At eleven he was my first crush. At sixteen he became mine. At nineteen he broke my heart and destroyed me. That was ten years ago and the last time I saw Cole Ryan.
They say you never get over your first love...I beg to differ. I left my shattered heart buried in a town I never expected to return to. I erased every thought of him and buried the memories never to be found.
I moved on...now ten years later I have the perfect life, the perfect fiancé, the perfect career. Everything I ever wanted until I'm forced to go back and face my past and the man that destroyed me.
He won't stop until I know the truth no matter how hard I fight it. In the end, lies will be uncovered, hearts will be broken, and my life as I've come to know it destroyed.
📆 October 30th
⭐️ Sign up for an Amazon LIVE Alert HERE!
Ten Years Ago
My fingers dig into the brown dirt between the patches of dead grass that used to once be a lush front yard. A jagged stone cuts into the soft flesh of my knee as I try to get control of the involuntary lurching of my stomach, which has me crippled on all fours.
Tears fall in streams, and I gasp for air as I hear the sound of heavy footsteps near me.
“Get away from me!” I scream at the soft voice.
“I said get the hell away from me!” My stomach clenches against another wave of nausea as I hear her footprints begin to move away. “Goooooo!” I shout at her again.
I manage to look over my shoulder and see Whitney Carson’s long blonde hair swaying as she walks quickly back across the cul-de-sac to her piss yellow, beat-to-hell Mustang. I barely make out the swell of her belly as she slides into the driver’s seat and slams the door behind her. The roar of the engine tells me she’s leaving.
One last heave and there is nothing left for my stomach to expel, leaving me with only my tears. My throat burns, my breaths coming in small gasps when I feel soft arms around my shoulders.
I hear the creak of the old screen door and my mama’s worn shoes come into sight just before I feel her arms around me. “Baby girl, what’s wrong? We weren’t expecting you home from school until tomorrow…” Her voice is quiet, yet panicked as she kneels next to me, her white uniform dress getting dirty.
I finished my finals early so that I could come home early and surprise Cole and my mom, but the surprise was all mine. “Mama,” I cry between ragged breaths. “I came home early to surprise you and—”
“Stop,” she cuts me off, looking over my shoulder behind me. “Let’s get you inside. If this has anything to do with that girl that’s been coming around, he’s not worth your tears. You’re going to put your chin up and enjoy your summer.” She tugs at my arm in hopes to get me to budge.
I shake my head back and forth violently. “No. I can’t stay here,” I manage through my tears. I can’t stay and watch this happen. I can’t stay and watch them.
“What do you mean? Where would you go?” Her voice grows with concern.
“I don’t know, but I can’t stay here.” The hot summer air hangs heavy around us, and sweat beads along my forehead at my hairline. The thought of Cole touching Whitney Carson causes my stomach to flip again, and I dry heave as I pinch my eyes closed.
Mom rubs her hand over my arm as I try to gain my composure and move from all fours to sitting on the dirt. “Well, come inside until we figure this out.” Her voice is soft and sad. “I’ve always told you he was—”
“Please, stop—” I cut her off now, not wanting to talk about Cole with her.
I hear her deep sigh. “Come on. I’ll run you a hot bath. We need to get you cleaned up.”
The tears still fall in waves as my heart breaks with each step I take toward our house and away from Cole Ryan. As I think about it, the last few months begin to make sense. I sensed Cole pulling away from me. He’d become distant, not returning my calls or answering text messages. Mama called me and had told me about the rumors she’d heard, but we chose to chalk them up to small town gossip. Crescent Ridge is just that, a small town where no one has anything else to do but talk about other people and spread rumors.
Suddenly, realization hits me that the one person I trusted more than anyone in the world betrayed me. He’s been my best friend since I was eleven, my first crush, my first love, my first everything. No other person will ever etch himself so boldly into my history as Cole Ryan did. No other person held the cards to destroy me like Cole Ryan did. And did he ever.
I bite my tongue, tasting the slightest hint of blood as Mama walks me up the raggedy old front porch of our house. “Keep walking, baby girl.” She guides me through the front door. “Keep your chin held high,” she says quietly, the screen door slamming hard behind us.
She looks at me with sympathetic eyes and her voice cracks as she speaks. “Now you can fall apart, Frances. Don’t ever let him see you crumble; don’t give him that control. He is not worth your tears.”
And crumble is what I do as I sink to the faded wood floors of our living room, Mama rocking me in her lap, her fingers stroking my hair and wiping my tears. I cry and scream for the love I believed in, for the boy who owned my heart, and the loss of the one person I long for—the one person I had planned to spend my last breath with.
Mama holds me for hours as my tears come and go. At the first hints of the morning sunlight, I peel myself from Mama’s lap, my head pounding from the hours of crying. I pull my cell phone from my back pocket and press the name of the only other friend I have.
“Ash.” My voice breaks and I barely make out what she’s saying, but one thing is certain. I’m getting the hell out of Crescent Ridge and never looking back. “I’m coming,” I tell her.
Between my tears and gasping breaths, I disconnect my call and see Mama swipe at the tears on her aging cheeks. She sat here all night comforting me as I lay helpless in her lap. In the end, she’s the one person who believes in me and has loved me unconditionally, and here I am about to leave her behind. Leave everything I know and love behind, without a second thought. For good.
I know that when I drive away from here today, I’ll never be back—I can’t come back. I’m leaving my broken heart behind, along with the only man I’ve ever loved.
I toss my bag and one small box of belongings from my childhood bedroom in the trunk of my car and slide into the driver’s seat of my old Honda. Without a second thought, I put the car in drive and glance just once out my rearview mirror as I pull away. The last thing I see is Cole Ryan, hunched over the paint-chipped railing of his front porch as I drive away from Crescent Ridge, leaving him, my past, and my mama behind.
Meet The Author: Rebecca Shea
Rebecca Shea is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Unbreakable series (Unbreakable, Undone, and Unforgiven) and the Bound and Broken series (Broken by Lies and Bound by Lies). She lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her family. From the time Rebecca could read she has had a passion for books. Rebecca spends her days working and her nights writing, bringing stories to life. Born and raised in Minnesota, Rebecca moved to Arizona in 1999 to escape the bitter winters. When not working or writing, she can be found on the sidelines of her sons’ football games, or watching her daughter at ballet class. Rebecca is fueled by insane amounts of coffee, margaritas, Laffy Taffy (except the banana ones), and happily ever afters.
Find Rebecca Here: RebeccaShea.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads