Wanting to Remember, Trying to Forget (Meet the Shepards, #1)

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Chapter 12: December

Max secured the shopping bags around his wrists and hands and continued marching through the mall. Christmas was around the corner and they were leaving for Montana next week. It was not the last minute Christmas shopping or the stuffy, crowded mall that made him edgy. It was the fact that he was going to tell Danny the truth today.

He had readied himself a few times to tell her and backed out at the last minute. He was nervous about her reaction. He knew she loved him. She had told him so a hundred times already. He had been waiting for her to feel like she had just as much to lose, but the fact that she loved him actually made the situation a whole lot worse.

How was he going to look into the eyes of the woman who loved him and say:

So, yeah…I’ve been lying to you since the minute we met and technically we were never dating because you were in love with someone else and you only ever saw me as a friend so I took advantage of your memory loss, pretended to be your boyfriend, and lied to you every single day for eight months. Oh, and by the way, just in case you thought that wasn’t bad enough. You were a virgin, saving yourself for someone special and because of my teeny, tiny white lie, we ended up sleeping together, but you love me so all that’s okay, right?

How the fuck was he going to say that to her? There was a one-in-a-million chance that she would forgive him but even if she did look past the lie, he doubted that she would be able to trust him again. He regretted doing this for so long. This confession should have been done months ago, but she was going to meet his family next week and he could not postpone it any longer. Bringing his family into this lie was not an option and with the sheer size of his family, someone - probably Shane - was bound to fuck up.

So today was the day he was going to get it all out in the open. He was leaving sufficient time for forgiveness before their trip so she would not feel obligated to come along. Once he told her everything, he was determined to rebuild her trust and then hopefully they could put it all behind them. A fresh start to the New Year, a new beginning with no secrets or lies.

Max looked back and let out a frustrated breath when he saw Danny behind him, stopping at the window of every store to look inside.

“Danny, can we please get a move on? I have a few more presents to buy and then I want to get outta here.”

“Okay,” she said, quickening her steps to catch up to him. “No need to get so grumpy, Sugarpie.”

She smiled and the aggravation melted. “One of those gifts are for you, by the way.”

Her eyes lit up. “What are you getting for me?”

“It’s a surprise so you need to make yourself scarce while I pick it up.”

She pouted her lips and stared up at him with puppy-dog eyes. “You don’t have to wait for Christmas.”

“Yeah, that’s not gonna work.”

She dropped the manipulative smile. “Fine. How long are you going to be?”

“Probably a while. Still have to get something for my dad and Dom. They are impossible to buy for.”

“Okay. I’m gonna go to the beach for a while and then I’ll meet you back at home.”

Max wanted to argue because he didn’t want her walking alone, but the beach seemed like a good idea. It may put her in a better mood before he broke the news to her and the mall, the beach and their apartment were all in close proximity so he agreed.

She lifted up on her toes and kissed him. His hand slipped to the small of her back. “I love you,” he whispered in her ear.

“I love you, too,” she said before she turned and walked away.

Max smiled despite the anxiety he felt. The anxiety wasn’t only because of what he had to tell her, it was also because of the gift he needed to buy.

* * * * *


Danny walked along the sidewalk, heading to the beach. The streets were a little busier because of the Christmas rush, but she didn’t really care. In eight days she would be leaving all this and flying to Montana with Max. She was so excited to finally meet his family. They were going to be staying at his parents’ house from the twenty-third to the thirtieth and that was sufficient time to reacquaint herself with all of them again. She had heard so many stories about them that she felt like she already knew most of them.

Snow and Christmas lunch and stories by the fire was something she so wanted to be a part of. She missed Jake and she would always miss Jake but loneliness wasn’t something she felt anymore. Max had also found a way to fill the emptiness. When she had woken up in the hospital, scared and alone, she never would have thought that eight months later she could have found such bliss. She had so much to live for, so much to be proud of and even though she still wanted to remember, she no longer felt incomplete without those memories.

Danny stepped off the sidewalk onto the street and loud honking made her head snap up. A car was heading towards her at an incredible speed, the sound of the hooter booming in her ears.

In her panic to get away, she tripped over her own feet and landed with a heavy thump on the pavement. Fear heightened her senses. Tires screeched as the car swerved to avoid her. She sat on the pavement, her throat dry, her heart pounding as she tried to catch her breath. Her backside ached from hitting the concrete so hard. The smell of burnt rubber hung in the air, reminding her of…something. She tasted blood in her mouth but when she ran her finger along her inner lips, she found no blood. She felt a searing pain across her back and chest and as she rubbed it, all she felt were the scars.

She slowly stood up, but before she could dust herself off, she was hit with the strangest dizzy spell and she saw a flash of white. She leaned against a wall for support, her breath staggering as she battled to take in air.

As the white light faded, she saw Jake, lifting her up onto the rock on the beach so she could look further out into the ocean. The image was so real, it seemed like she reach out and touch him, but she knew he wasn’t there. She wasn’t even close to the beach yet.

Her head felt heavy, swimming as more memories flashed. Jake dropping her off at school and telling her to have a great day. She saw faces of girls, not really recognizing them at first, but then her mind slotted the images in place and she realized it was her friends from high school, faces she had forgotten long before she lost her memory.

She couldn’t see properly, her vision blurred by images that were not really there. She needed to get home. Stumbling along the pavement, Danny took unsteady steps as she tried to make her way to their apartment. She had only walked a few feet when another image blurred her vision.

Auburn hair shimmered in the sunlight. It was Amber, beside her as they walked to class, talking about how she made out with James Cooper at a party the night before. Amber had not even completed her sentence when another memory flashed. Max running towards her, offering her money to go to his brother’s party.

Like a light drizzle, little raindrops filling an empty jar, the information was released one small piece at a time.

Practicing the Timbaland choreography in her dorm room led to…

Max carrying her to dorm room the day Anthony left her stranded on the beach led to…

The awful photographs that Anthony had taken of her, passed out and half-naked.

That was when she felt the first kick, the first rupture of emotion. Disgust and shame for what he had done.

She felt dizzy as more and more memories trickled in, the drizzle turning into rain.

Danny began to walk faster, anxious to get home to familiar surroundings.

Max punching Anthony in the face led to…

Her placing an ice-pack on his eye after the five of them beat him up led to…

Her cleaning up his wounds the day he came home bruised and battered.

The last one was recent, after the accident. They were beginning to jumble up. Old memories were mixing with new ones.

Chugging down her first beer at an orientation party with Amber beside her, cheering her on…

Standing on her toes to kiss Max on the cheek…

Jake singing happy birthday to her in the back yard of the garden cottage…

She didn’t realize it, but she was running now, hurrying back to the apartment so she could be alone while her brain tried to sort out all this information. Her stomach was beginning to cramp. Her chest felt tight and constricted.

Jake teaching her how to ride a bike…

Max teaching her how to drive a car the first time… the second time…

Going to the spa with Amber, Jen and Lauren…

Talking to Jennifer at the charity dinner…

Another kick of emotion. Emptiness. Helplessness because she didn’t know why they were all keeping her in the dark.

Danny stopped at the bottom of the stairwell leading up to their apartment and tried to catch her breath. She placed both hands on either side of her head and tried to stop the throbbing between her temples.

Pizza at Rocko’s…

Studying at Rocko’s…

Flash mob at Rocko’s…

Man with black hair and green eyes…

All of those memories included Max except the last one but before she could focus on the other man; he disappeared, taken away to be slotted into the right place in her mind and was replaced by another downpour of flashing images.

She raced up to the stairs to the fourth floor and stumbled in as she opened the apartment door. She threw herself onto the sofa and allowed whatever was happening inside her head to take its course.

Memories of Max dominated her thoughts.

Video games…

Board games…

Card games…

Him cheating at every single one…

Pillow fights…

Tickle fights…

Real fights…

Man with black hair and green eyes…

Again she tried to get a fix on this other man but it was gone in a millisecond. The flashes were only lasting a few seconds now, the memory not really complete before another one came. It was confusing her. Each one brought with it the emotion that was originally attached and every time the memory changed, so did her feelings. She felt like she was standing alone, trying to catch every drop of rain in her tiny, little jar, but it was impossible. There were too many and they were coming and going too fast.

Max holding her after Jake died…

Watching them lower his coffin into the ground…

The memories were making her feel too many things. Comfort. Sadness.

They were moving so fast that she found herself laughing and crying at the same time.

Max with his arm casually around her shoulder…

Kissing her on the side of her head…

Kissing her lips before moving down her neck…

Her breath caught in her throat. Another kick of emotion. Uneasiness. Ecstasy. Which one was it? It was gone before she could decide.

His hands on her body…

On her breast…

On her thighs…

Man with black hair and green eyes…

Anger. Desire. Embarrassment.

Laughing with him…

Nudging him as he joked….

Moaning his name as he rocked above her…

Joy. Pleasure. Discomfort.

Her head was ready to explode. She couldn’t keep up with every thought, trapped in a vortex as everything spun around her.

Stomping in puddles…

Running in the rain…

His hot mouth closing over her cold skin…

She felt nauseous, her stomach churning, turning over with all the emotions swirling inside her. She tried to focus on one…just one but every moment over the last ten years seem to weld itself to another and she could not distinguish between them. She couldn’t stop it, couldn’t slow it down. It floated in front of her and just as she thought she could take hold of it, it was ripped out of her reach.

Laughing… Crying… Kissing… Touching… Joy… Sorrow… Pleasure… Pain… Holding… Hugging… Friendship… Fear… Jealousy… Cuddling… Caressing… Excitement… Love… Giggling… Talking… Anger… Screaming…

And then everything stopped. Her head went blank and she took a few minutes to pull herself together, catch her breath and settle her stomach.

Everything was a muddled mess in a head, her body tense from feeling way too much in a short space of time. She zoned out for some time and then tried to focus on one thought, one emotion.

