Authors: Jennifer Snyder
A COLDCREEK NOVEL
A COLDCREEK NOVEL
Copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Snyder
Cover design created by Once Upon A Time Covers
Cover model photography by Kelsey Keeton/K. Keeton Designs (kkeetondesigns.com)
Cover models: Justin Schrock and Cameo Hopper
Editing by Red Road Editing/Kristina Circelli (
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the above author of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
To anyone who has ever had a moment in life break them…
There’s only one question that plagues our fragile minds when we are forced to face the unthinkable, one question that never allows for any answers to suffice or even an ounce of comfort to be felt in some situations. It’s the question we tend to ask ourselves most when we can’t seem to wrap our heads around the circumstances that have been tossed our way unexpectedly.
And that crippling question is: Why?
That one, three-lettered word holds more power over our minds than any person could guess. When asked in the right context and combined with a precise situation, that simple question can hold disastrous consequences that could end a person in the worst of ways.
The question itself is essentially unavoidable. It will pass through your ears countless times in a year. It will flow from your lips in multiple tones for various reasons in a lifetime. And then there are those moments in life in which that tiny question will hold within it all the power to break you.
This story comes from one of those moments…a moment when that all-consuming question becomes the only feasible thought possible.
“You’re not sick,” Paige grumbled from where she stood at the doorway to my room. “You just need to come out of this sterile place you call a bedroom and have some damn fun.”
The urge to chuck my pillow at her as hard as I could raged through me in a nearly overpowering rush. What didn’t she understand about the word no?
“I have to study and I feel like shit,” I said. The pillow I’d been holding over my head for the last few minutes was removed, but not by my hand. Somehow Paige managed to make it across the room and to the side of my bed without me noticing. Maybe it was due to the fact that my nose was still so stuffed up the muffle of my breathing was all I could hear. “Seriously, Paige! I feel like dog shit right now. Dog shit that was ran over. Twice.”
A chuckle escaped her and she moved to sit at the edge of my bed, unfazed by my outburst of melodrama at the situation.
“Then a night out is exactly what you need,” she insisted. “A chance to give your pretty little mind a freaking break. What good is all of this studying? You’re burning yourself out before finals. You’re just going to be exhausted and sleep deprived from it all.”
I scrunched my eyes up and glared at her. Her face was serious, but she obviously wasn’t paying attention to what she was saying. “Are you kidding me right now? You’re not even making any sense.”
She cocked her head to the side. “Yes I am.”
A smile twitched at the corners of my mouth, because she was clearly repeating what she’d just said to me in her mind, struggling to figure out if it made sense.
“No, it didn’t. You’re trying to persuade me into going to that stupid party with you instead of studying, because you think I’m cramming too heavily for finals and need a break. Won’t partying all night with you cause me to be more sleep deprived than studying would?”
She flipped her dark hair over her shoulder. “Nope.”
I laughed at her simplistic answer, which sent her into even more of a fit.
“All three of us are going out tonight, all right? Even if I have to drug your ass up with some Nyquil and you sleep right though all the fun, you’re still getting out of this damn bedroom and away from these papers and books.” She ruffled up my notebook papers and flipped my textbook over, making me lose my place.
“I can’t breathe through my nose and I’m pretty sure my voice sounds like I’ve been a chain smoker my entire life, because of my sore throat.” I attempted to fix the papers she’d messed up and flipped my book back over. “I’m not going out with you and Lauren tonight.”
“Please,” she pouted. I knew if I glanced her way there would be big brown puppy eyes pleading with me and a fat bottom lip poking out. “Pretty please, Blaire, just this once. You know I just broke up with Karl and could really use a girls’ night.”
She was pathetic when she pulled the puppy-dog look—pathetic, but undeniable, and she knew it. After all, like she’d said, she had just broken up with Karl. In spite of her being the one to do the dumping, I still felt bad for her. Karl had been sleeping with someone behind her back. Which would have been bad enough all on its own, but add in the fact Paige had caught him red-handed, and it made a bad situation that much worse.
“Oh my God, fine.” I slammed my book closed and tossed it to the side. “I’ll go out with you guys,
I’m not staying out past twelve or getting sloshed. Understood?”
Paige’s face lit up. “Understood. Now take a shower and some Sudafed and meet me in the living room in an hour. I’ll text Lauren.” She scrambled out of my room, her silky, dark hair bouncing across her shoulders as she went.
Paige Jacobs and I had known each other since our freshman year of high school. For whatever reason, we’d never hung out before then, even though we’d attended the same schools throughout our childhood. It wasn’t until we were crammed in Spanish class together that we realized we had two things in common. One, we both had only taken Spanish because we’d been forced to. Every student had to take at least one year of a foreign language. And two, we both had the hots for Ben Howard, a senior who didn’t know we existed.
“Lauren will be here in about forty. She said she’d be D.D. tonight. You know what that means?” Paige shouted in a singsong voice from somewhere in the apartment we shared.
