Reaching RachelBy: L. L. Collins
This book is dedicated to my husband Cameron, who puts up with many nights of me glued to my computer, ignoring everything and everyone. Thanks for always believing in my dream, and giving me the freedom to do it.
She sat against the outside wall of her house, the dingy porch covering her from view, her head in her hands while sobs wracked her entire body. Her long red hair covered her like a curtain, shielding her from the cruelty of the outside world. It was like she was in a cocoon, but knew that it wouldn’t help keep her safe from this pain. She knew he was leaving, she could feel the loss of him like a limb was missing. A moment ago he had been standing there, watching her, love pouring from him like water rushing down a waterfall, but now, he was walking away. She did this. She was twenty one years old, but she knew that she would never love anyone the way she loved him again in her life. But, she had ruined it, just like everything else. Her innate way of screwing everything up had just made the man of her dreams walk away from her forever. She couldn’t tell him. She just couldn’t. She couldn’t let him ruin his career over her. So she let him think the absolute worst of her.
Hearing the engine of his motorcycle rev up, she couldn’t watch him pull away. She knew exactly what he looked like sitting on that big beast of a machine, his sexy, muscular legs straddling the body like it was a woman, his strong arms gripping the handlebars tightly, making his muscles contract. His dark tousled hair would be covered by the helmet, as would his dark blue eyes, but nothing could mask the pull, the draw of this man. The tattoo hidden under his short sleeve shirt would peek out as the wind rustled over his body, a tattoo she had memorized over the last two years. She had run her fingers over it, her tongue, and laid her head on it to fall asleep more times than she could count. It was the only tattoo he had, a tribal design that went around his defined bicep. He had gotten it one night on a dare from some of the guys, and she loved it. Most of the time, he was a clean cut professional, driving a police car and walking around with a stern face. She knew him differently, the edgy, passionate, love of her life. Devin Putnam. Just his name caused a reaction in her body. Four years older than her but her soul mate just the same. Their relationship had been combustible, passionate, and all consuming, but the fire had been instantly extinguished the moment he pulled away, riding that reverberating motorcycle. She knew one thing for an absolute fact. Though he had loved her just as much as she had loved him, once the rumble of that engine faded into the night, he would never come back to her.
Rachel sat at the bar, twirling the stick in her martini, watching the olive make ripples in the clear liquid, ignoring the noise and ruckus of the dive she was sitting in. Bert’s. From the outside, the place looked like every other bar in every other small town across the country. Neon blinking lights attracted all walks of life in for a drink of whatever would help you forget, help you celebrate, relax from a long week, or enjoy friends. Whether the people were happy, sad, in love, angry, or a combination of all of those, you could find them here. Drinking, playing pool, dancing, picking up dates or one-night stands, or enjoying time with friends.
None of her friends came here, and that’s why she did when she needed to be alone. The neighborhood it was in didn’t warrant young mid-twenties single girls to frequent it. She didn’t come here to meet men, or to have fun with friends. She came here to drink away the memory of him, every year on this day. September 3rd. She would never forget that day as long as she lived. The days before it had been bad enough—life altering, devastating blows to what had been a happy, lively girl with a bright future. It had been five years, but that didn’t stop her from thinking of this day, dreading it as the days marked off her calendar towards it.
Devin. She had no idea even where he was right now, and hadn’t ever since that night that he had driven away into the sunset, leaving her behind for good. She only knew that after he had left, he had taken a job in Miami, about as far as he could get from their Jacksonville suburb without actually leaving the state. She had been a college junior when everything crashed to the ground with them, and she couldn’t hardly get out of bed, much less go to class to be an occupational therapist. So, she quit, failed—just like everything in her life. She had moved too, to the west coast of Florida where her parents owned a beach house. She left everyone behind that she cared about and shut the door. Her parents were disappointed in her, she had no siblings, and the love of her life was gone. She was really good at pushing everyone away. But it had been necessary. Now she was an office manager instead of a therapist, a casual fling instead of the love of someone’s life, and a friend that no one knew the truth about. As far as she was concerned, the old Rachel was dead and gone. No one in her new life would know about her old life. The old Rachel died that night in the beach house, and was buried the night Devin walked away from her forever.