Intrigued by the flashing images of the man with black hair and green eyes, she decided to focus on him. He was the only person she had not recognized immediately. She closed her eyes and tried to bring the memories to the fore at will. Concentrating, searching, sifting through all the scattered information until she managed to find him. Focus… Focus… And then finally…

“Oh, my God!” Her eyes flew open. “Richard!”

Betrayal.

* * * * *


Danny sat on the sofa, stewing in contempt. Every time a thought of Max popped up, she squashed it and threw it to the back of her mind where it belonged. He lied! For so many months, he’d been lying to her. How could he do that? Why would he do that?

He had taken advantage of her amnesia after the most traumatic experience of her life. There was only one way to describe what he had done. Sick!

They were supposed to be friends, but friends don’t trick each other into bed. She had been lost, looking for a way to get her life back. What she had not realized was that the entire picture he’d painted was a complete fabrication in his disgusting game. She had kissed him, gave herself to a man who was twisted enough to use her tragedy for his own gain. Never had she imagined that he would do something like that.

Friends. That was all they were to each other, but he had lied to her every day, over and over again to keep up this facade. She had asked him so many times what he was hiding and all he had said in response was nothing. Nothing. This was not nothing. All her emotions had shut off and the only thing she felt was blinding rage.

He had probably also lied to Richard to keep him away. She would have to deal with that later. She could not feel anything else, could not focus on anything else except the anger gushing through her.

She heard the key being slotted into the keyhole and her heart began to beat faster, a cold sweat trickling down her skin. She wasn’t sure if she was ready to see the face of the man who she had trusted for so long.

“Danny?” he called as he entered.

She didn’t respond, trying to delay the point where she would have to confront him.

She heard him drop the parcels on the dining table behind her. “There you are.” He leaned over the back of the sofa to kiss her and she tilted her head the other way. “Hey.” He walked around the sofa and knelt down in front of her. She shut her eyes and her breathing elevated.

“What’s the matter?”

She opened her eyes and the first sight of him made her blood reach boiling point. “Oh, nothing’s the matter, Sugarpie. I mean, apart from the fact that I just realized what an asshole you are.”

His face flinched and she saw the guilt in his eyes. “What are you talking about?”

“Are you really going to look me in the eye and lie to me again?”

His eyes widened. He knew. “When…How…Are you…Danny, I can explain.”

“Explain what, exactly?” She stood up. He stood up, too, rising head and shoulders above her. “Tell me, how can you explain the fact that you have been lying to me for months!” She shoved his shoulder. “What could possibly justify the fact that you took advantage of my situation? You’re sick, Max. So frickin sick!”

“Look…I’m…I’m sorry for lying to you, but just hear me out. I was—”

“I trusted you.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” Panic was setting in. He was talking faster, breathing erratically. “Just sit down and let me explain what happened.”

“Were you ever going to tell me the truth?”

“Yes! I was going to tell you tonight.”

“Oh, how convenient.”

“I swear…I swear I was gonna tell you tonight. I was just waiting for—”

Every word out of his mouth only irritated her more. “You’re a LIAR!” she screamed, shoving so hard that he took a few steps back.

His jaw clenched, but panic swallowed his anger. “Don’t push me. Just calm down and we can talk about this.”

“Talk?” She pushed him again, resentment building with every second she had look at his deceitful face. “The right time to talk would have been when I asked you what you were hiding. We were supposed to be friends. You were all I had and I trusted you!”

He lowered his head, ashamed. “I’m so sorry, but please…just let me explain. We can work through this.”

“We? There is no we. Everything that happened between us was one big, colossal lie. It wasn’t real.”

“You don’t…you don’t mean that.” His voice lowered to a tremulous whisper. “You can’t mean that. You’re just angry and upset. You can’t possibly mean that.”

Those words were wasted on her. It was meant more for his own benefit. He was trying to convince himself that maybe they could find a way forward, but in her mind, there was no moving past this.

“What were you expecting, Max? You can’t build anything with someone who only knows half the facts. And the fact is: we were nothing more than friends. If I was in my right mind—”

“Stop! You need to calm down. This is dangerous and it could get very ugly, so I suggest you watch what you say to me. Because once it’s out, you can’t take it back.”

“The only thing I wish I could take back was the last eight months.” He cringed, pain creasing his forehead, but she continued with her attack. “How could you do that? How could you look me in the eye and not feel an ounce of guilt, create this entire relationship, force me into your bed with your lies?”

“F-forced?” It came out as a stutter because she had literally knocked the wind out of him with that statement. His face dropped, devoid of any emotion. “Really? That’s the word you gonna use? Forced? Danny, we both know that’s not how it happened.”

Nothing would have happened if you had told me the truth from the very beginning. Why, Max? Why would you do that?”

His jaw clenched again and she saw only agony in his brown eyes. “After everything we’ve been through, how can you still not see it?”

The words caused images to flash in her mind. Rain. Bathroom. Screaming. Kissing. She stopped it dead in its tracks, pushing it out of her head before she remembered what it felt like to kiss him. She didn’t want to think about kissing him. She killed every feeling because it was all a fabrication and only allowed herself to hold onto the anger she had felt that day.

“I don’t see anything except the liar standing in front of me.”

“Danny, please.” He reached out to take her hand but she yanked it out of his grip. He let her go and clasped his hands together behind his head. The panic on his face evolved to desperation. “Will you just listen to me for a second? Please…let’s just talk this through. Let me explain my side and then after—”

“There’s nothing to explain,” she derided. “You took advantage of me. You can’t explain that away. I can’t believe you would do that when you know how I feel about Richard.”

His hands balled into tight fists, his breathing became shallow, like he was on the verge of crying. “Richard?” He looked away for a few seconds before his pain-filled eyes met hers again. “All of this is because of Richard? Danny, the words know and feel aren’t past tense. What are you trying to say?”

“I’m not trying to say it. I’m saying it. You and I never should’ve happened. I’m in love with Richard.”

His breathing stilled. His face drained of color. She noticed his Adam’s apple move as he swallowed and the amount of times he blinked told her that he was trying to pull the tears back into his body. When he finally looked at her again, he was a different man. She never thought she would see the day that those brown eyes would look at her like that. It was something to behold, almost devastating to witness.

The exact moment he stopped caring.

“Danny…” His whisper was filled with so much hurt, it was unbearable to listen to what he said next. “This is where we part ways. If its Richard you want, I won’t be the one to stop you.”

She watched as he silently walked away. About twenty minutes later, she saw him carry two suitcases to the front door. Another cold sweat seeped through her pores and she realized that she was the one who was panicking now. He was going to leave and she would never see him again, never see that dimple, never feel that kiss on the side of her head. An overwhelming urge to throw herself in front of the door came over her but she resisted, reminding herself over and over again that he couldn’t be trusted. He betrayed her and she didn’t want a liar!

* * * * *


Max sat on a beaten-up, old bed in a beaten-up, old motel room, staring at pictures that were scattered all over the mattress. Although all the windows were open, it still smelled dusty. He didn’t care, though. In fact, after a week, he had become accustomed to it. He had a good few hours to kill before his flight and then he could use the happiness of his family to bury the ache inside him. A short-term distraction, but at least it was something.

Every day he sunk a little deeper into depression, torturing himself with all the things he could have done to prevent the demise of his relationship. He should have told her the truth before she found out herself, but he realized that telling her the truth would have only lessened the impact. It wouldn’t have changed the result.

Danny was the past now. He would have gone back. He would have begged for forgiveness. He would have looked past every ugly thing she said to him if she said it because he lied. But she wasn’t angry because of his lies. It all came down to Richard. It always came down to Richard.

She was still in love with him.

Even if he had told her the truth, the second she regained her memory, she would have realized that Richard was the one she wanted. It was better that it happened now instead of years in future.

Eight months was minuscule in the bigger scheme of things yet to him, eight months had felt like an eternity. Days had turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, but it felt infinite because all his happiness lived in that short frame of time and at that point, it seemed endless.

But it did end. Because it wasn’t real. Everything was a lie. And he wasn’t the only liar.

His mind recounted all their conversations. She had told him she loved him so many times and he believed her, stupidly and completely opening himself up to her. She was right, though. It was foolish to think he could build a relationship with one person only knowing half the facts. And here was the fact, hard and cold:

Seven years was a fuck long time. 84 months. 364 weeks. 2 555 days. 61 320 hours. 3 679 200 minutes. 220 752 000 seconds.

And not for one of those seconds had she ever felt anything real for him. Every look of affection. Every kiss on the cheek. Every hug. Every slow dance. Every playful nudge. He used to obsess over all that and none of it was fucking real.

All this time he had wanted her to choose and another cold, hard fact was that her choice was Richard. Eight months of drowning in guilt. Eight months of holding up a façade. Eight months of a relationship evolving from strangers to lovers and she still fucking wanted Richard.

He just wanted to forget. Forget her taste. Forget her smell. Forget every fucking thing that had happened in the last seven years.

If he could just forget about how amazing it felt to make love to her the first time, he could simultaneously forget how much it hurt to know that he was her first regret. If he could just forget about how good her lips felt pressed against his, he could forget about the ache he felt knowing that those lips were never meant to be his. If he could just forget about the fact that he was so completely in love with her, he could forget about the lump that formed in his throat every time he thought about her being in love with someone else. If he could just forget about the dreams of them becoming more than friends, he could forget the pain of knowing that — for a brief, indescribable moment in time — those dreams had actually come true.

Max checked his cell phone and the only thing he encountered was another stupid text from Jordan. Nothing from Danny. No calls. No messages. One week and she had not tried to contact him once. She was probably with Richard right now. She probably had not even thought of him. Calling her had crossed his mind several times. He wanted to apologize one last time, but it would be pointless.

Aries. The God of War. Argumentative. Confrontational. Combative. Never giving up. Even against all odds, it was in his nature to keep fighting. But this was one battle he couldn’t fight anymore. Danny was something he wouldn’t fight for anymore because he always ended up losing.

He checked the time and realized that he still had over an hour before he needed to start packing and he was going to use those minutes to wish Charlie a happy holiday. At least one of them would be happy this Christmas.

