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Friends Forever


I can't even begin to describe how much I loved writing this scene. The friendship between these girls is my favorite. Below is a quick reminder on which child belongs to which parents.


Annabelle: Jax and Julia

Hope & Parker: Sawyer and Grace

Mia: Cade and faith

Ella & Beckett: Copper and Kayla









Laughter fills the space of our clubhouse as Ella reads embarrassing moments from the teen magazine she brought to the sleepover, something that we decided to have last minute. Dressed in our coziest pajamas, we sit on top of our sleeping bags, forming a circle around the massive flashlight that allows us to see all the junk food we are snacking on, including the pie I whipped up last minute for us.


Friendship Pie.


Not many people can say they have been best friends with the same group of girls since they were born. Or that they are lucky enough to live next door to them, growing up so much more than friends but as family. All because their parents share that same bond.


After a stressful week of midterms, I couldn’t have picked a better way to spend my Friday night. To be with my bestest friends in the whole world right here in this playhouse that we have shared since we were little girls. 


It sits up in a large oak tree that resides closest to my house. It’s something we begged our parents to have since Parker and Becket had their own tree house with a big sign stating, “No Girls Allowed.”


Thanks to our mothers, they started the swear jar for our father’s potty mouths. Needless to say, it didn’t take long to afford our dream clubhouse. Not only did our fathers pay for it they also built it, giving us an exact replica of the design we wanted. They also added a panic button that would wake the whole dang town if we were ever in trouble and needed help, despite our properties already being rigged with the best security in this country.


You have to know our fathers to understand this logic.


Our mothers helped with the interior decorating, going as far as making curtains for the windows and even buying us a small pink sofa and matching chair. We now have added a mini fridge for our drinks and snacks on nights like this. 


It’s small, quaint but perfect for us and even though we are well into our teen years it’s something we still use to this day. It’s sacred to us. Our place of friendship, where some of our deepest darkest secrets have been shared with each other. 


Where a sisterhood was created.


“Oh man, listen to this one.” Ella leans closer to the flashlight, using it to read better. “A date from hell.” She sets the tone by sending us a dramatic look over the magazine, blonde strands from her messy bun clinging to her pretty face. “It was my first date with my biggest crush. He took me to this upscale seafood restaurant. It was the fanciest place in town but I’ve always hated seafood. I didn’t want to tell him that since he went to a lot of trouble to get us reservations so I scarfed down the little I could without looking rude but it was a big mistake.”


“Uh oh, this is going to end badly,” Annabelle snickers, speaking what we’re all thinking.


Ella flashes us a knowing smile before her eyes drift back down to the page. “The entire night I fought to keep the nasty fish food down, especially when he took me for a romantic walk on the beach. The smell of the salty ocean didn’t help matters. By the time he took me home, it was all I could do not to run into the house and empty my stomach. Like the gentleman he was, he walked me to the door and I knew it was going to happen. My crush of three years was finally going to kiss me.”


Silence hangs like a thick curtain as she pauses again for dramatics, all of us anticipating the horrific ending we know is about to come.


“My stomach rolled but I prayed for nothing to ruin that moment. It turns out God was busy because my prayer went unanswered. As soon as his lips touched mine my dinner erupted like a hot volcano all over his face.”


“Oh no!” All of us cry out in embarrassment, my own tummy rebelling at the image painted.


“Needless to say it was the most humiliating moment of my life and I never got that second date.” Ella closes the magazine, resting back against the clubhouse wall. “God, what a mood killer.”


“I feel awful for her,” Mia says, her hands covering her hot cheeks. “I’d die of embarrassment if that happened to me.”


“Me too,” Annabelle adds but can’t disguise the hint of laughter in her voice.


Thanks to Beck my first kiss was far from embarrassing. It was beautiful… magical even and completely unexpected. Though, I suppose it shouldn’t have been. We had been skirting around it from the time we were kids. Despite knowing better, there was no stopping it. No walking away from it. Not that time and not several other times.


Don’t think about that, Hope.


“That guy is the one to blame if you ask me.” Ella chimes back in. “Seafood is such a personal choice. He should have asked her first if she even liked it.”


