For the Love of a Lush (Lush No. 2)

 

 

 

formatted by
E.M. Tippetts Book Designs

Books by Selena Laurence

The Lush Series (Rock Star Contemporary Romance)

A Lush Betrayal
(Lush No. 1)

For the Love of a Lush (Lush No. 2)

Lowdown and Lush (Lush No. 3) Coming Summer 2014

A Lush Reunion (Lush No. 4) Coming Fall 2014

 

The Hiding From Love Series (New Adult Contemporary Romance)

Camouflaged
(Hiding From Love #0.5)

Hidden
(Hiding From Love #1)

Concealed
(Hiding From Love #2)

Buried (Hiding From Love #3) Coming Summer 2014

 

The Bittersweet Chronicles (YA/NA/Adult Contemporary Romance Novella series)

Book One: Carly (YA) Coming Late Summer of 2014

Book Two: Pax (NA) Coming Fall of 2014

 

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To all those who've had the courage to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves.

Walsh

F
OR AS
long as I can remember, I’ve loved two things in my life—booze and Tammy DiLorenzo. I lost them both in the last couple of years, and I can sincerely say that it sucks. The nights I wake up in the dark, breathing hard—and feeling hard—remembering the way her silky skin would slide across mine as we made love, her long, smooth hair brushing over my chest and abs, her tongue gliding along my cock… Yeah, those are the times I need a drink so badly I can almost
feel
that burn on my tongue, the smoky tang of a good bourbon rolling all warm and smooth down my throat.

So here I am, my dick and my heart missing Tammy, and the rest of me missing the bourbon and the oblivion it brings—the fuzzy static that descends over my mind and body, dulling the pains of the day, blurring the feelings into one big sensation of good. Not great, not horrible, just good. I liked good. I was
good
with the good. But it started taking more and more to reach that place. More booze, more often. And eventually, I needed it all the time, every day, from sunup ‘til sundown. So yeah, that shit didn’t work out so well for me.

I roll over in my tiny bottom bunk and see that the sun is already rising, so I stretch, try really hard not to think about how sexually frustrated I am, and sit up. I can hear barking outside, and my boss, Ronny, hollering at Two-Bit, the Aussie sheepdog who must be nipping at the horses again.

"Clark!" Ronny leans in the door to the bunkhouse, letting in one of the barn cats, who races over to my bed and jumps up to rub against me.

None of the cats have names, but this one seems to like me a lot, so I call her J.B., after Jim Beam, as a reminder that, while it may make me feel all warm and fuzzy, it’s got claws that’ll slice me the fuck up.

"Yo, man," I mumble as I scrub my hand over my hair, which needs to be cut.

"That fence in the south pasture has about sixteen feet that needs to be replaced along the east side. Can you drive out and do it after breakfast?" he asks in his unique accent that’s a combination of Texas drawl and south-of-the-border. Ronny’s dad was a Mexican
vaquero
, born and bred, and Ronny’s been around ranches every one of his forty-some years.

"Yep. First thing."

"Thanks, you cowboy, you."

"Fuck off, Ronny."

He chuckles as he shuts the door.

"It’s another glorious day on the cow farm," grunts Mike from the bunk above me.

I stand up and grab my jeans off the nearby chair. "You can go home anytime, dude."

"Eh, nothin’ to go home to. Might as well make some cows happy. Not to mention enlighten some of these country girls."

I shake my head and pull on the jeans, then a t-shirt, before I head to the bathroom to finish getting ready for my day.

There are six of us altogether staying at the Double A Ranch right now. And yeah, Double A is a play on Alcoholics Anonymous. The ranch is owned by Ronny Silva, a recovering alcoholic who decided to give back to the community—the community of lushes, I guess you could say. So if you’re working your steps and you’ve been clean and sober for at least ninety days, you can have a place to stay and three squares a day plus a lot of hard labor, fresh air, and cows.

The Double A is a working ranch. Ronny raises cattle and sells them at auction. There’s a thousand acres on the ranch and three hundred head of cattle, along with a bunch of chickens, horses, and the dogs and barn cats. Ronny’s soft spot extends from drunks to all creatures great and small. He also provides jobs to quite a few ranch hands in the area, but only the guys who are in recovery live here. Well, and Mike. Ronny made an exception for Mike.