Max slowly turned the photographs over, one by one, unable to look at them anymore. He didn’t pack them away because he had no intention of taking them with him when he left. That part of his life was over.

* * * * *


Max knocked on the door of Charlie’s apartment.

“Pizza’s here,” a woman sang from the other side.

That definitely didn’t sound like Charlie’s mother. The voice was familiar and the fact that there was a woman here obviously meant that his mother was out of town. He heard slight clicks as it was unlocked and his jaw dropped as the door opened.

“Max!”

“Dorothy?”

His brain could not comprehend seeing the woman in front of him, wrapped in nothing but a bed sheet. Charlie was certainly having a happier holiday than he had anticipated.

She appeared nervous and awkward as she ran her hand through her tangled hair. “Um…I’ll go get Charlie,” she said quickly and slammed the door shut.

A minute later, Charlie opened the door as he tugged on his T-shirt. He stepped outside and closed the door behind him.

“So you and Dorothy, huh?”

“Yeah. I told you she wants my beef.”

Max chuckled, stuffing his hands in pockets as he tried to rid himself of the vision of their prim and proper receptionist in that state of undress.

“So you’re leaving today?” Charlie stated, swiftly changing the topic from Dorothy and her semi-nakedness.

“Yeah. Just wanted to come by and say goodbye before I left.”

Although Max had tried to keep his tone light, he knew his friend saw right through it. “You okay, Max?”

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

“You got your asshole face on. What happened with Danny?”

Max thought about lying because he didn’t want to ruin Charlie’s mood, but he was done with lies. “She…um…she regained her memory and—”

He didn’t know if it was the sadness in his voice or the expression on his face that made Charlie’s shoulders sag in disappointment. “Oh, fuck!”

“It didn’t work. It was dumb to actually believe that it would work. She’s in love with Richard and I’m once again the asshole.”

“Did you explain why you did it? Did you tell her how you feel about her?”

“Charlie…”

“I mean, you guys were great together. Surely she—”

“Charlie, stop. She doesn’t want to hear anything I have to say. It’s over now. She’s still at the apartment, but I left. I’m staying at some dingy motel called Surfin’ Sands. I’ve been gone for a week and she hasn’t tried to contact me.” He dropped his head and stared at the ground. “I tried to trick her into having feelings for me, but I only ended up tricking myself. I thought—” He stopped himself because this was actually becoming too painful to discuss. “It doesn’t matter what I thought…or what I feel. It’s irrelevant anyway. I’m not the man she wants to be with.”

Charlie tapped his shoulder before pulling him in for a hug. Manly yet still comforting. “Forget about her, man.”

Max decided to save his breakdown for when he was alone and pulled away first. “I wish I could.” He exhaled a heavy breath. “Well, you have a good Christmas and an awesome New Year.”

Charlie had the decency to not wish him the same. “I’ll see you soon,” he said instead.

Max nodded and after one more tap on the shoulder, he walked away.

Charlie waited for Max to disappear around the corner before he dashed back into his apartment. He rushed to his bedroom and saw Dorothy waiting for him, naked on the bed. Shutting his eyes, he groaned his frustration. “I’ll fucking kill her,” he whispered to himself. He grabbed his cell phone from the dresser, then turned his attention back to the hot babe on his bed. “Dorothy…oh, my God, Dorothy. I really—” The sight of bare breasts clouded his judgment and made him second guess his decision, but he took a deep breath and tried not to focus on himself. “I really have to go and take care of something.”

She sat up on her knees and brushed her lips against his. “You sure you want to leave all this?”

“Trust me, if it wasn’t for Max, I wouldn’t even consider leaving you right now.” He resisted the urge to push her back against the bed and indulged in a long kiss goodbye. “Don’t move from this bed. Don’t put on your clothes. I want you just like this when I get back. I’ll be about half an hour, forty-five minutes tops.”

“Where are you going?” she asked as he walked out.

“I have a date with the devil.”

He stopped once he got outside and took out his cell phone.

Charlie: Trouble!

Amber: Where?

Charlie: Satan’s place

Amber: Meet you there

* * * * *


Danny walked down the corridor of the empty apartment, into her bedroom and then back to the living room. She had not seen Max physically in a week and yet she saw him every day. Every day she walked into the kitchen and saw him standing there, holding out a cup of coffee. She saw him in the bedroom, the bathroom, the living room and so every day she walked aimlessly around the apartment, trying to get away from him, but he was everywhere.

They had lived together for almost a year and it was impossible to escape his presence. She had shoved the Valentine’s Day card in her drawer and covered the huge teddy bear with a blanket to avoid as many reminders as she could. She wanted him out of her head. Every time he popped up, she stopped herself from dwelling on the thought, refusing to get sucked back into his web of lies. She didn’t think. She didn’t reminisce. She didn’t feel.

All she wanted to do was bathe in this pool of numbness until he stopped bothering her. Flashes of him were constant, playing on her mind day and night. Apart from a few Christmas parties she’d planned early December, she had no other clients this month so she had not left the apartment in the last week.

She looked at the tiny little Christmas tree they had put up and realized it was going to be a lonely Christmas this year. Lonely. Yes, that was a feeling that had become very familiar to her. Lost. There was another one. It was ironic. A head full of memories and she felt more empty now than she had ever felt before.

Depression swept through her a few times a day. Today was the first day in a week that she had actually changed out of her pajamas. Her best friend lying to her was very depressing, but there was something else. Her mind and body were begging her to explore what this something else was, but she would not allow it. She would allow one thought of Max to linger too long in her head. She felt a sharp constriction in her chest whenever a memory of him came to the fore and she was scared she might break down if she delved too deep. She didn’t want to cry over a man who had willingly betrayed her. He wasn’t worthy of her tears.

A loud thumping at the front door startled her. She rushed to open it, a part of her secretly hoping it was Max on the other side, but all she saw was two more liars.

“You!” She threw herself at Charlie, gripping his gray hair in tight fists.

“Get off me!”

Amber grabbed her around the waist and pulled her off him, kicking and screaming.

Charlie straightened his T-shirt, adjusted his hair, and shut the door. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“Me?” Danny shouted. “Let’s talk about you, asshole. You…both of you,” she said pointing from one to the other, “were in on it from the very beginning. Was it fun for you guys? Watching me make a fool of myself the whole time?”

“The only time I ever saw you as a fool was right now,” Charlie retorted. “Did you even bother to hear Max’s side of the story?”

She felt her throat close up at the mere mention of his name. She turned and walked to the living room. “I don’t wanna talk about Max.”

Charlie raced after her, shoving her shoulder so hard that she stumbled back and fell onto the sofa. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Oh, we’re gonna talk about Max.”

“And what makes you think that I have anything to say to either of you?”

“He didn’t want to lie to you,” Amber said, taking a seat beside her. “We started it and we encouraged him to go along.”

Danny’s head snapped sideways to face her so-called friend. “You would do that to me, Amber? I was lying there in that hospital bed, lost and alone, and you thought it was okay to lie to me?”

“It was one little lie,” Charlie scoffed. “Get over it!”

“One little lie? Are you kidding me? That one little lie ruined my life.”

“Oh, stop being so melodramatic. What did he do that was so bad? What was the worst thing that happened?”

Danny could not answer that question because she had not allowed herself to think about anything that had happened in the last eight months, but if she had to answer that question, the worst thing that had happened was that she lost her best friend.

“Just shut up!” she snapped, wanting to end the entire conversation, but Amber and Charlie were not backing down because of a few curt words.

“Do you have any idea what you did to him?” Charlie asked. “He’s a fucking wreck because of you.”

She felt the stirring of something she didn’t want to feel and pushed it down. “He brought it on himself.”

“Bitch!”

“Dickhead!”

“Devil worshipper!”

“Grandpa!”

“Guys,” Amber cut in, “can we just have a mature discussion like rational adults?”

Charlie took in a deep breath and mentally counted to ten. “I can’t believe I left a hot, naked woman in my bed for this.”

“Maybe you should get back before she deflates,” Danny said, flashing him her devil smile.

“I fucking hate you!” he sneered. “I don’t even know what the fuck Max sees in you.”

His words caused her throat to close up again. It stung more than she was willing to admit.

“Let’s just all calm down,” Amber said. “Danny, I know that you’re angry because we lied to you, but you can’t be so upset that you would cut him out of your life. What we did was wrong but not unforgivable.”

“It’s like I told Max, Amber. He took advantage of my situation. Richard and I were in love and he ruined that.”

The expression that came over Amber’s face made it look like she was about to throw a slap. “Danny, let’s just forget for a second that Richard never came to the hospital.”

“Not once,” Charlie added. “He even stopped taking Amber’s calls.”

“Yeah, let’s ignore that. Let’s also ignore the fact that he never really cared about you…and he was cheating on you.”

“And while we’re at it,” Charlie said, “let’s also ignore the fact that when Max confronted him about it, Richard beat the shit outta him.”

A hard lump formed in Danny’s throat as she listened to what they were saying. For some reason, she wasn’t fazed at all by Richard cheating on her, but him hitting Max…

They were lying. They had to be. Max had not told her any of this. Yet there was that day…when he came home bloodied and bruised. He was so angry that day and every other day that Richard’s name was mentioned. Now it made sense. Why didn’t he tell her? He could have used all this information to get the upper-hand last week, but he hadn’t said one word.

“Let’s ignore all that for a few minutes,” Amber continued. “You say you’re in love with Richard. Did you see him yet?”

The thought had not even crossed her mind. “No,” she admitted.

“Called him?”

She shook her head.

“Texted him?”

She finally snapped from annoyance. “That doesn’t change anything, Amber.”

“It changes everything. You’re not in love with Richard!” Amber’s shouting made it clear that her frustration was growing by the second. “Danny, what’s going on in that head of yours? You told me a few weeks ago that you were in love with Max and nothing would ever change that.”

