“Don’t,” he begged, shaking his head. “Don’t say it.”

“Ian. We can’t do this anymore. I can’t be yours, and you can’t be mine.”

“You’re running away before you even give us a fair chance. I know things have been crazy lately, and I know we haven’t found our footing yet, but we just need more time.”

“You’re right. We need time to let go of the idea of us. You’re an amazing person, Ian Parker, and you have so many outstanding things coming your way. But I refuse to be the girl who gets in the way of your dreams. I know you say I won’t, but I know I will. Especially with Rosie. So I’m ending this. I’m breaking up with you because I care too much about you to keep this going.”

“You promised,” he said, shaking his head in disbelief. “You promised you wouldn’t leave. You promised you wouldn’t abandon me.”

That felt like a knife to my soul. I knew of his struggles. I knew how he feared being left behind, but what choice did I have? I couldn’t be with him, because not only did it put his family’s ranch in danger, but it put Rosie in harm’s way, and I couldn’t let anything happen to her. I couldn’t let her get hurt because I selfishly wanted to be with Ian.

I didn’t respond to his comment, and that was the hardest thing I’d ever had to do, because I wasn’t trying to abandon him. If I had a say in the matter, I’d easily love him forever.

He lowered his head. “I want to push you, but it feels like you’ve already made up your mind.”

“I have, and I’m sorry. It’s better this way. I know you can’t see it right now, but it truly is better. I am so sorry for hurting you, but it’s better to do it now than years down the line.”

Tears flooded my eyes, but I did my best to blink them away. I didn’t want to cry, because I was certain he’d want to wipe my tears away.

I saw the moment it happened, the moment his shell began to harden. His eyes flashed with that same hatred he’d held for me when we first met. His jaw clenched, and he stuffed his hands into his jeans pockets . . .

“Ian . . . I’m sorry, please don’t . . .”

Hate me.

Please don’t hate me.

“Keep the damn house. Keep the job. Keep everything, Hazel. But I don’t want to hear from you again.”

He didn’t say another word. As he began to walk away, my mind started spinning as panic began to settle in my gut. He was leaving, he was hurting, and he was building up his wall again—all because of me. “Ian, wait.”

He looked back toward me, and a flash of hope moved across his eyes.

I swallowed hard. “Maybe we can still be friends?”

“Friends?” The hope sizzled from his irises, and his stare became stone cold. “Fuck you and your friendship, Hazel Stone.”



Maybe we can still be friends.

Was she fucking joking? Those words felt like the biggest slap in the face after everything we’d been through.

She hadn’t even tried to find a middle ground for our love. She hadn’t given me a chance to showcase how things could’ve worked. She’d simply cut the cord and left without even trying. It had been weeks since Hazel had called it quits for us, but she’d reached out and kept saying she hoped we could be friends like before.

Yeah, fucking right.

I didn’t know how to be her friend anymore, and I didn’t want to be her friend. I wanted to be her forever.

At least, I’d thought I did when I’d thought I knew who the hell she was. It turned out she was nothing worth chasing. She’d abandoned me, because that was what people did. They fucking left.

I sat in the airport, waiting to board the plane to our next show. I kept flipping through Hazel’s Instagram, where she had pictures of her and Rosie grinning ear to ear. I didn’t know why I kept scrolling through the photographs, looking at them all as if it weren’t killing me every single second, but I couldn’t stop myself.

She looked happy.

How had she looked so happy after ripping my fucking heart out and stomping it into the ground?

I didn’t understand. I’d thought we had something real, something that we both craved from this world—real love.

But maybe I’d been dreaming. Maybe there wasn’t anything real about us. Maybe we were just a temporary love story.

I should’ve known. All good things had a way of leaving.

“You all right, man?” James asked as he nudged me in the arm.

I shut off my phone and slid it into my pocket. “Yeah. I’m good.”

He frowned, knowing better than to believe me. “You know, I don’t think Hazel did what she did out of not having feelings for you. I think she honestly was trying to protect you.”

I huffed. “Protect me from what?”

“From you giving up your biggest dream to have her in your life.”

“I wouldn’t have given up my dream. I’ve been doing it, haven’t I? I’ve been showing up and performing and putting one hundred percent into this music, James. So fuck that excuse. I’m not buying it. I even invited her out here with Rosie to join us. I went out of my way to bring them into our world.”

“Yeah, I know, but you can’t believe that’s for the best. Not really.”