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What is more important? Friendship, loyalty or love? 
Colleen Hoover and Griffin Peterson collaborate once again to bring fans of Maybe Someday back into the musical world of Ridge and Sydney. 
And Maggie. 
And Warren and Bridgette.

This is a follow-up to the NYT bestselling novel, Maybe Someday. It should be read after Maybe Someday and the novella spinoff, Maybe Not in the series.
Colleen Hoover
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Best fucking book ever
24 June 2021 (16:14) 
A wattpad story? 0.0
27 September 2021 (01:28) 
Jennifer M Carroll
I want more on Ridge and Sydney!
04 October 2021 (07:04) 

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Maybe Someday

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Maybe for You

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Copyright © 2018 by Colleen Hoover

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the authors’ imaginations. Any resemblance to actual persons, things, living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.


Cover Design and Proofreading by Murphy Rae

Music by Griffin Peterson

Interior Formatting by Elaine York, Allusion Graphics, LLC


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three


This book is for every single member of Colleen Hoover’s CoHorts.

Except the murderers. This book isn’t for those two.

I set the pen down on the paper. My hand is shaking too much to finish filling it out, so I inhale a few quick breaths in an attempt to calm my nerves.

You can do this, Maggie.

I pick up the pen again, but I think my hand is shaking worse than before I put it down.

“Let me help you with that.”

I look up to see the tandem instructor smiling at me. He grabs the pen and picks up the clipboard, then takes a seat in the chair to my right. “We get a lot of nervous first-timers. It’s easier if ; you just let me fill out the paperwork because your handwriting probably won’t be legible,” he says. “You act like you’re about to jump out of an airplane or something.”

I’m immediately put at ease by his lazy smile, but become nervous all over again when I realize I’m a horrible liar. Lying on the medical section would have been a lot easier if I were filling it out myself. I’m not sure I can lie out loud to this guy.

“Thanks, but I can do it.” I try to take back the clipboard, but he pulls it out of my reach.

“Not so fast”—he quickly glances down at my form—“Maggie Carson.” He holds out his hand, still holding the clipboard out of my reach with his other hand. “I’m Jake, and if you’re planning on jumping out of a plane at ten thousand feet while at my mercy, the least I can do is finish your paperwork.”

I shake his hand, impressed with the strength behind his grip. Knowing these are the hands I’m about to entrust my life to eases my mind a tiny fraction.

“How many tandem jumps have you completed?” I ask him.

He grins, then returns his attention to my paperwork. He begins flipping through the pages. “You’ll be my five hundredth.”

“Really? Five hundred sounds like a big deal. Shouldn’t you be celebrating?”

He brings his eyes back to mine and loses his smile. “You asked how many tandem jumps I’ve completed. I don’t want to celebrate prematurely.”

I gulp.

He laughs and nudges my shoulder. “I’m kidding, Maggie. Relax. You’re in good hands.”

I smile at the same time I inhale another deep breath. He begins to scroll through the form.

“Any medical conditions?” he asks, already pressing his pen to the box marked “no.” I don’t answer him. My silence prompts him to look up at me and repeat his question. “Medical conditions? Recent illnesses? Any crazy ex-boyfriends I should be aware of?”

I smile at his last comment and shake my head. “No crazy exes. Just one really great one.”

He nods slowly. “What about the other part of the question? Medical conditions?” He waits for my answer, but I fail to give him anything other than a nervous pause. His eyes narrow and he leans forward a little bit more, eyeing me carefully. He’s looking at me like he’s trying to figure out answers to more than just what’s on the questionnaire he’s holding. “Is it terminal?”

I try to hold my resolve. “Not really. Not yet.”

He leans in even closer, looking at me with an expression full of sincerity. “What is it, then, Maggie Carson?”

I don’t even know him, but there’s something calming about him that makes me want to tell him. But I don’t. I look at my hands, folded together in my lap. “You might not let me jump if I tell you.”

He leans into me until his ear is close to my mouth. “If you say it quietly enough, there’s a good chance I might not even hear it,” he says in a hushed voice. A wave of his breath caresses my collarbone and I’m immediately covered in chills. He pulls back slightly and eyes me as he waits for my response.

“CF,” I say. I’m not sure he’ll even know what CF means, but if I keep it simple he might not ask me to elaborate.

“How are your O2 levels?”

Maybe he does know what it means. “So far so good.”

“Do you have a doctor’s release?”

I shake my head. “Last-minute decision. I tend to be a little impulsive at times.”

He grins, then looks back to the form and checks “no” on medical conditions. He glances at me. “Well, you’re lucky because I happen to be a doctor. But if you die today, I’m telling everyone you lied on this questionnaire.”

I laugh and nod in agreement, appreciative he’s willing to shrug it off. I know what a big deal that is. “Thank you.”

He looks at the questionnaire and says, “Why are you thanking me? I didn’t do anything.” His denial makes me smile. He continues to scroll down the list of questions and I answer them honestly until we finally make it to the last page. “Okay, last question,” he says. “Why do you want to skydive?”

I lean over him to glance at the form. “Is that really a question?”

He points to the question. “Yep. Right here.”

I read the question, then give him a blunt answer. “I guess because I’m dying. I have a long bucket list of things I’ve always wanted to do.”

His eyes harden a little, almost as if my answer upset him. He returns his attention to the forms, so I tilt my head and lean over his shoulder again and watch as he writes down an answer that isn’t at all the one I gave him.

“I want to skydive because I want to experience life to the fullest.”

He hands me the form and the pen. “Sign here,” he says, pointing to the bottom of the page. After I sign the form and give it back to him, he stands up and reaches out for my hand. “Let’s go pack our chutes, Five Hundred.”


“Are you really a doctor?” I yell over the roar of the engines. We’re seated directly across from one another in the small airplane. His smile is huge and full of teeth so straight and white, I would bet money he’s actually a dentist.

“Cardiologist!” he yells. He waves a hand around the interior of the airplane. “I do this for fun!”

A cardiologist who skydives in his spare time? Impressive.

“Your wife doesn’t get upset that you’re so busy all the time?” I yell. Oh, God. That was such an obvious, cheesy question. I cringe that I even asked that out loud. I’ve never been good at flirting.

He leans forward and yells, “What?”

He’s really going to make me repeat myself? “I asked if your wife gets upset that you’re so busy all the time!”

He shakes his head and unbuckles his safety harness, then moves to the seat next to me. “It’s too loud in here!” he yells, waving his hand around the interior of the airplane. “Say it one more time!”

I roll my eyes and begin to ask him again. “Does…your…wife…”

He laughs and presses a finger to my lips, but only briefly. He pulls his hand away and leans toward me. My heart reacts more to this quick movement of his than it does from the fact that I’m about to jump out of this airplane.

“I’m kidding,” he says. “You looked so embarrassed after the first time you said it, I wanted to make you say it again.”

I slap him on the arm. “Asshole!”

He laughs and stands up, then reaches for my safety harness and presses the release latch. He pulls me up. “You ready for this?”

I nod, but it’s a lie. I am absolutely terrified, and if it weren’t for the fact that this guy is a doctor and he does things like this for fun—and he’s really hot—I’d probably be backing out right about now.

He turns me until my back is to his chest and connects our safety harnesses together until I’m securely fastened to him. My eyes are closed when I feel him pull my goggles on. After several minutes of waiting for him to finish prepping us, he walks me forward toward the opening of the airplane and presses his hands against either side of the opening. I am literally staring down at clouds.

I squeeze my eyes shut again, just as he brings his mouth close to my ear. “I don’t have a wife, Maggie. The only thing I’m in love with is my life.”

I’m somehow smiling during one of the scariest moments of my life. His comment makes the question worth the three times he had me repeat it. I tighten my grip around my safety harness. He reaches around me and takes both of my hands, then lowers them to my side. “Sixty more seconds,” he says. “Can you do me a favor?”

I nod, too scared to disagree with him right now since I’ve practically placed my fate in his hands.

“If we make it to the ground alive, will you let me take you to dinner? To celebrate being my five-hundredth time?”

I laugh at the sexual undertone in his question and look over my shoulder. “Are tandem instructors allowed to date their students?”

“I don’t know,” he says with a laugh. “Most of my students are men and I’ve never had the desire to ask one of them out.”

I stare straight ahead again. “I’ll let you know my answer when we land safely.”

“Fair enough.” He pushes me a step forward, then intertwines his fingers with mine, spreading our arms out. “This is it, Five Hundred. You ready?”

I nod as my pulse somehow begins to beat even more rapidly than before, and my chest tightens with the fear consuming me, knowing what I’m about to willingly do. I feel his breath and the wind against my neck as he inches us to the very edge of the plane’s opening.

“I know you said you want to skydive because you’re dying,” he says, squeezing my hands. “But this isn’t dying, Maggie! This is living!”

With that, he shoves us both forward…and we jump.

As soon as I open my eyes, I immediately roll over to find the other side of my bed empty. I grab the pillow Ridge slept on and pull it to me. It still smells like him.

It wasn’t a dream. Thank God.

I still can’t wrap my head around last night. The concert he orchestrated with Brennan and Warren. The songs he wrote for me. That we were finally able to tell each other how we really felt without guilt being attached to those feelings.

Maybe that’s where this new sense of peace comes from—the absence of all the guilt I’ve always felt in his presence. It was hard falling in love with someone who was committed to someone else. It was even harder trying to prevent it from happening.

I roll out of bed and scan the room. Ridge’s shirt is next to mine on the floor, so that means he’s still here. I’m a little nervous to walk out of my bedroom and see him. I don’t know why. Maybe because he’s my boyfriend now and I’ve barely had twelve hours to adjust to it all. It’s so…official. I have no idea what it will be like. What our lives together will be like. But it’s an excited nervous.

I reach down and grab his T-shirt, then pull it over my head. I make a detour to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face. I debate fixing my hair before I walk into the living room, but Ridge has seen me in worse conditions than the present one. We used to be roommates. He’s seen me in way worse conditions.

When I open the door to the living room, he’s there, seated at the table with a notebook and my laptop. I lean against the doorframe and watch him for a while. I’m not sure how he feels about it, but I love that I can watch him unabashedly without him hearing me enter the room.

He pulls a frustrated hand through his hair at one point, and I can tell by the stiffness of his shoulders that he’s stressed. Work stuff, I assume.

He eventually catches sight of me, and that seeing me in the doorway seems to ease his stress completely erases all my nervous energy. He stares for a moment and then drops his pen on the notepad. He smiles and scoots his chair back to stand, then makes his way across the living room. When he reaches me, he grabs me and pulls me against him, pressing his lips against the side of my head.

“Good morning,” he says, pulling back.

I will never grow tired of hearing him speak. I smile at him and sign, “Good morning.”

He looks at my hands and then back at me. “That is so damn sexy.”

