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Callum Ferguson has grown up in the shadow of the sins of his father. The worst moment of his life came not at the age of sixteen, when he threw his father out of the house, but later in life, when he realised he was just like him. With a predilection for alcohol and violence, he sees his destiny every time he looks in the mirror.
Sass Hathaway, hell-raiser and successful musician, thrived in the limelight – until one night she lost it all. Drowning in an ocean of uncertainty, nursing a crippling case of self-loathing, her brother offers her a chance to find herself again.
His idea of salvation is a dilapidated bar. His proposal; she help him and his wife renovate and run it. However, when she and Callum cross paths, they both discover that salvation comes in many forms.
You can’t escape your past, you can only come to terms with it so that you can move on – but accepting your past is only the beginning. Then you must decide whether you’re strong enough to follow your heart.
(This can be read as a stand-alone, but reading ‘Absolution’ is recommended in order to get the most out of this story).
“I don't think your ability to fight has anything to do with how big you are. It's to do with how much anger is in you.” – Amy Winehouse
Five Weeks Earlier
Barney’s was filled to capacity, which was unusual for a Wednesday night. So unusual that it was starting to piss me off. I wanted to lose myself, but the noise in there was distracting. I’d arrived late and lost my usual booth in the far corner, so I’d found myself at the bar instead, which was handy for refills but not what I had in mind when I came in.
To make it worse, I’d been jostled and shoved from all directions. I could feel the beast inside me beginning to stir. I tried to drown it with booze, but we both knew it was a temporary fix.
As if to illustrate my point, the guy beside me bumped into me a second time, spilling my beer down the front of my shirt. That was the final straw. I turned around and gave him a shove back, sending him sprawling into his friends, friends I hadn’t noticed until that moment. That should’ve been my warning, but I was way past seeing signs.
I didn’t even know who the guy was, I only knew he worked over at the mill, was clumsy and had a big mouth. That’s not true, I knew something else about him, too – he was big. Taller than me, so maybe six-three or six-four, with a face that was perfect for radio. He also seemed to think he was bulletproof, but I was about to prove him wrong.
He turned around, and suddenly I was faced with four of them, all varying combinations of huge, drunk and angry. That should’ve slowed me down, or had me pausing at least, but it didn’t. It was a challenge, and I loved a challenge.
“You got a problem, dude?” he asked, giving me the once-over from the feet up.
That pissed me off even more.
“Yeah, I have. You just spilled beer all over me, asshole.”
One of his friends laughed. He actually laughed, although I failed to see the humour in the situation.
“Think that’s funny?” I demanded, slamming what was left of my beer on the bar.
The universal sign for ‘bring it on, punk’.
“Take it outside!”
Harry’s voice was swallowed up in the melee as the situation rapidly deteriorated. I saw red, and it blurred out almost everything around me. The room seemed to sway and heave with people as the guy came barrelling towards me. I should’ve known. I should’ve seen what was happening, but the beer had dulled my senses. I turned my head at the last moment and his fist connected with my cheekbone, jarring my entire skull. The room began to swim as I grabbed onto him and took him to the floor with me. I got in one good punch, one decent, solid hit that got him right in the ribcage, and he rolled off me, his arms wrapped protectively around his gut.
The next thing I knew, two of his friends were frog-marching me across the crowded room, the three of us parting the crowd like the Red Sea. It all happened so fast. One minute, we were on the ground, the next, I was flying out the door. It was one of those surreal moments, like something out of a dream. The anger that had consumed me only moments before dissipated, and I was left hollow and confused, struggling to make sense of the sudden change of scenery.
I landed on the pavement outside on my hands and knees. That woke me up and took care of the dream sequence in one fell swoop. Reality flooded in, like a movie with the sound suddenly switched to full volume.
They yelled something at me that I didn’t catch, then one of them kicked me in the ribs for good measure. The impact blinded me, forcing me over onto my back as I curled into the foetal position to protect myself. Pain, immediate and intense, bloomed through my torso like a virus, making my head spin. I fought back the urge to throw up as I tried to breathe through it. I heard the door to the bar slam shut behind me and then I was alone.
I lay there for a while, trying to catch my breath, watching it turn into fog in the cold night air.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been thrown out of a bar, and it probably wasn’t gonna be the last time either. Why was it that booze numbed your senses when you were physically fine, but as soon as someone drove a boot into your ribs – or a fist into your face, or nose, or any other part of you – you felt everything?
I wasn’t sure if that was aimed at him or me. Probably both. I was just as worthy of it, especially lately. It was a wonder that Harry hadn’t barred me already – I sure as hell deserved it. The anger swam around inside me, searching for a release. Booze made it worse, but it also made the flipside easier to bear.
It was eating me up inside. The booze took my mind off it, at least for a while. I’d yet to discover what the answer was, long-term. I wasn’t even sure I wanted one.
With a grunt, I heaved myself to my knees and then to my feet, staggering slightly. I looked up and down the street, but it was empty. Not a soul was out at this time of the night, and those that were, were inside Barney’s.
I was drunk and stupid, but not suicidal, and sure as hell not capable of driving.
My ribs ached and I tried to take shallow breaths as I made my way down the empty street in the dark, towards home.
Amanda Dick is a night-owl, coffee addict, movie buff and music lover. She loves to do DIY (if it's not bolted down, she'll probably paint it, re-cover it or otherwise decorate it) and has tried almost every craft known to man/womankind. She has two sewing machines and an over-locker she can't remember how to thread. She crochets (but can't follow a pattern), knits (badly) and refrains from both as a public service.
She believes in love at first sight, in women's intuition and in following your heart. She is rather partial to dark chocolate and believes in the power of a good vanilla latte.
What lights her fire is writing stories about real people in trying situations. Her passion is finding characters who are forced to test their boundaries. She is insanely curious about how we, as human beings, react when pushed to the edge. Most of all, she enjoys writing about human behaviour - love, loss, joy, grief, friendship and the complexity of relationships in general.
After living in Scotland for five years, she has now settled back home in New Zealand, where she lives with her husband and two children.
Her debut novel, "Absolution", was released on 29 October 2013 (with the second edition releasing on 6 January 2015). Her second novel, "Between Before and After", was released in May 2014. Her third novel, "Into the Void", is scheduled to release in July 2015.