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A Dose of Pretty Poison: Chapter 29


Seeing the notification that I got a text from Hayes causes a whole whirlwind of emotions. At first, I think it’s a mistake. That my phone is glitching or I’m seeing things. But as I open it, I realize that he did, in fact, text me.

The shadow that’s been hanging over me the last week lifts slightly. But with that comes acknowledging how pathetic that is. How I’m still allowing him to be the key to my happiness.

The first few days after he ended things were spent comatose, taking Tylenol PM just to avoid the world. At least when I was asleep, the pain in my chest wasn’t as excruciating. Was that a healthy way to go about it? Definitely not. But no one ever makes the best choices right after a breakup. And it was better than going the other direction and taking a hockey stick to his truck.

Reading over the text for the seventh time, I choose not to answer it. Not because my fingers aren’t itching at the chance to text him back, but because I want to be able to change my mind and turn around—if I even go in the first place. Honestly, it could go either way.

I SIT ON MY roof, looking up at the stars. It was about an hour ago that I finally gave up on the idea of sleep. Not that I’ve been getting much lately anyway. The only thing that helps are pills, which I’m not allowed to take anymore because they make Mali worry about me, and booze. But hangovers the next day aren’t fun, and I refuse to be drunk all the time. I don’t care how much it hurts.

The last time I was up here was the night of Cam’s most recent bonfire. I had decided it was best to stay in my room, but halfway through the night, curiosity got the better of me. I tried to look out my window, but there’s a tree that sits right in my way. So, the roof was the only option.

And he wasn’t there.

A part of me thought he was avoiding me again. That he didn’t want to deal with the damage he caused. And a part of me was okay with it because the thought of seeing him was too painful anyway. But even knowing he wasn’t there, I didn’t go down to the fire.

I didn’t want to be around anyone.

It wasn’t until Mali and Monty stormed into my room one morning and forced me out of bed that I actually started functioning again. Personally, I was content lying in my bed and crying over romcoms all day, but they weren’t having it. Monty arranged a whole day of pampering for Mali and me, and she knew exactly where to go for lunch to get me to eat something.

They helped pull me out of the darkness, and I’m grateful for it—which is why I’m not sure if I’m going tomorrow.

I’m not over him by any means. I still tear up when certain memories play in my mind. I still listen for his voice when Cam comes home from hockey practice, wondering if he’s with him. Hell, my heart nearly cracked wide open when I saw him leaving my house yesterday.

I know I’m not exactly ready to see him again—not yet, anyway. But I’m not sure I’m ready to ignore this chance to hear what he has to say.

And that’s where my hesitation lies.

THE SUN PEEKS THROUGH the blinds as it starts to rise, and I know that time is ticking for me to make a decision. I tried calling Mali and asking her what I should do, but she said she couldn’t help me. That it’s a decision I have to make on my own, and she’ll support me regardless.

It was sweet, but holy fuck. All the times she’s intrusive and overbearing, and she chooses now to mind her own business? Unbelievable.

My phone vibrates against my nightstand, and my heart stutters when I see that it’s another text from Hayes. Honestly, it’s a little surprising he’s even awake right now.

I’m on my way to our beach now, and I’ll wait there until noon. I hope you come, but I’ll understand if you don’t.

God, I don’t know what’s worse. The fact that he’s willing to wait around for six hours to see if I show, or that he’s being so selfless about it. The thing about Hayes is that he doesn’t put himself out there much. I think it’s a defense mechanism. He’s like a brick wall in that way. But over the time we spent together, I like to think I learned to read him pretty well. And the amount of vulnerability in that message is enough to make me get out of bed and start getting ready.

I don’t know how this is going to go. There’s a good chance I could end up even more broken than I was before. But I owe it to myself to eliminate another what if.

PULLING INTO THE PARKING lot, I see his truck already there and waiting. I park my car and take a deep breath, willing myself to calm down, but all that is shot to hell when I see him get out of his truck holding a bouquet of roses.

My heart begins to ache the second I lay eyes on him, and I hate it. I hate the way he can still make every part of my body react to him like a goddamn puppet master. It wasn’t even two whole weeks ago that he spoke the six words that shattered every hope I ever had for us, and yet my heart thinks it’s all just water under the bridge.

I’m not sure I’m strong enough to get out of the car, but if I don’t, he’s going to try to get in. And I know I can’t handle being that close to him.

With one last deep breath, I open my door and get out, moving my sunglasses to the top of my head. I walk around to the front of my car and lean against it in an attempt to keep some distance between us.