Leave it to Ella to blame the guy but I can’t say that I disagree with her. Seafood is definitely a personal choice.


“Ella, truth or dare?” Annabelle poses the question, starting the one game we always play on these nights.


“Truth,” she answers, reaching for a piece of licorice.


“What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?”


Anticipation filters through the clubhouse as we all await her answer.


“Making out with Tanner Fisherman in the janitor’s closet.”


“The senior Tanner Fisherman?” Mia gapes, sounding as surprised as me.


Tanner plays hockey with my brother and football with Beck. I had no idea Ella even liked him.


“The one and only.” She confirms proudly. “It was last year right after he first moved here. There had been some mild flirting between us then one day as I was walking to one of my classes he pulled me in and kissed the ever-loving hell out of me. It was amazing. Best kiss I ever had. Not that I’ve had that many but still.” She shrugs. “Anyway, he ended up joining the football team after that, found out I was Beck’s little sister and my dad was the sheriff and it was over before it even started…” She finishes the story like it’s no big deal but I can tell it hurt her.


Unfortunately, it’s something we can all relate to. If it’s not our fathers driving the boys away it’s our brothers. Too bad the one boy I’ve always wanted is off-limits for far too many reasons to name. 


The thought is like a steel dagger straight to the heart. 


“Mia, truth or dare?” Ella asks next, moving around the circle.


Smiling, she reaches for a candy of her own, tossing it in her mouth.



“Have you kissed Parker again since the Halloween party?”


Her smile vanishes, a look of pain washing over her face. “No, and I probably never will.” The softness of her voice shadows a longing I feel all the way to my soul. “It’s impossible to even talk to him when Missy is constantly hanging all over him.”


Annoyance sparks in my blood as she talks about my brother’s ex-girlfriend. They have been over for a long time now but Missy doesn’t take rejection well. It’s gotten to the point that Parker changed his number because she wouldn’t take the hint. I’d feel sorry for him but he’s a bonehead for having anything to do with her in the first place, everyone in this town knows she’s nothing but trouble. Even Mama doesn’t like her and that’s saying something because my mom pretty much likes everyone…


“She makes me so mad,” she continues heatedly, as heatedly as Mia can get. “I swear she knows whenever I am going to be in the same place as him and shows up just to make my life hell.”


“Want me to kick her ass?” Ella asks around a mouthful of licorice. “Because I’ll do it. I don’t care if she is older than me. I can totally take her.”


Ella is the youngest of us all but probably the fiercest and most daring. Her courage is something I admire and wish I had.


“You know I’ll be there to back you up.” Annabelle nods, getting as fired up as Ella. She has a fiery temper like her father. Hurt the people she loves and you will regret it. She’s the oldest one of the group and has always been like a big sister to us.


That leaves Mia and I in the middle. We’re a year apart from each other and the complete opposite of Ella and Annabelle when it comes to confrontations. The thought of ever being in a physical altercation makes me want to break out in hives and I know Mia feels the same. Thankfully we have Ella and Annabelle to have our backs if needed.


“Thanks for the offer but she’s not worth getting in trouble over,” Mia says. “Besides, it’s all stupid anyway. I refuse to fight for his attention.”


“You don’t need to fight for it, Mia,” I tell her quietly, reaching for her hand. “He notices you.”


Her eyes hold mine, hope igniting within the dark brown irises. “You think so?”


I nod. “Yeah, I do.”


Parker may have been oblivious to her feelings before but since the Halloween party things have changed. I see it, see the way he looks at her. With a different affection than he used to. 


He also asks about her every chance he gets, something I usually make him sweat over. He’s my twin brother and God knows I love him but sometimes his ego overruns his common sense and he needs to be taken down a notch.


“Of course he does,” Annabelle says. “How can he not? You’re too beautiful not to notice.”


“Definitely,” Ella agrees.


A small smile transforms her soft expression. “Thanks, guys.” Eventually, she steers the attention away from herself and asks Annabelle the question next. “Truth or dare?”


“Truth,” she answers.


“What’s the most embarrassing moment of your life?”


She takes no time to think about it. “When I got my period at the gym and my dad tried to buy me diapers.”


