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Burning Confession: Stand Alone Short Story Novella

 

 

 

Burning Confession © 2017 by Stacy Dawn Hendrickson

SD Hendrickson, LLC holds the world wide publishing rights to Burning Confession. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, nor translated into another language and distributed, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.

 

Editing: Curiouser Editing

Cover Photo: License through Shutterstock

Cover Design: SD Hendrickson

 

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Cody

My boots moved like I was sleepwalking right down into the pit of hell. But that wasn’t true. I wasn’t in hell—at least not yet. Sucking in a deep breath, I felt the cool air fill my chest. Nope, not hell. A cold this bitter didn’t exist in hell. But someone needed to tell my heart that little fact. Because that damn piece of shit inside my chest was currently wrapped in burning agony.

I opened the door to Dusty’s Saloon and walked inside, hearing the rugged drawl of a country song playing from the speakers. My eyes searched the crowded bar, finding an open seat right in the middle. I shouldn’t be in this place tonight, but all my rational thoughts were sitting somewhere on Country Road 815.

“What can I get you?”

I met the eyes of the bartender. “Crown and Coke.”

The words came out a little hoarse, a little ragged from the raw feeling in my throat, but he didn’t seem to notice. I caught a glimpse of myself in the old mirror that sat behind the bottles of liquor lining the other side of the bar. My eyes reflected back like dark embers, festering in anger.

The bartender set the glass down with a slight thud in front of me, sloshing a little of the drink over the edge. Reaching in my back pocket, I fumbled for a moment as my mind got lost in the confusion. My old leather wallet was gone. Maybe I didn’t bring it. Guess that wasn’t on my mind as she crushed my heart with her fancy shoes.

Damn it all to hell. I couldn’t even properly get drunk tonight. My head started spinning. I could just grab the glass and down it. Walk right out the door. Maybe I’d have more than one. Run up a tab bigger than my last paycheck. Then just leave with my middle finger pointed right up at the sky.

And if I got caught? Wouldn’t matter. Nothing could be worse than knowing the truth.

“Put his drink on my tab.”

I glanced over to my right at the guy who might have just saved my ass. Something about him seemed familiar. Maybe I’d seen him in the bar another night. “Thanks, man. I left in a hurry. Must have forgotten.”

He grinned. “Hey, we’ve all been there.”

I took a sip, feeling the alcohol burn the rough edges of my throat. The bartender must have taken pity on me. The Coke was almost nonexistent in the glass.

“Rough night?”

I took another look at the guy. “Something like that.”

I wasn’t really in the mood to talk, but I guess this drink put me in his debt. Taking a long swig, I sucked down the whiskey until only the ice was left in the bottom.

“Girlfriend problems?”

“Something like that,” I mumbled.

He laughed and signaled the bartender. “I think he’s gonna need another of those.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“Well, I ain’t about to leave a guy hanging who looks as miserable as you.” He took a drink from his beer bottle. “Besides, I get an open tab the nights I’m on stage.”

Then it hit me. My benefactor tonight was the guy on the poster taped to the front window. Landon Evans. I’d seen him play a few Thursday nights in this place.

A second glass made a sudden appearance in front of me. Picking it up, I took another long drink. This time, the bartender didn’t even bother with the splash of Coke.

She always loved coming to Dusty’s. Loved dancing with my hand on her waist and her tits pressed against my chest, moving slowly as the music circled around us. Her face tilted up at me as the lights from the stage reflected in her blue eyes.

My teeth gritted with the memory as I cleared my throat. “Did you already play tonight?”

He shook his head. “No, I go on in an hour.”

This guy had that look about him. Confident and arrogant. I bet once he flashed his guitar, girls fell all over him. Cheating on their boyfriends. Not giving a shit. I wondered if he was a cheater. I wonder if he fucked girls that belonged to other guys. Did he care? Did he care they belonged to someone else? Did it cross his mind as he spread their legs?

The whiskey buzz was starting to rumble around in my head. It was twisting through my thoughts as the vise grip on my lungs started to loosen. I stared at the smiling son of a bitch. “You got a girlfriend?”

He laughed faintly. “No. Don’t have time for one.”

I finished off my glass as a third suddenly appeared. Picking it up, I took a sip. I needed to slow this shit down before I said something I shouldn’t tonight. But my mouth opened and the words fell out anyway. “Have you ever hooked up with someone else’s girl? I haven’t, but I’m just sitting here trying to figure out what makes a guy do it.”

“No.” He frowned, hesitating with his beer bottle halfway to a swallow. “But I guess you don’t always know. Right? What if the girl’s lying? Then it’s not really on me.”

My thoughts got cloudy as I contemplated his answer. “Yeah, I guess so.”

Things weren’t clear anymore. They were earlier. They seemed so damn clear as I was driving in my truck. It was his fault. A guy doesn’t touch what belongs to another guy. But maybe I had it all wrong. Maybe this messed-up night was more on her.

But I loved Becca.

My heart beat faster as the memories filled my head. Jagged and broken. I sucked in a deep gulp of air, smelling the old smoke in the bar and the whiskey on my breath.

“So tell me about this girlfriend. What did she do to you?”

I looked at him, feeling the sting of my bloodshot eyes. The third glass disappeared and a fourth took its place, making my tongue loose and my thoughts twist around between the light and the dark—to what brought me here to this barstool tonight.

 

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[* *]

[* *]

I had been working twelve-hour night shifts again. The refinery had traded us around, and it was my turn to have the shit schedule. The industry had been tough lately so I didn’t have much room to complain. It was work when many of the other guys were having a hard time finding a job these days.

