Happy Mother's Day!
This is BOOK FOUR of the TORN SERIES. It can be read as a standalone.
I couldn’t sleep at all that night. Instead, I tossed and turned as I replayed the last few months over and over again in my mind. I tried to figure out what I had done wrong to push Chloe away. From the beginning, I’d known that Drake was interested in her, but I’d ignored it. I’d thought that she was smart enough not to fall for the asshole who slept with every woman he saw. Of course, I hadn’t even considered the fact that he might actually care about her. I hadn’t thought he was capable of caring about a woman.
I’d been overconfident and stupid. I’d thought that she was mine, and no one would take her away from me. We’d been through so much together. We’d been attached at the hip since I moved to West Virginia my freshman year. I’d stayed by her side through everything with her mom. When her mother, Andrea, had shown back up in Chloe’s life to torment her, I was the one she would always come to. I was the one who would help her clean her cuts when her mother had beaten her. I was the one who would beg her to go to the police. And I was the one who would understand her decision when she had refused. She had been afraid that she would be put into foster care and never see me or her other best friend, Amber, again.
I was so angry with her, but I was hurt, too. I had trusted her completely, and she’d stabbed me in the back. The one person I’d thought would never hurt me was the one who had ripped my heart to pieces. Even if she chose me, I wasn’t sure that things could ever go back to the way they had been before. And if she chose Drake…I would walk away. I would cut ties with her and start over again. The thought of leaving her behind had me clenching my fists in anger. Drake was the reason that my entire life was falling apart, and I hated the asshole with every fiber of my being.
I finally fell asleep just as the sun was starting to rise.
I hadn’t been asleep for more than an hour or two when I heard a knock on my door. I rolled out of bed and slowly walked to the door, terrified of who I would find on the other side. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to see anyone at this point.
I opened the door to see Chloe standing in the hallway. Her eyes were red and puffy from crying. Despite the circumstances, I longed to reach out and comfort her. I pushed the thought away. Without a word, I turned back into the room and sat on my bed. Chloe walked in and closed the door behind her.
I sighed before glancing up at her. “I lost, didn’t I?”
She looked at the floor. “Not really. I’m so tired of hurting both of you, Logan. I love you both…just in different ways. I’m not choosing him, but I’m not choosing you either.”
I tried to hide my emotions as I realized that I was losing her. It felt like someone had punched me in the chest. The pain I was feeling right now was unbearable.
I rose and crossed the room to stand in front of her. “I understand, and I accept your decision.” It nearly killed me to say the words, but I forced them out.
Tears started falling from her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Logan. I ruined everything we ever had. I didn’t just lose my boyfriend, but I also lost my best friend in all of this mess.”
I pulled her into a tight hug, unable to watch her suffer. “You haven’t lost me as a friend, Chloe, but I need some time before I can go back to the way things were. Just don’t give up on our friendship. I promise, I won’t leave you.”
She hugged me back tightly. “I understand. Thanks, Logan.”
She pulled away and made her way to the door. I watched as she opened it.
“When you’re ready, you know where to find me,” she said before leaving me.
I didn’t move for several minutes. Instead, I stood there and stared at the door, willing her to come back and tell me that she changed her mind, that she chose me. In my heart, I knew that she wouldn’t come back. I walked over to my bed and dropped down onto it. Once again, I wondered what I had done to end up like this. All my life, I’d tried to help people, and I’d been a good guy. And for what?
So, I could watch the love of my life walk away from me.
Unable to stay in my room any longer, I changed into a pair of jeans and a plain T-shirt. I grabbed my jacket and then my keys off the desk, and I headed for the door. I had no idea where I was going, but I knew I needed to get out of this room.
The hallway and stairs of my dorm building were nearly empty as I made my way outside. I walked to my car and pulled out of the parking lot. I drove around town, debating on where to go. I circled around until I was almost back at my dorm. Then, I saw the bar where Drake played—Gold’s Pub.
What the hell? I might as well drown my sorrows. I pulled into the parking lot, and I looked around to make sure that I didn’t see Drake’s car. Once I knew he wasn’t at the bar, I stepped out of my car and walked inside.
