I’m dying. Each horrible word cuts into me like a blade slicing skin. Can you see the blood? Oozing slowly with every atrocious syllable. Drawing it out, making it more painful than it ever needed to be.

You look surprised. You shouldn’t be.

Drew Evans doesn’t burn bridges. he sets dy***ite to them.

Decimating the bridge, the mountains it connects, and any other living thing unlucky enough to be within a fifty-mile radius.

Drew never does anything halfway. Why should destroying me be any different?

I turn to walk down the hall before I crumble in front of him like an Egyptian pyramid.

But he grabs my arm. “Where are you going, Kate? Stick around—maybe you can learn a new trick.”

You know how someone’s personality can make him more attractive? Like that kid in high school who, despite the lack of muscle tone and the case of mild acne, was able to run with the popular crowd? Because he told the funniest jokes and had the best stories.

I wish I could tell you it worked in reverse. I wish I could say that Drew’s words magically transformed his face into the monstrosity he sounds like.

But I can’t.

Look at him.

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I imagine this is what Lucifer looked like when God tossed him out of heaven. Bitter and broken.

But still so achingly beautiful.

I pull my arm free. And my voice is high-pitched, almost hysterical. “Don’t touch me! Don’t you ever f**king touch me again!”

he smiles slowly, the very picture of serenity. he wipes his hand on his pants, like he just handled something dirty.

“That really won’t be a problem for me.”

I’m going to be sick. I’m going to throw up all over his black Bruno Magli shoes.

And it’s got nothing to do with the pregnancy.

I go down the hall, forcing myself to walk. Because I refuse to let Drew see me run from him.

I barely make it to the bathroom in time.

I drop to my knees and hold on to the toilet for dear life. A nail breaks and my knuckles turn white. My stomach contracts and I heave violently. Blood pounds in my ears and acid burns my throat.

I cough and I sob, but my eyes are dry. There are no tears.

Not yet. That part comes later.

how can he do this? he told me he wouldn’t . . . and I trusted him. When he said he loved me. When he promised he’d never hurt me.

I believed him.

We never talked about having kids. We never talked about not having them either. But if I had known he’d be this way, I would have been more careful. I would have . . .

God.

Listen to me. My boyfriend is in the living room with another woman on his lap, and I’m sitting here thinking of all the things I could have done to keep it from happening?

And I called Drew pathetic.

When there’s nothing left in my stomach, I pull myself up to the sink and look in the mirror. Splotchy cheeks and dull redrimmed eyes stare back at me from a face I don’t recognize.

I douse my face with cold water, over and over. Drew may have ripped me apart—turned me into a quivering mass of shame and self-recrimination—but it’ll be a cold day in hell before I let him see that.

I stumble to the bedroom, grab a duffel bag out of the closet, and blindly fill it with the first things my hands touch. I have to get away. From him. From everything that reminds me of him.

I know what you’re thinking. “Your career, everything you’ve worked for—you’re throwing it all away.”

And you’re right—I am. But none of that matters anymore.

It’s like . . . like those poor people who jumped from the towers on September eleventh. They knew it wouldn’t save them, but the fire was too hot and they had to do something, anything, to get away from the pain.

I zip the bag shut and put it on my shoulder. Then I brace my hand against the door and I breathe. Once. Twice. Three times.

I can do this. I just have to make it to the door. It’s only a dozen steps away.

I walk down the hall.

Drew is sitting on the couch, legs spread, eyes on the dancing woman swaying in front of him, the bottle of Jack beside him. I focus on his face. And for just a moment, I let myself remember.

Grieve.

I see his smile—that first night in the bar—so boyishly charming. I feel his lips, his touch, the first night we made love, here, in this apartment. All heat and need. I relive every tender word, every loving moment since then.

And I lock it all away.

In a box of steel, banished to the farthest corner of my mind.

To be opened later. When I’m able to fall apart.

I step into the room and stop just a few feet from the couch.

Redhead dances on, but I don’t look at her. My eyes never leave Drew’s face.

My voice is raw. Scratchy. But surprisingly resolute.

“I’m done. With you, with all of this. Don’t track me down a week from now and tell me you’re sorry. Do not call me and say you’ve changed your mind. We. Are. Over. And I never want to see you again.”

how many parents have told their teenagers that they’re grounded forever? how many teenagers have responded that they’ll never speak to them again?

Over. Forever. Never.

Such big words. So final.

So hollow.

We don’t really mean them. They’re just things you say when you’re looking for a reaction. Begging for a response. The truth is, if Drew came to me tomorrow or next month, or six months from now, and told me he’d made a mistake? That he wanted me back?

I’d take him back in a heartbeat.

So do you see now what I was saying before? I’m not a strong woman.

I’m just really good at acting like one.

Drew’s voice is blunt. “Sounds good.” he toasts me with the bottle. “have a rotten f**king life, Kate. And lock the door on your way out—I don’t want any more interruptions.”

I want to tell you he hesitated. That there was a hint of regret on his face or a shadow of sadness in his eyes. I would stay if there was.

But his face is blank. Lifeless—like a dark-haired Ken doll.

And I want to scream. I want to shake him and slap him and smash things. I want to, but I don’t. Because if you try and hit a brick wall? All you’ll get is a broken hand.

So I pick up my bag and lift my chin. And then I walk out the door.

Chapter 7

The defining characteristic of a Type-A personality is having goals and having the strategies to achieve those goals. I’m most definitely a Type A.

Planning is my religion; the To-Do List is my bible.

But as I reach the middle of the lobby of the building that has been my home for the last two years, I freeze. Because for the first time in my life, I have no idea what to do next. No direction.