Becca and I lived separate lives when I worked nights. Sometimes passing in the kitchen. Sometimes not at all. It had been a rough three months. I didn’t like our separation any more than she did, but we tried to make the best of it.

For me, Friday nights were the hardest. She would go out with her friends while I was at work. I barely got any shit done, picturing her in some pretty dress, imagining the other guys watching her, fantasizing about my girl.

Those feelings always festered inside until I got a text saying she was back at home. I hated myself for being consumed. But I loved her. I wanted to be with her. I wanted to be the one who couldn’t take his eyes off her body.

That’s why tonight was special.

I smiled, picking up the plastic-wrapped package from the passenger’s seat. Every girl loved flowers. I had learned that years ago. A big bundle of smelly cut weeds could fix a fight faster than an expensive set of red roses.

That’s the trick of it. Wild flowers required effort. A guy had to crawl through a pasture full of tall grass just to grab the pretty ones.

I always saved the store-bought fancy flowers for special occasions. But if she was pissed off? As I told my friends, always go for the weeds.

Holding the long-stemmed red roses in one arm, I shut the door of my old brown Ford truck. Tonight wasn’t about fixing something stupid she had misinterpreted. It was Valentine’s Day. The holiday that drove most men fucking mad. But I’d never minded it much.

We had been together almost three years now. I met her at the dentist office of all places. She was the receptionist when I came in with a toothache. I ended up with a root canal. And she ended up moving in with me.

My house wasn’t a fancy place. But it was home. And it was even better with Becca in it. She had a way of making the little things feel like big things. Like the plant that sat on the porch next to that red painted door—something she had done last summer. She insisted on that color. I thought it would be too bright. She said trust me.

And now I loved it.

I opened that red door and walked into the house. I was ready to get tonight started. Last year, I had cooked her dinner—a big steak on the grill. She thought it was sweet, and I had some of the best damn sex of my life that night.

I was hoping for a repeat this year. Not that she wasn’t satisfying on the other days. I think we got along pretty good while naked. Well, on the days we managed to be awake at the same time.

Tonight would be different.

I sucked in a deep breath, smelling something that resembled cake. I looked toward the kitchen, seeing a plate full of cupcakes. They sounded pretty good right now and strawberry was my favorite.

The thought of cake slipped away as I saw Becca in a black dress. It was tight with little straps and dipped low in the front. Her soft blonde hair fell over her shoulders as she smiled. Damn. She looked amazing. And sexy. And just for me.

Becca squealed and then leaped into my arms.

“You’re gonna smash your flowers.”

But she didn’t respond. Instead, her lips were against my mouth. I no longer cared about the fifty dollars I had spent on the long-stemmed roses. Becca kissed me hard for a few minutes.

“You look really pretty tonight,” I mumbled against her lips.

“Thanks.” She took the plastic-wrapped bundle from my hands. “I’m sorry. They did get a little messed up, didn’t they? But you just looked too cute. I couldn’t help myself.”

I chuckled, giving her a quick peck on the cheek.

I followed her into the kitchen. Becca bent over to get a glass vase from under the sink. The short dress inched up her thighs. Just a little higher, and I would see what she wore underneath. My breath quickened in anticipation, but she stood back up before I got a peek.

As much as I loved the way she looked right now, I didn’t feel so good about her wearing that dress to dinner. Guys might be looking where they shouldn’t.

“Here, I’ll fluff them a bit. Should be okay.” She winked over her shoulder before going back to work on the flowers.

I watched her in fascination. The way she chewed slightly on her full lip as she concentrated on the red petals.

Becca took the roses over to her kitchen table, placing the crystal vase in the center. She made her way back over toward me as her fancy heels clicked on the old wood floor. “So what are we doing tonight?”

“Well, I was going to change, and I thought we could go to dinner at that Italian place you like.”

Her blue eyes lit up. “Marcella’s?”

I nodded as her hands ran up my chest.

“Are you sure it’s not too expensive?”

“No.” I smiled, tucking a stray piece of hair behind her ear. I leaned in for a kiss.

I never knew it was possible to love someone as much as I loved Becca. She didn’t have much of a family. Her mama lived one town over and her dad . . . well, he was in prison for things he did to her mama and also armed robbery. They weren’t the most reliable in her life. That’s why I always wanted her to know she had a place with me. That she was safe with me. I would always take care of her.

“I love you,” I whispered against her lips.

We were kissing again. Her hands running through my hair. I pressed Becca against the cabinet for a moment before lifting her up on the countertop.

“I thought we were going to dinner?” she teased.

“I think sometimes it’s okay to eat dessert first.”

She kissed me softly. “Me too.”

Her fingers slipped between us and unfastened my belt. I felt a slight tug at the waist as she undid the top button and opened the zipper of my jeans.

I pushed the black dress up just a little higher around her hips, seeing the lace panties she wore underneath. My fingers brushed her inner thighs. She had the softest skin there. I always loved the way it felt against my cheeks.

My heart pounded roughly in my chest in anticipation. Pulling her panties down, I got one leg free, but the delicate fabric hung on the heel of her shoes. I couldn’t wait any longer. It had been nine days since I had last felt her. I pushed myself inside her body. A deep moan sounded next to my ear as her warm breath tickled my neck.

I thrust a few times. She licked my ear, and I almost came with the contact. It definitely had been way too long. Slowing down, I kissed up her neck. She tilted her head to the side, giving me better access. I pushed her hair back and kissed right behind her ear. That spot usually drove Becca crazy. I felt her thighs tighten around my waist.

