Caught in Us (Caught #4) - Kacey Shea

Prologue

Chase

It’s a strange sensation, being back in my hometown and not having even one tiny urge to drink. Not that I’m under some false impression this summer has magically cured my alcoholism. That shit’s sticking with me for life. But it’s a nice reprieve to not fight tooth and nail to stay away from the bottle. Facing the past does that.

Spending this week in Richmond allows me to begin the process of making amends with the people I’ve hurt most. I use the time well, setting myself up for success once the summer is over by connecting with a local AA group and meeting a therapist who specializes in recovery. I visit Maverick every day, and Cam helps me make a plan to talk to Dad about returning to the department at the end of the summer. I doubt I’ll be brought back on as captain, but I’m willing to start from the bottom again and prove my worth.

Through it all, I think of her.

Alicia.

My bright light in the storm.

By the end of the week, I’m ready to get back to the community center and complete my service hours. I’m dying to see her. To fight for us. By the time Cam drops me off at my uncle’s house at the end of the week, I’m determined.

“Thank you,” I say and hop from the cab.

“You want me to come in?” He has to work in the morning. I won’t keep him; besides, we got lots of time together this week and I know he’s dying to get back to Jill.

“I’m good.” I grab my bag and sling the strap over one shoulder. “I’ll see you in a few weeks.”

“Sounds good.” He smiles, a real authentic one that’s devoid of worry and stress. It hits me that I haven’t seen my brother smile like this in far too long. My addiction has been rough on him in ways I don’t yet fully understand.

I walk up the path with a renewed sense of purpose. So much has happened in this place. This summer has been life-changing, and for the better. I’ve become a man I’m proud of. One who’s committed to working on himself. Someone who is a worthy partner.

I slide my key into the door, turning back to offer my brother a wave before pushing inside. Music—a popular seventies rock ballad—streams over the speaker on the kitchen counter. For a second I think it’s her. That somehow she’s come back and is waiting for me.

“Hello?” I drop my bag and keys by the door, then walk through the house.

The doors to the back patio are open and outside my uncle lays out on one of the chairs, his feet propped up on a ledge, skin glistened with sweat, and a beer bottle lifted to his lips.

“Uncle Rob.” I force the disappointment from my tone. It’s not her. Of course it isn’t. She doesn’t have a key and I still haven’t apologized. Hell, she hasn’t even answered any of my texts. Why would she? Words mean nothing to a fellow addict. We’re good at using them to our advantage. I’m going to have to show her I’m serious about my sobriety with my actions.

“Chase!” He sits up and reaches for a towel to wipe the sweat from his face. “How are you, kid?”

“I’m good.” I grin and settle into one of the empty deck chairs. “When’d you get back?”

“A few days ago.” He takes a swig from his beer. “Had a break between projects so I decided to soak up some of this good weather before hitting the road again.”

“Where are you off to next?”

“Japan for three months.”

“Damn.” I wonder how much time he even spends here. Or if it bothers him. “You really get around.”

He chuckles. “Yeah. Oh!” He flashes me a grin. “Speaking of that. You had a visitor this week.”

“Yeah?”

“A pretty young thing with purple hair.”

Alicia. I shoot up in my chair. “What did she say? When did she come by?”

“Oh, you like this one?” He chuckles. “She left something for you.” He pushes to his feet and heads toward the open door. “You want a beer or something?”

“I’m good.” I can’t help but follow him inside. I have no interest in playing it cool when it comes to Alicia.

He walks over to the counter, sets his empty bottle down, and riffles through a stack of mail. “Here it is.” He holds out a letter.

I stare at my name inked in black. Apprehension mixes with excitement for what’s inside.

“You gonna