“I’m fine!” I snapped at her.

“You’re not,” she replied, calmly as ever.

“And what exactly do you know about me, Hazel Stone?”

“Everything,” she said so matter-of-factly it made me want to crawl into a ball and cry like a little bitch. She gave me a half smile and shrugged her shoulders. “I know everything, Ian. You’re my best friend.”

“Then why did you leave me?” I asked, sounding desperate. A flash of sadness washed over Hazel’s face. I shook my head and turned in the direction of the house. “Don’t answer that.”

I didn’t need her answer, because it didn’t matter why she’d left me. It only mattered that she’d left—easy as that.

I should’ve learned a long time ago that when people left you behind, it was best that you never asked why. You’d always be disappointed with their reasoning.

The moment I stepped foot into the ranch house, I felt my nerves start to skyrocket. Everyone was sitting in the living room with doomed expressions on their faces, as if they’d lost their best friend, and I couldn’t help but feel ridiculous about their dramatic looks.

“What is this?” I demanded. “Why are you guys holding me hostage here?”

“Don’t come in here with that damn tone, boy. You don’t get to be nasty toward people because they care about your well-being,” Big Paw snapped. “Now bring your butt over here and sit down.”

I wanted to argue with him, but I knew that wouldn’t lead to any place good.

I sat down in the armchair, not happy about it at all. “So. What do you want?”

“We want you to stop acting like a damn stubborn child,” Big Paw hollered.

“Harry, be easy,” Grams said, placing her hand on his knee.

“No. Easy doesn’t work with this blockhead. We need to break through to him. Ian, your bandmates have told me you’ve been drinking each night. Is that true?”


“I’ve had a few drinks,” I murmured, readjusting myself in the chair.

“He’s been wasted every night for more than a month,” Marcus added.

What a fucking asshole. “I’ve done my job,” I said. “I’ve showed up and never missed a show, so what does it matter if I have a drink or two—”

“Or five,” Eric quipped, making the anger grow inside of me.

Who did these people think they were, talking about me like that? I was supposed to be their friend, and this was how they showed their love?

Fuck love and all its twisted fairy tales.

“This isn’t you, Ian,” Grams said in her gentle tones. I’d missed her. I’d slipped up on calling her to check in every week, and seeing her brought that guilt back to me instantly. I hadn’t been a good grandson lately, and I wasn’t that shocked.

I hadn’t been a good person as of late.

“People change, Grams. Maybe this is who I am now.”

“No.” Big Paw shook his head. “This isn’t you, dammit. You aren’t some drunk.”

I shrugged. “My parents weren’t always meth heads, but they changed too. Maybe I just take after my parents a little more than usual.”

“Shut it, you damn idiot!” Big Paw shouted, shooting up from his chair. He paced back and forth, slapping his hands together in anger—or maybe disappointment? Maybe sadness?

When he looked up at me with tears flooding his eyes, my messed-up heart cracked even more. I’d never seen Big Paw cry in all my life, and watching him stand there before me with tears rolling down his cheeks made me want to kick my own ass for being difficult.

“You don’t know what it’s like,” he whispered, his voice cracking. “You don’t know what it feels like knowing you’re losing everything around you. You don’t know what we’ve been going through back here, Ian, and you have the nerve to throw away your life like it doesn’t matter. You’re selfish—just like your parents. You’re goddamn selfish, and you can’t pull your head out of your own ass to see how much your actions are hurting others.”

Grams stood up and walked over to Big Paw. “Harry, calm down . . .”

“No. I’m done. If he wants to be a drunk, then by all means. Die the same miserable way that my father did. But don’t do it here. If you want to ruin yourself, go back to LA, and do it surrounded by people who don’t give a damn about you. I refuse to watch another person I love lose themselves. It was too hard the first time, and I’m tired.” He brushed his tears away and stormed out of the house. Grams chased after him, leaving me with the guys, who all looked guilty as ever.

I scrubbed my hands over my face and released a weighted sigh.

James grimaced. “I’d never seen Big Paw cry,” he muttered.

“Me either,” I replied.

Marcus raked his hands through his hair. “Look, Ian. We weren’t trying to gang up on you bringing you back to Eres. I know you have a lot of shit going on, and I thought being back where we’d fallen in love with music would help. Getting back to our roots. But if you want to go back to LA and record those tracks from Warren Lee, then we’ll do that. Because when we said ‘until forever,’ we didn’t mean until things got messy. We fucking meant until forever. Always. We got your back regardless.”