Love of my life.
Wrecker of my soul.
I would have sworn on anything that what we shared was real.
But she broke my trust. And then my heart. I don’t think I can piece it back together without her, but I’m sure gonna try.
I’m better off on my own, anyways, right? Who needs girls when you have football?
If only I believed that. Look, when you need someone in your life, you don’t want to let her go. And I can’t let go of Ava. I love her. She loves me. Nothing can convince me otherwise. It’s as simple as that. I know no matter what, this girl belongs to me. We may have issues, but we’re meant to be. So I’ll do whatever it takes to get her back.
Even if I have to fight dirty.
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Can you die from a broken heart? Not asking for a friend.
The street is empty. Eli is long gone. I clutch my phone in my hand so tight, my fingers cramp up. He won’t respond to my texts or my calls. He’s ghosting me.
Pain radiates from my chest, a constant, throbbing reminder that Eli just destroyed me with a few choice words. He doesn’t believe me. Worse, he doesn’t trust me. I never told my brother about his parents. I don’t know who did. Eli may have hinted at things and flat out told me his mother drank too much, but he never talked about his dad cheating. And why would I tell Jake any of that?
There’s no way I ever would.
So who did?
I make my way to the backyard to find my entire family is gone. Glancing toward the kitchen windows, I see they’re inside. Waiting for me. My parents and Jake, who’s sitting on a barstool at the counter with a glower on his freshly abused face. It serves him right that Eli got a few punches in. I don’t even feel bad that it happened, though I suppose I should.
Mom catches my gaze and raises her brows, the look on her face plainly telling me, get in here.
If I could turn around and run away, I would. I’d run and run and run until I was out of breath and so, so far, no one could find me again.
But I don’t move. I definitely don’t go inside. Not yet. Dad says something to Mom, and I can tell they’re having a minor argument. About me? I wonder if she told Dad about our little secret. How she knew about Eli and I dating.
My gaze sweeps over the scene of the crime, AKA the spot where Jake and Eli fought. The moonlight catches on something on the ground, making it glint and I kneel down, reaching toward the shiny piece. My fingertips touch cool metal and I grasp it between my fingers.
A gold #1 pendant. Eli’s. I feel around for the chain, almost desperately, on my hands and knees, but I don’t see it. I wonder if he knows he lost it. I’m sure he’ll be upset. He loves this necklace and the fact that his father gave it to him.
But would he want to know I have it?
Maybe that’ll be my one way to reach out to him. I have something he wants.
Unfortunately, from the way everything just went down, it’s not me.
“Ava!” I lift my head to find my mother standing in the open doorway of the kitchen, her expression somber. “Come inside. Now.”
Rising to my feet, I clutch the pendant in my palm and march toward my punishment. I hang my head as I enter the kitchen, not wanting to look at any of them. Especially Jake. His anger radiates off of him, all of it aimed straight at me. Mom closes the door but, otherwise, says nothing. Neither does Jake. Or Dad.
It’s a very uncomfortable silence full of thick tension that seems to last ten minutes, but is probably more like thirty seconds before my dad can’t take it any longer.
“Ava.” His tone is firm, yet gentle. He’s mad, but he doesn’t want to show it. “Tell me what Eli Bennett was doing at our house at this time of night.”
Jake snorts. “What do you think—”
“Enough,” Dad says, silencing my big brother.
This gives me immense satisfaction. Lifting my head, I meet my father’s gaze head on. “We’re together. Well…we were.”
Monica Murphy is a New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling romance author. Her books have been translated in almost a dozen languages and have sold over two million copies worldwide. Both a traditionally published and independently published author, she writes young adult, new adult and contemporary romance. She’s also known as USA Today bestselling author Karen Erickson.
A native Californian, she lives on fourteen acres in the middle of nowhere with her husband, two kids, one dog, and four cats. When she’s not writing, she’s an assistant coach for her daughter’s high school cheer team, which is a two season sport. Meaning, she’s at practice with a bunch of teenage girls all the time. Or she’s at a football game. Or a basketball game. Maybe someday, she’ll even write about this experience.
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