Igniting the Wild Sparks, Book 3

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Chapter 30

Finn

No. She couldn’t have.

Becks marrying Shane?

She’s supposed to marry me.

How could Becks fall out of love with me so fast? I made a monstrous mistake. I thought we were over. I was weak and tried to cope.

She’s right. I didn’t have faith in us, and I gave in to Cara. However, I never stopped believing that what Becks and I had was special. At least, I thought we did. Shit. Was she ever in love with me?

Staggered by what Morgan told me, I get out of my car in a stupor. I couldn’t just sit at home and accept that Becks ran off to marry him. I have to see it for myself.

Still in a trance, stepping off the elevator, I turn right and march to her apartment, down the hall with invincible purpose. As a habit, I put the key into the doorknob but realize I’m not as welcomed as I used to be. And if what Morgan said is true, she’s not alone. Fuck. What will I say if he answers the door?

Shoving my keys into my pocket, I knock on the door, but there’s no answer. Her car is in the parking lot. Leaning away from the door, I peer down the hallway to see if maybe she had gone somewhere and is just coming home, but no Becks. Is Rod driving her every day still, or did she already move in with Shane? No. It doesn’t make sense with her car here.

Becoming more desperate, I knock more insistently and listen again, but I don’t hear any stirring from inside. “Becks! Answer the door!” Nothing. I look up and down the hall, but nobody’s around. On this floor, it’s just Becks and her neighbor. Digging my keys back out, I insert her apartment key into the lock, expecting it to pop open, but it doesn’t. I pull the key out to make sure I have the right one, and I put it back into the handle, only for it to thwart me once more. Did she change her lock?

I gawk at the door in horrified disbelief. First her phone number, now her lock? Possibly adding Shane to her life, too? She’s already moved on without me? I suppose I did my moving on before I thought things through, but I was always thinking about Becks. Even with Cara. Becks was the one I imagined.

“Becks!” I shake my head and impatiently spit, “Fuck.” I try again, “Hadley!” I lick my lips and clamp down on my teeth. “I need to talk to you!” Is she in there and just not answering me, hoping I’ll go away quietly? Not a fucking chance. I made a scene the other night, trying to get her to open the damn door, and I’ll do it again. I don’t care if I go to jail. It’d be better than my apartment. I can’t live there anymore. Looking at my bed makes me physically sick. I want to torch it. Some of my best memories with Becks happened there… and then the worst.

“Hadley! I’m begging you! Let me in!” Still no answer. I pound on the door in frustration before leaning my head onto it, closing my eyes. “I’m so sorry I hurt you! You’re all I’ve ever wanted! You’re my dream girl! My Becks!” I erratically inhale before shouting to the closed door, “I want to marry you!” I suddenly laugh, thinking of what I did for her. “I can show you! You dared me! I have the proof on me! Tell me I’m not too late! I love you! Marry me, Hadley Beckett! Be my Becks Wilder! Be my wife!”

I can’t be too late.

Lifting my head, I drop my keys and pound on the door with both fists. “Becks, open the fucking door!”

With no response, I’ve reached my breaking point. I turn around, and my hands go into my hair as I lean against the door and slide down to the floor. I can’t stop the tears. I don’t even give a fuck anymore who sees me. I’ve never cried so much in my miserable life. Becks, Ricky, Simone, Hank, Becks’s neighbor, and Morgan have all seen me blubber. Hell, all my neighbors saw me crying. I’m probably on YouTube by now. Finn Wilder, Richmond’s Biggest Cry Ass.

I’m surprised I didn’t make my own damn newscast. Hank loved reading about my Monday night in the paper. He had called me into his office and demanded to know what happened. He could see I had a busted lip, scratches on my face, and how despondent I was if that’s the word I want to use. There’s not one in the English dictionary that can describe how I feel about losing the love of my life.

I told Hank that Becks and I argued and broke up. He asked if I had hit her. I may as well have. I said no and started crying on demand. I confessed to Hank about cheating on Becks, but I didn’t tell him with whom. He might’ve fired Cara. I couldn’t do that to her brand-new career. It wasn’t even her fault. It was all mine, as usual, just as everything else has been. I should’ve been stronger than I was and not turned to her. I should’ve sought out Becks, but I thought I fucked us up beyond repair by telling her no.