Danny sneered. There were things coming to the surface and she didn’t want it anywhere near there. “That was before I found out he was a lying bastard.”

Again she sensed Amber’s urge to slap her. “I get that you’re angry at him, but where are all your other feelings for Max?”

“I don’t have any other feelings for Max.”

“Step aside, Amber,” Charlie said through gritted teeth. “I’m gonna knock her the fuck out! Maybe another blow to the head will hit some sense back into her.”

“Hold on, Charlie. Something fucked up is going on here.” She turned her attention back to her friend. “Danny, you sound like a robot. Feelings like that don’t just disappear. Where are they?”

“Gone…along with my trust.”

She saw the aggravation on both their faces. She was testing their patience and one of them were going to hit her soon.

Amber’s eyes were scrutinizing her now, looking for clues to understand her behavior. “Something happened when you regained your memory and I think…your body is doing the only thing it knows how to do naturally.”

Danny rolled her eyes at the pathetic attempt at psycho-analysis. “And what’s that?”

“Suppressing your feelings for Max.”

She was the one who was irritated now. “Don’t you guys get it? I’ve never had feelings for Max. We were completely platonic. I only ever saw him as a friend.”

“Now look who’s lying.” Amber reached into her purse and pulled out her cell phone. A few seconds later, she turned it to Danny. “This was before the accident. Where’s this feeling?”

Danny only caught a glimpse of her powder blue dress and the dimple on his left cheek before she felt a sharp pain in her chest. She quickly turned away and shut her eyes.

“Look at the picture,” Amber urged softly.

She shook her head, afraid to try again.

“Danny, look at the picture.”

She glanced at it again, but that brown hair, those brown eyes caused a scorching burn to rip through her body and she turned away again.

“Look at the fucking picture!” Charlie shouted.

He grabbed the phone from Amber’s hand and held it front of her face, his other hand gripping her head so she had no other choice but to look at it.

She tried to shut her eyes but this was what her body and mind had been begging for the whole week and all she could do was stare. Stare at the dimple that God had placed on the perfect spot on his cheek. When she looked at herself, everything inside her stopped working. The way she looked at Max, the feeling encompassed in her hazel eyes. It was the same moment, the same look that had made her realize she was in love with him.

Her stomach clenched and the floodgates opened, releasing every emotion she had squashed and tossed aside. The memories began to swirl around her head again, every blissful moment she had spent with him. She gasped for air, trying to slow it down. It was overwhelming and her body couldn’t handle all the mayhem. The room was spinning and nausea took hold of her stomach. She convulsed and felt bile rise up in her throat. She was hyperventilating now; either in the middle of a panic attack or a nervous breakdown. No matter which one it was, it could only end badly.

Amber studied her with worried eyes. “Danny, are you alright?”

Charlie’s face also wrinkled with concern. “Oh, fuck, Amber. I think we broke her.”

Danny could only hear their voices. Their faces were blurred by the frequent flashing of fleeting images. “I think…” she said unsteadily as her body continued to shudder with convulsions. “I think…I think I’m gonna be sick.”

She pushed past both of them and ran to the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind her. She threw herself over the toilet, heaving with nothing coming up.

The look on his face the day he left. All the things she had said to him that day. Add guilt and regret to everything she was already feeling and her stomach flipped over again. Her mind tormented her, taunting her with her own heartless words. How could she say those things to him? To the man she loved? It was so stupid!

She had had too many thoughts and emotions when she regained her memory. As some kind of coping mechanism, she shut all of it off and decided to focus on just one thing. The first thing she fixated on was Richard. Her feelings for him had forced their way to the front and Max was pushed to the backseat. And she had kept him there all this time. Day after day, he would pop up. Day after day, something inside her begged to relive those memories, but she pushed it out of her head. She had been afraid that exploring those feelings would lead to a breakdown and that’s exactly what was happening now.

“Did you see that?” she heard Charlie say from the other side of the door. “It was like a fucking exorcism.”

“Unbelievable,” Amber replied before tapping on the door. “You okay in there?”

“Fine,” Danny responded weakly, hurling more nothing into the toilet bowl.

Amber was right. What he did wasn’t unforgivable and now looking back without anger clouding her hindsight, she understood why he did it. He had been in love with her for so long and she refused to acknowledge it, refused to see what was right in front of her.

She had resented him for lying to her, but now she realized that even if he had told her the truth, she would have ended up falling in love with him anyway. It would have been impossible not to. The pictures and videos all proved that she was in love with him before the accident. All she needed was a clean slate and a fresh pair of eyes to see it.

After about twenty minutes, the convulsions finally stopped and she had enough strength to stand up. But now thinking with a clear head, the full weight of their argument last week came crushing down on her.

“Oh, God, Amber,” she gasped, opening the door. “What have I done?”

“You can fix this,” Amber said quickly. “Get yourself cleaned up. You can still catch him before he leaves.”

She took a few minutes to brush her teeth and change into a decent pair of jeans and a V-neck sweater. She grabbed her purse and raced to the front door.

“Where do I go?” she asked in a despairing whisper.

Charlie checked his watch. “His flight only leaves in a few hours. He’s probably still at the motel. Sand and…Sand and Surf…no…Surfin’ Sands.”

She nodded. “Thanks, Charlie…for everything.”

“Yeah,” he responded tersely. “But if you hurt him again, I will rip your fucking—”

“I won’t,” Danny said.

She understood then that Charlie only tolerated her when Max was happy. She gave Amber a quick hug to show her appreciation and ran off.

* * * * *


Danny exhaled a breath of relief when she saw his car in the parking lot of Surfin’ Sands motel. She parked her car beside his and quickly wiped the tears that had been streaming down her face the whole drive there. Heavy gray clouds rolled in above her, darkening the sky even though it was only five o’ clock.

It wasn’t too late, she told herself as she got out. She could fix this. Yet her legs felt as heavy as lead as she walked towards the motel rooms.

She was afraid to face him. An angry Max was hard to deal with. A hurt Max even more so. But when Max was angry and hurt, he should be avoided at all costs. There was no telling what awaited her on the other side of the door, but she was willing to take anything if it meant she could get him back.

She noticed the door of room 307 was slightly ajar and a familiar suitcase stood at the entrance. That was his room. Room 307 was the room she had woken up in at the hospital. It was where they had made a fresh start and she was hoping that it would mean the same thing now.

She slowly pushed the door open and stepped inside. She saw him at the bed, tossing his clothes into another suitcase. Fine stubble lined his jaw and he looked like he hadn’t slept in days.

“Hey,” she greeted softly.

He didn’t respond.

“Max?”

He continued packing, not even taking a second to acknowledge her presence.

“Can we talk?”

His jaw clenched. He still didn’t say anything, but at least that was some kind of reaction. His body tensed as she approached him so she stopped a few feet away.

“Max?” she said cautiously.

He slammed the bag shut and zipped it up. Photographs of the two of them fluttered to the floor as he pulled it off the bed and headed for the door. She quickly stepped in front of him.

His nostrils flared slightly and when he spoke, his voice was low and acerbic. “Get out of my way.”

He stepped to the right and she stepped in front of him. He stepped to the left and she stepped in front of him. He continued trying to move past her, but she kept blocking his path.

“Max, stop. Stop…Stop.” She lifted both hands in front of him. “Please stop and talk to me.”

“Talk? Now you wanna talk?” He sneered and tried to move past her but she stepped in front of him again.

“Stop!”

He flung his suitcase across the room and spun around, clasping his hands behind his head. “Fuck!”

When he turned back to face her, those playful brown eyes were dead inside.

“Fine,” he said, sitting on the edge of the bed. “You wanna talk? Tell me what you have to say. You wanna remind me of how I fucked up? You wanna tell me how much you regret everything that happened between us, how you wish you could take it all back? Or do you wanna tell me again just how much you love Richard? You wanna talk, Danny? C’mon, let’s talk.”

His derisive tone told her to choose her words carefully. “I was just confused. Everything came back so fast and I just wanted to focus on one thing at a time. Richard…was the first person I thought about and—”

“Of course. Richard always comes first.”

His sarcasm was pushing her to breaking point. “Max, you’re not listening to me. I thought I was in love with Richard, but today Amber and Charlie came over…and they convinced me that you’re the one I’m actually in love with.”

“Really, Danny?” His face dropped. “They had to convince you that you actually had feelings for me?”

“That was the wrong word,” she said instantly, shaking her head at her stupidity. “That was the wrong thing to say. It wasn’t like that. I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know how to make you understand what happened.”

“Oh, I understand. Somewhere along the line you realized that Richard never cared about you. Option one didn’t work out so you’re coming back for option two.” Leaning forward, he placed his elbows on his thighs. A humorless smile twitched briefly on his face, but it disappeared just as fast and was replaced with hostility. “Here’s the thing, though. I’ve had you. It wasn’t that long ago when those lips were only mine, when your body begged for only me. I know what it’s like to have all of you and I can’t go back to being second best anymore.”

Tears fogged her eyes. “You were never second best, Max. I don’t want Richard. I don’t want anyone else. I know I said some awful things. I was angry at the time. I didn’t mean any of it. Can’t we find a way to put it behind us?”

“We?” A sardonic smirk curved on his lips. “There is no we. You and I never should’ve happened.”

Now she knew how he felt last week. The brutality of her own words hit her like a ton of bricks.

He shifted on the bed, idly unraveling loose strings from the cheap sheets. “You wanna know why I lied to you?” He didn’t even look up to see what her response was. “I was so tired of being invisible, so desperate to have you.” His eyes met hers then. “And I thought…if I could kiss you…just once…have you see me…just once, it would be worth it. Even if you found out the truth and hated me forever…if I just had that…it would be worth it.” He stood up and she saw anger flash in his eyes. “But it isn’t worth it. This ache right here…” He slammed his fist against his chest. “…just isn’t worth it. Remembering the ecstasy on your face every time we made love only for you to turn around and say that I forced you into my bed…It isn’t worth it. Listening to you tell me that you love another man after everything we’ve shared isn’t fucking worth it!”

