Igniting the Wild Sparks, Book 3

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Chapter 25

“Here, pumpkin pie,” my dad says, handing me a glass of lemonade. I mechanically take it from him, setting it on the small glass table next to my rocking chair on the back porch. It’s early Monday afternoon. I’ll need to leave soon because I’m out of vacation days. I haven’t talked to Finn since I left the beach, though, he’s called me nonstop, leaving me twenty-nine messages. I haven’t spoken to Morgan, Rod, or Val yet, either. Rod’s calls are just as insistent. I know they’re all worried, but I don’t want to brag about my idiocy.

“Thanks,” I feebly mumble, not wanting a drink or a talk. The lemonade should come with a disclaimer that a lecture is imminent.

He sighs and takes a seat in the rocking chair on the opposite side of the table. “Hadley, please tell me what happened. You show up here at 4:30 Sunday morning, but you won’t say why. All you want to do is sit out here. Did you and Finn have an argument?” An argument. I guess you could call it that.

I watch the leaves flutter on the trees in my dad’s wooded backyard. I grew up here. I loved playing in the trees with my brother, but this doesn’t feel like home anymore. My home is a state away, persistently calling me.

“What happened?” he asks again, his craggy voice is soft and comforting. I tighten my folded arms around me and hesitantly peer over at him. He’s wearing a white T-shirt and khaki cargo shorts. Adam Beckett. My dad. He’s tall and thin, which Jared inherited. I was born when my dad was in his early twenties, and he’s still boyish-looking, even with his bushy brown hair, heavily peppered with gray. If he’d color it and shave off his light graying beard, he’d look even closer to me in age. People often remark that he’s too young to be my father, or that we look like brother and sister. His youthful handsomeness comes close to rivaling Finn’s. Sparks…

“I think we’re over, Dad.” I unwind my arms and cover my face with my hands. Vaguely, I hear him get up, and he puts his arms around my shoulders from behind my chair.

“I’m so sorry,” he gently says over my head, which only makes me cry harder. I love my dad, and I miss his hugs. Finn would be a great dad like mine. Oh, Finn…

“I’m an idiot!” I cry. “I thought he would… I didn’t think…” I sniff and rub my nose with the back of my hand as my dad hangs above me. “I asked Finn to marry me, and he said no!”

“You did?”

I avidly nod, shaking the white chair and his arms. “I bought him a ring, and I got down on my knee.”

“Did you do it because of what I said about getting married?”

“No. I already bought him the ring and was planning to do it when I talked to you. I’ve wanted to marry him since our first date. I love him so much, Dad.” I again quiver with sobs, and my dad moves around my chair to kneel in front of me. I only saw Finn on his knee for me once, but his rainy proposal wasn’t real.

My dad lays his arm on my leg. “I’m so sorry. Why would he do that? I thought you two were happy?”

I tuck hair behind my ears, but careful to not expose my concealed love bites to my father. “We were, but it’s my fault. I’ve harped on him for two years about getting married when he told me from the start he doesn’t believe in marriage. His parents’ divorces messed with him.”

“Oh. I understand that. Divorce is rough.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean we’ll get divorced. I would never leave him.”

“Do you think anyone plans to divorce when they get married? It happens. I never thought your mother would ditch me. We were in love once. We had two kids together.” I brush the hair off his forehead and wistfully smile. “I wouldn’t change it, though. I wouldn’t have you or Jared. We made it through.”

“Even though he rejected me, I still love him.” I wipe the tears as my dad patiently waits. “I just talked to him on the phone. He begged me not to leave him.” I shake my head and glance at the trees in the yard. “I don’t want him to do anything he doesn’t want to do. Then I get mad when he turns me down. I’m so stupid!” I cry again, and my dad reaches up to dry my tears.

“No, Hadley. You’re in love. You’ve always wanted to marry your true love, and have always believed your soulmate was somewhere out there. I remember your little-girl dreams.” He smiles and lovingly rubs my knee. “You want to be Finn’s wife, not his girlfriend. You want to vow to each other before God and call him your husband. I understand. But if he’s struggling with his feelings about divorce, he needs to work out those issues. If he turned down your proposal, his issues are deeper than even you know.”

“I don’t want to stipulate that our relationship must lead to marriage. I knew this outcome was possible. I’m not forcing him to change. I’ll move in with him, and maybe someday he’ll change his mind, but I’m not expecting him to any longer.”

He sighs. “I suggest you don’t abandon Finn. Maybe try couples’ therapy. That may help him open up more and address his reservations.”

I raise a dubious eyebrow. “Who are you, and where’s my dad?”

He chuckles and pats my leg. “I’ve learned a thing or two over the years.”