We burst out laughing at the horrifying memory. She told us about it a few months later, right here in this very clubhouse. I felt so awful for her and to be honest I felt bad for Uncle Jax, too. I couldn’t imagine how awkward it was for both of them. 


Thankfully, I was with my mom when I got mine. She broke the news to my dad but he refused to believe it. No way, not his shortcake. 


Insert major eye roll.


The truth is though I don’t mind because no matter how old I get I always want to be his shortcake. Just like he will always be my hero. 


Mama might be my best friend and baking partner for life but I am a daddy’s girl and not ashamed to admit it. He’s the first man I ever loved with my whole heart and soul. Nothing and no one will ever change that.


“Well, I’d just like to say thank you for taking one for the team.” Ella raises her can of soda, saluting Annabelle. “Since you had yours first it was a little easier on us all. My dad just walked up to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said, ‘It’s gonna be okay, kid.’” She deepens her voice, imitating Uncle Cooper. “‘You did good. I’m proud of you.’ As if it was my choice to bleed from my vagina every month for the next forty years. Thanks, daddyo. Appreciate your acceptance on this matter.”


The commentary has us rolling. It’s totally something I can see Uncle Cooper saying.


“Your turn, Hope.” Annabelle’s gaze swings to me, her laughter trailing into a smile. “Truth or dare?”




May as well since everyone else picked it. Besides, I’m too cozy to leave my spot for a dare. I quickly regret that decision though with what I’m asked next.


“How many times have you and Beckett kissed?”


Dread sinks into the pit of my stomach like a heavy anchor, each one of them eyeing me with a knowing smile. My mind scrambles, wondering how they could have found out. We’ve always been so careful…


It’s on the tip of my tongue to deny it all but I’d never lie to them. Instead, I pull myself together, lift my chin, and ask a question of my own. “What makes y’all think we’ve kissed?”


They break out into a fit of laughter. 


“What’s so funny?” I ask, almost offended.


Annabelle composes herself first. “Come on, Hope. It’s no mystery that the two of you just happen to disappear at the same time. The three of us figured it out long ago.”


Has my brother? Surely not. He would have said something, right?


They patiently peer back at me, waiting for some form of answer. 


My gaze drops to my fidgeting hands, voice soft and quiet. “We don’t mean for it to happen. It just…does.” I shrug but feel my throat tighten as the feelings I keep buried on a daily basis emerge with a vengeance. “The truth is, I’ve had feelings for Beck for a long time.” 


I’ve had more than feelings. I am irrevocably in love with him but I hold that back. It’s something I don’t even like admitting to myself because then I have to face the fact that I’m in love with someone I can’t have.


“Why are you hiding it?” Mia asks.


A war battles within my heart as I try to think of a way to explain it to them. “Just think what could happen if it didn’t work out between us. Think of how many people could be hurt and friendships could be severed. This is Ella’s brother we’re talking about.”


Ella waves away that fact. “Eh, chicks before dicks and all that.”


Her attempt at the joke doesn’t lighten the heaviness in my heart.


“He’s also my brother’s best friend. Our parents are best friends. If something ever ended badly with us it could hurt a lot of people, rift a lot of friendships, including ours. I’m not willing to risk that.” 


“I see what you’re saying but can you really go your whole life loving someone from afar like that?” Mia presses, a parallel of her feelings reflecting at me. “Because I can tell you it’s getting harder for me every day.”


Silence fills the space with a knowledge I can’t deny. “Honestly, I’m not sure but for the sake of friendship I have to try.”


Loving Beck from afar is painful but the thought of losing our friendship is soul-crushing and something I don’t want to even think about.


“I get it,” Annabelle says, speaking quietly. “It’s the same way I feel about my situation with Brae.” Sadness edges her voice, darkening the heavy moment further. “We could have had something good, better than good and I ruined it because I can’t bring myself to tell my father. I want to but… I just can’t. He would be so angry, you guys. It would tear apart my entire family, especially if he knew how long we kept it from him.”


Falling in love with the runaway boy her father brought home to love and raise as his own is definitely complicated. Especially since Braedyn is a few years older than her. 