My reflexes took over, and I pushed deeper inside of her. She was breathing hard as her body willed me to keep going, but I knew every second I delayed this, the deeper she would come. The louder she would scream. And I wanted to hear it. I loved that I could do this to her. I pulled out a little and then plunged balls deep back inside her body. She let out a deep-throated moan. And I did it again.

On the third push, my eyes saw something sparkling under the kitchen lights. On the fourth, it glistened again…

Love, R

I stared at the letters, hanging on a little tag against the necklace clasp. And in the middle of the word love, a diamond glared back at me.

My body kept going as my chest tightened. Who the hell was R and why was his name currently around my girlfriend’s neck?

Her legs held me firmly in place as I pushed harder inside her body.

The little clasp bounced against her skin with every movement. It teased me, twisting my heart. What the fuck was happening?

I lifted my head, looking at the front of the chain. I didn’t see it earlier around her neck. How could I have missed it? I didn’t know much about jewelry, but that was one expensive diamond. The tag on the back was just a chip compared to the solitaire hanging right above her breasts.

I closed my eyes to block out the image. But I still saw the sparkling diamond as it taunted my thoughts. She had met someone. She had met someone who gave her that damn necklace.

I pictured some faceless bastard kissing her lips, touching her breasts, running his tongue over her nipples. I wanted to scream, Those are mine!

My hands grabbed Becca’s hips, pulling her harder against me. She gasped.

My eyes suddenly flew open. I knew who it was.[_ I knew R!_] How could I have been so blind? It was her boss. The dentist. Randolph Lawson.

A few weeks ago, he drove her home when her battery died in the parking lot. Did it start then? Or was it something gradual? Little touches. Smiles. Whispers.

I remembered the Christmas party at his house at the beginning of December. Randolph had watched Becca as she sipped her wine. He had laughed at that stupid joke she told. A story about a bear and a hitchhiker. It wasn’t funny. But he laughed loud and patted her arm—said she was always making everyone laugh at the office.

It was code. He meant him. Becca always made him laugh. I bet after we left that night, he laughed at me.

And today, did they laugh at me together? As he fucked her? As he slipped that necklace around her neck?

How could I have been so stupid?

The anger festered as my fingers dug into her skin. I stared in horror as her breaths came quicker. The lower half of my body kept moving, betraying me as her head tilted back. I felt her body pulsating around my dick as those lying lips screamed my name.

And then in one final push, I released myself inside of someone who had suddenly become a stranger. I sucked in a deep breath, smelling the cupcakes.

Guilty cupcakes.

Is that why she made them?

Backing away, I left her on the counter. She stared at me as she reached for her panties, unhooking the lace from the heel of her shoe. “Babe, what’s wrong?”

I couldn’t answer. My eyes stayed fixated on that necklace as I absently zipped my jeans. My jaw gritted tight as my heart continued to pound so hard my chest was starting to physically hurt.

“Cody? You’re freaking me out. What’s going on?”

“Where’d you get that?” I pointed toward her neck.

Her cheeks went pale. Guilt. It radiated from her eyes. Loud and bright.

“Tell me!”

“I’m sorry. I know . . .” A tear fell down her cheek. “I know you won’t understand.”

And that was all I needed to hear. Anger fired through my head. How could she do this to me? But it wasn’t her. It was him. Fancy house and diamonds. I bet he could take her to Marcella’s every night of the week. Becca couldn’t help it. It wasn’t her fault. It was that bastard Randolph with the fucked up name. He did this.

I left the house. The red door hit the plant, knocking the potting soil all over the porch. Becca yelled my name, but I didn’t look back at her. I couldn’t.

Getting in my truck, I drove fast and wild. The dirt kicked up behind my tires as I skidded around a curve. I didn’t know what I was doing. All I knew was the pain. It hurt in my chest so deep. So dark. It burned like fire inside of me. Festering. I reached Country Road 815 and came to a sliding halt at the stop sign.

I had a choice. I could go left and confront the home-wrecking asshole in his fancy house. I could go right and get rip-roaring drunk and pretend I never met Becca. The anger burned in me. It shot up through my chest and into my throat as I punched the gas. I hated that backstabbing asshole.

 

 

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[* *]

 

“Whoa! That is one messed-up story. She actually fucked you while wearing his necklace?”

I nodded at Landon Evans. The glass was dry in my hand. I felt the bartender take it from my fingers.

“Damn. That’s cruel.” He frowned. “I’m sorry. I know that would make any guy a little crazy.”

“Yeah.” I snarled. “Made me want to punch him in the face.”

His eyes got wide as he laughed. “Well, maybe it’s better that you came here instead.”

“Maybe,” I mumbled. “But I tried, though.”

“Wait, you confronted him?”

I tightened my hands into fists as they rested on the wooden bar. “I went over to his house. We had gone there once for a work party. So I knew where to find him.”

Everything in the bar echoed louder. The whiskey rolled through my blood, through my thoughts. I really wanted to punch him. Make the asshole hurt like I did on the inside.

“So what happened?”

The sound of Landon’s voice came through all the noise, but I didn’t look over in his direction. My eyes stayed fixated on a large cut, scratched into the bar top like someone had taken a knife and ran it deep in the wood.

“I parked about a half mile away. I beat on his door a few times, but all the lights were out in the house. So I sat under a tree in his front yard. I went through a whole pack of cigarettes, waiting for him to come back. But the bastard never showed.”

I’m not sure what I would have actually done if he’d come back home. Maybe I would have talked to him. Maybe I would have gotten in one good hit. I wasn’t sure. It all depended on how his face looked when I saw the asshole.

