“I hope so. You’re a good kid, Hazel. Don’t forget that.”

I smiled and turned to leave his office as my heart felt full from Big Paw’s compliment. He called out to me.

“Wait, Hazel, two more things before you go.”


“Your letters to your mother . . . keep writing them. She’s reading them. She just feels as if your life is better off without her and her sins, but those letters . . . I think they are helping her stay clear minded. Keep that up.”

“Will do. And the other thing?”

His brows knotted as he clasped his hands together. “My grandson, Ian . . . you care about him?”

“Yes, sir—Big Paw.”

“Do me a favor, and do your best to not hurt him. It took him years to open up again after his parents left him, and I know that has a lot to do with you coming into his life. If you’re in, stay in with him. I don’t think he could handle another loss.”

I gave him my word. The truth was the idea of things not working out with Ian—whatever it was that we were—terrified me. For the first time in my life, I felt as if someone had really been able to see my scars and still tag them as beautiful. Whenever I thought of Ian, my heart did cartwheels. The last thing I’d ever do was risk our happily ever after.

The busier I kept on the ranch, the less I had time to think about Ian no longer holding me each night. I kept sleeping in his hoodies, though, wishing it was his skin against my skin. Plus, he’d left his truck for me to use, which came in handy for when I needed to drive around to clear my head.

As promised, we talked every morning. Even with the two-hour time difference and Ian’s insane recording schedule, he managed to fit in good-morning conversations and good-night talks.

We texted all day, every day too. I was certain his life had been a whirlwind. The group was getting more and more coverage. They’d officially released their first EP, which had three of their songs on it, and it was very well received.

I’d only followed five accounts on Instagram. Each of the guys and their main Wreckage page. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t open and close the app a million times hoping for updates.

“So Rihanna is as amazing in person as she seems to be, and the rumors are true. She smells fucking amazing,” Ian exclaimed late one night as I was curled in bed. It was already past two in the morning my time, a little after midnight for him. The guys had a crazy schedule of radio interviews and TV appearances for their upcoming new single. They’d been going nonstop until late in the evenings.

I laughed. “You should’ve asked her if I could get some of her new Fenty eyeliner. I’ve been dying to try it.”

“You should’ve let me know earlier. I would’ve!”

I snickered. “And how again did you come across Rihanna?”

“We were leaving a recording studio as she was walking in for a meeting. Sure, she probably had no clue who we were, but she said hi. Hazel, let that settle in. Rihanna said hi to us. Things are getting wild.”

I covered my mouth to yawn and turned the phone away from me so Ian wouldn’t hear the sleepiness in my voice. Every time he heard me yawn, he quickened our calls.

“It looked like you had quite the groupies show up to the radio station. I saw the picture Marcus put up.”

“It’s crazy, right? Who would’ve ever thought these small-town boys would get that much attention. There were hundreds of people out there screaming our names.”

“Just don’t forget I screamed your name first,” I joked.

“I can’t wait to hear you scream it again. I want you to get so loud that all of the US hears you.”

I smirked, thinking about how when we made love, I had to cover my mouth with a pillow. Then a strange ting of nerves settled into my stomach. “Looks like a lot of female fans.”

“Yeah. Marcus and Eric are eating up the attention.” He took a beat. “You’re not . . . jealous, are you?”

I knew I didn’t have the right to be. I knew I didn’t need to be jealous. If anything, I trusted Ian. What I didn’t trust was rabid fans who couldn’t care less about the private life Ian had back home. To them, he was Ian Parker, the up-and-coming rock star who oozed sex appeal like a flowing river. But to me, he was my Ian. The small-town boy who spent his days shoveling manure with me and his nights performing in a barn house.

“You have nothing to be worried about, Hazel. I mean it. Sure, there are a lot of girls around, but all I really think about is how I want a break in my schedule to be back beside you. Our publicist is pretty hell bent on us going nonstop for the next few months, because we are up and coming. Max is getting down on us pretty hard about being one hundred percent committed to the music and the music only. No outside distractions. He said if he catches me on my phone in the studio one more time, he’s going to break it.”

I bit my bottom lip. “I hope I’m not distracting you. I’ll make sure not to text as much.”

“No. Please. Text me everything, all the things. It might take me a while to reply. But I will reply, Haze. I swear. I want to hear from you. You’re kind of my compass. I don’t want to lose myself in this world. You’re my road map home.”

I smiled at his words and pulled his hoodie to my nose to breathe it in. I’d been spraying it with his cologne every now and again. Jeez . . . I was addicted.