I couldn’t believe the jerk I’d been lately. I couldn’t believe the way I’d lost myself on the road to success or how I’d let my heartache swallow me whole. I didn’t want to be like this. I didn’t want to be so damn broken, but I couldn’t help it. I was drowning, and my family and friends were trying their hardest to pull me up for air.
Unlike in my dream, they were reaching out. I was simply being too stubborn to give them my hand.
“I’m sorry, you guys, for . . . everything. I’m not doing too great after everything that went down. I’m going to do better and work on getting back on track. I know we have to decide what to do for the music, and you need answers from me on what we should do sooner than later.”
“Take the next day to regroup and focus on yourself, man. Minus the booze, of course,” Eric said. “Then we’ll come back together and take a group vote on it all.”
“Although we’d already have our votes, so realistically, whatever you decide will be vetoed,” Marcus joked. “Really, though, take your time, Ian. We’ll be around seeing our families and stuff. Just give us a call.”
The guys headed out, and I sighed as I rolled my hands over my face. I felt exhausted in all ways—physically, mentally, and emotionally burned out.
When a knock landed on the door, I got up and headed over to find Hazel standing there.
“Why are you knocking on your own door?” I asked.
“It was your door before it was mine.”
I didn’t know what to say to her next, even though there were a million things that I felt needed to be said.
I scratched at the back of my neck. “Don’t worry; I’ll stay in the shed again tonight. You don’t have to worry about me getting in your way.”
“I’m not worried about that. I . . .” Her eyes glazed over, and it appeared as if she, too, had a million things that needed to be said.
Say it, Haze. Fucking say it to me, and I’ll say my words back.
Her rosy lips parted, and I almost leaned in to taste them; then she shut them. Sealed them up tightly and gave me a pathetic smile that wasn’t a smile at all.
Even though her lips turned up, I saw the sadness in the curve.
“I, um, you should probably go check on your grandparents,” she said, shifting her stare away from mine. It was as if looking me in the eyes was too hard for her to do. “They’ve been going through some things and could probably use your company.”
“What kind of things?”
“Just . . . they need you, Ian.”
The way she said those words made my gut tighten with nerves.
“Can I use your truck to get over there?” I asked.
She tossed me the keys. “It’s actually your truck—I’ve just been borrowing it.”
I nodded once before turning away from her and heading toward the car.
I wondered when I’d get to the point where I didn’t want to look back at Hazel in hopes that she was still looking my way.
When I glanced over my shoulder and saw her still staring, I almost smiled. Then I remembered that she’d broken my fucking heart, so I kept my smile to myself.
“Your grandfather went off to clear his head for a little bit. Come on in. I’ll make you a sandwich. You’re looking pretty slim lately.”
“Touring and performing has a way of doing that.”
“Still, you need to eat more. Now, get to the kitchen,” Grams instructed as she waved me inside the house. She slowly moved toward the kitchen, and I followed behind her.
I sat down on the barstool in front of the kitchen island and clasped my hands together. “I’ve never seen him that upset,” I said, speaking about Big Paw.
She nodded as she grabbed items out of the fridge. “He’s been having a tough time lately. And he worries about you after everything that went down with your parents and Hazel. We both do, sweetheart. We worry about your heart.”
I shrugged. “I’m okay.”
“You’re not happy.”
I didn’t reply, because I couldn’t lie to Grams. She could see a lie from a mile away.
“Your dreams are supposed to make you happy,” she commented.
“I think somewhere along the way, the dreams I had shifted into something else.”
“And what are your true dreams? What do you want?”
I grimaced. “I think Hazel is my dream.”
“Okay. Then go out and get her.”
“It’s not that easy, Grams. I can’t have someone who doesn’t want me back.”
“Oh, Ian,” she soothed as she placed two pieces of bread on a plate. “You know well enough that that girl loves you.”
“No. I don’t. She broke up with me, Grams, after the hardest days of my life with seeing my parents. That’s not love.”
“Based on everything you know about Hazel, does that seem out of character of her? For her to do something like that?”
Of course it seemed out of character.
I’d been blindsided by her actions. We’d made love the morning she’d left, and it had felt like the realest, most powerful experience of my life, and then I’d been hit with whiplash as she’d decided that she didn’t want to be with me any longer.