“Would it have been worth it? Letting him have it?”

I gave Landon a side glance. “Maybe. I don’t know. It wouldn’t have changed anything, I guess. He still took something that was mine. But I might feel a little better right now, knowing the dentist was missing a few of his own damn teeth.”

He nodded but didn’t say anything.

The bartender put another glass in front of me. I had lost count at this point. I wasn’t sure how I would get home. And I couldn’t call Becca to come get me.

“Hey, I’m really sorry, but I’ve gotta go. I’m on stage soon.” He patted me on the shoulder. “But you keep drinking if you want. And I can take you somewhere later. You don’t have to worry.”

“Thanks, man.” My grin was weak but sincere.

My benefactor disappeared into the crowd of people at Dusty’s. I heard voices laughing next to me. I saw a girl flirting with some guy in a baseball cap. She leaned over just enough that every person on this side of the bar saw straight down her shirt.

I rubbed my eyes—they burned something fierce. I had had enough of this shit. The noise. The people. Crawling off the barstool, I made my way past the neon light sign and out the front door. The air was colder now. It whipped along my back as I walked through the parking lot to my truck.

I fumbled with the handle before yanking open the door. My body collapsed in the driver’s seat. I needed a moment. I needed to sober up before facing my life again. Something poked me right in the crack of my ass. Reaching behind me, I pulled out my phone and saw thirteen missed calls and five text messages from Becca.

Gripping the phone tight, I grabbed a new package of cigarettes from the passenger’s seat. I pulled one out and touched the tip to my lighter, taking a long drag. The smoke rose up around my cheeks.

Becca was going to apologize. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to hear those words yet. But I already knew that I would forgive her. I would take care of her just like I always promised.

But things couldn’t stay the way they were. I would need a new understanding between us. She would need to quit her job. I would need proof every day that she wasn’t out fucking him again.

My lips closed around the cigarette as I inhaled a few more deep breaths. The nicotine mixed good with the alcohol, sobering up my sluggish thoughts. Picking up the phone, I decided to see what she had to say for herself. I flipped through the messages.

Becca: I’m so sorry. Come back home. Please. Let’s talk.

Becca: Please come back. Where are you?

Becca: I know you’re mad. I just didn’t want to tell you because I know how you feel about my dad. He’s an asshole. And I knew it would just upset you. My mom gave me the necklace a few months ago. It was a present from my father when I was born. He told her the diamond came from a pawn shop and he had it put on a chain. But she always knew it was stolen. My mom said it’s been burning a hole in her jewelry box. She wanted to get rid of it. So she gave it to me. I wasn’t sure what to do either.

My eyes closed for a moment as my thoughts struggled to process the words. Her father was R. The necklace was from her father Ralph!

[_ _]I took a deep breath and looked back at my phone.

Becca: I think my mom thought I would sell the diamond. But there’s a part of me that wants to believe he loved us when he gave my mom the necklace. So I kept it. When I looked in my jewelry box tonight, it looked so pretty. And I thought that necklace deserved a second chance. My father doesn’t. But maybe something good could come from it. I can’t undo what he did. But doesn’t mean it has to all be bad.

A sudden violent rumble went through my stomach. I struggled with the door handle. Leaning outside the cab, I vomited all over the ground. I wiped my mouth across the sleeve of my shirt. The light-blue fabric was covered in dirt and smelled toxic from wearing it all day. I glanced back at the message.

Becca: I should have just told you. I’m so sorry. If you don’t like the necklace, I won’t wear it again. We can sell it. It’s okay. Just please come home. I love you.

She loved me. She didn’t cheat. The relief flooded through my whiskey-soaked thoughts. There was no doctor. He had never touched Becca. She was still mine. I was an idiot. A jealous idiot.

I just wanted to go home.

I wanted this terrible and twisted night to end.

I would need to get her some new flowers. Maybe I could find some on the way back to the house. Not the fancy kind. It was dark outside, but I remembered seeing some early spring weeds on the way to the house yesterday. Some of those yellow ones. She always liked the yellow ones.

The glow of red and blue lights filled the dark parking lot behind me. I saw the car moving slowly down the rows, looking at the back of each vehicle until it came to a stop behind mine. The door opened, and a man in uniform got out of the passenger’s seat. Another got out of the driver’s side.

The police officer came closer to my truck. The door was still open and my pile of vomit was splattered on the ground.

He shined the flashlight a few feet away from my face. “Are you Cody Myers?”

“Yes, um . . . yes, sir.” My heart was thudding in my chest.

“Please step out of the vehicle and put your hands where I can see them.”

“What’s going on?” I moved slowly, holding my palms up above my head. I got a better look at the police officer. A tag on the front of his uniform said Sawyer.

“Cody Myers. We found your wallet at a crime scene. We need you to come with us.”

“Wait, what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” My thoughts were flying wide. What the hell?

Off to the side of the building, I saw a man watching from the back door. I recognized him as my friend from earlier. Landon Evans. I stared at the singer as the other officer lowered my hands behind my back. I felt the metal of the cuffs closing in around my skin.

Office Sawyer spoke abruptly. “You’re under arrest for arson.”

“Arson!” I gasped.

“Yeah, a grass fire at Randolph Lawson’s place. It’s been so dry that it didn’t take much for the flames to consume the house. Firemen are still trying to get it under control. But we found your wallet right in the middle of the driveway.”

I swallowed hard. The cigarettes. It must have been the cigarettes. Shit. This wasn’t good. Not good at all. I had royally fucked up this time.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law . . .”

