You’d think I’d be used to being stuck at home by now.
After all, I spent all of last summer confined to the beach house, unable to leave except to go see my friends every now and then.
This time is different, though.
Because now, I’m not allowed to leave at all.
I’d be stupid to even try considering the ankle monitor the court stuck me with.
That’s right, I’m on house arrest.
Forbidden from leaving my LA house while awaiting trial.
Better than being in jail, if you ask me.
Not that I would’ve been behind bars for long. My mom would’ve accessed my money and bailed me out the second they put me in a cell, anyway.
I have no fucking idea what’s going to happen to me. My lawyers are pushing to get me tried as a minor since I was seventeen when it all went down, but they can’t guarantee that it’ll work.
Scar was older than me at the time of Gray’s death, so he’ll definitely be tried as an adult. I’m hoping the fact that we were held at gunpoint that day will result in us not being held fully responsible for what happened.
But I’m not foolish enough to think our decision to stay silent all these years will go unpunished.
In spite of everything, I don’t regret telling the world. Yes, my career is officially over, but let’s not pretend like I wasn’t unsatisfied and miserable for most of it.
I haven’t been passionate about the songs I’m singing in years.
“Honey? Can I come in?” My mom’s voice travels through my bedroom door.
“Yeah.” I give her the go-ahead, rolling onto my back and rubbing my eyes with a groan.
I’ve slept like shit all week.
Mostly because a part of me was hoping that maybe… just maybe… Hadley would come around once I told everyone the truth.
Wishful thinking on my part. She hasn’t reached out once. I understand if she never says another word to me, but that doesn’t mean I won’t spend the rest of my life in fucking agony over it.
Only bright side is she won the contest I entered her into. I saw her business promoted all over Anaya’s social media. No surprise there. I always knew my girl would go on to do great things.
The door opens, and my mom walks in, crinkling her nose at the mess. Can’t blame her. It looks like a fucking hurricane went through my room. There are clothes all over the floor, old boxes of pizza scattered everywhere, and it smells weird.
She cringes, kicking the clothes at her feet in order to create a path to my bed. “I mean this in the nicest, most loving way possible. It smells like a dead rat in here.”
I snort. “Is that all?”
I pull the duvet over my body, ready to doze off again—who cares that it’s 2:00 p.m.—but my mom rips it out of my hands. “Get up, take a shower, and put some clothes on. Clean clothes,” she specifies, pointing her finger at me like she already knows I’m going to wear whatever clothes I find on the floor.
I have never, and I mean never, felt so hopeless in my entire life. I don’t even have the energy to exist right now, let alone be a productive member of society.
Fuck, I’m never going to get over this girl, am I?
Mom races over to the floor-to-ceiling windows across the room and draws the curtains open, the sun blinding me and making me hiss.
“Jesus, Mom.” I stick my hand up in front of my eyes, blocking out the light.
She sets out toward the door. “I want you downstairs in thirty minutes. Are we clear?”
I blow out a sigh. “What for?”
She stops in the doorway, glances at me over her shoulder, and says, “Call it an intervention.”
I drag myself down the stairs a half hour later, my energy levels dropping at an alarming pace.
I showered and brushed my teeth, which is the bare fucking minimum, but it felt like trying to move a mountain.
I’m just drained.
My hair is still dripping from the shower, but I couldn’t care less, counting down the seconds until I can collapse into bed again.
“Mom?” I call when I reach the first floor.
“In here,” she replies.
I track her voice to the parlor, half expecting her to sit me down and remind me of all the reasons why my life sucks balls.
But then I turn the corner…
And I see her.
She’s just sitting there, chatting with my mom, with her red hair in a high ponytail.
She’s. Just. Sitting. There.
As though she’s not knocking my entire world off its axis by being here.
In front of me.
Hadley’s head snaps up when I come in, her blue eyes locking with mine and pummeling the dead vessel in my chest.
“Hi.” She offers me a timid smile.
“Hi.” My voice cracks like I’m a prepubescent teenager.
She rises off the couch. “I’m so sorry to drop in announced. My mom told me you were on house arrest, and I sort of booked a flight on a whim.”
She’s fucking sorry?
Every atom in my body is telling me to drop to my knees and thank her for coming.
“Don’t apologize” is all I manage to say.
“I’ll give you two some privacy.” My mom pushes to her feet, shooting me a satisfied smile on her way out of the room.
This is why she wanted me to shower.
Remind me to thank her later.
Hadley waits for my mom to be out of sight before taking a few steps in my direction.
“Wait, before you say anything… if you came here to tell me it’s over, please just… don’t tell me it’s over.” My plea is as confusing as the expression on her face.
I’m pretty sure I’m hallucinating when Hadley cups my cheek with her hand, tears glistening in her blue eyes, and says, “Well, then… I guess it’s a good thing I came here to do this.”
Her mouth crashes against mine before I can even attempt to make sense of her words. I immediately take a fistful of her shirt, jerking her closer to me, keeping her there.
It’s a miracle I don’t actually fall to my knees when she throws her arms around my neck, her lips making me a promise I’m terrified she’s not going to keep.
I’m not leaving.
I’m so fucking scared she’s going to come to her senses and take it back.
Take her heart back.
Destroy mine in the process.
But she doesn’t show any sign of wanting to stop, opening up for me, allowing my tongue to taste hers. I groan at her initiative, my free hand wrapping around her throat and squeezing just enough to draw a moan from her lips.
“Are you really here?” I gasp into her mouth when we separate. But I’m diving back in before she can answer. “Are you really mine?”
I don’t know if I could survive you walking away one more time.
Hadley backs away, her teary eyes reflecting the relief in mine. Then she makes me the happiest man in the world.
“I’m yours. Now and always.”
It takes me a second to realize she’s referring to my song.
I wrote “I’m Still Yours” for her when I was fifteen years old, and all these years later, I still mean every word. I don’t know shit about what’s going to happen next, but if there’s one thing I’m sure of…
It’s that I’m going to love this girl until I take my last breath on this earth.
I end the kiss without a warning, pull my future wife into a hug, and make her a promise of my own.
“Now and always.”