Authors: V. J. Chambers
Tags: #Romance, #New Adult & College, #Romantic Suspense, #Science Fiction, #Mystery & Suspense, #Suspense
by V. J. Chambers
Griffin left after New Year's Eve. There was a misunderstanding. He thought he saw something Leigh swears he didn't see.
He came back a month later. But by then, she'd already done something that Griffin thought was horrible. He couldn't be with her anymore. So, he left for good.
Now, three and a half months later, a madman named Marcel is threatening Leigh, demanding that she get a message to Griffin. She doesn't have a choice. She has to go to Griffin for help.
More than anything, she wants him back, but he's made it clear that he'll never forgive her. Stuck together in the same apartment, they will have to confront their problems.
Because what Marcel has planned for them is so harrowing, they'll need to be able to depend on each other.
Please do not copy or post this book in its entirety or in parts anywhere. You may, however, share the entire book with a friend by forwarding the entire file to them. (And I won’t get mad.)
by V. J. Chambers
“Oh my God, that exam was killer,” said my best friend Naomi Floyd, flopping down in a chair at the Wolves Den, the sandwich place on campus. “How’d you get done so fast?”
I grinned. “I’ve been reading the assigned books all semester, unlike some people.”
“Hey, I read for class. Sometimes.”
I laughed. “I ordered you turkey.” I handed over a basket containing a sandwich and fries.
“Thanks.” Naomi rummaged in her purse. “How much was it?”
“Don’t worry about it. You don’t need to pay me back.”
Naomi raised an eyebrow. “You never let me pay for stuff.”
“Because I have money.”
“From your dad, right?” She ate a French fry. “Is he coming for graduation?”
I looked down into my own half-eaten sandwich. “No. He doesn’t... He’s not into things like that.” There were things I shared with Naomi, but the fact that last year I’d injected my father full of a substance that gave him total amnesia and then stolen all his money wasn’t one of them.
“Your dad is like this rich guy who never shows up anywhere,” said Naomi. “I mean, I thought for sure you’d call him in February, when—”
She flinched. “Right. We don’t talk about that.”
I took a bite of my sandwich. “I’d rather not dig all that back up again is all.”
“So, let me change the subject, then.” Naomi grinned. “Can you believe we’re graduating?”
I laughed. “It is surreal, isn’t it? I’ve spent two years in Thomas. And so much has happened here.” I’d nearly been killed, kicked cocaine, met the man of my dreams.
Lost the man of my dreams. My smile faded.
“I just somehow brought it back up again, didn’t I?” Naomi made a sympathetic face. “I’m so sorry, sweetie.”
I tried a smile. “I did it to myself. Don’t worry about it.” I sighed. “You know, I keep thinking that one of these days, soon, I’m going to wake up, and the first thing I think of is not going to be how screwed up everything is. I’m going to feel happy for a little bit.”
She took my hand. “You will.”
“It’s been three and a half months,” I said. “How long does it take?”
She shrugged. “Oh, you know I’m the last person to ask about that. I mean, Derrick was sleeping with that girl for months before I found out. Months. And I still sometimes wish I could get him back.”
I picked up a French fry and ruefully began breaking it into pieces. “So what you’re saying is that it doesn’t matter how much of a dick he was, you’re still not over him?”
“No, I’m not saying that at all,” said Naomi. “I’m over him. It’s been six months. I even date now.”
I tossed what was left of the fry onto a napkin. “You call that dating?”
“But you meet those guys on those e-dating websites. And they’re always losers.”
“You haven’t gone on a second date with any of them, have you?”
Naomi sighed. “Look, at least I’m trying.”
“You’re saying I’m not?”
I leaned back in her chair. “It’s too soon.”
“It’s been three and a half months.”
“But we were together for ten months, and they say that it takes at least half of the time you were together to be ready for a new relationship.”
Naomi snorted. “Tell that to Derrick. He and that girl are engaged.”
I looked up at the ceiling. “It’s only that what I had with Griffin was really special. It wasn’t just another relationship.” I turned back to my sandwich. “I thought he was the one, you know?”
“He wouldn’t have run off on you if he had been.”
“Well, he had... issues. And they were really complicated. He ran away from me before, but it was only because he was afraid that he wasn’t enough for me, and—”
“Stop it,” said Naomi. “You can’t keep making excuses for him.”
come back. But when he found out what I did—”
“I know what happened, Leigh. But it wasn’t your fault.”
“Maybe it was. Maybe it was my fault.”
“No.” Naomi shook her head. “You can’t blame yourself. Stop it. Anyway, fuck men, okay? Sisters unite.”
I looked away.
Naomi took a bite of her sandwich. “Say it.”
“Sisters unite,” I mumbled.
“Like you mean it.”
I glared at her. “Seriously? You’re going to make me repeat it?”
“This sandwich is really good,” said Naomi. “And I wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for my best friend, Leigh, who bought it for me. I can depend on her, not like the no-good men that done us wrong. Can I get an ‘Amen’?”
I rolled my eyes, but I was laughing. “Okay, okay. You’ve made your point.”
“Good,” said Naomi. “You coming to Clint’s big graduation blow out party?”
“No,” I said.
“Because of the New Years thing,” I said. “I’m not going near him again.”
“It’s going to be a huge party,” she said. “You won’t even see him. You need to have some fun, Leigh. Exams are over, college is over—”
“For you, maybe,” I said. “I’m going to grad school in the fall.”
is over,” she amended. “Do something crazy for once.”
“I did enough crazy stuff to last a lifetime. All I want now is a nice, boring, unexciting life.”
“No, you don’t,” said Naomi. “You live for fun. You know it. I know it. Now, you’re going to meet me at The Purple Fiddle later this evening. No excuses.”