I grin. “You speaking is so damn sexy.”

He kisses me, then pulls away and heads to the table. He grabs his phone and texts me.

Ridge: I have a ton of work to catch up on today and I really need my own laptop. I’m going to head back to my apartment so you can get ready for work. Want me to come over tonight?

Sydney: I drive by your place on my way home from work. I’ll just stop by on my way home.

Ridge nods and picks up the notebook he was writing in. He closes my laptop and walks back to me. He wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me against him, pressing his mouth to mine. I kiss him back and we don’t stop, even when I hear him toss the notebook on the bar. He lifts me up with both arms, and a few seconds later, we’re across the living room and he’s lowering me onto the couch, and then he’s on top of me and I’m pretty sure I’m going to get fired this week. There’s no way I can tell him I’m already late for work when I’d rather be fired than have to stop kissing him.

I’m being dramatic. I don’t want to get fired. But I’ve waited so long for this and don’t want him to leave. I start counting to ten, promising myself that I’ll stop kissing him and get ready for work when I reach ten. But I make it all the way to twenty-five before I finally press against his chest.

He pulls back, smiling down at me. “I know,” he says. “Work.”

I nod and do my best to sign what I’m saying. I know I’m not getting it all right, but I spell out the words I don’t know yet. “You should have chosen this coming weekend to sweep me off my feet rather than a work night.”

Ridge smiles. “I couldn’t wait that long.” He kisses my neck and then starts to roll off me so I can get up, but he pauses and stares at me appreciatively for a moment.

“Syd,” he says. “Do you…feel…” He pauses, then pulls out his cell phone. We still have a huge communication barrier in that he doesn’t feel completely comfortable speaking full conversations out loud yet, and I don’t know enough sign language to hold a full conversation at a decent pace. I’m sure until we both get better, texting will remain our primary form of communication. I watch him text for a moment, and then my phone pings.

Ridge: How do you feel now that we’re finally together?

Sydney: Incredible. How do you feel?

Ridge: Incredible. And…free? Is that the word I’m looking for?

I’m still reading and rereading his text when he immediately begins typing out another one. He’s shaking his head, like he doesn’t want me to take his previous text the wrong way.

Ridge: I don’t mean free in the sense that we weren’t free before we reunited last night. Or that I felt tied down when I was with Maggie. It’s just…

He pauses for a moment, but I respond to him before he replies because I’m pretty sure I know what he’s trying to say.

Sydney: You’ve been living a life for others since you were a kid. And choosing to be with me was kind of a selfish choice. You never do things for yourself. Sometimes putting yourself first can feel freeing.

He reads my text, and as soon as his eyes flick to mine, I can see we’re on the same page.

Ridge: Exactly. Being with you is the first decision I’ve made simply because I wanted it for myself. I don’t know, I guess I feel like I shouldn’t feel this good about it. But I do. This feels good.

Even though he’s saying all of this like he’s relieved he finally made a selfish choice, there’s still a wrinkle between his furrowed brows like his feelings are also accompanied by guilt. I reach my hand up and smooth it out, then cup his face. “Don’t feel guilty. Everyone wants you to be happy, Ridge. Especially Maggie.”

He nods a little, then kisses the inside of my palm. “I love you.”

He said those words numerous times last night, but hearing them again this morning still feels like he’s saying them for the first time. I smile and pull my hand from his so I can sign, “I love you, too.”

This all feels so surreal—him actually being here with me after so many months of wishing it could be this way. And he’s right. It felt so stifling being apart from him, yet feels liberating now that he’s here. And I know he isn’t saying all of what he just said because he felt like his life with Maggie was in any way something he didn’t want. He loved her. Loves her. What he’s feeling is the result of spending an entire life making decisions that were in the best interest of others and not himself. And I don’t think he regrets any of it. It’s just who he is. And even though I was a selfish decision he finally made for himself, I know he’s still the same selfless person he’s always been, so there’s going to be some residual guilt there. But people need to put themselves first sometimes. If you aren’t living your best life for yourself, you can’t be your best self for those in your life.

“What are you thinking?” he asks, brushing my hair back.

I shake my head. “Nothing. Just…” I don’t know how to sign what I want to say, so I grab my phone again.

Sydney: This all feels surreal. I’m still trying to soak it all in. Last night was completely unexpected. I was starting to convince myself that you were getting to a point where you didn’t think we could be together.

Ridge’s eyes shoot to mine and he laughs a little, like my text was completely absurd. Then he leans forward and gives me the softest, sweetest kiss before replying.

Ridge: I haven’t been able to sleep for three months. Warren forced me to eat because I was anxious all the time. I’ve thought about you every minute of every day, but I kept my distance because you said we needed time apart. And even though it killed me, I knew you were right. Since I couldn’t be with you, I forced myself to write music about you.

Sydney: Are there any songs I haven’t heard yet?

Ridge: I played all my new songs for you last night. But I’ve been working on one. I’ve been stuck because the lyrics didn’t feel quite right. But last night after you fell asleep, the lyrics started flowing like water. I wrote them down and sent them to Brennan as soon as I got them down on paper.

He wrote an entire song after I fell asleep last night? I narrow my eyes at him and then reply.

Sydney: Have you even slept yet?

He shrugs. “I’ll nap later,” he says, brushing his thumb over my bottom lip. “Keep an eye on your email today,” he says as he leans in for another kiss.

I love it when Brennan makes rough cuts of the songs Ridge writes. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of dating a musician.

Ridge rolls off the couch and then pulls me up with him. “I’ll leave so you can get ready for work.”

I nod and kiss him goodbye, but when I try to walk to my bedroom, he doesn’t release his grip on my hand. I turn around and he’s looking at me expectantly.


He points to the shirt I have on. His shirt. “I need that.”

I look at his T-shirt and laugh. Then I pull the shirt off—slowly—and hand it to him. He’s eyeing me up and down as he takes his shirt and pulls it over his head. “What time did you say you’re coming over tonight?” He’s still staring at my chest when he asks this question, completely unable to look me in the eyes.

I laugh and push him toward the door. He opens it and slips out of my apartment, but not before stealing another quick kiss. I close the door behind him and realize for the first time since the day I moved out of my old apartment, I finally feel like I’m no longer resentful for the turmoil Hunter and Tori caused.

I am absolutely, without a doubt, so grateful for Hunter and Tori. I would live through the Tori/Hunter heartache a million times over if Ridge was always my final result.


A few hours later, I get an email from Brennan. I duck into a bathroom stall at work with my headphones and click on the email with the subject line, “Set Me Free.” I lean against the wall, press play on my phone, and close my eyes.

“Set Me Free”

I’ve been running ‘round

I’ve been laying down

I’ve been underground with the devil

You’ve been saving me like a ship at sea

Saying follow me to the light now

So here we go

A little more

Something I’ve been waiting for

Here we go

A little more

You set me free

Shook the dust right off me

Locked up tight you found the key

And now I see

Ain’t no place I’d rather be

I got you and you got me

You set me free

Hard to know the cost of it

But when you’ve lost something

Then you know there’s a price tag

Think you might have been born to

Be my come through when

I can’t keep it all together

So here we go

A little more

Something I’ve been waiting for

Here we go

A little more

You set me free

Shook the dust right off me

Locked up tight you found the key

And now I see

Ain’t no place I’d rather be

I got you and you got me

You set me free

I was sitting low

I didn’t know where I could go

Thought the bottom was the ceiling

No remedy to heal it

A Hail Mary to a sin

A new start to an end

You set me free

Shook the dust right off me

Locked up tight you found the key

And now I see

Ain’t no place I’d rather be

I got you and you got me

You set me free

I stand completely silent after the song ends. There are tears running down my cheeks, and it isn’t even a sad song. But the meaning behind the lyrics Ridge wrote after falling asleep next to me last night mean more to me than any other lyrics he’s ever written. And even though I understood what he was saying this morning when he said he feels free for the first time, I didn’t realize just how much I identified with what he was feeling.

You set me free, too, Ridge.

I pull the headphones out of my ears, even though I want to put the song on repeat and listen to it for the rest of the day. On my way out of the bathroom, I catch myself singing the song out loud in the empty hallway with a ridiculous smile on my face.

“Ain’t no place I’d rather be. I got you and you got me…”

I think about death every minute of every hour of every day of my life. I’m almost positive I think about death more than the average person. It’s hard not to when you know you’ve been given a fraction of the time almost everyone else on earth has been given.

I was twelve when I started to research my diagnosis. No one had ever really sat me down and explained to me that Cystic Fibrosis came with an expiration date. Not an expiration date on the illness, but an expiration date on my life.

Since that day, at only twelve-years-old, I look at life completely differently than I looked at it before. For example, when I’m in the cosmetics section of a store, I look at the age cream and know that I’ll never need it. I’ll be lucky if my skin even starts to wrinkle before I die.

I can be in the grocery section and I’ll look at the expiration dates on food and wonder which one of us will last longer. Me or the mustard?

Sometimes I receive invitations in the mail for a wedding that’s still a year out, and I’ll circle the date on the calendar and wonder if my life will last longer than the couple’s engagement.

I even look at newborn babies and think of death. Knowing that I’ll never live to see a child of my own grow into adulthood has erased any desire to ever have a child.

I’m not a depressed person. I’m not even sad about my fate. I accepted it a long time ago.

Most people live their lives as if they’ll live until they’re one hundred years old. They plan their careers and their families and their vacations and their futures as if they’ll be around for all of it. But my thoughts work differently than most people’s, knowing that I don’t have the option to pretend I’ll live until I’m 100 years old. Because I won’t. Based on the current state of my health, I’ll be lucky to live another ten years. And that’s precisely why I think about death every minute of every hour of every day of my life.

Until today.

Until the moment I jumped out of the plane and I looked down on an Earth that seemed so insignificant that I couldn’t help but laugh. And I couldn’t stop laughing. The entire time we were falling, I laughed hysterically until I started crying because the experience was beautiful and exhilarating and far exceeded my expectations. The entire time I was plummeting toward the earth at over one hundred miles per hour, I didn’t once think about death. I could only think of how lucky I was to be able to feel that alive.

Jake’s words kept repeating in my head as I was pushing against the wind. “This is living!”

He’s right. This is the most I’ve ever lived, and I want to do it again. We’ve only been on the ground for all of a minute. Jake’s landing was impeccable, but I’m still harnessed to him and we’re sitting on the ground, my feet out in front of me as I try to catch my breath. I appreciate that he’s given me a quiet moment to soak it all in.

He begins to unlatch us and stands up. I’m still sitting when he walks around in front of me and blocks the sun with his height. I look at him and am slightly embarrassed that I’m still crying, but not enough to try to hide it.

“Well?” he says, holding out his hand. “How was it?”