My eyes closed briefly. Becca would leave me. Maybe I could talk to her. Maybe she would forgive me if I told her the truth. If I told her what happened. That it was an accident. I didn’t mean to. It was a misunderstanding. I would beg her. I would plead. Maybe she would listen. I would do anything to keep her.

 

 

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[* *]

The officers drove me down to the county jail. I was processed and fingered printed and striped of my dignity. But the worst was yet to come. I needed to call Becca.

As I dialed the number, my fingers shook with fear. I didn’t know where to begin. I didn’t know how to tell her I’d lost my damn mind over some necklace when I should have taken her to dinner.

“Hello?” Her sweet voice sounded like an angel in the middle of this dark night.

Tears fell down my cheeks as I struggled to find my words. “Becca.”

“Cody? Where are you!  I’ve been so worried.”

“I-I’m in trouble.” My voice scratched on the words. “I-I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay. Just tell me where you are and I’ll come get you.”

I saw her face clear in my mind. Her full lips as she talked on her cell phone while pacing around. I bet she had a piece of her hair twirled around a finger. I wondered if she still had that black dress on.

“I don’t know what happened. Things…got out of control.” There was no use hiding it. I felt the pain in my chest as I made my burning confession. “I thought you didn’t love me anymore. I saw the letters on the back of that necklace. And I thought it was from your boss Randolph. And I went to confront him. But he wasn’t home. So I sat there by a tree smoking. And I don’t know… something happened to his house. It burned down. The police think I did it on purpose. They arrested me. I’m in jail.”

“What the hell Cody!” Her gasp was of heartache and disbelief. “Why would you think I did something…something so awful? And then you burned his house down…oh Cody.”

“I didn’t mean to. Not on purpose.” I swallowed, feeling the painful sting of remorse. “Baby… I’m so sorry.”

“I-I know…you are…” She paused and I was left to listen to only her tears through the phone. “I’ll be there soon. We can figure this out. It’s gonna be okay.”

The guilt hit me sharp in the gut. She should just leave me in here. I deserved it. My jealous crazy ass should sit in jail. I should tell her to walk away from me.

Leave me for good.

But I couldn’t bring myself to say the words that would let her go. Instead I swallowed the hard lump in my throat and said what my own heart needed to hear tonight. The words that would keep her with me.

“Baby, I love you,” I whispered.

 “I love you too.” She sniffled. “But right now. I don’t like you very much.”

 

*****

Burning Confession is a “prequel spin-off” from My Lucky Days by SD Hendrickson. In this story, you got a brief glimpse of the up-and-coming country singer Landon “Lucky” Evans. He later wrote a song called Burning Confession that was inspired by the night he met Cody at Dusty’s Saloon. It is one of the many original songs featured in My Lucky Days. Keep reading for a preview of Lucky and Katie’s sweet and heartbreaking love saga.

 

He was an up-and-coming country singer.

She was the last girl you’d ever see in a bar.

But one night, under those neon lights,

Lucky and Katie found each other.

Beginnings are always exciting.

Always fun. Always hopeful.

Katie was in her last year of college.

Lucky was still playing local stages.

She fell for his voice. She fell for his words.

They fell in love.

It was beautiful.

But time changed their world.

She was alone. He was on the road.

Life happened.

And that love was torn apart.

Endings are always painful.

Always heart wrenching.

But not always final.

One day, Lucky came back to Katie.

And this is their story.

[* *]

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[* *]

Present Day

I woke up suddenly, like the air had been sucked out of the room. My eyes darted around, seeing the flashing lights of the heart monitor next to me. I’d been in the hospital since I fell off the roof of my house while cleaning leaves out of the gutters. The damn cement driveway had to break my fall.

And then I saw him, sitting in the chair like he owned the place. I let out a deep breath as my heart beat faster, which I’m sure flashed in bright red on the monitor. He pulled himself from the chair, coming to my bedside.

A baseball cap covered most of his head, but that unruly hair still managed to stick out all around the edges. His jaws were lined with a layer of scruff like he hadn’t shaved in a few days.

“Hey, Katie.” I felt suddenly naked in the flimsy hospital gown, seeing the way his eyes trailed over my body. A slow grin slipped across his lips. “You’re still just as beautiful as the memory in my head.”

“Hmm. You should put that in a country song. It might make you famous.”

He chuckled softly. “Yeah, it might.”

“What are you doing here?”

“I came to check on you. How are you feeling?”

“I’ve been better. How did you even know I was here?”

His smile got a little softer. “I still keep tabs on you.”

“Well, I guess you’re big enough now to violate HIPPA laws. Or have your people take care of it for you.”

His jaw clenched as the humor drained slightly from his eyes. “I told you it wouldn’t happen again. I’d be here. No matter what.”

My throat got tight at the reference. I took a couple of breaths to steady the surge of emotions. Why did he have to bring it up? I’d struggled enough ever since I was checked in to the hospital this morning.

“Well, I um. I’m okay. They are just keeping me overnight for observation. You’ve fulfilled your promise. You can get back on your plane and leave.”

He was breathing hard, making his chest move up and down under the blue pearl-snap shirt. The top three buttons were left undone, leaving a large amount of exposed skin. On someone else, it would look silly. But on him, it was causal and sexy. Always had been.

“I know it’s been a while.” His brown eyes held mine for a moment, flickering something I couldn’t read. He motioned toward the edge of the bed next to me. “Can I sit? I thought maybe we could talk.”

As he gazed down at me, I felt that tug inside my heart. I nodded slowly, allowing him to take one more step back into my life. I hadn’t seen him in years. Well, I’d seen him, splashed across my television and on magazines. But not in person. Not close enough to physically touch.

