THE LIES THAT DEFINE US by Micalea Smeltzer Release Day Blitz + Review + Giveaway

 

 

Title: The Lies That Define Us
Series: Us Series #2 (standalone)
Author: Micalea Smeltzer
Genre: Romantic Suspense
 Release Date: February 9, 2016
Blurb
Ariella Geller is on the run from some very bad people and Liam Wade doesn’t know what he’s running from.Freedom has been an elusive dream for Ari, but when her chance for escape comes, she takes it. She finds herself in California and forced to accept help from strangers in order to stay off the streets and avoid being found by those she ran from.

Liam Wade is sick of living in the shadow of his famous father. All he wants is to make a name for himself as a professional surfer, but it’s impossible when the media focuses on every other aspect of his life. All he wants is respect, a chance to prove himself, but when it never comes he finds himself running and hiding from the ones who love him the most.

When their paths collide Ari and Liam are forced to confront their demons, and in the process they just might find a reason to stop running.

Purchase Links

Excerpt

I laid my head against the cool glass of the bus window and watched the rain slick against it. The water beaded against the glass and then slid down in little rivulets that I traced with my finger.

I wouldn’t miss the rain.
I wouldn’t miss anything about Oregon.

That place wasn’t my home. Never had been, and never would be.

With a jolt, the bus roared to life, startling me, but I relaxed a moment later when we pulled out of the station.

Freedom was so close to being mine.

I watched the people on the street as the bus pulled away. I was searching for buzzed brown hair and eerie black eyes, but he wasn’t amongst them.

He didn’t know I’d left yet.

And hopefully, by the time he did, I’d be long gone.

I adjusted my hoodie so my face was hidden from the other people on the bus and wiggled around, settling myself in for the long ride to California.

Unlike the other people on the bus, I didn’t have a cellphone to keep me company. Cellphones were traceable so I’d ditched mine. I couldn’t risk him finding me, because if he had I was certain he’d kill me. He would’ve eventually killed me if I stayed, too. My only option had been to take the risk of running away. I would have rather died on my terms than his, but if everything went according to plan, I’d be free and he’d never find me.

He called me Scarlett, but Scarlett didn’t exist.

Scarlett was a lie.

My name was Ariella, and I was reclaiming my stolen life.

Review
I was really excited about this book. Liam was very mean yet mysterious in the previous book so I was curious what his story would be. This is a much darker book than this authors normal book. Way darker. I really liked that aspect of it. The first one was so light and carefree, the fact that this one was darker was a nice change. I loved this book up until I got 90% in. Then it went downhill and got way darker. There were some dark aspects to this which I really liked because it was different from normal for this author. However the end got much darker than the book had been.
The romance was very cute as per usual for this author. I loved Liam and Ariella. Ariella is one of my favorite female characters from this author. It seemed to take a very very long time to get any details or information out of her though which at a certain point got annoying. Liam was a good guy. Not one of my favorites from this author, but I liked him. The chip on his shoulder was annoying. I didn’t really buy the excuse he uses for why he avoids his family for two years. He has such a great supportive family and I didn’t think that it was believable that he would avoid them for such a long time. Or that they would let him. I also wished there was more interactions with his family. We have fallen in love with the enter band of Willow Creek and want to know about their lives and families!
I did love Liam’s friends! They were a great aspect of the story and I think added a lot of value to the narrative.
Overall I did enjoy the book. It was mainly the end. It got so dark so quick and I didn’t think the rest of the book was leading up to something that dark.
3.5/5 stars
**I received an ARC from the author in return for an honest review**
Also Available

FREE

AMAZON US / UK
Author Bio
Micalea Smeltzer is a bestselling Young and New Adult author from Winchester, Virginia.
She’s always working on her next book, and when she has spare time she loves to
read and spend time with her family.
Author Links
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COVER REVEAL – IN YOUR HEART by Micalea Smeltzer

 

 

Title: In Your Heart
Series: Willow Creek #3
Author: Micalea Smeltzer
Cover Design: Regina Wamba (Mae I Design)
 Release Date: June 16, 2015
Synopsis

I thought I had found love. 

I thought I had found my forever. 

