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AFTER WAITING AWHILE, I’ve just decided to go back inside when Zed’s old truck pulls into the parking lot. He steps out, wearing a black sweatshirt and dark-wash jeans. The deep bruising on his face shocks me, despite the fact that I just saw him yesterday.

He tucks his hands into the pocket on the front of his sweatshirt. “Hey.”

“Hey. Thanks for meeting me.”

“It was my idea, remember?” He smiles, and I feel slightly less unsettled.

I smile in return. “I guess you’re right.”

“I want to talk to you about what you said at the hospital,” he says, which was exactly what I was planning to talk about.

“So do I.”

“You go first.”

“Steph said you told Tristan you’re pressing charges against Hardin.” I try not to look at his bruised and bloodshot eyes.

“I did.”

“But you told me you wouldn’t press charges. Why lie to me?” I’m sure the hurt is clear in my shaky voice.

“I didn’t lie to you; I meant it when I said it.”

I step closer to him. “So what changed your mind?”

He shrugs. “A lot of things. I thought about all the shit he’s done to me, and to you. He doesn’t deserve to just walk away from this.” He gestures to his face. “Look at me, for God’s sake.”

I’m not sure what to say to Zed in this moment. He has every right to be upset with Hardin, but I wish he wouldn’t take legal action against him.

“He’s already in trouble with the university board,” I say, hoping to change his mind.

“He’s not going to get in trouble; Steph told me his dad’s the chancellor,” he scoffs.

Dammit, Steph—why would you tell him that? I nod to acknowledge what he said. “That doesn’t mean he won’t get in trouble.”

But my saying this only makes him exasperated. “Tessa, why are you always so quick to defend him? No matter what he does, you’re right there to fight his battles for him!”

“That’s not true,” I lie.

“Yes, it is!” He throws his hands up in disbelief. “You know it is! You told me you’d think about what I said about leaving him, but then I see you with him at a tattoo shop days later. It doesn’t make sense.”

“I know you don’t understand, but I love him.”

“If you love him so much, then why are you running away to Seattle?”

His words rattle me. I pause for a second, but say, “I’m not running to Seattle. I’m going there for a better opportunity.”

“He’s not coming with you. Our group of friends talk, you know?”

What? “He was planning to,” I lie. But I can tell Zed sees right through it.

With challenge in his eyes, he looks off to the side, then levels his stare at me. “If you can tell me that you have no feelings toward me, none at all, I’ll drop the charges.”

Right then, the air seems to grow colder, the wind stronger. “What?”

“You heard me. Tell me to leave you alone and never speak to you again, and I’ll do it.” His request reminds me of something Hardin said to me long ago.

“But I don’t want that; I don’t want to never talk again,” I admit.

“So what do you want, then?” he asks, his voice tinged with sadness and anger. “Because you seem to be just as confused as I am! You keep texting me and meeting up with me; you kiss me, sleep in the same bed as me; you always come to me when he hurts you! What do you want from me?”

I thought I’d made my intentions clear at the hospital. “I don’t know what I want from you, but I love him and that’s never going to change. I’m sorry that I gave you mixed signals, but I—”

“Tell me why you’re going to Seattle in a week and haven’t told him!” he shouts back at me, his arms waving in front of his body.

“I don’t know . . . I’m going to tell him when I get the chance.”

“You won’t tell him because you know he’ll leave you,” Zed snaps, his eyes looking past me.

“He . . . well . . .” I don’t know what to say—because I really fear Zed’s right.

“Well, guess what, Tessa? You can thank me later.”

“For what?” I watch as his lips turn up into a wicked smile.

Zed lifts his arm up, gesturing behind me, and a shiver rakes through me. “For telling him for you.”

I know that when I turn around, Hardin will be standing there. I swear I can hear his ragged breathing over the harsh winter wind.

Chapter five


When I’d stepped outside, the wind whipped around me, carrying the one voice I didn’t expect to hear right now. I’d just had to endure hearing a lot of people say a lot of bad things about me, and I just had to remain quiet. And afterward, all I wanted to hear was the voice of my girl, my angel.

And there was her voice. But there was also his. I turn the corner, and indeed, there he is. There they are. Tessa and Zed.

My first thoughts were: Why the fuck is he here? Why the fuck is Tessa outside talking to him? What part of “stay the fuck away from him” does she not fucking get?

When that motherfucker raised his voice at her, I started walking toward them: nobody yells at her like that. But when he mentioned Seattle . . . I was stopped in my tracks. Tessa is planning to go to Seattle?

And Zed knew, but I didn’t?

This isn’t happening, this can’t actually be happening. She would never plan to leave without telling me . . .