Authors: Katie Cotugno
First published in Great Britain in 2013 by
Quercus Editions Ltd
55 Baker Street
Floor, South Block
Copyright © Alloy Entertainment and Katie Cotugno 2013
Produced by Alloy Entertainment
1700 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
The moral right of Katie Cotugno and Alloy Entertainment to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
A CIP catalogue reference for this book is available from the British Library
eBook ISBN 978 1 78206 001 7
Print ISBN 978 1 78206 000 0
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Reena has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember. He’s never noticed her until one day … he does. But then he disappears, leaving a devastated – and pregnant – Reena behind.
Three years later and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter Hannah. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer again?
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I’ve been looking for Sawyer for half a lifetime when I find him standing in front of the Slurpee machine at the 7-Eleven on Federal Highway, gazing through the window at the frozen, neon-bright churning like he’s expecting the mysteries of the universe to be revealed to him from inside.
Come to think of it, maybe he is.
I stop. I stare. I need gum and a soda and a box of animal crackers for Hannah, but already I know I’m going to be walking out of this place empty-handed. I’m due at my stupid accounting class in fifteen minutes. Water from the storm outside drips from my all-purpose braid and onto the dingy linoleum; a tiny puddle forms around my feet.
“Hey, Reena.” Just like that, just like always, I’m caught.
He’s fitting a lid onto his plastic cup, careful, but nobody has ever sneaked up on Sawyer LeGrande in his entire life, and when he turns to face me it’s like he’s not even a little bit surprised. His hair is buzzed nearly clean off.
“Hey, Sawyer,” I say slowly, a sound like waves and roaring in my head. I slip my index finger through my key ring and squeeze, the cold metal biting into the flesh of my palm as it occurs to me how unfair it is that after all this time God knows where, he shows up tan and luminescent to find me looking like half-drowned trailer trash. I have no makeup on. My jeans have big holes in both knees. I’m at least ten pounds fatter than I was the last time we saw each other, but before I have time to be properly humiliated he’s bypassed the corn chips and beef jerky and is hugging me tight. Like it’s something we do a lot.
He smells the same, is the first thing I notice, like bar soap and things that grow in the ground. I blink. “I didn’t know,” I begin, not entirely sure which particular ignorance I’m about to confess: all of them, maybe, eighteen years’ worth of universal truths everybody was smart enough to figure out except for me.
“I just got back yesterday,” he says. “I haven’t been to the restaurant yet.” He grins one of those slow smiles of his, crooked, the kind I’ve been trying to write out of my system since seventh grade. “I think maybe I’m surprising a lot of people.”
“You think?” I snap, before I can stop it.
Sawyer stops smiling. “I … yeah,” he says. “I think.”
“Right.” I can’t come up with anything better than that. I can’t can’t come up with anything at all, which is how it always was with Sawyer, though you’d like to imagine I’d have outgrown at least some of it by now. Back when we used to work the same shifts at Antonia’s I’d be forever dropping plates and forgetting which orders went where, mixing up checks. One night when I was fifteen and he was behind the bar, a woman at one of my tables ordered a Sex on the Beach and it took me so long to work up enough guts to say the words to him that she complained to my father about the slow service and I had to clean the kitchen after we closed.
“My mom told me …” he says now—trailing off, trying again. “About …”
I imagine letting him dangle there indefinitely, a hanged man, but in the end I’m the one who breaks first. “Hannah,” I supply, wondering what else his mother told him. I can’t stop staring at his face. “Her name is Hannah.”
“Yeah. I mean.” Sawyer looks uncomfortable, like he’s waiting for something else to happen. For me to just come out and say it, maybe—
Welcome back, how was your trip, we made a baby
—but I keep my jaw clamped firmly shut.
Let him wonder for once
, I think meanly.
Let him sweat it out for a change.
The Slurpee’s bright green, like a space alien. My braid’s left a wet spot on my shirt. Sawyer shifts his weight awkwardly. “She said.”