Damaged Goods: Chapter 23


Seeing Lev chastised and unhappy makes me want to blow up the entire world. To mix hydrogen azide and potassium chlorate and put my chemistry studies to terrible use.

But I’m Bailey.

Nice. Sweet. Nonconfrontational.

Only recently, this girl is a total stranger to me. Like I shed snakeskin and dumped it when I boarded the plane back from New York to San Diego.

Ever since I stopped with the Xanax and Vicodin, I started feeling. All the time. Sadness. Confusion. Anger. Jealousy. Love.

I try to pretend I’m focused on skiing and not on Lev looking like a kicked puppy, but it’s hard. He is the most talented, capable, funny, smart person I know.

His only crime is loving his father and brother too much. Letting his family control the narrative of his life. Kind of like how I let mine do to me.

I know Knight and Dean mean well. They’re good people, trying to look out for their own.

Dean is petrified of losing his sons, and Knight wants to compensate for years of putting his parents and brother through hell.

They’d both take a bullet for him in a heartbeat. Problem is, Lev is currently the one bleeding for them.

After a few warm-up sessions on the green trails, Uncle Vicious announces he and Emilia are taking the aerial tram to the pro trails.

The entire gang decides to join them. Last Christmas, Vicious bought his wife an unorthodox gift. Amongst the black, advanced skiing trails on the mountain, he bought a trail that belongs only to her. The Pink Trail. Pink to his black, I guess.

Everyone I know is a capable to an amazing skier, Lev included.

Over the years, when they were eagerly hitting the snowy mountains, I was busy curling up with a good book back in the mansion while on a break from competitive ballet—and that was pre-injury and pre-overdose.

So when I announce I’m sitting this one out, no one is surprised or suspects a thing.

“I’ll take Bailey home,” Lev volunteers, stepping forward.

“No, I can do it.” Daria flicks her ski glasses up, bundled in her huge, pink attire. “I’m sure you need some time off.”

“From her?” Lev slides his gaze over my body with a smile that doesn’t reach his eyes. “Never. Let’s go, Dove.”

“I saw the look you gave my daughter,” Dad calls out to our backs when we turn to take the main road back to the resort’s exit. “You’re supposed to be taking care of her, not taking fucking liberties.”

Lev’s jaw clenches. “She means more to me than her body.”

“Her body shouldn’t be something you even think about with what she’s going through.”

We make our way down the entrance, where Uncle Vicious’s driver awaits in an Escalade.

“Thanks for volunteering as tribute.” I elbow Lev, initiating contact so he’ll finally pounce and cover me with kisses.

“Yeah, course,” he replies tersely. He seems deep in thought.

I want to help him sort through whatever’s going on in his head, so I say, “You have to tackle your beef with Knight first, explain to him that your aspirations and life goals are a need, not a want, then break the news to your dad.”

“I don’t wanna talk about it.” Lev shakes his head.

But I’m a problem solver. The one with all the answers. So I add, “Or you can skip the whole Knight routine and just go straight to—”

“Enough!” Lev snarls, halting his strides. “I said I don’t wanna talk about it.”

“Hey, I’m just—”

“You’re just about the last person I’ll seek advice from, that’s who you are.”

Rolling my lips over my teeth, I keep my head down the remainder of our journey to the car.

The sting morphs into a full-blown burn. How dare he talk to me like this when all I tried to do was help? Somewhere in the back of my head, Old Bailey points out that Lev is still raw from the breakfast showdown.

But Current Bailey—the one still experiencing mood swings and withdrawal symptoms—demands constant reassurance.

Which is probably why I hear the next words leave my traitorous mouth: “You better break up with Thalia when we get back home.”

This was the wrong thing to say. Lev is no pushover. He resumes his steps toward the Escalade, which rolls into view in silhouette, with white-tipped mountains and wooden inns behind it.

“Or else what?” There’s a perilous edge to his voice.

But he is not the only one who is raw right now. If he wants a fight, I’ll give him one.

“Do you have a creative way to explain to her why you spent this trip volunteering your face as my rodeo horse?” I look away so he doesn’t see the red on my cheeks or the tears in my eyes.

Lev sneers. “Who says I’m gonna tell her?”

“If you won’t, I will,” I snap. If she means as little to him as he claims, why can’t he let her go?

Lev shrugs in my periphery. “I can fuck the entire zip code and Thalia would still say ‘thank you’ when I give her an STD for Valentine’s Day.”

Nausea hits the back of my throat. “Wow. You’re disgusting.”

“You’re the one who’s been fucking around with a taken man.”

Whoa. Someone needs to hold my earrings. “Who even are you?”

“I’m the product of too many expectations and not enough fucks to give,” he replies sourly, before adding, “This is not the start of something, Bailey. Not until you get your ass in a serious rehab program. I’m not gonna willingly chain my destiny to that of an addict.”

“I’m not an addi—”

“Yeah, you are. An addict. A liar. A good, tight cunt to be sure—but not good enough to ruin my life over.”

And this is it. The crazy train has officially left the platform.

Wave your handkerchiefs and toss your flowers. The gloves are off and I’m about to murder him with my bare hands.

