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Dear Reader, All of us at Atria Books are incredibly excited about the upcoming “Fall In Love Tour,” presented by #AtriaIndies and featuring Jamie McGuire, Colleen Hoover, Abbi Glines, and special guest in Toronto, K.A. Tucker. Jamie, Colleen and Abbi will travel to ten cities in seven days on their bus tour to meet as many fans as possible and sign copies of their new books. But you don’t have to wait for the fall to get a taste of what’s in store! As a special treat, we’ve created Fall in Love: The Atria Indie Author 2014 Tour Sampler , with compliments of
#AtriaIndies. This gives you an early look at our headlining titles – BEAUTIFUL OBLIVION by Jamie McGuire, UGLY LOVE by Colleen Hoover and ONE MORE CHANCE by Abbi Glines. And as a bonus, you’ll also get a sneak peek at K.A. Tucker’s forthcoming novel, BURYING WATER, coming in October 2014. If you love these excerpts, you can purchase all the books in-store at any of the tour stops (listed below) and have them personalized by the authors themselves. And as if that weren’t enough, Atria is touring Jamie, Colleen and Abbi with tons of free swag, including bags, pins and postcards. We
hope youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll fall in love with these titles and then visit us at one of these stops to say hi to these fantastic authors and celebrate their great new books. Canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wait to see you on tour! Happy Reading! #AtriaIndies
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The unforgettable story of Grant and Harlow from Take a Chance continues in this brand-new novel in the Rosemary Beach series from #1 New York Times bestselling author Abbi Glines. She was it. His one. His only. Then he made the mistake of letting her go. After fighting his way into Harlow Manning’s heart—and revealing a side of himself no one had ever seen before —Grant Carter destroyed his own heart by giving in to his greatest fears and doubts. Months later, he’s stuck in a miserable routine. Work relentlessly. Beg his best friend Rush for news about Harlow. Avoid all other friends. Leave
nightly voicemails for Harlow, pleading with her to come back to Rosemary Beach. Fall asleep alone. Repeat. Miles away, on her brother’s Texas ranch, Harlow can’t bring herself to listen to Grant’s voicemails. Though she wants to be with him, and knows he regrets letting her go, she doesn’t know if she can trust him. When he discovered the truth behind her sheltered upbringing, it shattered their relationship, but the secret she carries now has far greater consequences. Can she risk giving Grant one more chance, or will the gamble ultimately destroy her?
“It’s me, but then you know that. This is the forty-eighth message . . . which means I haven’t seen your face in fortyeight days. I haven’t held you. I haven’t seen your smile. I don’t know where you are, Harlow. I’ve looked, baby. God, I’ve done everything I could. Where are you? Are you even listening to these messages? Your voice-mail box is all I have left of you. I fucked up. I fucked up so bad. Just call me or answer my calls
or send me a text. No, call me. Don’t just text me. I need to hear your voice. I just . . . I need to see you, Harlow. I can’t make this right if I can’t hold you —” BEEP Another message cut off. Damn voice mail never let me finish. But then I wasn’t sure she was even listening to her voice mail. I’d been calling every damn night since the moment she walked out my door, and still nothing. I had gone to her dad’s house in Los Angeles, and no one had been there, though I hadn’t been able to see for myself—I wasn’t even allowed past the gate. Security threatened to call the police. Rush assured me she wasn’t in
Beverly Hills. But he knew where she was. She had told him where she was going the day she left my house for the last time, but he wouldn’t tell me. He said she needed time, and I had to give it to her. The night he told me he couldn’t tell me where she was, I had planted my fist in his face for the first time since we’d known each other. He’d taken the hit and shaken it off like the badass he was. Then he’d warned me that was my only shot. He understood, but the next time, he would be fighting back. I had felt like a shithead for hitting him. He was protecting Harlow, and she needed someone to protect her. I just couldn’t stand not being able to hold her. Not explaining why I had acted like a
jackass. Blaire had just started talking to me again. She’d been so mad at me when she’d seen the bruise on Rush’s face and his bloody nose. She’d refused to speak to me for almost a month. I couldn’t talk to anyone but Harlow’s voice mail. I would wake up in the morning and go to work doing manual labor for one of my construction jobs. I needed the physical abuse in order to sleep at night. Once the sun set and I couldn’t work anymore, I would come home, eat, take a bath, call Harlow’s voice mail, and go to bed. Then I would do it all over again the next day. Nannette had stopped trying to
contact me. After I kept refusing to answer her calls or the door when she came over, she got the hint and left me alone. Seeing her only brought back all the pain I’d caused Harlow, and I hated seeing Nan’s face. I didn’t need any more reminders of all I had done to hurt Harlow. Was it possible to hate yourself? Because I was pretty damn sure I did. Why hadn’t I controlled the shit pouring out of my mouth the last time I’d seen Harlow? I’d ruined it. I’d hurt her. Remembering her face as I’d ranted about her not telling me about her illness made it impossible for me to look in the mirror. She had been scared, and I had been worried about me and my fucking
fears. How had I become so selfish? I had been terrified of losing her, but all I’d done was send her running. I was a bastard, a heartless bastard. I didn’t deserve her, but I wanted her more than I wanted to breathe. I was losing precious time with her. I wanted to make sure she was safe and protected. I wanted to be there to take care of her and make sure she was healthy. Make sure her heart was OK. I didn’t trust anyone else to keep her al i ve. Fuck! The idea of her being anything other than alive ripped open my chest, and I had to double over to breathe. “You gotta call me, baby. I can’t live like this. I have to be with you,” I cried
out into the empty room.
Sitting on a hay bale with my knees pulled up under my chin and my arms wrapped around my legs, I watched my half brother, Mase, work with a young thoroughbred that was giving him fits. Having something to focus on other than my inner thoughts was easier. I found myself more worried about Mase breaking his neck than my own problems. Tonight would come soon enough.
My phone would ring, and then my voice mail would ding, alerting me that he had left another message. I would spend the next few hours staring at the wall while mixed emotions ran through me. I wanted to listen to Grant’s voice mails. I missed him. I missed hearing his voice. I missed his dimpled smile. But I couldn’t, even if he was sorry, and I had no doubt, after all the phone calls and his attempt to fight past the security at Dad’s house, that he was sorry. He was terrified of losing someone he cared about again. If I told him I was carrying our child inside me and that there was a possibility I wouldn’t make it through the delivery, I was afraid he would want me to do what Mase wanted
me to do. What the doctors suggested I do. I loved Grant Carter. I loved him so much. But I loved someone else just as fiercely. I loosened my hold on my legs and placed my hand on my stomach. It was still flat, but I had seen the small life inside during the ultrasound. How could any of them expect me to abort this child? I loved this child already. I loved the childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s father. I had never expected ever to feel this way. It was a dream I had let go of long ago. I wanted this baby. I wanted this child to have a life. A wonderful, full life. A life with nothing but love and security. My grandmother had been very firm in her belief that abortion was
wrong. I had always wondered if she would feel that way if it was me who had accidentally gotten pregnant. But it had never crossed my mind that I might conceive a child with a man I loved. A man who made me want things I shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want. The fear was there that maybe they were right . . . maybe I wouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t make it. But I believed I would. I wanted this baby. I wanted to love and hold my baby and show that I would do anything for it. I wanted a child of my own. I wanted it enough to live. I was determined that I could do this. I would do this. I wished Mase understood. I hated seeing the fear flash in his eyes every time he glanced down at my stomach. He
was terrified because he loved me. I didn’t want to scare him, but he had to trust me. I could do this. From sheer willpower alone, I could have this baby and live. As if Mase could hear my thoughts, he jumped down off the horse and leveled his gaze on me. Always the concern. I watched as he led the horse back into the barn. We had been out here all morning, and now it was lunchtime. Mase’s stepfather had given him some land at the back of their property, and Mase had built a small log cabin on it. Luckily for me, his thirteen-hundredsquare-foot home had two bedrooms. No one knew about this place, since it was tucked out of sight, so when the media showed up at Mase’s mother’s front
door, she just told them neither of us was there, and if they didn’t get off the property, she would call the police. Now that the media knew me as Kiro’s daughter, it was harder to hide. Since then, it had been silent. We didn’t go into town, and I had been able to hide out in Mase’s log cabin. Other than the visit to the ob-gyn, which Mase’s mother took me to, I had been staying in seclusion. Dad had called a few times. I hadn’t told him about the pregnancy, but I had just found out myself last week. Mase wanted to tell Kiro. He was sure Dad could force me to have an abortion. I knew it was pointless. I knew in my heart what I was going to do. No
one was going to change that. And if my willpower to live wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t enough, my baby would be loved. The one person standing by me in all of this had assured me that she would raise this child and love it as if it were her own. Maryann Colt was the mother every kid deserved. When I was little and would visit Mase, his mother would make us cookies and take us on picnics. She would tuck us in at night, and after she would kiss Maseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cheek and tell him she loved him, she would do the same to me. As if I belonged there. And Maryann knew what it felt like to be a mother. She understood the need in me to protect this baby. She had held my hand when they confirmed that I was
indeed pregnant. Her tears hadn’t been of sorrow but of joy. She had been happy for me because I was happy. That evening was the first time I had ever heard Mase fight with his mother. Maryann had stood by me while I explained that I wasn’t having an abortion. Mase had been furious. He’d ended up begging me to reconsider. I knew that Grant would be worse. Telling myself that he had forgotten me or that he didn’t care was pointless. I knew better. He still called me every day and left a message. He wanted forgiveness and was possibly ready to take that chance of loving someone with my condition. But now the risk was so much greater. In the end, I didn’t think he
would have enough strength to stick it out. I couldn’t forget the words he’d said to me the last time I’d seen him. Our chance was over. “You feeling OK?” Mase’s voice interrupted my thoughts, and I covered my eyes from the sun and squinted up at him. He was dressed in his faded jeans and a blue plaid shirt. A fine layer of dust covered him from his morning activities, and the cowboy hat on his head was tilted back as he wiped the sweat on his forehead with a towel from his back pocket. “I’m fine. Just lost in my thoughts,” I explained. He held out his hand to me. “Come on, let’s go eat something. Momma will
have lunch on the table by now.” Maryann cooked a full meal for lunch every day. She said her guys needed it to keep going hard outside. Mase’s stepfather was still using a walking stick after taking a tumble off his tractor, even though he’d already gotten his cast removed. Mase had been picking up his stepfather’s slack for a while now, and he seemed relieved that he was back out working. His stepfather raised beef cattle, and his work was grueling. Mase was only used to training a few horses. I slipped my hand into my brother’s and let him pull me up. I wouldn’t admit to him that I was weak from my loss of appetite. I wasn’t nauseated from the pregnancy, but I missed Grant. Right
now, I wanted him. I wanted to share this with him. To see him smile and hear him laugh. I wanted more than he could give me. “You haven’t smiled in days,” Mase said, letting go of my hand. I dusted off my bottom and managed a shrug. “I’m not going to lie to you. I miss him. I love him, Mase. I admitted that to you already.” Mase fell into step beside me as we walked toward his parents’ large white farm house with its wraparound porch and flowers in the window boxes. Mase had grown up with the perfect life. The kind that kids like me don’t believe in unless they’ve seen it. I wanted to give that kind of life to my child.
