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“Gavin… I… It’s Emily,” she whispered, trying not to trip over the emotions climbing up her throat. “I don’t expect you to talk to me ever again, but I need to say a few things.” Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly, she continued. “Dillon diminished my sense of feeling alive, Gavin. But you… you brought that back to me. When Gina opened the door that morning, I…” Emily paused, wiping away tears. “I was scared you took her back, but I should’ve let you explain and I didn’t. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that out of any girl in this world you could’ve fallen in love with, you chose me. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you when I should’ve, and it was me who broke your heart. I love you, Gavin. I know you’re the one who said you thought you loved me from the moment you saw me, but I know I loved you from the moment I saw you. Something inside me told me I was supposed to be with you, but I fought against it. So many things about you scared me at first, and then you showed me who you really are.”

Unable to keep fighting the raw emotion weighing heavy on her heart, Emily broke out into hysterics. “Please forgive me for fighting against us, Gavin. Please forgive me for not fighting for us when I knew we were supposed to be together. Forgive me for being the weak mess I am. But more than anything… thank you for loving me. Thank you for your dimpled smile and your bottle caps. I’ll never be able to look at one without thinking of you. Thank you for your stupid Yankees and your wiseass remarks. Thank you for wanting late night drives and sunset-watching with me. Thank you for wanting the good, the bad, and the in-between.” Emily paused and shook her head, but before she could say another word, the voice mail cut her off, the long beep alerting her that her time was up.

“I’m just sorry the only thing you got from me was the bad,” she whispered, staring at the ceiling as she clenched her phone to her chest.

CHAPTER TWO

In her twenty-four years of living, there were times when Emily would experience a numbness that would set in when she wanted to shut something out. She allowed her mind to let go of poison plaguing her life at certain points. These were times she welcomed it. Breathed it in like the sweet smell of roses. It was the type of numbness one could say ‘cleansed her.’ However, as she sat at the coffee bar in Bella Lucina, tracing and retracing numbers on her order pad, the numbness planting itself in her heart like a thick, summer weed, was something she’d never felt before. Something she didn’t want to feel.

216 hours… of feeling dead.

12,960 minutes… of feeling lost.

777,600 seconds… of feeling completely numb.

Days upon days, her concentration, which seemed to be carefully knitted together by strands of hope, was fading. Lost. Even while she slept, her mind lingered on Gavin, her dreams dangerous because they reminded her he was gone. He became a beautiful vapor that disappeared into thin air, taking Emily’s very existence with it. Left with broken thoughts she was sure couldn’t be repaired, Emily was suffering knowing he had loved her when she least deserved it. No. This wasn’t something she was prepared for, yet she knew she had to own every hour, minute, and every second of it.

“I brought table twelve another round of drinks for you,” Fallon announced, sitting down next to Emily.

With her head downcast, still immersed in the amount of time that’d passed since Gavin left, Emily didn’t answer.

“They also ordered a pasta primavera for the monkey that joined them.” At that, Emily reluctantly brought her gaze up to Fallon’s, her face filled with confusion. “Yeah. They found him on the side of the road. Apparently a circus ditched him,” Fallon added, throwing her hair into a messy bun.

“Did you just say something about a monkey?” Emily questioned, her voice puzzled. “And when did you dye your hair blue?”

“Nope. I didn’t mention a word about a monkey.” Fallon quirked a brow, placed her elbows on the bar, and tucked her palms under her chin. “It’s been blue for three days, and you’ve seen it already.”

“Oh.” Emily went back to tracing the numbers.

“What do you got there?” Before Emily could answer, Fallon swiped the order pad. “What are all of these numbers?”

“It’s nothing.” Emily yanked it back from Fallon’s grasp.

Frowning, Fallon studied Emily’s face, her expression thick with concern. “Country, I’m not trying to be dark or dismal, but that’s not some kind of countdown to you killing yourself, right?”

Eyes wide in shock, Emily leaned back. “Jesus, Fallon, do you honestly think I would do that?”

“Just answer the question, Country. Is that some kind of countdown?”

Emily sighed and tapped the pad on the granite surface of the bar. “It’s been nine days since he left, Fallon. Nine days since I completely destroyed him. I’ve called, and he hasn’t answered.”

“Right, but he hasn’t answered anyone’s calls.” Fallon snaked her arm around Emily’s shoulder. “Colton told Trevor the other day he hasn’t even answered for him.”

“I understand that, but Colton’s not the reason he left. I am.” Emily shook her head, trying hard to fight back tears. “He handed me his heart, and I threw it away. I made him leave his family, his friends… his entire life.”

“Emily, first of all, you need to stop beating yourself up. Considering what you saw that morning, he’s lucky you even believe him. I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but let’s be real. That was some pretty heavy shit. Second, he left because he thought you were marrying Dillon. Once he finds out you didn’t, you know he’ll come right back.”

“He already knows I didn’t marry Dillon,” Emily whispered, her heart breaking all over again. “Olivia told me Colton left a message with his housekeeper. He let him know I didn’t go through with it.”

“Oh. I didn’t know that,” Fallon mumbled and looked away. She twirled a piece of her hair and brought her attention back to Emily. “Maybe he just needs more time?”

“I don’t know what to think anymore.” Emily rubbed her temples. “All I know is I’m lost without him.”

Fallon frowned and twisted her body toward Emily. Before she could say anything, Trevor snuck up behind her and tickled her ribcage.

Eyes wide, Fallon jerked around. “Trevor!” she squeaked, garnering Antonio’s unwanted attention. He glared at her from across the restaurant. Fallon bit her lip and mouthed, “Sorry.” Antonio shook his head and resumed eating his lunch. “You asshole,” Fallon whispered, pushing Trevor away.

Trevor chuckled and popped a kiss on top of Fallon’s head. “Sorry. I forgot you were ticklish, Blue.”

“Sure you did, jackass.” Fallon grimaced and stood up. “What are you doing here so early? You know I’m not off for another two hours.”

“I actually came to talk to Emily.” Trevor looked at Emily, his smile guarded. “Are you off yet?”

“No, not yet.” Emily rose, plucking her order pad from the bar. Drawing in a deep breath, she glanced at it and shoved it into her apron. “I have another half hour until my shift is over.”


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