It was still early, and only a few people were around. I walked to the far side of the bar and sat down.
Seconds later, the bartender appeared in front of me. “What can I get you, honey?” She smiled at me.
“Whiskey,” I muttered.
“Coming right up.” She turned and walked farther down the bar to grab a bottle. She returned with Jack Daniel’s and a shot glass.
I watched as she poured the shot and handed it to me.
“Leave the bottle,” I said after I took the shot.
She raised an eyebrow but said nothing. I poured myself another shot as she moved away to wait on someone else. All I wanted to do was get wasted. Then, maybe I could forget how much of a shitfest my life really was.
“Logan?” a voice asked from behind me.
I turned to see the drummer of Drake’s band standing there.
“Want some company?” she asked.
“Sure. Why not?”
She sat down beside me and motioned for the bartender to bring over another shot glass.
“So, how are things?” she asked as she poured herself a shot.
“Wonderful. My girlfriend cheated on me with a guy who has slept with half of Morgantown. I couldn’t be happier.”
She sighed. “I’m sorry for what happened to you, Logan.”
“You have no reason to be sorry. You didn’t cheat on me.”
“I know. I just feel bad for what happened to you. If it makes you feel any better, I know Chloe and Drake never meant for this to happen. They both tried to stay away from each other.”
I snorted. “Right. I’m sure they did.”
She glanced over at me as I poured another shot.
“They did. I know you don’t like Drake, but I’ve been friends with him for a long time. He’s a good guy. If he didn’t love Chloe, he never would have gotten between the two of you. And I know Chloe
cares a lot about you. She never wanted to hurt you.”
“Then, she should have been honest with me!” I shouted as I slammed the shot glass down on the bar. “That’s all she had to do. Instead, she kept things from me, and look where we are now.”
“I know. I’m not trying to defend them, honest. What they did to you was wrong, and now, all three of you are paying the price. I just wanted you to know that you’re not alone. I know it all seems really screwed-up right now.” She stood and placed her hand on my shoulder. “Call me if you need someone to talk to, okay?”
I nodded, not bothering to look up at her. I didn’t need anyone.
I spent the next few days avoiding everyone. I couldn’t stomach the pity in their eyes or their comforting words. I even avoided Amber until she got pissed off enough to beat my damn door down and demand an explanation. After I told her what happened, she went on a rampage and declared Chloe enemy number one. I told her to be nice. While I was angry with Chloe, I didn’t want to tear her and Amber apart. She wasn’t happy, but she agreed not to go beat the crap out of Chloe on my behalf. I considered that a victory. Amber wasn’t one to hide her feelings.
Jade showed up at my door one night with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s and two shot glasses. I almost closed the door in her face, but she pushed through before I could stop her. I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone.
“What do you want, Jade?” I asked as I rubbed my eyes. I was exhausted, and my bed was calling my name.
“I know what you’re doing, and I’m not going to let you do it,” she stated as she dropped down into the chair next to my desk. She set the Jack Daniel’s and shot glasses on the top of the desk.
“What am I doing?”
“Avoiding everyone and hiding.”
“I am not,” I muttered as I closed my door.
“Yes, you are.”
“So, what if I am? Maybe I don’t want to deal with people right now.”
“That’s fine. You don’t have to deal with people, just me.” She poured a shot and handed it to me. “Drink up.”
“What are you really doing here, Jade?” I asked as I took the glass.
She poured a shot for herself. “I’m keeping you company. I don’t want you to sit up here by yourself and mope. It isn’t healthy.”
“And getting drunk with someone I barely know is better?” I countered.
She laughed. “Good point, but I’m still not leaving. I don’t want you to be alone.”
“Why do you even care?” I gulped down my shot and handed the glass back to her.
She hesitated for a minute. “I don’t know, but I do, so you’re stuck with me. I’m going to cheer you up.”
I laughed. “There’s nothing you can do to cheer me up.”
“Then, we’ll sit here and stare at each other until you decide being miserable isn’t worth it.”