“Answer his call tonight instead of sending it to voice mail. He wants to hear your voice. At least give him that. It might make you feel better,” Mase said. This wasn’t the first time he’d urged me to answer Grant’s calls. I hadn’t told Mase why I’d left. I couldn’t stand the idea of Mase hating Grant. He wouldn’t understand why Grant had reacted the way he had. And he’d never forgive him. They would be family one day. This baby would make them family. And if I wasn’t around . . . “You’re stubborn, Harlow Manning. You know that?” He nudged my shoulder with his arm. “I’ll answer him when it’s time. It just isn’t time yet.”
Mase let out a frustrated sigh. “You’re carrying his baby. He needs to know that. This ain’t right, what you’re doing.” I brushed the wisps of hair that had fallen out of my ponytail holder out of my face. He wouldn’t understand why I couldn’t tell Grant. I was tired of having this conversation with him. “No one will persuade me to give up my baby. I will not choose myself over this child. I can’t. I won’t. I just . . . don’t ask me to again, just understand that I have to do this my way.” Mase tensed beside me. Any reminder that I was taking a gamble with my life upset him. But it was my life to choose. I didn’t push him to agree. We
walked in silence to the house. Maryann stood over the stove in a blue and white polka-dotted apron, which I knew was monogrammed on the front. It had been a gift from me when I was seventeen. When the screen door slammed behind us, Maryann glanced over her shoulder and smiled. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Just about ready. Set the table for me, will you?â&#x20AC;? she said, then turned back to the stove. Mase went to the silverware drawer, and I went for the plates. This had become a regular routine. After putting down four place settings, I went to get the mason jars and fill them with ice and sweet tea. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Five places today. Major will be
here for lunch. He called this morning to let me know he was on his way into town. Dad agreed to hire him for the next six months. He needs a break from the drama at home, and we need another strong pair of arms around here.” From what I remembered of Major, he was a bully. A scrawny, mean bully. But then, I hadn’t seen Mase’s cousin since he was ten, so things could have changed. He should be taller than four and a half feet and have his braces off by now. “Uncle Chap still planning on divorcing this one?” Mase asked as concern wrinkled his brow. We never talked about his cousin, mostly because Major had lived in a different country
every time Mase had mentioned him. Uncle Chap was a Marine, and he was hard-core. He also made it his goal in life to marry as many young, beautiful women as he could. Major always had a new mom. That much I remembered. Maryann sighed and set the biscuits on the table. “The thing is, this time it isn’t about some pretty young thing wanting a sugar daddy. Hillary also wanted Major, and apparently, she got him. Major made a mistake, and, well, Chap isn’t very happy with his wife or his son. Major can’t go home and face his dad now, and he doesn’t want to go back to college. He’s confused and unhappy.” Mase set the pitcher of tea on the
table and swung a surprised expression toward me. He hadn’t known this bit of information. Interesting. “You mean . . . Major tapped his stepmom?” “Don’t say tapped,” Maryann said as she frowned at her son. “And yes, he did. But Hillary was only four years older than Major. What did Chap expect? He’s an old man, and he married a young girl, then put her in a house with his beautiful son while he went off to work all the time.” Mase let out a low whistle and then chuckled. “Major tapped his stepmom,” he said again. “That’s enough. He will be here any minute, and I know he’s embarrassed about all this. Be nice. Ask him about
college or what he wants to do. Just don’t talk about Hillary or his dad.” I was trying hard not to look completely disturbed by this. I couldn’t picture Major as beautiful by any stretch of the imagination. But then, all I knew was the ten-year-old Major, not the twenty-one-year-old who could attract a woman who shouldn’t want him. A swift knock on the door got our attention, and all eyes in the kitchen turned to the door as the grown-up version of Major Colt walked into the room. His green eyes were almost emerald. I was surprised I hadn’t remembered that. An unsure smile touched his face as he looked at his aunt and then at Mase. I
took a quick glance at the rest of him. He had to be at least six-four now, and every inch of him was well built. Thick, corded arms that reminded me a lot of Mase’s were showcased in the short sleeves of his gray T-shirt. “So you slept with your stepmom.” Those were the first words to break the silence. Of course, they came from Mase. “Mase Colt-Manning, I am going to tan your hide,” Maryann said in a stern voice, quickly wiping her hands on her apron and making her way to Major. The small smile that tugged at Major’s lips as he looked at Mase made me think maybe he wasn’t going to get as upset as Maryann thought he was. It wasn’t like
he was a kid who was taken advantage of. He was every bit a man. He turned to look at Maryann but stopped when his eyes found me. He paused, then began grinning. A real smile this time. He recognized me. Not surprising, since my face had been all over the media the past two months. “Well, if it ain’t Little Miss Gone Missing,” Major said. “You’re even prettier than the photos they keep showing of you on TV.” “Easy,” Mase said, and took a step to stand between Major and me. “I realize you’re Casanova now, but she ain’t available for romancing. I’m sure Uncle Chap will have a new wife soon, and you can see how long it takes to get in
her pants.” “Enough!” Maryann said, slapping Mase on the arm like a naughty child before pulling Major into a hug. “We’re thrilled you’re here. Ignore your cousin’s attempt at humor. He has no filter, and I apologize for that.” Major returned her hug and smirked at Mase over her head, which didn’t even reach his shoulder. “Thanks, Aunt Maryann. I won’t let him get to me. I can handle it, I swear.” “Unbelievable. He sleeps with his old man’s wife, and you’re taking up for him and babying him like he’s the victim.” Mase said, but there was no resentment in his tone. He was smiling as he said it.
The door opened again, and Mase’s stepfather stepped inside. Even with a limp, he was still a looming presence. Height was definitely a Colt trait. “Glad you’re here, boy,” he said to Major. “But I’m hungry, so you’re gonna have to let go of my wife so she can feed me.” Major laughed this time, a loud, full laugh that made us all smile.
fifty-five. Each day, I think this will be the last day I get your voice mail. That you’ll eventually answer me. I just want to hear your voice and know you’re safe and happy. I want you happy. I’m fucking miserable. I’m losing sleep. You’re all I think about. I miss you, baby. I miss you so bad. So damn bad. Just knowing you’re safe and healthy would help. Rush assures me you’re fine, but I need to hear
it from you. Anything . . . I’ll do anything. Just talk to me.” BEEP I hated that sound. It mocked my pain and put an end to the few seconds when I felt like I had Harlow’s ear. But she probably wasn’t listening to my messages, anyway. I was pretty damn sure she would have called me by now if she had heard even one of my desperate voice mails. She wouldn’t be able to ignore me. Rush had told me she wasn’t at Mase’s mother’s house in Texas, but I was about ready to visit Mase and find out what he knew. I didn’t care about the extra security I’d been warned about. I would go to fucking jail if it meant I
could get some answers. I would give anything to know where Harlow was. My phone rang, and for a second, my heart stopped. For a split second, I let myself hope it was Harlow. Even though, deep down, I knew it couldn’t be her. Glancing down at the phone, I saw Rush’s name lighting up the screen. He wasn’t Harlow, but he was the only connection I had to her right now. “What?” I said into the phone as I stared up at the ceiling. “Not sure why I call your grumpy ass anymore,” Rush replied. I wasn’t sure, either. But if he called, I would answer. Even if he didn’t know where Harlow was, he was the only one I could bring myself to talk to about this.
I felt he understood. He might be the only person who understood just how torn-up I was. “It’s late,” I told him. “It’s not that late. Blaire just went upstairs to rock Nate to sleep.” Rush had his happy little life now. A wife he worshipped. A son he adored. I was happy he had everything he ever wanted. Neither one of us had known what a normal, healthy family was like. Now he did. Now he had that. But me . . . maybe I could have when Harlow was still here. Maybe. “I know you’re not in the mood to talk, but I’m just calling to check on you. Blaire mentioned that I needed to call you and see how you were before she
went upstairs.” Apparently, Blaire really had forgiven me. I wished I could tell Rush I was fine. That I could breathe normally and my chest didn’t continually ache. That I didn’t feel lost and helpless. But I couldn’t tell him that. The truth was, I needed Harlow. “Were you OK when Blaire left you?” I asked him, knowing the answer already. I had been there. I had forced him to get out of the house. “No,” he replied. “You know I was a complete mess.” “Yeah,” was my only response. At that point, I hadn’t understood him. But now it all made sense. He had been ripped in two, and he was expected to
live each day like everything was normal, clinging to the hope she’d come back to him. “I’m sorry for making you leave your house and get out back then. I didn’t get it.” Rush let out a low, hard chuckle. “It might have helped me some. Don’t apologize. Sitting around thinking about it would have fucked me up worse. I didn’t have a job to lose myself in every day like you do.” “Have you talked to her?” I asked, unable to help myself. I needed something. Anything. “She’s good. She’s safe. She asked how you were. I told her you looked like shit and you weren’t doing so great.” If she was listening to my voice
mails, she would know that already. I wasn’t holding anything back when I called her. I was wide open with her, baring my soul. “Will she ever forgive me?” I asked, closing my eyes, afraid of his answer. “She already has. She just isn’t ready to open up again yet. She’s dealing with a lot right now. Her mother and Kiro, then this . . . just give her more time.” If she’d forgiven me, why wasn’t she listening to my voice mails? Why wasn’t she at least answering when I called? “Tell her I just want to hear her voice. She doesn’t have to talk to me long—just a minute. I want to tell her I love her. I want to tell her I’m sorry. I . . . just need to tell her I need her.”
Rush was silent a moment. Anyone else would have made fun of how vulnerable I had become. Not him. “I’ll tell her. Get some sleep. Call me and check in some. Blaire worries.” I swallowed against the lump in my throat. We said our good-byes, and I dropped the phone to my chest and closed my eyes, letting images of Harlow fill my thoughts. They were all I had now.
If you enjoyed this excerpt from One More Chance, we invite you to read the full book, as well as these other novels in the Rosemary Beach series by Abbi Glines. Grant tries to track down Harlow to win her back, but Harlow is protecting a secret with farreaching consequences.
One More Chance Charming rogue Grant has his eyes on sweet Harlow, but his past relationship with Nan keeps
Harlow at a distance. Can Grant convince Harlow to give him a chance?