He’s the son Aunt Julia and Uncle Jax tried years to have but never could. Uncle Jax is now his manager as he fights his way to the top in the ring. He trusts and loves Braedyn as his own flesh and blood. No doubt their sneaking around behind his back would cause an uproar.


“What’s there to be mad about?” Ella asks. “So you guys shared a few stolen kisses, big deal. It’s not like you guys had sex under his roof or anything.”


Dead silence falls in the clubhouse as Annabelle peeks up at us behind her dark lashes. It doesn’t take us long before we clue in.


“OH-MY-GOD!” Ella screeches, bolting upright. “You guys had SEX!”


“Shhh!” Annabelle hushes her, looking out the small open window behind her. “Yes. Okay, we had sex.”


“Why didn’t you tell us?” I ask, feeling more shocked by that than the revelation itself. We tell each other everything. I suppose I haven’t been forthcoming about Beck but still, we all knew she and Brae had feelings for each other.


“It only recently happened,” she explains. “It was a heat of the moment kinda thing. We were in the middle of fighting.”


This doesn’t surprise me in the least. The two of them fight like cats and dogs.


“What was it like?” Mia asks, curiosity hidden beneath the question. 


The sweetest smile takes over Annabelle’s face, an expression that can only be described as love. “It was beautiful. Exactly how I always pictured my first time. Minus the fighting,” she adds, looking at each of us. “He was so kind and gentle, you guys. A complete contradiction to how he usually is. He told me how beautiful I was, his gaze never leaving mine as he completed me, heart and soul. It was the most perfect moment of my existence.”


I hang on every word, completely and envious.  It’s everything I hope my first time will be and makes me even more excited for prom to arrive. For that one night, I am letting go of all my inhibitions and giving myself to Beck, the one and only boy I have ever loved and probably ever will. It will be our goodbye before I head to college and he goes to the police academy. Where we will have to stop the secret kisses and move on with our lives.


The thought is soul-shattering.


“It was perfect. Until it wasn’t.” Her pain is prominent in the silence. “We crossed a line that we can’t ever come back from and it only made what we had harder to control. Which is why he moved out. He refuses to ever let it happen again, not until I tell my father.” She shakes her head. “I don’t know what to do, you guys. I love him. I do but this will hurt my father as much as it will anger him. He will feel completely betrayed. I can’t risk this tearing apart my family.”


A single tear escapes her and it brings the three of us closer, our arms wrapping around her.


“I’m sorry, Belle,” I whisper, my heart hurting for them both.


“Me too,” Mia adds.


Ella lays her head on Belle’s shoulder. “Me three.”


“Thanks,” she sniffles, wiping a stray tear. “I don’t know what I would do without you guys.”


“Well, you won’t ever have to find out because this right here is forever,” Ella says, the truth of her words ringing strong and true, filling each of our hearts. “Nothing could ever sever it.”


“That may be true but sadly it won’t always be like this,” Mia says, a sudden sadness shifting her voice. 


I blink at her confused. “Why do you say that?”


“Think about it, everything has already started to change. Annabelle finished high school last year. Luckily her Marine Biology is keeping her here for now but who knows where modeling will lead her.”


At fifteen years old Annabelle was approached at the aquarium she worked to model swimsuits for a teen magazine. It took some serious fighting and persuasion with my Uncle Jax but Aunt Julia got the final say on that one. One shoot turned into two then two into more. Though, she has said it’s fun she has also said it’s not what she wants to do forever. Her heart lies with sea animals as much as it does her surfboard, the ocean is her sanctuary which is why she decided to get a degree in Marine Biology.


“Hope and Parker head off to college in the fall,” Mia continues. “While Beck goes to the Police Academy. Whether we like it or not our lives are changing and leading us in different directions.”

What she says is true and it puts things into a perspective I didn’t consider: that we won’t always be around to call these last-minute sleepovers with each other. The revelation is heartbreaking to think about. 


“Our lives may change but that doesn’t mean our friendship has to.” Annabelle puts her arm around Mia, her turquoise eyes shifting to each one of us.“No matter where life leads us, you guys will always be my best friends.”


“Me too,” I add, but can’t deny the worry I feel about what the future holds for us all. Hopefully, it’s never too far from the other.