I bang the back of my head against the door, my sobs echoing in the hallway. “Baby, don’t leave me! Don’t marry him! Marry me! Shit! I can’t live without you! You’re my best friend, Hadley! I’ve always wanted to marry you! I was just a scared, stupid asshole!”

“That’ll win her back.” I roll my head to see Becks’s neighbor walking to me from the elevator. I blink to see her from behind my glasses, making no effort to wipe off my face. It’s not the first time I’ve cried in front of her. She saw me the other night when I was at Becks’s door, begging her to forgive me, and to marry me, yet again. Her neighbor was cool and didn’t threaten to call the cops. She came out and talked me down from the ledge, so to speak. Though, I was thinking about actually getting on one. She even gave me half a bottle of JD as a parting gift. Nice lady.

She asks, “She’s still not answering you?”

I hoarsely say, “No. Has she been here?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her, but I’ve been working afternoons. Her pregnant girlfriend was here earlier. She and that guy friend of theirs.”

Pulling my head from the door, I ask, “Was he about six feet tall, short brown hair, probably wearing a shirt, tie, and a smart mouth?”

She laughs. “Yes. He was quiet this time. They were stopping to pack a suitcase for Hadley since they were leaving for the weekend, and if Hadley received any packages if I could pick them up for her.”

On the verge of hope and panic, I ask, “Did she say where they were going?”

“No. Give her some time.”

“I don’t have time.” Picking up my keys before standing, I lift my glasses and buff my eyes with the heel of my hand. “I’ll lose her forever if I haven’t already.”

“You’ve been with her for a long time, haven’t you?”

“Three years.”

“Is she the one?”

Without hesitation, I reply, “From the first second I saw her, I knew I wanted to marry her. I want her to have my kids.” Kids. Becks could be pregnant. She said she got her period, but was she lying about that? Would she tell me if she were pregnant now? Would she not keep it because of what I did?

Her neighbor says, “Then it’s never too late.”

Nodding, I push off the door and run to the elevator. It takes too long, so I punch the bar on the stairwell door and take them instead. I don’t want that Shane fucker raising our kid, and she won’t be passing our baby off as his. Our baby will be a Wilder, just like Becks is supposed to be.

In the parking lot, I call Becks’s desk phone. Voicemail. Fuck. I’m sure she has caller ID.

Like a bat out of my own personal hell, I get into my car and peel out of the lot. Ten minutes later, I’m at the law firm in record time, speed limits be damned. I pull into a space near the entrance and resolutely stride into the lobby, stopping at the desk, where the two familiar guards instantly smile at me.

I’m greeted with, “Hi, Finn!” from both simultaneously. I’m in no state of mind for damn chitchat or gushing over me because I’ve met one of their heroes. My life is on the line.

“I need to see Hadley Beckett. Now.”

Their smiles fade somewhat, but they’re still eager to help. “Do you have an appointment?”

“No. Get me up there or get her down here. I don’t care.”

The younger one, Creyton, his name tag reads, says, “Let me see if she’s in.”

“Wait. Didn’t she leave earlier with her friends?” the older guard, Heffernan, asks him. I feverishly look between the two as they slowly contemplate if they had or not.

“I think, but I’m not sure. I was on the phone with Dave—”

I irritably interrupt, “Can’t you call upstairs? It’s an emergency. I need to see her right now.”

Looking a little flustered, Creyton says, “Sure.” He picks up the phone and peruses through a list of numbers. Son of a bitch. I want to jump on the elevator, but if they’re like the ones in my building, you need a key card for it to open to the floors. They’d call the cops for sure. Ricky would be fucking pissed and probably not talk to me again. He and Simone have me under virtual house arrest. Though it’s easy to sneak out when one of my caretakers works different shifts, and the other is a twenty-two-year-old who likes her social life. Ricky’s already threatened to arrest me for being a fucking prick, succumbing to Cara. Like he has room to talk. Still, I’m only allowed out to go to work and church, though I haven’t even been to Mass in a while. It’s not the same without Becks by my side, and at present, I don’t even know what to say to God regarding what I’ve done.