Lauren Myers was the one who topped off our Three Musketeers trio. Paige and I met Lauren on the first day of our freshman year at Norhurst University. The three of us had been standing in the cafeteria, staring at the lasagna as though we were waiting for it to move. Lauren had made some hilarious statement about how she’d always dreamed of two things when she thought about what college would be like—one, that the boys would be hotter and in more ample supply; two, that the cafeteria food wouldn’t give her the shits. Then she added something about how getting one out of two wasn’t horrible. Paige and I had died laughing and a lifelong friendship had been born.
“No, what?” I asked, unsure if I really wanted to know.
“You have no excuse to not drink with me!”
I rolled my eyes. “Already said I wasn’t getting sloshed tonight,”
Paige peeked her head into my room. “I didn’t say sloshed…I said to drink with me. What, has it been so long since you’ve been out drinking that you’ve become a little lightweight again?” she teased.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, it has. I’ve been working my ass off lately between Cross Meadows and school, unlike some…” I raised an eyebrow at her, insinuating my point further.
An exaggerated expression of hurt stretched across her face. “Blaire, you know just as well as I do that I work as hard as you. I might not work as much, but I do work just as hard.”
I placed a hand on my hip and glared at her. “Really? That’s what you’re going with?”
“You have to admit I’m right.” She laughed.
I pursed my lips together. Paige hadn’t held a steady job for as long as I’d known her. Most would question why I’d decided to share an apartment with someone who was so irresponsible and careless when it came to things such as bills. My answer: Paige was my best friend and she had never let me down once in the length of our friendship. She always came through regardless.
Friendship was reason number one. Money was reason number two. Paige’s parents were loaded. All she had to do was make a phone call home to Daddy and the money was in her account the next day. Problem solved.
If you asked me, it was a lazy way to parent. It seemed to me that parents should raise their children to stand on their own two feet…which didn’t include bailing them out with their own money every time their child was in a jam. Then again, maybe that was just my non-loaded, poor parents upraising.
Reaching for a tissue from my nightstand, I blew my nose and then tossed it at her.
“Eww!” she shrieked.
I chuckled. “Go get ready, you always take longer than I do.”
* * * *
In thirty-five minutes I was showered and standing in front of the mirror in my bathroom, straightening my hair. One piece continued to flip in the wrong direction no matter how many times I ran my scorching-hot straightener over it. Giving up, I secured the piece in place with a bobby pin and called it good. My nose was sore and raw, and my eyes had massive dark circles underneath, but after a few coats of concealer any trace of those telltale sick signs disappeared and I sent a silent thank you up to the makeup gods. If I was being forced into a girls’ night out feeling like crap, then I at least didn’t want to look like I felt.
A knock sounded at the front door. Neither Paige nor I rushed to answer it, because we knew it was just Lauren and she’d let herself in anyway.
“You guys?” Lauren shouted down the hall.
“Back here,” I answered her. Paige must have been too occupied primping to speak.
“Hey,” Lauren said. She wore a short, multicolored dress with a thick black belt cutting it in half and a pair of cute purple heels. The entire outfit would look horrendous on me, but she managed to pull it off effortlessly. As always. “I’m surprised you agreed to come out with us.”
I reapplied another layer of black eyeliner and frowned at her. “You guys act like I never do anything fun.”
“Well, since you took that CNA job at Cross Meadows you kind of don’t,” she insisted.
Had it come from anyone else I would have been offended, but since it came from Lauren, and I knew she wasn’t saying it out of hate but merely sincerity, I let it slide. Sighing at my refection, I shifted my eyes in the mirror to her.
“I know.” I pursed my lips together for a moment. “I haven’t been doing much of anything besides working and studying lately.”
Unwrapping another throat lozenge, I popped it in my mouth and attempted to think back to the last time I went out with the girls. Paige’s birthday, nearly two months ago, was the only time that came to mind. I’d really let myself become a hermit. Paige walked into my room. The ends of her hair had been curled into little ringlets, and she only had one eye made up.
“I thought I heard you,” Paige said to Lauren. She pointed at her with her mascara wand. “I need your help choosing which dress matches the shoes I want to wear tonight.” She led Lauren back to her room.
“And you couldn’t have asked me?” I shouted after them.
“You’d tell me to pick a different pair of shoes, because you’d think they were uglier than sin,” Paige yelled in reply.
My nose scrunched up. What? Why would she think I’d say something like that? I started down the hall after them to check these shoes out for myself. I paused at the door to Paige’s room. Dear Lord, she really needed to clean. I tried not to be anal when it came to housework, but Jesus, my little niece kept her room cleaner than this and she was three!
The black-and-white, zebra-striped comforter and bright pink sheets were crumpled up at the foot of her bed in a heap. There were clothes of every color slung all over her bed, making it look like her closet threw up. Soda cans, lotions, and perfume bottles lined the top of her dresser. Nail polishes and hair ties littered her nightstand. Magazines along with dirty laundry covered the hardwood floor.
Paige and Lauren stood in the center of the mess. In nothing besides her bra, panties, and a pair of the ugliest shoes I’d ever seen, Paige held up one dress to herself after another as Lauren scrunched her face in disapproval at them all.