My head dropped and I studied my hands, which were resting against the table. “No. They weren’t.” I listened to his sobs and pushed myself up from my seat.

Walking out of the room, I came back with a cloth. Filling it with ice, I placed it against his darkening eye. He cringed when it made contact with his skin, but he didn’t verbally complain.

I didn’t want to scold him anymore. I didn’t want to tell him how much his choices affected his life and others’ lives. I just wanted my brother back. I’d witnessed too many people lose their siblings, and I was tired of fighting.

Wrapping my arms around my brother, I pulled him into a hug and he sobbed against my shoulder.

“I miss them so much, Danny.” His heart was shattering and he was finally allowing himself to feel sadness over our parents’ deaths as opposed to revenge. “I don’t know what to do now. I don’t know what to do…”

I didn’t have a reply for him. I hardly knew what I was doing with my life. I pulled out a chair at the table and Jace and I sat down next to Randy. The room filled with silence as the three of us remained still for the longest time.

“Well,” Randy smirked, moving over to the refrigerator and pulling out three beers. “We have an opening in Romeo’s Quest.”

Jace’s eyes widened and he shook his head in disbelief. “You would want me back? After everything I’ve done? Especially with Ashlyn—”

I flinched when I heard him say her name. “Jace…just say okay,” I said.

His blue eyes smiled when he looked up to find my stare. “Okay.”

Chapter 43

This isn’t something that I want to fade.

Promise there will be sunshine after this rain.

~ Romeo’s Quest

After I left Edgewood, I went home and finished my senior year at my old school. My old friends tried to connect with me, but I wasn’t the girl they’d once known. Mom still struggled every day with dealing with Gabby’s death, but she promised me she was doing better with me being home.

She laughed a lot more, too.

Every night I sat on the couch with her—she watched television while I read. Our routine worked for us up until the day I went off to college to find myself. To start over. I made new friends. I grew comfortable being on my own, which was something I’d never been in my entire life. I’d gone from being a twin, always having someone near me, to being in a relationship with Daniel.

I didn’t regret either thing, for they’d both made me who I was today. They’d made me stronger.

My imagination used to pretend that we were together after we went our separate ways. I would roll over in my bed each morning and dream of his lips kissing mine, his arms wrapping me up as he pressed me against his warming body, his love breathing life into my entire being. I would imagine him making me a cup of tea while I made his eggs in his favorite fashion and his coffee extra dark. Then we would make love before the sun fully awakened and smile because we would know that our bodies had been crafted for one another.

Our hearts would always beat for one another. Our souls were destined to burn together in a mystifying flame that lit the universe with hope and passion.

Most people didn’t understand. My friends encouraged me to move on, to find someone else. Yet how could I allow someone to give me their all when I knew I couldn’t return the same to them? It wouldn’t be fair.

I knew I would never fall in love again. It wasn’t in my cards. I supposed it was because when I’d first fallen in love, I never stopped falling.

Anyone on this planet would be lucky if they had the chance to love Mr. Daniels.

Yet I was the luckiest. Because for a moment he loved me back.

I wrote each and every day whenever I wasn’t doing homework. I created a story I hadn’t even known lived inside of me. There wasn’t a word written that hadn’t been accompanied by his CD playing in my ears. It was as if he were right there with me, cheering me on.

By the end of my sophomore year, I finally wrote the words on the last page. “The End.”

I’d done it. I was officially an author.

After I finished my first ever novel, I self-published it. I sold a whopping seven copies.

Two of which were my own purchases.

And then I went back to Edgewood.

Two years early.

I couldn’t fight it anymore; I had to see if he was still thinking about me.

Because I’d never stopped for one second thinking of him.

I stood in front of the school building for the longest time, staring straight into his classroom. He was smiling toward his students, sitting on the corner of his desk, probably begging them to interact with him. His hands were waving around the classroom, and he stood from the desk as he began to write on the whiteboard. He’d cut his hair and had facial hair. He looked so…grown up.

My cheeks heated up just as they had the first time my eyes had spotted him. He laughed at something a student had said as he was writing on the board and shook his head back and forth. When the bell rang, I watched the students pack up their backpacks and start heading out of the classroom. The spring breeze picked up, and I held my arms tighter across my body. When I took a step backward, I watched Daniel’s body turn toward the window, and when he looked up, our eyes locked. Everything inside of me froze over, and my lips stayed parted.

His dark eyes were confused at first, but then he held up his hand toward me and mouthed, “Hi.”

My heart was shattering at the simple word and small gesture. I bit my bottom lip to keep from tearing up, and I held my hand up to him. “Hi,” I whispered.