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I’m not even kind.

I can’t promise that I won’t hurt you again, but I can swear that I will love you until the day that I die. I’m a terrible person, and I don’t deserve you, but I hope that you’ll allow me the chance to restore your faith in me. I am sorry for all the pain I have caused you, and I understand if you can’t forgive me.

She did forgive me, though. She’s always forgiven me for my wrongs, but not this time. I was supposed to be restoring her faith in me, yet I continued to hurt her over and over again. My hands work quickly, tearing the pathetic confession into pieces. Falling, they swirl around before settling into a scattered pattern on the cold concrete.

See—I destroy everything! I know how much that damn thing meant to her, and I turned it into a pile of shit.

“No! No, no, no!” I scurry to the ground and frantically try to gather the pieces and restore the page. But there are too many little bits—none of them line up, and I keep dropping them back onto the floor and watching them float here and there. This must be how she felt trying to put me back together. I stand and kick my boot at the pile of scraps I’ve gathered before quickly bending down and picking them up again and putting them in a pile on the desk. Covering them with a book so they can’t blow away, I see I’ve grabbed Pride and Prejudice, of fucking course.

I lie back on the bed and wait for the sound of the door clicking open, signaling her return.

I must wait there for hours and hours, but the click never comes.

Chapter fifty-four


I lie to Steph. I don’t want to tell anyone about my relationship problems, especially right now, when I haven’t had a chance to process what just happened. And that’s exactly why I called Steph: Landon is too close to the situation, and I don’t want to trouble him again. I have no other options, which is what happens when you have exactly one friend and they happen to be your boyfriend’s stepbrother.

Well, ex-boyfriend, now . . .

So when Steph sounds concerned on the phone, I tell her, “No, no. I’m fine. I just . . . Hardin is . . . he’s out of town with his father, and he locked me out, so I need somewhere to stay until he comes home Monday.”

“Sounds like Hardin,” she says, and I feel relieved that my lie has worked. “Okay, come on over. Same room as before—it’ll be just like old times!” she goes on cheerily, and I try to muster a little laugh.

Great. Old times.

“I’m supposed to be going to the mall with Tristan later, but you can hang out here if you want, or come along. It’s up to you.”

“I have a lot to do to get ready for Seattle, so I’ll just hang around the room, if that’s all right.”

“Sure, sure.” Then she adds, “I hope you’re ready for your party tomorrow night!”

“Party?” I question.

Oh yeah . . . the party. I’ve been so preoccupied with everything that I forgot about the party Steph planned for my going away. As with Hardin’s “birthday party,” I’m pretty sure his crew would be hanging out and drinking regardless of whether I showed up or not, but she seems like she really wants me to go, and since I’m asking her this big favor, I want to be nice.

“One last time, come on! I know Hardin probably said no, but—”

“Hardin doesn’t decide what I do,” I remind her, and she laughs.

“I know! I’m just saying, we won’t ever see each other again. I’m moving and so are you,” she whines.

“Okay, let me think about it. I’m on my way over now,” I say. But instead of heading straight to her dorm, I drive around a bit. I have to make sure I’ll be able to hold myself together in front of her; no crying at all. No crying. No crying. I bite down on my cheek again to stop myself from giving in to the tears.

Luckily I’m used to the pain by now. I’m practically numb to it.

By the time I get to Steph’s room, she’s in the process of getting dressed. She’s pulling a red dress down over some black fishnet stockings when she opens the door with a smile.

“I’ve missed you!” she squeals and pulls me in for a hug.

I nearly lose it, but I hold firm. “I missed you, too, even though it hasn’t been that long.” I smile and she nods. It feels like ages ago that Hardin and I met her at the tattoo shop, not a mere week.

“Guess so. It seems like it, though.” She grabs a pair of knee-high boots from her closet and sits down on the bed. “I shouldn’t be gone too long. Make yourself at home . . . but don’t clean anything!” she says, noticing the way my eyes are scanning the messy room.

“I wasn’t going to!” I lie.

“You so were! And you probably still will.” She laughs, and I try to force myself to do the same. It doesn’t work, and I end up making a noise between a snort and a cough, though fortunately she doesn’t call me out on it.

“I already told everyone you’d be there, by the way. They were excited!” she adds right as she walks out of the room and shuts the door. I open my mouth to protest, but she’s already gone.

This room brings back too many memories. I hate it, but love it at the same time. My old side is still empty, although Steph has covered the bed in clothes and shopping bags. I run my fingers along the footboard, remembering the first time Hardin slept in the small bed with me.

I can’t wait to get away from this campus—from this entire town and all the people in it. I’ve had nothing but heartbreak since the day I arrived at WCU, and I wish I’d never come in the first place.

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