“Dr. Phil.” I remember Finn mentioning him to Ricky, and my eyes tear up again.

“No, not Dr. Phil.” He teasingly frowns. “Dang.”

“Then why aren’t you married?”

He shrugs. “I haven’t found the right one yet.”

“Who wouldn’t want you? You’re a catch.” I touch his scraggly cheek, and he rolls his hazel eyes. Smiling at him, I then think about what he said. “I suspect Finn is somewhat scared, but maybe he doesn’t want to marry me. He makes a living, being unafraid.”

“Are you questioning his commitment to you? You saw him get a tattoo with your nickname, on TV, no less. That is quite a declaration. Only a drunk guy or one undeniably in love would do something like that. Finn seemed sober to me.”

“He admitted he thinks of it like his wedding ring.”

My dad smiles. “Even I knew that. Hadley, he’s crippling scared. Marriage is a huge deal. Be grateful he doesn’t take it lightly.”

“But sometimes it seems like he wants more from his career than he does for us.”

“Don’t doubt his love for you. He got that tattoo in front of a whole bunch of people. Not a lot of men will do that.”

Nodding, I dab my cheeks. “On the phone, I gave him an out. He was offered a job in Baltimore, and I told him to take it.”

“He’d be about forty-five minutes from here.”

“Yep. He said he wouldn’t go without me.” The tears build again as I mumble, “But I’m holding him back and making him miserable.”

“I think he’ll be worse off without you than he is with you and your wanting to get married. Go with Finn to Baltimore.”

“You just want me to live closer to you.”

He grins. “Maybe.” I giggle, and he says, “Really. You and Finn won’t be happy apart. I see how you look at each other. It’s like there’s not another woman on this planet for him. He’s a lovesick fool for my daughter. I knew it in the ER. He couldn’t take his eyes off you. He was so concerned, too. When you were getting your cast, he asked me for your phone number so he could check on you. He seemed worried that he’d never see you again. I saw Finn Wilder falling in love with my pumpkin pie.”

“That sounds like what Simone said, too. I was a complete stranger. How could he love me that soon?”

“Love is mysterious like that. Even if you’re not married, he’s still my son-in-law. I love that kid.”

I questioningly smirk. “Kid?”

“You’re both kids.” He puts his hand on his chest. “Look at me. I’m an old coot.”

I laugh and lean forward to push on his arm. “Shut up.”

He squeezes my knee. “Go home and work it out with Finn. Tell him to take the job, and you’ll go with him. Maybe your boss can help you network to find another job. I’m also sure Finn will help you find something with his connections. I’ll ask around, too.”

“So, you’ll understand if we’re not married?”

“Well, I’m sure it’ll happen, but yeah. I’m okay. I only want you to be happy. He takes care of you, and that’s all that matters to me.”

I hug him, crying on his shoulder. “I love you, Dad. Thank you. I knew you were the only one to help me through this.”

I feel him laugh. “Anytime, but try to visit me at a more reasonable hour, would you? I love seeing you, but 4:30 in the morning is a little extreme to visit your old man.” I giggle against his neck. “And next time, bring your other old man.”

I laugh and pull on a handful of his hair. “I will. Get a haircut first.”

“Yes, ma’am.” That makes me lightly punch his arm.

He pats my back. “Does he work later?”

I sit back and nod. “I’ll probably catch him as he gets off work.” I hug him again before I get my suitcase.

After stopping at my apartment to dump off my dirty clothes, I repack my suitcase until it’s stuffed. I’m moving in with Finn, and I want him to see that. I find a box and throw bathroom things into it I’ll need for the week. We’re in this together, no matter what. We still have our obstacles, but we’ll get past them. Therapy might be beneficial for us. Maybe I’ll even work through my shit once and for all.

Shortly before sunset, I pull into Finn’s complex, seeing his car. He might be drinking. If he’s drunk, I’ll deal with it. It’s his way of coping, but he can’t keep doing it. I don’t know how much he drinks when we’re apart.

I try to lift my suitcase out of my trunk, but like at my apartment, lifting it gives me a stabbing pain through my stomach and into my ribs. I gasp, and the suitcase tips over. Rubbing my abdomen, I take a couple of deep breaths until the pain subsides. That was dumb.

Picking it up, I wheel it over to the bottom of the porch steps and go back for the box, which is much lighter. Leaving my purse on the floor for now, I lock my car, stuff my keys into my pocket, and take the box up to the door. I try the handle and find it’s unlocked, so I slowly open it, not wanting to give him a heart attack at bursting through it. In the kitchen, his jacket is on the chair, so he must be in the shower or watching TV in his room… or drinking.

