top of page
Reading Order Guide Square.png

Circle of Trust


One of my favorite things about this scene is getting to write one of my best friends as Ruthie's. One day we will get this girl's story. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the moments of Ruthie as a teen.




My foot is heavy and quick, pushing off the pavement as I coast down the backroad leading to my house. A slight breeze hits my smiling face, offering me little reprieve from the stifling heat.


There’s nothing better than this. Skateboarding down the open road, earbuds in, and Pink’s “Just Like a Pill” roaring in my ears. My fist pumps through the air as I belt out the lyrics, losing myself in the freedom of this moment.


Unfortunately, my euphoria is short-lived and comes to a screeching halt when I feel something creeping up behind me. Or rather someone…


Uh oh.


Having a pretty good idea who it is, I drop my foot, bringing myself to a stop then turn around to find the Big Guy driving up behind me in his black truck, looking madder than hell.


I wince at his hard expression, knowing I’m in major shit. Despite my anxious heart, I paste a smile on my face, kick my skateboard up into my hand, and walk over to the passenger’s side door where the window is rolled down. “Hey, Big Guy, what’s up?”


“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he snaps, giving me his usual surly tone.


“Skateboarding home from school,” I answer like the smart ass I am. “I wanted the fresh air and exercise. They say that’s good for us lazy teenagers.”

He’s not the least bit amused. “We talked about this, Ruthie. I don’t want you skateboarding on this road. It’s too dangerous.”


“Don’t worry. I take all the necessary safety precautions.”


The assurance doesn’t ease his worry, his jaw flexing prominently. “Get in the truck.”


Rolling my eyes, I open the door and climb inside. Before fastening my seatbelt, I lean over and kiss his angry cheek. “Nice to see you too. Did you have a good day?”


“It was great until I found my daughter skateboarding down the middle of a deserted road, singing her head off without a care in the world.”


I chuckle, imagining how horrid I sounded. The talent genes missed me in my family and went all to my brother. Mia inherited hers from Faith. I might not be good at singing but it doesn’t stop me from doing it, at least when I’m alone. I love it and it has also helped me with my stutter. Speech is something I’ve struggled with since a child. It’s nice when I can string several words along without struggling, even if I sound awful doing it.


“I can’t help it,” I say, resting back in my seat. “I’m a free spirit. I live for this kind of stuff.”


“You can be a free spirit at the damn park I built you at home,” he grumbles.


My heart warms as I think about the awesome skateboard park he built me a few years ago for Christmas. He might be overprotective and gets pissy from time to time but he’s the best dad ever. I have no idea what I would do without him or Faith.


“Never again. I promise.” Toeing off my Converse’s and socks, I stick my hot smelly feet out the window, needing to air them out. “You might want to hold your breath for this one, Big Guy. It’s been a long day.”


He shakes his head but I don’t miss the twitch of his lips.


Reaching into my bag next to me, I pull out one of the many Cherry Lollipops I keep in the side pocket and offer one to my dad, who declines. Shrugging, I pull the wrapper off and stick it in my mouth. Just then a text comes through on my phone from my friend Jodi.


Jude: “Happy tits off Friday. I’m just leaving the house. Be there soon.”


I chuckle at the quirky greeting and shoot a text back, telling her I’ll see her soon.  “Just so you know Jasper and Jodi are spending the night tonight,” I tell him, mumbling past the stick of hard candy.


“Who’s Jodi?”


“The foreign exchange student I told you about.”


She moved here from London for her senior year and the girl is a total trip. She’s quirky, brash, and could probably even outswear the big guy here. She doesn’t look the part of a misfit but she sure does fit in with two of the biggest ones— Jasper and me. The three of us have been inseparable for the last few weeks. So far my senior year is shaping up to be the best one yet.


“Jasper isn’t sleeping with you girls,” he says.


I glance over at him, frowning. “Of course he is. Where else would he sleep?”


His head snaps to the side, hard eyes pinning me in place. “He can sleep anywhere he wants just not with you. Not in my house.”


“Dad, he’s gay. If either one of us should be worried about being hit on by Jasper it’s you.” I snicker as I think about the remarks Jasper always makes about the men in my family, especially my brother. He has the major hots for Christopher.


He grunts, not finding it as amusing as I do.


“Come on. His dad’s in town and he’s been giving him a hard time. He needs a break.”


Anger tightens his expression, the same one that heats my blood whenever I think about what an asshole his father is. He constantly harps on Jasper about everything. His son has never been good enough in his eyes.