The guard speaks to Rhonda, I’m assuming. He tries to flirt with her, and I’m so close to wrapping the damn phone cord around his fucking throat. I impatiently drum my fingers on the counter, and Heffernan asks, “So, Miss Beckett is the infamous Becks tattooed on your chest?”

I nearly glare at him and woodenly answer, “Yeah.”

“You must really love her to do something like that.”

I testily reply, “Yeah, I do. I plan to marry her.” That feels good to say that to someone. Finally. If it’s not already too late. It can’t be.

“You could dare her to marry you!”

Becks dared me.

Fuck. I failed.

My exasperated glare hardens, yet he says, “She’s nice. Pretty, too.” I wish he would shut the fuck up about my girlfriend.

My ex-girlfriend. Fuck me.

The clattering of the receiver catches my attention, and Creyton says, “I’m sorry, Finn. Rhonda said Miss Beckett left for the rest of the week.”

“Where’d she go?”

“Rhonda didn’t say. She said Greg and Morgan went with Miss Beckett. So, I guess we did see them leaving.” They are the worst security ever.

I lean onto the counter and push my hand into my hair. Where do I go from here? I don’t know where Rodwell or Morgan live. I asked Ricky to look them up for me, but he refused. He said to leave them alone before I’m arrested for harassment. I ought to have Morgan arrested for sexual assault, grabbing my dick earlier, but that would only make things worse with Becks since she’d most likely approve of Morgan’s action.

“We wish we could help you.”

“Yeah, me, too.” I stand and leave before they ask me about anything sports or dare-related.

Standing next to my car, I pull my phone out and call the law firm’s main number myself.

“Rhonda, it’s Finn.”

“Coach! How are you?”

“Not good. I really need to talk to Hadley. Do you know where she went?”

“All I know is that she left with Morgan and Rod earlier for the rest of the week. She didn’t tell you where she was going?” I guess she didn’t announce what happened or our breakup to the office. Is that a good thing?

“Uh, no. She has a new phone number, and I lost it already. I forgot where she said was going.” Sounds like a caring boyfriend. Not.

“Oh. I wish I could help you. Is Hadley okay? She hasn’t seemed like herself this week. When she’s been here, that is.”

Not wanting to feed into the rumor mill, I say, “She’s just not feeling well. Can I talk to Val?”

She laughs. “No such luck, either. She’s in a meeting and then has court later.”

I sigh and lean against my car. “Will you tell Val to call or email me, please?”

“Sure, coach!” I hang up and jump in my car, speeding home before Simone gets back. She had to run to the college campus for some shit about the dorm. She was going with friends, so I took a chance. If she sees I’m gone, she’ll call Ricky, and he’ll put an APB out on my ass. I wouldn’t put it past him to do that.

As soon as I get home, I sit down on the couch and try calling the one person I should have after talking to Morgan. Rodwell. My calls keep going to voicemail, which worries me, so I try texting him and impatiently wait for a response. He said he’d help me. He has to convince her to give me another chance.

Fuck. What am I going to do without her? I don’t want to live, knowing she can’t forgive me. Becks, I love you. I hope you can still love me.

I text, Where’s Hadley?

Her response is fast. Wouldn’t you like to know?

Stop fucking with me! Is it TRUE?

Let her be happy. She can’t trust you. You said you’d let her move on. She has. Now, leave us all alone.

DID HADLEY MARRY SHANE?!

I fear the one answer that will conclusively fuck up my life forever. Getting up from the couch, I anxiously pace the floor, awaiting my fate. Becks wouldn’t have married Shane. She didn’t even like him. She only wanted to marry me.

Before I get an actual text, answering my question, I receive pictures from Rodwell. Pictures of Shane and Becks. He’s holding her in his arms, and they’re dressed up. More come with them hugging, smiling, him holding her hand as she looks up at him, and then one with him kissing her. What? I frantically scroll through them, and then I get a response.

Yes. LET HER GO.

