Tequila Burn

By: Melissa Toppen

Chapter One





There are moments in every person’s life that change everything. Moments that take what we thought we know and completely skew them into something we no longer recognize. For me, this was one of those defining moments.

“I’m sorry, how rude of me.” The pretty brunette standing in front of me smiles. Only it’s not the friendly kind of smile you give someone you’re happy to meet. It’s more of one of those I’m sizing you up and I think I have the upper hand kind of smiles. “Stephanie Demasi,” she says, extending her hand.

Like a bolt of lightning it hits me. I know where I’ve seen her before. Thrive. She was the brunette in Hudson’s lap that night. I don’t know how I know that. How I could possibly remember someone I only saw once for a brief moment over five years ago, but I swear it’s her. I can feel it to my bones.

“Demasi?” I question, a sort of fog settling over me.

“As in Mrs. Hudson Demasi.” Her words hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest.

At first I think she’s messing with me. She has to be. There’s no way he’s married. There’s no way after all these weeks he failed to mention he has a wife. I’ve met his family. Who never once mentioned a Stephanie. Certainly if this were true I would have found out before now.

“That’s enough, Steph,” Colton snips and my eyes dart to him, the reality finally starting to sink in.

“It’s true?” I ask, fighting back the tears welling in my eyes.

“It’s not what you think, Len.”

“Is it true?” I ask again, my voice shaking as it rises.

“Yes, but...”

Not willing or desiring to hear anything more he has to say, I spin on my heel and run through the courthouse as fast as my two feet will take me.

“Lennon, please.” Colton catches up to me just as I pull open my car door.

Spinning toward him, he instantly takes a full step back when he sees the look on my face.

“You knew,” I seethe, pointing my finger at his chest. “You knew he was married and you never once thought that I deserved to know?”

“I did think you deserved to know. But it’s not what you’re thinking. Steph and Hudson...they were a long time ago.”

“And that makes lying to me okay?” I scream, not caring who hears me. “He’s married, Colton. Do you get how messed up that is?”

“I do. Trust me I do.”

“You knew she’d be here. That’s why you tried so hard to keep me home.” Everything suddenly makes perfect sense.

“Lennon, please. Hudson loves you. Just give him a chance to explain everything before you write him off.”

“His chance for telling me he was married was weeks ago. I’ve been down this path before. Being lied to and betrayed. I won’t do it again.” I spin, dropping into the driver’s seat. “You can tell Hudson I hope his wife is more forgiving than I am.” I slam the door in his face and fire the engine to life, ignoring Colton’s pleas as I pop the car in gear and quickly speed away.

—-

“I don’t get it.” Emma paces the carpet in front of me, her eyes locked on her cell phone in her hand. “There’s nothing here about him being married. How would that information not have gotten out?” She looks at me with pity in her eyes and I swear it only further fuels the anger bubbling inside of me.

After I left the courthouse, I came straight to Emma’s, knowing she’d be the only person in the world who could talk me down. I expected her to make me feel better, to make me see something I wasn’t seeing, but thus far she’s been no help.

Not that it’s her fault. There’s one person that can give me the answers I need and right now he’s the absolute last person I want to see.

“There has to be a reasonable explanation,” Robert offers from his place on the couch. “You said Colton knew she would be there. Why would Hudson have her come? Did he seriously think you wouldn’t show at the courthouse? It doesn’t make any sense.”

“You’re right, it doesn’t,” I agree. “None of this makes any sense.” I pull at my hair, feeling like I want to claw my way out of my own skin.

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