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He kissed her again, his lips savoring the taste of hers. He knew it would be their last, so he made it count. There was more passion in that one kiss than in most people have in a lifetime.

“I will love you until the day I die,” she told him.

“Well, I’m already dead and I still love you. So I win,” he half smiled.

“That’s not funny.”

“I know.” He cupped her face again.

She looked at him with longing and took one last deep breath. “Goodbye, Austen.”

She gathered up all the courage she could muster and walked down the path, away from the beach. She knew if she didn’t leave now, she never would. Her legs tried to stop walking. Her heart begged her to stay. Her eyes willed her to turn around and look at him one last time. But there was no way she could see his face again and continue to leave. So she continued to stumble forward.

“Goodbye, Katherine.”

Austen stood and watched until she was out of sight. He wanted to run after her, stop her, scream at her to stay. But he knew all he could do was allow her to walk out of his life forever. Once he was sure she was gone, he fell to his knees in heart-wrenching pain and clutched his chest, sobbing her name.

Chapter Seventeen

Cooper woke to the sound of Katherine’s sobs. She cried in her sleep and tears streamed down her cheeks, soaking her pillow. He wanted to wake her, but he guessed where she was and who she was with. Out of respect, he let her continue sleeping. He watched her shake and cry. It hurt him to see her in such pain and he wanted to make it go away, but knew it wasn’t his place. He thought of her and Austen and assumed they were happy, laughing and loving. It made him sick to think about.

Then she opened her eyes.

He watched as she wiped the tears from her face. “Are you okay?” He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear her answer.

She looked at him and steadied her breathing, “I will be.”

“Did something happen?”

“I think I need to go for a walk.” She pushed away from his arms and out of the bed.

Cooper didn’t want her to wander around outside by herself. What if she was still weak and something happened to her? He started to get up when she stopped him, “I need to be by myself right now, Cooper.”

“Did you change your mind? About us?” He didn’t know if one night’s dream could change everything that had transpired between them.

She looked at him softly and reassured his worried heart. “No. I haven’t changed my mind. But I need to be alone for a bit.” She tried to stifle the sound of her aching heart, but it was obvious to him she was hurting.

“Bring this, please,” Cooper handed her a walkie-talkie.

She reached out to take the slick black device and rolled her eyes at him.

“You never know. You might feel light headed or something.”

“Okay, weirdo.” She closed the door behind her and headed into the chilly air.


Katherine looked for a place where she could sit and be alone with her thoughts. Being with Cooper so quickly after Austen was painful; she felt like she didn’t deserve either of them. Her heart ached as she grieved. She wanted to fall to her knees and scream at the very idea of never being able to talk to or feel Austen again. Her mind shifted between moments of extreme sadness and sheer happiness as she thought of all that she and Austen had shared. Her perspective altered to one of thankfulness. She knew it was rare to experience what she had and she felt genuinely blessed.

Peace and silence engulfed her. It was as if she had the entire lake to herself. She silently thanked Austen for all he had given her. She told him she loved him and that no one could ever replace what she felt for him in her heart. Her body filled with warmth as she closed her eyes and let the snow fall on her face.

Cooper’s image filtered into her thoughts. Thinking about him brought excited chills to her body. He had always deserved her heart and she was finally ready to give it to him. Well, most of it anyway. She would never have her whole heart to give.

She wiped away the lone teardrop that rested on her cheek and brushed the snow from her pants. With one last thought of Austen, she walked back toward the house…and Cooper. The walkie-talkie clicked and she let Cooper know she was on her way back.

He met her at the door with a steaming mug of tea. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him carefully, trying not to spill. “Thank you for being so understanding about everything. I really appreciate it.”

He set the cup down and lifted her up into his arms. “So you’re still in love with me then?”


He pressed his lips against hers and kissed her until she could barely breathe. “We should probably get going. I’ll go find Taylor and Danny.”

Katherine smiled and thanked him again. She headed into the room where she slept and her things were scattered all over the floor. She didn’t remember leaving it like that. She walked into the bathroom and it was more of the same. Bottles were strewn all across the countertop and along the floor. A confused look spread across her face as she bent down to pick everything up. “Maybe I did this last night and I don’t remember? Weird.”

Just then Cooper rushed in and asked her if she had seen Taylor or Danny. “No. Why? Can’t you find them?”

“No. They aren’t anywhere. Where would they have gone?”

“Maybe they went for a walk? Did you check outside?” Katherine shrugged.

“I’ll go look now. You didn’t see them when you were out there, did you?”