In a flash, I’m on the floor for the third time today, but this time, the life has been knocked out of me. My Becks is gone, and I single-handedly gave her away. I may as well had wrapped her in a fucking bow for Shane and hand-delivered her to him.

I claw at the carpet, yowling for her. I’m on all fours begging God to strike me dead, yet I deserve the punishment of living this hell on Earth for what I did to Becks. I had prayed ceaselessly that she’d forgive me, but I can’t forgive myself. How will God ever forgive me? I cut Becks open, tore out her beating heart, and crushed it as she watched from a front-row seat.

Sitting up, I lean back against the coffee table, trying to catch my breath, but I’m suffocating. My chest is caving in on me, along with my life. This is the place on the floor where we almost made love Easter night until I opened my fucking mouth about birth control pills.

Kill me. Somebody, please end my life. It’s not worth living anymore.

Not even noticing the front door opening, Simone is on her knees next to me.

“Finn! What the hell?” I can’t answer her. I can only cower and pant for air as I cry. She shouts, “My God! What happened? Did you see Hadley when I was gone?”

I’m inconsolable. She grabs my shoulders and shakes me. “Finn!” My phone buzzes with more messages. Simone picks it up, and her eyes go wide. She then looks at me, and I howl, “Becks!”

I just can’t.

Early Friday morning, I’m up. I didn’t sleep the night before, so I’ve been awake. Ricky and Simone stayed up with me most of the night, but he was tired from working all day and was the first to crash. He and Simone dragged out of me the gist of what happened, but I wouldn’t talk beyond that.

As soon as it’s possible, I make phone calls. After confirming and negotiating, I get in my car and go to work early. Way early. Stopping outside Hank’s office, I take a deep breath.

Closing the door, I say, “Today’s my last day.”

Not expecting that, Hank booms, “What?”

“I have to quit. I’m sorry to do this at the last minute, but I can’t stay. I have to get out of here. Now.”

“How? What? You can’t just leave us!”

“I wish I didn’t have to, but...” I clear my throat and swallow to get rid of the tightness. “It’s too painful being here.”

“Finn, you’ll get through this. You have many supporting you.”

I peer around the room, shaking my head. “Thanks, but I can’t.”

“Where are you going?”

“Our affiliate in Baltimore.”

“You’re just going to leave us with your show?”

“Give it to Drake or Tony.”

“People love you!” Not all people.

“They love them, too.”

“They don’t have the fan following you do!”

“It’ll take some time. People won’t even remember me after a while.” Apparently, I’m already forgotten by some.

“Don’t do this! Take some time off and get your head together!”

“No. I’ve made up my mind. I’m sorry for doing this to you.” I apologetically frown, feeling bad I’m fucking up his news team and giving him a major headache.

He sits back and sighs while I again look away. “You aren’t working things out with Hadley?”

I feel the fucking tears kicking off as I say, “No. She got married. I can’t be in Richmond.” I grit my teeth and look at a poster on his wall to fight another fucking breakdown.

“Married? Who? She was with you for so long!”

I shake my head but answer, “Yeah, I can’t talk about this anymore.”

Hank nods, probably not wishing for a repeat performance of my crying like a girl. “I’m so sorry about that.” He tries a last-ditch attempt to keep me. “We’re your family here, Finn! We’ll help you in any way we can!” Yeah, I went that damn route. “I wish you would stay! We’ll give you your own office and a better parking space!”

“Thanks, but no.”

“A raise? I’ll check the numbers. I’ll see what we can do.”

I again shake my head. “No. That’s not the reason I’m leaving. Anyway, I have to go up there to look at an apartment tonight. I start on Wednesday, so I have to get going.”

I need to move on, too.

If I can.

“Aren’t you taking any furniture?” Simone asks, Sunday afternoon, as I finish packing the last boxes.

“Nope. Furnished apartment. You can have most of my shit.”

She hesitates before quietly asking, “Are you sure you have to go?”

“Yep.” I shove the rest of my bathroom into a box and reach for the roll of tape.

“You may never even run into her here!”

I give her a sharp look and warn, “Don’t, Simone.”

“You’re giving up? You can’t just run away!”

