Real talk. I haven't posted in a hot minute and I'm getting antsy waiting for some misinformation to come my way so I can debunk it. Until then, though, I thought I'd give y'all a taste of my current work-in-progress (WIP), the third (and final) installment of my Rabid series. It's yet unnamed. Heckin' enjoy!
The craving ate away at my insides, filling every single empty space in my body with a need like the blast of a grenade. It whipped up my spine and down to my toes. Fog collected in the folds of my brain. I needed a fix.
Instead, I coughed for the thousandth time. A rich, metallic taste bubbled into the back of my throat. I leaned forward and spit a wad of pink-tinged saliva onto the deck. Great. Now I was bleeding internally.
Propping my elbows on my knees, I pushed my hands through my hair. They were shaking. I brought them down to eye-level. Each finger convulsed. Uncontrollable spasms rocked the joints in my wrists.
But at least my knee worked again. With a heavy groan, I stood, stretching my back in the early light of morning. My spine creaked with every twist. Inside, the house was dark, quiet. The kitchen stove clock read 12:40. It was blinking. I checked my cell phone. 5:25 AM.
Turning back to the sunrise beyond the fence, I heaved a sigh, ending in clearing a bit of leftover phlegm from my throat. Then, I shook out a cigarette from its packet and lit up.
The first burst of nicotine was enough to drag the craving for Oxycontin down to the depths of my brain, where it lay in wait until I let my guard down again. I rubbed a hand roughly across my face, feeling the tip of the cigarette filter tickle the spot between my eyes.
I spun around, leaning back against the deck railing. My wife had stepped out into the cool morning air wearing nothing more than a silk pair of panties and an oversized knit sweater. Her short, dark hair was a mess. Her eyes bleary. She hugged the front of her sweater as she eyed the cigarette in my hand.
“Oh, hey.” I looked down at my right hand, then frowned. “Sorry.” Turning, I crushed out my half-smoked cancer stick on the railing. “Only thing that helps.”
“How long have I been asleep?” She didn’t move. Her expression was stony and set.
“I stopped keeping track after thirty-six hours,” I said, crossing my ankles. A light breeze kissed my bare chest.
My wife’s expression dissolved into one of shock at first. But it was quickly replaced by the robot, as I called it. “I see.”
I cleared my throat again, then turned to spit into the grass. At first, I thought she wasn’t going to come near me. And I didn’t blame her. I’d fucked up royally. I’d left those kids alone and now they were gone. I’d been kicking myself over and over while she was asleep. And the craving for Oxy had never been stronger.
So, imagine my surprise when she shuffled over to me and pressed her entire body into mine. “I’m scared, Jack.”
Her words tugged at my heart. She didn’t deserve this. “Hey.” I cupped her face in my palms and forced her to look at me. “I’m scared, too. But we’ll find them. I promise, Lisa.” I leaned in to kiss her, but she pulled away.
Uh oh. “What?”
“Please stop smoking. It’s unhealthy.” Her nails skirted across my chest. “I need you to stick around.”
The breath hitched in my throat. God, what was I doing? Those kids needed me. Lisa needed me. “Okay. I’ll stop.”
She plastered on a tight smile, which didn’t reach her eyes. “Thank you.” She paused, collecting her thoughts. “It may be possible to find some Buprenorphine. It may help the cravings more than nicotine.”
I nodded, brushing a lock of hair from her cheek. “What about you?”
She blinked. “What about me?”
I shifted my weight to the other foot, snaking an arm around her waist to pull her closer. “Talk to me.”
For a moment, she said nothing. Her heart beat against my chest, first speeding up when I held her and slowing down after a few seconds. The muscles in her stomach contracted against mine. “I can’t.”
All my blood vessels constricted at once as I held her back at arm’s length. “Please, Foxtrot.”
Her eyes misted over the tiniest bit. “I’m sorry.”
“Is it because I’m not a shrink?”
She shook her head, glancing over my shoulder for a moment. “I suppose that’s part of it.”
Guilt pulled at my gut. My blood ran cold. I could feel the beginning of those shakes coming again. “Is it because you blame me?”
Our gazes met. Her dark eyes widened in some sort of shock or embarrassment. I couldn’t tell which. “Of course not.”
“I blame me.” My words were quiet, my gaze cast downward. I couldn’t look at her when I was weak.
“Don’t.” It was a simple sentence. “It’s not your fault the CDC forced their way into my office.”
“I was supposed to watch them, Lisa.” My grip around her tightened without me noticing.
“Jack, there are so many things we could’ve done differently.” Her fingertips brushed my shoulder. “Blaming each other or ourselves isn’t going to change anything.”
Of course, she was right. She was always right. “You always know what to say, Dr. Reynolds.”
“That’s because I don’t just say whatever comes to my mind, Mr. Reynolds.”
I pretended to be offended by her statement. “Hey, now! Mr. Reynolds is an actor. I’ve never done anything in my life to—”
“Earn the ‘mister’ title. I know.” A real, coy smile tugged at her perfect mouth. “But that’s just what you think. It isn’t reality.”
The breeze picked up again, ruffling the soft feathers of her hair. It tickled my wrist. “Reality is subjective.”
She cocked her head at me. “No. No, it isn’t. You can’t—”
I stopped her with a kiss. Because she was going to go on for pages and pages if I didn’t. And I wasn’t in the mood to listen to an audiobook about medical advice. Not when she was there in front of me wearing almost nothing.
She playfully slapped my chest when I didn’t let her go. But I grabbed her hand and held it there. She tried to wiggle away. And when we came up for air, her lips were pulled back over her teeth.
“Oh, my Lord. How foul!”
“You callin’ me a chicken?”
“No! Foul not fowl.”
“You are calling me a chicken!”
“No!” She waved a hand in front of her face while still grimacing. “You taste like cigarettes!”
“Count yourself lucky! I could still be smoking weed with Brendon.”
She eyed me. “Cannabis is healthier than nicotine.”
A chuckle escaped me. “Okay, I’ll go back to that then.”
“Oh-kay… But you get to be the one to tell Dr. B. I don’t think I can take those puppy-dog eyes anymore.”
“Has he returned yet?” She tucked another strand of hair behind her ear.
After giving her a once-over look, I said, “I should hope not with you out here in your skivvies. He’s got enough material in his spank bank already.”