The vein on side of his neck ticked with ferocity. His temper was rising and she was almost scared of what else might come out of his mouth.

What goes around comes around. He had told twice before to watch what she said and she had not heeded the warnings. Now all the despicable things she had told him were coming back to bite and every word that left his lips was dripping with unmitigated resentment. This was seven years of pent-up aggression and she had hurt him too many times, took him for granted too many times.

“You don’t know what it’s like,” he said, “to wake up every morning knowing that the happiest moments in my life were all a lie. You don’t know what it feels like to yearn for a woman who doesn’t even know I’m there, to sit back and watch her date jerk after jerk and not even see me.”

He stormed towards her, raging and relentless. She backed up, taking quick steps until her back hit the wall. He placed his hands on either side of her, trapping her between his arms so there was no escaping his wrath.

“Max—”

“You don’t know what it feels like to love someone so completely and then hear her say that none of it was fucking real.” His voice grew louder, thundering in her ears. “You don’t know what it’s like to remember everything and Still. Feel. This. EMPTY!”

His fist pounded against the drywall beside her head as he said each of the last four words, cracking through its flimsy exterior. His hand hovered over her face, desperate to touch her, but he didn’t give in to the urge. Somehow not having any contact hurt more than the day he had taken her so viciously in the bathroom.

As if he couldn’t take the sight of her anymore, he dropped his head, huffing out air in choked gasps. His eyes caught sight of the scar he loved so much, peeping out at the top of her V-neck sweater, and that was all it took to utterly destroy him.

His breathing became more unsteady, hitching and staggering as tears rolled down his cheeks. Driven by habit, he raised his hand and slowly moved his fingers over the scar and even though she knew he was aching to touch her, he still didn’t do it. Clenching his hand into a tight fist, he stepped back. “You need to leave.”

“No…Max, we can—”

“Just go.”

She shook her head, not wanting to accept that they could actually be over. She was going to fight for him. “No. We’re stronger than this.”

He ran one hand over his tear-drenched face. “Danny, please…please…I’m begging you. Just go.”

The pain etched on his face was unbearable to see and it was even more agonizing to know that she was the cause of it. “I’m not going,” she said shakily as tears filled her eyes.

“Then I’ll leave.” He walked across the room and picked up the bag that he had thrown.

Unable to keep her weak body up, she fell to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably, feeling completely helpless because she couldn’t fix what she had broken.

He stopped on his way out and knelt down beside her. “Hey,” he whispered.

She couldn’t look at him, couldn’t face him knowing he was going to leave her behind.

“Danny?”

She shook her head, crying her heart out instead of looking up at him.

“Danielle…”

She knew by way he said her name that the words I forgive you were not on the other side of the loaded silence, but she lifted her head to meet those desolate brown eyes. Maybe it was because he had calmed down, or maybe it was because he felt nothing, but he touched her then, gently stroking the tears off her cheek. To see that kind of tenderness after all that rage was soul-shattering.

“I gave you me,” he said softly. “All of me…and you didn’t want it…and you gave me you…but it wasn’t real…so now we have to let this go.”

“Max, please don’t…” It came out of her as hiccups through her sobs. “Please don’t leave. It doesn’t have to end this way. It doesn’t have to end at all.”

He ignored her begging, reached into his pocket, and took out a small blue suede box. “This was for you. I have no use for it now.” His hand wove into her short hair and he pulled her closer to place a long kiss over the scar on the side of her head. Dropping the box in front of her, he stood up and headed for the door. He picked up his other bag before he slowly turned to face her again. “Maybe you want to remember, Danny…but I’m trying to forget.”

“Max!” she called out, but he was already gone.

It couldn’t be over. Seven years. How could it be over?

She slowly reached for the suede box and when she opened it, fresh tears spilled out of her. Removing the exquisite diamond ring from the casing, she clutched it to her chest. He was going to propose and now it was over. It was her fault. He had played a part but mostly it was her fault. From blazing fire to dead ashes, that was what their relationship had become. How could two people who loved each other so much, destroy something beyond repair? She felt like someone had wrapped both hands around her heart and was squeezing it so tight she couldn’t breathe.

This abyss of emptiness threatened to consume her. It was devastating. It was suffocating. She was drowning. Only this time, Max wasn’t there to save her.

Seven years and this was how it was going to end? No. It wasn’t over. She would make this right. She wasn’t going to lose him. She wasn’t going to let him go so easily. She took her car keys out of her pocket and ran out of the room.

* * * * *


Danny zoomed into a disabled parking bay right outside the airport entrance. She didn’t care if they clamped her tires. She didn’t care if she got a fine. Nothing was going to stop her. She ran into the building and raced straight through to Departures.

She cut in front of the long line and ignored the swearing and angry remarks coming from the people behind her. Nothing was going to stop her.

She had just pushed past the metal detectors, when a hard hand slammed against her chest and pushed her back. Danny looked up and saw the broad, burly person the hand belonged to. It could be a man. It might be a woman.

“Boarding pass?” The thick, gruff voice gave no further clues to its gender.

“I don’t have a boarding pass,” she said and more grumbles erupted behind her.

“Miss, I can’t let you through without a boarding pass.”

“My…my boyfriend has it. He already came through here. Just let me get to him and I’ll show it to you.”

“Darlin’, if he came through here without you, I’m sorry to say, but he doesn’t want you tagging along. I think you need to accept the fact that you just got dumped.”

Danny had to suppress her urge to punch him/her/it in the face.

The attendant looked past her to the person behind her. “Next.” He/She/It pushed her back through the metal detectors. “No boarding pass. No entry.”

Okay, so maybe something could stop her. On to plan B.

Danny spun on her heel and raced back the way she came until she spotted a security guard. “Hi,” she said breathlessly. “I need your help.”


Max stood up when he heard the boarding announcement for his flight go off on the loudspeaker. The plane ride would give him enough time to forge a believable smile and make up a decent excuse for why Danny had not come along.

His New Year’s resolution for next year was the same as this year: Move on with his life.

It was easier said than done. She had showed up at his motel room today and he realized that simply seeing her weakened all his defenses. She told him that she loved him and he almost fell back into the same trap, he almost believed her. He so wanted to believe her. But then he reminded himself that she was only there because Amber and Charlie convinced her that she had feelings for him. He had left a week ago and she hadn’t called him once. She would not have shown up at all if their friends had not intervened.

He didn’t know what to think anymore. She had told him last week that she was in love with Richard and then she let him leave without saying another word. And today she shows up, out of the blue, saying something completely different. If it wasn’t real, why had she wept so bitterly on the motel room floor? If it wasn’t real, why did she beg him not to leave?

It didn’t matter now anyway. He was done obsessing over a woman who couldn’t make up her mind about who she really wanted.

As he walked to stand in the queue to board the plane, the loudspeaker went off again.

“Hello,” came a nervous voice.

Max heard three loud thumps on the microphone and smiled. She must be new, he thought.

“Hello. Is this thing on?”

His eyebrows creased as he recognized the familiar voice.

“Maximillian Augustus Shepard.”

He froze, looking around as if everyone knew she was talking to him.

“Yes, you, Max Shepard. There are a million things I want to say to you right now, but I’m gonna keep it short. Do you remember the day I broke up with Anthony? I didn’t break up with him because he left me stranded on the beach. The pictures only came out after that. I didn’t break up with him because of the pictures. I broke up with him because he asked me to choose. All of them did. And my choice was always you.” She paused for a bit and he could tell by the change in her voice that she was crying. “You were never second best, Max. I didn’t mean what I said. I didn’t mean any of it. I love you. I guess my heart always knew that. It just took a while for my head to figure it out. If you can somehow find it in your heart to forgive me, I’ll be waiting for you in the lobby next to the food court. I’ll wait as long as it takes…I think a guy like you is worth waiting for.”

* * * *


Max exhaled the breath he had not realized he’d been holding and clasped his hands together at the back of his head. She was so fucking ostentatious and she just had to use his full name. Only Danny. Only Danny would suck in her pride and declare such private information to thousands of strangers.

He forgave her. That part was easy. The difficulty was deciding whether he could leave his heart in the hands of a woman who had broken it so many times.

The passengers in front of him shuffled forward as they filed into the plane. Max picked up his bags and shuffled along with them.

* * * * *


Danny shifted in the chair, trying to ease the pins and needles in her left butt cheek. The chairs were comfortable, but not after six and a half hours. She had changed positions several times, even choosing to sit on the floor at one stage.

She was exhausted now, bored out of her mind. For the first hour or so, she had actually had a group of people sitting with her. They had heard the announcement and came to see the reunion, chatting and giggling about how it was going to be just like the movies. Everyone was excited for the big kiss and the dramatics of it all.

But as the minutes ticked by, they realized that he wasn’t coming and they began to disperse. She had been alone since then, depressed and deflated. He wasn’t coming. Somewhere deep inside her, she knew she had to accept that. She wasn’t really waiting anymore. It was more like she was holding onto hope. She had stood up to leave a few times, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. If she just waited one more minute, she would see him coming through those doors. That was what she had been telling herself all this time.

He was probably in Montana by now. The thought of buying a ticket and chasing after him had crossed her mind, but then she would have to leave this spot and she had grown quite attached to it in the last few hours. She tilted herself upside down in the chair as she passed the seven hour mark, tossing her legs over the back rest and hanging her head over the edge of the seat. The world was a very different place when seen upside down. Legs and bodies and faces all appeared distorted.

Seven hours and twenty minutes. It was a little after midnight now and her tummy started to rumble. Eating was not high priority, though.

She saw a pair of sneakers from the corner of her eye and groaned inwardly. She had become the designated information desk after ten o’ clock. Just because she looked like she lived here, didn’t mean she did. Ten times already she had been asked where the restrooms were.

“Down and to the left,” she said, throwing out a lazy arm in the direction of the restroom. Or was it right? She was upside down. Gosh, this was confusing.

“Actually, I might have found what I was looking for right here.”