I take his hand, and he pulls me up as I use my other hand to wipe the tears away from my cheeks. I sniff and then laugh. “I want to do it again.”

He laughs. “Right now?”

I nod vigorously. “Yeah. That was incredible. Can we do it again?”

He shakes his head. “The plane is booked for the rest of the afternoon. But I can put you on the schedule for my next day off.”

I smile. “I would love that.”

Jake helps me remove my harness, and I hand him my helmet and goggles. We go inside and I change out of my gear. When I make it back to the front counter, Jake has printed out pictures and downloaded a video of the skydive for me.

“I sent it to the email address you have on file,” he says, handing me a folder with the pictures inside it. “Is the address on your form your correct home address?”

I nod. “Yeah. Should I be expecting something in the mail?”

He glances up from the computer and smiles at me. “No, but you can expect me at your front door tonight at seven.”

Oh. He was serious about celebrating tonight. Okay, then. I just got super nervous all of a sudden. I don’t react, though. I smile at him and say, “Will this be a casual or formal celebration?”

He laughs. “I could make a reservation somewhere, but honestly, I’m more of a pizza and beer kind of guy. Or burgers or tacos or anything that doesn’t require me to wear a tie.”

I smile, relieved. “Perfect,” I say, backing away from the counter. “See you at seven. Try not to be late.”

I turn and walk toward the door, but before I exit, he says, “I won’t be late. In fact, I want to show up early.”


Ridge and I dated for so long, that I don’t even remember the last time I’ve stressed over what to wear on a date. Aside from his infatuation with front-clasping bras, I don’t even think Ridge paid attention to what underwear I wore. But here I am, digging through my dresser, trying to search for anything that matches or doesn’t have holes or isn’t tailored to fit a grandmother.

I can’t believe I don’t have any cute panties.

I open my bottom drawer full of stuff that, for whatever reason, I’d convinced myself I’d never wear. I sift through unmatched socks and gag-gift crotchless panties until I come across something that makes me forget about my search altogether.

It’s a folded sheet of paper. I don’t have to open it to know what it is, but I walk to my bed and open it anyway. I sit and stare at the list I started writing over ten years ago, back when I was only fourteen.

It’s a bucket list of sorts, although back then I didn’t know what the term “bucket list” meant. Which is why I titled it, “Things I want to do before I turn eighteen.” The before I turn eighteen part of the title is marked out because I spent my eighteenth birthday in the hospital. When I got home, I was bitter at the whole world, and that I hadn’t marked anything off my list. So I scribbled out the end of the title and changed it to, “Things I want to do. Maybe one of these days…”

There are only nine things on the list.

1) Drive a racecar.

2) Skydive.

3) See the Northern Lights.

4) Eat spaghetti in Italy.

5) Lose $5,000 in Vegas.

6) Visit the caves in Carlsbad Cavern.

7) Bungee jump.

8) Have a one-night stand.

9) Visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

I look over the list and realize that out of the nine things I hoped for as a teenager, I have only done one. I went skydiving. And I didn’t even do that until today, yet it ended up being the best moment of my life.

I reach to my nightstand and grab a pen. I mark out the second item on my list.

Eight more things remain on my bucket list. And honestly, they’re all doable. Maybe. If I can somehow prevent myself from catching an illness while I travel, every single thing on this list is doable. Number eight might even be doable tonight.

I don’t know how Jake would feel about being checked off as an item on my bucket list, but I don’t think he’d complain too much about being the other half of my one-night stand. It’s not like I’m going to let anything come of this date tonight, anyway. The last thing I want is another situation where I’ll feel like I’m a burden to someone. The thought of being someone’s irresistible one-night stand has me way more excited than the prospect of being someone’s terminally ill girlfriend.

I fold the list and put it in the drawer of my nightstand. I walk over to my dresser and grab a random pair of panties. I don’t even care what they look like. If all goes as planned, I won’t even be wearing them long enough for Jake to care what they look like. I’m pulling on my jeans when I receive a text.

Ridge: Mission successful.

I smile when I read the text. It’s been several months since we ended things, but Ridge and I still text occasionally. As hard as it was to see our relationship come to such an unexpected end, it would be even harder to lose his friendship. He and Warren are the only two friends I’ve had for the past six years of my life. I’m grateful that even though our relationship didn’t work out that it doesn’t mean our friendship can’t. And yes, it’s weird discussing Sydney with him, but Warren has been keeping me up to date on all things Ridge, even in the areas I don’t care to be up to date on. In all honesty, I want Ridge to be happy. And as angry as I was when I found out he kissed Sydney, I still like the girl. It’s not like she showed up with evil intentions and tried to steal him from me. She and I actually got along, and I know they both tried to do the right thing. I’m not sure we’ll ever get to a point where we’ll all hang out as friends. That would be too weird. But I can be happy that Ridge is happy. And since Warren filled me in on their plan to trick Sydney into going to a bar last night so Ridge could convince her to be with him, I’ve been curious how it would all turn out. I told Ridge to text me if their plan was successful last night, but I don’t think I want the details. I can accept that she’s a part of his life now, and I really am happy for him. I just don’t think I’ll ever be in the position to want the details.

Me: That’s great, Ridge!

Ridge: Yeah, that’s all we’ll say about that because it’s still too weird discussing it with you. Any word on the thesis yet?

I’m glad we’re on the same page. And I can’t believe I forgot to tell him the good news.

Me: Yes! Found out yesterday. Got a 5!

Before he responds, there’s a knock at my front door. I look at the time on my phone and it’s only six thirty. I toss the phone on my bed, walk to the living room, and look through the peephole. Jake wasn’t kidding when he said he might show up early. I haven’t even finished getting ready.

I back up to the mirror in my hallway and yell, “Just a sec,” while I check my reflection. Then I rush back and look through the peephole again. Jake is standing with his hands in the pockets of his jeans, looking out over my front yard as he waits for me to open the door. It’s honestly a bit surreal, knowing I’m about to go on a date with this guy. He’s a freaking heart surgeon! Why is he even single? He’s really cute. And so tall. And successful. And…is that a…

I swing open the door and step outside. “Holy shit, Jake. Is that a Tesla?” I don’t mean to be rude, but I brush right past him and walk straight to his car. I hear him laugh behind me as he follows me to the driveway.

I’m not a car fanatic by any means, but one of my neighbors dates a guy who drives a Tesla, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a tad bit obsessed with these cars. But I don’t know my neighbor well enough to go ask her if I can go for a ride in her boyfriend’s car.

I run my hand over the sleek black hood. “Is it true they don’t have engines?” I spin around, and Jake is watching me with amusement as I ogle his car instead of him.

He nods. “Want to see under the hood?”


He pops the hood with his key fob and then steps next to me to open it. There’s nothing but an empty trunk inside, lined with carpet. No engine. No transmission. There’s just…nothing.

“So there’s no engine at all in these cars? You never have to fill up with gas?”

He shakes his head. “Nope. There’s not even oil that needs changing. Only upkeep is the brakes and tires, really.”

“How do you keep it charged?”

“I have a charger in my garage.”

“You just plug it up at night like you’re charging a phone?”


I turn back toward the car, admiring it. I can’t believe I get to ride in a Tesla tonight. I’ve been wanting to ride in one for two years. If I had updated my bucket list at all in the past few years, this would definitely be something I’d be crossing off it tonight.

“They’re really good for the environment,” he says, leaning against the hood. “No emissions.”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, yeah, that’s nice. But how fast does it go?”

He laughs and crosses his feet at the ankles. His voice is intentionally low and sexy when he raises a brow and says, “Zero to sixty…in 2.5 seconds.”

“Oh, my God.”

He nods at the car. “You want to drive it?”

I glance at the car and then back at him. “Really?”

His smile is sweet. “Actually…let me make a phone call,” he says, pulling out his phone. “I might can get us in over at Harris Hill.”

“What’s Harris Hill?”

He raises the phone to his ear. “A public racetrack in San Marcos.”

I cover my mouth with my hand, trying to hide my excitement. What are the chances that I’ll mark a third of my bucket list off in one day? Skydiving, race-car driving, and a possible one-night stand?

I open my eyes and stare at the ceiling. My first thought is of Sydney. My second thought is that I can’t believe I fell asleep on the couch in the middle of the afternoon.

I barely slept last night, though. Actually, I’ve barely slept for the entire past week. I was so anxious leading up to the show I had planned for Sydney last night, not knowing how she would react to it. And then after she reacted better than I ever imagined and we ended up at her place, I still couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop texting Brennan lyrics. He’s probably got enough material from last night alone to make three songs out of.

When I left Sydney’s apartment this morning, my plan was to come home and catch up on work, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything because I was so exhausted. I finally lay down on the couch and turned on Game of Thrones. I’m probably the last person to start the series, but Warren has been trying to get me to catch up to him for months. He’s on season three, and I made it through the first three episodes of season one today before I passed out.

I wonder if Sydney has watched it. If not, I’d much rather start it over and watch it with her.

I pick up my phone and have two unread texts from Warren, one from Maggie, one from Brennan, and one from Sydney. I go straight to Sydney’s text first.

Sydney: I listened to the song. It made me cry. It’s really good, Ridge.

Ridge: I think you’re just partial because you’re in love with me.

She texts back immediately.

Sydney: Nope. I’d love the song even if I didn’t know you.

Ridge: You’re not good for my ego. What time will you be here?

Sydney: On my way now. Will Warren and Bridgette be there?

Ridge: Pretty sure they both work tonight.

Sydney: Perfect. See you soon.

I close out my texts to Sydney and open Warren’s text.

Warren: Brennan sent me the new song. I like it.

Ridge: Thanks. Started Game of Thrones today. I like it.

Warren: IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME! Have you made it to the episode where they decapitate Stark in front of his daughters yet?

I press my phone to my chest and close my eyes. I hate him sometimes. Like really hate him.

Ridge: You are a fucking asshole.

Warren: Dude, it’s the best episode!

I toss my phone on the coffee table and stand up. I walk to the kitchen and open the refrigerator to search for a way to get revenge on him. I hope Warren is kidding. Ned Stark? Really, George?

There’s a block of one of Bridgette’s fancy cheeses in the drawer. I pull it out and open the packaging. It’s some sort of white cheese with fancy pieces of spinach or something in it. Smells like shit, but it looks just like a bar of soap once the wrapping is removed. I take it to Warren’s bathroom, remove his bar of soap from the shower and replace it with the cheese.

Ned gets decapitated? I swear to God, if that actually happens, I’m throwing away my television.

When I walk back to the living room, my phone is lighting up on the coffee table. It’s a text from Sydney, telling me she just parked. I walk to the door and open it, then make my way down the stairs. She’s making her way up, and as soon as I see the smile on her face, it makes me forget all about the decapitation I’m praying is a just a terrible prank Warren is pulling on me.

