“Avery, I need to tell you something. After all this, oh my God, if I didn’t get a chance to say it…”

I smile at him. My face hurts to do it, but he looks so scared. “Just tell me.”

“The other day when I broke the beaker… Do you remember?”

Yeah, I remember. He was acting like a crazy person. I nod. “Yeah, what was that about?”

Marty watches me for a long time. There’s no expression on his face. I sigh and rub my shoulder. It feels like the muscles have a rock stuck between them. Marty leans forward and says, “Here, let me help.” His hands work my shoulder and I can feel the muscle start to loosen up.

“So, about the other day?” I prompt.

“Yeah, the thing is—damn, I don’t even know where to start. Sometimes things don’t work out the way you think, you know? You go into a situation thinking one thing, but then everything changes, and nothing goes the way you planned.” Marty’s hands work my shoulder, rubbing out the sore muscles. I relax a little.

“You’re preaching to choir.”

“Yeah, well, there’s more.” He rubs his thumb into the muscle harder, and I make a content sound, a gentle moan. Marty jerks his hand away like I burned him. I glance at him, not understanding. “Avery, I—”

There’s a knock at the door, cutting him off. A man in scrubs and a white lab coat enters. “Avery Stanz, good to see you awake. How do you feel?”

“Like I was in a car wreck. Sore and achy.”

He nods and looks at my clipboard. “Any vision issues? Difficulty walking? Headaches?”

My head hurts, but I want to leave. I say no to all three, even though I haven’t been out of bed. He asks me more questions and explains that my tests came back clear and that I can go home. They held me here because I had an allergic reaction to a pain killer they gave me in the ER. He explains what drug it was and tells me that I need to remember it. Apparently, I was hallucinating and had trouble breathing right. They pumped me full of an antihistamine and kept me longer to be safe.

Just before the doctor walks away, he asks, “Any questions?”

I nod and look up at him. “Where is Sean Ferro? No one will tell me anything.”

He smiles sadly. “Your friend is...something. He, uh,” the doctor glances back at the door and then back at me. “He’s no longer with us. He—”

I gasp and my hands fly to my face. The doctor keeps talking, but I’ve shut him out. I hear his voice but not his words. It isn’t until I feel his hand on my shoulder that I can focus enough to hear what he’s saying. “Miss Stanz, please listen. Your friend signed himself out last night. I said that poorly. I didn’t mean to frighten you. Mr. Ferro is banged up, but he’ll recover. Do you understand?”

Eyes wide, I nod. “Sean’s alive?”

“Yes, he is.” The doctor releases my shoulder. His gaze cuts to Marty. “Make sure she remembers what I said.” And then to me, “The nurse will be by to discharge you in a little bit. I ah, heard something last night. Is it true that Mr. Ferro cut off your car to avoid that truck?” he asks, looking directly at me. I nod. My throat is too tight to speak.

He studies me for a moment and points his pen at me. “You’re very fortunate. You both are. The paramedics showed me pictures of his bike. Luck was on your side.” He shakes his head, like he can’t believe it, and leaves.

I laugh. I can’t help it. I’m the antithesis of lucky. “No, I’m not. Luck evades me.”

“Not this time, Avery.” Marty pats my arm. “You were damn lucky. So was Sean.” Marty blinks, like that’s the craziest thing he’s ever heard. “I can’t believe he walked out.”

Neither can I. He walked out and left me here. Sean didn’t wait for me. He didn’t make sure I was okay, he just left. Who does that? The floor of my stomach twists with worry.


Marty and Mel work out who will take me home. The doctor said that someone needs to keep an eye on me. I agreed to let them, but now that I’m being buckled into Marty’s front seat I no longer want to cooperate. I want to see Sean. I need to look at him with my own eyes and see that he’s alive. I don’t understand how he could fall like that and walk away. I don’t understand. It seems unreal, like everything else in my life.

Marty is driving toward the college. He’s talking softly, asking me if I’m okay, if I want food or something. I stare out the window. There’s something cold inside my stomach and it’s creeping up my throat. I don’t know what happened, but I feel like I can’t tell him what I’m thinking, not after this.

Marty’s big brown eyes cut over to me. I feel them on the side of my face, poking me like a stick. “Tell me what crazy idea is brewing in that head of yours.”

I look at him with my jaw hanging open. Damn it. How does he do that? Why am I so transparent around him? I try to throw him off. “What? I wouldn’t—”

“Cut the crap, princess. I see that look on your face. What crazy-ass thing are you planning this time?”