As I walk to the hall, I hear Finn’s voice, so I stop to listen. Is he on the phone? He’s not talking, though. It sounds like moaning. Oh, shit. Is he doing what I think he’s doing? I can’t just walk in on him. That would mortify me, and he might be embarrassed for once in his life.

I start to sneak back to the living room when I hear him loudly growl, “Come on! Damn it!” I hear his hard breathing. I’m so intruding. “Faster!” This is awkward. I didn’t know he talked to himself while doing this.

I hold on to the box as I quietly turn, but then I’m stopped again. His voice is a low, breathy whine like he’s in pain. “Fuck, don’t leave me!”

Now I’m concerned. I swallow and slowly walk to his bedroom door. Tentatively, I peek past the door to see Finn lying on his bed, propped on his elbows, like at the hotel and before the kite festival. Is he hurt? I take another step, and that’s when the platinum blonde hair between his legs hits me. His pants are down, and there’s a woman crouched over his crotch, her head erratically bobbing. Even though I’m frozen, I’m somehow able to walk further into the room.

I can’t fathom what’s happening beyond what actually is. I feel like I’m reporting from a crime scene, and I’m stating the facts. From this angle, it’s Cara. Her eyes are closed, and she’s sucking on Finn Wilder’s penis.

My boyfriend. My dick. Our bed.

Holy fuck.

My stunned gaze slides to Finn’s hands, clenched into fists, and straining his arm muscles. His head is slack over the bed with his eyes tightly closed. His jaw is rigorously tense from gritting his teeth, despite the obvious stress relief, and his Adam’s apple is a small boat battling a stormy sea as he brokenly moans.

Bucking his hips, Finn thrusts his halfhearted erection into Cara’s mouth. Her lips slide up and down it while her tongue flicks over his tip. The same tip that teases me. The same shaft that has fucked me into multiple orgasms. The same and only one I took into my own mouth. The same one he said was all mine and buried inside of me as he professed his undying love and confessed to wanting to be my husband.

I blink as I watch. My brain can’t fully absorb what’s happening in front of my face, other than what I just described. But when Finn growls, “Come on!” that snaps me to the now.

The box I’m holding slips to the floor in a loud crash with a scream. I’m not sure whose. It didn’t sound like me.

Finn’s eyes pop open, and he raises his head as Cara flinches and falls to the floor. Finn’s gleaming dick is the only thing not caring I’m in here.

“Oh, my God!”

“Becks!” He scrambles as I spin around and run. It feels like slow-motion as I run down the hall to the living room, yanking open the front door, flying over the porch, and stumbling down the stairs.

From inside, I hear him yelling, “Becks!” My hands shake so terribly that I can’t get my keys out of my jean shorts pocket. I’m desperate. I look over to his car, but his keys aren’t in it. Yeah. I’d steal his fucking Mustang.

Fuck, I can’t stay here! Stomping and growling in frustration, I frantically keep digging into my pocket, but I still can’t get my shaky hand into it. I urgently try my door handle again. Why in the hell did I lock it? Shit!

Frenzied, I look to the landscaping for anything to break my window to at least unlock it and get in my car, but there’s nothing.

“Becks!” Finn gusts through the front door and onto the porch. Turning away from my car, I run down the sidewalk, but my hands aren’t the only things shaking. My legs won’t let me run any further. I wobble and drop like a bag of laundry. Hearing his fast footsteps, I push myself back up, but as I stand, he grabs my left arm and whirls me to face him. He’s horrified, unlike five minutes ago. “What’re you doing here?”

“Get your hands off me!” I push and shove him with my free hand, but he won’t let go.

“I didn’t… Shit! I didn’t mean to let that happen!”

I tearfully choke, “You looked like you were enjoying yourself. How could you?”

“I didn’t want to!” He jams his left hand into his hair as he holds me with his right. “You were leaving me!”

“I’m sorry to disappoint you!”

“Becks!” I fight to escape as he drags me to him. His untucked button-down blue shirt covers his groin, thank God, but I know what’s underneath it.

“Don’t fucking touch me! Your dick is still hard and wet from that skank!”

“I’m so sorry!”

Remembering how he accused me of cheating on him, I seethe, “Did she make you come?”


I jerk on my arm, but his clamp is strong. “I’m sorry I interrupted you! Go back and finish!”


“Did you at least fantasize it was me giving it to you?” Our phrase-stealing game isn’t so fun.

“I don’t want her! You’re all I thought about!”