We meet in the middle of the staircase. She laughs at my eagerness when I push her against the railing and kiss her.

God, I love her. I swear, I don’t know what I’d have done if she hadn’t signed “when” last night. I’m sure I’d still be sitting on that stage, playing every sad song I could think of while I drank every last drop of alcohol in the bar.

But not only did the worst-case scenario not happen—the best-case scenario happened. She loved it and she loves me and here we are, together, about to spend a perfect boring night at my apartment doing nothing but eating takeout and watching television.

I pull away from her, and she reaches up to wipe lip gloss off my mouth.

“Have you ever watched Game of Thrones?” I ask her.

She shakes her head.

“Do you want to?”

She nods. I grab her hand and walk up the stairs with her. When we get inside, she goes to use the bathroom and I pick up my phone. I open the unread text from Maggie.

Maggie: Yes! Found out yesterday. Got a 5.

Ridge: Why am I not surprised? Congratulations! Hope you’re doing something to celebrate.

Maggie: I did. Went skydiving today.

Skydiving? I hope she’s kidding. Skydiving is the last thing she should be doing. That can’t be good for her lungs. I start to respond to her, but I pause in the middle of my text. This is the one thing she disliked the most about me. My constant worrying. I have to stop stressing about her doing things that might make her situation worse. It’s her life and she deserves to live it however she wants.

I delete my response to her. When I look up from my phone, Sydney is standing at the refrigerator, watching me. “You okay?” she asks.

I stand up straight and slide my phone into my pocket. I don’t want to talk about Maggie right now, so I smile and save it for another day. “Come here,” I say to her.

She smiles and walks over to me, sliding her arms around my waist. I pull her to me. “How was your day?”

She grins. “Excellent. My boyfriend wrote me a song.”

I press my lips to her forehead, then hook my thumb beneath her chin, tilting her face up to mine. As soon as I start to kiss her, she grabs my shirt and starts walking backward toward my bedroom. We don’t break the kiss until she’s falling onto my bed and I’m climbing on top of her.

We kiss for several minutes with our clothes on, which I would rectify, but it’s nice. We didn’t really fall in love in a typical way, so we went from a kiss that filled us with weeks of guilt, to a three-month stretch of not communicating at all, to a night of making up and making love. We were nothing at all and then suddenly all in. It’s nice taking it slow right now. I want to spend the rest of the night kissing her because I’ve thought about kissing her like this for three months straight.

She rolls me onto my back and then slides on top of me, breaking our kiss. Her hair is falling around her face, so she moves it out of the way by sliding it over her shoulder. She kisses me softly on the mouth and then sits up, straddling me so she can sign.

“Last night feels like…” She pauses, struggling to sign the rest, so she speaks it. “It feels like forever ago.”

I nod in agreement and then lift my hands to teach her how to sign the word “forever.” I say it out loud as she signs it. When she gets it right, I nod and sign, “Good job.”

She falls to my side and lifts up onto her elbow. “What’s the sign for the word deaf?”

I make the motion for the word, sliding my hand across my jaw and toward my mouth.

She drags her thumb from her ear to her chin. “Like that?”

I shake my head to let her know she got it wrong. I lift up onto my elbow, then take her hand to tuck in her thumb and straighten out her index finger. I press it to her ear and slide it over her jaw, toward her mouth. “Like that,” I tell her. She repeats the sign for deaf with perfection. It makes me smile. “Perfect.”

She falls back onto her pillow and smiles up at me. I love that she studied sign language for the three months we were apart. As mad as I am at Warren for ruining Game of Thrones for me, I’ll never be able to repay him for everything he’s done to help Sydney and me learn to communicate without so many barriers. He really is a good friend...when he isn’t being a complete asshole.

She’s picked up ASL so fast. Every time she signs something, I’m impressed all over again. It makes me want her to sign everything from now on, and it makes me want to voice all the words I ever say to her.

“My turn,” I say. “How do you make the sound a cat makes?”

There are so many words I still don’t understand, and animal sounds are a huge portion of that. Maybe I struggle with knowing how they should sound because it’s impossible to read lips when the sound is coming from a cat or a dog.

“You mean meow?” she asks.

I nod and press my fingers against her throat so I can feel her voice when she says it. She repeats the word, and then I give it my best attempt. “Me…oh?”

She shakes her head. “First part sounds like…” She signs the word me.


She nods. “Second part…” She lifts her hand to sign the letters Y, O, and W while saying them out loud again. I keep my palm pressed against her throat.

“Again,” I say.

She enunciates slowly. “Me…yow.”

I love the way her lips form a circle at the end of the sound. I bend down and kiss her before trying to speak the sound again. “Me…yow.”

She grins. “Better.”

I say it faster. “Meow.”


I start to ask her why meow is used in certain instances, but I forget how new she is at signing, and her eyes grow big with her confusion as she tries to follow along with my hands. I lean over her and grab my phone and type out my question.

Ridge: Why is the word MEOW sometimes used to depict when something is sexy? Does the word make a sexy sound when it’s spoken?

She laughs and her cheeks blush a little when she says, “Very.”

I find that interesting.

Ridge: Is it also sexy when a person barks like a dog?

She shakes her head. “No. Not at all.”

The verbal form of the English language is so confusing. But I love learning more about it from her. It’s the first thing that drew me to her beyond the physical attraction. Her patience with my inability to hear and her eagerness in wanting to know all about it. There aren’t a lot of people like her in this world, and every single time she signs for me, it reminds me how lucky I am.

I pull her closer and lean toward her ear. “Meow.” When I pull back, she’s no longer smiling. She’s looking at me like that was the sexiest thing she’s ever heard. She confirms my thoughts by sliding her fingers through my hair and pulling my mouth to hers. I roll on top of her and part her lips with my tongue. Just as I start to give her a deeper kiss, I feel the vibration of her moan, and then I’m a goner.

And so are our clothes. So much for taking it slow tonight.

I follow the path of Ridge’s finger with my eyes as he runs it back and forth over my stomach. We’ve been lying like this for five minutes now, him running his fingers in soft circles over my skin while he watches me. Every now and then, he kisses me, but we’re both too exhausted for round two.

I don’t even know how he’s still awake. He barely slept last night at my house because he stayed up writing that song for me, and then as soon as I got here an hour and a half ago, we came straight to the bedroom and have stayed fairly busy. It’s almost eight, and if I don’t eat dinner soon, I’m going to fall asleep right here in his bed.

My stomach growls and Ridge laughs, pressing his palm flat against my stomach. “You hungry?”

“You felt that?”

He nods. “Let me shower, and then I’ll figure out dinner.” He kisses me and rolls off the bed, heading for his bathroom. I find his T-shirt and pull it on before heading to the kitchen for something to drink. When I open the refrigerator, someone behind me says, “Hi.”

I yelp, and then I swing the refrigerator door wide open and try to hide my undressed bottom half behind it. Brennan is sitting on the couch, grinning.

So are the two guys from his band, whom I’ve still yet to be formally introduced to.

Brennan tilts his head. “The first night I met you, you weren’t wearing a shirt. And now a shirt is all you’re wearing.”

I can’t recall ever being this mortified in my life. I didn’t even put my panties on, and even though Ridge’s shirt covers my ass, I don’t know how to make it from here all the way back to his bedroom without losing my last shred of dignity.

“Hi,” I say, sticking my arm up over the door with a pathetic wave. “Do you guys mind looking away so I can find some jeans?”

All three of them laugh, but they look at the wall to spare me a few seconds to run back to Ridge’s room. As soon as I start to swing the refrigerator door shut, the front door flies open and Warren stomps into the apartment. I pull the refrigerator door open again to continue shielding myself.

Bridgette storms into the apartment behind Warren, and then Warren slams the door. “Go!” he says, waving her away as she storms across the living room toward their bedroom. “Go hide in your room and give me the silent treatment like you always do!”

Bridgette slams their bedroom door. I look back at Warren, who is staring at Brennan and the other two guys on the couch. “Hey,” he says, still not noticing me. “What’s up?”

None of them are looking at Warren because I asked them to turn toward the wall, so Brennan is still staring at the wall when he says, “Hey, Warren.”

“Why are you staring at the wall?”

Brennan points toward the refrigerator, but continues to stare at the wall. “Waiting for her to run back to her room so she can put some clothes on.”

Warren swings his attention to me and his eyes immediately light up. “Well, what a sight for sore eyes,” he says, tossing his keys on the bar. “I know I see you all the time, but it’s good to finally see you back in this apartment.”

I swallow, doing my best to remain stoic. “It’s…good to be back, Warren.”

He points at the refrigerator door. “You really shouldn’t stand there with the door open like that. Ridge makes me split the bills with him now, and you’re wasting a lot of electricity.”

I nod. “Yeah. Sorry. But I sort of don’t have any pants on, and if you’d walk over there and stare at the wall with those guys, I’ll shut the door and go back to Ridge’s room.”

Warren tilts his head and then takes two steps toward me and leans to the right like he’s trying to look around the refrigerator door.

“See?” Bridgette yells from across the room, standing in Warren’s now-open doorway. “This is exactly what I’m talking about, Warren! You flirt with everyone!” Their door slams again.

Warren rolls his head and sighs, then walks toward their bedroom. I use the opportunity to make a mad dash back to Ridge’s bedroom. I shut the door and lean against it, covering my face with my hands.

I’m never going back out there.

I make my way toward Ridge’s bathroom just as he opens the door. There’s a towel wrapped around his waist, and he’s drying his hair with another towel. I rush toward him and wrap my arms around him, burying my face against his chest as I squeeze my eyes shut. I just start shaking my head until he pulls me away from his chest so he can look at me. I can’t even imagine what he’s seeing because I’m groaning and frowning and laughing at my embarrassment.

“What happened?”

I point to the living room and then sign, “Your brother. Warren. The band. Here.” Then I motion toward my half-naked body and the fact that my butt cheeks are practically hanging out of his T-shirt. He eyes me up and down and then glances toward the living room, then looks at me again, squinting like he’s remembering something.

“The first time you met Brennan…you were wearing a bra. Now you’re wearing—”

“I know,” I groan, falling onto his bed. Ridge starts laughing while he pulls on his jeans. Then he leans forward and I think he’s going to kiss me, but instead he just slips his shirt over my head and pulls it off me. He’s fully dressed, and I’m even more naked than I was when I walked into the room. He hands me my clothes, and I know he wants to officially introduce me to the band, but I want to curl up into a ball and hide until everyone leaves.

I force myself to suck it up and get dressed because Ridge is smiling at me like this entire thing amuses him, and his smile makes me forget how embarrassed I am. The kiss he gives me when he pulls me toward the door makes me forget it even more.

When we walk back into the living room, Brennan is now sitting on the bar with his legs dangling, swinging back and forth. He grins at me, and it’s unnerving how much he and Ridge look alike, carry themselves so differently. Ridge walks me to the couch where the other two members of Sounds of Cedar are standing up to shake my hand.

