258,660
07.03.2019

Maybe they won’t last. Maybe they’ll break up again. When Kate realizes she deserves better. But I guess that won’t make a difference for me, huh? Not after what I said. Not after I put that look on her face.

Jesus.

I roll off the bed and fall toward the trashcan. I barely make it before I wretch and heave. And anything that was in my stomach isn’t.

And that’s the moment—there on my knees. That’s when I tell myself I have the flu. Because this…this broken wreck can’t really be me.

Not forever.

If I’m just sick, then I can take some aspirin, get some sleep, and I’ll feel better. I’ll be me again. Eventually. But if I admit I’m crushed, if I acknowledge that my heart has been shattered into a thousand f**king shards…then I don’t know when I’ll ever be all right again. Maybe never.

So I get back into bed. To wait it out.

Till I’m over the flu.

Chapter 19

SO THAT’S IT. That’s my story. The rise. The fall. The end. And now—here I am—in this lousy restaurant Alexandra and Matthew dragged me to, where I just finished telling them pretty much the same story I told you.

When I was six, I learned how to ride a bike. Like all kids when they first take the training wheels off, I fell. A lot. Any time it happened, Alexandra was the one who was there. She dusted me off, kissed the scrapes away and convinced me to climb back on. So it’s only natural that I expect my sister to be compassionate about my heartache. Gentle. Sympathetic.

What I get is, “You’re a goddamn idiot, you know that, Drew?”

I bet you were starting to wonder why we call her The Bitch. Well, here you go.

“I’m sorry?”

“Yes, sorry is exactly what you are. Do you have any idea what a mess you’ve made? I always knew you were spoiled and self-centered. Hell, I was one of the people who made you that way. But I never thought you were stupid.”

Huh?

“And I could have sworn you were born with testicles.”

I choke on my drink. And Matthew laughs.

“I’m serious. I distinctly remember changing your diaper and seeing those cute little guys hanging there. What happened to them? Did they shrink? Disappear? Because that’s the only reason I can think of to explain why you would behave like such a pathetic no-balls coward.”

“Jesus Christ, Alexandra!”

“No, I don’t think even He can fix this.”

Defensive anger seeps into my chest. “I really don’t need this right now. Not from you. I’m already down—why the f**k are you kicking me?”

She scoffs, “Because a swift kick in the ass is exactly what you need to pick yourself up. Did you ever even consider that when Kate said they were ‘really good,’ perhaps she meant they were civil? That they had decided to be friends? Part amicably? If you knew half as much about women as you think you do, you’d understand that no woman would want to end a ten-year relationship on bad terms.”

That doesn’t even make any sense. Why would anyone want to be friends with someone they used to be able to f**k and can’t anymore? What would be the frigging point? “No. You’re totally off base.”

She shakes her head. “Regardless, if you had acted like a man instead of a wounded little boy, you would have told her how you felt.”

Now she’s just pissing me off. “Do I look like a f**king a**hole to you? ’Cause I’m not. And there’s no way I’m going to put myself out there and chase after someone who wants to be with somebody else.”

A look washes over Alexandra’s face that I’ve never seen before. At least not directed at me.

It’s disappointment.

“Of course not, Drew. Why should you chase anyone, when you’re so content to let everyone chase you?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means everything has always been easy for you. You’re handsome, intelligent, you have a family who loves you and women who lay down for you like sacrificial lambs. And the one time you have to struggle for something you want—the one time you have to risk your heart for someone who’s finally worth it—what do you do? You give up. You shoot first and ask questions later. You curl up in a ball and wallow in self-pity.”

She shakes her head slightly, and her voice softens. “You didn’t even try, Drew. After all that. You just…threw her away.”

I look down at my drink. My voice is quiet. With remorse.

“I know.”

Don’t think I haven’t thought about it. Don’t think I haven’t regretted my words or lack thereof. Because I have. Bitterly. “I wish…but it’s too late now.”

Matthew finally speaks up. “It’s never too late, man. The game’s not over; it’s just rain delayed.”

I look at him. “Has Delores said anything to you? About Kate and Billy?”

He shakes his head. “Not about them…but she’s had a whole lot to say about you.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean Dee hates your guts. She thinks you’re a scumbag. Seriously, dude, if you were on fire in the street? I don’t think she’d spit on you.”

I roll that information around for a minute. “Maybe she hates me because I f**ked her cousin’s fiancé?”

“Maybe she hates you because you broke her best friend’s heart?”

Yeah. It’s a toss-up. No help there.

“Are you in love with Kate, Drew?”

My eyes meet Alexandra’s. “Yes.”

“Is there a chance that she feels the same way?”