“Right! Because I’ve given you so many blow jobs! If you were thinking of me, you wouldn’t have done that! My mouth wasn’t the one sucking you off!” I darkly laugh. “And you’re starved for a blow job since I lack in that area of expertise! All you thought about was getting off and coming into her mouth!” I gasp at the sudden image of them together and twist from him, violently gagging. I almost fall over from the effort, but he swoops to pick me up.

Finn leans down to me. “That’s not what I was thinking about. I imagined it was you. I only used her.”

Incited, I straighten and punch his stomach, but it only hurts my hand. “Damn you!” I shriek as I unexpectedly break free from him and run to my car, but he again stops me, trapping my arms with his.

“Don’t leave!”

“I just caught you fucking Cara’s mouth! I can’t ever unsee that! You were cheating on me!” I cry and grab my stomach, trying to catch my breath as he holds my back to his chest.

His beard rubs against my temple as he calmly refutes, “I thought you broke up with me.”

“So, you invite her over for a fuck on our bed? Is that what you do? You fuck all your Finnatics there?” I thrash against him, but his hold is unrelenting.


“Was I only one meaningless fuck in your menagerie of whores?” I jump and twist, but he moves with me and keeps me tight to his body.

“Never!” His miserable tone switches to anger, and he snarls, “You’re not my whore!”

I slam my head into his chest. “I feel like one now! I’m just another pussy for you! Another notch!” As I sob at that revelation, I kick back at his legs, but he still doesn’t let go of me.

“Don’t fucking say that!”

“All you did was fuck me! You used me because I eagerly opened my legs whenever you snapped your fingers!” Just like my nightmare.

“Never! I always make love to you!”

“Just like you make love to all those other obsessed Finnatics!”

“No! Only—”

“Don’t you lie to me!” I wail and punch down on his arms. He’s crushing my bruise, but the pain is welcomed.

“It was a mistake!”

I stop struggling and ask, “How long have you been doing this?” After what I just saw, I’m afraid of that answer.

“This was the only time.”

“All you do is lie!”

“I swear to God, it was only once!”

“Once was enough!” I cry and kick him again. “Let me go!”

“I’m never letting you go.” I feel his hard swallow against my head before he yells, “You were throwing me away! You told me you didn’t want me anymore!”

“I never said that!” Squirming, I finally dig into my pocket and shakily hit the buttons until the doors click, unlocking, and the headlights flash. Unexpectedly, Finn reaches down and swipes them out of my hand. He releases me, and I angrily twirl and try to snatch them from him.

He clutches them in his fist and shakes his head. Total desperation colors his face. “You’re not leaving.”

“You think I’m staying here with you, an unfaithful bastard, your cheating dick, and your fucking whore?”

He throws his other hand at the apartment. “I’ll get rid of her!”

I lunge for my keys, but he moves his hand out of the way like we’re on a playground. “Are you fucking serious? Give me my keys!”

“You’re not going anywhere! We need to talk!”

“Talk? I’m not taking a number and sucking your dick! Give me my keys!” I yell louder. We’re probably drawing an audience. Oh, God.

His face falls. “No. Please stay here.”

I cross my arms, shivering, even though I’m warm. “I want the truth. Would you have fucked her if she had climbed on top of you instead?”

Lifting his hands, he puts them on top of his head. His eyes disparage as he whispers, “Not without a condom.”

Without thinking, I swiftly knee him hard in the balls, and he recoils. Groaning, his hands go to his crotch, and he crashes to the ground next to my car, dropping my keys. I pick them up, hovering over him. “Damn it! I loved you, Finn Wilder!”

On his knees at my feet with his head bowed, he painfully wheezes, “I love you.”

“You have a funny way of showing it! I would say fuck you, but Cara already did that!” When he raises his head, the key I gave him taunts me from his open collar. “I see you wore the key to my heart as you shattered it.” He only makes a muffled, grunting sound as he clutches his Machiavellian dick. My broken heart excruciatingly constricts as my hand goes up to my own key. The one he gave me for my birthday. The key to my Wilder heart. With a hard tug, I snap the chain from my neck, and it slides down my chest with my hand. I then move to the ring he gave me for Easter. Forever and always. Love, Finnigan. I yank it off my finger, holding it in my hand with my broken necklace. His horrified expression is more than when I kneed him.

“Why did you betray me, Finn?”

He rasps, “I thought you were finally done with me. I wanted to numb the pain of you leaving.” Tears silently spill down his cheeks, but he doesn’t acknowledge them. Only I do.

“I am now. Here.” I throw the ring and the broken necklace at his chest. They bounce off, and the ring rolls aimlessly on the cement. “Let them keep your damn key company.”

“No!” He trounces after the ring to stop it from rolling down the storm drain. My hands fly up to my face as I weep from the pitiful sight of him crawling after it.

With an engine interrupting us, a white car pulls up behind Finn’s and my cars, and Cara runs out from the patio door. Already in an irrational, blind fury, I run after her, hearing Finn yelling behind me.

Surprising even myself, I scream, “You cock-sucking whore! He was mine, you fucking bitch!” Somewhat shocked at my unusual outburst she slows with wide eyes, but then she runs from me like greased lightning to the car. I hunt her down, but the driver honks their horn at me, causing me to jump, giving Cara time to get closer to the door. I recover and chase her again, but I’m picked up from behind before I reach her.

“Stop it!” Finn orders.

“Get your damn hands off me!” The car escapes as I kick and fight Finn.

“Let her go.”

“Let me go!”

He walks to the grass and collapses us to the ground, holding me against him as we pant. He says, “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Whimpering in agony, I cry, “I fucking loved you!”

He pulls me into his lap, and I keep my back to him as I try to wriggle free. “I love you! You didn’t want me anymore!”

Weeping, I shake my head and garble, “I did! I was moving in with you!” His body stiffens behind me. “How could you cheat on me? You were my Sparks!”

“I still am your Sparks!” He ruefully moans and shakes our bodies with his sobs. “Fuck!”

I croak, “Cara? Why her? I thought you loved me!”

He tearfully proclaims between sniffs, “I do love you!”

“First, you tell me you won’t marry me! Then you cheat on me! That’s not love!” I screech, kicking at his feet in frustration. “I was faithful to you! Always! I only wanted you! Fuck! Look where that got me!”

“I was faithful!”

“Until now.” I tearfully shake us, and like he had said to me at the tennis court, I fume, “You didn’t have faith in us! In me! But I’m the one who should’ve been questioning your faith!” I sniff and wrack with more sobs. “You never wanted me!”

Finn pulls me closer to him, wrapping his arms, still gently, around my stomach. “You’re all I’ve ever wanted!” He dissolves into forlorn moans against the back of my head, throttling us both. His arms tense over me as his tears roll down my neck and soak my T-shirt. Even in this time of upheaval and mayhem, I’m dumbstruck Finn Wilder is soul-wrenchingly bawling... for me.

Shakily inhaling, he raises his left arm and drapes it across my chest, holding onto my shoulder while resting his wet cheek against mine, and we cry, inconsolably rocking together on the grass in front of his apartment. Temporarily forgetting my anger, I reach up and cling to his long-sleeved arm with both hands, drenching his shirt with my tears, and for the moment, I don’t fight him. I’m too exhausted and too resigned.

After an eternity, Finn gloomily whispers, “I’m sorry.” His fast breath and heartbeat pound against my back, matching my own. As it becomes darker outside, our cries grow more silent. Lightly squeezing his fingers into my shoulder, he cautiously moves his other hand off me, tentatively brushing my hair from the side of my head. His lips sweep against my ear as he woefully confesses, “I’ve been trying to get you pregnant.”

Even though I surmised as much, it’s still an enormous shock to hear him admit to it, despite the devastation I witnessed today. A few weeks ago, he didn’t want a baby with me.

His arms fall as I twirl around between his legs to face him. “Why are you telling me that now?” I demand, crying again and choking for air.

Tears stream anew from his puffy, red eyes. “Because you could be pregnant with our child.”

“So?” I bite.

He takes a deep breath. “So… I want you to have our baby.”

“Why? You don’t want me pregnant! That’s why we fought at Easter!”

Rolling his teeth over his lip, he whispers, “I changed my mind. I want to give you something you want.”

“Yeah, but it’s nothing you want!”

He blinks his tears, forcing them out of his eyes. “Yes, it is. I want a baby with you. I want to create a life from our love.”

I shove at his heart tattoo, jerking him. My tattoo. “You threw our love away, Finnigan!”

He struggles for words. “I didn’t… I thought…” He shakes his head. “I thought you were leaving me! I never would’ve…” He looks to the ground as his shoulders heave.

“But you did! You couldn’t even wait for us to talk! You moved on like I was nothing!”

Peering up at me, he clenches his teeth. “Nothing? I wanted to fucking die!”

I scowl. “So, squirting into that slut’s mouth makes life worth living?”


“What happens the next time you’re sad? Do you pull your dick out because sex is the only thing that makes you feel better? You said you would’ve fucked her cunt if she spread her legs instead!”

“Whatever took the agony away from losing you!” Hiding his face in his hand, he gasps amid his crying.

“How would fucking her rid you of pain?”

Behind his hand, he tearfully mumbles, “I don’t know, but it didn’t. It made me feel worse. I was about to tell her to stop.”