“Spencer,” the tall brunette one says. He’s the drummer. I know this because I’ve seen them play. I’ve just never actually been introduced to them.

“Price,” the other one says, shaking my hand. He plays lead guitar and sings backup vocals, and while the star of the band is definitely Brennan, I think Price gives him a run for his money. He’s got the rockstar swagger down, even though their music isn’t typically rock. It’s got a more pop/alternative vibe. But he could probably pull off any sound because he’s so charismatic on stage. Brennan sometimes takes a step back and lets him shine.

“I’m Sydney,” I say, with a lot of forced confidence. “It’s so good to finally meet you guys. I’m a huge fan of the band.” I wave my arm across them and over to Brennan. “It’s so impressive how fast you guys get stuff recorded.”

Price laughs and says, “Sydney, we’re all huge fans of yours. Ridge went through a pretty long dry spell until you came along.”

My eyes widen and I look over at Ridge, who is looking at Brennan, who is signing everything everyone is saying. Ridge immediately looks back at me, and then at Price.

“Dry spell?” Ridge says out loud.

“Lyrical dry spell,” Price says, clarifying what he meant. “I meant lyrical.” Now Price looks embarrassed.

God, this is so awkward.

“I’m hungry,” Brennan says, slapping his hands on the bar on either side of him. “Has anyone eaten?”

“Chinese sounds good,” I suggest.

Brennan picks up his phone and looks at it. “A girl who knows what she wants. I like it.” He pulls the phone to his ear. “Chinese it is. I’ll just order a shit-ton of everything.”

I try not to stare at him too hard. I just can’t get over how much he looks like Ridge physically, but with a completely different personality. Ridge is responsible and mature, and Brennan seems like he doesn’t give a shit. About anything. It’s like he doesn’t have a single care, yet his older brother takes on the burden of caring about every single thing.

“So, Bridgette and I are fighting, if you didn’t notice,” Warren says, taking a seat on the couch and scrolling through his texts. He looks up at me. “She says I flirt with other people too much.”

I laugh. “You do.”

Warren rolls his eyes and mutters, “Traitor. You’re supposed to be on my side.”

“There are no sides when it’s a discussion of facts,” I say. “You flirt with me. You flirt with Bridgette. You flirt with the old lady who lives in my apartment building. Hell, you even flirt with her dog. You’re a flirt, Warren.”

“He flirts with me,” Spencer says.

Warren is still scrolling through his texts when he reads something that makes him pause. He laughs a little and then looks over at Ridge and Brennan. “Maggie went skydiving today.”

My breath catches at the mention of her name. Naturally, I look over at Ridge, who is leaning against the bar next to Brennan. Brennan covers his phone with his hand and says, “Good for her.”

Ridge just nods, expressionless, and says, “I know. She told me earlier.” He glances at me for a brief second and then looks down at his phone.

My mouth feels dry. I press my lips together. There was a moment earlier, when I came out of the bathroom and saw Ridge holding his phone with a torn expression. I had no idea what had caused him to react like he was. I assumed it was work.

But…it wasn’t work. It was Maggie. He was worried about Maggie.

I don’t like how I’m feeling right now. I pull my phone out of my pocket and try to busy myself, but I’m standing awkwardly in the middle of the living room. Brennan ends his call to the Chinese place, and Warren and Ridge are both looking at their phones. I suddenly feel out of place. Like I don’t belong in this living room with these people in this apartment. Brennan signs something to Ridge without speaking, and then they start a silent conversation with Warren that’s too fast for me to keep up with, which makes me think they don’t want me to know what they’re saying. I try to ignore them, but I can’t help but look when Warren says, “You worry too much, man.”

“Typical Ridge,” Brennan says. As soon as he says that, Brennan looks at me and then at Ridge and then stiffens a little. “Sorry. Is that weird? We shouldn’t talk about Maggie. That’s weird.” He looks over at Warren, who brought up the entire conversation. “Shut the fuck up, Warren.”

Warren brushes off Brennan’s comment with a flippant wave in my direction. “Sydney’s cool. She’s not a PSYCHOTIC JEALOUS GIRLFRIEND LIKE SOME PEOPLE!” he yells toward his bedroom.

Two seconds later, Bridgette swings open the door and says, “I’m not your girlfriend. I broke up with you.”

Warren looks offended. And confused. He holds up his hands. “When?”

“Right now,” Bridgette says. “I’m breaking up with you right now, asshole.” She slams the door, and sadly, no one really pays it much attention. Some things haven’t changed a bit around here. Warren doesn’t even get up from the couch to chase after her.

I feel my phone vibrate, so I look at the text.

Ridge: Hi.

I glance over at him, and he’s sitting on the bar now, next to Brennan. They’re both swinging their legs, seated the same way, and Ridge looks completely adorable as he smiles at me. The looks he gives me are intoxicating. He motions for me to come stand with him, so I walk over to him. He spreads his legs wider, turning me until my back is against his chest. He kisses me on the side of my head and wraps his arms around my shoulders.

“Hey, Sydney,” Brennan says. “Did Ridge play you the song Price wrote?”

I glance at Price and then back at Brennan. “No, which one is it?”

Brennan signs for Ridge to play me the song, so Ridge holds his phone in front of me and searches his files.

“Even If Your Back Was Turned,” Price says from the couch.

“We just recorded it last week,” Brennan says. “I like it. I think it’ll do well. Price wrote it for his mommy.”

Price throws a pillow in Brennan’s direction. “Fuck you,” he says. He looks at me and shrugs. “I am a momma’s boy.”

I laugh, because he doesn’t look like your typical momma’s boy.

Ridge finds the song and presses play. He sets the phone on his thigh and then wraps his arms around me again as I listen. Almost as soon as it starts to play, the text notification goes off on Ridge’s phone. I look down at it.

Maggie: Guess what? I’m finally riding in a TESLA!!!

Ridge must see the text as soon as I hear it and read it, because his legs stop swinging and he stiffens. We’re both looking at the phone, and I know he’s waiting on my reaction, but I don’t know how I should react. I don’t even know what I’m supposed to be feeling right now. It’s just all too weird. I reach over and swipe up on her text so it’ll disappear. Then I pause the song and say to Price, “I’ll listen to it later. It’s too loud in here.”

Ridge wraps his arm tighter around my waist as he picks up his phone and begins texting with one hand. I don’t know if he’s responding to her or not, but I guess it’s not my business. Is it? I don’t even know if I should be mad. I don’t think I’m mad. Confused is a better word for it. Or maybe uncomfortable is the best way to describe what I’m feeling.

Ridge pulls on my hand so I’ll turn and look at him. I’m still standing between his legs, but this time I’m facing him, looking at him, trying not to let him read my thoughts. He puts his phone in my hand, and when I look at it to read whatever he’s written in his note app, he lowers his forehead to mine.

She’s my friend, Sydney. We text sometimes.

As I’m reading the note on his phone, his hands are sliding softly down my arms in a comforting gesture. It’s amazing how much more he can communicate non-verbally as a result of being so stifled by his verbal communication. By pressing his forehead to mine as I read what he typed, it’s as if he’s silently saying, “We’re a team, Sydney. You and me.”

And the way he’s sliding his hands down my arms is equivalent to a thousand verbal reassurances.

I expected that he still talks to Maggie. What I didn’t expect was for it to bother me like it is. But it’s not because I think Ridge and Maggie are in the wrong. It’s because I feel like I’ll always be the girl who came between them, no matter how friendly they remain. I can be friendly with every single friend Ridge ever has, but I’m not sure I could ever be friends with Maggie, so the fact that he is friends with her makes me feel like a third-wheel to that friendship.

It’s a strange feeling. And one I don’t like, so I can’t help but have a noticeable reaction. Especially to Ridge. He notices every non-verbal reaction I have because that’s the focus of his communication.

I hand Ridge’s phone back to him and force a smile, but I know my feelings are probably written all over my face. He pulls me in for a reassuring hug and then kisses the side of my head. I press my face against his neck and sigh.

“God, you two are so cute together,” Brennan says. “It makes me want a girlfriend. For like a whole week, maybe.”

His comment makes me laugh. I pull away from Ridge and turn around, leaning my back into him again.

“You’re about to have one for more than a week,” Spencer says. “Sadie’s opening for us for the next two months.”

Brennan groans. “Don’t remind me.”

I welcome the distraction. “Who is Sadie?”

Brennan looks at me pointedly and says. “Sadie is Satan.”

“Her name is Sadie Brennan,” Warren says, standing up. “Not to be confused with Brennan Lawson. Coincidence that they share part of a name, and also a coincidence that Brennan thought she was a groupie the first time he met her.”

Brennan grabs a roll of paper towels off the bar and throws them at Warren. “It was an honest mistake.”

“I think this is a story I need to hear,” I say.

“No,” Brennan says firmly.

At the same time Brennan says no, Warren pipes up and says, “I’ll tell it.” He flips one of the table chairs around backward and sits down, facing us. “Brennan has a routine,” Warren says and signs. “Sounds of Cedar isn’t a widely known band, but locally, you know they have a decent following. Quite a few fangirls who come to the meet-and-greets after the shows.”

Warren is signing everything for Ridge, so it makes me laugh when Brennan’s head falls back and he groans, then signs, “Shut up,” at the same time he says it. It’ll never get old that they sign everything for Ridge. It’s like it’s second nature and they don’t even realize they’re doing it. That’s my goal. I want to learn to communicate that way to the point where Ridge and I have absolutely no barriers.

“Sometimes after the shows, if Brennan thinks a girl is cute, he’ll slip her a note with his hotel information, asking if she wants to chat in private. Five times out of ten, they show up an hour later at his hotel room door.”

“Ten times out of ten,” Brennan corrects.

God, he and Ridge are so different.

Warren rolls his eyes and continues. “Sadie happened to be one of the girls he slipped a note to. But what he didn’t know was that she wasn’t at his meet and greet as a fan. She was there looking to talk with him about a gig. And what she didn’t know is that Brennan slips someone his number after every show with the intention of hooking up. She thought he slipped her a note because he wanted to chat with her about opening for the band on our upcoming tour. So, when she showed up at his hotel room that night, let’s just say there was a lot of confusion.”

I look at Brennan, and he’s running his hand down his face like he’s embarrassed. “Dude, I hate this story.”

He might hate it, but I’m enjoying the hell out of it. “What happened?”

Brennan groans. “Can’t we just end the story here?”

“No,” Warren says. “This is where it gets good.”

Brennan looks so embarrassed, but he continues the story himself. “Let’s just say it took her a few seconds to realize what I assumed she was there for, and it took me more than a few seconds to realize she wasn’t there because she wanted me to take off her shirt.”

