I stare at the tall iron fence that runs along the broken sidewalk. The sun has almost escaped this brutally warm day, casting the wrought-iron in an orange glow, making it look like it’s on fire. Behind the fence, everything still looks the same—same white clapboard siding and same black railing leading to her front door. But it’s not the same. She has the high fence installed because of me. She has the gate with a call box because I led the paparazzi and my fans to her front door. I put her in danger.
My vagabond, free spirit is now contained.
Taking a deep breath, I try to slow my shallow breathing. I want to play this cool. I don’t want MK to know just how much these next hours we’ll spend together mean to me. I’m not that well versed in relationships, but even I know that girls don’t like needy, pathetic guys.
My hands drag along the rough denim of my jeans. I don’t want to greet MK with sweaty palms.
Pushing the button by the gate, her sweet voice causes my stomach to do a flip. “Hi, Aaron. I’ll let you in.”
“Uh . . . thanks,” I stammer. Shit. Get it together.
A buzzing noise alerts me that it’s okay to push the gate open. I walk into MK’s personal space with a tiny prayer that I’m walking to my destiny.
Her front door opens, and when she steps out onto the small landing, I think I forget to breathe. Brown hair seems to swirl around her firm breasts. Erect nipples push against the R and A of her tank top that reads A girl needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. I feel relatively certain that this top was chosen specifically to send me a message.
“Are you going to get out of this heat, or are you just going to stand there staring?” she says with a strong Cajun accent. I love when it escapes.
Shit. I forgot to walk.
I couldn’t keep the smile from my face if I tried. “It’s hot out here? I haven’t noticed.” A bead of sweat trickles down my back.
Her eyes roll as she turns around and walks back into her home. I follow like the love-sick fool that I am.
Words swirl in my brain—things I want to say to her.
You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.
You make me feel complete just by being in your presence.
I don’t want to ever be without you.
Let’s leave this all behind. You and me can be perfect together away from all the distractions.
Instead of telling her phrases that she won’t believe, I step into her living room and ask, “Where in the hell is your furniture?”
Her hair whips, sticking to her cheeks. “You.” She marches over to where I’m standing and pushes on my chest. “You got rid of my furniture. You tossed my things without asking my permission. You’re the reason that I work at my kitchen island, sitting on an old, uncomfortable barstool.”
Dropping my bag just inside the door, I grab her hand because frankly her pushing on my sternum hurts. “Yeah. I did all of that, but it’s been like ten months. Why haven’t you bought new stuff?”
Her eyes narrow as her head turns to the side. “Do you think money grows on trees? I had to ask Grandmother to pay for the fence and gate out front.” She turns and walks away which makes my chest tight. “After you left me raw and exposed to the world, it took some time before I could write or make videos again. Advertising dollars were pouring in. I didn’t know how long it would last or what my future looked like. I couldn’t spend money on furniture, not even thrift store finds.”
She grows quiet as she opens the refrigerator and fixes herself a glass of wine. I watch her throat move up and then down as she takes a large gulp.
This is not how I had planned our reunion, and I hate myself for being such a careless asshole.
“I’m . . .” I start before she cuts me off.
“Don’t say it, Aaron. I don’t want your apologies. But this is another reason why we shouldn’t be together. We’re too different. You don’t have any concept of what it’s like to struggle. You can toss furniture just because it gets dirty. I live month to month. My savings account has twenty dollars in it. How did you think I could afford to replace the things you tossed?”
Well, this is a role reversal. “Yeah, I have money now, but I didn’t. I worked my ass off for it. I’ve known a kind of poor that you’ve only read about in books.”
Her hands go to her hips. “Then you should have been more sensitive to my struggles when you had my furniture hauled off.”
She’s infuriating. I had her couch, chair, and coffee table taken to the landfill because they were stained with her blood and vomit. I didn’t want her to have a reminder of that terrible night. I thought I was doing her a favor. “Are you always going to punish me for my shit behavior? Because, if so, maybe you’re right, and we shouldn’t be together.” I can’t believe the words come out of my mouth. Immediately, I wish I could grab them before they reach her ears and shove them back inside.
Tears fall down her cheeks as she takes another slug out of the glass. “Today was the best day of my life. Please don’t ruin it. I don’t want to fight with you. Can we not talk about the past and just try to enjoy the moment? Please don’t make me regret turning down a date with Vince.”
At the mention of the other guy’s name, I feel as if a knife has been shoved into my side. I walk past the spot on her worn hardwoods where I made the biggest mistake of my life.
Taking the wine from her hand, I rest it on the counter and pull her rigid body into my arms as I kiss her forehead. “I know you don’t want to hear my apologies, but please just let me say that I’m so fucking sorry for everything. I wouldn’t have gotten rid of your stuff if I had known how much it meant to you. I’m sorry I didn’t pay to replace it. I’m sorry I did coke, and I stormed out of your place and didn’t come back. I’m sorry I released the album without giving you any warning, and I’m especially sorry that my thoughtlessness and carelessness made your life difficult. I’m sorry I abandoned you and left you struggling. But what I’m most sorry about is that I turned my back on the one woman I’ve ever loved and left her raw and exposed to my world.”
Her body quivers, and I hold her so tightly that I think I might squeeze her to death. The smell of her soap lingers on her olive skin and it reminds me of the ocean breeze. “You, MK, are right for me.” Then I say the words that I used to hate. “Teach me to be the man you deserve.”
He left me crumpled in a ball on the worn hardwoods where my living room furniture used to be. He fed me to the paparazzi. He teased me with his new album—full of songs written about me. Then, I never heard from him again.
Did I let Aaron Emerson break me? Of course not. I’m MK Landry. I turned my mess into my message. I poured my heart out to my fans on NoPinkCaddy.com. Then, I picked up the phone and made the scariest call of my life. The rest, as they say, is history.
She dropped the worst line in the history of breakup lines: be the man I deserve. What does that even mean? I ran. I had no idea how to handle her injury, anger, and disappointment. She gave up on me when I needed her the most.
My life has marched forward. I’m in the middle of my comeback, sold-out tour. I have a model girlfriend. On the outside, my world looks rock star perfect. But Mary Kay Landry left a void in my soul that no amount of fame or time spent with others can fill. I’m stuck in MK purgatory where she haunts my nights and fills my days.
Burnt Sugar is the second book in the ACE series.
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Then one day, it happens. Instead of falling in love with my best friend like I was supposed to, I meet a rock star who happens to be a fan of my site, NoPinkCaddy.com. You’d think that would be where the story ended, but it’s only the beginning.
How does a southern girl from New Orleans, who just wants to make her own way in the world, merge her life with that of one of the hottest rock stars on the planet? Well, let me tell you, it’s not easy.
I refuse to take the easy road in life, and take note those of you who dream of falling in love with a rock star. It’s not all tight jeans and guitar serenades, but hot damn, there are some fun times along the way.
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