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From USA Today bestselling author Willow Winters comes a emotionally-gripping, standalone, contemporary romance.
Nathan always had the most beautiful smile.
Every time I caught a glimpse of it, I had to smile too.
It didn’t matter that he grew up on the wrong side of the city, I saw the good in him… even when he didn’t.
That wasn’t enough to keep us together in high school though.
One night ruined everything. A night I’ll never forget.
Years have passed and now he’s on the cover of magazines and the star of movies.
The reformed bad boy with a charming smile who makes women weak in the knees.
No one knows what happened that night that forced us apart. No one can ever know.
The moment he locked his light blue eyes on me again, I was ruined.
I never stood a chance.
This romance was originally released in the Expose series and titled Heartthrob.
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Ten years ago
* * *
The red, white, and bright blue lights reflect off the large glass windows of the liquor store. The sirens have stopped. I swear they were only screaming in my ear for a split second. They were loud enough to make my heart leap into my throat and send fear flowing freely through my blood.
They were silenced quickly, as if turned on by mistake.
I swear it was all an accident.
“Nathan.” I say his name weakly, searching his cold gaze as I grip his wrists. My nails dig in as my throat goes dry. He doesn’t answer me, doesn’t give me a minute to ask questions. He merely blocks me from the view of the police car pulling up to the curb. His back is to the cops and he doesn’t turn to face them, even as the sound of the cruiser’s window rolling down drowns out the sound of my blood rushing in my ears.
Nathan leans closer to me as my shoulder and ass hit the unyielding wall of the liquor store. His dark eyes look even darker and the lack of any emotion on his face forces my plea for him to tell me how to make this right to catch in my throat. “Don’t say a word,” he hisses in my ear.
One second, one beat of my heart passes feeling caught in an eternity as I look up into the eyes of the boy I thought I loved. The boy I thought loved me back. “Don’t be stupid, Hally,” he says low, beneath his breath.
But I never really knew him, did I?
The boy I knew wasn’t capable of this.
But it was only an accident.
“Nathan, we have to-” I try to speak, but the words are silenced as he narrows his eyes. The shadows from the dim street lights make the sharp lines of his jaw look even more intense.
“You two alright?” I hear a man say from behind us, but my eyes don’t break away from Nathan’s. It’s the cops. So close. So close to knowing everything that just happened only minutes ago.
Nathan’s the first to break. He lets go of my forearm and turns his back to me, leaving the chill of the night to turn the thin sheen of sweat on my skin to ice. I wrap my arms around my chest and as I do, I see a small bit of blood on my arm and then more. Just a large scrape I think, but I’m quick to hide it. As fast as I can, I pull the thin sleeves of my sweater down my arms. It’s evidence.
“We’re fine,” Nathan says, although I almost don’t hear him. My heart beats harder and faster; I’m desperate to escape as I stand on legs that quiver, legs too afraid to do anything.
“And you, miss?” the cop says as a bright light flashes in front of me. The sudden light causes me to wince and then look up at him. The dark blue of his uniform looks black in the low light. The man is older with salt and pepper hair, and looks experienced and wise enough to know a lie. I don’t trust my voice, so I simply nod and almost cross my arms again, but then I remember the blood and my fingers grip the hem of my sweater to keep my arms at my sides.
“You two look a little young to be out here,” the cop says, his eyes flickering from mine to Nathan’s.
We’re in high school. Nathan’s a year older than me and a senior this year.
“Are you from around here?” the cop asks and I’m not sure who he’s talking to, but Nathan answers for us both.
His thin Henley pulls tight over his broad shoulders as he points his thumb behind him. “She’s from the Hills and I’m down here.”
The cop’s jaw goes tense, his eyes burning into me but I don’t look back at him.
I’m not supposed to be here. I hear it before the words even come from his mouth.
I ignore everything that the cop says; I’m not interested in being told where I belong. The only thing I can concentrate on is my ability to breathe. I feel like I’m being suffocated. If I had just listened, none of this would have happened. I already know it’s true and that makes the guilt so much worse.
“Can you take her home?” I hear Nathan ask and it’s as if that’s what they were waiting for. How could he? After what just happened, I’m shaking and fear is still raw and coursing through my blood. How could he leave me after that? Tears prick my eyes as I will him to justify it.
But I already know the answer; it’s my fault. I should have stuck to my usual routine and not taken the wrong way home. The way that leads to nothing but trouble.