Dangerously Damaged (Addicted To You, Book One)
Author:Covington, Lucy

“I think he’s staying at the shelter on Mass Ave again.”

 

I groaned. The last thing I wanted to do was go down to the shelter and see my best friend, living like an animal. But if he’d come looking for me, then I knew I needed to go. Quickly, I drank all of that Guinness and then did two shots of Yager.

 

Taryn was watching me anxiously. “You should come back later. I get off early tonight.”

 

“Yeah, maybe,” I told her. But we both knew I wasn’t coming back tonight.

 

I left O’Doyle’s and headed towards Mass Ave. It was getting a little chilly and I was still only in my t-shirt. Luckily the booze had numbed me to the cold and so I wasn’t bothered by the wind as much as I might have been if I was completely sober.

 

But I was still bothered by plenty of other things. For some reason, I couldn’t get Lindsay out of my mind. I shook my head, as if trying to literally shake the image of her out of my head. It didn’t work.

 

I felt like I could have painted an exact portrait of her if I’d wanted to—that’s how clear her face was in my imagination. Those eyes were so stunning, so clear and intelligent and…

 

What the hell is wrong with you? This is just some Cambridge chick with a cute smile. Get a hold of yourself, Justin.

 

It had to be the booze, I decided. I probably was more buzzed than I realized after drinking so quickly.

 

Finally, I arrived at the shelter. It was in a shady area of town, and as I got closer, there were more and more guys hanging on corners, smoking, lounging on steps, giving me the hairy eyeball.

 

I didn’t mind that much. I didn’t really look like the kind of guy you wanted to mess with for fun. I would make sure that anybody who fucked with me came away with lasting memories, and not the good kind.

 

They wouldn’t let me into the shelter. But I didn’t need to go inside anyway. I told them that I was looking for Gilbert Diaz, and of course they knew exactly who I was talking about. Everybody knew Gilbert, that’s just the kind of guy he was.

 

I hung around in front of the shelter and waited while they went and got him.

 

There wasn’t a lack of entertainment while I waited for him, either.

 

A woman and a man were loudly arguing over who’d made the most money panhandling that day. Another guy was playing a harmonica and singing a Bob Dylan song, as if competing with the noise from the arguing couple. His harmonica playing got more and more fervent and spastic, and then the couple’s voices grew louder in response.

 

Just as everything seemed to reach a fever pitch, the door to the shelter opened and Gilbert came out, smiling at me. “J.B., you came!” he said, running down the stairs and giving me a big hug.

 

“Of course I came. Taryn told me you swung by the bar earlier.”

 

He pulled away. “Want to go to the corner store? I need cigs.”

 

“Sure.” We began walking, and the sounds of the harmonica and arguing faded into the distance as we went.

 

Gilbert was about my size, but skinnier and his complexion was darker than mine.

 

Still, I thought of him like a brother. We’d been best friends since third grade and he’d been into wrestling and then mixed martial arts, just like me. In fact, Gilbert had been a standout wrestler, much better than I’d been in high school. He was destined to get a full ride to a Division I school until he’d gotten into heroin.

 

Now he was a shadow of himself, a shadow of the kid I remembered, the one who’d always been full of jokes and pranks and dominated the best of the best on the wrestling mat.

 

Both of us fell quiet for a time. I was thinking about the past and maybe he was too.

 

“Taryn said you’re being scouted by the UFF,” Gilbert said.

 

“A guy came to my last fight but that doesn’t mean anything,” I told him, suddenly embarrassed about the thing that I’d been most proud of up until this moment.

 

Gilbert shook his head. “What the hell are you talking about, man? The UFF is the biggest MMA organization on the planet. If you get a deal with them—”

 

“I’m not getting a deal. He was just at the show.”

 

“Did he come to see you or not?”

 

I sighed. Why couldn’t I let Gilbert know the truth? “He was there to scout a few people. I might have been one, I don’t know.”

 

“You’re going to be one. You’re too fucking good not to be.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

We got to the store and went inside. I bought Gilbert two packs of Marlboros, his favorite brand. Then I handed them to him and we went back outside, where he lit up and smoked.

 

“How are you doing?” I asked him. “Are you good?”

 

We both knew what that meant. If he was doing good, that meant he wasn’t on any hard drugs—especially not heroin. If he wasn’t doing good, it meant he was strung out.

 

“I’m okay,” he said finally, blowing a long plume of smoke out of his nostrils.