Page 25

Going through the entire book, he laughed, smiled, cursed. He was shaking his head at some points. “Man. I remember those guys from football. I always thought they were dicks.”

Funny. He was pointing to the guys he had partied with his last year, the same guys who went on to ‘rule the school’ after he and his friends left. The same guys who idolized him because he was ‘making it big.’

It took fifteen minutes. Stone took his time, lingering on pages of people he remembered. He stopped, found me in the normal school section, then flipped around. “What the hell? Weren’t you on mock trial or some shit like that?”

I sat in my desk chair. “Yearbook Committee. I was the junior editor when you were a senior.” That’s what he’d been thinking of.

He turned, thumbing through the pages until he found the yearbook staff. I wasn’t there. “What the hell, Dust?”

He wasn’t going to find it. It’d explain everything.

And I couldn’t believe I was going to tell him, but I said with a slight nod, “Last page.”

He frowned at me, then bent his head and flipped to the back of the yearbook.

He saw it, stilling. “Dusty.” A soft one from him.

“I was never popular, but small town, small school. Last year. Everyone was sentimental, so I was surprised that I had to even reserve an entire page for her. But I did.”

I didn’t tell him the sad truth about what he read…the truth that she actually didn’t write that in there. I had.

“Fuck.” Another soft curse from him, his head bent and he was reading.

I knew the entire thing by heart. It’s why I brought the yearbook with me

I moved to the floor, leaning back against the wall and pulling my knees up to my chest. “She always told me she wanted to sign my senior yearbook. Not the junior one. Sophomore one. Freshman one. My last one. It was a big deal to her.”

“Your mom died in January.”

I nodded. “The night you won the football championship.”

“Yearbooks don’t get printed till end of April.”


I looked up, locking eyes with him. “I traced her letter in there. She asked me to.”

His eyes closed. His head fell. His shoulders slumped. “Shit, Dusty. Shit.” He moved in a flash. The yearbook was set on my desk and he had me up in the air, his arms around me. He moved back to my bed, and I was on his lap. His arms folded around me, and his head bent down to my shoulder. He breathed out, his air tickling my neck.

We sat there.

This hug wasn’t for me. It was for him. And it was the most intimate hug or touch I’d had from Stone, but it didn’t make my skin crawl. It felt oddly…nice. Familiar again. Like a memory that propelled us back to our childhoods, and I didn’t know why I kept thinking about that stuff. It was so long ago. We’d moved past all that, but his chin was propped on my shoulder when there was a knock on my door.

I started to stand up. His hand tightened on me, holding me in place.

I tried again. He kept me in place again.

Sagging back down, I admitted defeat. “Yeah?”

The door opened. Nicole’s head popped in and her eyes almost popped out. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude—”

“You’re not.” Stone spoke almost lazily, no trace of the brief moment we’d just had. “What’s up?”

She hesitated, biting her lip. Her hand gripped on the doorknob, and she kept looking over her shoulder. Coming to a decision, she shot inside and shut the door, turning the lock. “Sorry.” She flashed us a grin, right at the same time as we heard footsteps running to the door and banging.

“Hey!” That was Dent. Or Nacho. I couldn’t decipher their voices yet.

Nicole yelled through the door. “Let me talk to her, yeah? Stone went out the back door. He’s not even in here.”

Dent/Nacho harrumphed. “Bullshit.”

Stone was grinning, tucking his head behind me and rubbing the bridge of his nose to my shoulder blade. It was sending tingles down my back. Goosebumps were breaking out over my arms, too. But enduring the shivers, I remained.

“I’m not lying, and she’s crying. Back off.”

“She’s crying?” We all heard a soft curse muttered. “Okay. Sorry about your car, Dusty.” A brief moment later, we heard his footsteps going up the stairs.

Nicole fixed us with a look, one eyebrow raised. She eased down into my desk chair. “Nacho came down because he wanted to invite Stone to hang out, watch the game tonight.”

Stone cursed. “I should be watching that at my place.”