“That’s a relief!” I sneer. Impetuously, I jump up to leave, but he’s faster and on his feet, dragging me back and forcing me to face him.

“You can’t just leave me! You could be pregnant, Becks!” I’m eviscerated. Becks…

I haul off and punch him in the mouth. It’s a loud crack, which draws blood to his lip. I’ve never punched anyone in my life, and the last person I thought I’d ever punch is Finn Wilder.

Astonished with myself, I cover my mouth with my hands as I watch him touch his lip before looking at me with blood and tears trickling. Backing away, I howl, “I’m sorry!” I then snarl, “Don’t ever call me that name! You have no right anymore! You’re my ex-boyfriend!”

“Don’t say that!”

I rub the tears from my face and go for lies. “I just started my period, lucky you! And if I were pregnant, it’d be like you! Gone!” I wouldn’t do that. Now, I’m the damn liar.

He grimaces. “No!” Unexpectedly, he drops to his knees and yanks my hips to him. His face is at my stomach, and he looks up. “You said you wouldn’t do that to me. To our baby.”

“Look what you just did to me! I want nothing to do with you!” I hide my eyes so I can’t see his blood and tear-stained face. I desperately still want to love him with every piece of my mangled heart. What I’ve said so often will always be true. I will always love Finnigan Robert Wilder.

He digs his fingers into my hips. “I know you. You wouldn’t do that.”

“I thought I knew you!” I wail.

“You do! I made a mistake! Please forgive me! I’m begging you! Take me back! Don’t leave me!”

Sniffing, I mumble, “We’re done.” I push down on his hands, but his easily move up to my waist despite my effort.

He gulps as panic fills his teary eyes. “I love you. You’re my soulmate, and I won’t live without you. Let’s go to Vegas tonight. Marry me, Hadley. Please. Please be my wife.”

Two things painfully strike me. He called me Hadley, in earnest and not to turn me on since I punched him for using my other name. And Finn Wilder just proposed to me, in earnest and not to tease me of something that’ll never happen. I got my fucking wish.

“You didn’t want me to be your wife!”

He ardently nods. “Yes, I did. I’ve always wanted to marry you.”

“But you didn’t!”

He sniffs as his tears drip from his jaw. “I’m sorry. I should’ve proposed two-and-a-half years ago. We’d be married if it weren’t for my fucking stupidity.”

Doubtful, I frown. “You can’t just change your mind that fast about a baby and marriage.”

“I didn’t think so, either, but I want to make you happy, and I want to be happy with you.”

“That’s bullshit. You’re just desperate.”

“No. I want us to get married. I’ve told you that when you were asleep. I meant it.”

I cross my arms. “You expect me to marry you with another woman’s lipstick on your cock?”

“Beck—” He stops and swallows with a wince.

“How can you ask me to marry you after you just turned down my proposal?”

“Because I’m a fucking moron!”

“I won’t disagree with you.” I try to move again, but he won’t let me.

As he stares up at me, he quietly admits, “I was so fucking scared. That’s why I told you no. I didn’t want to lose you, Hadley.”

I choke, “Well, you did anyway.”

He bows his head and sobs, but he steadfastly keeps his tight grip on me. Raising his head, he breathlessly begs, “Please, forgive me! I love you!” His body heaves with his weeping, quaking me with him as he kneels at my feet. My tears fall into his hair, and I try to scour them away, but they keep emerging.

“I hate you for what you did! I thought we were in love!”

He rolls his head against my stomach. “We still have our love! I love you so damn much! Don’t do this to me!”

“Don’t do this to you? You accused me of fucking Rod. Here you’re fucking Cara!”

He ruefully glances up at me. “I didn’t plan to do it!”

“But apparently, when I helped Rod with his sister, all I thought about was riding his dick.” I humorlessly giggle. “You’re absolutely right!” I mockingly lick my lips. “I couldn’t get sex out of my head, especially in a hospital room, around all of those smells and sick people. The crying over a dying sister turned me on.” I steal another one of his quotes. “Grief does a lot of shit to people, as you know.”

“Fuck,” he grumbles against me.

“I’m done here.” I shove his shoulders to move him, but suddenly he grabs my arms, yanking me down beneath him, pinning my wrists to the ground.

He suspends his body above mine, his teardrops splashing onto my face. “I love you more than my own fucking life. I want to marry you. Now. Make me your husband tonight. I’m begging you to marry me, Hadley.”

As both of our tears run down the sides of my cheeks, I close my eyes and pray for strength to not tell him yes.

Since my eyes are closed, Finn unpredictably dives and kisses me. I want to turn my head away, but I don’t. I let him kiss me, and his lips are frantic for mine to respond… and they do. I love him. Even now. I can’t just turn it off. His swollen bottom lip may be sore, but he kisses me like it doesn’t bother him. I taste his tears and his blood, yet I don’t care, either.

