Poison & Wine - Melissa Toppen

Chapter One


I twist the hair tie on my wrist nervously, my stomach knotted from uncertainty. I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t know why I let a simple letter turn me upside down.

I walked away. I let him go. So why, after all this time, do I feel like I’m running right back toward him? Toward the heartbreak and disappointment that comes as a package deal whenever Jace Matthews is involved.

He had a choice. He chose drugs. And he nearly killed me with that decision.

I can’t go back down this road again. I can’t let him reel me back in, the way that only he can. I won’t. There’s too much at stake this time around.

He asked me to come. Said it was important to his recovery. And no matter what has transpired between us over the years, I want him clean. I want him to be happy and healthy. Though given this is his third stent in rehab in nearly just as many years, I don’t really hold that much hope.

It's fine… I try to reason with myself. I’ll go in, hear him out, and then return to my normal life. A life I built despite everything Jace put me through.

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when my world began and ended with Jace. A time when I would have walked through fire for him. A time I would have given my life for his.

He was that important to me.

But things change. He changed. And eventually he got so lost not even I had the power to bring him back. Trust me, I tried. I almost lost everything trying.

Accepting that I couldn’t help him was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Realizing that he didn’t want the help falling second.

I still feel guilty for leaving, for walking away how I did. But I had to. And I’ve never regretted that decision. Because now I have more to live for than I ever did before.

The thought of Ellie brings a smile to my face. My daughter. My sweet, beautiful three-year-old. She is the absolute light of my life. A handful most days, but the best damn thing I’ve ever done in this world.

She was the light I needed when everything else was dark. The one thing that gave me the strength to keep going when most days I felt like giving up.

If it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t have the life I have today. A home. A job that I love. Friends I adore. And a boyfriend who puts a smile on my face every single day.

Life is good. Or at least it was, until last week when I found Jace’s letter in my mailbox. I don’t even know how he got my address, although if I had to guess, I’d say he got it from one of my siblings. Yet both deny any involvement in it.

It’s like the instant I opened the envelope, everything shifted. I was no longer the strong, independent twenty-three-year-old woman I have worked so hard to become. No, suddenly I was that same broken girl that fled town four years ago feeling like she had left part of her heart behind her.

That’s what Jace does to me.

He’s like a cancer. It starts small, then before I know it, it’s spread throughout my entire body, consuming me from the inside out.

My phone pings, drawing me from my thoughts. I grab the device from my purse resting in my lap and swipe my finger across the screen.

Lance: Just checking in. Have you seen him yet?

Most boyfriends would probably be furious to know that their girlfriend was going to visit their ex in rehab, but Lance has been nothing but supportive.

Sometimes I think he’s too good to be true.

But I won’t lie and say that I feel the same fire with him that I used to feel with Jace. The all-consuming burn that would wash over me whenever he was near. But with that kind of passion comes a lot of complications. And a hell of a lot of hurt.

Lance is simple. Safe. Uncomplicated. Being with him is easy. And coming from someone like Jace, easy is exactly what I need.

I wasn’t ready to date. Not for a long time. But eventually I started to succumb to the loneliness that had lingered over me since leaving Jace. That’s when I met Lance.

He works with my cousin, Keira, at a local insurance firm. When she told me about this nice, good looking guy

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