She quickly flipped herself right side up at the sound of his voice. “Max,” she said, sounding as surprised as she felt. “I thought you left.”

He shook his head somberly and could not quite read the expression on his face. It was possible that he might be having second thoughts.

“Why did you take so long?” she asked nervously.

He tossed his suitcases on the open chairs before looking up to meet her gaze. “I wanted to see if you would really wait.”

Mutual symmetry, she thought. He had made her wait one hour for every year he had waited for her. She saw the hurt on his face and decided to try explaining one last time. “Max, I really am sorry. Like I told you, when I regained my memory, everything came back so fast—”

“I don’t wanna hear…I don’t wanna hear any of that. I just want you to answer one question for me.”

She nodded, apprehensive as to what his question might be and hoped she wouldn’t say something to mess up again when she answered.

“Before you came to the motel,” he began. “In the week we were apart…did you see Richard? I mean…is that the reason you came back to me? Because you found out he didn’t want you?”

Her throat tightened and tears welled up in her eyes when she saw how much this question tortured him, how being option two was more than just a complex. “Max…I didn’t even pick up the phone.”

He nodded. “That’s it.” He closed the gap between them and cupped her face in both his hands. “That’s all I wanted to hear.”

And then his mouth covered hers, making up for lost time, invoking every feeling she thought she would never experience again.


“I love you,” he breathed against her lips.

“I love you more.”

She didn’t know how long they were lost in that kiss, but when he finally pulled away, she felt dizzy. They took one suitcase each and he slung his arm over her shoulder as they walked to the exit.

“Are we ever going to see your family?” she asked.

“I rescheduled our flights. We leave tomorrow, but tonight…you’re mine.”

* * * * *


Christmas Eve. It was late evening when they turned down the familiar tree-lined street. Danny opened the cab door before it came to a complete stop. She helped Max unload their bags and inhaled the rich smell of whitebark pine. She had been born and bred in Los Angeles and it always took some time to adjust to the colder temperature. The icy winds alone were enough to chill her to the bone.

They lugged the bags and suitcases up the stairs to the wooden porch and Max held the screen door open as she walked inside. They stopped at the entrance of the dining room and set down the bags.

“Momma, we’re here,” he called out.

His mother came rushing out of the kitchen and threw her arms around him. “I missed you, baby.”

“Missed you, too, Ma,” he said, kissing her cheek.

“Hi, Mommy Jess.” Danny was also pulled in for a tight hug and she took in the sweet scent of pecan nut pie that lingered on his mother’s clothes.

They walked through the dining room to get to the living room and sat down.

“So, Danny. How have you been? Max told us that you don’t remember anything, you poor child. I called to speak to you a few times, but you were always in the shower or at the store or you had some or other doctor’s appointment.”

Danny noticed the pang of guilt that wrinkled his face as more of his lies were revealed.

“But just make yourself right at home,” his mother continued. “You always did.”

“Mom, Danny regained her memory a few days ago.”

“Oh, that’s wonderful. It must have been so hard for you, but at least you had my boy there to take care of you.”

Again, she noticed the guilt on his face and placed her hand over his. She didn’t want him to feel guilty about that one, stupid lie anymore. “Your boy always takes care of me.”

Their eyes met for a few seconds and a slight smile curved on his lips.

“I don’t know why you two don’t get together,” Mommy Jess said. “You stare at each other like love-sick puppies all the time.”

“Actually, Mom, Danny and I decided to test your Leo-Aries compatibility theory.”

Her face beamed and her smile stretched from ear to ear. “Don’t test it for too long. I want me some more grandbabies.”

Max chuckled and swiftly changed the topic before she got too hooked on the idea of having another grandchild. “Where’s Kevin, Ma?”

“In his room. Just give him some time alone. He’s been a lot better since he got back, but he gets a bit depressed at night.”

Max nodded. “And Jo-jo?”

“Her flight was delayed so she’ll be here early tomorrow morning,” she replied, standing up. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have kitchen work to do.”

Danny shook her head. When Jordan and Max were together, they became kids again, fighting and bickering over every little thing. She liked watching them, though. She liked watching all of them because they gave the word bond a deeper meaning. She loved this house. She loved this family. She loved the man beside her. Right in his arms was the place where she always felt like she belonged.

* * * * *


It was almost ten o’ clock Christmas morning when Max’s eyes were finally ready to see daylight. Between jet-lag and an emotionally draining week, sleep had come very easily. For the last six Christmases, he had slept in Dom’s old room, Danny in Shane’s and Jake in the guestroom. Although his mother was old-school, this year she had suggested they sleep in the same room and it was almost surreal to wake up beside her on this cold Christmas morning.

He kissed her forehead and her eyes fluttered lazily. “Good morning,” she said, stretching her arms.

“Merry Christmas.”

She smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck. “A very Merry Christmas. What time is it?”

“Almost ten.”

“What?” She immediately tossed off the covers. “I’m supposed to be helping in the kitchen.”

Max held back a smile. Helping was the key word. His mother had assigned her to all other forms of kitchen duty after the turkey debacle in the first year. Danny chopped vegetables, made salads, washed dishes, anything that did not involve a stove.

She was in and out of the bathroom in a matter of minutes. After a quick kiss, she left the room. Max took his time getting showered and dressed.

When he finally left the room, it was a mad-house. Kids were running everywhere; some screaming, others throwing tantrums.

Kevin emerged from his man-cave, yawning and stretching before running his hand through his ruffled hair. “It’s a fucking zoo.”

Max smiled. His eyes were barely open and he was already cursing. “How did you sleep through all this?”

“Happens every Saturday,” he responded tiredly. “So used to it now.” He walked over to Max and gave him a quick hug. “Merry Christmas, bro.”

“Same to you,” Max said, walking down the long hallway to the living room.

There he saw Dom and Tracey, neatly laying presents under the huge tree. On the side of the room, Shane and Debbie were arguing over which Christmas carol CD to play. He greeted his brothers, kissed his sister-in-laws, and then listened for twenty minutes as Shane spoke about how commercialized Christmas had become.

His brother talked incessantly and he eventually made up an excuse and left the room. He was Dom’s problem now.

Max walked to the kitchen and took a moment to appreciate the sight. The three women he loved most in this world were all in the same room. His mother and Danny were chatting at the island counter as they worked, while Jordan mixed a batter at the table on the other side of the large kitchen.

“Merry Christmas,” he said, placing a kiss on his mother’s cheek.

“Merry Christmas, baby.”

He moved over to Danny, who was chopping carrots, and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her back to his chest. “Love you,” he whispered, placing a kiss on the side of her head.

She only smiled, shy to say anything back in front of his mother.

And then he rushed to Jordan.

“Don’t even think about it,” she warned before he caught her in a choke hold, but he did it anyway. She was an inch shorter than him, which actually made it impossible to resist.

He tightened his grip around her neck. “Don’t be a sissy and complain to Mom.”

She punched him hard in the stomach, briefly knocking the air out of him, and he released her. “Ow.”

“Who’s the sissy now?”

She adjusted her glasses and continued mixing the cake batter. “You didn’t respond to my text.”

Max decided to keep the mood light and not tell her the reason he had not responded was because he’d been wasting away in a motel room. “How does one respond to a picture of two turtles humping?”

She giggled and nodded her head towards Danny. “So does she know the truth now?” She kept her voice low so they wouldn’t be heard from the other side of the kitchen.

“Yeah. It got really bad before it got good again. And now it’s…perfect.”

She smiled. “I’m glad. You guys are great together.”

“Where’s your boss?”

Her face twitched and he could tell it was a sore point for her. “Well, he’s obviously not here. I told you, it was nothing serious.”

Her saddened expression made it obvious that there more to it than she was letting on. “What happened?”

She shrugged as she tilted the mixing bowl and poured the batter into a baking pan. “It just didn’t work out.” She turned to place the pan in the oven and he noticed the way she subtly rubbed her cheek against her shoulder to get rid of the stray tear.

Max shook his head and gritted his teeth. Balls and fucking shears! Tyler was a dead man!

“Mom,” Kevin shouted from outside the kitchen, “I’m going to Momma B’s.”

“Sure, honey,” his mother yelled back. “Just be back before lunch.”

Jordan used the opportunity to change the subject. She walked over to the island counter and began chopping vegetables beside Danny. “How’s Bink doing, Ma?”

“I was telling Max last night, he’s doing a lot better. He came back from his road trip completely different. He talks to me a lot more. He’s been going over to see Momma B a lot and it seems like he’s made peace with Perry’s death, but something else is troubling him. He gets so depressed sometimes, but you know Kevin. He doesn’t talk about it. He just sits in front of his computer, staring at it all the time, Facepaging and twittering.”

Max chuckled at his mother’s attempt to be hip with techno-lingo.

“Sometimes ’til two, three in the morning,” his mother said. “I just leave him be.”

Jordan’s eyebrows creased in confusion. “Momma, Kevin hates social media. If it wasn’t for Perry and the swim-team, he wouldn’t even have an account.”

“Maybe he’s got a girlfriend,” Danny suggested idly.

Jordan and Max both laughed at the idea. Danny did not know all the details of Kevin’s track record with women. Their brother changed his girlfriends as often as he changed his underwear. Actually the encounters were so brief, they could not even be called girlfriends. And the thought of Kevin ever spending that much time or effort on any girl was unfathomable.

Max left the women in the kitchen and went searching for more testosterone. He chatted with Dom and Shane for an hour before lunch was served.

The dining room was smaller than the living room, but still large enough to comfortably fit the twelve-seater dining table. He watched as all his family members filed in, all except the kids. They usually ate in the living room because it was impossible to pry them away from the tree.

They held hands as his dad said a short prayer before everyone took their designated seats.

Max looked at the empty chairs beside Kevin and his dad and felt sadness sweep over him. The absence of Jake and Perry wasn’t only noticed, it was felt. He could tell by the look on his brother’s face that this wasn’t easy for him. Perry had occupied the seat beside him for fifteen years, not just for Christmas lunch but every occasion involving a meal. And that was plenty.

