So, so much.

The next morning, I shot up from my bed at the sound of a shovel scraping against the sidewalk outside of my house. “Tristan…” I murmured to myself, tossing on my robe and slippers, hurrying to the front of the house. When I opened the door, the small bit of hope I held was demolished when I saw Tanner standing on my sidewalk, getting rid of the freshly fallen snow.

“What are you doing?” I asked, crossing my arms.

He looked up at me with an upside-down smile and shrugged. “I wanted to stop by and see how you and Emma were doing.” He stopped shoveling and rested his chin against the handle bar. “Plus, I’m pretty positive you’re mad at me.”

I huffed.


I was beyond mad—I was livid.

“You had no right to tell Tristan about the accident.” My eyes tried to lock with his. Maybe if he stared into my eyes he could see how much he hurt me. Maybe if he stared into my eyes, he could see how he ruined things for Tristan and me. Don’t you feel bad at all?

He wouldn’t meet my stare. His eyes faltered to the ground, and he kicked snow around with his boots. “I thought you’d already told him.”

“Tanner, you knew I didn’t. I don’t know what your deal is lately. Is this all because I wouldn’t go out on a date with you? Is this because you were embarrassed? I’ve been playing it over and over in my head as to why you would do something so heartless and nothing is coming to mind. I literally cannot understand why you would do this to me.”

The palm of his hand ran across his mouth, and he muttered something.

“What?” I asked. “Speak up.”

He didn’t.

I walked down the steps on the porch and stood in front of him. “You’ve been in my life for years, Tanner. You were at my wedding. You are the godfather to my daughter. You held me at my husband’s funeral. So if there’s a reason you are acting weird, if there is a reason you broke Tristan and me up, then tell me. Because if there is a real, legit reason for why you don’t think I should be with him, then maybe I can get over this feeling inside of me. Maybe I could figure out a way to look at you and not feel sick to my stomach.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” he said with his head still lowered.

“Try me.”



“God dammit, I love you, Elizabeth!” he shouted, finally finding my stare. His words hit me hard, making me stumble backward as my heart stopped beating for a moment. He dropped his shovel, and then tossed his hands up in defeat. “I’m in love with you. I’ve been in love with you for years. Since I’ve first met you. I hid my feelings for so long because my best friend loved you too. And you loved him. I stood by never speaking a word because I knew if there was anyone else worthy of your love it was Steven. But after he died…” He started in my direction and combed my fallen hairs behind my ears. “I didn’t plan to want you as much as I did once you came back to town. I buried my feelings down deep. But then, this Tristan guy came along and I sat behind the scenes once more, watching someone else make you laugh, someone else make you happy, someone else loving you.

“So each day, I grew jealous. Each day I wanted you to want me. I wanted your laughs, your smiles, you. I wanted you, Liz. So, I tried to rip Tristan and you apart. I know it was a shitty thing to do, and I know I cannot begin to ask for you to forgive me but…” He sighed and laced his fingers with mine. “I just love you so damn much and I’m not sure if my heart can take not having you.”

His fingers were linked with mine, but instead of the warmth that Steven had always brought me, instead of the tenderness that Tristan supplied my way, I only felt coldness. Holding Tanner’s hand made me feel more alone than ever.

“You deliberately broke us up,” I said flabbergasted. I dropped his hold on me and then ran my hands through my hair. “You literally interfered in my life, in my choices, because you love me?”

“He’s not right for you.”

I shook my head. “You don’t get to decide that.”

“He would’ve hurt you. He’s a monster, I know he is. And look at what happened at the first sign of trouble, he disappeared. I wouldn’t leave you, Liz. I would fight for you.”

“Maybe you should, though.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Maybe I should what? Maybe I should fight for you? I will, I promise you, I will.”

“No.” I crossed my arms, standing tall. “Maybe you should leave.”


“Don’t,” I hissed, my voice stinging his ears. “Don’t call me that. You’re insane if you think I would want anything to do with you. When you love someone, you don’t go out of your way to hurt them. When you truly love someone, you want their happiness more than your own. Tristan isn’t the monster, Tanner. You’re the one people should be worried about. You’re sick. Delusional. Now, leave me alone. Don’t come back to my house. If you see me in town, look the other way. Because I truly want nothing to do with you.”

“You don’t mean that.” His body was shaking, and all the color drained from his face. I began to walk up my porch steps, still listening to his shouts. “You don’t mean that, Liz! You’re mad, but we’ll be okay. We’ll be okay, right?”

Once my feet hit the inside of the house, I slammed the door, and leaned against it. My heart was pounding against my ribcage, and I continued to listen to Tanner yelling outside about how we would figure things out—how we would be okay.