I’d never been more wrong in all my life.  
Sadie Westbrook’s seemingly perfect life comes to a screeching halt when she catches her fiancé in bed with another woman. Suddenly, everything she believed in is tested and there’s only one person she can turn to—the guy who has been by her side ever since their best friend’s fell in love and became inseparable.
Ezra Collins—the bassist for the band Willow Creek—has only ever had one weakness, and her name is Sadie. When he receives a frantic call he rushes to her aid, helping to pick up the pieces of her crumbling life—even if that means letting Sadie live with him.
The close proximity tests the limits of their friendship and as the lines between friends and lovers blur they’ll have to decide if falling in love with your best friend is worth the risk of losing them.
Available Now
 AMAZON US / UK
AMAZON US / UK

Excerpt

I looked up at the sky and the birds flying above us. “I feel like I don’t know who I am anymore. I spent two years with a guy that stripped me of my identity. I feel like all I have of myself is my store and the rest I’m left questioning. I tried so hard to please him, to make him happy, and in the end I made myself miserable. I was just so desperate for it to work out that I overlooked how toxic our relationship was. How stupid is that?”

 “You’re human,” he replied. “We have this inane desire to belong to something that is greater than we are on our own. That desire is so strong that we can fool ourselves into believing things that aren’t true.”

“So, I’m not crazy?” I cracked a smile.

“Definitely not crazy.”

His smile was comforting and I reminded myself for the hundredth time that everything would be okay.

I rested my head on his shoulder and a moment later his head rested on top of mine.

A smile touched my lips.

I’d missed this—having someone that understood me completely, even when I didn’t know myself.

Author Bio

Micalea Smeltzer is a bestselling Young and New Adult author from Winchester, Virginia.
She’s always working on her next book, and when she has spare time she loves to
read and spend time with her family.

Author Links

NEVER TOO LATE BY MICALEA SMELTZER RELEASE DAY BLITZ

NEVER TOO LATE (WILLOW CREEK #2) BY MICALEA SMELTZER RELEASE DAY BLITZ!

 

Title: Never Too Late
Series: Willow Creek #2
Author: Micalea Smeltzer
 Release Date: April 21, 2015

 

Synopsis
I’d never met anyone quite like Mathias Wade.
He was brooding and arrogant, but I loved him anyway. Together we were wild and uncontained—a hurricane raging. Then I had to leave, and words were exchanged that could never be undone. But now I was back, and Mathias better watch out, because this bitch wasn’t finished with him. Game. Set. Match. All is fair in love and war, right?

 

Mathias Wade, the lead
singer of Willow Creek, is used to getting everything he wants. Except for Remy
Parker—the one that got away. Childhood friends that grew into more, Remy was
the one constant in his life until she moved away. In anger, he lashed out and
broke the only girl he ever loved. With temptation around every corner Mathias
drowns his sorrow in women and alcohol. When the band returns to their hometown
for the holidays the last thing Mathias expects is to run into Remy—but she’s back,
and she’s not done with him.

Remy never forgot
Mathias or the pain he caused her. When she moves back to the place she grew up
to take care of her ailing grandma her heart is set on revenge. She’s
determined to make Mathias fall in love with her all over again—only this time
she’s going to break his heart.

But Mathias never
stopped loving Remy—and she soon discovers that her feelings haven’t
disappeared either.

Can two people too
stubborn for their own good overcome their own demons and find the love they
always deserved?

Links to Buy
AMAZON US / UK
Also Available

 

Free

 

AMAZON US / UK

 

Excerpt

I jumped up on the counter and he
moved to stand in front of me, bracing his hands beside my hips. I kicked my
legs against the cabinets like a little kid as he stared down at me intensely.
I wasn’t sure what he was looking for in my eyes, but he must have found it,
because he cupped my cheek and leaned in.