I sighed as she poured another shot and handed it to me. “Fine. Stay. Stare at me. I don’t care.”
We were both silent as we each took two more shots of whiskey. I sat down on my bed and waited for her to say something again. I knew next to nothing about Jade. The only thing I did know about her was the fact that she played drums in Drake’s band.
Drake. Even his name pissed me off at this point. I forced myself not to think about him before I started shouting obscenities while Jade was around. It wasn’t her fault that her friend was a girlfriend-stealing asshole.
“So…tell me about yourself, Logan,” Jade finally said.
I looked up at her and grinned. “Really? You want to get to know each other?”
She shrugged. “Sure. Why not? You could use a friend. I can be that friend, but I’d like to know more about you.”
“More? What do you already know?”
She gave me a weak smile. “Well, let’s see. I know you like Jack Daniel’s. I also know you’re from Charleston since Chloe told me you went to high school together. You work at a garage and you have the prettiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. That’s about it.”
“It’s like you can see into my soul,” I joked, ignoring the comment about my eyes.
I wasn’t stupid. Jade hung out with Adam, Eric, and Drake. There was no way that I could compete with those guys. Rockers were more her speed, not some country kid like me. I looked up to see her watching me closely. She really was pretty. I’d never noticed before because I was with Chloe.
Comparing the two was laughable. Two girls couldn’t be more different. Where Chloe was all light with her pale skin, blonde hair, and light blue eyes, Jade was all dark. I’d seen a few different colors in her hair, but right now, it was black with pink streaks. Her eyes were a warm chocolate, and her skin was tan. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t see any visible tattoos on her body, unlike the other members of her band. She had a small stud in her nose, but she didn’t have any other piercings, not even in her ears.
“You’re not going to tell me anything, are you?” she finally asked.
“What do you want to know?”
“Anything you want to tell me.” She smiled.
“Fine. Let’s see. I moved around with my mom for most of my childhood. By the time I was fourteen, we’d lived in sixteen different states. She finally settled down in Charleston, but I don’t know why. I didn’t ask. I was just glad to be in one place for more than a few months. I don’t know much about my dad besides the fact that she kept moving to avoid him. I think she was scared of him.”
I stopped talking, surprised that I’d told her that much about me. No one knew about my dad, except for Amber and Chloe. I didn’t even know the asshole’s name. For some reason, I’d never asked my mom. I didn’t want to know anything about the asshole who had terrified my mother so much that we had to run from state to state for over a decade.
She frowned. “I know a lot about asshole father figures.”
I stayed silent, waiting for her to continue. When she didn’t, I asked, “Care to elaborate on that?”
“What? Oh, yeah. Sorry. I just meant that I could relate. My stepdad was the perfect example of an arrogant prick. I hate him. He put me through hell before I finally left home.”
“Did you grow up in Morgantown?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m from Tennessee. I ran away from home when I was seventeen. I planned to go to New York City, but I met Eric on my way there. He offered me a place to stay, and we ended up forming the band with Adam and then Drake. The guys are more of a family to me than my mom and step-prick ever were. I do miss my little sister though.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You have a sister?”
“Yeah, she’s four years younger than I am. I probably wouldn’t recognize her if I saw her. She wasn’t quite fourteen when I left.”
“Are you the same age as us?” I asked, referring to Chloe, Drake, and me.
“Nah, I’m three and a half years older than you guys. I’m twenty-one. Eric and Adam are my age. Drake is the baby of the group. My sister is only a year younger than you guys though.”
We were both silent, lost in our thoughts. It was strange to know more about Jade. I’d always thought she was nice, but I never really paid much attention to her. She was just one of Chloe’s friends, nothing more. Now, I could see that there was a lot about Jade that I didn’t know.
“Anyway, tell me more about you. What is your major?”
I grinned. “Accounting with a minor in graphic design. I’m good with numbers and computers. I’m not sure if I want to be an accountant or a web designer.”
She shuddered. “I’d rather stick my tongue on a hot oven than deal with numbers all day. If the band ever makes it big, I’ll be sure to call you to handle our finances. I sure as hell don’t want to do it.”
