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Sweet Southern Sorrow
 

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Sweet Southern Sorrow


  Sweet Southern Sorrow

  Copyright © 2014 by Tessa Teevan

  Editor: Mickey Reed

  Formatting: Champagne Formats

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. This book is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, living or dead, any place, events or occurrences, is purely coincidental. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, storylines, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner.

  Find other titles by this author on Amazon.

  Prologue

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Epilogue

  Bonus Scene 1

  Bonus Scene 2

  Bonus Scene 3

  Bonus Scene 4

  Playlist

  Acknowledgements

  About the Author

  August 2008

  AS I WALK ACROSS campus at UC-Berkeley, I feel like I need to pinch myself. I’m so out of place here in San Francisco, but I also blend right in with the other eager college freshman, ready to start this new chapter of our lives. I’ve only been here for three days, and I’m still finding it hard to believe that I, Cheyenne Hamilton, small-town transplant from Shiloh Grove, Georgia, am approximately 2,463 miles away from home—not that I’d call it that. Ever since my daddy died—God rest his soul—I counted down the days and measured the miles until I could get away from my mama and start over in Daddy’s hometown.

  As I walked back to my dorm, a small flock of black birds flies over my head and I’m reminded that I wasn’t always so anxious to get here. I was only eight years old when Daddy died, and I’ll never forget the day I gave him a goodbye kiss as he was about to board the Navy ship in Charleston. He leaned down and pressed a kiss against my forehead, wiping away the tears that were falling from my eyes.

  “Hey, Birdie, don’t cry,” he said, calling me his favorite nickname, and I giggled, always loving it. “I won’t be gone too long. I’ll be back before you know it.”

  Sniffing, I didn’t believe his words, but I wanted to be a big girl for him, so I forced myself to stop crying. “I know, Daddy. I’m just going to miss you while you’re on the big ship.”

  He kissed the top of my head as he looked behind me. “Look, Birdie, over there. Do you see it?”

  Turning to follow where his hand pointed, I saw the tiny bird with blue tinted feathers resting on a post near the ship’s entrance. I immediately identified it as a swallow, our favorite.

  “It’s a swallow, Daddy! It’s good luck!” I exclaimed, remembering all the tales he’d told me.

  Nodding, he swooped me up into his arms and twirled me around before setting me back on the ground. “You’re right, baby. It’s a swallow. And what does a swallow represent?”

  I recited the words I’d heard many times. “One swallow takes you from me, and two will bring you back. As long as you have the swallow, forever we won’t lack. And in the spring, when the swallows appear, I’ll always know that you are near.”

  The smile he gave me is etched forever in my memory—the last smile I ever saw from him. “Bravo, Birdie! The swallows are about to fly south for the winter, but soon they’ll be back. And I’ll be right behind them, okay?”

  Sighing, I knew that it was it. He was about to leave and I had to say goodbye. I remember trying my hardest not to let my tears fall, to make my daddy proud by showing him that I was a big girl. It wasn’t until the ship went out of view and I could no longer see his waving figure that I finally broke down.

  And that was the last time I saw my daddy.

  Shaking the memory out of my head, I jog up the steps to my dorm, hoping that Corinna, my roommate, is gone for the night. Don’t get me wrong. So far she seems pretty great, but she’s the polar opposite of me. Bubbly, cheerful, ready to make friends and meet college boys. Me? I’m depressed, heartbroken, and even though this should be the happiest time of my life, I’m miserable as hell. All because of Sawyer Callahan.

  I’m happy when I go into my dorm and see that it’s empty. Turning on my I-Feel-Like-Crying playlist, I curl up on my bed when Carrie Underwood’s The Night Before Life Goes On comes on. As much as I want to resist, I lean down and grab the photo album from under my bed. Fingers trembling, heart racing, somehow I gather up the courage to open it up, my heart stopping when my eyes fall on the first picture. It’s Sawyer, wearing worn jeans and cowboy boots, nothing else. The strong muscles in his back are rippling, and his tan is sexy as hell. He’s grooming a dark chocolate mare, but his eyes are on me, his smile wide. Closing my eyes, I can remember that day, and the tears fall immediately, even though I try to hold them in. It isn’t until I hear the door open and close that I open my eyes and try to wipe them quickly, but it’s too late.

  She walks over to me, but I shut the album and put it under my pillow before she can grab it. Sitting down on my bed, she looks at me with soft eyes. “I’d ask if you’re okay, Cheyenne, but I can tell that you aren’t. Get your ass out of this bed. We’re going out.”

  I start to protest, but she glares daggers at me. “I am not taking no for an answer. This is supposed to be the best time of our lives, yet you’ve been doing nothing but moping since we got here. Get up. Go change into something sexy. You have fifteen minutes,” she tells me, walking out the door without another word.

  A few hours and many, many beers later, we’re walking down the street when Cori’s eyes light up. She turns to me and grins. “This is a new chapter for us, Cheyenne. Let’s commemorate it with a little ink.”