“This feels like when we were
younger,” he whispered. “Like no time at all has passed.” His words echoed my
previous thoughts.
I closed my eyes, feeling his
breath fan across my lips.
God, I’d missed him.
It didn’t seem possible to miss
someone I’d grown to hate, but I did.
I was pretty sure that when
someone like Mathias came into your life they were impossible to forget.
He was like the sun, burning so
bright that even once he was gone I was still blinded.
“Did you ever miss me?” I asked.
“Even once?” I held my breath, waiting for him to explode—because that was
Mathias. He could be nice one minute and an asshole the next. I wouldn’t put it
past him to kick me out for my question.
Instead he surprised me by leaning in impossibly
closer and nuzzling my neck. “Always.”
Author Bio

Micalea
Smeltzer is a bestselling Young and New Adult author from Winchester, Virginia.
She’s always working on her next book, and when she has spare time she loves to
read and spend time with her family.

Author Links

NEVER TOO LATE BY MICALEA SMELTZER COVER REVEAL!

My pre-order for the week coincides with the cover reveal for NEVER TOO LATE by Micalea Smeltzer! Love this author and all her books! (Yes I have read ALL of them 🙂 ) So go ahead, check out this awesome cover, read about it and then pre-order! You won’t regret it! There is also a excerpt and a giveaway! Note: This is the second book in the Willow Creek series, but is NA instead of YA like the first, Last to Know! 

 

Title: Never Too Late
Series: Willow Creek #2
Author: Micalea Smeltzer
Cover Design: Regina Wamba (Mae I Design)
 Release Date: April 21, 2015

 

Synopsis
I’d never met anyone quite like Mathias Wade.
He was brooding and arrogant, but I loved him anyway.
Together we were wild and uncontained—a hurricane raging.
Then I had to leave, and words were exchanged that could never be undone.But now I was back, and Mathias better watch out, because this bitch wasn’t finished with him.
Game. Set. Match.
All is fair in love and war, right? 

Mathias Wade, the lead singer of Willow Creek, is used to getting everything he wants. Except for Remy Parker—the one that got away. Childhood friends that grew into more, Remy was the one constant in his life until she moved away. In anger, he lashed out and broke the only girl he ever loved. With temptation around every corner Mathias drowns his sorrow in women and alcohol. When the band returns to their hometown for the holidays the last thing Mathias expects is to run into Remy—but she’s back, and she’s not done with him.

Remy never forgot Mathias or the pain he caused her. When she moves back to the place she grew up to take care of her ailing grandma her heart is set on revenge. She’s determined to make Mathias fall in love with her all over again—only this time she’s going to break his heart.

But Mathias never stopped loving Remy—and she soon discovers that her feelings haven’t disappeared either.

 

Can two people too stubborn for their own good overcome their own demons and find the love they always deserved?

Pre-order Now
AMAZON US / UK
Also Available

 

AMAZON US / UK
Excerpt

I jumped up on the counter and he moved to stand in front of me, bracing his hands beside my hips. I kicked my legs against the cabinets like a little kid as he stared down at me intensely. I wasn’t sure what he was looking for in my eyes, but he must have found it, because he cupped my cheek and leaned in.
“This feels like when we were younger,” he whispered. “Like no time at all has passed.” His words echoed my previous thoughts.
I closed my eyes, feeling his breath fan across my lips.
God, I’d missed him.
It didn’t seem possible to miss someone I’d grown to hate, but I did.
I was pretty sure that when someone like Mathias came into your life they were impossible to forget.
He was like the sun, burning so bright that even once he was gone I was still blinded.
“Did you ever miss me?” I asked. “Even once?” I held my breath, waiting for him to explode—because that was Mathias. He could be nice one minute and an asshole the next. I wouldn’t put it past him to kick me out for my question.
Instead he surprised me by leaning in impossibly closer and nuzzling my neck. “Always.”
Author Bio

Micalea Smeltzer is a bestselling Young and New Adult author from Winchester, Virginia. She’s always working on her next book, and when she has spare time she loves to read and spend time with her family.

Author Links

What To Read This Weekend…Last To Know by Micalea Smeltzer

 

 

Synopsis: He was just a boy.
And I was just a girl.
But if that’s all there was to the story it wouldn’t be very interesting, would it?

Up and coming band Willow Creek is back in their hometown for the summer. For the drummer, Maddox Wade, this summer was meant for writing music and playing gigs.

Falling in love was not part of the plan.

One look at Emma Burke and those plans cease to matter.

