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I know I’ve said it enough already, but I really am sorry. You deserve someone who can give you what you need, and right now that someone isn’t me. If I had known you would show up at my door one day, I’d have done everything differently.

Everything.

Please don’t allow anyone to make you feel less than what you are.

Take care.

PS: I know that one of these days, you’ll have to let someone in to use your restroom. Just do me a favor and remove those cute little seashell soaps. The thought of someone else loving those soaps as much as I do is too much.

PPS: You only have to feed Owen once a day. She’s pretty easy to keep alive. Thanks in advance for taking care of her, no matter how long or short you decide to do it for. I know she’ll be in good hands, because I’ve seen you as a mother, and you’re pretty damn good at it.

—Owen

I’m shocked at the tears that are falling down my cheeks. I close the letter and immediately walk out of my room. When I reach Emory in the living room, I scoop Owen-Cat up into my arms and I take her to my bedroom. I close the door behind me and I crawl onto the bed with her. She goes with the flow and lies down beside me, like this is exactly where she’s supposed to be.

I’ll gladly take care of her for however long Owen needs me to. Because having her connects me to him. And for whatever reason, I feel like I need that link to Owen, because it makes my chest hurt a little less when I think about him.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

Owen

I look at my father, standing guiltily in the doorway to the holding room. I’m seated at a table very similar to the one I was seated at a few weeks ago when I was arrested. Only now I’m paying the price for that arrest.

I look down at my wrists and push the cuffs down half an inch to relieve some of the pressure. “What good is your law degree if you can’t even get me out of this?”

I know that was a low blow, but I’m pissed. Frustrated. In a state of shock over the fact that I was just sentenced to ninety days in jail, despite this being my first offense. I know it had everything to do with the fact that Judge Corley presided over the case. Seems to be my luck, lately. My fate would be in the hand of one of my father’s surface friends.

My father closes the door to the holding room, locking us both in. It’s our last visit before I’m taken to my cell, and honestly, I’d rather he not even be here right now.

He takes three slow steps into the room and then comes to a stop as he hovers over me. “Why the hell did you refuse rehab?” he growls.

I close my eyes, disappointed in his focus. “I don’t need rehab.”

“All you had to do was a short stint in rehab, and this whole thing would have been removed from your record.”

He’s angry. He’s yelling. His plan was for me to accept rehab, but I know for a fact that this was his way of making himself feel better about the fact that I’ve been arrested. If I were to spend my time in rehab rather than jail, it would be easier for him to swallow. Maybe I chose jail time just to spite him.

“I can talk with Judge Corley. I’ll tell him you made the wrong decision and see if he’ll reconsider it.”

I shake my head. “Just go, Dad.”

His expression is unwavering. He doesn’t retreat from the room.

“Go!” I say, louder this time. “Leave! I don’t want you to visit. I don’t want you to call me. I don’t want to speak to you while I’m in there, because I hope to God you’re going to take your own advice.”

He still doesn’t move, so I take a step toward him, then around him. I beat on the door. “Let me out!” I say to the bailiff.

My father puts his hand on my shoulder, and I shrug it off. “Don’t, Dad. Just . . . I can’t right now.”

The door opens, and I’m escorted down a hallway, away from my father. Once my cuffs are removed and the bars clank closed behind me, I take a seat on the cot. I rest my head in my hands and think back to the weekend I ended up here. The weekend I should have done everything differently.

If I had just found it in me to see that what I’m doing isn’t protecting anyone. It’s not helping anyone.

I’m enabling, and I’ve been doing it for years. And now I’m paying the ultimate price, because it’s costing me you, Auburn.

THREE WEEKS EARLIER

I glance down at my phone and cringe when I see my father’s number. If he’s calling me this late, it can only mean one thing.

“I should go,” I say as I silence the phone and slide it back into my pocket. I push the cup toward her and I see her expression fall with her nod, but she quickly turns around to hide it.

“Well, thanks for the job,” she says. “And for walking me home.”

I lean forward on the bar and drop my head into the palms of my hands. I rub them over my face, when really I want to punch myself. Things were going so well between us just now and the second I get a phone call from my father, I shut down and make it look like the exact opposite of what it is.

She thinks I’m leaving because whoever just called me was a girl. That’s the furthest thing from the truth, and even though I hate that I just disappointed her, I love that she’s jealous right now. People don’t get jealous unless there are underlying feelings at play.

She pretends to busy herself by washing my coffee cup and she fails to notice I’m walking up behind her.

“It wasn’t a girl,” I say to her. The close proximity of my voice startles her and she spins around, looking up at me wide-eyed. She fails to respond, so I take a step closer and say it again to make sure she understands and that she believes me. “I don’t want you to think I’m leaving because another girl just called me.”

I can see the relief in her eyes and a small smile attempt to form on her mouth, but she faces the sink again in hopes that I don’t notice. “It’s not my business who calls you, Owen.”

I grin, even though she can’t see me. Of course it isn’t her business, but she wants it to be her business as much as I do. I close the gap between us by placing both of my palms on the counter on either side of her. I rest my chin on her shoulder, and I want to bury myself against her neck and inhale her, but I grip the counter and remain where I am. It becomes even harder to control my impulses when I feel her lean into me.

There are so many things I want right now. I want to wrap my arms around her. I want to kiss her. I want to pick her up and carry her to my bed. I want her to spend the night with me. I want to confess to her all the things I’ve been keeping bottled up since she showed up on my doorstep.

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