I sink down into my seat and fold my arms across my chest. Marty slows the car as we hit gridlock. Awesome. “You make me sound like a Scooby-Doo villain. I’m not planning anything.”

“As soon as I tuck you into your little bed and chase Amber away, you’re going to go to him. Am I right?” Marty gives me a look.

My gaze drops to my hands. I feel like crap. I’m exhausted in every way possible. My voice is weak and mousy, hardly audible. “I need to see him.”

“That guy has brought you nothing but trouble. I’m all for true love and fighting for what you believe in, but this isn’t love Avery. Don’t make me tell you what it is. You already know.” Marty’s grip tightens on the steering wheel. The car inches forward. A horn blares somewhere behind us.

“I have to see him,” I repeat. “I don’t expect you to understand, but after everything I’ve been through—I have to see him. I can’t believe he walked away from that, like I literally cannot believe it. I have to see for myself… and I need to ask him something.”

Marty is silent for a moment. He works his jaw while staring straight ahead. Suddenly, his eyes cut to the left and then back to the right. He mutters something that I can’t make out and edges the car into the far left lane. “Mel is going to kill me. I swear to God, if you tell her that I—”

I realize that he’s turning around, that Marty is going to take me back to the city so I can see Sean. “Thank you, Marty. Really, I—”

He shakes his head and gives me a firm look. “Don’t thank me. This is the worst possible thing I could do for you.” His eyes bore into me, which makes me squirm in my seat. There’s something there, some grievance or grief that I’m unaware of—something I don’t know. I want to ask why he’s so bent on keeping me away from Sean, but I know better than to ask.

The light changes and Marty does a U-turn and we’re out of gridlock, heading directly toward Sean’s hotel. I tell Marty where to go and then there’s a thick uncomfortable silence.

My finger flicks the leather on the door as I stare out the window. My mind keeps drifting back to the note in Sean’s pocket. He regrets everything. He wants to start over. In that moment, I feel the same way. I want to throw my arms around his neck and kiss him until I can’t breathe, but how can I —he left without me. Sean didn’t even make sure I was all right. He didn’t stick his head in and check on me. He did nothing. It looks like he doesn’t care about me at all.

I groan and rub my face with the heel of my hand. My head is pounding. I glance over at Marty. “You think I’m making a mistake, don’t you?”

Marty glances over at me before his eyes dart back to the road. “Don’t ask me questions that you already know the answer to,” he snaps. He’s so tense. It’s like he’s strangling the steering wheel as he drives. When we are approaching the hotel, he finally speaks. “I’m parking and walking up with you.”


“It’s not optional. Besides, you look like you’re going to do a face-plant on the dashboard. I can’t let you wander in by yourself.” Marty pulls up in front of the hotel and gives his car to the valet.

When I step out, the guy that opened my door gives me a weird look. I have that train wreck thing going on. I haven’t even looked in a mirror. Who cares about mirrors at times like this? But still, it makes me feel self-conscious. Marty hands him a fist full of cash and takes my arm. I hold onto Marty. I am weak. The world starts to tilt to the side, but Marty steadies me and the feeling passes.

As we walk inside, Marty leans in and whispers in my ear, “You owe me so big for this, and I totally plan on redeeming this time.” His palm rubs the back of my hand and he grins at me.

My heart is pounding. My thoughts tangle tighter and tighter as the elevator approaches Sean’s floor. I try to swallow the lump in my throat, but it won’t move. Marty squeezes my hand tight and says, “You okay?”

I nod and smile at him. Worry pinches my face though, so the smile looks timid. The elevator doors open. I turn to Marty and ask, “Will you wait for me over here?”

“Avery, I don’t think you should see him alone. This is a really bad idea. The guy left—he left you in the hospital alone.” Marty is pleading with me, but I can’t bend to caution. I have to see for myself.

I pat his hands before saying, “Thank you,” and turning away. I walk slowly toward Sean’s door.

Every inch of my body aches. It doesn’t matter that I have a ton of pain killers in me. When my foot hits the floor, it feels like nails are being jammed into my joints. I lift my hand to knock, but hesitate.

What am I doing here? What is it that I want from this man? He’s messed up beyond comprehension, and for some reason I’m standing on his doorstep. My hand lingers by the door. Thinking swiftly, I decide that I just want to see Sean. I need to know that he’s alive. My knuckles wrap against the wood twice and then I drop my hand to my side.