Thankfully he works out of town a lot so Jasper is spared from his wrath most of the time. Usually, he gets to sit in the lap of luxury at his mansion, playing video games while servants wait on him, something I also enjoy when going over there. When his dad is home though, that’s when we hang out at my house.


“It’s not a sleepover if he can’t sleep with us,” I argue. “Please?”


He side glances me, his resolve slipping. “Fine but your door stays open!”


“Yes, sir.” I salute.


“What time are they coming?”


“Soon. Our plan is to veg out and watch horror movies all night.”


It’s a typical Friday night for Jasper and me and it turns out Jodi is as big as a horror movie buff as we are.


“Have you heard from Faith today?” I ask, just as we pull up to the house.


She and Mia are in North Carolina at a horse riding camp which also happens to be a bible study. Probably another reason why the big guy is more moodier than usual. He’s come a long way when it comes to his jaded feelings on religion but being away from anyone in his family drives him crazy. He always has to be near us, watching over us, even more so Mia but that’s a story for another time. Besides, Papa Joshua is there, probably the only reason he agreed to let them go.


“I spoke to them earlier,” he answers, “they both said to say hi and they love you.”


“Got that text this morning,” I tell him, making a loud popping sound with my sucker.


The smile he shoots me is my favorite one. I love it when I can evoke that from him. It’s not easy to do. “Go clean your room, I have some things to do in the barn.”


“On it. Thanks for the ride,” I say before jumping out.


He grunts, knowing he didn’t give me much of a choice.


Heading inside, I run upstairs to my room and cringe at the disastrous state. I hadn’t realized it was this bad. I couldn’t find my beanie this morning and panicked in my search, tearing the whole room upside down. Can’t go anywhere without the beanie. Thankfully it was under my pillow. Must have fallen asleep with it on again.


Regardless of the disarray, I manage to get it cleaned up just before a knock sounds on my door. Out of breath, I descend the stairs with a pep in my step, excited for the coming night, and open the door to Jodi.


“Fuckin’ hell,” she curses, blowing a stray of bleached blonde hair out of her sweaty face. “I knew you said you lived in the country but it was a bloody mission to get here.” Her British accent is thick as she steps into the blast of cool air. “But hey, I’m here now.” She wraps me in a hug, her heavy bags knocking into me. “Let horror movie night commence.”


“I can’t wait. Jasper should be here soon then we can order the pizza.”


“Ruthie,” Cade calls from the back door.


“In here!” I reply, smiling at Jodi. “Time to meet the Big Guy.”


She knows a little about my family but has yet to meet any of them.


“I’m heading to your brothers. If you need anything…” the sentence is left unfinished as he walks out of the kitchen, coming to a stop. “I didn’t realize your friend was here.”


A loud bang ensues, Jodi’s bags dropping to the floor with a heavy thud. I look back to find her attention riveted on Cade. Mouth slightly parted, she blinks several times, awestruck.


I smirk, used to the reaction from pretty much every female who has ever met my dad.


“Dad, this is my friend Jodi,” I start, making the introduction. “Jodi, this is my dad, Cade Walker.”


He steps up, extending his hand to her. “Nice to meet you.”


She blinks down at his hand for several seconds before slowly taking it, her eyes lifting back to his. Her mouth moves but no words come out.


His gaze reverts to mine as he tries to figure out what’s happening.


I smother a laugh and shrug.


Clearing his throat, he makes the effort to release his hand from hers but she doesn’t let go, not until he pulls hard enough, making her slightly stumble.


“You were in the middle of telling me something,” I remind him, breaking up the awkward moment as I fight to not break into laughter.


“Right. I just wanted to let you know I’m going over to Christopher’s. Call if you need anything otherwise, I’ll be back in an hour or so.”


“Sounds good. Kiss my sweet little nephew and rub Alissa’s baby bump for me.”


He grunts as he turns his back on us. “Yeah, I’ll get right on that.”


The sarcastic response follows him out of the room, assuring me he will do no such thing. Well, maybe hug little Billy. Kinda hard not to. My nephew is the most precious dude ever and he loves the big guy as much as the rest of us.


I can’t wait for my niece to be born and join the family. Won’t be long now and she’ll be as spoiled as Billy.


“What the fuck was that?” Jodi snaps harshly, knocking me from my thoughts.


“What was what?”


“That hot fucking meat you call a dad, that’s what! How could you not tell me?”


“I told you that I had a dad.”


