Authors: Danielle Pearl
"Bound and riveted, readers will want to unveil the dark skeletons as a grappling strength simmers and beckons the heroes to keep on fighting. Pearl has written a thought-provoking and enjoyable story... Witty and heart-felt,
is a journey of self-reflection, a maze to personal fulfillment in the face of adversity, and a staggering road to recovery." –Sandra Lopez, Author of
Beyond the Gardens
is the kind of book that opens your heart, examines its parts and then stomps all over it only to put it back together again, better than before. It’s feels overload!” –
Young Adult Book Madness
I cried, I laughed, I bit my fingernails in anticipation. It was AMAZING!!! I loved this book so much I couldn’t put it down!” –
Trusty Page Turners
“This book is a gem. No. A masterpiece… The author does such a wonderful job crafting the story. The pacing was never too quick or too slow. The plot was smooth. The characters were easy to remember -and easy to
. I can't wait to see what more Danielle Pearl has in store for us.” –
Of Books & Book Thoughts
was a hard-hitting, dark, contemporary novel that touches upon some heavy and emotional themes. While it isn't an easy read, it's one that captures your interest and moves you. When I first started reading
, I didn't expect to not be able to put it down. The writing flowed well and each chapter made me want to read the next one, and then another after that.” –
Lost to Books
“Rory, Sam and Cam's story is gritty, a little dark, beautifully heart-touching with a steamy hot romance. Danielle Pearl has written an amazing New Adult story with so many fantastic characters.
is one of those amazing books that will totally take you by surprise with its in-depth storyline and a beautiful, hot romance. I recommend
as a must, must read.” –
I Heart YA Books
was intense, gritty, dark, sad, uplifting, and heartbreaking all in one. This was a story rich in detail, and by the end I truly felt as if I lived in between the pages.” –
The Book Hookup
is a riveting and magnetic story of abuse, love, and hope. It pushes the reader in every way possible.
is one of the most thought provoking stories I’ve ever read.” –
D A N I E L L E P E A R L
Copyright 2015 Danielle Pearl Smashwords Edition
Copyright 2015 by Danielle Pearl
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/ use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owner.
All rights reserved.
Table of Contents
Skip to the Beginning of the Book!
For Roman, again.
My mom got on a plane as soon as I finally called her and told her what happened, so I'm flying back home with her now. I didn't want to wake you to say bye, especially since you didn't really sleep last night. I just wanted to say thank you for everything. For convincing me to come on this trip in the first place, for making sure I had a good time that first night out, for taking care of me when I got sick. Some of the best moments of my life were with you on this trip.
I hate that you think that you're even remotely to blame for what happened last night. The only thing you're responsible for is saving me. I won't ever be able to repay you, Sam. I just hope you know how grateful I am and how much you mean to me.
I'm sorry for how I handled things, or for the fact that I can't handle things. I'm sorry if I hurt you. You'll never know how much. You are still one of my best friends in the world, and I love you for that. Please try not to worry about me, I will be fine, I always am, right? Just try to enjoy the rest of your trip. Go to the beach, to the bars, do all the things you should have been doing this whole time, and I'll just see you when you get back.
note. A stupid fucking note. She left in the middle of the night and left me a
How can I have the best and worst fucking experiences of my life all in the same fucking day?
And since when do I curse this much?
Never in a million years did I think this would be me. A heartbroken, sorry shmuck, and on spring break no less. I have fucking whiplash from the events of the past twenty-four hours.
This is why you don't have a girlfriend in high school.
First, I have the most mind blowing,
afternoon with the most beautiful girl on God's good earth, and then, because of my own pathetic jealousy, I let her put herself in danger.
You can't imagine what it's like to see the girl you care about more than your own damned self pinned to a wall in a dark alley with a fucking monster attacking her. To watch her live out her worst nightmare—
—because I was too blinded by my own insecurities to stop it right away.
I take another shot of tequila in an attempt to erase the image that's been laser printed onto my brain.
But one good thing did come of that shitty fucking night. I found my fucking balls. After everything was said and done, and Rory was safe in my arms again, I told her I loved her.