“You never know,” said Naomi. “Maybe you’ll meet someone.”
“I don’t want to meet someone.”
“So, you’re coming, though?”
For about two months after Griffin left, I didn’t leave the house except to go to class. I practically starved to death because I wasn’t interested in food. When I did eat, I grabbed stuff from the frozen section of the grocery store or warmed up things at 7-Eleven. And that wasn’t really all that often. I felt broken and destroyed.
I still did.
Every morning, ever since he left the first time, I woke up thinking, “Where’s Griffin?”
That was where Griffin was. Completely and utterly gone.
I hadn’t thought I’d be able to breathe without him. I was kind of disgusted with the fact that I could. I could survive. I
surviving. But I didn’t feel exactly alive. I felt half there, my physical body functioning, but my emotions damaged. Everything was screwed up.
But now, I wasn’t crushed and sad anymore. Instead, I was angry. Angry at the universe for letting something this awful happen to me. When I was with Griffin, it felt epic. I thought we were forever. I thought we were larger-than-life. I thought nothing on earth could stop us.
It was a cruel twist of fate that he could just skip out on me, that something as mundane as breaking up could happen to us. We weren’t supposed to do that.
But we had. It was over. Griffin was gone. I was alone. And that was the way life was. My life wasn’t some pitch-perfect, happily-ever-after story like I’d idiotically thought it was going to be. Instead, I was one of those cliché girls who was so upset that her boyfriend was gone she was completely ruined afterwards. I used to have plans. When I looked into the future, I saw Griffin and me together, making a life. Buying furniture together, planting a garden outside our house, falling asleep every night in each other’s arms. Now... everything was blank and dark.
I guessed that made me pathetic and hopeless.
Strong women didn’t pin their hopes on a guy. Strong women recognized that men were milestones, not destinations. Strong women didn’t care when people dumped them.
I was, apparently, the absolute opposite of a strong woman.
It was my fault, anyway. Naomi could say that it wasn’t all she wanted, but I knew the truth. I’d done something he thought was unforgivable, and that was why he was never coming back. I’d screwed it all up.
Sure, I’d never have done that unforgivable thing if he hadn’t abandoned me after New Year’s Eve, but I’d still done it. It was ultimately my fault. Even if he’d driven me to it.
So I went to The Purple Fiddle that night. Because I should leave my house. And because it was my fault, so I’d better get over it. Because I didn’t have anyone to blame except myself.
I sat at a table, toying with a salt shaker than looked like a mushroom, sipping a beer. There was a band playing tonight. No one that I’d heard of. I used to keep track of things like the bands that came to The Purple Fiddle but not anymore. I hadn’t been interested in much since Griffin left.
Naomi was into the band, however. She was dancing way up front. She’d tried to get me to come up with her, but I wasn’t in the mood to dance. I told her she was lucky she’d gotten me to come out at all.
I sat and nursed my beer and tried to think about something besides Griffin.
It felt like he was all I thought about. Thoughts of his absence intruded, no matter what I did. I could be doing my homework, and suddenly, I would remember that Griffin was gone, and that he wasn’t coming back, and that it was all my fault.
“This seat taken?”
I looked up. There was a guy standing over me, gesturing to an empty chair at my table. He was attractive. He had light brown curls and a winning smile. Face like apple pie, Naomi would say. “Um, well, no one’s sitting there, but—”
“Good.” He sat down. “I’m Lance.”
I didn’t know what to do. “Listen, Lance, I’m sure you’re very—”
“In polite society, it’s customary to give your name after someone gives theirs.” He was smiling. He had
I couldn’t help but smile too. “Leigh. I’m Leigh.”
He offered me his hand. “Very nice to meet you.”
I shook with him. “I’m not... You shouldn’t waste time with me.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Waste time?”
“You seem like a very nice guy, and I’d hate for you to expend a lot of energy flirting with me when I’m not going to be interested.”
“Ouch,” he said.
“No, not because there’s anything wrong with you. It’s because of me. I’m... incredibly broken.”
He took a drink of his beer. “We’re having the it’s-not-you-it’s-me speech already? You like to skip to the end, don’t you?”
I set down the mushroom salt shaker, still smiling. I liked him. He was nice. He was good looking. I wished that could be enough. But I wasn’t ready for him, and I wasn’t sure I ever would be. “I’m sorry.”
“That would be an inadequate way to describe it,” I said. “The world exploded, and everything was destroyed, but no one else noticed. I was picking up the pieces, and everyone else was going about their business, acting like I should too.”
He nodded. “Yeah. I know what that’s like.”
I doubted it. I must have made a face indicating that.
“What? You don’t believe me?” he said. “I was left at the altar.”
“Ooh,” I said. “Really?”
“Really,” he said. “I thought stuff like that only happened in movies.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Don’t be. It was a year ago,” he said. “We were too young to get married anyway.” He took another drink. “But I understand. Too soon. Can I buy you a friendly beer, though?”
He held up a hand. “With the understanding that I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of you actually wanting anything other than friendship.”
I smiled wider, unable to stop myself. He was funny. He was maybe even sweet. But he wasn’t Griffin.
“You’ve got mail,” chirped my phone.
I groaned, rolling over in bed. Why had I ever set my stupid phone to say that every time I got a text message? It had once seemed cute, but now it was annoying. And it had woken me up. I picked up the phone on the nightstand and checked the message.
It was a picture.
It loaded, and I sat up straight, turning on the light. What the hell?
The picture was Naomi. She was tied to a chair, duct tape over her mouth, a cut on her forehead dripping blood over her face. She looked afraid. She looked hurt.