He goes to open his mouth, but nothing comes out, so he clamps it shut again. I watch as he presses his lips into a line, almost as if he’s mentally giving himself a pep talk, and then tries again.

“I’m sorry, it’s just…you look really good,” he says once he gets his voice to work.

My head drops, because hearing that is like heaven and hell all mixed into one. But I can’t let him sweet talk me back into his arms, and with more comments like that, that’s exactly what will happen.

“What did you want to talk about?” I ask.

A hint of a smile pushes its way through. “Straight to the point?”

I shrug but say nothing.

“Okay,” he says, pausing to take a deep breath. “I like you.”

Fuck me. My heart damn near leaps right out of my throat, and it takes everything I have not to react as I wait for him to continue.

“A lot,” he adds. “I don’t know if I ever told you that. I mean, I think I showed it in certain ways, or at least I tried to, but I never said it. And you deserve to hear it.”

I exhale. “You didn’t have to. I got the message. But then you ended things between us and I convinced myself that I imagined it.”

“You didn’t,” he assures me, and the vulnerability in his eyes is evident. “Laiken, I fucked up. There’s nothing I can say that will erase the pain I caused you, but I need you to know that the time we’ve spent apart has been hell for me, too.

“I have hated every last second of not having you in my life. The only thing I’ve been able to think about is holding you in my arms again, and the fact that I can’t is devastating.”

He pauses, and I can tell this is hard for him, but he’s doing it anyway.

“I know that I don’t deserve a second chance,” he admits. “Hurting you the way I did is unforgivable. But if you give me one, I promise you that I will do everything I can to make up for it. Take me back. Please.”

I stand there in silence, trying to remind myself how to breathe. Everything that just came out of his mouth is everything I’ve been dying to hear. And all I want to do is say yes. To jump back into his arms and let him love me the best way he knows how.

But I can’t.

“No,” I say sadly.

The smile falls right off his face and is replaced by hurt. “Oh.”

“It’s just…” Running my fingers through my hair, I know I need to explain. He needs to hear it, and I need to get it off my chest. “It wouldn’t be a second chance, Hayes. The thing is that you keep pushing and pulling at me, and I keep letting you. But I can’t anymore.”

“I don’t want to push you away anymore,” he tells me. “I just want to be with you.”

My brows raise. “And what about Cam? Do you think we’ll just be able to stay a secret forever? Have babies and tell him that the father is the milkman?”

Judging by the look on his face, he didn’t come here with the intention of changing that stipulation. The terms are clear—my brother still can’t know. Hide and seek may have been my favorite game when I was a kid, but it’s not anymore.

“All I need is some time to figure things out,” he says. “But I want to figure them out, because you’re worth it to me.”

“And I appreciate that. I really do. But do you have any idea how much you hurt me? I was willing to do just about anything for you, and you were able to just throw me away like it was nothing. Another random Sunday.” I give him a sad smile and shrug. “I’m sorry, but I have to love myself more than to risk that again.”

He looks down at the ground, nodding but not saying anything, and the silence is too overwhelming. We both said what we had to say, and as much as it hurts, I have to get in my car and drive away—for good this time.

But just as my hand grabs the door handle, his voice stops me.

“I didn’t want to end it, you know.”

I let my eyes meet his once more. “And yet, you’re the one that did it.”

He shakes his head. “I had to.”

“Care to tell me why?” I ask, but my question is met with nothing but silence.

“That’s what I thought.”

The moment I pull open the car door, his admission comes out in a panic. “Monty threatened me.”

My blood starts to boil as what he just said sets in. Why would he go as low as to try to pin this on Monty when he’s been nothing but good to me lately?

“You are something else,” I growl. “I know you’ve got your jealousy issues, and I’m no angel either, but I didn’t think you’d actually try to lie and blame this on him.”

“I’m not lying,” he says, and there’s nothing but honesty in his tone. “The morning after the competition, I went to get you flowers. I was going to sneak them into the locker room because you seemed like you needed something to make you smile. But Monty approached me in the parking lot in front of the florist.

“He said that if I didn’t end it with you, he was going to tell Cam everything. And this time, he had proof on his phone. There was no way around it. I had no choice.”

I press my lips together and cross my arms over my chest as I focus on the ground. There are a million different things coursing through me right now. Rage. Betrayal. Exasperation. And each one of them will need to be dealt with, but hearing his words, I suddenly know exactly where I stand with him, and it hurts.