“Oh, no. That poor girl.”

Brennan makes a face. “Poor girl my ass. I told you she’s Satan. She makes Bridgette look like an angel.”

“I heard that,” Bridgette yells from her room.

Brennan shrugs. “It’s true.”

“She’s not that bad,” Price says to Brennan. “She just hates you.”

“But…she’s opening for you guys on the next tour? She must not hate you too much,” I say.

Brennan shakes his head. “No, she definitely hates me. But she also has mad talent. That’s the only reason why she got the gig.”

“Do you have any of her songs?” I ask. “I want to hear one.”

Brennan scoots closer to us and hands me his phone after pulling up a YouTube video. Ridge scoots me over and hops off the bar to set out plates for the Chinese food. I can’t help but stare at the video on Brennan’s phone in complete awe. The girl is really pretty. And she’s super talented. I watch the first video, and then another, and then a third before I realize Brennan hasn’t moved a muscle. He can pretend he isn’t into her all he wants, but he holds his breath through every video, never taking his eyes off the screen.

We’re watching the fourth video when the food arrives. We all make our plates and sit around the table. It’s the first meal Ridge and I have eaten together as a couple. He’s sitting right next to me with his left hand on my thigh. We’ve eaten a lot of meals at this table together while forcing ourselves to sit as far apart from each other as we possibly could. It feels good to finally be able to touch him—sit close to him—and not fight everything inside me that was growing.

I like this.

The door to the bathroom between Warren and Bridgette’s old bedroom swings open. Bridgette is standing in a towel, sopping wet from the shower. Her eyes scan the table until she finds Warren, and then she tosses something at him, hitting him in the chest. Whatever it is falls onto his plate. Then the door slams.

Everyone looks at Warren. He picks up the block of whatever she just threw at him and stares at it for a second. Then he sniffs it. His head slowly turns toward Ridge.

“Cheese? You put cheese in my shower?”

I look at Ridge, and he’s attempting to force back a smile.

Warren sniffs the cheese again and then takes a small bite of it. I cover my mouth with my hand, trying not to gag. Does he not realize that Bridgette had to rub that block of cheese on some part of her body before realizing it wasn’t soap?

Warren sets the cheese on his plate like he just received a free course with his meal.

As disgusting as some of them are, I’ve missed their pranks so much. I squeeze Ridge’s leg to let him know that was a clever one.

When we finish eating, I text Ridge and tell him I should go. I have an early day tomorrow, and it’ll be after ten by the time I get home. I tell all the guys goodbye, and Ridge walks me down. When we reach my car, he opens my door but doesn’t kiss me goodbye. He waits for me to sit, and then he walks around to the passenger side and takes a seat.

He grabs my phone that I just placed in the console and hands it to me.

Ridge: You okay?

I nod, but he doesn’t look convinced. I don’t know how to say, “Stop having friends!” without feeling a little like Bridgette.

Ridge: Does it bother you?

He doesn’t even have to specify what he’s talking about. We both know. And I don’t know how to answer him. I don’t want to be that jealous girlfriend who takes issue with every single thing, but how can I not be jealous when there’s still a part of me that’s envious of Maggie?

Ridge: Please be honest, Syd. I want to know what you’re thinking.

I sigh, thankful he cares enough to talk about it but also wishing we could brush it under the rug at the same time.

Sydney: It’s uncomfortable. It bothered me that you seemed so worried about her. But it would also bother me if you didn’t care. So, it’s just…weird. It’s going to take time to get used to, I guess.

Ridge: I do worry about her. And I care about her. But I am not in love with her, Sydney. I’m in love with you.

When I finish reading his text, he leans across the seat and takes my face in his hands. “I love you.”

The sincerity in his expression makes me smile. “I know you do. I love you, too.”

He stares at me for a moment, searching for any remaining doubt in my expression. Then he kisses me goodnight. When he gets out of the car, he takes the stairs two at a time. He reaches the top and texts me again.

Ridge: Let me know when you make it home safe. And thank you.

Ridge: For being you.

When I look up, he smiles and then disappears inside his apartment. I watch his door for a moment and then drop my phone in my purse, just as someone knocks on my window. I jump and press my hand to my chest. When I look out my window, I roll my eyes.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Hunter is standing at my driver’s side window, looking at me expectantly. I forgot he even frequented this apartment complex. I guess that means he’s still with Tori. I stare at him for a moment and feel absolutely nothing. Not even anger.

I put my car in reverse and back up, pulling away from the complex without looking back. The only way to look now is forward.


Ridge: You asleep?

I look at the time stamp on his text. He just sent the message two minutes ago. I pull the towel off my head and run my fingers through my hair before I text him back.

Sydney: Nope. Just got out of the shower.

Ridge: Oh, yeah? So you’re naked?

Sydney: I have a towel on. And no, you aren’t getting a pic.

Ridge: I don’t want a pic. I want you to open your front door and let me in.

I glance toward the living room, then look back down at my phone. He’s here? I only left his apartment an hour ago. I rush to the living room with worry in the pit of my stomach. I hope nothing is wrong. Surely Hunter didn’t do anything stupid after I pulled away.

I look through the peephole and there he is, staring at the door. I leave the living room light off since I’m opening the door with only a towel on. Ridge slips inside my apartment. I close the door, it’s dark, I’m suddenly no longer wearing a towel. Ridge’s mouth is on mine and my back is against the living room wall.

Ridge isn’t really the type to just show up without telling me first, but I don’t mind it.

I don’t mind it at all.

What I do mind is that he’s dressed and I’m not.

I pull off his shirt and unbutton his jeans. His mouth is everywhere, but his hands have me caged against the wall. He kicks off his pants and then picks me up, wrapping my legs around his waist. He starts toward the bedroom, but realizes we’re way closer to the couch, so he turns and lowers me to the sofa.

We’re still kissing when he lowers himself on top of me, and then he’s inside me and it’s incredible. I am so in love with this man.

He stops kissing me for a moment, so I let my head fall back onto the cushion, and I relax as he kisses my neck. When he reaches my mouth again, he pulls back and stares down at me. He brushes my hair back, and there’s just enough light from the window shining down on us so that I can see every emotion in his eyes. He’s looking at me with so much feeling when he says, “I love you, Sydney.” He pauses above me so that I’m focused on his words and nothing else. “I love you more than I have ever loved anyone.”

I close my eyes because the impact of his words hits me everywhere. I had no idea how much I wanted those words. Needed those words. And he knows I would never ask him to admit that or compare us to his last relationship, but here he is, wanting to diminish any shred of doubt I might have had while at his apartment tonight. I repeat his words silently, never wanting to forget this moment. This feeling. “I love you more than I have ever loved anyone.”

His warm mouth presses gently against mine, and his tongue slides past my lips, delicately searching for mine. When I kiss him back, I wrap my hand in his hair and pull him as close as I can. For the next several minutes, Ridge proves to me just how much I mean to him without speaking or signing another word.

Even when it’s over, several minutes go by with our lips still connected. Every time he tries to stop kissing me, he can’t. It’s just one kiss after another after another. He eventually buries his face against my neck and sighs against my skin. “Can I spend the night with you?”

His question makes me laugh. I don’t know why. It just feels like it’s a given at this point. As soon as I nod, he grabs my arms and pulls me up with him, then lifts me and carries me to the bedroom. He lays me on the bed and then crawls under the covers with me, wrapping his bare legs around me. I love that neither of us are dressed. This is a first.

I kiss him on the nose and want to sign to him, but it’s dark. He also can’t read lips in the dark, so I grab my phone.

Sydney: That was completely unexpected.

Ridge: Do you prefer your boyfriend to be more predictable?

Sydney: I prefer my boyfriend to be you. That’s really my only requirement. Just be Ridge Lawson and you can date me.

Ridge: I’m pretty good at being Ridge Lawson. You’re in luck.

We are so cheesy. I hate us and love us.

Sydney: Unexpected or predictable, I like all the versions of you.

Ridge: I like all the versions of you, too. Even if the rest of our lives were predictable, I’d never get tired of you. We could live the same day over and over and I’d just ask for more.

Sydney: Like Groundhog Day. I feel the same way.

Ridge: You make routine something I actually look forward to. If you told me you wanted us to go wash dishes together right now, I’d get excited.

Sydney: What if I asked you to do laundry with me? Would that excite you?

The light from our phones makes it possible for me to see him when he looks at me. He nods slowly, like the thought of doing laundry with me turns him on. I grin and look back at my phone.

Sydney: Would you look forward to eating the same meal every single day?

Ridge: I would if I were eating it with you.

Sydney: Would you be able to drink the same drink every single day?

Ridge: If I were drinking it with you, I would still be thirsty for it on my deathbed.

Sydney: Oh, that’s a good line. Keep going.

Ridge: If I could hear music, I would listen to the same song over and over and never tire of it as long as I was listening to it with you.

I laugh.

Sydney: I see you still have the same self-deprecating deaf jokes you’ve always had.

Ridge reaches out and touches my mouth. “And you have the same beautiful smile you’ve always had.” His thumb runs over my bottom lip, but his eyes grow intense as he stares at my mouth. “Same smile…same laugh.” He pulls his hand from my mouth and lifts up. “This feels like a song,” he says. As soon as he says it, he rolls over and turns on the lamp. “Paper?” He opens my top drawer. He doesn’t find paper, but he finds a pen. He faces me with a look of urgency. “I need paper.”

I roll off the bed and walk to my desk. I grab a legal pad and a book for him to place it on. He grabs them out of my hands before I’m even seated back on the bed; then he starts writing lyrics. I’ve missed watching this so much. He writes a few sentences, and I lean over his shoulder and watch him.

Same seats on the couch

Same drinks when we go out

Same smile, same laugh

You know I’ll never get enough of that

He pauses for a moment, then he looks at me. He smiles and hands me the pen. “Your turn.” It feels like old times. I take the pen and the legal pad and think for a moment before adding my own lines.

Same clothes on the floor

Same dog at our door

Same room, same bed

I wouldn’t wish for anything instead

He’s staring at the lyrics when he hops off the bed and starts looking around the floor. “Jeans?” he says. I point to the living room. He nods, like he forgot we came to my bedroom naked. He points over his shoulder. “Guitar. My car.” He rushes out of my room, and a minute later, I hear him walk out my front door. I look at the page and read through the lyrics again. I have two more sentences written when he makes it back to my bedroom with his guitar.

When everything is changing

Baby you’re written in stone

He sets his guitar on the bed and looks over the lyrics, then motions for the pen. He tears out the lyrics and starts writing out chords and notes on another page. This is my favorite part. This is the magic—watching him hear a song that doesn’t even have sound and doesn’t even exist yet. The pen is flying over the paper frantically. He pulls the lyrics back in front of him and starts adding to them.

