By some genetic fluke or mental weakness, Lisa was one of those people who got hooked quick and hard on opioids. By the time Sunny graduated, her mom was a full-blown addict, living with her abusive dealer-slash-pimp. Thankfully, Sunny got enough money from an inheritance from her grandparents when she turned eighteen to be able to move out on her own. It killed her to leave her mother behind in Baltimore, but she had to get out. No matter how bad her pimp beat her, Lisa wouldn’t leave him, not even when he tried to recruit Sunny for his stable. She told her mom, but Lisa had called her a liar and a bunch of other messed up shit. Once the pimp had tried to rape Sunny while her mother was too fucked up on fentanyl to even function, but that hadn’t swayed her mom, either.
Despite the many crappy things her mother had done, the anxiety and shame Sunny felt for leaving Lisa in jail still tormented her. Guilt ridden thoughts of her mom feeling sad and alone kept Sunny up at night and tormented her during the day. Feeling like she was drowning, she’d finally reached out and contacted an online counselor. A guy named “H839” happened to be the one who’d answered her message asking for someone to talk to in the middle of the night. They’d texted for hours, and in that time, he’d managed to convince her that she should come to a NA meeting with him.
The redheaded old woman paused before a closed door, glancing down at her watch. “We’re a little early. I’m not sure if anyone is here yet.”
“Oh, I can wait.”
“Let’s see if anyone’s home,” the woman said with a smile as she knocked on the door.
When it opened a moment later, Sunny nearly swallowed her tongue.
Hawk DelRay, steaming hot Native American star of about a dozen action movies and total spank bank material, smiled at her. A perfect, rugged movie star smile that made her whole body clench and tingle. Stunned, she stared at him as her heart seemed to try to beat its way out of her chest. He was unfairly handsome, with his high, solid cheekbones, slightly tilted, darker-than-midnight eyes, and absolutely gorgeous, firm, made-for-kissing lips. Even in the dead of winter, his skin was a deep, nearly glowing bronze. Plus, he was big, taller than her, and she wasn’t short.
“Susanna?” he said as he extended his hand. “I’m your sponsor, Hawk.”
“Sunny, my friends call me Sunny,” she managed to say faintly as she took his hand, her whole body feeling numb. “You’re my sponsor?”
He appeared a little uncomfortable as the old woman walked away, but he led her inside what looked like a classroom. The tables had been moved off to the side, leaving a group of chairs in a circle. There was a dry erase board at the back, and one of the tables held what looked like coffee and cookies.
“Yes, I’m your sponsor.”
“I’m your sponsor,” he said with emphasis. “I’m here to help you, Susanna. Are you okay with that, or would you feel more comfortable talking with someone else?”
“Sunny,” she repeated again. “No, I’m okay…okay, I’m cool. I got this. We’re good.”
He arched his brow, and she did her absolute best not to stare at him, but it was a lost cause. While he was dressed like a normal person in jeans and a blue t-shirt with a cool modern art design on the front, his body was banging. Wide shoulders, narrow hips, thick thighs. Her mind decided to suddenly remember that she’d seen him almost naked and she let out a weird coughing, gasping sound that made her cough for real.
“You okay?” Hawk asked, clearly concerned that he was alone in a room with a mental case.
“I’ve seen your ass!” she blurted, then slapped her hands over her mouth.
His lips twitched, but he gave her a solemn shake of his head. “If you’re talking about the shower scene in ‘Desert Rose,’ I hate to burst your bubble, but it was a stunt double’s ass.”
Looking uncomfortable, he said, “Yep. I have a no nudity clause in my contracts. There are some parts of my body that are not for public consumption. I’m afraid I have rather old-fashioned ideas about modesty.”
“I understand.” He gave her a dubious look, so she continued, “No, really, I do. My mom…well, let’s just say I’ve seen firsthand the downside of not having respect for yourself.”
He studied her for a moment, then he held out his hand toward the grouping of chairs. “Come sit with me. We have about a half hour until everyone else arrives. I wanted a chance to talk with you alone first.”
She reluctantly followed him. Everything inside of her said she should shut up, not to tell him anything. When people found out that her mother was a drug addicted prostitute, their opinion of Sunny immediately changed. It became tainted somehow, like she was the one with the problems. She’d seen it happen so often that she just avoided telling people anything about her mother. Her college friends certainly had no idea. They thought she was another normal girl there to get her education and have fun. None of them knew the kind of life she’d left behind. None of them knew that she had no family to go home to on holiday breaks, that she was basically alone in the world.