“No.” Then she remembered the eerie quiet, “I…didn’t see anyone.”

Cooper headed out of the bathroom and she heard a door slam. Katherine had a weird feeling that something wasn’t right. She walked into the kitchen and noticed a mess of plates and she searched her memory. Hadn’t they just cleaned the dishes last night after dinner? She swore they had. She heard the downstairs door slam as Cooper ran up the stairs.

“My Jeep isn’t here.”


Cooper’s eyes were crazy and for the second time since she’d met him, he looked scared and unsure of himself. “The Jeep is gone and they aren’t here.”

“What is happening and why is it so cold, Cooper? I’m so cold all of a sudden.” He walked over to her and squeezed her tight.

“Jesus, Kat, you’re freezing.” He wrapped as much of his muscular body as he could around her small frame.

“Do you hear that?” They both stilled.

“Is that…crying?” Cooper strained to hear.

“It sounds like it, but where is it coming from?” Katherine ran from room to room, trying to get closer to the sound.

A faint beeping sound could also be heard. “What is that?”

“What’s going on? I’m scared.” She looked at Cooper and his face was chalky. “Cooper, your face. It’s so pale.”

“What do you mean?” He lifted his hand to touch his face, and collapsed to the ground.

Katherine screamed. She knelt next to his lifeless body and tried to shake him awake. She cried and screamed his name, but he wouldn’t come to. She put her head on his chest and sobbed, “Cooper, please wake up. Wake up.”

“He’s dying.” The voice cut through her cries like a knife. Her heart flipped out of her chest as she turned to see Austen standing above her. He didn’t look like himself and he didn’t seem happy to see her.

“Austen. What’s going on? What’s wrong with Cooper?” She looked down to see Cooper again, but he was gone.

“Where’d he go?” She screamed out his name, “Cooper? Cooper!!”

“He’s dying, Katherine. And so are you.” Austen spoke the words carefully and slowly.

“What? What do you mean? We survived the fall in the ice,” she struggled to recall. “Didn’t we?”

“At first, yes. But something happened to you both last night. Taylor and Danny drove you to the hospital.”

“But I felt fine.” She tried to put the pieces together. She replayed the events of the night and the day. Some thoughts were a blur, but others were crystal clear. “What about everything else then? Was it all a dream or did it really happen?”

“You mean, did you really tell me goodbye?”

She looked down at her feet before answering. “Yes. Was that real?”

“It was. But everything else…well, let’s just say you’re not awake right now.”

“What do you mean not awake?”

“You’re unconscious, Katherine.” Austen maintained his composure as he spoke every word to her without emotion.

“Unconscious? Like, a coma?”


“Cooper too?” she asked half-crazed.

“Cooper too.”

It was difficult for Katherine to see Austen and not be with him, but she had to force those thoughts from her mind. Her concern was more for Cooper than it was for herself and she had to focus on how to save him.

“Austen. We have to help him.”

“I’m not sure we can.”

The way he spoke irritated her. “Austen!” She got angry. “I’ve already lost you. I can’t lose Cooper too. I won’t be able to live through it!”

“I know. I’m not sure what I can do, but I’ll do whatever I can.”

The crying got louder. “What…is that?” Katherine closed her eyes tightly and when she opened them, she was in a hospital room looking down at her own body. Taylor sobbed as she held Kat’s limp hand. “Oh, Tay. I’m right here. Taylor!” Katherine yelled at her friend, but Taylor remained unmoved.

“She can’t hear you.” Austen refused to leave her side.

“Where did Cooper go? What happened to him? He was with me and now he’s gone.” Katherine knew what she and Cooper had shared was real. Even if it was only in a dream, it still happened. She had to find him. She ran out of her room and yelled for him down the hospital corridor.

“Cooper! Cooper where are you?” She clumsily crashed into every hospital room door looking for his body.

“Katherine?” She heard him yell her name, but he sounded so far away.

Austen stopped following her and stood at a distance to watch. “Katherine!” Cooper continued to yell until he was close enough for her to respond. He rounded a corner and practically ran into her. “There you are! How did we get here? Did something happen?”

“Cooper.” Katherine searched for the words to explain it to him. “We’re not okay.”

“What do you mean we’re not okay? You’re dumping me already?” He half smirked at her.

“No. I mean, we’re like physically, not okay. We’re in this hospital because you and I are here.”

“I know we’re here. I can see we’re here. But WHY are we here?”

Austen interjected. “She means that you’re both here, in comas.”

Cooper looked at Austen. “Austen?” He glanced at Katherine and then back at Austen.