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Famous Last Words: Chapter 32


The wheels hit the tarmac with a jolt that bounces the entire plane. I exhale, loosening my grip on the armrest.

I’m home, I guess.

I don’t know quite what home is anymore. If it’s Ireland or Somerville or the town where I grew up. They’re all some different version of it, none exactly right.

The plane parks at the gate, and everyone starts standing and moving around like they’ll be able to disembark anytime soon. I look out the oval window, down at the orange vests waving lights and the luggage carts driving around. It’s dark out, but the bustling airport casts so much light it’s hard to tell.

I pull my phone out of my pocket and text Hugh and Allison.

HARLOW: Landed! Not even off the plane yet though.


No response from Hugh, which isn’t all that surprising. He’s not a big texter.

Fifteen minutes later, they open the door and passengers start exiting.

The man seated beside me, wearing a tweed jacket that smells like tobacco, helpfully grabs my carry-on out of the overhead compartment when he gets his own. I thank him and then head down the aisle, my steps uneven as my cramped muscles readjust to movement. I pass the flight crew and then head up the enclosed walkway that leads into the main section of the airport, breathing in non-recycled air for the first time in ten plus hours.

I had an amazing trip to Ireland, but it will be a long time before I can talk myself into taking that long of a flight again.

I stop at the first restroom I see so I can use a bathroom bigger than a postage stamp, then continue on to Customs. There’s a long line to wait in, then a series of questions about why I’m a Canadian coming from Ireland planning to remain in the US for the next six months.

Once I’m past Customs I head to baggage claim, down a long corridor with several security guards lining it. I leave the secure section of the airport, stopping to buy a bottle of water at one of the convenience stores. I’m tempted to get a coffee as well, but I should go to sleep as soon as I get to the Garrisons’.

It takes fifteen minutes to find the right, empty carousel assigned to my flight. I text Allison and Hugh another update on my progress through the airport, then cover a yawn. It’s just past six p.m. here, and my tired brain can’t even do the math for what time that is in Ireland. I don’t even know what day it is.

The carousel shudders into movement, bags dropping onto the sheets of silver metal. The tired passengers around me perk up as we all scan the suitcases. Mine is black and generic, and I wish I’d remembered to tie a ribbon to the handle as lots of black, generic suitcases shuffle by.

Finally, I spot the familiar pink whale tag. Step forward and reach for it, only for another hand to get there first.

“I got it.”

I’m frozen, all of a sudden. Because I recognize that arm, the body attached to it. That voice, right next to me.

Conor’s amused by my surprise. He studies me gaping at him, carefully setting my suitcase down between us.

“What are you doing here?” I choke out.

I can’t believe he’s right here. It seems like I should pinch myself or poke him or do something to confirm this isn’t my brain losing it after a long day of travel and little sleep.

“Hadn’t been to Seattle in a while. Decided to take a quick trip.”

“There are nicer places to visit than the airport.”

“You weren’t at any of those places, though.” He’s holding a colorful bouquet of flowers, which I don’t realize until he’s offering them to me. “These are for you. I tried to get shamrocks. Weirdly, they didn’t have any.”

I snort. “Thanks.”

“See any leprechauns?”

I shake my head. “Conor…the Garrisons will be here any minute to pick me up and—”

“They’re not coming.”

“What do you mean, they’re not coming?” I dig my phone out of my pocket. “They were supposed to—”

“Come here, Harlow.”

Conor grabs my hand and pulls me toward the wall covered with safety posters, away from the crowd clustered around the carousel. Thanks to a mixture of shock and exhaustion, I let him.

“They’re not coming because I told them I was picking you up.”

I stare at him. “You talked to—”

“That’s not important.” For a third time, he cuts me off. “Just let me say this, and then we can go. We don’t have to talk on the way home, if you don’t want to. I’ll just drop you off at their place and that will be…that.”

“What will be that?” I’m not sure if he’s making no sense because my head is foggy or because he’s making no sense. I never considered he’d be the one waiting for me at the airport, and I haven’t fully processed it yet.

Conor sucks in a deep breath. “You asked me if I’d play hockey, if Hugh had. Remember?”

My nod is slow.

“Do you remember what my answer was?”

“That you’d have to decide if you love hockey more than you hate him.”

“Yeah. And I decided I do.”

“Okay…” I’m not sure what else to say. Not sure what it has to do with him being here. I already know he loves hockey.