His weight crushed the side of the mattress as he sat down. “Is this okay? I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I’m okay,” I whispered. His familiar scent filled the air around me. Why did he always have to smell so good? My eyes drifted to his hand that was just an inch away from my body. Trails of tattoo ink peeked out from underneath his rolled-up sleeves. He’d added more since the last time I’d seen him.

He eyed me closely. “You shouldn’t be on top of that roof. It’s too steep.”

“Someone has to clean out the gutters.”

“Hire someone. Or ask Colt. You know he’d take care of it or send Zach.”

I shot him a nasty look. Letting out a deep breath, I stared into his troubled brown eyes. “So what did you want to talk about?”

“I don’t know. Life?” He smiled sadly as he slipped his fingers around my hand, rubbing his thumb softly across the top. I felt the callouses right where they always stayed from playing his guitar.

The brim of his cap cast a few shadows across his face. But it wasn’t enough to hide those transparent feelings. He was looking at me that way. I closed my eyes, shutting him out. I had to stop him.

“I saw your latest breakup all over the tabloids at the grocery store.” I said the words, wanting to jerk him back to our reality. The one that existed for us now.

“Well, that’s what I get for dating an actress. Unlimited drama.” His voice was clipped and deep.

“I guess so.” It still hurt, imagining him with someone else. The images had haunted me for years. I knew he would date. That was expected. But it was so damn hard, seeing it plastered across the headlines. Harder than I had imagined. But that wasn’t what I had been thinking when I ended our relationship. Too many other things were going on at the time. Too much other pain.

He moved my hand, placing it lightly against his chest. The warmth of his skin seeped through his shirt. “I told you a long time ago. No one would ever be in here but you. No matter what happened out there after I left. I still mean that.”

My eyes shot open, seeing my hand pressed over his heart. The sincerity of his words filtered deep into his eyes. That look used to melt me right on the spot.

I could still remember the first time I saw him. He was so self-assured. So arrogant. So sweet, standing there with that messy blond hair all over his head and that lazy grin.

_But that was a very long time ago. _

I pulled my hand free of his contact. “You should go before someone sees you here.”

He stared at me a moment before slowly getting off the bed. “I bought some land north of Stillwater close to my mama’s house. Colt’s been building me a house on it. I’ve got a couple of commitments I’ll have to fly back for, but other than that, I’ll be staying here for a while. I just thought you should know.”

My stomach tightened, hearing his words. He was back. He was living here again. Or he was going to [_try _]to live here again. I didn’t want him this close. I wanted him far away so I didn’t have to feel this again. It actually hurt inside, just seeing him. More than the cracked ribs and concussion from the fall off my roof.

“For how long?” I whispered.

“Well . . . I’m reworking some stuff.” His eyebrows bunched up as he slipped away, deep in thought. I waited for him to pull his cap off, tugging at his hair. “I’m not sure what that will mean yet. I have more options now. And I need to do some things different with my life.”

His words sent tremors under my skin. I couldn’t take another fallout with him. My heart almost didn’t recover last time. And maybe it never did. Big scars don’t go away.

The memories were still so very strong. We had shared so much together before it all fell apart. Our relationship had been fun and beautiful before it had turned sad and painful. But part of me could never let go of him. No matter how much it hurt. And that was okay when he was in another damn state.

The hospital room door opened as my coworker and friend Hannah fumbled with a couple of takeout boxes.

“I thought since you were messed up from the accident, you could take a break from your diet. I got your favorite hamburger from Shortcakes. And don’t worry. I made sure they put ranch in there with the tater tots . . .” Her voice faded out as she looked from me to the man standing next to my bed.

He chuckled. “Still eating tots and ranch?”

Our eyes locked as he said the words, my breath freezing in my lungs. It didn’t take much for both of us to remember the night he taught me to eat tots correctly. Shortcakes Diner had been his place until he had shared it with me.

“Hi.” She stepped closer, holding the boxes of food. “I’m Hannah.”

And then it happened. I knew the moment the look flashed across her face. “Oh my gosh! You’re um, you’re um. Landon Evans. But that can’t be. Why would you be here? I guess you could be here. I mean everyone knows that your family lives here, Landon. Or do I call you Mr. Evans?”

She continued to babble as I looked over at the guy who made women scream. He had never been Landon Evans to me. No, I had known the man way before he was ever some country superstar. To me, he would always be—

“Lucky.” He took the boxes from Hannah as his troubled smile was replaced with that famous grin. “My friends call me Lucky.”

[]

[* *]

Nine Years Earlier

The cold air hit me with a brutal fist as I walked down the sidewalk. My spandex black dress provided little warmth and the fishnet tights were not the fleece-lined leggings I had wanted to wear tonight. Instead, I was dressed in an actual cat costume.

“Come on, Katie. It’s not much farther.” My roommate Peyton wrapped an arm around my back, pulling me along as she kept her other hand on the front of her French maid outfit to keep it from flying up. This town was always so dang windy.

“I feel like a cat hooker—if that is even a thing.”

“Well, you are totally making it a thing tonight.” She laughed.

Another gust of wind hit us from the back. I swear it felt like January instead of October. “This is going to suck walking back later.”

“Who says we are walking back?”

“I am not going home with someone I met in a bar.”

“You don’t have to go home with anyone. Just have a little fun. Dance and have a few drinks. Flirt a little. Make out in a dark corner. That’s all.” She winked at me with her fake eyelashes.

I shook my head and laughed. The dusting of freckles across her face always made Peyton seem more innocent than the truth.