Nicole went on, “And I came down to warn you that they have invited everyone. Literally everyone. You guys might want to sneak out in the next three minutes, or you’ll get swarmed by fans.”

Stone nodded, his hands easing on me and then starting to lift me off of him.

I stood.

He said to me, “Grab the rest of your stuff.” He was looking around. “You have an extra bag? I can stuff whatever you need in that.”

I didn’t really have much, but since I couldn’t bring myself to look at them, I pointed to the pictures on the wall. “Those.” I turned for the bathroom.

“All of them?”

His voice dipped low, an edge to it.

I paused just in the doorway. “All of them.”

I knew who was in the pictures. My dad. Gail. Jared. My mom. A picture of my dad, my mom, and myself. Another picture of my dad, Gail, Jared, and just me. And a last picture of me in my graduation gown after high school.


I looked back, not sure if I wanted to. I didn’t know if I wanted to see whatever picture he could be holding.

It was my graduation one. He held it up. “You weren’t this thin when I left. What happened?”

I lost thirty pounds that year. Pulling my gaze from it and back to his, I shrugged. “You know what happened that year.”

His jaw clenched and he looked back down at the photo. I went to the bathroom, grabbing the rest of my things that Mia had left behind.

I could hear Stone and Nicole talking, but both were murmuring softly, and for a moment, I hoped he wasn’t telling her about my dad and Gail. I was still mourning my mom. I hadn’t even allowed myself to think about everything else I’d lost since then.

I was finishing up when my phone started ringing.

Going back to my room, I was looking at the screen.

“Who is it?”

I held it up. Screen said Jared.

He muttered a curse, then reached for it.

I wavered, but Stone was who Jared really wanted to talk to. Why fight it? I handed it over.

Stone took my phone, my bag over his shoulder, and headed up the back exit. “Jared, hey, man…” The door closed behind him, and I could only hear the faint trace of the call before that too faded.

“Wow.” Nicole gulped. “So, you like, really know Stone Reeves?”


“That night he came, everyone was in shock. He asked if there was a back exit, and when Mia said yes, he took off. It was like he just knew, and we came around the corner and you both were wrestling. Then your stuff got dumped and he tried to help you and you shoved him away. Everyone kept talking in the background and I was getting so irritated with them. I wanted to hear what you guys were saying, but I couldn’t. The guys wouldn’t shut the fuck up. Then you were getting in your car. He seemed like he wanted to stop you and bam!” She clapped her hands together.

I winced.

“You were out, like out out when we got to the car. Mia started screaming. And Lisa, you know she’s in the nursing program, right?”

A faint memory surfaced being told that.

“She took charge. Started yelling no one could touch you. Stone was on the phone, already calling 911 and I swear, if Lisa hadn’t looked ready to ream him, he would’ve yanked you out of the car and drove you to the hospital himself. The Rampage Reeves we see in the games sometimes, he was here. He was going nuts, cursing, threatening. Once he realized Lisa wasn’t letting anyone touch you, he was on the phone, yelling at whoever would pick up. I lost track, but Lisa felt for your pulse and said you were breathing, too. Ambulance got here quick. I think that was one of the places Stone called to yell at, since it took them twelve minutes to show up.” She had to stop for oxygen. “Wow. Just wow. He asked us for a bag. Mia’s the one who packed it and gave it to him, then he took off with the ambulance. He came back later, and I’m pretty sure one of the other wide receivers dropped him off to get his truck. The guys were half-watching cause it was so late, but he looked absolutely wiped.”

Stone hadn’t told me any of this. Then again, I hadn’t asked.

“I didn’t realize all that happened.”

“Just so you know, we all took a vow. We didn’t tell anyone what happened. Nothing. No one knows about you knowing Stone Reeves.”

“Really?” The ‘we’ she talked about was probably twenty-plus people. That seemed to be the core of their partying group. The football team. Them. And they had a few extra girls sprinkled in. I’d paid attention the two weeks I was there.

“Yeah. I mean, our group, but we didn’t say anything to anyone else.”