Take a Chance
Alabama farm girl Blaire moves to the resort town of Rosemary Beach to live with her father, only to become entangled with spoiled step-brother Rush, who harbors life-altering secrets.
Fallen Too Far Blaire vows to leave Rush behind, but an unexpected complication sends her back into the arms of her bad-boy stepbrother.
Never Too Far Rush is determined to build a future with Blaire, but his manipulative stepsister, Nan, stands in the way of
their ultimate happiness.
Forever Too Far Fallen Too Far was Blaire's side of the story. Now hear Rush's side
in this hotly-anticipated follow-up.
Rush Too Far Wealthy playboy Woods is set to inherit his family's country club, but
the arrival of Della, a beautiful stranger with a dark past, threatens his family's plans.
Woods is willing to give up everything for Della, but tragedy sends the couple reeling. Will they survive it?
ORDER YOUR COPIES TODAY!
When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn’t think it’s love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her. Never ask about the past Don’t expect a future. They think they can handle it, but realize
almost immediately they canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t handle it at all. Hearts get infiltrated. Promises get broken. Rules get shattered. Love gets ugly.
“Somebody stabbed you in the neck, young lady.” My eyes widen, and I slowly turn toward the elderly gentleman standing at my side. He presses the up button on the elevator and faces me. He smiles and points to my neck. “Your birthmark,” he says.
My hand instinctively goes up to my neck, and I touch the dime-sized mark just below my ear. “My grandfather used to say the placement of a birthmark was the story of how a person lost the battle in their past life. I guess you got stabbed in the neck. Bet it was a quick death, though.” I smile, but I can’t tell if I should be afraid or entertained. Despite his somewhat morbid opening conversation, he can’t be that dangerous. His curved posture and shaky stance give away that he isn’t a day less than eighty years old. He takes a few slow steps toward one of two velvet red chairs that are positioned against the wall next to the elevator. He grunts as he sinks into the chair and then
looks up at me again. “You going up to floor eighteen?” My eyes narrow as I process his question. He somehow knows what floor I’m going to, even though this is the first time I’ve ever set foot in this apartment complex, and it’s definitely the first time I’ve ever laid eyes on this man. “Yes, sir,” I say cautiously. “Do you work here?” “I do indeed.” He nods his head toward the elevator, and my eyes move to the illuminated numbers overhead. Eleven floors to go before it arrives. I pray it gets here quickly. “I push the button for the elevator,” he says. “I don’t think there’s an official
title for my position, but I like to refer to myself as a flight captain, considering I do send people as high as twenty stories up in the air.” I smile at his words, since my brother and father are both pilots. “How long have you been flight captain of this elevator?” I ask as I wait. I swear this is the slowest damn elevator I’ve ever encountered. “Since I got too old to do maintenance on this building. Worked here thirty-two years before I became captain. Been sending people on flights now for more than fifteen years, I think. Owner gave me a pity job to keep me busy till I died.” He smiles to himself. “What he didn’t realize is that God gave
me a lot of great things to accomplish in my life, and right now, I’m so far behind I ain’t ever gonna die.” I find myself laughing when the elevator doors finally open. I reach down to grab the handle of my suitcase and turn to him one more time before I step inside. “What’s your name?” “Samuel, but call me Cap,” he says. “Everybody else does.” “You got any birthmarks, Cap?” He grins. “As a matter of fact, I do. Seems in my past life, I was shot right in the ass. Must have bled out.” I smile and bring my hand to my forehead, giving him a proper captain’s salute. I step into the elevator and turn around to face the open doors, admiring
the extravagance of the lobby. This place seems more like a historic hotel than an apartment complex, with its expansive columns and marble floors. When Corbin said I could stay with him until I found a job, I had no idea he lived like an actual adult. I thought it would be similar to the last time I visited him, right after I graduated from high school, back when he had first started working toward his pilot’s license. That was four years and a twostory sketchy complex ago. That’s kind of what I was expecting. I certainly wasn’t anticipating a highrise smack dab in the middle of downtown San Francisco. I find the panel and press the button
for the eighteenth floor, then look up at the mirrored wall of the elevator. I spent all day yesterday and most of this morning packing up everything I own from my apartment back in San Diego. Luckily, I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t own much. But after making the solo five-hundred-mile drive today, my exhaustion is pretty evident in my reflection. My hair is in a loose knot on top of my head, secured with a pencil, since I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t find a hair tie while I was driving. My eyes are usually as brown as my hazelnut hair, but right now, they look ten shades darker, thanks to the bags under them. I reach into my purse to find a tube of ChapStick, hoping to salvage my lips before they end up as weary-looking as
the rest of me. As soon as the elevator doors begin to close, they open again. A guy is rushing toward the elevators, preparing to walk on as he acknowledges the old man. “Thanks, Cap,” he says. I can’t see Cap from inside the elevator, but I hear him grunt something in return. He doesn’t sound nearly as eager to make small talk with this guy as he was with me. This man looks to be in his late twenties at most. He grins at me, and I know exactly what’s going through his mind, considering he just slid his left hand into his pocket. The hand with the wedding ring on it. “Floor ten,” he says without looking away from me. His eyes fall to what
little cleavage is peeking out of my shirt, and then he looks at the suitcase by my side. I press the button for floor ten. I should have worn a sweater. “Moving in?” he asks, blatantly staring at my shirt again. I nod, although I doubt he notices, considering his gaze isn’t planted anywhere near my face. “What floor?” Oh, no, you don’t. I reach beside me and cover all the buttons on the panel with my hands to hide the illuminated eighteenth-floor button, and then I press every single button between floors ten and eighteen. He glances at the panel, confused. “None of your business,” I say.
He laughs. He thinks I’m kidding. He arches his dark, thick eyebrow. It’s a nice eyebrow. It’s attached to a nice face, which is attached to a nice head, which is attached to a nice body. A married body. Asshole. He grins seductively after seeing me check him out—only I wasn’t checking him out the way he thinks I was. In my mind, I was wondering how many times that body has been pressed against a girl who wasn’t his wife. I feel sorry for his wife. He’s looking at my cleavage again when we reach floor ten. “I can help you with that,” he says, nodding toward my
suitcase. His voice is nice. I wonder how many girls have fallen for that married voice. He walks toward me and reaches to the panel, bravely pressing the button that closes the doors. I hold his stare and press the button to open the doors. “I’ve got it.” He nods as if he understands, but there’s still a wicked gleam in his eyes that reaffirms my immediate dislike of him. He steps out of the elevator and turns to face me before walking away. “Catch you later, Tate,” he says, just as the doors close. I frown, not comfortable with the fact that the only two people I’ve interacted with since walking into this apartment building already know who I am.
I remain alone on the elevator as it stops on every single floor until it reaches the eighteenth. I step off, pull my phone out of my pocket, and open up my messages to Corbin. I can’t remember which apartment number he said was his. It’s either 1816 or 1814. Maybe it’s 1826? I come to a stop at 1814, because there’s a guy passed out on the floor of the hallway, leaning against the door to 1816. Please don’t let it be 1816. I find the message on my phone and cringe. It’s 1816. Of course it is. I walk slowly to the door, hoping I don’t wake up the guy. His legs are
sprawled out in front of him, and he’s leaning with his back propped up against Corbin’s door. His chin is tucked to his chest, and he’s snoring. “Excuse me,” I say, my voice just above a whisper. He doesn’t move. I lift my leg and poke his shoulder with my foot. “I need to get into this apartment.” He rustles and then slowly opens his eyes and stares straight ahead at my legs. His eyes meet my knees, and his eyebrows furrow as he slowly leans forward with a deep scowl on his face. He lifts a hand and pokes my knee with his finger, almost as if he’s never seen a knee before. He drops his hand, closes
his eyes, and falls back asleep against the door. Great. Corbin won’t be back until tomorrow, so I dial his number to see if this guy is someone I should be concerned about. “Tate?” he asks, answering his phone without a hello. “Yep,” I reply. “Made it safe, but I can’t get in because there’s a drunk guy passed out at your front door. Suggestions?” “Eighteen sixteen?” he asks. “You sure you’re at the right apartment?” “Positive.” “Are you sure he’s drunk?” “Positive.”
“Weird,” he says. “What’s he wearing?” “Why do you want to know what he’s wearing?” “If he’s wearing a pilot’s uniform, he probably lives in the building. The complex contracts with our airline.” This guy isn’t wearing any type of uniform, but I can’t help but notice that his jeans and black T-shirt do fit him very nicely. “No uniform,” I say. “Can you get past him without waking him up?” “I’d have to move him. He’ll fall inside if I open the door.” He’s quiet for a few seconds while he thinks. “Go downstairs and ask for
Cap,” he says. “I told him you were coming tonight. He can wait with you until you’re inside the apartment.” I sigh, because I’ve been driving for six hours, and going all the way back downstairs is not something I feel like doing right now. I also sigh because Cap is the last person who could probably help in this situation. “Just stay on the phone with me until I’m inside your apartment.” I like my plan a lot better. I balance my phone against my ear with my shoulder and dig inside my purse for the key Corbin sent me. I insert it into the lock and begin to open the door, but the drunk guy begins to fall backward with every inch the door opens. He groans,
but his eyes don’t open again. “It’s too bad he’s wasted,” I tell Corbin. “He’s not bad-looking.” “Tate, just get your ass inside and lock the door so I can hang up.” I roll my eyes. He’s still the same bossy brother he always was. I knew that moving in with him would not be good for our relationship, considering how fatherly he acted toward me when we were younger. However, I had no time to find a job, get my own apartment, and get settled before my new classes started, so it left me with little choice. I’m hoping things will be different between us now, though. Corbin is twenty-five, and I’m twenty-three, so if we can’t get along better than we did as
kids, weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve got a lot of growing up left to do. I guess that mostly depends on Corbin and whether heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s changed since we last lived together. He had an issue with anyone I dated, all of my friends, every choice I madeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;even what college I wanted to attend. Not that I ever paid any attention to his opinion, though. The distance and time apart has seemed to get him off my back for the last few years, but moving in with him will be the ultimate test of our patience. I wrap my purse around my shoulder, but it gets caught on my suitcase handle, so I just let it fall to the floor. I keep my left hand wrapped tightly around the doorknob and hold the door shut so the
guy won’t fall completely into the apartment. I take my foot and press it against his shoulder, pushing him from the center of the doorway. He doesn’t budge. “Corbin, he’s too heavy. I’m gonna have to hang up so I can use both hands.” “No, don’t hang up. Just put the phone in your pocket, but don’t hang up.” I look down at the oversized shirt and leggings I have on. “No pockets. You’re going in the bra.” Corbin makes a gagging sound as I pull the phone from my ear and shove it inside my bra. I remove the key from the lock and drop it toward my purse, but it misses and falls to the floor. I reach down to grab the drunk guy so I can
move him out of the way. “All right, buddy,” I say, struggling to pull him away from the center of the doorway. “Sorry to interrupt your nap, but I need inside this apartment.” I somehow manage to prop him up against the doorframe to prevent him from falling into the apartment, and then I push the door open further and turn to get my things. Something warm wraps around my ankle. I freeze. I look down. “Let go of me!” I yell, kicking at the hand that’s gripping my ankle so tightly I’m pretty sure it might bruise. The drunk guy is looking up at me now, and his grip
sends me falling backward into the apartment when I try to pull away from him. “I need to get in there,” he mutters, just as my butt meets the floor. He makes an attempt to push the apartment door open with his other hand, and this immediately sends me into panic mode. I pull my legs the rest of the way inside, and his hand comes with me. I use my free leg to kick the door shut, slamming it directly onto his wrist. “Shit!” he yells. He’s trying to pull his hand back into the hallway with him, but my foot is still pressing against the door. I release enough pressure for him to have his hand back, and then I immediately kick the door all the way
shut. I pull myself up and lock the door, the dead bolt, and the chain lock as quickly as I can. As soon as my heart rate begins to calm down, it starts to scream at me. My heart is actually screaming at me. In a deep male voice. It sounds like it’s yelling, “Tate! Tate!” Corbin. I immediately look down at my chest and pull my phone out of my bra, then bring it up to my ear. “Tate! Answer me!” I wince, then pull the phone several inches from my ear. “I’m fine,” I say, out of breath. “I’m inside. I locked the door.”