Danny was feeling uneasy too and he could see the sad smile on her face as she stared at the empty chair on the opposite end of the table. He reached over and took her hand, and she squeezed his fingers to let him know she was okay.

“Let’s eat,” Shane said, breaking the silence. “Momma, everything looks delicious.”

Everyone began filling their plates with the wide variety of food set out on the table. It seemed like a lot, but four boys could demolish all that, leaving only morsels of leftovers for dinner.

“I helped, too,” Jordan countered, adding roast potatoes to her plate. “So did Danny.”

Shane leaned over and ruffled Danny’s hair. “Well, we all know Danny didn’t actually cook anything.”

Danny laughed and jabbed him with her elbow before reaching for the salad.

“Do you remember your first Christmas with us?” Shane asked her. “God, that turkey couldn’t have tasted worse if it came out of the dishwasher. Dom even told Tracey not give any to Madison. She was only a year old at the time and he didn’t want to be racing her to the hospital on Christmas.”

Danny’s mouth dropped in shock. “You said that, Dom?”

Dominic laughed sheepishly. “It was awful, Danny, and parents are always paranoid with their first born. If it’s any consolation, I would definitely feed your cooking to Makayla.”

“Really?”

“Well…no. Max says you’ve gotten progressively worse over the years.”

Max was the one who received an elbow-jab now.

“You have other talents,” Shane’s eyes mocked reassurance. “Like putting up with my brother. It must be so painful for you living with him now. He’s such a neat-freak. Everything must be in its place. No dirty dishes in the sink…”

Max took a few slices of gammon as Shane jabbered on.

“Remember how you thought he was actually gonna ask you out?” Shane said, looking at Danny.

“Did I say that?” she responded, looking confused.

This was news to Max too.

“Yeah, and here you are years later, living with him, and he still hasn’t made a move. He brought you to my birthday party to prove he could get it right with a college girl and he still doesn’t have enough game to do it.”

Max smiled to himself. His instinct had been right. If Danny hadn’t found out the truth, Shane would have definitely spilled the beans. These were things they joked about every year at the dining table and it always used to make him feel awkward because he didn’t want her finding out how he felt about her. This year was different, though. Everything was out in the open and the woman he loved was now his girlfriend.

He was about to set the record straight, but Shane carried on blabbing.

Danny took his hand under the table and smiled at him. He smiled back, stroking his thumb over her hand.

“You two should just bone and get it over with,” Kevin said from the across the table.

Danny giggled and turned the brightest shade of pink.

“Ugh, you did?” Kevin’s face contorted with disgust. “That’s gross! I think I just lost my appetite.”

“But don’t worry, Danny,” Shane said, completely oblivious that they had all stopped listening half-way through. “It’s better that you two are just friends. My little brother is too moody. Both of them are.”

Max looked over at Kevin as Shane carried on taking verbal jabs at them.

“Blah. Blah. Blah,” Kevin mouthed, using his hand as a flapping mouth. “Fucking Virgos,” he said only loud enough for Max to hear.

“Speaking about Virgos,” Max said, “did that girl on the road trip end up driving you crazy?”

Max had meant it as a joke but when Kevin’s jaw tightened and he stared down at his plate, he knew he had struck a nerve with that question.

“You have no fucking idea,” his brother whispered.

Max looked over at Jordan and her raised eyebrows told him that she had also picked up a weird vibe. They were arguing with their eyes as to which one of them were going to bring it up until eventually he mouthed, “Later.” to her.

If they were going to get anything out of him, there needed to be less people in the room.

When everyone had stuffed themselves to the brim, his mother began clearing the dirty dishes.

“Let’s open presents first, Mom,” Dominic suggested.

“Yeah,” Max and Shane agreed in unison.

“Boys, we have the same argument every year. Dishes first because no-one wants to work after opening presents.”

“I’ll help, Mommy Jess,” Danny offered.

“Me too,” Tracey added. “Besides, the kids are all excited.”

His mother gave in with a sigh and they all walked to the living room. The next half an hour was Max’s favorite part of Christmas. It wasn’t about the presents. It was about the joy on everyone’s face. The kisses and the hugs, excitement and surprise. He loved watching Danny while all of this was going on. The smile on her face was so wide, it looked like her cheeks would hurt once she stopped. She blended in so perfectly with the rest of his family and watching her with them made him want a family of his own. Maybe it was time to take back that ring.

After presents, Debbie laid out dessert in the dining room. Danny and Tracey kept their promise and disappeared into the kitchen to clean up. Jordan cut a slice of cake for both of them while Kevin scooped out a huge helping of vanilla ice-cream and drowned it in chocolate sauce. It was something he and Perry used to do from the time they were kids and Max could never understand why they never opted for chocolate ice-cream instead.

“Kevin, don’t you think that’s too much chocolate sauce?” Max asked.

Sadness hazed his eyes for a brief second before he forced a smile. “You can never have too much chocolate sauce.”

The three of them took their usual seats at the table. They weren’t alone. His three nieces were running around the table, chasing each other with the toy guns he had actually bought for his nephews. It only took a few minutes before Jordan’s blue-gray eyes started asking him to probe.

Eventually he gave up arguing with eyebrows and head tilts and cleared his throat.

“So Kevin,” he began nervously, “what happened with that girl?”

Balled fists, clenched jaw and then he stood up. “I don’t want to talk about her…ever.” He walked to the girls on the other side of the room and took his ice-cream drenched in chocolate sauce with him. “Hey, girls,” he said, kneeling down in front of them. “Why don’t we go watch a movie?”

“Yeah,” Makayla chirped.

“What do you wanna watch?” Mackenzie asked.

“How about…Wreck-it Ralph?” Kevin responded.

“Uncle Kevin, you hate Vanelope,” Madison said. “You say she talks too much.”

The sigh he released sounded disconsolate. “I might have had a slight change of heart.”

Madison jumped onto his back, he took Mackenzie in one arm and Makayla in the arm that held his bowl of ice cream and walked out.

And so ended their attempt to bond with their brother. “Good talk,” Max said even though he was already gone.

“Well, that went well.” Jordan slowly chewed the cake in her mouth. “Something definitely happened with that girl.” She was about to take another bite then stopped. “Hey, how come Kevin never snaps at you? If that were me, he would have bit my head off, but all you get is I don’t wanna talk about her.”

“Because I’m his favorite.”

“Yeah, I doubt that.”

He had only been alone with Jordan for a short while when Kevin came racing back into the dining room and peeked through the window overlooking the front yard.

“Fuck!”

“What’s wrong, Bink?” Jordan asked.

“Nothing,” he grumbled. “She’s just bat-shit fucking crazy.”

He ran out of the room and a few seconds later they heard the hard slam of the front door.

Jordan looked around the room, completely confused. “What’s going on?”

“It’s her!” Max hurried to the window. “Get up! Get up! It’s her. The girl he doesn’t wanna talk about.”

“How do you know?”

“She’s the one who’s bat-shit crazy.”

“I told you to stay away from me!” Kevin shouted once he was outside and that was the only thing they heard before his voice became muffled with wind and distance.

They watched as he stormed down the snow-covered driveway, chasing after a girl who had quickened her steps to a power-jog to get away from him. Their brother was short, but she was tiny even compared to him. He caught up to her in the middle of the street.

“She’s dressed like an eskimo,” Jordan commented.

“I don’t think she’s from around here. She has a weird accent. Maybe she’s not used to the weather.”

Max couldn’t really see clearly from so far away, but they were definitely having a heated argument. “Oh, God. Kevin’s gonna say something awful.”

“What are you two doing?” Mom asked from behind them. “Are you two spying on your brother? Get away from that window!”

Jordan glanced back to look at her. “Momma, when I was making out with Billy Mason in the backyard and Kevin and Perry were spying on me from the tree-house, you didn’t say anything.”

“That’s because you shouldn’t have been making out with Billy Mason in the backyard. Now leave your brother alone.” She picked up the dirty dessert dishes and left the room again.

“Can she make it any more obvious that he’s her favorite?” Jordan asked irritably.

Max was too engrossed in the disaster unfolding outside to answer her question. “Oh, Jo-jo, this is bad.”

“Give him some credit, Max. If he didn’t want to talk to her, he would have stayed inside.”

This was easy money. Jordan couldn’t see the signs. Kevin’s hands were clasped at the back of his head, a clear sign of stress, anger or hurt. It didn’t matter which one it was. Any of them was enough to make him snap. “Twenty bucks. He’s gonna say something awful. She’s gonna jump in her car and drive off.”

“Deal.”

His words weren’t even cold before that exact sequence of events played out. Max held out his hand when the car disappeared around the curb. “Pay up, Jo-jo.”

Jordan left the room for a minute, returned with her purse, and paid him his winnings.

“Easiest twenty bucks I’ve ever made.”

Max grinned even though he still felt wary. Whoever that bat-shit crazy girl was, she had certainly rubbed Kevin up the wrong way.

* * * * *


Danny walked into Dominic’s old bedroom and closed the door, feeling completely exhausted. Another incredible Christmas at the Shepards. More beautiful memories to slot in place.

She had a shower, washing off the bright pink make-up the girls had plastered on her face. She saw Max sitting at the edge of the bed when she came out of the bathroom.

“Did you have a good time?” he asked.

“Always.” She sat down beside him. “Today brought back even more memories and…I wanna ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“Why didn’t you ever ask me out?”

“What?”

She shifted her body so that she could have a better look at him. “When Shane was talking this afternoon, he said that I thought you were gonna ask me out and it got me thinking and…maybe it’s because I just got it all back but I remember it so clearly now. I was waiting for you to ask me out.”

His forehead crinkled. “I don’t understand. That was years ago.”