“That bloke!” She pronounces heavily, pointing toward the kitchen. “Is not a dad. Dad’s have beer bellies and bastard hair. Not hard bodies with tattoos and striking faces that girls dream about muff diving them.”


“Ew. Stop,” I laugh, my stomach rebelling at the image she paints.


“They are also much older,” she continues. “He is old enough to be your brother. Not your father.”


“He’s not that young,” I argue, “besides he’s my stepdad. I told you that.”


That term is used loosely because he will always be so much more than that to me.


“Yeah, well you’re about to get yourself a stepmom and we’re going to be the best of friends.”


I burst into laughter, but her face remains serious. “Sorry to bust your bubble but I already have a step mom and he’s madly in love with her.


Unfortunately, you won’t get to meet Faith this time because she’s out of town with my little sister. But trust me, you’ll love her too.”


She groans, disappointment crushing her face. “Just my luck, finally find a bloke I don’t hate and he’s taken.”


Shaking my head, I reach down and grab her bags before snagging her wrist and dragging her behind me. “Come on, lover girl. We’ll set up while we wait for Jasper.”


She grumbles all the way up the stairs, mumbling things to herself that I probably don’t want to hear anyway. Eventually, she snaps out of it and helps me set up. Despite me having a big bed we create a makeshift one on the floor, stacked with pillows and blankets big enough for us all.


With still no sign of Jasper after we finish, we order the pizza and eventually start a movie. As time wears on with still no word from Jasper, I become more concerned, especially when we get no response to our text messages.


“Maybe try his house,” Jodi suggests.


I always avoid calling there when his dad’s home. Ever since I saved Jasper our junior year from Butch and his bullies, his dad has disapproved of our friendship. On top of the fact that a girl saved his son, he thinks I’m a bad influence. Good thing Jasper has never cared what his father thinks because I’d be lost without him and his friendship.


Shoving aside my anxious thoughts, I pick up my cell to call his house only to have it vibrate in my hand with a text. Hope flares when I see his nickname flash across the screen.


“It’s him,” I relay to Jodi before swiping open the message.


She leans over to read the screen with me.


Fancy boy: Sorry I’m late.


Me: Where are you? 


Fancy boy: Just pulled up to your house.


Jodi and I frown at each other before climbing to our feet and moving to my bedroom window. Sure enough, I see his sports car parked on the driveway with him sitting inside.


Me: What are you doing out there? Get in here.


Fancy boy: Is Cade home?


The question confuses me, wondering why he would care either way. Before I can voice that the phone vibrates again with another message.

Fancy boy: I don’t want him to see me right now…


The words on the screen further spike my worry.


Me: No. He’s at Christopher’s. What’s going on, Jasper?


Fancy boy: I’ll be right up.


I throw my phone down, concern propelling me forward as I head for my door with the intention of meeting him downstairs. Jodi is right on my heels but before we descend the steps Jasper is already on his way up.


He bypasses us in a blur as he enters my room. It isn’t until he steps into the dim light that I see he has a busted lip and a swollen cheek. Both Jodi and I gasp at the sight.


“What happened to you?” I question, gently reaching out to touch his wound.


“Got into one shit storm of a fight with my father,” he relays, voice strangled with emotion.


Anger and fear travel through me.


“Your father did this to you?” Jodi says in disbelief.


I, on the other hand, am not the least bit surprised.


“That ba-ba-bas…”


“Bastard,” she finishes for me, my stutter appearing along with my anger.


I nod. “Thanks.”




The despair that grips Jasper’s face is heart-wrenching.


“Sit down.” I gesture to the bed we made on the floor.


He takes a seat, a defeated breath escaping him. Jodi and I follow suit, sitting on either side.


“Tell us what happened.” I urge gently.


Seconds pass before he swallows hard, finally finding his words. “He found the letters Stephan sent me.”


“Oh no,” my response is barely audible, fear restricting my chest. Stephan is the new guy Jasper has been secretly seeing. He lives in the next town over but the two have really hit it off.


“He completely lost it,” he says, his troubled eyes lifting to mine. “I’ve never seen him like that before and I’ve seen him really pissed off.”


He doesn’t elaborate but he doesn’t need to. By his swollen face, it’s obvious just how bad things got. His father has a horrible temper, especially when it comes to Jasper’s sexuality. It scares me just as much as it angers me.


“He said if I didn’t drop this farce he was going to kick me out.”


“Would he really do that?” Jodi asks.