“Let’s make a pact,” Ella says, extending her hand in the middle. “No matter where we go, who we fall in love with, or what our futures hold we will always meet back here for nights like this. That we will always make time for each other.”


I put my hand on hers first. “That’s a big yes from me.”


Belle smiles, adding hers next.


Mia puts her hand on last. “Friends forever.”


We all share a look before bursting into laughter. 


“That was exceptionally corny,” Ella says, breaking the stack of hands. “Especially for me.”


“Not corny, sweet.” Mia leans over, planting a kiss on her cheek. 


Ella is definitely not the mushy or affectionate one out of us but we all know that tough exterior is just hiding a sensitive soul, despite what she wants us to believe.


Before either of us can say more a subtle noise echoes outside, a rattling in the brush. 


We freeze in our spots, gazes searching the other’s.


“Anyone else hear that?” I ask.


All three of them nod. 


We listen closely, none of us moving a muscle, not even breathing. The sound ensues again, louder this time, rattling our clubhouse. Mia and I jump on a scream while Annabelle grabs the empty metal chip bowl and moves to the window. 


“Hey, who’s out there?”




I move closer to the red panic button, suddenly no longer thinking it’s a silly thing to have. 


“I’m warning you, you’re messing with the wrong girls, asshole!” Annabelle bellows out the window, arm lifted and bowl at ready. “Our dads have guns. Lots of them.”


Silence rains once again as we remain quiet, listening for the slightest noise.


Annabelle turns back to us and shrugs. “Must have been a squirrel or something.”


As soon as the words leave her mouth two masked heads pop up in a roar, sending us into a screaming frenzy.  Annabelle whips around and sends the bowl forward, bashing one in the face while Ella throws her bag of licorice at them. Though, I’m not quite sure what that’s supposed to do.


“Shit!” Parker rips off his mask and grabs the bowl from Annabelle, glaring at her. “Calm down, will ya. It’s just us.”


Beck removes his next, the two of them laughing their asses off.


Anger sparks in my veins and propels me forward. “Parker, you asshole!” I slap the hell out of him, my hand stinging from his hard flesh.


Ella takes care of her brother, throwing her sandal right at his head. “Dick face!”


Our anger only seems to amuse them further.


“You should have seen your faces,” Beck laughs.


“Our dads have guns,” Parker mimics, sending both him and Beck into hysterics again.


“You’re lucky I didn’t hit that panic button,” I tell him. “Dad would have had your ass!”


“Please, Dad would laugh this up and pat me on the back.”


Unfortunately, I can’t argue with that. My father is the biggest prankster. This is so something he would do.


My gaze shifts to Beck’s, that boyish grin of his doing all sorts of beautiful things to my insides. It only makes me more furious.


My brother turns his attention to Mia, his smirk slightly easing. “How’s it going, Country?”


“Fine, now that I can breathe again.” Her hand lays against her heaving chest as she glares his way. Unfortunately, it does nothing to cover what we all know, something I think even my brother is finally beginning to realize, too.


“Want me to come over there and protect you?” The suggestive smirk he gives her has me wanting to gag. 


Mia on the other hand blushes furiously. I decide to take pity on her and choose that moment to intervene.  


“The only person who is going to need protecting, Parker, is you if you don’t get out of here.”


He grunts. “Fine. Give us some candy first.”


“No way!”


“Why not?” he asks, affronted.


“Because you’re an asshole. That’s why.”


He’s not offended in the least, that cocky grin spreading. “But a charming asshole.”


I glare back, making my feelings clear.


It only makes him chuckle. “Come on, you have lots. Please?”


Ugh! I hate that pleading look, it’s the same look he gives Mama to get himself out of trouble on a daily basis. It’s annoying and also persuasive, making it impossible to say no.


“Fine!” I shove a piece of chocolate in both of their mouths. “Now leave.”


“It’s been a pleasure, ladies.” Parker turns his attention to Mia one last time, sending her a wink. “Later, Country.”


“Bye,” she mumbles, keeping her head down.


Beck shoots me a parting look of his own, riveting my entire being. That look is loaded with promise, making me believe in the most beautiful things, dangerous things. 


He breaks the spell by following my brother down the tree. 


It isn’t long after they disappear that my dad comes out of the house. “Shortcake! Check-in!”