Emma is quiet and guarded. She’s still hurt from her father walking out two years ago. She doesn’t want to trust Maddox, but with his dark hair, smoldering good looks, and infectious smile he’s impossible to resist.

Together Maddox and Emma embark on an unforgettable summer of adventures and first love.
Everything is perfect…or so Emma thinks.

There are things she doesn’t know, and when she finds out the truth it might shatter everything she’s built with Maddox.

No one said love was easy, and for Maddox and Emma it just might be impossible.

This is a Young Adult book. The following books in the series will be New Adult.

*This book is a standalone within a series

Review: This is the first book in Micalea Smeltzer new Willow Creek series. It is YA which I didn’t realize when I got it, but you pick up on that rather quickly since the main character is still in high school. All that being said it is a clean YA novel. No graphic descriptions here. I was a little disappointed at first with the novel. It felt like everything was rather predictable. Now I know when reading YA and NA that to a certain extent everything is predictable, that is why we read them. However, this was the bad kind of predictable. That didn’t last and it became just as well written as previous works that I have read by this author.

I have to say that I loved Emma’s style in this book. It was so quirky and fun and made me wish it was summer so I could wear outfits similar! I really liked that Emma was a gentle soul. She just seemed like such a sweet person and I loved her story. Maddox was fun as well. He had some great one-liners that will make you laugh and therefore people will stare, but its worth it! It really was just one of the sweetest stories I have read in a while.

~It also set up the rest of the series nicely and I can’t wait to read about our other Willow Creek boys~

In the end I found this novel to be just as good as other YA novels. I personally prefer her writing NA and am happy that the rest of the series will be NA. Overall I really enjoyed this novel and I believe it is on sale for 99 cents right now so go pick up your copy now!

Amazon

I recieved an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

COVER REVEAL for Saving Tatum by Micalea Smeltzer

jpegSaving Tatum Cover Reveal

BLURB

AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 18th

 Saving Tatum_high

Even tough girls need saving.

Jude Brooks is bad news. He’s the kind of guy that leaves behind a string of broken hearts and Tatum O’Connor is not about to be one of those girls, despite all of Jude’s advances. They have a past, and Tatum’s determined to make sure they don’t have a future.

Unfortunately for her, “no” isn’t a word in Jude’s vocabulary.

The more she backs away, the more he pushes.

But what if he pushes too far?

Tatum’s hiding a pain that no one sees and holding on to a hurt that may never heal. Letting Jude into her heart could shatter her completely—and what if she opens up to Jude and he can’t handle her baggage?

Love is never easy—especially when the person you’re falling for is the person you blame for the worst event in your life.

Love, heartache, and despair.

That’s the name of the game when you’re Saving Tatum.

Micalea SmeltzerAUTHOR BIO

 

Micalea Smeltzer is a bestselling Young and New Adult author from Winchester, Virginia. She’s always working on her next book, and when she has spare time she loves to read and spend time with her family.

Follow Micalea:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MicaleaSmeltzerfanpage?ref=hl

Twitter: @msmeltzer9793

Instagram: micaleasmeltzer

 

I am so excited about this book! If you haven’t read the Trace+Olivia series then you need to do so like yesterday! They are all so amazing and I haven’t read anything by Micalea Smeltzer that I haven’t loved! Her last book Beauty in the Ashes was unbelievable. I will try to post my review for that next week because it was one of the best books that I have read this year!

 

The Trace+Olivia series goes in this order:

Finding Olivia

Chasing Olivia

Tempting Rowan

Amazon announced that you can now pre-order books from Indie Authors! Now I have already pre-ordered this book (It’s on sale for $1.99, up to $3.99 on release date). Please go ahead and preorder it!

Saving Tatum 

Also here is a link for Beauty in the Ashes which is a stand-alone.

Here is an excerpt: 

Prologue and Full Chapter Excerpt

Unedited and subject to change.

 

Prologue

I jolted awake at the sound of someone trying to beat our front door down. I sat straight up, the blankets pooling at my waist. My head twisted to look at the blinking orange numbers flashing on the clock beside my bed. Three in the morning.

Fear slithered down my spine like a serpent.