He gingerly covers my body with his, bringing us closer, careful to not put much of his weight on me because of my stomach. I feel his heart pounding with mine, and he whimpers into my mouth, maybe from pleasure or pain. Our very public, ungainly kiss intensifies, and his deceitful dick rouses against me, urgently, unlike how it appeared bored with Cara. And even after he cheated on me, I still want to spread my legs for him. I’m no better than her.

Before I end our kiss, headlights flood the grass, instantly stopping us. We look over to see a white-and-blue cruiser with flashing blue-and-red lights pulling up alongside us.

With the sudden bright lights, I can’t see who it is but hear a familiar, “Oh, fuck.”

Finn looks back to my face and mournfully whispers, “I love you, Hadley.”

Cringing, relief and dread broadside me all at once. “Ricky!”

He hurries to us, his eyes huge with shock. “Finn! What the hell are you doing? Get off Hadley!”

Finn possessively hangs over me. “Fuck, Ricky! Leave us alone!”

“He cheated on me with Cara!” I cry, and the sight of them swirls in my head. I hysterically gulp for air as I sob underneath Finn, which makes him cry with me once more.

“What?” Ricky asks with horror saturating his voice.

“I’m sorry!” Finn shouts as his body shudders above me.

I wheeze, “I caught her giving him a…! Oh, God!” Thinking of that again and having to tell someone else what I saw, I lurch my head to the side and gag. Finn lets go of me, and I roll over to throw up in the grass. He drags my ponytail out of the way and strokes my head.

Ricky mutters something, and Finn rubs my arm as I try to empty my sore stomach. Finn talks to Ricky, but I can’t hear him above the sound of my retching or the ringing in my ears. When I’m done, Ricky steps over and lifts me from Finn’s grasp. However, Finn clutches my arm and tugs me back to him. I again feel like a rag doll.

“Finn, let go of her!”

“Don’t take her away from me!”

“Get me out of here, Ricky,” I tiredly plead.

“Come on. People are watching,” Ricky advises us. He gives me a once-over. “Are you hurt?” I frown, and he regretfully amends, “Physically.” I shake my head, swabbing my eyes with the heel of my hand. Ricky pulls me up against him, and lowering his voice, he says to Finn, “I heard your address from dispatch. Another unit is on the way, though. Finn, you need to settle down before another officer gets here. They won’t be as sympathetic to you, but neither am I.”

Finn doesn’t reply to Ricky. He only stares up at me, but I look away. Sighing, Ricky wipes his hand down his face and mumbles, “Shit.” He lifts and lowers the bill of his hat as he contemplates what to say next. “I can give you a warning as long as Finn didn’t physically hurt you, Hadley. I don’t want to arrest either of you for a domestic dispute or fine you for disturbing the peace.” This has to be devastating for him to see his best friend like this.

I furtively see his neighbors out on their porches, watching us. Even though Finn has eviscerated me, I’m still protective of him. People are watching their beloved sportscaster and daredevil at his lowest point. I can’t let them think this is all his fault. I’m not a vindictive bitch, no matter what he did to me.

I step back from Ricky and stick out my arms. Loudly, I say, “Arrest me. I punched Finn Wilder twice and kneed him in the groin. That’s battery in Virginia.”

Ricky looks over at Finn. “Did she?”

Still on his knees, Finn wipes the blood from his busted lip and glares up at Ricky. “No.”

“Yes, I did! I attacked him!” I affirm to Ricky through my tears, hoping the bystanders hear me. There’s enough who probably witnessed me.

“Off the record, you deserved it,” Ricky mutters to his best friend. I gape at Ricky in astonishment. He cheated on Nina. He’s been where Finn is.

“I know I do,” Finn replies, bowing his head as his body shakes.

To Ricky, I hoarsely whisper, “I just want to go home.”

“You’re not driving home like this. I’ll have the other officer take you home.” He heavily sighs as he walks me to the cruiser and opens the door. “I want you to have a seat, Hadley, until they get here.”

Finn snaps his head up and bolts over to Ricky’s car. With excellent reflexes, Ricky holds his hand out to stop him.

“Finn, go inside. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

He shoves Ricky’s arm aside, fixedly staring at me. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Come on, man! Just do as I tell you! I don’t want to have to take you downtown!” Keeping his hand on my shoulder, Ricky steps closer to Finn. “This is fucking hard enough for me.”

Finn yells, “I know I fucked up!”

“No, kidding!” Ricky snaps.