. Sam Caplan. The guy who had a rule about not having a relationship in high school so I wouldn't repeat my parents' pathetic, cliched mistakes—link myself to some chick I thought I loved until I hated both her and myself. Because love wasn't real, right?
And then in walks Rory. With her downplayed beauty, and her perfect little body. Her defiance and her vulnerability.
, it's like it just snuck up on me and yet at the same time it hit me like a goddamned freight train the moment I caught sight of her—freaking out by the lockers at school, acting all tough even while she was trying not to fall apart.
I rub my eyes with the heels of my palms. My head hurts from overthinking every detail of the past couple days like a fucking girl.
Rory loves me too. She said it. She meant it. I know she did.
But then I got into a fistfight with her
in a goddamned police precinct. And I'd been so good at controlling my "anger issues" lately. But that
son of a bitch
was there to help her attacker, and called her a
, and when he reached out to grab her arm, I fucking lost it. No way was I going to let another man—whoever the hell he was—lay a hand on her without her permission again. Not after everything she'd already been through. No fucking way.
A loud crashing sound across the room is the only indication that I've thrown another glass against the wall. I groan and rub at my temples. That was my last glass. I take the next shot straight from the bottle.
I hit her fucking father. What the hell is wrong with me?
The best part—the truly hilarious part—is that even after
, I was still choke-on-your-own-breath, heart-stoppingly shocked when she ended it.
Never have I had a stronger urge to punch myself in the face.
I stare at the screen of my phone for the thousandth time since I woke up yesterday to find she'd gone back home with nothing but a fucking note left in her place. I will my phone to buzz with a call from her, or even a text, explaining
. Though I guess that's what the note was meant to do.
But it still doesn't actually
What the fuck do you need explained? You fucking hit her father!
I groan again. Rory's seen more violence—been the
of more violence—in her eighteen years than any woman ever should. Than any
ever should. And I lost my temper right in front of her, hit her father, and got dragged away in goddamned handcuffs just like her abusive ex the night before. The thought that she might think I'm like
makes me feel physically ill. The reality that
think I might be like him—or like my own father—makes me think that maybe she was right to end it.
I lean my head back on the seat of the sofa from where I sit on the hotel room floor. The truth is I've doled out my share of violence. I used to get into fights all the time. I came precariously close to punching Dave—my friend since Pee Wee football—just a few days ago. Right in front of Rory too. In fact, she's the only reason I
hit him. My name in her voice—that's the only thing that snapped me out of it.
But I would
hurt a girl. And I would never, ever, fucking
She knows that.
I open her contact card and for the hundredth time slide my finger between the call and text options before closing it again. I open my text conversation with Kendall instead and reread the part where she assures me she went to see Rory and that Rory is okay.
I sent her over there as soon as I found the note. As soon as I realized she'd gone. That she'd left me without so much as saying
because she "didn't want to wake" me.
How the hell do I go back to being her
now that I've kissed her? Now that I know how incredible she tastes. Her mouth… the rest of her. After being
her. After watching her come apart—hearing those sweet, sexy little sounds she makes when she's losing control. When she's
. Knowing how much trust it would take for her to give herself to me like that, and hearing her call out my fucking name—knowing it was me who made her feel that good. How can I just be her friend after
After sleeping with her in my arms. After telling her I fucking love her! And hearing her say it back.
I feel fucking desolate.
But I have to pull myself together. Because I
her friend—she said I was her
friend—and I at least have to salvage that. Rory's been through hell, is
going through hell, and she needs me right now, even if only as a friend.
Rory thinks he's going to get away with attacking her again. And why wouldn't she? He got away with it the last time. And this time, even after the detectives' reassurances that he wouldn't get out, he was released on bail the very next day. But he's not the only one with a powerful father in the legal system, and the arraignment may be over, but there's still the trial. So if I have to beg a favor of a father I hate—one I haven't so much as spoken to since I kicked him out of his own house more than five years ago, then that's exactly what I'll do. Because no way will I let Rory be right this time. That motherfucker is getting jail time for what he did to my girl, I will make sure of it.
And then I remember once again—
she's not my girl.