Feels like we made it

Got something of our own

Maybe it’s predictable

But I can’t complain

With you and me

All I need

Is more of the same

More of the same

He hands me the notepad and pen and picks up his guitar. He starts playing, and I’m reading the lyrics, wondering how he does this with such little effort. Just like that, he’s created a new song. An entire song from nothing more than a few sentences and a little inspiration.

I begin to write another verse while he plays the chords.

Same songs in the car

We never need to go too far and

I won’t leave you alone

Just stay the same baby

I’ve always known that

When everything is changing

Baby you’re written in stone

Feels like we made it

Got something of our own

Maybe it’s predictable

But I can’t complain

With you and me

All I need is more of the same

More of the same

When I finish writing the chorus again, he reads it all. Then he hands me the lyrics and leans back against my headboard. He motions for me to sit between his legs, so I crawl over and turn my back toward him as he pulls me against him and wraps his guitar around us. He doesn’t even have to ask me to sing the song. He starts playing, leaning his head against mine, and I start singing the song for him so that he can perfect it.

The first time he played for me, we were sitting like this. And just like that first day, I am completely in awe of him. His concentration is inspiring, and the way he creates such a pleasing sound that he can’t even hear makes it hard for me to focus on the lyrics. I want to turn around and watch him play. But I also like that we’re wrapped together on my bed and I’m caged against him by his guitar and every now and then, he kisses the side of my head.

I could do this every night with him and still want more of the same.

We sing and play the song about three times, and he pauses to make notes between each run-through. After the fourth and final time, he tosses the pen on the floor and then pushes his guitar to the other side of the bed. Then he turns me around so I’m straddling his lap. We’re both smiling.

It’s one thing for a person to find their passion, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to share that passion with the person you’re passionate about.

It’s fun and intense and I think we’re both realizing for the first time that we get to do this together all the time. Write songs, kiss, make love, be inspired to write more songs.

Ridge kisses me. “This is my new favorite song.”

“Mine, too.”

He slides both hands to my cheeks and bites his lip for a second. Then he clears his throat. “With you and me…all I need…is more of the same.”

Oh, my God. He’s singing. Ridge Lawson is serenading me. And it’s terrible because he’s so out of tune, but a tear falls from my eye because it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever witnessed or heard or felt.

He wipes my tear away with his thumb and smiles. “That bad, huh?”

I laugh and shake my head, and then I kiss him harder than I’ve ever kissed him because there is no way I can verbally express my love for him right now. Instead, I love him silently. He doesn’t even break the kiss when he reaches behind him and turns off the lamp. He pulls the covers over us and then tucks my head under his chin as he wraps himself around me.

Neither of us says I love you before we fall asleep.

Sometimes two people share a silent moment that feels so deep and so powerful, a simple phrase such as I love you risks losing all prior meaning if spoken aloud.

I’ve only taken three bites of my burger, but I push the plate away from me and lean back. “I can’t finish this,” I mutter, letting my head fall back against the booth. “I’m sorry.”

Jake laughs. “You jumped out of an airplane for the first time ever and then drove a car in circles for an hour straight. I’m surprised you’re able to eat anything at all.”

He says this with an empty plate sitting in front of him while scarfing down a milkshake. I guess when you’re used to jumping out of planes and driving fast cars, the adrenaline doesn’t jack with your equilibrium to the point that you feel like the world is spinning inside your stomach.

“It was fun, though,” I say with a smile. “It’s not every day I cross two things off my bucket list.”

He scoots both of our plates to the edge of the table and leans forward. “What else is on your bucket list?”

“Vegas. The Northern Lights. Paris. The usual.” I fail to tell him that he’s who I hope will be number eight on my list. We’ve had so much fun tonight, I want to do it again. But I also don’t, simply because we had so much fun tonight. I’ve spent the entirety of my adulthood in a relationship. I don’t want that again. Even if he is too good to be true. “Why are you single?” I ask him.

He rolls his eyes like the question embarrasses him. He pulls his glass of water in front of him, sipping from it in order to avoid answering it for a few seconds longer. When he lets the straw fall away from his lips, he shrugs. “I’m usually not.”

I laugh. That’s expected, I suppose. A sky-diving, Tesla-driving, good-looking cardiologist doesn’t sit home every Friday night. “Are you a serial dater?”

He shakes his head. “The opposite, actually. I just got out of a relationship. A really long relationship.”

I didn’t expect that answer. “How long did you date her?”

“Twelve years.”

I sputter a cough. “Twelve years? How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine. Started dating her in high school.”

“Can I ask what ended it? Or do you want to change the subject?”

Jake shakes his head. “I don’t mind talking about it. I moved out about six months ago. We were engaged, actually. I proposed four years ago. We never got around to planning the wedding because we were waiting until we finished our residencies.”

“She’s a doctor, too?”


Jeez. I suddenly feel so…young. I just barely finished my thesis, and here he is with an ex-fiancée who went through medical school with him and saves lives. I pull my drink to my lips and take a sip, attempting to wash down all my insecurities.

“Was it a mutual breakup?” I ask him.

He looks down at his hands briefly. A flash of guilt takes over his expression before he responds. “Not really. I realized about twelve years too late that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life with her. I know that sounds bad after being with her for so long. But for some reason, choosing to spend the rest of my life with her was a lot easier than breaking up with her.”

Why am I feeling everything he’s saying? I find myself wanting to raise my arm and say, “Amen,” like I’m in church. “I can absolutely relate to what a hard decision that must have been.”

Jake leans forward, folding his arms on the table. He tilts his head in thought for a moment, then says, “I had a moment before I ended it. I remember asking myself what I would regret more. Ending something that was good so I didn’t end up with regrets? Or spending the rest of my life regretting that I didn’t have the courage to end something simply because I was afraid of regret? Either choice would have left me with some form of regret, so I chose to end it. And it was hard. But I’d rather regret ending something good than be what prevents her from finding something great.”

I stare at him a moment, but I have to break my stare because I’m starting to have that feeling again. That I want him to be more than a one-night stand.

“How long were you and your boyfriend together?” he asks.

“Almost six years.”

“Were you the one who ended it?”

I think about his question for a moment. From the outside looking in, I’d say I was. But being in it…I’m not so sure. “I don’t know,” I admit. “He fell in love with another girl. And it wasn’t like it was some torrid, scandalous affair. He’s a good person and he would have chosen me in the end. But he would have chosen me for the wrong reasons.”

Jake looks surprised. “He cheated on you?”

I hate that word. I find myself shaking my head, even though he did. Ridge cheated on me. It makes him sound malicious, which he is not. “Cheating is such an ugly term to describe what happened.” I think about it for a moment as I stir my straw around in my glass. Then I look up at Jake and say, “He…connected with someone else on a deeper level, I think. To call him a cheater feels like an insult he doesn’t deserve. He crossed a line with someone he connected with. We’ll just leave it at that.”

Jake watches me for a moment, reading my expression. “You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to. I just find it fascinating that you don’t sound like you hate him.”

I smile. “He’s one of my best friends. And he tried to do the right thing. But sometimes the wrong thing is the right thing.”

Jake fights a smile, like he’s impressed with this conversation, but he doesn’t want to show it. I like that. I like how interesting he is. And I like that he seems to find me interesting.

He’s still staring, like he wants to hear more, so I continue. “Ridge writes lyrics for a band. About two years ago, the band released a new song, and I’ll never forget the first time I heard it. Ridge always sent me the songs ahead of their release, but for some reason, he never sent me this particular song. After I downloaded it and listened to it, I immediately knew why he never sent it. It’s because he wrote it about us.”

“A love song?”

I shake my head. “No. It was kind of the opposite. Sort of a falling-out-of-love song, about a couple who needed to move on from each other but didn’t know how. It wasn’t until I heard that song that I realized he felt the same way I did. But neither of us were in a place to admit that to each other at the time.”

“Did you ever ask him about it?”

“No. I didn’t have to. I knew it was about me as soon as I heard the first line.”

“What was the line?”

“I keep on wondering why I can’t say bye to you.”

“Wow,” Jake says, leaning back. “That’s definitely telling.”

I nod. “I don’t know why we waited so long after that to end it. I guess it’s like you said. Things between us were good, but I knew he’d found something great in another girl. And he deserved better than just good.”

Jake’s expression is stoic as he watches me silently for a few seconds. But then he smiles with a shake of his head. “How old are you?”


He makes a face like he’s impressed. “You’re a little young to have life figured out so well.”

His compliment makes me smile. “Yeah, well, I have a shorter life span than everyone else. I have to cram a lot into a smaller timeframe.”

I almost regret making a joke about having a terminal illness, but it doesn’t dismay him at all. In fact, it makes him smile. God, I hate how much I like him already.

“Is this your first date since Ridge?” he asks. I nod, and he says, “Mine, too.”

I think about that for a moment. If he hasn’t dated since his breakup, that means he hasn’t dated another girl since high school. And I probably shouldn’t open my mouth, but the sentence is already coming out. “If you dated your ex for twelve years, that means you’ve only been with—”

“Her,” he says, matter-of-fact. “That is correct.”

And here we are, somehow discussing sexual partners over dinner on a first date. And somehow, the conversation isn’t at all uncomfortable. Conversation with him has been great, actually. There hasn’t been a lull all night. Not even while I was driving his car 100 miles per hour in circles around a racetrack.

There also hasn’t been a lull in our chemistry. There were a couple of times tonight when I thought he might kiss me—and I absolutely would have let him—but he’d grin and step away from me like he enjoys the feeling of torture. I guess that would make sense. He’s an adrenaline junkie. Adrenaline and attraction feel very closely related.

He’s staring at me right now, and I’m staring at him, and I don’t know exactly what it is that’s taken over me at the moment. A little bit of adrenaline. Attraction. Maybe even infatuation. Whatever it is, I have a bad feeling about it. I don’t know Jake well enough, but I think the intense look on his face suggests he feels it too.

I break eye contact with him and clear my throat. “Jake…” I lift my eyes, meeting his stare again. “I don’t want a relationship. At all. Not even remotely.”

My words have no visible impact on him. He simply presses his lips together and then, a moment later, asks, “What do you want?”

I lift my shoulders in a slow, unsure shrug. “I don’t know,” I say, dropping my shoulders again. “I wanted to have fun with you on our date. And I did. I am. But I’m not sure it’s a good idea if we go out again.”

I wish I could explain to him all the reasons why I don’t want to go on another date with him. But there are way too many reasons not to go on another date, as opposed to only one reason why I should.

Jake squeezes the back of his neck and then leans forward, folding his arms over the table again. “Maggie,” he says. “I’ve been out of practice when it comes to this whole dating thing. But…I feel like you like me. Do you like me? Or am I just blinded to your disinterest because I’m insanely attracted to you?”