“Jesus Christ!” he says, relieved. “You scared me to death. What the hell happened?” “He was trying to get inside. I locked the door, though.” I flip on the livingroom light and take no more than three steps inside before I come to a halt. Good going, Tate. I slowly turn back toward the door after realizing what I’ve done. “Um. Corbin?” I pause. “I might have left a few things outside that I need. I would just grab them, but the drunk guy thinks he needs to get inside your apartment for some reason, so there’s no way I’m opening that door again. Any suggestions?” He’s silent for a few seconds. “What
did you leave in the hallway?” I don’t want to answer him, but I do. “My suitcase.” “Christ, Tate,” he mutters. “And . . . my purse.” “Why the hell is your purse outside?” “I might have also left the key to your apartment on the hallway floor.” He doesn’t even respond to that one. He just groans. “I’ll call Miles and see if he’s home yet. Give me two minutes.” “Wait. Who’s Miles?” “He lives across the hall. Whatever you do, don’t open the door again until I call you back.” Corbin hangs up, and I lean against his front door. I’ve lived in San Francisco all of
thirty minutes, and I’m already being a pain in his ass. Figures. I’ll be lucky if he lets me stay here until I find a job. I hope that doesn’t take long, considering I applied for three RN positions at the closest hospital. It might mean working nights, weekends, or both, but I’ll take what I can get if it prevents me from having to dip into savings while I’m back in school. My phone rings. I slide my thumb across the screen and answer it. “Hey.” “Tate?” “Yep,” I reply, wondering why he always double-checks to see if it’s me. He called me, so who else would be answering it who sounds exactly like me?
“I got hold of Miles.” “Good. Is he gonna help me get my stuff?” “Not exactly,” Corbin says. “I kind of need you to do me a huge favor.” My head falls against the door again. I have a feeling the next few months are going to be full of inconvenient favors, since he knows he’s doing me a huge one by letting me stay here. Dishes? Check. Corbin’s laundry? Check. Corbin’s grocery shopping? Check. “What do you need?” I ask him. “Miles kind of needs your help.” “The neighbor?” I pause as soon as it clicks, and I close my eyes. “Corbin, please don’t tell me the guy you called to protect me from the drunk guy is the
drunk guy.” Corbin sighs. “I need you to unlock the door and let him in. Let him crash on the couch. I’ll be there first thing in the morning. When he sobers up, he’ll know where he is, and he’ll go straight home.” I shake my head. “What kind of apartment complex are you living in? Do I need to prepare to be groped by drunk people every time I come home?” Long pause. “He groped you?” “ ‘Grope’ might be a bit strong. He did grab my ankle, though.” Corbin lets out a sigh. “Just do this for me, Tate. Call me back when you’ve got him and all your stuff inside.” “Fine.” I groan, recognizing the worry in his voice.
I hang up with Corbin and open the door. The drunk guy falls onto his shoulder, and his cell phone slips from his hand and lands on the floor next to his head. I flip him onto his back and look down at him. He cracks his eyes open and attempts to look up at me, but his eyelids fall shut again. “You’re not Corbin,” he mutters. “No. I’m not. But I am your new neighbor, and from the looks of it, you’re about to owe me at least fifty cups of sugar.” I lift him by his shoulders and try to get him to sit up, but he doesn’t. I don’t think he can, actually. How does a person even get this drunk? I grab his hands and pull him inch by
inch into the apartment, stopping when he’s just far enough inside for me to be able to close the door. I retrieve all of my things from outside the apartment, then shut and lock the front door. I grab a throw pillow from the couch, prop his head up, and roll him onto his side in case he pukes in his sleep. And that’s all the help he’s getting from me. When he’s comfortably asleep in the middle of the living-room floor, I leave him there while I look around the apartment. The living room alone could fit three of the living rooms from Corbin’s last apartment. The dining area is open to the living room, but the kitchen is separated
from the living room by a half-wall. There are several modern paintings throughout the room, and the thick, plush sofas are a light tan, offsetting the vibrant paintings. The last time I stayed with him, he had a futon, a beanbag chair, and posters of models on the walls. I think my brother might finally be growing up. “Very impressive, Corbin,” I say out loud as I walk from room to room and flip on all the lights, inspecting what has just become my temporary home. I kind of hate that it’s so nice. It’ll make it harder to want to find my own place once I get enough money saved up. I walk into the kitchen and open the
refrigerator. There’s a row of condiments in the door, a box of leftover pizza on the middle shelf, and a completely empty gallon of milk still sitting on the top shelf. Of course he doesn’t have groceries. I can’t have expected him to change completely. I grab a bottled water and exit the kitchen to go search for the room I’ll be living in for the next few months. There are two bedrooms, so I take the one that isn’t Corbin’s and set my suitcase on top of the bed. I have about three more suitcases and at least six boxes down in the car, not to mention all my clothes on hangers, but I’m not about to attempt those tonight. Corbin said he’d be back
in the morning, so I’ll leave that to him. I change into a pair of sweats and a tank top, then brush my teeth and get ready for bed. Normally, I would be nervous about the fact that there’s a stranger in the same apartment I’m in, but I have a feeling I don’t need to worry. Corbin would never ask me to help someone he felt might be a threat to me in any way. Which confuses me, because if this is common behavior for Miles, I’m surprised Corbin asked me to bring him inside. Corbin has never trusted guys with me, and I blame Blake for that. He was my first serious boyfriend when I was fifteen, and he was Corbin’s best friend. Blake was seventeen, and I had a huge
crush on him for months. Of course, my friends and I had huge crushes on most of Corbin’s friends, simply because they were older than we were. Blake would come over most weekends to stay the night with Corbin, and we always seemed to find a way to spend time together when Corbin wasn’t paying attention. One thing led to another, and after several weekends of sneaking around, Blake told me he wanted to make our relationship official. The problem Blake didn’t foresee was how Corbin would react once Blake broke my heart. And boy, did he break it. As much as a fifteen-year-old heart can be broken after the span of a two-week secret
relationship. Turned out he was officially dating quite a few girls during the two weeks he was with me. Once Corbin found out, their friendship was over, and all of Corbin’s friends were warned not to come near me. I found it almost impossible to date in high school until after Corbin finally moved away. Even then, though, the guys had heard horror stories and tended to steer clear of Corbin’s little sister. As much as I hated it then, I would more than welcome it now. I’ve had my fair share of relationships go wrong since high school. I lived with my most recent boyfriend for more than a year before we realized we wanted two separate things out of life. He wanted me
home. I wanted a career. So now I’m here. Pursuing my master’s degree in nursing and doing whatever I can to avoid relationships. Maybe living with Corbin won’t be such a bad thing after all. I head back to the living room to turn out the lights, but when I’ve rounded the corner, I come to an immediate halt. Not only is Miles up off the floor, but he’s in the kitchen, with his head pressed against his arms and his arms folded on top of the kitchen counter. He’s seated on the edge of a bar stool, and he looks as if he’s about to fall off it any second. I can’t tell if he’s sleeping again or just attempting to recover. “Miles?”
He doesn’t move when I call his name, so I walk toward him and gently lay my hand on his shoulder to shake him awake. The second my fingers squeeze his shoulder, he gasps and sits up straight as if I just woke him from the middle of a dream. Or a nightmare. Immediately, he slides off the stool and onto very unstable legs. He begins to sway, so I throw his arm over my shoulder and try to walk him out of the kitchen. “Let’s go to the couch, buddy.” He drops his forehead to the side of my head and stumbles along with me, making it even harder to hold him up. “My name isn’t Buddy,” he slurs. “It’s
Miles.” We make it to the front of the couch, and I start to peel him off me. “Okay, Miles. Whoever you are. Just go to sleep.” He falls onto the couch, but he doesn’t let go of my shoulders. I fall with him and immediately attempt to pull away. “Rachel, don’t,” he begs, grabbing me by the arm, trying to pull me to the couch with him. “My name isn’t Rachel,” I say, freeing myself from his iron grip. “It’s Tate.” I don’t know why I clarify what my name is, because it’s not likely he’ll remember this conversation tomorrow. I walk to where the throw pillow is and
pick it up off the floor. I pause before handing it back to him, because he’s on his side now, and his face is pressed into the couch cushion. He’s gripping the couch so tightly his knuckles are white. At first, I think he’s about to get sick, but then I realize how incredibly wrong I am. He’s not sick. He’s crying. Hard. So hard he isn’t even making a sound. I don’t even know the guy, but the obvious devastation he’s experiencing is difficult to witness. I look down the hallway and back to him, wondering if I should leave him alone in order to give him privacy. The last thing I want to do
is get tangled up in someone’s issues. I’ve successfully avoided most forms of drama in my circle of friends up to this point, and I sure as hell don’t want to start now. My first instinct is to walk away, but for some reason, I find myself oddly sympathetic toward him. His pain actually appears genuine and not just the result of an overconsumption of alcohol. I lower myself to my knees in front of him and touch his shoulder. “Miles?” He inhales a huge breath, slowly lifting his face to look at me. His eyes are mere slits and bloodshot red. I’m not sure if that’s a result of the crying or the alcohol. “I’m so sorry, Rachel,” he says, lifting a hand out toward me. He wraps it around the back of my neck and pulls
me forward toward him, burying his face in the crevice between my neck and shoulder. “I’m so sorry.” I have no idea who Rachel is or what he did to her, but if he’s hurting this bad, I shudder to think what she’s feeling. I’m tempted to find his phone and search for her name and call her so she can come rectify this. Instead, I gently push him back into the couch. I lay his pillow down and urge him onto it. “Go to sleep, Miles,” I say gently. His eyes are so full of hurt when he drops to the pillow. “You hate me so much,” he says as he grabs my hand. His eyes fall shut again, and he releases a heavy sigh. I stare at him silently, allowing him to
keep hold of my hand until he’s quiet and still and there aren’t any more tears. I pull my hand away from his, but I stay by his side for a few minutes longer. Even though he’s asleep, he somehow still looks as if he’s in a world of pain. His eyebrows are furrowed, and his breathing is sporadic, failing to fall into a peaceful pattern. For the first time, I notice a faint, jagged scar, about four inches long, that runs smoothly across the entire right side of his jaw. It stops just two inches shy of his lips. I have the strange urge to touch it and run my finger down the length of it, but instead, my hand reaches up to his hair. It’s short on the sides, a little longer on the top, and just the perfect
blend of brown and blond. I stroke his hair, comforting him, even though he may not deserve it. This guy may deserve every single bit of the remorse heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feeling for whatever he did to Rachel, but at least heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feeling it. I have to give him that much. Whatever he did to Rachel, at least he loves her enough to regret it.