Rolling my eyes, I move back to the window and stick my head out to find him on our back deck, arms crossed over his chest. “Everything is fine, we’re headed to bed soon...but just so you know, your son is a pain in my ass.”


Amusement dances in his tone. “Oh yeah? What did he do this time?”


“He thought it would be funny to scare us. Until Annabelle clocked him in the face with a bowl,” I relay proudly.


“That a girl,” he chuckles but it’s obvious he’s proud of his son’s antics.


“Let me know if you girls need anything. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the morning.”


I nod. “We will.”


“Night girls!” He calls to the others.


“Night, Uncle Sawyer!” They yell in unison.


He doesn’t move, his eyes remaining on me with the love and affection he’s always shown me. It melts my heart in so many ways. 


“Night, shortcake. Love you.”


“Love you too, Daddy.” After blowing him a kiss, I shut the window and scoot back to my spot between Mia and Annabelle, all of us deciding to turn in for the night.

Ella shuts off the flashlight, drowning us in darkness. “Night, besties.”


“Night,” I reply.

Annabelle yawns out her own “Night.”


“Night,” Mia adds last.


Everything is quiet as we lay in the dark, only the sound of nature being heard. Until Ella breaks it a moment later.


“You ever wonder what Captain America looks like without clothes on?”


The three of us snicker.


“Only in my best dreams,” Annabelle says.


“Boxers, briefs, or boxer briefs?” she asks.


The three of us answer at the exact same time. “Definitely boxer briefs.”


“Yeah, that’s what I thought, too.”


Smiling, I shake my head. Always Ella to lead us into the weirdest discussions.


Eventually, everything turns quiet again. Annabelle and Ella are the first ones to drift off. I start to think I’m the last one until Mia quietly speaks next to me.


“You still awake?”


I roll over to face her, just barely making out her shadowed form through the moonlight. “Sure am.”


“I have to tell you something,” she whispers. “I wanted to tell you all but…I didn’t know how.”


Concern grips my heart in an unforgiving vise. “Okay. I’m listening.”


“Remember my performance at the Christmas festival this year?”


“Of course.”


Any time she sings is unforgettable.


“Well, I was approached by a record label. They want me to tour for a year and open for this upcoming country band. If things work out they would want me to have my own show.”


“Oh my gosh. Mia, are you serious? That’s amazing.” 


“Yeah, I guess,” she says, not sounding so sure.


“What’s wrong?”


“I love singing, you know I do, but my heart is with my horses. That’s what I wanna do forever. To ride and train. If I sang full-time, I wouldn’t love it as much. But at the same time,” she adds, voice softening. “Getting out of here for a year could be really good for me.” 


She pauses, her conflicted thoughts filling the humid night. 

“I’m suffocating here, Hope,” Her voice cracks with emotion. “I can’t do it anymore. My father’s overprotectiveness is one thing, but it’s nothing compared to the constant pain I feel is the reminder of his dead sister, something he’ll never admit to, but I can see it. See it in the way he looks at me. It kills my soul.” The sob that tumbles out of her, shatters my heart into a million pieces. 


Moving in closer, I throw my arm over her, hugging her close. “I’m sorry, Mia. I know how complicated your relationship is with him.”


The thing about my Uncle Cade is he almost loves her too much, something I didn’t think was possible. All of our dads are overprotective but he is on a whole other level.


“I just feel like I need some distance, ya know? Get some perspective on my life, especially about Parker. Every day that passes I love him more and more and… we’re just not there, Hope, and we might not ever be. I need time to figure things out. To get my life together.”


“I can understand that. What would you do about school?”


“Mom says if it’s something I really want to do they would hire a tutor for me and I could finish out my last year on the road.”


“Is that what you want?”


There’s a long bout of silence before she speaks again. “Yeah, I do. With you guys going to college next year and so much already changing I feel like this is the time to do it.”


“Then I say take it, Mia. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, an experience that very few people get to have. If anyone deserves this it’s you.”


“What do I do about Ella?” She asks, remorse thickening the question.


“What about her?”


“If I leave she will be the only one left at school.”


I hadn’t thought about that.