Nothing good came from someone at your door that early in the morning.

I heaved my tired body out of bed. My muscles were stiff and overworked from a rigorous cheerleading practice the night before.

I opened my bedroom door and poked my head out. I saw my mom and dad coming out of their bedroom. A baseball bat was clutched in my dad’s hand. What did he think he was going to do to an intruder with that? Knock them out? Besides, if someone was trying to break in, why would they be knocking on the door?

“Stay up here, Tate,” my dad warned, quietly tiptoeing down the steps. My mom followed him even though he warned her to stay put as well.

I kept watch on the door.

My dad looked through the peephole and muttered, “What the hell?”

Swinging it open, I saw red and blue flashing lights and an officer stood at our door.

I rolled my eyes. The neighbor’s kids were probably vandalizing again.

I was about to close my door and get back in bed, when I heard the officer speak.

“Mr. and Mrs. O’Connor?” He asked. He was young and nervous, obviously new to the police force.

“That’s us,” my dad answered, “is there a problem?”

“It’s about your son, there’s been an accident. I’m so sorry to tell you this, but he didn’t make it.” His face was somber, eyes downcast.

My mom let out a piercing, soul-crushing wail, and started to fall. My dad’s arm held her upright.

But there was no one there to hold me up.

I crumbled to the floor, clutching at my chest.

I couldn’t breathe.

I was suffocating under the pressure.

He didn’t make it.

He was dead. My big brother—my best friend—was gone.

“I’m sorry,” I heard the officer say one more time before my dad closed the door. His cries soon joined the sound of my mother’s.

Tears streamed down my face, but my sobs were silent.

Graham was gone. In a matter of hours he’d been ripped from my life forever. I’d just seen him at dinner and we’d been talking about school and how I’d be cheering at the football game on Friday. He was telling me how proud he was of me.

Everything had been perfect. The way it was supposed to be.

Something like this wasn’t supposed to happen.

This was Graham’s last year of high school. He was supposed to leave for college and study to be a lawyer like our dad.

He. Wasn’t. Supposed. To. Die.

None of this was supposed to happen.

My perfect life wasn’t supposed to explode like this.

But it did.

Over night, I went from having it all, to having nothing.

I watched my mom close herself off from everybody.

I watched my dad spend his every waking hour slaving over his job so he didn’t have to think about Graham, or mom, or even me.

I watched myself slowly spiral from a carefree happy girl, into a complete and utter cynic.

And I knew exactly who was to blame for everything.

Jude Brooks.

 

Chapter One

I grinned as the Professor explained our final assignment. As he talked an idea formed in my mind. I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. As a journalism major, we were always writing papers and doing interviews, but this one was to count for fifty percent of our final grade. I wanted to make sure mine stuck out.

“The next time I see you, I’d like for you all to have an idea for your paper. Come to me for final approval before you leave class Wednesday.”

When the professor dismissed us, I calmly made my way down the steps to his desk.

“Professor Taylor?” I asked, my voice soft and hesitant.

He looked up, pushing his glasses up his nose. “Yes, Ms. O’Connor?”

“I already know what I want to do my paper on.” I rocked back on my heels, clasping my books tightly in my hands.

“All right,” he steepled his fingers, “what is it?”

“I have a friend here who’s studying to be a nurse, I thought maybe I could shadow her and learn more about the process of going into the medical field. I want it to be more than a question and answer session. I want to delve into all the hard work these students go through to become our health care providers.” With a sigh, I waited patiently for him to think it over.

He nodded slowly, mulling it over. “It sounds interesting. Go for it.”

“Thank you!” I exclaimed. Sobering, I said in a calmer tone, “Thank you so much. I’m really excited about this.”

He chuckled. “Ms. O’Connor, I think you’re always my most excited journalism major. It’s refreshing. It reminds me why I wanted to do this job in the first place.”

“Thank you again,” I told him. I jogged up the steps and out the door.

I headed across campus to the cafeteria. It was a crisp March afternoon. Some days were down right freezing, while some held the promise of spring. I let the small amount of sun filtering between the tree branches warm my face. I smiled, my blonde hair swaying around my shoulders. I couldn’t believe that in a few short months I’d be graduating. It didn’t seem real. Once college was over, it was time for real life. While I was mostly excited, there was a small part of me that was terrified. I’d never liked the unknown.