I slam down the roll. “Damn it! I’m not! I’m starting over! Just like she did!”

She flings her hands up. “How will you move on? You’ll always love Hadley!”

I tape the box and coldly say, “I feel nothing anymore.” I don’t want to feel anything anymore.

“Don’t fucking lie to me, Finnigan!” Swiftly looking up, I glare at her before I toss the box by the front door. She’s getting on my fucking nerves.

I gruffly stride past her, and she shouts, “So, you’re just letting her go?” I try to ignore her as I walk down the hall to my bedroom. I can’t even look at the bed, so I get my packing done in no time. Regrettably, my sister followed me.

“Finn!”

I turn around. “I have to! Now, leave me the fuck alone!”

“Do you honestly think she’s happy, not even two weeks after you cheated on her?” I go to my closet, and she clings to me like cheap perfume. “Make her understand! You’ll make it up to her for the rest of your damn life! Get down on your knee and beg her to marry you!”

I throw clothes into a box and walk over to my dresser to dig out more. “I did that! She’s fucking married now, Simone! It’s too late!”

She’s in my face, halting my packing progress. She’s unstoppable. “So what, Finnigan! She was yours first and always will be. This sudden marriage can’t be as profound as what she had with you, not married!”

Shoving her hands out of the way, I slam the drawer shut and bark, “She didn’t want me anymore! She already gave me chances, and I royally fucked them up! So, you don’t know shit!”

“Hadley loves you!”

Loved. She’s gone!” I shout back, recoiling from my own words.

She’s really gone.

“You’re just going to sit back and not doing anything?”

Scooping a hand through my hair, I ask, “Sit back?” I step closer to her and seethe, “She got married!”

“Go see her and straighten it out!”

“And say what? Hmm? Could you get a divorce so you can marry me? That’s a tad hypocritical of me, don’t you think?”

“You’re worried about that now?”

“Didn’t I say to leave me the fuck alone?”

“Hell if I will! You think I’m here for my health? I’m here to knock some fucking sense into that concrete skull of yours!”

Resigned to the fact I’m fighting a never-ending battle with her, I step back and heavily sigh. “Get off my ass.”

“Oh, but I’m okay to use when you wanted me to see her.”

Flinching, I turn my back to her, grumbling, “You wanted to see her.”

“Yeah, but that was hard for me! Hadley won’t be in my life anymore because of what you did to her!”

I swing around to face her again. “I wish I could take it back! I should’ve known I would mess it up! I’m not even good enough for her! I’ve never been good enough! I’m an asshole! I wish I had the balls to be the man she needed!”

“Maybe if you hadn’t swung them in another woman’s face…”

“Fuck you, Simone!” I angrily move to pick up a box, taking it to the front door, where Ricky already loaded the rest. Thank God he’s going with me. He took some vacation days, and he’s even thinking about transferring permanently up there. Not sure how Shay really feels about that. I haven’t asked. I’m an asshole friend, too.

Again, she tails me. As I turn from the door, she asks, “You actually got an erection for that tramp, and you put it in her mouth?”

My eyes virtually bug out of my damn head with that question coming from my sister. “Simone! Shut the fuck up or get the hell out of here! I’m not talking to you about that!”

“I’m just saying. It’s mindboggling because of all the things you made Hadley do with it. You had her stroke your cock in the car at Henlopen. I’m pretty sure you two were banging in your room when I knocked on your door, and you were fucking her outside after church, and then Easter morning…” What?

“Wait. What? Outside?”

She rolls her eyes. “Come on, Finnigan. That heater casts a glow. From the kitchen window, I could see what you two were doing out there when I came home.”

I frown and look to the box I was packing, at a loss for words, mostly because I don’t want to think about Becks and me making love under the stars for the last time ever.

Suddenly, the creepiness factor hits me.

“…it’s just not right—”

“Hold on. You were watching your brother having sex. How twisted are you?”

“Eww. Not for long. I saw a light outside and could tell Hadley was on top of you. Believe me. I had nightmares thinking about your—”

“Just stop talking. You’re fucking preposterous.” I suck in my lips and clench my fist in front of her face and snarl, “Fucking hell, Simone.”