Mike is my childhood friend and former band mate. Yep, band mate. See, until seven months ago, Mike and I were in one of the hottest rock bands in the country. Actually, in the world, I guess. Lush was the dream that Mike, me, my former best friend Joss, and our buddy Colin had worked on for ten years. Joss sang, Mike’s one of the world’s best rock guitarists, I was the drummer, and Colin played bass. Then, just as we were hitting the mega big time, I developed my little drinking problem and had to go to rehab. From there, the dominoes tumbled. The end happened in a hospital room in southern California mere hours after we’d played to a crowd of about 70,000 at Coachella.

There’s nothing quite like finding out that your fiancée and your best friend slept together while you were locked away in a rehab facility, trying like hell to keep from going insane with withdrawals and really intrusive personal dissection. I’d thought my first full day without alcohol was the worst day of my life, but no, finding out about Joss and Tammy topped anything the world has ever—or could ever—throw at me.

After a hearty ranch breakfast cooked by Ronny’s wife Leanne, Mike and I load up the truck with barbed wire, posts, and tools. Ronny’s got a few pickups that we use for work. I’m stoked when I manage to grab the newest of the fleet because it’s got an iPod connector. I plug in and crank up Imagine Dragons as Mike hops in and props one boot-clad foot up on the dash.

Neither one of us can ride a horse worth a damn, so we’re not really cowboys. We do all the other manual labor around the place while the guys who’ve lived out here their whole lives ride the horses and get the glory. Mike is a big guy—six feet two, two hundred twenty pounds or so, solid muscle, unruly hair, and constant scruff. With his tattoos and pierced nipples, he’s about as far in looks from a cowboy as you can get. But both Mike and I jumped on the cowboy-boot bandwagon as soon as we got our first look at those bad boys. Cows may be the dumbest creatures on the planet, but cowboy boots rock.

"Christ, Wing’s work on this album is so stunted," Mike bitches, referring to the Dragons’s guitarist as we bump along the dirt road. "The dude could do a hell of a lot more if he’d break out of his little guitar-school box."

"Yeah, well, their sales numbers indicate a whole lot of people disagree with you."

"I s’pose so," he mutters.

We bounce along in silence for a few more minutes as the music shuffles through my playlist until, suddenly, Joss Jamison’s voice comes rolling out the speakers. "If I could only breathe one thing, it would be your air…" I lurch for the power button on the radio, slamming it to "off," and almost weave off the road.

"Sorry, man. Sorry," I say as I rub my chin and correct the truck’s course.

"Fuck. It’s okay," Mike answers. He sits quietly for a minute looking out the window at the rolling grazing land that goes on for as far as the eye can see.

I grind my teeth, Joss’s voice still reverberating in my head. Only it’s not the song lyrics I hear, but some of the last words he said to me.
"It wasn’t what you think."
As long as I live, I’ll never understand that. He slept with my fiancée. What other way is there to think about it? My best fucking friend screwed the woman I love while I was locked up in rehab. I shake my head silently, the memory of it burning a hole through my damn chest.

Unexpectedly, Mike asks, "Do you think it was about her?"

I watch the dust churning up in our wake as I glance at the rearview mirror. It reminds me of the trail I left behind when I hopped on a plane to Texas after finding out about Joss and Tammy. A cloud of gritty filth that coats everything it touches, settling in all the crevices and holes around it.

"I don’t know whether
he
wrote it about her, but for
me,
it was always about her. Everything’s always been about her."

"Yeah," he says in response.

Mike can be, and in fact usually is, an ass, but he gets it. Gets me and Tammy. Gets what it meant to me for her and Joss to have gone where they did. Mike was, actually, the guy who let the proverbial cat out of the bag. When I found out, I was so torn up I couldn’t talk to or be around any of them—the band, my friends, Tammy. But after a while, when Mike wouldn’t quit texting and calling, I finally answered.

He said simply, "You shouldn’t be alone, man. I’ll be there in the morning. Just give me the address."

He showed up the next day before lunch, and he’s been following me around, working on the ranch ever since. Five months later, here we are, the odd couple, two hopeless bachelors nagging at each other all day, and I’m definitely Felix, which if you’d known me back when I was drinking would come as a real shock.

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