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Owen sighs and squeezes my hands. “I wanted to, Auburn. But I barely knew you. Telling anyone the truth could have jeopardized my father’s career. Not to mention the fact that Trey was threatening to cause trouble and the last thing I wanted was for you to have issues as a result of my relationship with my father.”

If I thought I was through with Trey earlier tonight, I’m definitely through with him now. I can’t believe he put Owen in this situation because he felt threatened by him. This whole time, I’ve been trying to see the good in Trey, but I’m starting to question if he even has any good in him.

“I feel like an idiot.”

Owen shakes his head adamantly. “You can’t be so hard on yourself. I should have told you sooner. I was going to, but after finding out you had a son, I realized just how much you had at stake. It made things complicated, because it was too late for me to go back and say the pills weren’t mine, and there was no way Lydia and Trey would have allowed you to be with someone like me. We were stuck.”

I fall against the bed and clasp my hands together over my stomach. I stare up at the ceiling, more confused about what to do than when we walked in here.

“I don’t trust him. Not after this. I don’t want him around AJ anymore, but if I tried to take them to court, Lydia would be furious. She would use my visits with AJ against me and I may never get to see him.”

The reality of my situation begins to hit, and I bring my hands up and press my palms against my eyes. I don’t want to cry. I want to remain calm and figure out a way around this.

Owen lowers himself beside me on the bed. He slips a hand to my cheek and urges me to look at him.

“Auburn, listen to me,” he says, looking down on me with complete sincerity. “If I have to come clean about my father and take Trey to court, I’ll do it. You deserve to be in AJ’s life, and if we continue to allow Trey’s threats to affect our decisions, he’ll never stop. He’ll never allow us to be together and he’ll do whatever he can to keep you from AJ unless you’re with him. It’s all about the power with people like him, but we need to stop allowing him to have it.”

He brushes away one of my tears with his thumb. “Whatever needs to be done, we’ll do it together. I’m not going anywhere. And you aren’t speaking to Trey again without me there, okay?”

His words are filling me with a mixture of relief and dread. It feels so good to know that he’s on my side, but the thought of confronting Trey terrifies me. But it’s the only choice we have at this point. We either have to work it out like adults, or I’ll fight him in court.

And I won’t stop until I win.

Owen pulls me against him and holds me quietly for so long, I fall asleep. The sound of the shower wakes me up, and I immediately look around the hotel room in an attempt to regain my bearings. When the haze clears and the events of the entire last day play out in my mind, I surprisingly feel a sense of calm fall over me. It’s amazing how you don’t realize just how alone and scared you were until you have someone by your side to support you. Owen has sacrificed so much for his father, and now he’s doing the same for me. He’s exactly the type of man AJ needs as a role model in his life.

I check my phone and find several missed calls from Trey. I don’t want him suspicious or showing back up at my apartment tonight, so I shoot him a text.

I need some time alone, Trey. We can talk tomorrow, I promise.

I don’t want him to think I’m as angry with him as I am. I just want to appease him for now until Owen and I can confront him together.


I breathe a sigh of relief with his response and set my phone down. I stand up and walk toward the bathroom, but I pause when I catch sight of Owen in the hallway mirror. The bathroom door is open slightly, as is the shower curtain. I see glimpses of him as he washes his hair, but it’s enough for me to know I’d much rather be in there with him than out here alone.

I’m suddenly nervous and I don’t know why I’m nervous. We’ve done this before.

I take off my shirt and lay it on the dresser, followed by my jeans. I take a look in the mirror and am embarrassed to see mascara streaked beneath my eyes. I wipe it away and then take a step back. There are faint bruises in various places on my body from the struggle with Trey and it almost makes me want to change my mind about what I’m about to do.

I don’t, though. Trey has kept Owen and me apart enough, so I push the thought of him out of my head completely. I don’t want to think about him again until we’re sitting in front of him tomorrow.

I walk toward the bathroom and pause just outside the door. I slip off my bra and then my underwear. I debate whether or not to turn the light out. The one time I was with Owen, it was dark, so my insecurities were almost nonexistent. However, he’s never seen me like this before. I’ve never seen him.

That last thought actually gives me the courage it takes to enter the bathroom.

“Auburn?” he says from the shower. He’s questioning whether or not it’s me walking in here right now, so I guess it proves we’re both still a little on edge tonight.

“Just me,” I say as I shut the door.

His head appears from behind the shower curtain, and the smile that’s usually affixed to his face when he sees me vanishes when he sees all of me. My cheeks instantly flush and I reach next to me and flip off the light switch. I thought I could do it, but I can’t. No guy, not even Adam, has ever seen me undressed with the lights on. I didn’t realize just how much I lacked confidence.

I hear him laugh, but I can’t see his face in the dark.

“Two things,” he says, his voice firm. “Turn that back on. Get in here.”

I shake my head, even though he can’t see it. “I’ll get in there, but I’m not turning the light back on.”

I hear the shower curtain slide open and then wet feet splash against the tile floor. Before I know it, an arm is wrapped around my bare waist and the light is back on. His face is directly in front of mine and he’s grinning. He leaves the light on and lifts me up, carrying me to the shower with him. He stands me inside the shower and I immediately cover what I can with my hands.

He takes a step back until we’re a couple of feet apart and I can’t help but notice how confident he is, standing completely naked in front of me. He has a right to be confident. Me . . . not so much.