We walked past a couple of other bars on The Strip. A few students lingered outside the doors, staring as we hurried past them in the cold. And then I heard music spilling out into the street as we reached the next building. An old Edison bulb sign hung over the front door reading: &Dusty’s Saloon.&

The bouncer asked for our IDs. Reaching down inside my knee-high boot, I pulled my license from the secret pocket. He looked skeptical at mine before waving us inside. I guess the cardigan-wearing girl in the picture didn’t look the same with cat ears and whiskers.

The smell hit me before the warmth. They had outlawed smoking in the place a few years ago, but the decades of cigarette use had soaked into the wood and walls, leaving the lingering scent of an old ash tray.

The bar was full, but not packed. I guess it was still considered early even though it was after nine. I did a quick survey of the room. I felt better, seeing most of the crowd dressed up tonight. I preferred to blend in and not stand out. Less attention just made everything easier.

Peyton grabbed my hand, luring me deeper inside the building toward the wooden dance floor. I tried to pull away from her. “I’ll just go find a seat somewhere.”

“No. You’re dancing. If we get over here by the floor, someone will ask. But you need to act like you want to dance. So smile, sexy kitten.”

“Okay. Fine.” I gave her a cheesy grin.

“That’s much better. Come on.” She pulled me out to where people were already dancing.

I felt awkward lingering on the floor like a giant arrow was pointed at my head. I might be dressed like the people in the room, but it didn’t mean I felt like I actually fit in. And then I was alone in plain sight as Peyton got whisked away by some guy in a pirate costume.

The uncomfortable tension turned up several notches. I felt people watching me, looking at me, focusing on me. Dracula stared with an interested gleam in his eyes, flashing his spiked teeth as he headed over in my direction.

I searched the floor for Peyton. She was laughing at something the pirate whispered in her ear. And then she tossed her long blonde hair over her shoulder, allowing him to get a good view of the freckles that disappeared down into her cleavage.

I made eye contact with Dracula again as he got closer. Then I turned around and went in the opposite direction. It wasn’t that I was against dancing. I actually liked to dance—with people I knew. This whole Halloween party was more Peyton’s thing than mine.

She was the reckless one. I worried about her sometimes, especially on the nights she didn’t come home. But Peyton always returned the next morning with the exception of that weekend in Texas.

She had left in the middle of the night with two guys who wanted to take her to the beach. They drove to Galveston, did who knows what in the sand, and then got back in the car and came home. Even though she had texted the entire trip, I was a nervous wreck until she walked back in the door with her sand-covered panties in her hand.

I watched Peyton with the pirate. This didn’t seem to be ending any time soon. I decided to make my way across the room to the bar. I kept an eye out for our other roommate Skylar. She was supposed to be here with her boyfriend Dylan, but there was a good chance I wouldn’t even recognize them in the middle of all the costumes.

Reaching the bar, I searched for an open seat. I found one at the end, close to the corner and out of the way. It took a couple tries before I managed to get situated on the leather saddle that served as the stool.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the old-timey saloon glass behind the bar, seeing the layers of black makeup circling my wide green eyes. They had always seemed too big for my face. I squinted, trying to make them smaller as I straightened the cat ears perched on top of my brown hair.

Giving up, I leaned against the wooden bar, setting my arm in a puddle of beer. My nerves pricked up over the amount of germs currently seeping into my skin.

No matter what I did, I always felt so out of place at Dusty’s, which is why I usually opted out of coming with Peyton. I had just wanted to stay home and eat pizza in my pajamas tonight while watching A Nightmare on Elm Street marathon. But Peyton said I was too much of a homebody. She meant it to be funny, but it was the truth. I liked being in our house.

My life had always been a string of different places. On the road to someplace new with my family. Always unpacking. Always starting over. And now I liked the structure that surrounded me in this town. It provided a certain amount of comfort, which I felt best while sitting in my living room.

“What do you want to drink?”

I looked up, seeing the bartender in front of me. “Oh, um . . . a cosmo?”

I cringed, seeing the look on his face. Why did it come out like a question? He had asked me, not the other way around.

The bartender disappeared, and I looked out across the room again, waiting for Peyton to come back. I realized it might be a while. I could just leave. She wouldn’t like it, but the girl could hold her own without me here. But I would have to walk back alone. And it was really cold outside.

A clear cup was placed next to me with a faint hint of red floating on top. I reached down inside my boot to get money from the inside pocket.

“Put the cat’s drink on my tab.”

I turned around quickly at the sound of the deep voice behind me.

“What are you doing?” The words slipped out as I stared into a set of brown eyes. He tipped a beer bottle up to his lips and grinned as he pulled it away. And that hair. The top of his head was covered with messy blond strands that were slightly curly and slightly straight—like they couldn’t make up their mind.

“Well, I saw this lost kitten, sitting all alone, and I thought I would buy it a drink.” His face lit up with his flirting. I saw how it probably worked on most girls.

“So what are you dressed as tonight? A drunk cowboy?”

“A cowboy, maybe, but I’m not drunk.”

“Not yet, anyway.” I didn’t just say that.

“No, I only have one before I go on stage. Helps loosen up the nerves.”

My eyes trailed over his pearl-snap shirt. It was untucked over a pair of really tight jeans and brown cowboy boots. “So you’re a singer?”

“Yeah.” He took another swig of his beer.

I studied him for a moment, trying to figure out if he was telling me the truth. “If you’re a famous singer, what’s your name?”

“I’m not exactly famous. Well, not yet, anyway. But my friends call me Lucky.”

Lucky? “So we just met and I’m already upgraded to friend status?”