“Yeah, he would,” hurt overrides each word he speaks. “You’ll come to learn my father is a complicated man.”


“Sounds more like a wanker to me,” she mumbles before quickly adding, “no offense.”


“None taken.”


“I’m so sorry, Jasper,” I whisper.


“Me too.”


He shrugs. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I’ve always known he wouldn’t accept this. I don’t think he ever will.”


“Then it’s his loss,” I tell him, voice firm. “Don’t ever change who you are. Despite what your father says, you’re perfect just the way you are.”


A sad smile takes over his face, offsetting his pain. “Thanks, fighter girl.”


Just then, a distant noise breaks up our moment.


“Hey. I’m home.” Cade appears in my doorway, his large frame shrouded by the shadows, startling us.


The three of us jump, Jasper screaming like a little girl.


I grip my racing heart, a laugh tumbling past my lips. “You scared the crap out of us, big guy.”


He smirks. “That’s what you get for watching those trash movies.” His amusement quickly fades when he gets a look at Jasper’s wounded face.


Expression hard, he storms into my room. “What the hell happened to you?” He lifts Jasper’s face for closer inspection.


Jasper opens his mouth, stumbling over every word. “Uh… I tripped… and… hit the wall.”


Cade doesn’t buy the lousy excuse for a second. His angry eyes meet mine, seeking the truth. I shake my head, promising to tell him later.


His jaw flexes but thankfully he lets it go, his attention reverting back to Jasper.  “You need to ice it.”


“I will,” he mumbles, his head falling in shame.


Cade shoots me a look that says we will be talking about this later.  “I’m headed to bed. Come get me if you need me.”


I nod the promise before he walks out of the room, leaving us alone once again.


“Fuckin’ hell.” Jodi falls back against my bed, clutching her chest. “That bloke is something else. So bloody intense.”


“Wait until you meet her brother,” Jasper says. “Or any of her uncles for that matter. I say we make a trip to the gym soon.”


I roll my eyes. “Can we please not talk about how hot the men are in my family and get back to the topic at hand?”


“I much prefer this topic,” Jasper returns, trying to deflect the seriousness of the situation with humor.


I reach for his hand, hating the sight of his battered face. “Maybe we should tell Cade what happened.”


“No way! He’d kick my dad’s ass then tell the Sheriff, you know he will.”


“Well maybe that’s a good thing,” Jodi says, cutting in.


“Agree. You can’t keep living like this, Jasper and you shouldn’t have to.”


“What other choice do I have?”


“You can stay here,” I offer without hesitation. “Cade and Faith would never turn you away. Here you’d be accepted. Here you will be loved for who you are.”


My whole life I’ve been shown nothing but unconditional love from Cade and Faith. They have taught me to love myself and to embrace every part of me, flaws and all. I have no doubt they would do the same for Jasper. They already love him for who he is just like his father should.


“I can’t,” he says quietly, shaking his head. “My dad would never pay for college and he’d take everything from me, including my car. I love my car, Ruthie.”


“Is all that more important than your self-worth?”


“No, but it’s the way it has to be right now. I only have this year and then I’ll be out from under his roof and at college. Besides, he’s barely home now as it is anyway.”


I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed in his decision but in the end, I respect it. “Promise me if it ever happens again you will reconsider this. That you will come to me.”


“I promise,” he agrees before cracking a soft smile. “At least I have you girls, right?”


My heart warms. “You’ll always have us.” I lean in, hugging his neck and kissing his cheek.


“Definitely,” Jodi says, doing the same on his other side. “And who knows, maybe I’ll stay for college, too.”


I look over at her in surprise. “Really?”


She nods. “I’ve been considering it. I like it here a lot. I mean, I miss my family and all but… it just feels right. Like this is where I’m meant to be, especially with you guys, ya know?”


I can’t deny how happy I am to hear that because I feel the same way about her and I know Jasper does too.


“Well, I for one hope you do,” Jasper says, wrapping an arm around each of our shoulders, bringing us to settle back deeper into the pillows. “Just think of all the crazy shit we can get into at college together. The three biggest misfits wreaking havoc at Charleston U.”


I smile, just thinking about it. “They won’t know what hit ‘em.”


I have many dreams for that stage in my life and I hope to experience every single one with the people next to me. The big guy will always be my best friend, no question about that, but I have a very strong feeling that this right here, this circle of friends that I have been lucky enough to stumble upon, will be the one that will last a lifetime.

Reading Order Guide Square.png
bottom of page