Once in the cafeteria I got my food and sat down at the usual table I shared with Rowan…and sometimes Jude. God, I hated that guy with every fiber of my being. Unfortunately, he was also friends with Rowan, which meant I was kind of stuck with him.

Rowan took the seat across from me, dropping her bag on the floor. With a heavy sigh she poured dressing on her salad and used a fork to swirl the leafy pieces around the bowl. “I’m so tired,” she propped her head on one hand and took a bite. “Between classes, and wedding planning, on top of the kids, I’m beat.”

I frowned. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s my own fault,” she huffed, pulling her long light brown hair into a ponytail. “I should’ve told Trent that I wanted to wait longer to get married. But he was adamant on not waiting more than a year.” She scrubbed a hand over her eyes. “At least he’s been helpful, but there’s only so much a guy can do when it comes to wedding planning,” she rolled her eyes.

With a clatter Jude dropped his backpack on the table. I glared up at him. “Can you not put your stuff down gently like a normal person?” I asked him.

“No.” He grinned, backing away to go get his food. Everything Jude did got on my nerves. It was like he had a special talent for irritating me.

Rowan and I fell into silence. I itched to ask her if she’d help me with my project, but I wasn’t sure if I should in her current mood.

Jude finally joined us again and I couldn’t stand it any more.

“Row?” I cleared my throat.

“Yeah?” She looked up, wiping a piece of lettuce from her lip.

I explained my paper and what I wanted to do. Her face fell.

“Oh, Tate, I wish I could help you but I’m far too busy.” She frowned, looking at me sadly.

I groaned. “But I already got my paper approved! Come on! I won’t be in your way!” I begged, desperation overtaking my tone.

“I can’t, Tate. Not with all I have on my plate. I’m really sorry.” I knew she was, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

I buried my head in my hands. Great, now I had to start from scratch. Lovely.

“You can shadow me.”

“What?” My head snapped up and I glared at Jude. “No way.”

He sighed heavily. “Don’t be stubborn, Tate—”

“Once again, you are not allowed to call me Tate,” I interrupted him.

Grinning, he said, “Tatum, I can help you with your project. Now be a good girl, nod your head, and accept my help.”

Why? Why did Jude have to be studying to be a nurse too?

Nibbling on my bottom lip, I did what I had to do. “Okay.” I couldn’t believe I was agreeing to this. I was willingly going to be spending time with Jude Brooks—the guy who singlehandedly ruined my life. Monday’s sucked.

“That was easier than I thought,” Jude smirked, crossing his hands behind his head. “This is going to be fun.”

“No, it’s not fun,” I spat the word. “It’s my final paper. I need a good grade for this, so don’t screw with me,” I pointed a finger at him.

“You need to chill,” he eyed me. “You’re too stressed. You know what’s an excellent stress reliever?”

“What?” I asked, even though I knew I shouldn’t.

“Sex.”

My eyes widened. “Oh, really. Are you suggesting I have sex with you?”

His grin became even bigger. “I mean, if you’re interested, I could always show you a good time. I promise to make it worth your while,” he winked.

“Keep dreaming,” I muttered, returning my attention to my lunch.

“I don’t have to dream. I’m not giving up on you Tate.”

I looked up, choosing to ignore him calling me Tate again. “There will never be an ‘us.’ Besides,” I leaned closer and lowered my voice like I was letting him in on a secret, “it’s not like you’re hurting for a little fun between the sheets.” I nodded towards all the girls that had their eyes on Jude. I might hate the guy, but he was hot—in that All-American sort of way. With his brown hair and eyes, and that grin, he drew women to him like a magnet. Everyone on campus knew he was a player, but most girls didn’t care. They were more than happy to be a notch on his bedpost. Not me, though, and I knew that was the real reason Jude wouldn’t leave me alone. I was the only female on campus that posed a challenge.

He gasped dramatically and put a hand over his heart, like was offended by my words. “I deserve to have some fun while I wait for you to wake up and realize that we’re perfect for each other.”

