It’s a lie. I’m anything but fine, but lying has become my new normal. The way his eyebrows crease together and his brown eyes implore mine, I know he knows I’m lying.

“I won’t be around tomorrow,” he says steadily. He leans in just a tiny bit closer and takes a deep breath as he says, “The club needs me.”

“I get it,” I say quietly. And I do get it. It just sucks and I feel absolutely defeated by the news that he won’t be here tomorrow. What does that mean for the next day and the day after that then?

I’m not losing him. I’ve lost him. I guess it’s time. I mean, he’s been hanging out with me for months now. Every day he’s here. Every day he’s been here. He leaves after coffee in the morning, but he’s here and if I’m being honest with myself, his presence is the only thing I look forward to every day.

“Hey.” His voice gets quieter, somehow. Softer somehow. “I’m right here. I just got to take care of some club bullshit that I’ve been avoiding.”

“That’s where you should be, not babysitting my lame butt.” I try to sound strong and confident, but I don’t think I succeed. “I’m fine here. Really.”

“Tell me anything but that you’re fine because we both know what fine actually means.”

I guess we do, but that doesn’t mean I’m up for telling him how I really feel. I spent every waking minute and most of my sleeping ones as well trying to avoid feeling anything, and being sober, that’s fucking hard. I could make it better.

I could.

I want to.

“Nic’s about to have her baby,” I say. Counting down the days to Nic’s due date has been excruciating. Aside from Ian’s daily visits, I don’t have a lot to look forward to. But this baby is something special and I like Nic a lot. I have to be there when she gives birth. I just can’t miss it.

“I’ll still take you to the hospital once Duke gives the all-clear for visitors. I’m not disappearing, babe.”

I lower my head and take a deep breath to force the blush from my cheeks. I hate how he affects me like this. It’s just a word, but it makes me do crazy stupid things.

Babe.

“We good?” he asks and pulls away before I’m ready. My hands clutch his for a brief moment before I realize what I’m doing and I release him. No need to seem as pathetic and needy as I really am. When I raise my head and catch his eye, I nod and try to smile. His jaw ticks just once before he gets it under control and steps away from the kitchen table. He takes two steps back, still watching me, before he turns and strides toward the front door. Ian meets Dad’s eye in the living room and nods toward the door. Dad responds quickly and follows him out, closing the door behind himself.

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