I laughed. “It’s not that bad if you think about it. Number equations always have an answer, regardless of the variable. There’s always a way to solve it.”
She shook her head. “I’ll stick to the drums.”
“You’ve never been to college?”
She hesitated. “I didn’t even graduate high school, Logan. If it wasn’t for Eric, I’d be on the streets.”
That surprised me. Jade seemed like an intelligent person.
I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that she didn’t even have a high school diploma. “Why did you quit?”
“I ran away from home. It would have been easy for step-prick to track me down if I enrolled in another high school or even a GED program.”
“What about after you turned eighteen? You didn’t need to hide then. He couldn’t drag you back since you were a legal adult.” I said.
“I focus all my attention on the band. If I’m not doing that, I’m working. I have a few kids in the area that I give weekly drum lessons to for extra cash. It isn’t a ton, but it helps Eric with the rent. I don’t have time to go to school.”
I nodded, but I still didn’t get how she could put the band ahead of her education. My mother had beaten it into my head that I had to go as far as I could with my education. She wanted me to have so much more than she had.
“I think we’ve had enough heart-to-heart conversation for one night. I’ll leave you alone to mope.” She stood up and walked to the door.
I was surprised by her sudden departure, but I nodded. “Thanks for stopping by, Jade. I appreciate it.”
She smiled. “You’re welcome, Logan. I know you’re hurting right now, but you’re not alone. I hope you know that.”
She was gone before I had the chance to respond. I stared at the door, wondering what the hell had just happened.
After that night, something shifted between Jade and me. At least, it did for me. For the first time ever, I saw her as more than just Chloe’s friend or a member of Drake’s band. I saw her as my friend. She stopped by my dorm room a few more times, but we never talked about our pasts again. Instead, we would argue about music, bullshit about our day, or go over my classwork together.
Just as I’d suspected, Jade was smart, really smart. I never brought up her lack of education, but it bothered me. I really did hope that the band took off, but there was a good chance that it wouldn’t, and she’d be left with nothing. In this world, she would need a high school diploma to find work—period. I spent some time researching how she could get her GED, but I never mentioned it up to her. I didn’t want to piss her off or offend her. So, I stashed the information away as I debated on the best way to bring it up.
I saw Chloe several times on campus, but I couldn’t bring myself to speak to her. She looked as miserable as I felt, but I wasn’t ready. She’d hurt me, broken me. It would take time to heal from that. I even saw Drake once or twice. While I hated him, I no longer felt the rage I had in the beginning. I didn’t have it in me. I hated the fact that I couldn’t be angry with either of them. I wanted to be angry. Instead, all I felt was disappointment and sadness. I’d thought that I made Chloe happy, but it was obvious that I hadn’t. I lacked whatever it was that drew her to Drake.
I kept replaying my relationship with Chloe over and over, trying to figure out what I had done to screw it up. To me, every moment had felt perfect. It was obvious that I was missing something. I was lacking, and the worst part was that I would never know what I had done wrong. Even if I could forgive Chloe, I knew I would never have the courage to ask her what I had done to ruin everything, what I had done to make her love another man.
Maybe it was the whole bad-boy thing. I knew girls liked that. Drake played that role perfectly. The women, the band, the tattoos, and the piercings—I knew those were things that women loved. I’d just never expected Chloe to be one of those women, and I’d never expected the womanizer in Drake to love Chloe back.
I hated the fact that I was hurting Chloe by ignoring her and by keeping her away from Drake. I would watch both of them, and I could tell they weren’t together. If I told her that it was okay for her to be with Drake, I knew she would go running to him, begging him to take her back after she let both of us go. I wasn’t sure that I could stomach that.
I started going to the gym more, and I picked up extra shifts at work just so I had something to do. I’d made friends with a few guys at work, and I even went out with them a few times, but it didn’t feel the same as it had when I was with Chloe and Amber. As days turned to weeks, I knew I needed to man up and get over myself. I needed to forgive Chloe, so both of us could all start living our lives again instead of hanging in this miserable limbo.
Coming May 19th, 2014!