I rolled my eyes and turned my attention back to my food. I wasn’t wasting any more of my time on Jude. I couldn’t believe I was going to be stuck shadowing him…hours of just the two of us. It was like my own personal hell.

“Well, ladies, this has been nice and all, but I need to go,” Jude mumbled, standing up and grabbing his backpack. He shoved his phone in his pocket, his brows furrowed together in concern. I wondered what was wrong, but there was no way I was going to ask. He grabbed an apple off his tray and stuck it in his mouth. He gave us a salute and headed out the double doors.

Rowan looked across the table at me and sighed. She did that a lot. “I really am sorry I couldn’t help you, but at least there’s Jude. I mean, it won’t be that bad, right?”

I glared at her. “That bad? I hate him.”

“But why?” She asked. “He’s not a bad guy at all, Tate. He’s really nice once you get to know him. I wouldn’t be friend’s with him otherwise.”

“You don’t understand,” I squirmed in my seat. “You don’t know him like I do.”

“You’re right,” she grinned like the cat that ate the canary. “I know him better.”

I was over this conversation. I knew even if I told her the truth, I’d never be able to make her see.

We finished our lunch in silence and went our separate ways.

When classes were over I met Rowan for our daily study session in the library. A lot of time Jude joined us, but today wasn’t one of those days. When my homework was done I knew I couldn’t put off the inevitable any longer. I had to go home, back to the place I dreaded the most.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” I told Row, shrugging my backpack on. She barely nodded at me as I left. Even though she had her fiancé, Trenton, to take care of her now, she still wanted to get her degree and have a job. I couldn’t blame her. I craved independence too. There was something satisfying about knowing you could stand on your own two feet without anyone else’s help.

I made the drive home blasting the radio. I enjoyed the noise because once I got home there would be nothing but silence.

Once upon a time we’d been a happy family. We’d laughed and talked and sometimes even fought. But that was before Graham died. Now we were broken, merely a fragment of the family we’d once been. We lost the glue that held us together.

My dad buried himself in work, and when he was home he was always angry, yelling at me and telling me to do better.

Mom retreated into herself. Her eyes now held a vacant, lost look. She stared listlessly for hours out the window, and it was like she was always watching for Graham to return.

I worked hard to be the perfect daughter, to be noticed by them, but it did no good.

I didn’t know why I kept trying.

I parked in the driveway and headed inside.

The house was dark. Not a single light on. That was normal.

“Mom,” I called out. No answer. “Mom?”

I found her standing in the kitchen by the sink, looking out the window that overlooked the street. She didn’t move as I approached.

“Come on, mom,” I whispered, taking her hand in mine and pulling her away.

I led her to the living room and forced her to sit on the couch. I turned the TV on, but it wasn’t necessary. She wouldn’t watch it.

“I’ll make dinner.” I kissed her forehead.

She did nothing to acknowledge my words. It was like I didn’t exist…or maybe she was the one that didn’t exist. Watching someone you loved wither away to nothing was hard. She’d lost a lot of weight since Graham died seven years ago. I swear, she couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds. She was skin and bones.

I really hated the look that was always in her eyes now. Like she was lost and didn’t know where she was. It hurt that she couldn’t be strong enough to be there for me. At the same time, I understood. Graham was the golden boy. He was the perfect son and brother. I loved and admired him. He was my best friend growing up and unlike other siblings we never drifted apart. I missed him every day, but I refused to shut down like my parents. Graham might be gone, but I sill deserved to live my life.

I made dinner, took a plate to my mom, and then sat by myself at the kitchen table.

It didn’t matter if my mom or even my dad was here, I was always alone when I was home.

The moment Graham was buried we stopped being a family.

I knew in the amount of years that had passed I should be over it, but I wasn’t. I missed my mom and dad, but there was nothing I could do to fix the mess we’d become.

I was torn about leaving. Most people had already moved out of their parent’s place, but I was scared of what would happen to my mom if I left. I was starting to crave my independence, though. I felt trapped by the memories here. I wanted a fresh start, but I wasn’t sure I was going to get one.

I guessed only time would tell.

 

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