If you enjoyed this excerpt from Ugly Love, we invite you read the full book, as well as these other novels by Colleen Hoover. An undeniable mutual attraction between Tate and Miles ultimately leads to broken promisesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and broken heartsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;as rules get shattered and love gets ugly.
Ugly Love Laykenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s family is torn apart after her fatherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s unexpected death, but an unlikely emotional connection
with her attractive neighbor, Will, leaves Layken with a renewed sense of hope.
Layken and Willâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s emotion-packed story continues, but a stunning and unforeseen revelation about Willâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s past leaves them questioning everything they thought they knew about each other.
Point of Retreat Layken and Will’s relationship is flourishing, but can Will’s honesty about his painful past ease Layken’s curiosity or will it bring conflict into their marriage?
This Girl When Sky first meets Dean Holder, he both terrifies and intrigues herâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; and his well-kept secrets may turn
out to dismantle her entire life and open the wounds of her own dark past.
Haunted by the little girl he couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t save from immediate danger, Holderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s life has been overshadowed by guilt, and it is only in loving Sky that he can finally begin to heal himself.
Losing Hope Sydneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perfect life is suddenly shattered when she realizes that her boyfriend, Hunter, is cheating on her with her best friend, but she soon finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge.
Maybe Someday Danielâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s disbelief in love-at-first sight is stripped away the day he meets Six, a girl with a strange
name and an even stranger personality, but unfortunately for Daniel, finding true love doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t guarantee a happily ever after . . . it only further threatens it.
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You fell in love with Abby and Travis. Now, meet Cami and Trent. Fiercely independent Camille “Cami” Camlin gladly left behind her childhood before it was over. She’s had a job since before she could drive, and moved into her own apartment after her freshman year of college. Now tending bar at the Red Door, Cami doesn’t have time for much besides work and classes, until a canceled trip to see her boyfriend leaves her with her first weekend off in a year. Trenton Maddox was the king of Eastern State University, dating coeds before he even graduated high school. Guys wanted to be him, and women wanted to tame him, but after a tragic accident
turned his world upside down, Trent left campus to come to grips with the crushing guilt. Eighteen months later, Trent is living at home with his widower father, and working full-time at a local tattoo parlor to help with the bills. Just when he thinks his life is returning to normal, he notices Cami sitting alone at a table at the Red Door. As the older sister of three rowdy brothers, Cami believes sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll have no problem keeping her new friendship with Trent Maddox strictly platonic. But when a Maddox boy falls in love, he loves foreverâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;even if Cami is the only
reason his already broken family could fall apart.
WORDS HUNG THERE, IN the
darkness between our voices. I sometimes found comfort in that space, but in three months, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d only found unrest. That space became more like a convenient place to hide. Not for me, for him. My fingers ached, so I allowed them relax, not realizing how hard Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d been gripping my cell phone. My roommate Raegan was sitting next to my open suitcase on the bed, her legs crisscrossed. Whatever look was on my face prompted her to take my hand. T.J.? she mouthed.
I nodded. “Will you please say something?” T.J. asked. “What do you want me to say? I’m packed. I took vacation time. Hank has already given Jorie my shifts.” “I feel like a huge asshole. I wish I didn’t have to go, but I warned you. When I have an ongoing project, I can be called out at any time. If you need help with rent or anything . . .” “I don’t want your money,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “I thought this would be a good weekend. I swear to God I did.” “I thought I’d be getting on a plane tomorrow morning, and instead you’re calling me to say I can’t come. Again.”
“I know this seems like a dick move. I swear to you I told them I had important plans d. But when things come up, Cami . . . I have to do my job.” I wiped a tear from my cheek, but I refused to let him hear me cry. I kept the trembling from my voice. “Are you coming home for Thanksgiving, then?” He sighed. “I want to. But I don’t know if I can. It depends on if this is wrapped up. I do miss you. A lot. I don’t like this, either.” “Will your schedule ever get better?” I asked. It took him longer than it should to answer. “What if I said probably not?” I lifted my eyebrows. I expected that answer, but didn’t expect him to be
so . . . truthful. “I’m sorry,” he said. I imagined him cringing. “I just pulled into the airport. I have to go.” “Yeah, okay. Talk to you later.” I forced my voice to stay level. I didn’t want to sound upset. I didn’t want him to think I was weak or emotional. He was strong, and self-reliant, and did what had to be done without complaint. I tried to be that for him. Whining about something out of his control wouldn’t help anything. He sighed again. “I know you don’t believe me, but I do love you.” “I believe you,” I said, and I meant it. I pressed the red button on the screen and let my phone fall to the bed.
Raegan was already in damage control mode. “He was called into work?” I nodded. “Okay, well, maybe you guys will just have to be more spontaneous. Maybe you can just show up, and if he’s called out while you’re there, you wait on him. When he gets back, you pick up where you left off.” “Maybe.” She squeezed my hand. “Or maybe he’s a tool who should stop choosing his job over you?” I shook my head. “He’s worked really hard for this position.” “You don’t even know what position it is.”
“I told you. He’s utilizing his degree. He specializes in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration, whatever that means.” She shot me a dubious look. “Yeah, you also told me to keep it all a secret. Which makes me think he’s not being completely honest with you.” I stood up and dumped out my suitcase, letting all the contents spill onto my comforter. My bed was rarely made, but the few times I had made it for the purposes of packing, the light blue fabric with a few navy blue octopus tentacles reaching across could be seen. T.J. hated it, but it made me feel like I was being hugged while I slept. My room was made up of strange, random
things, but then, so was I. Raegan rummaged through the pile of clothes, and held up a black top with the shoulders and front strategically ripped. “We both have the night off. We should go out. Get drinks served to us for once.” I grabbed the shirt from her hands and inspected it while I mulled over Raegan’s suggestion. “You’re right. We should. Are we taking your car, or the Smurf?” Raegan shrugged. “I’m almost on empty and we don’t get paid until tomorrow.” “Looks like it’s the Smurf, then.” After a crash session in the bathroom, Raegan and I jumped up into my light
blue, modified CJ Jeep. It wasn’t in the best of shape, but at one point in time, someone had enough vision and love to mold it into a Jeep/truck hybrid. The spoiled college dropout who owned the Smurf between that owner and me didn’t love it as much. The seat cushions were exposed in some places where the black leather seats were torn, the carpet had cigarette holes and stains, and the hard top needed to be replaced, but that neglect meant that I could pay for it in full, and a payment-free vehicle was the best kind to own. I buckled my seat belt, and stabbed the key into the ignition. “Should I pray?” Raegan asked. I turned the key, and the Smurf made a
sickly whirring noise. The engine sputtered, and then purred, and we both clapped. My parents raised five children on a factory workerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s salary. They didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t buy a vehicle for any of my older brothers, despite their appeals, so I knew when it was my turn, not to even bother asking. I got a job at the local ice cream shop when I was fifteen, and saved five hundred, fifty-seven dollars and eleven cents. The Smurf wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t the vehicle I dreamed about when I was little, but five hundred fifty bucks bought me an independence, and that was priceless. Twenty minutes later, Raegan and I were on the opposite side of town, strutting across the gravel lot of The Red
Door, slowly and in unison, as if we were being filmed while walking to a badass soundtrack. Kody was standing at the entrance, his huge arms probably the same size as my head. He eyed us as we approached. “IDs.” “Fuck off!” Raegan snarled. “We work here. You know how old we are.” He shrugged. “Still have to see IDs.” I frowned at Raegan, and she rolled her eyes, digging into her back pocket. “If you don’t know how old I am at this point, we have issues.” “C’mon, Raegan. Quit busting my balls and let me see the damn thing.” “The last time I let you see something you didn’t call me for three days.”
He cringed. “You’re never going to get over that, are you?” She tossed her ID at Kody and he slapped it against his chest. He glanced at it, and then handed it back, looking at me expectantly. I handed him my driver’s license. “Thought you were leaving town?” he asked, glancing down before returning the thin plastic card to me. “Long story,” I said, stuffing my license into my back pocket. My jeans were so tight I was amazed I could fit anything besides my ass back there. Kody opened the oversized red door, and Raegan smiled sweetly. “Thanks, baby.” “Love you. Be good.”
“I’m always good,” she said, winking. “See you when I get off work?” “Yep.” She pulled me through the door. “You are the weirdest couple,” I said over the base. It was buzzing in my chest, and I was fairly certain every beat made my bones shake. “Yep,” Raegan said again. The dance floor was already packed with sweaty, drunk college kids. The fall semester was in full swing. Raegan walked over to the bar and stood at the end. Jorie winked at her. “Want me to clear you out some seats?” she asked. Raegan shook her head. “You’re just
offering because you want my tips from last night!” Jorie laughed. Her long, platinum blond hair fell in loose waves past her shoulders, with a few black pee-a-boo strands. She wore a black mini dress and combat boots, and was pushing buttons on the cash register to ring someone up while she talked to us. We had all learned to multi-task and move like every tip was a hundred dollar bill. If you could bartend fast enough, you stood a chance of working the east bar, and the tips made there could pay a month’s worth of bills in a weekend. That was where I’d been tending bar for a year, placed just three months after I was hired at The Red Door. Raegan
worked right beside me, and together we kept that machine greased like a stripper in a plastic pool full of baby oil. Jorie and the other bartender, Blia, worked the south bar at the entrance. It was basically a kiosk, and they loved when Raegan or I were out of town. “So? What are you drinking?” Jorie asked. Raegan looked at me, and then back at Jorie. “Whisky sours.” I made a face. “Minus the sour, please.” Once Jorie passed us our drinks, Raegan and I found an empty table and sat, shocked at our luck. Weekends were always packed, and an open table at 10:30 wasn’t common.