A humorless laugh bubbles out of me, and I shake my head as I look up at him again. “Sounds to me like you had a choice, H. And when push came to shove, you decided that telling Cam about us was a worse option than not being with me. You had a choice, but you chose him.”

He takes a step toward me. “Laiken, I—”

“No,” I say, stopping him. “I don’t want to hear it anymore. You don’t want me. Not really, anyway. You want something easy. Less messy and complicated.”

The two of us stand there, staring at each other as both are hearts are breaking all over again, but this time, he tosses the flowers onto the hood of my car and closes the gap between us.

“You’re right. I don’t want you.” He pushes my car door shut and places his hands on either side of me. “I fucking need you.”

His lips press against mine in a way that makes all the pain go away. It takes away the doubt in my mind and the fear of getting hurt again. And for a second, I allow myself to melt into it—loving the way his mouth moves against mine. But I know that it’s all just a facade. When he’s not kissing me like I’m the only thing that matters in the world, all of it is going to come creeping back in.

With a hand on his chest, I gently push him away, forcing him to break the kiss. And I know I can’t look him in the eyes as I compose myself. But when I do, I see a man who figured out what he wants a little too late.

“I can’t,” I murmur. “I’m sorry.”

He doesn’t try to stop me while I get into my car, and as I back out of the parking space, the roses roll off the hood and land on the ground. I spare one last look at him as the pieces of my heart that I had taped back together fall apart once more.

“Bye, H.”

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN so frustrated that you can’t help but cry? And then the fact that you’re crying about it pisses you off even more? That’s about where I’m at. I swat each tear away as it slides down my face, cursing at myself about how I shouldn’t be crying.

Yeah, it hurts, but this time, I know that this is necessary. Everything with him has been such a mindfuck from the start. And the truth is I want him, but not in the way he’s willing to have me. I can’t be his dirty little secret anymore. I need more than that.

deserve more than that.

And I sure as fuck deserve more than a friend who thinks he can insert himself into my relationship after I already told him to mind his own damn business.

I pull up to Monty’s oversized mansion—I mean, really, does a family of three actually need a house this big? I’ve only been here a couple times, and I thought it was beautiful, but right now, everything about him is pissing me off.

I ring the doorbell and hear the sound of footsteps approaching. When the door opens, Monty’s mom stands on the other side of it. At first, I wonder if she even remembers who I am, but I’m quickly corrected as she smiles.

“Laiken,” she greets me. “It’s so good to see you again. Monty is up in his room. Do you want me to get him for you?”

“No, that’s okay,” I tell her. “I’ll just go up there.”

In his bedroom is exactly where I want him. Everywhere else in this fortress, there are people who can eavesdrop. Workers who care about his well-being. His parents, who love him. No, I don’t want to be near any of them.

I want him alone.

Walking into his room, I find Monty lying in his bed, still sound asleep. He looks peaceful, really—until I grab the glass of ice water the maid must have put on his nightstand and dump the whole thing on him.

“What the fuck?” he bellows as he’s jolted awake.

“Yeah, what the fuck is right,” I sneer.

Monty squints, as if he’s trying to figure out if he’s seeing things. “Laiken?”

“Did you threaten Hayes into leaving me? And don’t lie, because I swear to God, I’ll kick your ass. I don’t care how rich you are.”

He sits up, using his comforter to wipe his face off and then sighs. “I was trying to help.” I let out a dry laugh, and he continues before I can say anything. “I’m serious. I saw how much you hated needing to sneak around. I thought if I put some pressure on Hayes, he would tell Cam himself and the secret would be out.”

“You don’t fucking know him!” I roar. “You can’t strong-arm Hayes into doing anything!” I huff, throwing my arms up in the air. “Anything except leave me, apparently.”

Monty frowns, looking genuinely sad, but I have no sympathy for him.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I was just trying to help. The way that relationship was, with you being his dirty secret, it wasn’t good for you.”

I lace my fingers through my hair and pull in an attempt to relieve some anger before I kill the rich kid. “That wasn’t for you to decide! God, I am so sick of people deciding what is good for me!”

First it was Cam with his constant overbearing attitude, telling every guy who looks at me the wrong way that they’re not good enough. Then it was Hayes, saying that I deserve better than him. And now Monty, who I’ve known all of like five fucking minutes?

Yeah, no. Screw this.

He calls my name as I’m walking out the door, but that’s another mistake, because I’m done.

“No! You’ve done enough,” I sneer. “Leave me the fuck alone. I never want to see you again.”


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