“True but she’ll be okay. She would want this for you. I know she would. Besides, Ella drums to her own beat she always has. She’ll get along just fine.”


Moonlight pours through our window, highlighting the small smile that takes over her face. “Thanks, Hope. I really needed your advice.” 


“I’m always here for you. No matter what.”


Even though all four of us are best of friends, Mia and I have always been just that little bit closer and so have Annabelle and Ella. It’s just the way it has always worked out.


The two of us share a hug and end up getting tangled in each other’s sleeping bags. Giggling, we manage to unwind ourselves before silence falls once again, our thoughts blanketing the clubhouse.


“I can’t believe you’re going to be a star,” I say, unable to hide the pride in my voice as I gaze up at the dark ceiling.


“I don’t know about that but I’m excited to experience that life, even for just a little while. Now we just have to convince my dad.”


I don’t see that going over too well but I know if anyone can convince him about this it will be Aunt Faith.


“I’m happy for you but I sure am gonna miss you.”


She reaches over, grabbing my hand. “I will miss you too but it will only be a year. Besides, you will be busy with college life. I can just imagine all the frat parties you’ll be invited to and the sorority you will get to be involved with.”


It’s something I should feel excited about but the truth is I’m not. If it was up to me I wouldn’t go to college. All I wanna do is work at the Bakery with Mama forever but my parents say it’s important for me to have this experience. So I’m going to do it and like Mia, I’m hoping the distance puts things into perspective, especially with Beck.


“Night, Hope,” she whispers.




Minutes later, I hear her breathing even out and realize she has fallen asleep. It doesn’t take long before my eyes feel heavy. Just as they drift close I hear a sound, a rustling of sorts.


I still, a moment of fear seizing my chest. “Mia, you hear that?”


I’m greeted with nothing but the sound of steady breaths.


When the sound happens again, I grab the bowl Annabelle had and move toward the window. “Parker, if that’s you again I am going to push you right out of this darn tree.” 


Poking my head outside, I find Beckett standing at the bottom, holding a flower from his mother’s daffodil garden, a sexy smirk resting on his too-handsome face. It’s a sight I’ve been met with time and time before. Only outside my bedroom window instead of my clubhouse. 


“What are you doing here?” I ask but already know the answer. 


“Waiting for you.”


The response has my heart dancing to a new beat, a smile transforming my face no matter how hard I try to hide it.


“Come down here, Hope.” His commanding voice flows through my veins like warm honey.


I look behind me at my sleeping friends, debating it all for a second before bringing my attention back to him.


It’s a bad idea. A very bad idea but he is always the best bad idea I ever have. 


Opening the door, I quietly close it and then climb down, feeling my tiny black pajama shorts ride up my bottom.


A growl leaves his throat when his hands grip my hips, fingers digging into my soft flesh as he lifts me the rest of the way down.


Turning around, I come face to face with the boy I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. His hard body crowds mine, dominating my personal space as he hands me the daffodil. 


My favorite color and flower. 


“You’re gonna get us into trouble,” I tell him, but accept the flower, bringing it to my nose. The sweet smell has my smile stretching further across my face, lighting up the depths of my soul.


His hand lifts to my cheek, brushing my hair from my face. He peers down at me, looking at me in a way no one else ever has before. Like I am the only existence in his world. “You’re worth every bit of trouble.”

He always says the most perfect things, making my heart two step in my chest. My pulse kickstarts as his head lowers, lips capturing mine in that long-awaited heated caress. The first touch is irrevocable, rocking the very foundation of who I am and changing life as I know it.


“Beck,” his name races past my lips, colliding with his warm breaths. “We’re taking too many risks.” I reach for all the reasons why we shouldn’t do this but none of them seem to matter. They never do when I’m with him.


“It’s never enough, Hope. Not with you.” Lifting me off my feet, he pins me against the tree. My legs wrap around his lean hips as he possesses my lips the same way he has my heart. “Soon,” he growls, pressing his hardness between my parted thighs. “Soon there will be no barrier between us and I can’t fucking wait to finally have all of you.”


I can’t wait either. I want it more than he will ever know but I also know we will cross that line. Just like Annabelle and Brae did and I worry there will be no coming back from it.

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