She rolls her eyes at me, as little sisters do, and I shake my head in disbelief at her before heading back to my room.

Behind me, Simone sneers, “I’ll email Hadley, but I’m not telling you anything she says to me!”

I immediately stop. Spinning around, Simone jeeringly smiles at me again. I yell, “You said you would tell me if she responds!”

She crosses her arms. “Nope!”

Licking my lips, I squeeze my hands into fists again. “Simone, I need you to watch after her.” Because if she suddenly starts growing a stomach, she’s pregnant with my baby, one that I put inside her. I want to be a part of my kid’s life, even if I’m not the best father out there. Becks’s mother left her. Fuck if I’ll be like that lowlife.

“Why? I thought you don’t love her anymore?”

I glare at her. Can’t she just do something she’s told? I stiffly say, “Just keep an eye on her. Please?” I’d rather not tell Simone about Becks, possibly being pregnant. I’ll only interfere if it involves my DNA. Nothing would keep me away then. Not even Becks.

“So, you want me to spy on her? Then what?” She walks closer to me. “What happens if she needs you?”

“She won’t.” I’ll need her.

“What if, Finn? What if Hadley needs you? You two had a love that was so sweet. So real. It didn’t matter if you weren’t married or didn’t live together. You loved her with every modicum of your soul. And so did she. Everyone could feel her love for you. You were soulmates.”

I look away from her as my eyes sting. Fuck. I’ll never move on if I can’t get my shit together. How will I be able to breathe without Becks? Get through my daily life without her? I won’t. I’ll need something to distract me. A hobby. Yeah, like stamp collecting will make me forget.

I take a cursory look around the room, avoiding my sister, and say, “If she emails you and says she…” I sigh and put my hands on my hips, flicking my eyes back to her. “I just want to know if she’s happy.”

“I know the answer to that. I saw her face. She’s not.”

“She had you fooled.”

“No. You had everyone fooled.”

I contemplate that as I go to my dresser. Sighing, I decisively say, “Becks deserves happiness after the hell I put her through. She found someone who gave her the one thing she wanted in life.” I pick up the last box from on top of my dresser, brushing past Simone to take it outside. Ricky’s almost finished loading up his truck. It’s a sobering sight. I thought if I were moving, Becks and I would move together.

I set the box on the tailgate, and Ricky picks it up without a word. At least for now. I know he’ll open the floodgates later.

I walk back into the apartment to get my things I left on the counter, and she’s still my fucking shadow. She yells, “How can you say that? She wanted to marry you! How stupid are you?”

“I’m so stupid that the second I’m out of the picture, she marries someone else!”

“The second you thought she was out of the picture, you let your cock do the thinking!”

“Get the fuck out of my face, Simone!”

“She wanted you, asshole!”

“Right. She seemed happy in those pictures!”

“Looks can be deceiving! I’ll get to the bottom of it if you won’t!”

I yank her arm, jerking her to me. “Leave Hadley alone. Don’t even email her. I don’t want to know anything. If I hear you bothered her, I will stop paying your rent and utilities, and you can’t afford it. You’ll have to live in the fucking dorms instead of here.”

“Don’t you want to know how she’s doing? Don’t you want to meet her? Call her? Maybe she’ll want to talk to you!”

“She changed her phone number like I need to. Today. She’s had mine, and she hasn’t called me.”

“I can find her new number—”

“Don’t!” Pointing my finger in her face, I angrily warn, “Leave her the fuck alone. I mean it.” I wave my hand at the apartment. “Do you want to live here or the dorms? Mom won’t carry your ass, and you know it. Ricky has cop friends who will watch you and report back to us. You step out of line and contact her, you’re done. You’ll have to transfer back to your shitty school, not to mention it’ll severely piss me off, so don’t blow your only chance!” His cop friends don’t have that much of a reach. She doesn’t need to know that, though.

“Like you did?” She bites the inside of her cheek.

Annoyed she’s mocking me still, I swipe my mouth with my hand and irritably shout, “Yeah! Like I fucking did!” I shake my head, exasperated. “Promise me, Simone, you won’t bother Becks! Hadley…” I edgily sigh, pulling my hand through my hair as I glare at my sister, waiting for her to answer me.

