But could I bring her into this shit? Was that even fair?


Before I could even say anything, she opened the back door on my extended cab and climbed inside. She didn’t ask me or wait to be invited. She was just going. My chest felt full. It was an odd sensation I wasn’t accustomed to.

I wanted to say thanks again, but I couldn’t at the moment. My tight chest was making my throat feel weird. So I climbed into the driver’s seat and got us away from the school parking lot before Rhett did something else stupid.

“We going to your castle?” he asked as he laid his head back on the seat.

“What’s your deal? Do you think I want this? That being our grandfather’s bastard is a good thing? Jesus, Rhett, stop focusing on how this affects you.”

He laughed again, and I really wanted to stop and push him out, then take Willa somewhere alone so I could kiss her again. This time I wasn’t running.

“Isn’t everything always about you?” Rhett snarled.

I had no idea what that meant. I shot him a glare and turned onto the road that led to our house.

“Every time I wanted something, Mother always said no if you couldn’t have the same. So Dad didn’t get it. I missed out on all kinds of shit because of you. Now I know why. The damn money was all yours.”

Gripping the steering wheel tighter, I slammed on the breaks and threw the truck in park.

“My entire life I’ve spent trying to please a man who would never accept me. A man I thought was my father. I was a kid, Rhett, and I wanted my father to love me as much as he loved his other son. Nothing I did was enough. It was cruel. I get it now. It’s unfair but I get it. But don’t dare give me your sob story over some bullshit you wanted and didn’t get because of me. You were given what I never got. Our parents love.”

“They aren’t our parents. We only share a mom.”

Those words would change our relationship forever. I didn’t care that he was drunk. I didn’t care that he was bummed that the fortune he thought was all his wasn’t. The coldness in his tone took something from me. Something that I’d never get back.

“Then he’s lucky. I’d hate to know he had a chance of turning out like you,” Willa said from the backseat.

I glanced up at her in the rearview mirror. I had someone on my side. I didn’t deserve her, but I was thankful I had her.

I Was Messed Up for Life



When I jumped in the back of the truck, I hadn’t thought through what I would do when we got to Gunner’s house. If I went inside to the middle of this firestorm, then Nonna would be furious. I couldn’t upset her; she was all I had.

Sending Gunner inside to face this alone seemed impossible too. As we passed the driveway to Nonna’s house and he didn’t pull in, I knew he was expecting me to go with him to face this mess.

I guess maybe he’d let me live in the tree house if Nonna kicked me out. That was a joke, but still. I might need lodging soon.

Gunner parked in front of his house and turned to Rhett. “Get out,” he ordered, but he didn’t move.

We were doing a drop off. This was much better. I’d get in no trouble for this. Rhett muttered a few curse words, then opened the door to stumble out. “Where’s my car?” he asked, looking around.

“At the school. You’re too drunk to drive. Get it in the morning.” Gunner then turned to look at me. “You want to get up here?”

I unbuckled and climbed over the seat, then closed the door that Rhett had left open. “Are we going back to the dance?” I asked, confused.

Gunner shook his head. “Naw, I can’t deal with that right now. You okay with going somewhere else?”

I was okay with whatever. Gunner needed me, and I enjoyed being with him. I had him back. Being ignored by him the past few days had been hard.

“Sure,” I replied, then felt a twinge of guilt over Asa. I had run off on him. I probably should go back, but something kept me here.

“I wish I could just leave this town and not look back. No parents, no last name, no fucking anything. Just run. You know?”

I understood why he wanted to now, but that wouldn’t be forever. He hadn’t had time to let it all sink in yet. Adjusting to all this was just the beginning for him.

“You did good tonight, dealing with Rhett. If I didn’t know better, I’d have thought you were the oldest.”

Gunner grinned and glanced over at me. “Thanks. That was a first. Normally it’s Rhett getting my ass out of situations. Not me being the levelheaded one about things.”

I didn’t remember much about Rhett other than he was a spoiled elitist back then. I hadn’t known how to describe him when I was a kid, but looking back, I got why I hadn’t cared for him much.

“After the way he’s acted the past week, I wonder if Riley hadn’t been full of shit,” Gunner said, more to himself than to me. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. But I perked up at the mention of Riley’s name.

“Did he and Riley date?” I asked, wondering why she had warned me against them and why she seemed to be hated around here.

“No. Me and Riley dated. Until she blamed Rhett for raping her and getting her pregnant.”

Oh. Wow. Not what I had expected to hear.

“We hadn’t even had sex. She was scared of it, and we were younger. Then she starts saying Rhett raped her and she was pregnant. My parents, or rather Rhett’s parents, made it go away. And her. But still it hung in the air around here for a while. Almost cost Rhett his scholarship. She admitted she’d lied, then left town.”


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