  I don’t know if it’s the beer or the freedom, but something about Cori’s idea sounds tempting, even if I had a minor freak-out last time I was in a tattoo shop. We wander towards the shop, the door chiming as we walk in. She sets about looking through the hundreds of pages of tattoo ideas when the tattoo artist asks me if I know what I want. I think of Sawyer with amazing clarity and immediately know how I want to mark my body. When I tell him my idea, he smiles and leads me back to a sterile room, prompting me to hold my foot out.

  A few minutes later, Cori joins us and her eyes widen as she watches him work. “That’s beautiful, Cheyenne. Does that have something to do with why you’ve been so mopey since I’ve met you?”

  I shrug, not really wanting to get into it, but she doesn’t let it go. As I admire the black ink on my foot, my eyes well up at the symbolism.

  “What happened to you, Cheyenne? Why are you so sad?”

  Looking up at her, I blame the alcohol for what I’m about to admit. “I fell head over heels in love this summer.”

  She wrinkles her eyebrows and gives me a strange look. “And that’s a problem?”

  Sighing, I have no idea why I answer, but for once, I finally let
it out. “The problem is…he’s my stepbrother.”

  January 2014

  I’M OUT OF BREATH after having taken four trips up and down three flights of stairs to the apartment that Cori, Bryan, and I rented in Five Points, a district on the east side of Atlanta. Setting down the last of the boxes, I cross to the refrigerator and thank the Lord when I see that Bry has stocked up on beer, something that’s been his job since the day he moved in with us off campus our junior year of college. When I left Shiloh Grove almost six year ago, I left behind the only family I knew, but Cori and Bryan have become the best makeshift one I’ve ever had—at least since Daddy died. Sure, my mother keeps in contact from time to time, mostly through Christmas cards and postcards of wherever she and her husband, Thomas Callahan, are vacationing. We always said we’d visit, but something usually got in the way, and I hate to say it, but I’m ashamed over the fact that I haven’t seen her or returned home since the day I drove away from the two-stoplight town.

  I never imagined I’d be back in Georgia, and it took a huge push to get me to come back. After graduating from Berkeley with a degree in marketing, I got a job at the firm where I’d interned my senior year, but even after working there for a year and a half, I was still treated as such. I was beginning to wonder why in the hell I’d worked my ass off to graduate from one of the top business programs in the country when Bryan came home from his accounting job excited as hell. Before I could ask what was going on, he slapped a piece of paper down in front of me. Scanning it, I realized it was an ad for a job fair for Wellsley Enterprises, one of the oldest research and development conglomerates in the country. Long story short, he and I both went, and by the grace of God, we both were offered jobs and a relocation allowance to move to Atlanta. Cori, who decided to use her psychology degree to start an online relationship blog, packed up and headed east with us, no questions asked. It’s been a whirlwind, but now that I’m here, in my new apartment, back in Georgia, I’m finally feeling the butterflies in my stomach.

  Instead of going for the beer, I open up the freezer and sigh in relief when I see the whiskey chilling. God love Jack Daniels. Twisting off the cap, I take a healthy swig and immediately feel better as the burning sensation in my chest calms my nerves.

  “Damn, Shy, it’s not even dinnertime,” I hear Bryan say as I watch him set down two boxes on the kitchen counter.

  “Those are the last boxes, right? I don’t think I can climb another step today. Remind me to find a gym around here,” I tell him, ignoring his comment.

  As I start to go through the boxes in the kitchen, he walks over to me and pulls me in for a big hug, which I readily return.

  “I guess it’s finally setting in that we’re not in California anymore,” I admit.

  “Trust me, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve never lived anywhere but San Francisco, and I’m starting to feel a little bit like Dorothy down here in the South. If I hear one more ‘yes, sir’ I’m going to start saluting people.” He smiles down at me, and then he gets a serious look on his face. “Are you nervous being back home, Shyannie?”

  Smiling at his stupid nickname for me, I nod. “I haven’t seen my mother since I left for college, and I know she lives in Alpharetta, only about half an hour outside the city. Part of me knows I should call her. I just don’t know if I’m ready yet.”

  “Give it time. Don’t rush anything. Let’s just get settled in, here and at work, and then we’ll go from there. Sound good?”

  “Thanks, Bry. I couldn’t do this without you and Cori.”

  “You won’t have to. Are you worried about seeing him, too, Cheyenne? Does he have anything to do with why you’re chugging JD before the sun even sets?”

  One drunken night, a long time ago, I ended up spilling to Cori and Bryan all about Sawyer, our summer together, and my tattoo. They both knew that my reservations about taking the job at Wellsley had to do with him, even if I tried to pretend they didn’t. The thing is, I have no idea where he is or what he’s even doing. The summer we spent together ended up so messed up, and by the time I left, I had no idea what he was going to pursue. Supposedly, he wanted to finish his economics degree at Auburn University before joining the firm where his dad worked. The one his dad actually owned. Mother never mentions Sawyer in her correspondence, and somehow I’ve been able to avoid typing ‘Sawyer Callahan’ into my Facebook search engine, even though I’ve been tempted on many drunken nights. That would just lead to me friending him, messaging him, or doing something stupid that I’d regret when I sobered up the next day.

