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There were no sounds around us, only his inhalations and my exhalations. He nuzzled his lips against my neck, and for the first time in a long time, I felt as if I were exactly where I was meant to be.

“Jackson?” I whispered, moving my body even closer to him. We were from two different puzzles, yet still, we seemed to fit perfectly together.


I took a deep breath and exhaled it slowly. “I like the way your heart beats.”



“Hey,” Grace said, standing on my front porch on Tuesday afternoon, beaming ear to ear with a sly look. “Want to do something crazy today?”

* * *

“Okay, wait, wait, wait!” Grace cringed in Alex’s tattoo parlor as he was seconds from putting the needle against her left shoulder blade.

“We’ve been waiting for the past thirty minutes.” I laughed. “It’s now or never.”

“Will you hold my hand?” she asked.

I took hers in mine. “Always and always.”

She stared at me for a moment as if she’d seen a ghost, her lips parting as if she was going to speak, but she didn’t say a word. She tilted her head Alex’s way and nodded once. “Okay. I’m ready.”

That was a lie.

The moment the needle touched her skin, she screamed bloody murder and nearly hopped up as she squeezed my hand ridiculously tight.

“Think happy thoughts, princess,” I told her.

She inhaled sharply and nodded. “Eggs in cake, puppies, dresses, tacos.”

“Pizza, waffles, parks…”

“Bookshops, Christmas, Hallow—holy fudgeknuckles!” she barked, squeezing my hand tighter.

“You okay?” Alex asked. “Are you sure you want seven of these hearts with wings? We can do fewer of them.”

“No,” she said sternly. “I can do this. I just…” She took a breath, and I took her other hand into mine. “I can do this.”

“Okay, and while we’re doing this, can we discuss the fact that instead of cussing, you just said holy fudgeknuckles?” I asked.

She laughed. “I’ve been staying with my sister too long. I’m starting to express things like her.”

“Are you two close?”

“She’s one of the only things that gives me faith in humanity. Judy is a saint, a truly good person.”

“I’m glad you have her.”

“Yeah, me too. Ouch!” She jumped slightly.

“Focus on me, princess,” I told her. “Talk to me. Ask me questions—anything to keep your mind off the needle.”

“I can ask you questions?”


She bit her bottom lip then nodded toward my wrist and the band around it. “What does that mean? Powerful moments?”

I grimaced a bit. “Just diving right in, aren’t you?”

“You don’t have to tell me. I just always notice you snapping it against your wrist.”

I moved around a bit in my chair. Alex gave me a look and nodded once, almost as if telling me it was okay to open up a little. To let someone else see my scars.

“I got it from rehab. Whenever I felt like using, the doctor had me snap the band against my wrist as a reminder that this life is real, and the pain I felt from the snap was to remind me that the next step I took would be real. It was my chance to be powerful in dark moments.”

“Powerful moments,” she whispered, nodding slowly. “I like that a lot.”

“Yeah. It works for the most part.”

“Do you ever almost fall off track?” she asked.

“Only every single day.” I smiled. “But I think it’s a fight worth fighting.”

“It is,” she agreed. “Can I ask you another question?”

“Will it stop you from thinking about the tattoo?”


“Then yes.”

“Why did you start using drugs in the first place?”

My brows knitted, and I shrugged. “Because I was tired of hurting, and I thought that was an easy fix.”

“Was it?” she asked.

“Yeah, it was…until I came back down from the high. Then I ended up hurting even more. The higher the high, the greater the fall.”

“I’m really proud of how far you’ve come,” she told me. “I can’t even begin to imagine what you’ve been through, but you’re here and strong now. That’s amazing.”

That meant more to me than she’d ever know. “Thanks.”

As Alex hit a sensitive spot on Grace’s back, she squeezed my hands even harder, and I let her. “You’ve got this. Powerful moments, okay?”

She nodded. “I can do this.”

And she did. It took some time, and a few tears slipped from her eyes, but the final product was perfect. As she stood in front of the mirror, glancing over her shoulder to see the artwork, a small smile crossed her lips. “Do you like it?” she asked.

“I love it.” I placed my hands on her waist and kissed her cheek. “It’s perfect.”

“It is, isn’t it?” she agreed as she turned to face me. “There’s one more thing we have to do,” she stated.

“What is it?”

She pulled out a small card. “I hope this is okay, and if you hate the idea, we don’t have to do it, but I saw that the veterinarian sent you a card for Tucker with his paw prints inside. I thought maybe you could get his paw print tattooed somewhere in his memory.”