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Wherever You Are (Bad Reputation Duet #2)
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I WILL RUIN HER.
You know that old saying “opposites attract” — well, no one ever tells you what happens after the attraction part.
Do opposites stick together forever?
Or do they just self-combust?
And then there’s the third option: someone or something forces them apart.
Look, the third option isn’t happening to us. I will end the bastard who thinks he can keep me from her. I only need to worry about one thing. . .
Epic, soul-crushing self-destruction.
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“Broken souls are mended every day
by mended souls that were once broken.”
1 PRESENT DAY – January
Heading into the first day of the new year, I try to be positive. Don’t fuck it up, Abbey.
It’s only been 48-hours since everything went down in London. But it’s honestly felt like a millennium. Officially, I think I spent less than two hours in the country before flying back to Philly. It’s pathetic on multiple levels, and embarrassed doesn’t even cut it.
The only upside: it didn’t end up on the internet. The students at Wakefield haven’t really recognized Willow or just simply don’t care. It’s another big reason she needs to stay out there for school.
“I can come visit next week,” Willow says, her soft voice echoing through my car speakers. I swivel the steering wheel and turn down a crowded street, traffic almost bumper-to-bumper.
Willow never got mad at me for punching her friend Salvatore. She wasn’t even disappointed in me or sad. It makes me feel worse because she has every right to hate me.
She said that she understood I’m going through something. Her understanding is like air, helping me breathe. But I’m not sure I deserve my girlfriend’s kind heart and empathy. I’m the bad boyfriend fucking with her perfect friends and her perfect London life.
I can’t let her go.
I can’t lose Willow, even if I’m the thing tarnishing the perfect world she’s building.
She never even pushed me to reveal more of what happened in Philly. I’ve never pushed her past her limits either.
We’ve always been careful with each other, and that’s something I appreciate. Because I don’t want to lie, and I think if she asked point-blank—did you see your brothers?—I would’ve come up with some shitty excuse. Anything but admit that I was stupid enough to go home during the holidays, knowing they were there.
What she did ask: Are you ready to talk about it?
What I said: Not yet.
The moment she finds out I saw my brothers again, she’s going to send in the cavalry to check up on me. Daisy. Ryke. Maybe even Lo. I don’t need them to bombard me, especially when no one but Willow even knows that my brothers have hit me before.
I want to keep it that way.
“Garrison, did you hear me?” Willow asks over the phone.
I stop at a red light, hands tight on the steering wheel. “You don’t need to visit. I’m fine, Willow.” I take another breath, about to tell her something that might put her on edge. But this, I do want to be honest about. “I’m actually headed to my house. I have to apologize to my mom for bolting and pick up a hard drive on my old computer.” It’s got some stuff on it that I made back in prep school. It might be useful for the video game I’m creating.
“Wait—you’re going home?” Willow’s voice spikes with alarm.
“Yeah, but just for a second,” I say quickly. “Davis, Hunter, and Mitchell already all left yesterday. They didn’t want to spend New Year’s Eve with my parents.” I pull up to the gate at the neighborhood entrance. “So I’m not going to run into them. It’s alright.”
A security guard recognizes me and immediately presses a button to let me in. I wait as the gates slide open.
“Why don’t you let Daisy pick it up for you?” Willow suggests.
Sweat builds, I lower the blasting heat and unzip my hooded jacket. “Because Daisy will ask questions. And like I said, my brothers aren’t home.” It’s safe.
The line is quiet.
A lump lodges in my throat, but I want to say more… I miss you.
I’m sorry I fucked up.
I love you.
Driving forward, all I say is, “You still there?”
“Yeah.” She sounds concerned, but with a big breath, she layers on resolve. “Can you call me when you leave?”
I feel like I’ve already been calling Willow too much. We talk all night. Which is her entire morning.
Currently it’s 9 a.m. for me, and I know she’s not in class now. But Winter Break is almost over, and her business courses will be starting back up soon. This break is when she should be hanging with her college friends.
“I’ll text you,” I say.
“Right when you leave.”
“Right when I leave,” I agree.
We say I love yous and goodbyes as I park in the empty but plowed driveway of my parent’s mansion. No other cars. It confirms what I already know: my brothers are gone.
I’ll be quick.
Leaving my Mustang running, exhaust gurgling and visible in the cold morning, I take lengthy, fast steps up the front porch. The January chill barely touches me as I fumble for a house key. How my parents let me keep one—I don’t know. They love me, I guess. Still after everything I put them through.
I unlock and enter. “Mom!” I call out in the posh foyer.