I held a brand new pack of cigarettes in my hand and hit the end of it against my palm to pack them, then tore off the plastic, flipping the top. Even though the Red was so smoky that just sitting there made me feel like I was smoking an entire pack of cigarettes, it was nice to sit at a table and relax. When I was working, I usually had time for one drag and the rest burned away, unsmoked. Raegan watched me light it. “I want one.” “No, you don’t.” “Yes, I do!” “You haven’t smoked in two months, Raegan. You’ll blame me tomorrow for ruining your streak.” She gestured at the room. “I’m
smoking! Right now!” I narrowed my eyes at her. Raegan was exotically beautiful, with long, chestnut brown hair, bronze skin, and honey brown eyes. Her nose was perfectly small, not too round or too pointy, and her skin made her look like she came fresh off of a Neutrogena commercial. We met in elementary school, and I was instantly drawn to her brutal honesty. Raegan could be incredibly intimidating, even for Kody who, at 6’4”, stood over a foot taller than her. Her personality was charming to those she loved, and a repellant to those she didn’t. I was the opposite of exotic. My tousled brown bob and heavy bangs
were easy to maintain, but not a lot of men found it sexy. Not a lot of men found me sexy in general. I was the girl next door, your brother’s best friend. Growing up with four brothers, I could have been a tomboy, if my subtle but still present curves hadn’t ousted me from the boys’ only club house at fourteen. “Don’t be that girl,” I said. “If you want one, go buy your own.” She crossed her arms, pouting. “That’s why I quit. They’re fucking expensive.” I stared at the burning paper and tobacco nestled between my fingers. “That is a fact my broke ass continues to make note of.” The song switched from something
everyone wanted to dance to, to a song no one wanted to dance to, and dozens of people began making their way off the dance floor. Two girls walked up to our table and traded glances. “That’s our table,” the brunette said. Raegan barely acknowledged them. “Excuse me, bitch I’m talking to you,” the brunette said, setting her beer on the table. “Raegan,” I warned. Raegan looked at me with a blank face, and then up at the girl with the same expression. “It was your table. Now it’s ours.” “We were here first,” the blond hissed. “And now you’re not,” Raegan said.
She picked up the unwelcome beer bottle and tossed it across the floor. It spilled out onto dark, tightly stitched carpet. “Fetch.” The brunette watched her beer slide across the floor, and then took a step toward Raegan, but her friend grabbed both of her arms. Raegan offered an unimpressed laugh, and then turned her gaze toward the dance floor. The brunette finally followed her friend to the bar. I took a drag from my cigarette. “I thought we were going to have a good time tonight.” “That was fun, right?” I shook my head, stifling a smile. Raegan was great friend, but I wouldn’t
cross her. Growing up with so many boys in the house, I’d had enough fighting to last a lifetime. They didn’t baby me. If I didn’t fight back, they’d just fight dirtier until I did. And I always did. Raegan didn’t have an excuse. She was just a scrappy bitch. “Oh, look. Megan’s here,” she said, pointing to the blue-eyed, crow-headed beauty on the dance floor. I shook my head. She was out there with Travis Maddox, basically getting screwed in front of everyone on the dance floor. “Oh, those Maddox boys,” Raegan said. “Yeah,” I said, downing my whiskey. “This was a bad idea. I’m not feeling
clubby tonight.” “Oh, stop.” Raegan gulped her whiskey sour and then stood. “The whine bags are still eyeing this table. I’m going to get us another round. You know the beginning of the night starts off slow.” She took my glass and hers, and left me for the bar. I turned, seeing the girls staring at me, clearly hoping I would step away from the table. I wasn’t about to stand up. Raegan would get the table back if they tried to take it, and that would only cause trouble. When I turned around, a boy was sitting in Raegan’s chair. At first I thought Travis had somehow made his
way over, but when I realized my mistake, I smiled. Trenton Maddox was leaning toward me, his tattooed arms crossed, his elbows resting on the table across from me. He rubbed the 5 o’clock shadow that peppered his square jaw with his fingers, his shoulder muscles bulging through his T-shirt. He had as much stubble on his face as he did on the top of his head, except for the absence of hair from one small scar near his left temple. “You look familiar.” I raised an eyebrow. “Really? You walk all the way over here and sit down, and that’s the best you’ve got?” He made a show of running his eyes over every part of me. “You don’t have
any tattoos, that I can see. I’m guessing we haven’t met at the shop.” “The shop?” “The ink shop I work at.” “You’re tattooing now?” He smiled, a deep dimple appearing in the center of his left cheek. “I knew we’ve met before.” “We haven’t.” I turned to watch the women on the dance floor, laughing and smiling and watching Travis and Megan vertically dry fucking. But the second the song was over, he left and walked straight over to the blond who claimed ownership over my table. Even though she’d seen Travis running his hands all over Megan’s sweaty skin two seconds earlier, she was grinning like an idiot,
hoping she was next. Trenton laughed once. “That’s my baby brother.” “I wouldn’t admit it,” I said, shaking my head. “Did we go to school together?” he asked. “I don’t remember.” “Do you remember if you went to Eakins at any time between kindergarten through twelfth grade?” “I did.” Trenton’s left dimple sunk in when he grinned. “Then we know each other.” “Not necessarily.” Trenton laughed again. “You want a drink?” “I have one coming.”
“You wanna dance?” “Nope.” A group of girls passed by, and Trenton’s eyes focused on one. “Is that Shannon from Home Ec? Damn,” he said, turning a one-eighty in his seat. “Indeed it is. You should go reminisce.” Trenton shook his head. “We reminisced in high school.” “I remember. Pretty sure she still hates you.” Trenton shook his head, smiled, and then, before taking another swig, said, “They always do.” “It’s a small town. You shouldn’t have burned all of your bridges.” He lowered his chin, his famous
charm turning up a notch. “There’s a few I haven’t lit a fire under. Yet.” I rolled my eyes, and he chuckled. Raegan returned, curving her long fingers around four standard rocks glasses and two shot glasses. “My whiskey sours, your whiskey straights, and a buttery nipple each.” “What is with all the sweet stuff tonight, Ray?” I said, wrinkling my nose. Trenton picked up one of the shot glasses and touched it to his lips, tilting his head back. He slammed it on the table and winked. “Don’t worry, babe. I’ll take care of it.” He stood up and walked away. I didn’t realize my mouth was hanging open until my eyes met Raegan’s and it
snapped shut. “Did he just drink your shot? Did that really just happen?” “Who does that?” I said, turning to see where he went. He’d already disappeared into the crowd. “A Maddox boy.” I shot the double whiskey and took another drag of my cigarette. Everyone knew Trenton Maddox was bad news, but that never seemed to stop women from trying to tame him. Watching him since grade school, I promised myself that I would never be a notch on his head board—if the rumors were true and he had notches, but I didn’t plan to find out. “You’re going to let him get away with that?” Raegan asked.
I blew out the smoke from the side of my mouth, annoyed. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to have fun, or deal with obnoxious flirting, or complain that Trenton Maddox had just drank the shot glass of sugar that I didn’t want. But before I could answer my friend, I had to choke back the whiskey I’d just drank. “Oh, no.” “What?” Raegan said, flipping around in her chair. She immediately righted herself in the chair, cringing. All four of my brothers were walking toward our table, and as far as they knew, I had already left town. Collin, the oldest, spoke first, as he always did. “What the hell, Camille? I thought
you were out of town tonight. You know Mom was cooking dinner.” “My plans changed. You think I lied to get out of dinner? Are you serious right now?” Chase spoke second, as I expected he would. “Why are you being so pissy? Are you on the rag or something?” “Really?” Raegan said, lowering her chin and raising her eyebrows. “We’re in public. Grow up.” “So he cancelled on you?” Clark asked. Unlike the rest of my brothers, Clark looked genuinely concerned. But before I could answer him, the youngest of the four spoke up. “Wait, that worthless piece of shit cancelled on you?” Coby said. He was
eighteen months older than me, and still acted like a twelve year old boy not quite sure what to do with his testosterone. He was bowing up behind the others, letting them hold him back from a fight that didn’t exist. “What are you doing, Coby?” I asked. “He’s not even here!” “You’re damn right he’s not,” Coby said. He relaxed, cracking his neck. “Cancelling on my baby sister. I’ll bust his fuckin’ face.” I thought about Coby and T.J. getting into a brawl, and it made my heart race. T.J. was intimidating when he was younger, and lethal as an adult. No one fucked with him, and Coby knew it. A disgusted noise came from my
throat and I rolled my eyes. “Just . . . find another table.” All four boys pulled chairs around Raegan and me. They were all red heads. The oldest two had blue eyes. The youngest two, green. Some red headed men aren’t all that great looking, but my brothers were tall, chiseled, and outgoing. Clark was the only one with freckles, and they still somehow looked good on him. I was the outcast, the only child with mousy brown hair and big, round, light blue eyes. More than once the boys tried to convince me that I’d been adopted. If I wasn’t the female version of my father, I might have believed them. I touched my forehead to the table and
groaned. “I can’t believe it, but this day just got worse.” “Aw, c’mon, Camille. You know you love us,” Clark said, nudging me with his shoulder. When I didn’t answer, he leaned in to whisper in my ear. “You sure you’re all right?” I kept my head down, but nodded. Clark patted my back a couple of times, and then the table grew quiet. I lifted my head. Everyone was staring behind me, so I turned around. Trenton Maddox was standing there, holding two shot glasses and another glass of something that looked decidedly less sweet. “This table turned into a party fast,” Trenton said with a surprised but
charming smile. Chase narrowed his eyes at Trenton. “Is that him?” he asked, nodding. “What?” Trenton asked. Coby’s knee began to bounce, and he leaned forward in his chair. “That’s him. He fuckin’ cancelled on her, and then he showed up here.” “Wait. Coby, no,” I said, holding up my hands. Coby stood up. “You jackin’ with our sister?” “Sister?” Trenton said, his eyes bouncing between me and the volatile gingers sitting on each side of me. “Oh, God,” I said, closing my eyes. “Colin, tell Coby to stop. It’s not him.” “Who’s not me?” Trenton said. “We
got a problem here?” Travis appeared at his brother’s side. He wore the same amused expression as Trenton, both flashing their matching left-sided dimples. They could have been their mother’s second set of twins. Only subtle differences that set them apart, including the fact that Travis was maybe an inch or two taller than Trenton. Travis crossed his arms across his chest, making his already large biceps bulge. The only thing that kept me from exploding from my chair was that his shoulders relaxed. He wasn’t ready to fight. Yet. “Evening,” Travis said. The Maddoxes could sense trouble.