“I think so.” The more I thought about Kate’s words and actions that weekend, the more certain I became that Kate felt something for me. Something real and deep.

At least she did before I shot it all to hell.

“Do you want to be with her?”

“God, yes.”

“Then whether she’s back with her ex or not is irrelevant. The question you need to ask yourself is what are you willing to do—willing to risk—to make this right? To get her back.”

And my answer to that is simple: Anything. Everything. My throat is tight as I confess, “I’d give anything to have Kate back.”

“Then, for God’s sake, fight for her! Tell her.”

As her words sink in, Matthew grips my shoulder. “In times like this, I always ask myself, ‘What would William Wallace do?’” His eyes are serious. Stirring. Then his voice takes on a Scottish accent he doesn’t have. “Aye…run, and you won’t get rejected…but years from now, would you be willin’ to trade all the days from now to then for a chance—just one chance—to go back and tell Kate she can take your balls and hang them from the rearview mirror of her car, but she can never take…your freedom!”

Alexandra rolls her eyes at the Braveheart speech, and I actually laugh. The black cloud that’s been sitting on my shoulders all week long finally starts to lift. In its place is…hope. Confidence. Determination. All the things that make me…me. All the things I’ve been missing since the morning I watched Billy Warren sing.

Matthew smacks me on the back. “Go get her, man. I mean, look at you—what have you got to lose?”

He’s right. Who needs dignity? Pride? They’re overrated. When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing left to lose.

“I have to go see Kate. Right now.”

And if I strike out? At least I’ll go down swinging. If I crash and burn and she grinds my ashes into the dirt with her heel? So be it. But I have to try. Because…

Well, because she’s worth it.

When Alexandra turned sixteen, my parents rented out Six Flags Great Adventure for the day. Excessive? Yes. But that’s one of the perks of a privileged upbringing. It was awesome. No lines, no crowds. Just our family, some business associates, and a hundred and fifty of our closest friends. Anyway, there was this one rollercoaster—the Mind Bender. Frigging insane.

Remember how I said I never ride the same coaster twice? This was the exception.

Matthew, Steven, and I rode it until we puked. Then we climbed back on and rode it again. The first hill was nasty. A long, torturous incline that ended in a four-hundred-foot vertical drop—straight freaking down. No matter how many times we rode that bad boy—every time we climbed that first hill—it felt the same. My palms got sweaty, my stomach turned over. It was the perfect combination of excitement and dread.

And that’s exactly how I feel right now.

See me there? The guy jogging through Times Square.

Just the thought of seeing Kate again…I’m pumped about it, I won’t lie. But I’m nervous too. Because I have no idea what’s on the other side of this hill, how far the drop might be for me.

No sympathy, huh? Tough crowd. You think I got what I deserved? Maybe I still deserve worse?

It’s a compelling argument. I f**ked up. No question about it. It was a slump—all the greats have them. But those days are over now. I’m off the bench and back in the game.

I just hope Kate will give me another chance at bat.

Panting from the seven-block sprint, I nod my head in greeting to the security guard and make my way through the empty lobby. I use the brief elevator ride up to catch my breath and practice what I’m going to say. Then I step out onto the fortieth floor.

There’s only one place Kate Brooks would be at ten thirty on a Monday night. And that’s right here, where it all started. The offices are dark. It’s quiet, except for the music coming from her office. I walk down the hall and stop outside her closed door.

Then I see her. Through the glass.

Christ Almighty.

She’s sitting at her desk, staring at the computer screen. She’s biting her lip in that way that brings me to my f**king knees. Her hair is pulled back, exposing every flawless feature on her face. I’ve missed looking at her. You have no idea. It feels like…like I’ve been underwater, holding my breath. And now I can finally breathe again.

She looks up. And her eyes meet mine.

See how she stares for a few seconds longer than necessary? How her head tilts to the side, and her eyes squint? Like she doesn’t quite believe what she’s seeing.

She’s surprised. Then the surprise morphs into distaste. Like she just ate something rotten. And that’s when I know. When I’m certain of what you’ve probably already figured out. That I am a complete f**king idiot.

She didn’t take Warren back. There’s no way.

If she had? If our weekend had meant nothing to her? If I meant nothing? She wouldn’t be looking at me like I’m the goddamn devil. She wouldn’t be affected at all. It’s simple guy logic: If a woman is angry? It means she cares. If you’re in a relationship and a chick can’t even be bothered to yell at you? You’re screwed. Indifference is a woman’s kiss of death. It’s the equivalent of a man not interested in sex. In either case—it’s over. You’re done.

So, if Kate is upset, it’s because I hurt her. And the only reason I was able to do that is because she wanted to be with me.

❮❯