Frayed Page 49

Aside from walking around constantly feeling I\d been stabbed in the heart and punched in the gut at the same time, I was down and out with no one to turn to. My relationship with my sister had suffered from my blatant disregard of anyone else\s feelings but my own. My friendship with Caleb had been strained from my deceitfulness, and even though we seemed to be back on track, he wasn\ around. He was away training to become an FBI agent. And honestly, aside from Dahl I had no one left in my life. That\s when I took off for Australia.

I spent four months there and loved every minute of it. When I returned to California I decided to live in LA in hopes of getting my old job back. But that too didn\ go as planned. Not only did I live in a shithole motel for way too long, but I ended up as the wedding columnist for my old editor. I wanted my investigative journalist job back, but since I wouldn\ play ball and divulge my source for the piece on the drug cartel or turn over the article I had written more than three years ago but never published, she pigeonholed me into a job she knew I\d hate. But I couldn\ give her what she wanted. First of all, I no longer had any of that shit. I had given it all to Caleb. And second, my journalistic code of honor prevented me from divulging my sources. Taking the job she offered was just another poor choice I made in a long list of poor choices.

But I had already been down so many twisted roads I couldn\ see straight anymore. Pinpointing a single catalyst is hard, but if I had to choose one I would say it was the investigation. And although the investigation might be why I had to leave my old life, it\s not why I lost myself. But for the longest time I used it as the reason. Why wouldn\ I?

The whole thing was so f**ked up. It started out as a simple task publish an article on drug trafficking. Easy enough, I thought . . . just research it, write it, gain critical attention, rise to the top and I\d be the next Anderson Cooper. Well, that\s not how it went down. The story I was investigating was not only way bigger than I ever could have imagined, but also much more dangerous. Dangerous enough that my subject wanted to kill me and threatened to kill my girl if I didn\ stop. But even when I did stop, that wasn\ enough they were coming after me. So I faked my own death and disappeared for what I thought would be the rest of my life.

I defected to New York City and lived there for three years as Alex Coven. The first two years were rough, but by the third year I started to make a life for myself. I was hanging out with a girl I liked, started swimming and running again, stopped the excessive drinking, and even made a few friends. But that life seemed small and worthless the day the FBI knocked on my door and told me I could go back home to California. I didn\ even have to think about it. All I knew was I had a second chance to get my old life back and I wanted it . . . all of it, including my girl, Dahlia London.

But three years was a long time to be gone, and things change, people change. Dahl wasn\ the same girl I left behind. She was harder, maybe stronger, maybe more broken . . . I don\ know exactly, but I do know she wasn\ in love with me anymore. I tried to get her back, but it didn\ take long to figure out I couldn\ . I stopped my worthless efforts after my mother died. It was never going to happen anyway, especially after Dahl found out I had cheated on her in college and wouldn\ you know it it was with the sister of the guy she now loved.

Then as if that wasn\ enough, my beloved mother suffered a stroke and passed away. After that I didn\ give a f**k about anything anymore. I just wanted to forget everything . . . who I was, what I\d done, what had happened to me. Forget it all. And I can wholeheartedly say that no longer caring about anything was when I lost myself. I hit rock bottom because I didn\ give a shit about anyone, not even myself.

My final wrong step came the day I watched Dahl\s attacker and my shooter, Josh Hart, being found guilty of a pony charge. I couldn\ take it anymore and as I was drowning myself in a bottle of Jack, my ex-girlfriend from New York City called me. Kimberly was looking for company and since I was too, I went to her. She was drunk, I was drunk, and I f**ked her as if she were someone else. Of course Kimberly threw my ass out. I left her apartment full of guilt and not paying the least bit of attention to how much alcohol I had consumed.

That night I was pulled over and arrested for driving while intoxicated and had no one to call Caleb was MIA, Serena was in Hawaii with Trent, and my only friends, Beck and Ruby, were out of town. That left me with only Dahl. And when I called her I was shocked that she came and bailed me out. My life changed after that. Maybe it was the arrest that scared the shit out of me, maybe it was closure I had felt nothing but friendship toward Dahl when she drove me home or maybe it was knowing I owed my mother more than the life I was leading.

But I turned things around after that day. I quit the job I hated, I let go of the loose ends to the investigation that I hadn\ been able to put to rest, and I reconciled with my sister. I moved back to the place I loved Laguna. And in the process of moving back into my mother\s house, my sister and I discovered that my mother had been awarded a ten-million-dollar settlement for my father\s wrongful death and had willed it to us. With that money I knew what I wanted to do with my life help magazines suffering rejuvenate themselves.

I blink away the memories and look up. The stars above me are bright, the night is clear, and the air is warm, but I won\ be taking my bike to pick up Bell tonight. I\m not sure she\d appreciate climbing on the back in a dress and heels even though I wouldn\ mind. Hmm . . . maybe I should reconsider? Cruising up the hill to my driveway, I stop and put both feet on the ground my intent was that today would be a day of reflection, but now I see it as another new beginning.

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