At least, it seemed that way, because whenever there was a fight, they had either started it, or finished it. Usually both. “Coby, sit down,” I commanded through my teeth. “No, I’m not sittin’ down. This dickhead insulted my sister, I’m not fuckin’ sittin’ down.” Raegan leaned over to Chase. “That’s Trent and Travis Maddox.” “Maddox?” Clark asked. “Yeah. You still got something to say?” Travis said. Coby shook his head slowly and smiled, “I can talk all night long, motherfu—” I stood. “Coby! Sit your ass down!” I
said, pointing to his chair. He sat. “I said it wasn’t him, and I meant it! Now everybody calm the fuck down! I’ve had a bad day, I’m here to drink, and relax, and have a good goddamn time! Now if that’s a problem for you, back the fuck off my table!” I closed my eyes and screamed the last part, looking completely insane. People around us were staring. Breathing hard, I glanced at Trenton, who handed me a drink. One corner of his mouth turned up. “I think I’ll stay.”
If you enjoyed this excerpt from A Beautiful Wedding, we invite you read the full book, as well as these other novels by Jamie McGuire. The Beautiful Disaster and Walking Disaster phenomenon continues in the first heart-pounding new adult romance in The Maddox Brothers series.
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The top-selling, beloved indie author of Ten Tiny Breaths returns with a new romance about a young woman who loses her memory—and the man who knows that the only way to protect her is to stay away. Left for dead in the fields of rural Oregon, a young woman defies all odds and survives—but she awakens with no idea who she is, or what happened to her. Refusing to answer to “Jane Doe” for another day, the woman renames herself “Water” for the tiny, hidden marking on her body—the only clue to her past. Taken in by old Ginny Fitzgerald, a crotchety but kind lady living on a nearby horse farm, Water
slowly begins building a new life. But as she attempts to piece together the fleeting slivers of her memory, more questions emerge: Who is the next-door neighbor, quietly toiling under the hood of his Barracuda? Why won’t Ginny let him step foot on her property? And why does Water feel she recognizes him? Twenty-four-year-old Jesse Welles doesn’t know how long it will be before Water gets her memory back. For her sake, Jesse hopes the answer is never. He knows that she’ll stay so much safer —and happier—that way. And that’s why, as hard as it is, he needs to keep his distance. Because getting too close could flood her with realities better left buried.
The trouble is, water always seems to find its way to the surface.
This can’t be real . . . This can’t be real . . . This can’t be real . . . The words cycle round and round in my mind like the wheels on my speeding ’Cuda as its ass-end slips and slides over the gravel and ice. This car is hard to handle on the best of days, built front-
heavy and overloaded with horsepower. I’m going to put myself into one of these damn trees if I don’t slow down. I jam my foot against the gas pedal. I can’t slow down now. Not until I know that Boone was wrong about what he claims to have overheard. His Russian is mediocre at best. I’ll give anything for him to be wrong about this. My gut clenches as my car skids around another turn, the cone shape of Black Butte looming like a monstrous shadow ahead of me in the pre-dawn light. The snowy tire tracks framed by my headlights might not even be the right ones, but they’re wide like Viktor’s Hummer and they’re sure as hell the only
ones down this old, deserted logging road. No one comes out here in January. The line of trees marking the dead end comes up on me before I expect it. I slam on my brakes, sending my car sliding sideways toward the old totem pole. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s still sliding when I cut the rumbling engine, throw open the door, and jump out, fumbling with my flashlight. It takes three hard presses with my shaking hands to get the light to hold. I begin searching the ground. The mess of tread marks tells me that someone pulled a U-turn. The footprints tell me that more than one person got out. And when I see the half-finished cigarette butt with that weird alphabet on
the filter, I know Boone wasn’t wrong. “Alex!” My echo answers once . . . twice . . . before the vast wilderness swallows up my desperate cry. With frantic passes of my flashlight, my knuckles white against its body, I search the area until I spot the sets of footprints that lead off the old, narrow road and into the trees. Frigid fingers curl around my heart. Darting back to my car, I snatch the old red-and-blue plaid wool blanket that she loves so much from the backseat. Ice-cold snow packs into the sides of my sneakers as I chase the trail past the line of trees and into the barren field ahead, my blood rushing through my ears the only sound I process.
The only sign of life. Raw fear numbs my senses, the Pacific Northwest winter numbs my body, but I push forward because if . . . The beam of light passes over a still form lying facedown in the snow. I’d recognize that pink coat and platinumblond hair of hers anywhere; the sparkly blue dress that she hates so much looks like a heap of sapphires against a white canvas. My heart freezes. “Alex.” It’s barely a whisper. I’m unable to produce more, my lungs giving up on me. I run, stumbling through the foot of snow until I’m on my knees and crawling forward to close the distance. A distance of no more than ten feet and
yet one that seems like miles. Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no mistaking the spray of crimson freckling the snow around her head. Or that most of her long hair is now dark and matted. Or that her silver stockings are torn and stained red, and a pool of blood has formed where her dress barely covers her thighs. Plenty of footprints mark the ground around her. He must have been here for a while. I know that there are rules to follow, steps to make sure that I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t cause her further harm. But I ignore them because the sinking feeling in my stomach tells me I canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t possibly hurt her more than he already has. I nestle her head with one hand while I slide the other under her shoulder. I roll her over.
Cold shock knocks the wind out of me. I’ve never seen anybody look like this. I scoop her limp body into my arms, cradling the once beautiful face that I’ve seen in every light—rage to ecstasy and the full gamut in between—yet is now unrecognizable. Placing two bloodcoated fingers over her throat, I wait. Nothing. A light pinch against her lifeless wrist. Nothing. Maybe a pulse does exist but it’s hidden, masked by my own racing one. Then again, by the look of her, likely not. One . . . two . . . three . . . plump,
serene snowflakes begin floating down from the unseen sky above. Soon, they will converge and cover the tracks, the blood. The evidence. Mother Nature’s own blanket to hide the unsightly blemish in her yard. “I’m so sorry.” I don’t try to restrain the hot tears as they roll down my cheeks to land on her mangled lips—lips I had stolen plenty of kisses from, back when I was too stupid to realize how dangerous that really was. This is my fault. She had warned me. If I had just listened, had stayed away from her, had not told her how I felt . . . . . . had not fallen wildly in love with her. I lean down to steal a kiss even now,
the coppery taste of her blood mixing with my salty tears. “I’m so damn sorry. I should never have even looked your way,” I manage to get out around my sobs, tucking the blanket she loved to curl up in over her. An almost inaudible gasp slips out. A slight breeze against my mouth more than anything else. My lungs freeze, my eyes glued to her, afraid to hope. “Alex?” Is it possible? A moment later, a second gasp—a wet, rattling sound—escapes. She’s not dead. Not yet, anyway.
A fire. The fragrance calls to me. I cannot see, for my eyes are sealed shut against the wicked glow in his stare. I cannot hear, for my ears have blocked out his appalling promises. I cannot feel, for my body has long
since shattered. But, as I lie in the cool stillness of the night, waiting for my final peace, that comforting waft of burning bark and twigs and crispy leaves encases me. It whispers to me that everything will be okay. And I so desperately long to believe it. Beep . . . “. . . basilar skull fracture . . .” Beep . . . “. . . collapsed lung . . .” Beep . . . “. . . ruptured spleen . . .” Beep . . .
“. . . frostbite . . .” Beep . . . Beep . . . “Will she live?” Beep . . . “I honestly don’t know how she has survived this long.” Beep . . . “We need to keep this quiet for now.” “Gabe, you just showed up on the doorstep of my hospital with a half-dead girl. How am I supposed to do that?” “You just do. Call me if she wakes up. No one questions her but me. No one, Meredith.” “Don’t try to talk yet,” someone—a
woman—warns softly. I can’t see her. I can’t see anything; my lids open to mere slits, enough to admit a haze of light and a flurry of activity around me—gentle fingertips, low murmurs, papers rustling. And then that rhythmic beep serenades me back into oblivion.
I don’t know how I got here. I don’t know where here is. I hurt. Who is this woman hovering over me? “Please page Dr. Alwood immediately,” she calls to someone
unseen. Turning back to look at me, it takes her a long moment before she manages a white-toothed smile. Even in my groggy state, there’s no missing the pity in it. Her chest lifts with a deep breath and then she shifts her attention to the clear-fluid bags hanging on a rack next to me. “Glad to finally see your eyes open,” she murmurs. “They’re a really pretty russet color.” The hem of her lilac uniform grazes the cast around my hand. My cast. I take inventory of the room—the pale beige walls, the stiff chairs, the pastelblue curtain. The machines. It finally clicks. I’m in a hospital.
“How—” I stall over the question as that first word scratches against my throat. “You were intubated to help you breathe. That hoarseness will go away soon, I promise.” I needed help breathing? “You’re on heavy doses of morphine, so you may feel a little disoriented right now. That’s normal. Here.” A cool hand slips under my neck as she fluffs up my pillow. “Where am I?” I croak out, just now noticing that bandages are dividing my face in two at the nose. “You’re at St. Charles in Bend, Oregon, with the very best doctors that we have. It looks like you’re going to
pull through.” Again, another smile. Another sympathetic stare. She’s a pretty, young woman, her long, light brown hair pulled back in a ponytail, her eyes a mesmerizing leafy green. Not mesmerizing enough to divert me from her words. Pull through what exactly? She prattles on about the hospital, the town, the unusually brisk winter weather. I struggle to follow along, too busy grappling with my memory, trying to answer the litany of questions swirling inside my mind. Nothing comes, though. I’m drawing a complete blank. Like she said, it must be the morphine. A creak pulls my gaze to the far
corner of the room, where a tall, lanky woman in a white coat covering a pink floral shirt has just entered. With quick, long strides she rounds my bed, drawing the curtain behind her as she approaches. “Hello.” I’m guessing this is the doctor whom the nurse had paged. I watch as she fishes out a clip from her pocket and pins back a loose strand of apricotcolored hair. Snapping on a pair of surgical gloves, she then pulls a small flashlight from her pocket. “How are you feeling?” “I’m not sure yet.” My voice is rough but at least audible. “Are you my doctor? Doctor . . .” I read the name on the badge affixed to her coat.