. It would be so much easier to go back to seeing her as my friend—since we were only actually together for
—if I ever really saw her as just a friend. But I know now that I've loved that girl for longer than I even realized.
My heart jumps into my throat as my phone buzzes with a message.
And sinks into my stomach when I see it's just Tuck. Again.
The poor kid has no idea what to do with me; I've never given a damn about a girl before in my life. We've been best friends since kindergarten, and right now, neither of us is recognizable to the other: Tuck—happy, in love, and in a committed relationship with Carl, and me—miserable over a girl.
I open the text.
Cap we're gonna miss our plane hurry up!
I sigh and peel myself off the floor. I down one more shot of tequila for the road, stuff Rory's fucking note into the pocket of my jeans, and haul my duffle bag over my shoulder.
I take one last look at the room where she first kissed me, where I first kissed her. Where I made love to her.
I sigh again.
I won't lie, I'm far from a saint, I've never had trouble getting laid, but that was the first—and second and third—time I've ever done
But it's also the room where she ripped my heart out of my fucking chest and walked away from whatever it was we were, whatever it was we were becoming. Without so much as looking back. But hey, at least she left a fucking note. And that memory makes it easier to leave this room.
I join the group in the lobby and we pile into cabs to head to the airport. Everyone knows Rory was attacked in an alley. I think most of them also know we hooked up. But only Tuck, Carl, Andy, Tina, and I think Dave, know that the guy who attacked her was her ex-boyfriend and that our hook up was more than just a casual hook up. At least at the time. Only Tuck and Carl know she broke my fucking heart. Everyone knows I care about her, I think they've all known that for a while, so my moping around like a depressed loser is easily explained away by stress over the assault.
We wait at the gate to board the plane back to New York and I pull out my tablet to read. Anything to avoid a fucking conversation. I really don't feel like bullshitting right now. And every time Carl shoots me an inquisitive look, all I can think is she's probably reporting my every move to Rory, and the last thing I want is to make her feel any worse by acting like I'm upset. God forbid I act the way I feel. But Rory has issues with guilt, and blaming herself for shit that just isn't her fault, and hell if I'm going to add to that. Especially when I know this is all my own damned fault. Because how could I expect her to
a relationship with someone who can't even keep his anger in check? Who's so fucking quick to throw punches? Most girls would run from that. A girl with Rory's history?
We never had a fighting chance.
I snicker sardonically at my stupid fucking silent pun. Tuck raises his eyebrows at me and I look away. He must think I'm losing my damned mind. Hell, maybe I am.
I offer to switch seats with Carl on the plane so she can sit next to Tuck, and then again with Andy so he can sit with Tina. In the end, I'm sitting next to a stranger, which is perfectly fine with me.
I'm tired as hell, but I don't close my eyes. I know if I drift into sleep I'll only see
. Either being strangled in an alley or screaming from a nightmare.
Or I'll see her long, soft hair spread out on my pillow, her skin flushed, eyes shut, and mouth open, crying out my name as she falls apart beneath me.
I shift uncomfortably in my seat, trying to force thoughts about football to tame my inconvenient arousal. But then, of course, football makes me think of her all over again.
make me think about her?
Since I met the girl my hormones have been out of fucking control. It's like I'm thirteen again.
I slip her note from my pocket and read it over for the millionth time. I search for some truth. But, again, all I see is her trying to take the blame for everything. Everything that was my fault. Because, yeah, I pulled
that motherfucking bastard
off of her, but I also let him drag her into that alley in the first place.
And yeah, she ended it, because she couldn't "handle it". But who would expect her to handle a relationship with a guy that puts her in danger of violence and then becomes violent himself? Against her own father. Even if the asshole fucking deserved it. I choke on a bitter laugh when I reread the part where she tells me to try not to worry about her—where she tells me to go out and have fun, and quickly disguise it into a cough when the stranger next to me gives me a look.
I run my fingers over the only three words that make any sense.
I love you
. I ignore their context. I don't care if she loves me for being a good friend, or any other reason. The fact is, she loves me. She said it and then she wrote it. So if the right thing is to back off and just be her friend, then I can do that, for her, and I'll be okay, because one way or another, she does love me.