He chuckled. “If you want to be friends, we can be friends. But that wasn’t exactly what I was thinking when I bought you that drink.”

A nervous jolt went through me, hearing his pointed remark. I glanced down at my hand, which held the cup that I had yet to even sip. Lifting it up, I took a small drink before letting my eyes drift back up to his. “Are you always this self-assured?”

“Yes. Most of the time.”

I laughed at the sincere look that followed his little comeback. He was cute and sexy. And I assumed this singer was used to girls thinking those exact same thoughts. The room was full of them, which is why I couldnt figure out why he had picked me. The girl hiding in the corner, minding her own business.

Lucky glanced at the clock above the bar. “Hey, I gotta go. But you should come over by the stage. I’m up next.”

As far as I knew, this was his usual game. Hit on a girl before the show. Hook her with his sexy songs. Have her waiting for a quickie afterward.

“I think I’ll just stay here, but thanks for the drink.”

His brown eyes flashed something with my rejection, but he quickly covered it up with that flirty humor. “Well, I guess I was trying to save a kitten that didn’t want to be saved.”

“It’s Katie.” I shocked myself as I blurted out my name.

That lazy grin reappeared, causing the left side of his lip to turn up a little bit more than the other. My face flushed with the attraction that seeped slowly under my skin. I seriously wasn’t falling for this act from some wannabe country singer.

“It was nice to meet you, Katie.” He held my gaze for a second longer before turning around and disappearing into the crowd.

I swallowed hard. What just happened?

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[* *]

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An epic love. An epic hate.

An epic story that would last a lifetime.

 

Today, 8:15 p.m.

I hurt. I hurt so deeply, I felt the pain searing in my bones and jabbing like a hot poker into my heart. I knew nothing would make it better as the memories pulled from the crevices of my mind, detailing the bad and the ugly, filling my thoughts with regret as I slipped into the darkness. . .

When I was eight, my mother was dying of cancer, my father lost his job, and the bank kicked us out of our house. I was forced to move to the strange town of Arlis, Texas where my father and I slept in our car in the hospital parking lot. Desperate and hopeless, we lived on fumes of our former life.

Then one night, everything changed forever. A knock on the car window brought a family into my life that I only wanted to shut out. I hated charity and I hated the Masons. Well, except one. He made it impossible to hate him.

Jess Mason had the biggest blue eyes and ornery smile of any boy I had ever seen. He was a ray of sunshine in my dark world. A boy full of adventure, dragging me across the meadow of Sprayberry Ranch; a beautiful Texas paradise full of horses and tree houses that got us into more trouble than anyone ever imagined.

Jess was my everything as a kid until we grew up and the rules changed. Instead of living happily ever after with a boy full of love. . . I destroyed it.

 

-Alex Tanner, The Mason List

 

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_The dogs that deserved a chance, _

_The guy who needed a second, _

And the girl determined to save him.

[_ _]

 

My name is Emma Sawyer.

I met Charlie and Wyatt on the same sultry, summer day. It was unexpected, leaving a feeling in the pit of my stomach like the time I drove too fast over Beckett Hill. The moment happened out of nowhere, all fast and quick and a little strange. Or maybe that was just Wyatt’s personality.

It was Charlie that brought us together. Little Charlie with those ridiculous ears. I found the dog, waiting in a pool of his own blood. Waiting for someone. Waiting for me.

Now Wyatt, he wasn’t waiting for anyone. At least that’s what he said, except I saw something different in the broken guy all alone out in the woods. I knew he needed me before he knew it himself.

Wyatt with his hidden dimples. Wyatt with his warnings to stay away. He was a hard lump of coal, ready to burn everything around him. The more he burned, the more it pulled me into the pain I saw etched on his troubled face.

I wanted to help Wyatt. I wanted to save him like he had saved all the Charlies in the world. He told me not to fall for him, but I did anyway. I fell hard and fast and deeply in love with Wyatt Caulfield.

But that was before I knew his secret.

 

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About the Author

 

SD Hendrickson received a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism and Public Relations from Oklahoma State University. She lives in Tulsa with her husband and two schnauzers. Currently, her days are spent teaching computer software to oil and gas companies as well as writing technical instructional manuals. The Mason List was her first novel and it was a 2015 Goodreads Choice Award Semi-Finalist for Best Debut Author.

 

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Visit http://www.SDHendrickson.com


Burning Confession: Stand Alone Short Story Novella

"Sometimes love drives a man a little crazy." Cody was a simple guy. Loyal. Hardworking. He just wanted to have a nice Valentine's dinner with his girlfriend Becca. But one confession turned into another. Instead of roses and sexy lingerie, Cody found himself at Dusty's Saloon, tangled up in a twisted night of smoke and whiskey. Burning Confession is a Standalone Short Story and a prequel to My Lucky Days about a different character. Reading Lucky is not required to enjoy this story. Author Note: When I wrote the songs for My Lucky Days, I included the lyrics for a much darker song compared to the others in the book. In my mind, I had this entire backstory to why Lucky Evans wrote the words. But it wasn't something that fit into the actual story of Lucky and Katie in My Lucky Days. So he simply performed it one night on stage without any other explanation. Burning Confession is a haunting tale that plays out like a classic country song. Love. Betrayal. Whiskey. Lucky might have made it famous, but it was always Cody's story. He lived every painful moment.

  • ISBN: 9781370466610
  • Author: SD Hendrickson
  • Published: 2017-04-04 03:35:25
  • Words: 9636
Burning Confession: Stand Alone Short Story Novella Burning Confession: Stand Alone Short Story Novella