She stares me down. “Fine! I won’t, but you’re making a fucking mistake!”

Waiting for another smartass comment, I finally look around my apartment once more for anything I missed, but don’t really care if I did. I know she wants to argue with me some more, but I don’t want to hear any more of how much of a dick I am.

I finish gathering the last of my things, ignoring my sister’s death glares. What does she know? To Becks, I’m nothing but a liar and a philanderer. I always thought she deserved better than me. Now, she can have it. Rodwell and Morgan are right. I owe her that much.

Picking up a plastic bag full of odds and ends I’ll need, I give my sister a quick and tense hug, making her cry. I can’t do this with her again. I have enough tears ahead of me.

I walk fast to my car, thankful I’m riding alone, although Ricky hasn’t said two words to me today. I know he’s disappointed in me. He never wanted me to follow in his footsteps.

I pat the front of my shirt to make sure my key, Becks’s key, and her ring are still under there. I don’t know when I’ll take them off. Maybe there’ll be a day when I don’t need a piece of her with me. Though, having her name tattooed on me is kind of hard to forget. It’ll always be a reminder of what I used to have and lost. A penance for my sins.

As I merge into interstate traffic, my mind is all on Becks, as it always will be. She looked relieved in those pictures. Relieved to be smiling again since she’s rid of me and my demons?

I fell in love with that smile.

I fell in love with everything about Hadley Bliss Beckett.

I’ll never forget our three years together. The first time my lips tasted hers at the chocolate festival.

Her ponytail flipping around, or her loose hair cascading over me.

The feel of her hand in mine and how perfectly our bodies fit together in every way.

Kicking the soccer ball around and how I called her Becks that first time.

The first time she called me Sparks at Easter Vigil.

Kissing her in front of those women in the bar, but then embarrassing the hell out of her with my tantrum.

Picking her up after my charity race and kissing her, not caring who the hell was watching.

The time we played on the beach at Bethany’s.

How we made out on the bleachers in swiveled caps and sunglasses when I was supposed to be working.

Spending nights on the couch, not watching a movie.

That makeup sex before my tattoo dare that left my body buzzing for days.

Getting my tattoo for her and loving her reaction to it.

Going to her apartment after her injury and making love in the moonlight, confessing that I want to be her husband.

Her teasing me at Fenwick Lighthouse and then teasing her with the two lighthouses at Henlopen.

Kissing her at Busch Gardens in front of people watching us.

Her lopsided pancakes.

Giving her my ring, jacket, and my baseball number.

The sign she made for me.

Kissing her on camera because I couldn’t fucking help myself.

Our second date.

After our goodnight kiss on our first date, I couldn’t wait to see her again, so we had planned for dinner the next night. Following dinner, we headed for the Canal Walk.

“Finn, thank you again for dinner.”

“You don’t have to thank me. I enjoy spending time with you.”

“I thought maybe you’d get tired of me. You spent all day with me yesterday.”

I grinned at her. “Not tired of you.”

“You promise?”

I laughed. “I promise.” Reaching for her hand, I wove our cold fingers together, forcing my heart to leap merely from feeling her silky skin. I had never felt that way about any woman. Ever. I’ve had crushes, but this was soul-stirring. She was doing things to me, and I didn’t know how to handle myself for the first time in my life. And even though it scared me like nothing before, I wanted her to know how I felt and what she did to me. Why? I didn’t know that, either.

As we walked along the canal, amid lit-up downtown Richmond, I slowed and coaxed her over to the black metal railing, overlooking the Kanawha Canal. The lights’ reflection illuminated the water, making it shimmer in the dark like thousands of flickering candles.

I was so anxious. I had all these new feelings but had no clue how to express them or if she’d want to hear them from me yet, if at all.

“You’re quiet,” she said.

“I am? Sorry.”

She nervously giggled. “Am I that boring?”

“You boring? Never.”

She frowned. “I’m not that interesting. Nothing like you. Your life is one adrenaline rush. I can’t compete with that.”

“You don’t have to compete. There’s no contest.” That was the honest-to-God truth.