Ugh. I can’t help the smile that forces its way out. I can also feel myself blushing over the fact that he’s insanely attracted to me. “I do like you. And…” This is so hard for me to say. Flirting is so foreign to me. “I’m insanely attracted to you, too. But I don’t want to date you after tonight. It’s nothing personal. I want to live in the moment, and right now, another serious relationship is not a part of my moment. I’ve been there, done that. I have other plans for my life.”

Jake looks both intrigued and disappointed in my answer, if that’s even possible to feel both things at once. He nods and says, “So this is it? I leave a tip on the table and then I drive you home and drop you off and we never see each other again?”

I bite my bottom lip, because knowing it’s now or never makes me nervous. I either use this moment to mark off another item on my bucket list or I wake up tomorrow regretting that I was too scared to ask him to come over.

I’m not scared. I can do this. I am Maggie fucking Carson. I am the girl who jumped out of an airplane and raced a sports car in the same day.

I swallow the last shred of shyness and look him in the eyes. “This date doesn’t have to end when we pull into my driveway.”

I can see the immediate change in his demeanor. I can see his intrigue and his attraction and his hope, all settled behind his eyes that are staring at my mouth. He lowers his voice a little and says, “When, exactly, does it have to end?”

Holy shit. This is actually happening. Bucket list item number eight, practically in the bag.

“How about we just live in the moment?” I suggest. “And then when that moment is over, you go home and I fall asleep.”

The corner of his mouth curls into a grin. Then he pulls out his wallet and lays a tip on the table. He stands up and offers me his hand. I slip my fingers through his, and we leave the restaurant, living in the moment and not a second beyond it.

I roll over to see if he’s gone as soon as I open my eyes.

He is.

I run my hand over his pillow, wondering how someone can feel so full of emptiness.

Last night was… Well… It was bucket-list worthy, that’s for sure. As soon as we left the restaurant, we headed to my house. He let me drive. We talked about cars, my thesis, that I want to try bungee jumping. He offered to take me, but realized he was essentially asking me out on another date, so he corrected himself and told me a place he thinks I should try. When we got to my house, we were both laughing as we walked inside because the sprinklers came on as soon as we got out of the car, the spray of water hitting us both right in the face. I walked to my kitchen and grabbed a hand-towel to dry my face. Jake followed me, and when I handed him the towel to use, he tossed it over his shoulder and reached for me, kissing me like he’d been waiting to do it since the moment he laid eyes on me.

It was unexpected, but wanted, and even though I felt every single thing while his mouth was on mine, I was also full of uncertainty. I’ve only been with two people sexually in my life, and I was in love during both of those relationships. This was the first time I was about to have sex with someone I wasn’t in love with. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but knowing he didn’t either made me feel more at ease. I kept reminding myself of that with every new part of my neck he kissed.

After about fifteen minutes of full-on making out with him, something switched in me. I don’t know how he did it, but he was so attentive and into it, that all my concerns and insecurities eventually fell away with my clothing. By the time we made it to the bedroom, I was all in. And then he was all in, in more ways than one.

It was everything. Afterward, we rolled onto our backs, and just when I thought he was getting ready to leave, he turned his head and looked at me. “Are there rules to one-night stands I’m not aware of? Are we only allowed to have sex once?”

I laughed, and then he was on top of me again, and as much fun as it was the first time, the second time was even better. It was intense. And slow. And perfection.

He didn’t roll onto his back after the second time. He rolled onto his side and wrapped his arms around me and whispered, “Goodnight,” before kissing me. I liked that he said goodnight instead of goodbye, because it took the focus off the fact that we both knew he’d be leaving before I woke up.

I just assumed I’d wake up in a state of euphoric bliss today. Not a state of melancholy.

Feeling a little down about it being over isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It means I couldn’t have had a better person to have my one-night stand with. Had it been anyone else, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much as I did. And if I hadn’t enjoyed it, I don’t feel like I’d have the right to cross it off my bucket list.

So yes, it sucks that I can’t find anything wrong with him. But it would suck even more to fall back into something I’ll just want out of eventually. I can’t put myself in another position where someone will become obligated to take care of me.

It’s not a good feeling, knowing someone has convinced themselves they’re more in love with you than they are simply because you’re dependent on them. I’d rather feel melancholic than pathetic.

I grab the pillow Jake slept on—the same pillow I was just rubbing in longing—and I throw it off my bed. I’ll throw it in the trash later. I don’t even want to smell him again.

I walk over to my dresser and grab my bucket list. I mark out number eight and then look over the list again. I suddenly feel accomplished, knowing number eight was probably the one thing on my bucket list I was certain I would never have the guts to do.

Maggie Fucking Carson. You are a badass.

I fold the list and set it on top of my dresser. I open the second drawer, then grab a pair of panties and a tank top and pull them on. I need to go visit my grandfather today while I have the opportunity, but first I need waffles and a shower.

Waffles before shower. I’m way too excited for waffles after not being able to eat much last night.

I might even go get a manicure today. I’m staring down at my nails when I walk into my living room. But then I freeze when I smell bacon. I slowly raise my head to find Jake standing at my kitchen stove.


He spins around to reach for a plate and sees me. He grins. “Morning.”

I don’t smile. I don’t speak. I don’t even nod a greeting in return. I stand there and stare at him and wonder how a twenty-nine-year-old man could honestly not understand the meaning behind one-night stand. Night being the key word. There’s not supposed to be a morning included in that definition.

I look at my tank top and underwear and suddenly feel modest, even though he spent enough time on top of me last night that he probably has every inch of my body memorized. But still, I wrap my arms around myself.

“What are you doing?” I ask.

Jake is watching me, a little unsure of himself after seeing my reaction to him still being here. He looks at the stove and then at me, and I swear he deflates right in front of me.

“Oh,” he says, suddenly seeming out of place. “You thought… Okay.” He starts nodding and immediately reaches to the stove and turns off the burner. “My bad,” he says, not looking at me. He grabs a glass that’s next to the stove and takes a quick drink. When he faces me again, he can’t even look at me. “This is awkward. I’ll go. I just…” He finally makes eye contact with me. I wrap my arms around myself even tighter because I hate that I’ve created such an awkward moment when he was obviously trying to do something nice.

“I’m sorry I made this awkward,” I say. “I just wasn’t expecting you to still be here.”

Jake nods, walking toward me to grab the shoes he kicked off next to the couch last night. “It’s fine. I misread things, obviously. I know you made yourself clear last night. But that was before we…twice…and it was…”

I press my lips together.

His shoes are now on his feet, and he stands, eyeing me. “Wishful thinking, I guess.” He points at my front door. “I’m gonna leave now.”

I nod. It’s probably for the best. I just ruined every good thing about last night.

Actually, he ruined every good thing about last night. I walked into my living room accepting that I’d never see him again, and he ruined it by assuming I wanted him to stay and cook me breakfast.

He reaches for the front door, but before he opens it, he pauses. When he turns around, he stares at me for a moment, then walks back over to me. He stops about two feet away and tilts his head. “Are you positive you don’t want to see me again? There’s no wiggle room for me to convince you to give this one more shot?”

I sigh. “I’ll be dead in a few years, Jake.”

He takes half a step back, but doesn’t take his eyes off me. “Wow.” He brings a hand to his mouth and runs it over his jaw. “You’re really using that one?”

“It’s not an excuse. It’s a fact.”

“A fact I’m very aware of,” he says. His jaw is hard, and now he’s mad. See? If he would have just left before I woke up, this would have ended perfectly! Now, when he leaves, we’re both going to be frustrated and full of regret.

I take a step forward. “I’m dying, Jake. Dying. What’s going to come of this? I don’t ever want to get married. I don’t want children. I have no desire for another relationship where I’ll eventually become someone’s burden. Yes, I like you. Yes, last night was incredible. And that’s exactly why you should have left already. Because I have things I want to do, and falling in love and fighting with someone about how I live the last few years of my life is not something that’s ever been on my bucket list. So, thank you for last night. And thank you for attempting to cook me breakfast. But I need you to leave.”

I blow out a frustrated breath and then immediately look at the floor because I hate the look in his eyes right now. Several seconds pass and he doesn’t respond. He stands there and soaks in everything I said. He eventually takes a step back, and then another. I look up and he looks away, turning toward the front door. He opens it and steps outside, but before he closes it, he looks straight at me.

“For the record, Maggie. I was just making you breakfast. I wasn’t proposing.”

He shuts the door, and my house has never felt emptier than it does in this moment.

I hate this. I hate everything I just said to him. I hate how much I wish it wasn’t the truth.

I hate this stupid fucking illness.

And I hate that I said all that and made him leave before he could even finish cooking the damn bacon. I stare at the pan and then walk over to it and throw the entire pan in the trash.

I lean against the bar and can’t help but pout. Is Jake ending a relationship twelve years too late better or worse than me ending a relationship completely and entirely too early? He’s someone I could love. If I had the life to love him in.

I bring my hands up to the back of my head and press my elbows together, bending over. I try to stop myself from being so disappointed. But the fact that I’m disappointed over a guy I met twenty-four hours ago disappoints me even more. I take a few minutes to recover, then force myself upright.

I grab the box of waffles I had intended to have for breakfast from the freezer. Only now, I’m not nearly as excited to eat them.

Sydney swings open my bedroom door. I’m sitting at my desk, finishing up a website for a client, when she goes straight to my bed and falls face-first onto the mattress.

Rough day, I guess.

It’s probably my fault because I stayed another night at her house last night. Maybe I should give her a night to catch up on her sleep. Outside of her job, we’ve been together almost non-stop since Tuesday. I know it’s only Friday, but we get exhausted being together. In the best way.

I’ll make sure tonight is a little more relaxing than the last few nights. We can take the chill out of Netflix and chill and literally just watch TV shows all night. Then I’ll let her sleep in as long as she wants tomorrow. Hell, I’ll probably sleep in with her.

I walk over to the bed and lie down beside her. I brush her hair out of her face, and she opens her eyes and grins at me, despite looking exhausted.

“Bad day?” I ask her.

She shakes her head and rolls over onto her back. She lifts her hands to sign, but whatever she wants to say, she doesn’t know how to sign. “Midterms,” she finally says.

I tilt my head. “Midterms?”

She nods.

“You had midterms this week?”

She nods again.

Now I feel like an asshole. I grab my phone and text her.

Ridge: Why didn’t you tell me? I wouldn’t have stayed at your apartment.

Sydney: Mine were Monday and Tuesday, so no worries. Your timing Tuesday night was impeccable. It’s just that I work at the library and it’s insane during midterms. The students are insane. The professors are insane. I’m so happy it’s Friday.

Ridge: Me too. Let’s do nothing tonight but watch TV. I need to find out if Ned really gets decapitated.

Sydney: Who?

Shit. Warren is rubbing off on me. I don’t want her to know I just spoiled season one o