  “Hey, what am I missing?” Cori exclaims when she walks into the kitchen. She rushes over and throws her arms around us, her eyes lighting up when she sees the amber liquid.

  I watch as she searches the boxes until she finds one marked ‘barware.’ Grabbing a box cutter off the counter, she opens it and finds three shot glasses. She rinses them out and then fills them to the brim with whiskey. Prompting us to each take one, she raises hers and we follow suit.

  “To new beginnings in Hotlanta!” she says, causing me to giggle. Clinking our glasses, we all down our shots, and in that moment, I actually believe that everything is going to be fine.

  AFTER TAKING A WEEK to settle into the apartment and explore Five Points, Bryan and I are finally on our way to the first day of work. When we get to Wellsley, we’re directed to security to get badges made and then sent to HR, where we join a group of about ten other new hires. We’re taken on a tour of the building, and I’m hoping there’s a map, because this place is huge. After being corralled around like a bunch of cattle, we’re finally led to a small auditorium, which seems a little excessive since there are only a handful of us. Bryan and I take seats in the middle, hoping to blend in, just like we did at Berkeley.

  We settle in and listen to various department heads give briefings over things like benefits, company values, ethics—all that standard crap companies like to train their new employees on. I’m anxious for this to be over with so I can meet my new boss. I don’t actually know who I’m going to be working with. The human resources representative who hired me simply said I was being placed in a production analyst position, and I’m hoping that means I get to do product analysis to determine the best marketing options.

  After hours of death by PowerPoint, we’re about to be released for lunch, and I let out a sigh of relief. It’s getting hot as hell in this room, and the last thing I want is to be sweating profusely on my first day. Before we’re dismissed, the side door opens and Mrs. Richardson, the human resources VP, holds her hand up to us as she confers with the person on the other side of the door. Nodding, she turns back to us and places a smile on her face.

  “My apologies, but before we break for lunch, the head of our production department would like to say a few words.”

  I’m already distracted, doodling on my notebook when I hear a girl behind me let out a low whistle.

  “Damn. If I’d known the boss looked like that, I’d have been begging to be on the production staff,” she says, piquing my interest.

  Looking up, my heart stops when I see him. Sawyer Callahan, the boy who led to my broken heart, the one I’ve tried to forget for so long, the one I never thought I’d see again, is not only in Atlanta, but he’s here. In the building. And apparently the head of the department I’m supposed to work in. Hell’s Bells.

  The twenty-year-old boy I last saw is gone, and a man, a gorgeous man, with dark brown hair and what I know are beautiful green eyes stands less than thirty feet from me. Sliding down a little in my seat as his eyes rake over the room, I pray to God he doesn’t see me. It’s no use. His gaze falls when he spots me, and he almost does a double take before he regains his composure. He continues to look around the room and I take a moment to study him. Back then, he was lean, but by the end of the summer, he’d filled out pretty nicely from all the work he had done on his uncle’s farm. Luke Bryan wasn’t lyin’ when he said you can’t get muscles like that but anywhere on a farm. Either he
’s kept working out or he still goes to visit his Uncle Wyatt. Probably both.

  He launches into a short history about the company, surprising me when he calls it Wellsley and Callahan. How in the hell did I miss that on the paperwork? Does Thomas own part of the company? The wheels are turning in my head, and I realize that it makes sense. Didn’t Mother mention that Thomas was merging with another company so he could start to hand over the reins a little bit more? My mind’s running a thousand miles a minute, and I don’t realize that we’re breaking for lunch until Bryan shakes my shoulder. Coming out of it, I look around, noticing that the room is half empty.

  “Come on, daydreamer. Let’s go grab something to eat. I swear the girl in the row in front of us kept checking me out, and I want to see if I can introduce myself.”

  “You’re such a horny bastard. The last thing you need is to start an office romance,” I warn him, and he simply grins at me.

  “Yeah, well, I hope you can stick with that. The last speaker couldn’t take his eyes off you, and don’t even act like you weren’t checking him out when he wasn’t looking.”

  I can feel the blush creep up on my face, and I’m glad Bryan hasn’t put two and two together. I’m pretty sure he knows Sawyer’s name, but it probably didn’t register when he introduced himself to the group. We get up to leave, and I keep my head down, not wanting to see him. Relief washes over me when we make it out of the auditorium, and we’re almost out of the building when I hear my name being called.

  “Cheyenne!” I hear Sawyer say loudly, trying to get my attention.

  I stop in my tracks, and I can’t help but turn around to look at him. His eyes light up when mine meet his, and he gives me a small half smile, that dimple deepening on his left cheek. I want to study him, to move in closer to see how much of the boy I knew is left. Instead, I break our gaze and grab Bryan’s hand, quickly pulling him through the revolving doors that leads outside. At the last second, I turn to see Sawyer staring after me, and he looks…crestfallen. Like he just learned he had the winning lotto ticket and his asshole friends started laughing, telling him it was just a prank. His eyes widen when he sees our hands linked, and I can probably guess what he’s thinking. Tearing my eyes away, I walk quickly down the street, practically holding my breath until we’re finally sitting in a booth at a deli down the street ordering sandwiches.

 
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