“At least I went after my dream. Fought for what I care for. You’re a coward, Lev. A coward and chickenshit. You are going to die miserable and unfulfilled just because you’re too scared to stand up to your daddy. You’re just jealous because I did what you never could: went for what I wanted.”

His jaw flexes under his taut, golden skin. “You should focus on your sobriety, not hooking up.”

“Hadn’t realized all we did this weekend was a casual hookup.” I let out a humorless, joyless laugh.

“Yeah, well, it was.”

He’s lying, isn’t he?

I am usually so good at reading people—Lev, especially—but I don’t trust my own judgment anymore.

Not when it comes to us, and not when it still feels like I’m floating on a cloud of acid.

“Why don’t you go back to skiing with everyone else? I know my way home,” I suggest. Just in time, since we’re right in front of the Escalade.

I expect Lev to reject the idea, channel his inner caveman, and tell me he would never leave me alone right now. But he surprises me by hitching a careless shoulder, glancing at his watch.

“Yeah, good idea. See you around. Or you know, not.”

With an icy smile and impeccable demeanor, he turns around and walks away.

It takes me five whole minutes to unglue myself from the pavement and slip into the car.

I’m way past shocked and well into dazed territory.

I spend the car ride stewing in my own rage. The overpowering, acerbic tang of betrayal coats my tongue.

Lev isn’t going to break up with Thalia. Maybe he never meant to.

He’s a player, and I got played.

He didn’t just do a number on me. An entire calc book is more like it.

When I get into the Craftsman mansion, the only people present are the nannies and children. Neither can judge or stop me.

And that’s when it hits me.

I’m alone.

Truly and fantastically alone.

Left to my own devices.

I take the stairs two at the time, flying like a bullet toward my room.

My hands are shaking when I flip my Dior suitcase and pat the black fabric along the horizontal zipper. I sewed a secret pocket on the right-hand side.

I feel for the stitch, itching to rip it apart, only to find it is already loose. It’s unlike me to half-ass a job, but maybe my sewing is a little rusty.

I push my index and middle fingers inside, feeling for the pills. Instead, something else hits my fingertips. Some sort of…paper? I pull it out slowly, finding a yellow note. I unfold it, my eyes wide as they scan its content.



Lev found my drugs.

He found them and got rid of them.

I want to scream. Correction—I do scream.

I kick and rip things apart. I open the toilet seat to see if maybe I can salvage some of the pills—he must’ve thrown them there; when’d he do that?—and I realize that two things are true at once:

  1. He is right. Rehab isn’t just calling to me—it is screaming my name in capital letters.

  1. And 2. I would die before becoming him. Before giving up my dream to appease my family. Juilliard is not the Air Force Academy. It is not interchangeable.

I go downstairs to the kitchen. Find a stray bottle of whiskey and polish it off. It is awful and not at all like painkillers. I end up barfing most of it.

The minutes chase one another, transforming into hours. The alcohol soaks into my system. Dying doesn’t seem like a horrible idea right now.

Then—plot twist!—as I lie head-down on the couch, head spinning, I feel a cool hand over my sweaty back. “Oh, Bailey.”

It’s Lenora. She stayed behind. She is breastfeeding the twins. Duh.

She thinks I’m asleep—or maybe she knows I definitely don’t want to talk about it—because all she says is, “It’s okay to have demons. We all do. But it is not okay to let them win.”

The day darkens, and the house fills with yellow, warm light.

Everyone starts filing in after a day of skiing. I somehow managed to drag myself to the shower and brush my teeth twice before they got here, so I don’t think anyone can tell I’ve been drinking.

Maybe just Lev, who has my soul on speed-dial and can read me like an open book.

Luckily—and I use the term loosely—he isn’t paying attention to me. Breezes right past me like I’m air on his way to his room.

We eat dinner. Have small talk. Pretend like everything is hunky-dory.

Dean, Lev, and Knight heatedly discuss movies that are so bad they’re good, bodily functions, and the NFL.

They’re acting like they didn’t have a nuclear showdown just a few hours ago over almond-flour waffles and bacon.

Then we all retire to our rooms. Mom is on night watch with me. She doesn’t say anything to me when she sees how I wrecked the room. Just mutters something about how Uncle Vicious owes my dad some favors and he better not have a tantrum about it.

I fully expect Lev to contact me. He doesn’t. Not during the night or the morning after it.

Not when I am dragged to one of the green trails by Racer, Knight, and Luna, who try to teach me how to ski. And not when we all sit down for another dinner.

The night before we’re scheduled to board the plane back home, I blink first and break the silence. I text him under the covers once Mom is asleep.

Bailey: Congratulations on finding them.

Bailey: The pills, not your balls. Those are still MIA, as your family can attest.

Aaaaand we have reached the truth-bomb portion of the evening, ladies and gents.

Lev: You seemed to know exactly where they were when you sucked nice and good on them the other day.

Bailey: That was before I knew you were a cheater, a scumbag, and a narcissist.

Lev: Check into rehab, Bailey.

Bailey: I’m actually glad you didn’t apply to the Air Force Academy. Our country needs people with ACTUAL courage. Not a spoiled brat who wants to play Top Gun.

Lev: Check into rehab, Bailey.

Bailey: Don’t bother contacting me ever again. We’re done.

Lev: CIRB. Good night.


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