“Shit!” Finn throws his hands into his hair before falling to his knees again. Ricky holds onto me and swears some more. “Please stay!” Finn mops his wet face on his sleeve. His hair and his glistening eyes glow red and then blue from the lights on Ricky’s car. He tearfully begs, “Marry me, Hadley. I love you. I was so stupid for saying no. I’ll marry you whatever time we land in Vegas. God, I promise you we’ll get married. Be my wife. Becks, please marry me.” Becks. That’s what gave him the fat lip. I’m in ruins. I want to say yes. Who’s the fucking moron now?

I turn and hug Ricky, hiding my face against his chest and Tesco nameplate. Over my head, he whispers, “Fuck, Wilder.”

When I glance at Finn, he howls, “Don’t break up with me!”

“Finn, stop this!” Ricky yells and ushers me into the back seat.

“What will you do with him?” I sadly ask him as I sit.

He turns to look at Finn, who is still on the ground. “I’ll stay here with him until he calms down. I need you to stay somewhere for a couple of days.”

“I’ll call someone.”

“Okay. I want you to call me if you have any problems. Call me anyway. I need to know what happened. He’ll tell me, but I want to hear your side, too. I’m sorry, Hadley. I really am. Shit. I never…” He again looks at Finn and sighs.

“Me neither.”

“Can I have your car key? I don’t want you over here. That’ll just fire you both up again, and next time, it probably won’t be me here, and they’ll arrest you both. Shay will help me bring your car to you tomorrow. I won’t tell Finn where you’re staying.”

I nod and dig out my keys, pulling off the right one, and handing it to him.”

“I’ll get the key to you tomorrow. Sit tight. Your ride will be here soon.” He shuts the door and walks over to Finn. I’m sitting in the same spot as Finn, drunk at the club. Ricky squats to be eye level with Finn, but Finn won’t look at him.

I’m numb. How do I function? How am I supposed to face people? How am I supposed to work tomorrow?

I watch Ricky talking to Finn. Finn needs him more than ever, not just for skydiving, dirt bike riding, or coaching a softball team together. Oh, shit. I can’t play if Finn refuses to stop coaching, but then again, I don’t want to play anymore without him. Ricky will have to take over, which will only be a painful reminder. Would he keep tabs on me and report to Finn? Would Finn even care about me after a while? Worse yet, would Cara dare to stay? I won’t be responsible for what I do if I see that bitch again.

Ricky helps Finn up as more flashing red-and-blue lights illuminate the area. Ricky shouts something to the officer as he holds onto Finn. A redheaded female officer walks over to Ricky, and they talk as Finn stoically gazes at me while Ricky keeps his hands firmly on his shoulders.

The woman officer nods several times before turning to Ricky’s car and opening the door for me. She asks what I need, and I tell her my suitcase and a box are in the apartment. As she walks me to her car, Finn yells for me again, and at Ricky to let him go.

“Becks! Fuck, I love you! Don’t go! I’ll die without you! Jesus Christ! Hadley, don’t fucking leave me!” I stop and blearily gape at the disheveled, desperate man crying for me, shocked and even more dismayed than I thought possible after what I’ve seen. I’ve never heard Finn say the Lord’s name irreverently before. I suppose he’s been doing a lot of new things.

Ricky says something to him, and Finn tries to push past him again, but Ricky holds Finn as he sobs, “I love her! Damn it! I want to marry her, Ricky! Becks! Shit! Hadley!” I cry harder, seeing his neighbors watching him with curiosity and shame.

I reach up to hold my key, but realizing it’s gone, it knocks the air out of me all over again.

Officer Carson settles me into her back seat, and then she retrieves my things. I stare out the window as Ricky holds Finn up against his cruiser, trying to calm him down. I can’t believe I’m not the one Ricky needs to subdue. I threw my jewelry at Finn. I chased Cara down like a dog. I kneed, kicked, and punched Finn. I yelled things that I thought would never leave my mouth. Why is he the one losing it more than me now? Didn’t this possibility enter his mind at all when he was entering Cara’s mouth?

Cringing as the image again assaults me, I lean forward, crying into my lap, “Why, Finn? Why wasn’t I good enough for you? Didn’t I love you enough?” Maybe I wasn’t daring enough.

As we pull away, Officer Carson asks if there’s anyone she can call for me.

She escorts me to my apartment for me to gather what I need. She also advises me not to come back for a couple of days and to possibly change my locks if this separation is permanent. Separation. More like a bludgeoning.

There’s a knock at my door, and Officer Carson answers it. “Where is she?”

“Ms. Beckett is right here.” She steps aside. Greg Rodwell rushes through the door, and running over to meet him, he catches me as I fall.

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