He stood from where he’d been sitting at one of the outdoor tables and his wide smile had the weight on my chest pressing down. I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t crush him this way. Tears pricked the back of my eyes and I blinked quickly, trying to hold them off. Turning my head so I wouldn’t see his face, I saw where Blake was parked, watching. Just as he said he would.

“Hey, did you get all your classes dropped?” Kash started to pull me into his arms, but I put my hands against his chest and pushed back. “Rach, what’s wrong?”

“We, uh—we n-need to . . . we need to talk, Logan.”

His head jerked back, and while he let me push him back, he kept his hands on my upper arms. His brow wrinkled as his eyes searched my face.

“Um . . .”

“Rachel, what is going on? Talk to me. Did something happen with Candice? With Blake?”

I inhaled sharply but shook my head and tried to put more distance between us; his hands kept me where I was. “No. Nothing about them.” It had everything to do with them. “Look, Logan—”

“Why the fuck are you calling me Logan right now?”

“I’m sorry, so sorry to be doing this to you . . .” A short sob rose from my throat and I tried to hold it together as I removed my hands from his chest and grabbed my engagement ring, tugging it slowly off my finger.

Kash’s eyes went wide and his face fell. “Rachel,” he whispered, and the tears that had been threatening their release finally spilled down my cheeks at the heartbreak in that one word.

“. . . but I can’t marry you.”



“I don’t love you, Logan.”

He took a stumbling step away from me and another sob tore through me as I held the ring up to him. “You’re—you’re lying.” His eyes turned glassy and I had to look down at my feet. “Why are you doing this?”

“Please, Logan, don’t make this harder than it has to be. Just take the ring back. I don’t want it, I don’t want you.” I cried the last words and took a step toward him, pushing the ring against his chest.

His hand came up to wrap around mine, but I dropped the ring into his palm and jerked my hand away. “Babe, you—I don’t—just yesterday you begged me to go elope! If this is because I said no, babe, we’ll do it. Whatever you want, we’ll do it. If you don’t want the wedding with your friends and Candice’s family, I’ll marry you today. But I don’t understand! We were fine when I left with Mase a couple hours ago, and now you want to call off our engagement?”

My vision started blurring and it had nothing to do with the tears that wouldn’t stop. I thought about George’s car exploding right before my eyes. I thought about Blake’s threats to kill his aunt and uncle first. I worked at breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth as I turned and began walking away.

“Rachel!” He grabbed my hand and I whirled on him, my voice rising in my near-hysteria.

“I don’t want you, Logan! I’ve never wanted you! Can’t you understand that? You were fun. That’s it. You were dangerous, and new, and it was what I needed at the time. But all you’re good for is a good time. I’m sorry I got caught up in the whole marriage thing, but at least I’m doing this before we go through with it!”

He recoiled like I’d slapped him and dropped my hand. A single tear fell down his cheek and he shook his head slowly back and forth as he continued to retreat from me.

Everything in me screamed to run into his arms, to take back all I’d said. But I needed to keep the only family I had left safe. And though he might never understand it, I needed to keep Kash safe too. Forcing myself away, I put my head down and walked quickly to my car. As soon as I was in, the roar of his motorcycle starting up and speeding out of the parking lot had the weight finally crashing in on me and I slumped against the steering wheel as sobs overtook my body.

I was still sitting in the parking lot an hour later. My sobs had run their course, and all that was left was a steady stream of tears. I felt hollow. It didn’t matter that I had just broken his heart or that I’d done it for him. I would never again get to enjoy being in his arms, feeling his lips on mine, or waking up with his tattooed arm curled tight around my waist. Knowing I’d just lost the most important person in my life had shattered me, and I didn’t know how to begin to cope with that.

My phone chimed and I frantically looked through my purse, praying it was Kash.


You’re done being upset about this, sweetheart. Now, go back to your apartment and pack a bag before Candice gets back. You’re staying with me this weekend.

I hate you.


We’ll work on that.


Drive. Now.

Dropping my phone in one of my cup holders, I slowly went through the process of putting on my seat belt, cranking the engine, and backing out of my parking space. My tears never stopped, and a few times I had trouble seeing the road, but ten minutes later I was pulling into the complex. My breath caught when I saw Kash’s motorcycle and truck there. He was home. Would he try to talk to me? Hope blossomed in my chest and I prayed that he would, that he would demand to know what had changed in me all of a sudden.