A wary smile twitched at her lips, and she shyly said, “If you’re trying to get me to sleep with you tonight, I won’t.”

I laughed. “I’m not. You’re funny.”

“You’re a guy. You’re thinking that.”

“No, I wasn’t.” She looked at me doubtfully, making me smile again. I rolled my eyes and admitted, “Okay. Maybe a little, but do you think that’s why I want to be with you? Just for that?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Why else would you want to be with me?”

I lost my smile and truthfully said, “A lot of reasons. Trust me.” Looking into her glittering green eyes, full of mysteries and wonder, I put my casted arm onto the railing, and with my other hand, I gently swept her hair off her face from the breeze kicking up through the canal. Touching her was exhilarating and much more gratifying than any other adrenaline rush I’ve ever experienced. This rush was it.

I couldn’t believe she was with me. She’s so beautiful. My fingers lingered on her cheek, and she smiled while looking away from me. I moved my hand down to her chin and gently coerced her to look up at me. Our eyes locked onto each other’s, and with my hand on her cheek, I instinctively bent down to kiss her. I couldn’t take my lips off hers, and we lost ourselves in our windy kiss. Even though I was wearing a coat on that cold night, I didn’t need to wear one. My feelings ignited, burning me.

When she eventually pulled away, her eyes held me, spellbound. She totally mesmerized me, and I was powerless to it like a raging storm engulfing a rowboat. I had never felt it before her, but I knew what it was.

Impulsively, I whispered, “Did you feel that?”

Her eyes widened and darted around, thinking she missed something. “Feel what?”

I swallowed. “I-I just fell in love with you. I love you, Hadley.” My heart arrested to a dead stop. Would she reject me? Break my motionless heart?

Her gaze briefly dropped from me. Did I screw this up? Was I too soon? Did she not feel the same about me?

Suddenly, her eyes flew up to mine, a dazzling smile lit her face far brighter than the buildings around us, and she joyfully whispered back, “I’m in love with you, too, Finn. I love you.” She gripped my coat collar, giggling. “I’m still not having sex with you tonight.” Damn, I loved her.

I smiled the biggest smile, clasped her face with both hands, careful not to hit her with my cast, and happily kissed her again, once more getting lost in her. We didn’t care if it was a brisk March night. Our lives had just changed forever. I had fallen in love. And from then on, I knew I wanted to shield her from my on-air life. She was my most prized possession, my greatest accomplishment… and my ultimate downfall.

I suppose telling Becks I had fallen in love with her right then was the first lie I told her since I had already fallen in love with her in the hospital.

We had good times together that rocked me. I don’t want to think about the bad because all the bad times were my fault. My growing jealousy, for one. I was so afraid another man would take her away from me that I pushed her into the arms of another man.

She had asked me to have a baby with her, and I told her no. She asked me to marry her, and I again said no. She would’ve done anything for me, yet I wouldn’t do the same for her. My fears of losing her to another man, getting married, and becoming a father all conquered me because I refused to triumph over them. There’s nothing scarier than your biggest nightmares coming true and having to live with the upshots for the rest of your lonely life.

For six years, my life has been in Richmond, but it didn’t start when I moved there, or even when I got my own segment. My life began when I looked away from the TV in the ER waiting room and saw the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my life, feeling an instant connection. The woman I vowed to render mine before she slipped away and out of my reach. I cherished Becks, but not enough, and I lost her because of my phobias, and because I didn’t believe in the power of us. Sounds cliché, but that’s what happened. Now, I lost it all, and I’m forsaken. I can’t do this without her. I don’t even want to try. Life is pointless now.

We promised forever to each other. We may not have promised before an audience, an altar, a minister, or before God, but it meant something to my heart and soul. I was eternally hers. I didn’t want another woman, and I never will. She was the endgame for me, only this isn’t a game, and now we’re over.

Becks forever will be my true love. No one will ever compare. I permanently etched her name over my skin, inside my mind, in my heart, and across my soul.

My baby.

My sweetheart.

My heart and soul.

My reason for living.

My Becks.

I’ll always love you, Hadley.

To the stars… and back.

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