Conor smiles, noticing my confusion. “Ask me if I love something—someone—more than I love hockey.”

I stare at him.

He rolls his eyes. “Follow through, Hayes.”

God, I missed hearing him call me that. Missed everything about him, actually. And I don’t know what Landon was talking about, because Conor does not look like shit. He looks gorgeous, and there’s a flare of lust low in my stomach as I really look at him for the first time.

“Do you love something more than you love hockey?” I ask.

“Someone. I love you, Harlow.”

The ground is shifting again, no longer solid. “No, you don’t.”

Conor nods his head, like he was waiting for that response. “Do you know what I’ve done, since we broke up? Moped around. Ask Aidan and Hunter, they’ll happily bitch about what a moody asshole I’ve been. We keep winning games, and it’s like white noise around me. When we were in Colorado, Aidan brought back a different girl every night. I didn’t touch anyone. All I’ve done is sit around and think about how badly I fucked it up with you. How much I wish I could go back and ask you on a date the first time I saw you, freshman year, instead of pretending you didn’t exist.”

“We didn’t break up, Conor. That implies there was something to break.”

“There was. There is. For me, at least.”

“What about next week, if you lose against Driscoll?”

“You memorized my hockey schedule?”

“Not the point, Conor!” Although, yeah, I didn’t mean to tell him that. So far, I’ve been unsuccessful at finding another sport to follow.

He blows out a long breath. “I freaked out, okay? Things were getting really serious between us—which I was good with. Which I wanted. But it happened right at the same time that hockey stopped going well. I knew you were distracting me. Knew how much I thought about you, how easy it was to get wrapped up in us. But as long as I was winning…it felt like having it all. Then we lost.”

“And you still had me, but it felt like nothing.”

No. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I just—a lot of shit was coming at me at once. The Garrisons were there, and the guys were all disappointed in me, and whenever that’s happened—whenever I’ve been stressed and overwhelmed and upset, about anything—I’ve focused on hockey. I’ve pushed away everything else, because it’s simple when I’m on the ice. Because it’s my happy place.”

He glances down, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“I panicked, and I should have told you I needed time. We were supposed to go out that night, and I wasn’t in the right headspace for it. I felt like I needed to watch every hour of film on our next opponents. Add in extra weight sessions, more ice time.”

“I get why you ended things, Conor. What I don’t get is why you’re here, explaining it all over again.”

“Because I had plans, Harlow Hayes, and you messed them all up. Because I didn’t think that I could turn those plans into reality and also be with you. But then, I realized…” Conor focuses on me, his gaze blue, unwavering steel. “Mess up all my plans, Harlow. Because I don’t want to be part of any plans unless they include you. I need you in my life, for anything to mean something. When I play in my first pro game, I want you to be behind the bench wearing my jersey. If you’re not, it’ll just be another hockey game.”

I can feel the prickling in my eyes. But I don’t realize I’m actually crying until Conor reaches out and wipes the tears away with his thumbs. There’s no rain to hide them this time.

“What about the Garrisons?” I whisper. “You were right, I don’t know how—”

“We’ll figure it out. My whole life, I’ve tried to be different from Hugh. But I’ve carried his mistakes around, instead of letting anything go. I let it impact my life, let it affect things with you. I won’t do that anymore, I promise.”

“I love you, Conor.”

It comes out like a scratchy whisper, and I sort of want to uncap my water bottle and take a sip. But that doesn’t seem very romantic, and I forget about hydrating after catching the look on his face. I can see it—how much he loves me. How much he meant every word of what he just told me.

“I love you so much that I memorized your hockey schedule even though I was supposed to stop caring about the sport. So much that I’ve probably run a marathon in the past few weeks, trying to escape thinking about you. So much that—” I glance away, not sure how he’ll take this one. Again, it’s borderline on romanticism. “So much that I talked Clayton Thomas into pretending to hook up with me so that you’d hate me and I couldn’t beg you to change your mind.”

“You didn’t have sex with Thomas?”

I shake my head. “I haven’t been with anyone…since you.”

His exhale is long and relieved.

“You didn’t seem that…bothered.”

Conor raises one eyebrow. “I punched a hole in my bedroom wall, Hayes.”

“Oh. Uh, sorry.”

He laughs, then rubs a palm across his face. “You ready to go home?”

I nod. “Yeah.”

He grabs my suitcase and my hand, and we head toward the automatic doors that lead outside.


With him next to me, it feels like it might be.


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