I’d barely pulled into my spot when my phone was chiming again.


My guy is trailing Candice’s parents right now. Don’t even think about it.

What the hell? How can he even possibly know what I’m thinking? Blake had followed me as far as the street I lived off of, and then turned around. I quickly looked around until my eyes fell on a green Explorer. So this is the man that has been watching me? Wiping hastily at my cheeks, I took three deep breaths and got out of my car, giving Blake’s creepy guy my best glare before heading to my apartment.

While I knew I needed to keep Kash away, it still hurt that he didn’t once come by while I was in there packing. I knew he knew I was there. The fact that Mason was standing at their window shooting daggers at me when I let myself into our unit left no doubt that Kash knew.

Just as I was pulling my duffel bag into the living room, a knock came from the door and I shot toward it. Opening it wide, a small sound of surprise escaped my mouth and I instinctively began to shut the door when I saw Blake was standing there. His hand held the door open and his eyes narrowed as he felt the pressure.

“If you make this look like anything other than me taking my girl for a weekend with me, you won’t like the consequences.”

I immediately stopped pushing and stood aside as he walked in. My shoulders hunched and as soon as the door was shut, I shakily asked, “Are they still okay? Candice’s parents, they’re still okay . . . right?” I wanted to ask about Eli, but he hadn’t mentioned him today, and I was afraid if I brought him up, it would give Blake a reason to have someone follow him.

“For now. Write a note to Candice saying you’ll be back Monday. And for God’s sake, Rachel, hurry the fuck up. You wasted enough time, she’s already on her way back here.”

My hand froze from searching for paper and a pen in one of the kitchen drawers, and I slowly looked up at him. “H-how do you know that?”

Blake smirked. “You really thought I only had someone trailing her parents and you, sweetheart? That’s cute.” He huffed, “Hurry.”

“How do you even have these people, Blake? These guys working for you, ready to—ready to . . . You’re a monster, do you realize that? You’re doing all of this for me, but you’ll never have me! Why don’t you get that?!”

He stalked toward me and pulled me away from the counter, shoving me roughly against the refrigerator. With one hand clasping both of mine in front of me and the other arm pressed hard against my chest, he looked straight into my eyes for tense, silent moments before letting go and finding a pen and paper himself. Laying them on the counter in front of him, he leaned casually against it and read every word I wrote to Candice.

When he was satisfied, he grabbed one of my hands and led me toward my bag, which I’d dropped in the living room on my way to answer the door. After he picked it up and pulled the strap over his shoulder, he yanked me toward him, his lips going to my neck, then my ear.

“It’s a safe bet we’ll have an audience, since the cousin saw me walk in here. When we leave, you will have your arm around me and you will lean into me. You won’t look scared or upset, and if anyone approaches you, you won’t say anything. Understand, Rachel?”

I sighed in defeat, and my head shook once before he grabbed my chin roughly. It was already sore from the numerous times he’d done it that morning, and I knew I would have bruises there soon.

“Unless you want another show like you got this morning”—he paused and smiled when I inhaled audibly—“you will tell me you understand and you will make this look believable.” Blake kissed me deceptively softly and murmured against my lips, “Go on, sweetheart; say it again. I know you’re thinking it. I’m a monster.” He kissed me again once, then brushed his lips across mine, his grip on my chin never loosening. “But like I said, we’ll work on your feelings. Now, do as I said.”

I nodded and blinked back tears. I was shaking so hard, I didn’t know how I was still standing. But figuring Blake would be upset, or just carry me out of there if I fell to the ground like my legs were threatening to make me do, I took another deep breath in and resolved to do this for the Jenkinses and Kash.

We walked outside, and Blake kept one hand on my hip as I turned to lock the door. When I faced forward, he pulled me close to his side with his arm now hanging over my shoulders, and it was then I heard the door across from ours open. Kash stepped out, his eyes glassy and red, his jaw tight as he mashed his lips together. My heart ached something fierce, but I forced my arm around Blake’s waist and let my weight fall into his side.

Just as Blake started walking us toward the parking lot, I heard Kash’s strained voice. “What the fuck did you do to her? She hates you, she’s terrified of you! What did you do to her?”

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