“I know. When we first met, I had the biggest crush on you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. That’s why I changed our deal. I gave you back the money and I asked you to type out all my assignments so I could spend more time with you. And then I started asking you to parties. And then we were practicing our Timbaland dance for weeks in my dorm room, every day, hours at a time…so when you first invited me to spend Christmas with your family, I thought you were going to ask me out for sure…but you didn’t.” She shook her head. “You would look at me sometimes and I would think, of course this guy is in to me and then nothing. So when Anthony came along…I only dated him to make you jealous and you were so jealous. It didn’t make sense that you still did nothing. He told me he couldn’t deal with you being so over-protective and I needed to choose. I didn’t even think twice about it. And when you carried me to my dorm room, I thought you were gonna kiss me…and you didn’t.”

Max huffed out a frustrated breath, leaning forward to rest his elbows on his knees. “You were drunk, Danny.”

“That day, yeah, but what about the next day, after I broke up with him…or the day after that? I initiated everything and I was just waiting for you to do…something.”

Memories were amazing and it’s so easy for people to take them for granted. Memories aren’t just thoughts or reminders of events. They shaped a person, made them who they are. You don’t dive into a pool unless you remember how to swim. You don’t touch a hot stove because you remember you got burned.

Like driving to a new place for the first time, nervous and cautious, taking in all the details so you don’t get lost. But after it’s been done a few times, you start doing it without thinking. The details and feelings fade away. Memories become habits, second nature. That was what had happened with Max.

“After a few months,” Danny said, “I kinda buried the idea that we could be more than friends. I told myself to stop reading into everything you did. I stopped getting excited every time you kissed the side of my head. I stopped seeing…all those little things.”

And that’s what Max became after a while. A faded crush. He was just one of those things she got used to, the drive without taking in the details. Months turned into years and she simply forgot that once upon a time she had wanted something more. It became habitual to suppress her feelings, second nature, something she did without thinking and it was so easy to take him for granted.

Max moved off the bed and knelt down in front her so he could look up at her face. “I didn’t know,” he whispered. “You are so out of my league, I didn’t think…I guess I’m just as guilty for not seeing you. We’ve wasted a lot of time, Danny. Both of us waiting for the other to make a move. Seven fucking years.” He was more than exasperated. “I’m not wasting any more time, not one more minute.” He reached into his pocket and her heart stopped when she saw the blue suede box in his hand, the box she thought was still in her purse. “You are the most difficult person in the world. You are stubborn, absent-minded, violent with a nasty fucking temper…but you are so easy to love. I know it’s taken us a long time to get to this point, but let’s make it official.” He opened the box, a nervous smile tugging at his lips. “Danielle…will you marry me?”

She threw herself at him with so much force he fell back against the floor. “Yes!” she shrieked.

She kissed him with the longing of seven years, losing herself in their history. It was astounding what had happened in one year. From friends to strangers and strangers to lovers. Small gifts and big fights. Good friends and bad decisions. First kisses and last chances. Old habits and new beginnings. Losing her past only to find a future in the arms of her best friend.

Yes, memories truly were amazing. Memories kept fears alive. Memories fueled insecurities. Memories made love possible. She had lost all the information that made her who she was. Fate decided to strip her bare, take away her friends, her career, her self.

Maybe that had been the plan all along. Her cosmic path. Her destiny. Maybe she had to be left with nothing in order to realize that she already had everything.

“I love you. I love you, Max Shepard.”

He smiled, the dimple deepening on his left cheek as he brushed his lips against hers. “And don’t you forget it,” he whispered.

* * * * *

If you would like to read more about how this book came together, read the “Get in My Head” section below:

Get in My Head

*CONTAINS SPOILERS*

DO NOT READ UNLESS YOU HAVE FINISHED THE BOOK.

I really hope you enjoyed reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. I loved every minute of exploring all the characters and was quite surprised with the final product.

For me personally, I like watching the behind the scenes of a movie to find out more about how the story evolved and when I read a book, I always wonder what the author was thinking or feeling when they wrote it. Sometimes I love the characters so much, I want to know more about them, so I decided to include this for readers like me. Here’s a few things that even I had not anticipated when I first started writing Wanting to Remember.

So I thought of the basic premise and a few key scenes. I knew where I wanted the story to go but I didn’t really think about how I would get there. By the time I got to mid-February, all of them kinda came to life and took over, and I completely lost control of the story, which brings me to my next point.

I would like to apologize for the fluctuating humor. When I started writing Wanting to Remember, I really expected it to be a light-hearted comedy throughout, maybe just little emotional at the end. When I read it as a completed book, I was like: Well, this isn’t really a comedy. Actually, it’s borderline depressive at times.

Unfortunately, I have a problem. I allow my characters to dictate the story instead of the other way around and the relationship between Max and Danny became more volatile than originally expected (Damn fire signs!).

I was forced to play along with almost everything that happened. For example: Danny and Charlie were not supposed to hate each other, but when I put them in the same vicinity, they were at each other’s throats so I had to work with that.

I loved writing scenes with Charlie because it required no thinking. He was like an improv actor. None of his dialogue was thought of before-hand. I just threw him in and he played the whole thing out.

When I got to about April, I gave my sister the draft and asked for her opinion. She told me that she wasn’t really feeling Danny and she couldn’t connect with her character. So I said: “Okay, Danny, you gotta give me something special.”

She then gave me the Timbaland dance scene. Now, when I wrote this, it was supposed to be a filler scene. Cute. Sweet. Corny. Just giving the reader a little more of Danny. But then she clung to this thing and it actually ended up being quite an important part of the book. Her new career, the first time she chose Max over Richard, her realizing she was in love with Max – all of it stemmed from that scene. So she knew something I didn’t at that point.

Next on the list: If you got irritated with the slow pace of the book, trust me, I felt the same way. Feel free to blame Max. The accident was supposed to happen early March, but he wanted to explore his feelings for Sofia a little more. I wasn’t keen to do that. I didn’t think it was necessary for the story, but I think it was necessary for him to give someone else a chance. Because of this, I had to shift everything out by a month, which was already a delay. After the accident, I was trying to stomp the accelerator, but he kept slamming brakes. I kept saying: “Max, you need to make a move now.”

But he was so hindered by guilt. I thought he would take full advantage of the situation. What I didn’t realize was how much their friendship meant to him and betraying her trust was something he couldn’t do. So I passed the ball to Danny but she was feeling too insecure because he rejected her, so I couldn’t get either of them to do anything. I then had to move scenes around to get out of the corner I wrote myself into until eventually I was like: “Guys, you’re killing me here! It’s almost the end of May. I need something!”

My instructions were clear. I will set the scene for a kiss and then I want a f**king kiss. I don’t care how it happens, there just better be a kiss at the end of this scene.

That kiss is the reason why I will always trust my characters, because what they gave me shocked the hell out of me. It was awesome. After that Danny couldn’t keep her hands off him, so I just left it in her capable hands to move the story along because Max truly was painful at times.

So let me tell you a little more about my Max. I think it’s obvious that I connected with him the most. His personality had more layers than I gave him. He taught me a lot. He taught me that steamy scenes don’t have to be sexy. They can be cute and even silly.

My Max

He surprised me constantly. The personification of Penis, his fascination with her scars, his rage in the bathroom; that was all Max. It was never supposed to be part of the story. At the airport, I was planning a big, cliché finish. I was going to use that Jerry Maguire line: “You had me at hello” (that’s why Jerry Maguire was included in the first place. I was building it up from the beginning.) But he ruined everything and left her waiting for seven hours. Seven hours? Who does that? I don’t even know what he was doing. All I know is that he couldn’t face her yet. Anyway, it seemed dumb to still use that line.

Another surprise was him kissing her head at the motel before he left. I actually didn’t want him to touch her at all and he definitely wasn’t supposed to cry. He was supposed to pick up his bags, say his parting words, and leave, but then he wanted to kiss her goodbye and I didn’t have the heart to stop him (I don’t know if you picked up on that sudden change of heart). I was glad that part was written from Danny’s POV because I couldn’t understand his reasoning and she certainly didn’t either, so we just guessed. It was so unforeseen and it meant so much to me that I decided to put it in the Prologue. You probably think I’m crazy now (and you’d be right), but I hope you still enjoyed it nevertheless.

At the point of publishing book one, I am still currently writing the other two books in the series, but here’s some insight on what to expect.

I am going to try my hand at comedy again in Childish Games. Hopefully I’ll get it right this time. As you may have already seen, Tyler is a little non-committal. After an explosive break-up with his ex-girlfriend, he’s having a little trouble letting go of the past. What he doesn’t know is that Jordan is about to rock his world. I have to say that Jordan and Tyler are evolving into the weirdest characters I have encountered in a romance novel. Tyler is funny without trying to be and some of his reactions has me in stitches. He’s one of those characters where I don’t know what he’s going to do until he does it and that kind of unpredictability is very hard to work with from a main character because he keeps changing the flow of the story.

Jordan, on the other hand, isn’t letting me into her head at the moment. She’s not telling me her thoughts or her feelings. All I’m getting from her is some witty remarks and a bit of sarcasm. The combination of the two of them is just flat out weird, but once again, I’m just going to go with it and see how their story develops. I know I will be getting a few more surprises with this book.

For the last book in this series, I’m going to properly introduce you to Kevin and Jasmin. There will a lot of light-hearted moments in that one, but it’s definitely NOT a comedy. Now you already know that Kevin is not easy to deal with and he certainly isn’t the nicest guy in the world, but he has a story to tell and he asked me to tell it.

I am going to have to brace myself and suck it up because this is, by no means, going to be an easy book for me to write. From an emotional point of view, I already know this guy is going to break me. I am having sleepless nights because he won’t stop bothering me.

You’re probably going to hate Kevin for majority of the book, so much so that sometimes I second-guess actually writing it. He is going take me to places I have never been to, make me feel things I don’t necessarily want to feel, but I am going to trust him and go on this road-trip, not knowing exactly where it’s going to take me and that is why I have decided to aptly entitle the last book: Journey to the Unknown.

Thank you once again for taking the time to read this. Please share your thoughts. I appreciate all reviews, whether good or bad.

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