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Chapter Twenty-Three


“Mother...” I repeated, taking a step back when Noah pushed me behind him.

“What are you doing here?” he asked, completely ignoring the questioning look on my face.

I looked at Leah, placing a hand on Noah’s arm in an attempt to calm him down—comfort him, anything.

“I just wanted to see my son,” she said, her eyes almost begging him to let her in. Physically, but probably psychologically too.

“In the middle of the night?” Noah frowned, grabbing the door as if he was going to slam it in her face.

I couldn’t help but wonder why his relationship with his mom—parents—was the way it was. Did something happen in the past? Or did they just not get along?

She sighed, dropping her gaze to the floor before she shifted her eyes to me.

“I don’t believe we’ve met,” she said, holding out her hand.

I hesitated, and when I finally reached for her, Noah grabbed my wrist and slid his hand into mine, preventing me from touching his mom. I’ll admit that it was weird to me to be holding hands with him, but I honestly didn’t dare to move at that point.

Leah dropped her arm, nodding absentmindedly. “I see.”

“We’ll talk another time,” Noah stated through clenched teeth, slowly closing the door on his mother.


Just before the door closed, I could see her turn around and walk away, rolling her shoulders back to straighten up.

“Noah...” I started, but he let me go and turned away to grab his keys. I watched him lock the door, his face looking emotionless but his shoulders tense.

He plopped back on the couch, his eyes fixed on the TV, but even though I probably should’ve, I wasn’t going to let this go.

No matter what he said, I was invested in him, and I wanted to help. Do something.

“Noah,” I mumbled again, walking around the couch and sitting down next to him. “Do you want to talk about it?”

I expected him to snap at me, but he surprised me.

“No, that’s alright.”

He looked at me, letting his eyes roam my face as I could tell he was debating his next move.

I cocked my head to the side, waiting.

He surprised me again.

“Come here.” He beckoned me to come closer, and I did, a little confused about what exactly it was he wanted me to do.

He rolled his eyes, pulling me against his chest in one swift motion.


He wrapped his arm around me, resting his chin on my head. “Shh. I just want to stay like this for a minute.”

I closed my eyes, getting comfortable against Noah’s chest and listening to the show on tv in the background.

He radiated warmth, and his scent filled my nostrils, making me forget about everything for a second. How could one person have such an effect on someone?

“You’re my safe place,” he mumbled, and I couldn’t help but smile.

I wrapped my arms around him, nuzzling my face into his shoulder, and sighed. Maybe in some way, he was becoming my safe place too.

Kelly stood hunched over the counter, her brows furrowed and her face looking a nice shade of green as I handed our last customer his order that Friday.

“What did you do yesterday?” I asked, waiting for the shop to empty before I turned to my friend.

“I’m never drinking again,” she moaned, opening one eye to look at me.

I held in a chuckle, moving to fill a cup with cold water.

“Thanks.” She carefully sipped her drink, straightening up.

How could someone look this good while being hungover? When I drank too much, I looked like garbage.

Her dark hair was tied back into a smooth bun, and though she looked really sick, her skin was as flawless as ever.

“Ladies,” David said loudly as he walked up to us, grinning at his daughter who groaned at the sound.

“Hi, David,” I chirped back, smirking at Kelly.

“Dad.” She acknowledged him, going back to sipping her water.

“I’ve made a decision,” David said, resting his hands on the counter. “I’m going to close up early.”

Kelly and I shared a look, especially since we had a couple more hours to go until closing time. Not that I was complaining.

“Uh, why?” I questioned, crossing my arms.

David smiled, gesturing to the sunny weather outside. “The sun is out, and it hasn’t been busy this morning, so I gathered we could have the afternoon off.”

Kelly looked instantly better when the words left his lips, and she began to untie her apron.

“I love you, Dad,” she said, emptying her glass of water and walking up to her father to give him a kiss on the cheek.

“Love you, too, baby.”

We cleaned up before we left, and Kelly actually invited me to have some lunch in the park, so half an hour later, we were sitting on the grass with a burrito in our hands.

At first, I had insisted on taking a spot in the shade, and with a huff, Kelly had agreed, but after a while, we both enjoyed the sun on our faces.

“I feel much better,” Kelly said with a sigh, closing her eyes as she tilted her head up.

I squeezed one eye shut against the light, turning to look at her. “Why did you get drunk on a Thursday night anyway?”

Her eyes shot open before she quickly closed them again, pretending she didn’t just jump from my question as if she had something to hide.

The normally stoic and bored-looking girl seemed a little tenser, and I turned to get a better look at her.

“Did you do something illegal?”

She chuckled, shaking her head. “No, I just had a couple of drinks with...an old friend. It kinda got out of hand.”

I narrowed my eyes at her, not believing for a second that it was something that innocent, but I let it go. I’d find out another way.

And boy, did I find out.

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