“Alwood?” Green eyes rimmed with dark circles search mine for a long moment. “Yes, I operated on you. My name is Dr. Meredith Alwood.” I squint against the beam of light from her flashlight, first into my left eye and then my right. “Are you in any pain?” “I don’t know. I’m . . . sore. And confused.” My tongue catches something rough against my bottom lip and I instinctively run my tongue along it, sensing a piece of thread. It’s when I begin toying with it that I also notice the wide gap on the right side of my mouth. I’m missing several teeth. “Good. I’m glad. Not about the confused part.” Dr. Alwood’s lips press
together in a tight smile. “But you’d be a lot more than ‘sore’ if the pain meds weren’t working.” My throat burns. I swallow several times, trying to alleviate the dryness. “What happened? How did I get here?” Someone must know something. Right? Dr. Alwood opens her mouth but then hesitates. “Amber, you have your rounds to finish, don’t you?” The nurse, who’s been busy replacing the various bags on the IV stand, stops to look at the doctor for a long second, her delicately drawn eyebrows pulled together. They have the same green eye color, I notice. In fact, they have the exact same almond-shaped eyes and straight-edged nose.
Or, maybe I’m just hallucinating, thanks to the drugs. Kind fingers probe something unseen on my scalp and then, with the sound of the door clicking shut, the doctor asks, “How about we start with the basic questions. Can you please give me your name?” I open my mouth to answer. It’s such a simple question. Everyone has a name. I have a name. And yet . . . “I don’t . . . I don’t know,” I stammer. How do I not know what my name is? I’m sure it’s the same name I’ve had all my life. My life. What do I remember about my life? S ho ul d n’ t something about it be registering?
A wave of panic surges through me and the EKG’s telltale beep increases its cadence. Why can’t I seem to recall a single scrap of my life? Not a face, not a name, not a childhood pet. Nothing. Dr. Alwood stops what she’s doing to meet my gaze. “You’ve had a significant head injury. Just try to relax.” Her words come slow and steady. “I’ll tell you what I know. Maybe that will jog your memory. Okay? Just take a few breaths first.” She’s quick to add, “Not too deep.” I do as instructed, watching my chest lift and fall beneath my blue-and-white checkered gown, cringing with a sharp
twinge of pain on my right side with each inhale. Finally, that incessant beeping begins to slow. I turn my attention back to her. Waiting. “You were found in the parking lot of an abandoned building nine days ago,” Dr. Alwood begins. I’ve been here for nine days? “You were brought into the emergency room by ambulance with extensive, life-threatening trauma to your body. Your injuries were consistent with a physical assault. You had several fractures—to your ribs, your left leg, your right arm, your skull. Your right lung collapsed. You required surgery for a hematoma, a ruptured spleen, and
lacerations to . . .” Her calm voice drifts off into obscurity as she recites a laundry list of brutality that can’t possibly have my name at the top of it. “It will take some time to recover from all of these injuries. Do you feel any tightness in your chest now, when you inhale?” I swallow the rising lump in my throat, not sure how to answer. I’m certainly having difficulty breathing, but I think it has more to do with panic than anything else. “No,” I finally offer. “I think I’m okay.” “Good.” She gingerly peels back pieces of gauze from my face—some over the bridge of my nose and another
piece running along the right side of my face, from my temple all the way down to my chin. By the slight nod of approval, I’m guessing she’s happy with whatever is beneath. “And how is the air flow through your nose? Any stuffiness?” I test my nostrils out. “A little.” She stops her inspection to scribble something on the chart that’s sitting on the side table. “You were very fortunate that Dr. Gonzalez was in Bend on a ski trip. He’s one of the leading plastic surgeons in the country and a very good friend of mine. When I saw you come in, I called him right away. He offered us his skill, pro bono.” A part of me knows that I should be
concerned that I needed a plastic surgeon for my face, and yet I’m more concerned with the fact that I can’t even imagine what that face looks like. “I removed the stitches two days ago to help minimize the scarring. You may need a secondary surgery on your nose, depending on how it heals. We won’t know until the swelling goes down.” Setting the clipboard down on the side table again, she asks, “Do you remember anything about what happened to you?” “No.” Nothing. The combination of her clenched jaw and the deep furrow across her forehead gives me the feeling that she’s about to deliver more bad news. “I’m sorry to tell you that we found evidence of sexual
assault.” I feel the blood drain from my face and the steady beeping spikes again as my heart begins to pound in my chest. “I don’t . . . I don’t understand.” She’s saying I was . . . raped? Somebody touched me like that? The urge to curl my arms around my body and squeeze my legs tight swarms me, but I’m too sore to act on it. How could I possibly not remember being raped? “I need to examine the rest of your injuries.” Dr. Alwood waits for my reluctant nod and then slides the flannel sheet down and lifts my hospital gown. I’m temporarily distracted by the cast around my leg as she gently peels back the bandages around my ribs and the left
side of my stomach. “These look good. Now, just relax, I’ll make this quick,” she promises, nudging my free leg toward the edge of my bed. I distract myself from my discomfort with the tiled ceiling above as she gently inspects me. “You required some internal stitching, but everything should heal properly with time. We’re still running some tests and blood work, but we’ve ruled out the majority of sexually transmitted diseases. We also completed a rape kit on you.” I close my eyes as a tear slips out from the corner of one eye, the salt from it burning my sensitive skin. Why did this happen to me? Who could have done such a thing?
Raped . . . STDs . . . “What about . . . I mean, could I be pregnant?” The question slips out unbidden. True to her promise, Dr. Alwood quickly readjusts my gown and covers. Peeling off her gloves, she tosses them in the trash bin and then takes a seat on the edge of my bed. “We can certainly rule that out from the rape.” She pauses. “Because you were already pregnant when you were brought in.” The air sails from my lungs as she delivers yet another harsh punch of news. My gaze drifts to my flat abdomen. I have a baby in there? “You were about ten weeks along.” Were. Past tense. “Do you not recall any of this?” Dr.
Alwood’s brows draw together as she watches me closely. A soft “no” slips out and I can’t help but feel that she doesn’t believe me. “Well, given your extensive injuries, it is not at all surprising that you miscarried. You’re lucky to be alive, as it is.” She hesitates before she adds, “I don’t think that whoever did this to you intended for you to survive.” A strange cold sweeps through my limbs as I take in the ruined body lying on this bed before me. I’ve been lucid for all of five minutes—the long hand on the clock ahead tells me that—and in that short time, this doctor has informed me that I was beaten, raped, . . . and left for dead.
And I lost a baby I don’t even remember carrying, or making. I don’t know who the father was. I don’t even know who I am. “I’m going to send you for another CT scan and MRI.” I feel the weight of her gaze on me. “Are you sure there isn’t someone or something that you remember? A husband? Or a boyfriend? Or a sibling? A parent? Maybe a city where you grew up? The hospital would like to find your family for you.” Her barrage of questions only makes my heart rate spike and the annoying EKG ramp up again. I can’t answer a single one of them. Is anyone missing me right now? Are they searching for me? Am I from Bend, Oregon, or do I live
somewhere else? Dr. Alwood sits quietly, waiting, as I focus on a small yellow splotch on the ceiling. That’s water damage. How can I recognize that and not my own name? “Even a tiny detail?” she presses, the urgency in her voice soft and pleading. “No.” There’s nothing. I remember nothing at all.
Can't get enough of K.A. Tucker? The first novel in K.A. Tucker's breathtaking new romantic suspense series, about a young woman who loses her memory - and the man from her past who knows that the only way to protect her is to stay away. Coming in October 2014 from Atria Books!
Burying Water See where it all began, with Kacey's side of the story - now available from Atria Books
Ten Tiny Breaths Livie Cleary has always been Miss Perfectâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;but she soon learns that perfection isn't all it's cracked up to
be, and finidng out who she really is might mean making some mistakes along the way. Read her side of the story, now available from Atria Books
One Tiny Lie "I believe you don't have years to impact a person's life. You have seconds. Seconds to win them over, and seconds to lose them." Read Cain's side of the story, now available from Atria Books
Four Seconds to Lose What happens when two troublemakers work side by side? Read Ben's side of the story, coming in
June 2014 from Atria Books
Five Ways to Fall Read Trent's side of the story, in the long-awaited prequel novella to
Ten Tiny Breaths, coming in September 2014
In Her Wake
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About the Authors Abbi Glines is the #1 New York Times , USA TODAY, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Rosemary Beach, Sea Breeze, Vincent Boys, and Existence series. A devoted booklover, Abbi lives with her family in Alabama. She maintains a Twitter addiction at @AbbiGlines and can also be found at Facebook.com/AbbiGlinesAuthor and AbbiGlines.com. Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Slammed, Point of Retreat, This Girl, Hopeless,
Losing Hope, Maybe Someday, and Finding Cinderella. She lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. Please visit ColleenHoover.com. Jamie McGuire is the New York Times bestselling author of A Beautiful Wedding, Red Hill, Walking Disaster , Beautiful Disaster, and The Providence trilogy. She and her husband, Jeff, live with their children just outside Enid, Oklahoma, with three dogs, six horses, and a cat named Rooster. Please visit JamieMcGuire.com. K.A. Tucker published her first book at the age of six with the help of her elementary school librarian and a box of
crayons. Today, she is also the author of Ten Tiny Breaths , One Tiny Lie, Four Seconds to Lose, and Five Ways to Fall . She currently resides outside of Toronto with her husband, two beautiful girls, and an exhausting brood of four-legged creatures. To learn more, visit KATuckerBooks.com.
ATRIA. Where great books come to light. About Atria Books Atria, defined as “a central living space open to the air and sky,” perfectly describes the vision of publisher Judith Curr and her team. In her words, “When we launched Atria Books in 2002, we hoped to create an environment where new ideas could flourish, the best writers of fiction and nonfiction could thrive and connect with an everwidening readership, and the best practices of traditional publishing could be integrated with cutting-edge
developments in the digital world. In short, a place where great books could come to light.â&#x20AC;? In the decade-plus that has followed, the Atria Publishing Group has realized this vision, its creative and motivated staff acquiring, publishing, and marketing a list of successful and highly acclaimed books, including many award-winners and more than 280 New York Times bestsellers. Since 2012, Atria has emerged as the publishing partner of choice to some of todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most prolific and popular Indie Romance and New Adult novelists, and the imprint is proud to be home to some of the finest storytellers at work today. Under the Atria banner, beloved,
brand-name authors soar to new heights while the finest new voicesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the bestsellers of tomorrowâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;are discovered and nurtured with an eye toward a limitless future. At Atria, the sky is the limit. AtriaIndieAuthors.com Facebook.com/AtriaIndieAuthors Twitter.com/AtriaBooks
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