Country music bad-boy, Chase Bradington, is on a come-back trail. Fresh from rehab for alcohol addiction, and transformed by the power of Christ, Chase is battling to rediscover the music he loves and a career he nearly ruined. Then he meets up-and-comer, Pyper Brock, and instantly, sparks ignite.
Pyper knows of Chase’s reputation so, despite a rampant attraction to the handsome and talented icon, she soundly dismisses his romantic overtures. Decades ago, her father, in a drunken rage, tossed her and her mother onto the streets. No way will Pyper make the mistake of falling for a man who's done battle with the bottle.
What happens when Chase’s quest to win Pyper’s love breaks down chains of resentment and eases the long-buried wounds of her childhood? And what happens when Pyper’s father shows up in Nashville, clean, sober and seeking a chance to apologize?
Can Pyper follow a pathway to peace when it comes to her father? Can she fully trust Chase? Above all, can a sin-damaged past be released in favor of forgiveness?
Chase Bradington slid a pair of large-frame sunglasses over his eyes, twisted a smile into place, and walked into the sickest form of choreographed PR nonsense he could imagine.
The main entrance of Reach came open; likely a receptionist or some other nearby staff member had been recruited to clear a path between the substance abuse rehab center and the salvation of a black stretch limo that waited for him at the head of the curved drive, engine purring.
So close, and yet so far.
Reporters, gathered at least four-deep along the stone walkway, went wild with shouts for attention. A batch of fool cameramen trampled moist soil which was now dotted pink, purple, and white by destroyed hyacinth. Brightly colored petunias and phlox fared no better. All that appealing greenery laid to waste in an over-charged blitz to score something as meaningless as the image of a troubled country music star leaving a life recovery center. Chase fought back a self-condemning wince at the circus display.
A few weeks ago, he had spent hours on his knees planting those flowers, gaining some familiarity with horticulture, enjoying warm sunlight on his back and the feel of damp earth pressed against his fingertips. Surprisingly, he’d enjoyed the flower-spiced landscaping sessions while he talked things over with his mentor and sponsor, Mark Samuels.
That same aroma filled the air now, amplified by the dewy release of crushed petals.
Nevertheless, he didn’t flinch…and he didn’t stop. He sank behind the protection of this orchestrated exit and coached himself the whole way. Smile. Wave. Move fast. The first cut is the deepest.
Camera flashes ignited like strobes; clicks, whirs, and shouts pounded against his temples as chaos built to a nasty crescendo. “Chase! Welcome back! How are you feeling?”
“A whole lot better than six months ago, that’s for sure. Thanks for comin’ out, y’all!” The words formed the only sound bite he felt comfortable offering, but they came wrapped in a carefully warmed tone and his easy, trademark smile. The world at large, however, was kept clear of his eyes, and his struggles, by the mask of dark shades.
“The Opry…are you headed to the Opry?”
“After checking in at home, yeah, you bet. The Opry is my comfort zone; performing at the Country Classics benefit tonight will feel mighty good.” This time the smile was real. He meant every word—even if terror gripped him at the thought of a return to the stage without…
He clenched his jaw, disengaging the thought as he neared the door of the limo.
Survive this and you’ve officially crossed the starting line to re-finding your feet. Move, Bradington. Get to the car and move on.
One reporter, a TV gal, judging by her carefully primped style, that slick business attire and shimmery blonde hair, kept her back to him. Instead, she spoke into a mic and addressed the lens of the camera positioned before her. “Thirty-year-old Chase Bradington, the man fans and industry insiders once called the next country music legend, is seen leaving the confines of Reach this afternoon. Located in Franklin, Tennessee, Reach is a secluded and exclusive retreat for addicts on the mend.”
From there, words faded to smoke and haze, burning off until just one remained. Addict. He was an addict. Chase flexed his jaw until it relaxed, forcing himself for the millionth time to face and accept that truth—harsh as it was. Into that acceptance came a loosening of the shoulders, along with the words of his sponsor, Mark Samuels.
Chase, you’re addicted to alcohol, and that addiction overwhelmed you for a time, but the addiction didn’t win. You’ve learned how to beat it. Remember the lessons; use the tools you’ve been given, and don’t ever let this battle define you. It’s part of your journey, sure, but it’s not the full story. Nor is it the end of what your life is meant to say.
Chase bucked up and tossed a last wave to the crowd, smiled while he folded into the rear seat of his plush ride. The door closed immediately; cool air and blessed silence wrapped him in welcome arms. He melted into the seat, tipped his head back and closed his eyes. He whipped off the sunglasses and tossed them onto the leather seat. A long, heavy sigh passed through his chest as the vehicle rocked, pushing off from the entrance of Reach...and the safety net that had caught him when he fell so hard.
While distance grew and northbound traffic along Highway 65 led him closer to his condo, Chase rubbed his lower lip with a fingertip, lost in the passing view of fieldstone viaducts, green space, cars, homes, and office buildings.
Thoughts swirled into the memory of his evaluation session this morning, his exit interview.
“I’m a little concerned about the level of intensity you’ll face. The demands placed upon you are going to be grueling and tough. It’s a return to everything that brought you down in the first place, now isn’t it?”
“You doubt me?” Chase bit back a rise in defensiveness while seated across from the facility director, a seasoned and sensible middle-aged man who had most likely overseen a great deal of human tribulation during his tenure.
“No, I don’t doubt you. I wonder about what’s best for you. I hope you’re not pushing toward freedom before you’re fully prepared.”
“Meaning it’s only been half a year since Shayne’s death. Six months since you were found unconscious in the bedroom of your home, inebriated to the point that you required immediate medical intervention. You missed a performance, lost ground on your career.”
“Those are the facts I’ve dealt with ever since I entered rehab. I’m not proud of where I was, but that’s not where I’m at now. It’s time for me to start living again.”
Elliot Carmichael pulled a pair of readers from the bridge of his nose and fiddled with the ear stems. “Chase, you’ve made great strides, but returning to music, to the road, to the parties, and all the trappings of tour life might wear you down. It’s easy to retreat and hide behind the life of a performer—”
“But music, performing, is my home. That home busted apart because of my own stupidity. I get that. I own that. I’ve had to take responsibility for my fall, but I’ve also got to build it back up, repair the damage and start over the best way I know how. Right?”
Chase’s words were quietly spoken, chosen with care, but nothing less than resolved. They formed a slicing lance through the topic. But just then, his thoughts flowed from the past to the present, and his gaze happened to rove the buildings, the rush of traffic that formed a slight blur outside the car window.
At a stoplight, he spied a small single-story building made of brick that was part of a retail strip center. This particular shop featured a nondescript, one-word sign out front. The word on that sign whipped up an impulse so strong that his throat instantly burned, stirring an urge so acute it knocked him out of breath, left him licking his lips to somewhat alleviate an instant and parched dryness.
The sign read, simply: Liquor.
His hands shook. His fingertips were unsteady as they hovered over the intercom button that would connect him to the driver up front. Heat flowed beneath his skin—paired with a mind-dizzying need. He pushed the button. Hard. “I need to make a stop before we get to the condo.”