By: Skylar Heart
Three guys who take her back into their arms, one more guy bringing along trouble.
Having fled to the coastal town where she used to spend her summers, Mia reunites with three guys she used to know, and date, Dylan, the brainiac, Mal, the joker, and Tom, the protector. The three guys take her back into their lives like she’s never been gone.
But she has been away, and in that time, life has gotten a lot more complicated for all four of them. Broken relationships, addiction and the loss of Poppy, Mal’s twin sister, Tom’s wife but also Mia’s ex-lover, it all hangs over them like a dark cloud.
Then, another guy from Mia’s past shows up, Jake, the city boy, bringing with him not only the surprise news of Mia’s birthday but also carrying the one secret Mia has been trying to hide from Mal and Dylan. How will the guys react to Jake? But more importantly, how will they respond when they find out why Mia stopped coming to the coast every summer?
18 December 2019
Pages: 116 pages
Available in the Netherlands/Belgium:
As part of a collection
Last night, when I had dinner with the guys and Elly, all sitting in the small kitchen and having a good time, I felt more welcome than I’ve felt in years. I felt more at home than I ever felt living in the city, even when this isn’t my home, and those guys aren’t my family, they still feel like it. The guys were joking around like crazy, riffing each other, and it was great to see them smile, to see them act like how I remember them.
Then, I slept on the mattresses with Mal and Dylan again, as Tom and Elly went home. This time, Elly was awake and complained up a storm about having to leave when Mal and Dylan were allowed to have a ‘sleepover’ with me, and she wanted to stay too. So, I promised her that she could sleep here tonight too.
I guess we’ll have a full house, which doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Especially not when I’m faced with the grey morning of a new day.
Dylan is already off to work, he left early, trying not to disturb either of us, which failed again, and all three of us had breakfast together. Mal just left for band practise, as they’ve got a gig at the end of next week somewhere not too far away from here, and they’re supposed to go over the songs for it, or something like that. I have no idea, I have no knowledge of music-related things, and he seemed very excited to share something with the other band members. The song he’d been working on yesterday, I presume, but he wouldn’t tell me anything about it. He’s mean like that.
It’s really cold outside, but I’m still sitting at the small table out back, going over more job postings, seeing if I can find something that works for me. I’ve not had to search for a job for a long time, and my ex’ voice keeps going through my head, repeating over and over that my whole ‘never finishing my masters degree’ isn’t a good sign to future employers, as it proves I’m too flakey. He was convinced that I should really just try to find something that’s a ‘good steady job’ where they don’t really look at those ‘gaps’ in my resume, instead of applying for positions that won’t hire me anyway. With my crappy record, it’s just wasted time on everyone’s part if I try to do more.
I’ve not checked my phone or my email much all week, not wanting to be confronted with all the crap that will be in there. I just needed a break. There’ll be messages from my ex, messages from my old job, messages from people who my ex has asked to try and find me. I just want to hide out here for a few more days.
I’ll get to them on Monday. Nothing can be important enough that it can’t wait until then. Just a couple of days where I don’t have to deal with the ‘real world’ would be great.
My job hunting isn’t really making much progress. I’ve got enough work experience to get a managers position at another book store, but I still need a place to live, and when I return to the city, I won’t have that. At the same time, I can’t get a job around here when I’m only staying here for a couple of weeks, that would be unfair to whoever hires me, and it’s not really the holiday season yet, too early for companies to start hiring extra people for the holiday rush, and I can’t wait for that, because I’ve got bills to pay and food to buy.
Grumbling and cold, I pack up my laptop and go back inside, back into the heat of the kitchen. I guess that was enough for this morning, that was enough torturing myself for one morning. Time to get some things around the house done, like going through that back room and seeing what I’d like to keep and what I can probably sell off or donate. I don’t want to go to grandma’s bedroom yet, or anything like that, but I can do the back room, that room feels safe enough.
I’m curled up in Grandma’s chair in the back room, looking through old photo albums that I found on a shelf, pictures from when Grandma was still young, probably around my age, right before Dad was born, when the front door opens and closes.
“Mia?” I almost drop the album, quickly grabbing hold of it before it manages to crash to the floor. “Mia? Where are you?” It’s Jake, the one guy I hadn’t expected to show up here. I thought it was going to be Tom, since he said that he’d drop by in the afternoon to start working on fixing the table.
I put the album back on the shelf as I walk towards the door, curious and worried about him showing up. “I’m here.” As I step into the hallway, Jake is standing there in all his tall and sexy glory, staring at me, his cheeks all red from the cold and his eyes intense. “Didn’t expect to find you in this house.”
My heart beats fast, Jake is part of a totally different life than the one I share with the guys here. Jake is the reason I stopped showing up, he’s Oliver’s dad… Jake’s the guy who got me pregnant. And he’s supposed to be in a lab, working on his chemistry PhD project, not here in my grandma’s hallway halfway across the country.
“Hey.” He flashes me a smile as he puts a heavy bag down, before wrapping his arms around me tightly. “Fuck. You scared me, disappearing on me like that.” He smells like the city, smog and cars and ten types of coffee, all stuck to him.
“Disappearing?” I didn’t disappear on anyone, right? Maybe on my ex, but that was on purpose, and he knows why I left, or at least, he should know…
“Yeah, you did. I went to your work, but they said you ran out on Monday. Then I went to your place, but that guy of yours told me that you’d left him, made it really clear that he thought you were with me. Then I went to your parents’ place, where your mum finally told me that you were here. Gave me the address and all. I messaged you.” His voice is rushed, and I feel bad for not telling him where I went. I hadn’t meant to worry him. “I sent you all sorts of messages, even called you, but you didn’t answer.” He takes a step back, staring at me intently. “I was worried sick. After we spoke last week, I was bothered by some things you said. Wanted to take you out for a birthday lunch today, but couldn’t find you anywhere. Yeah, you disappeared, if you meant to or not.”
“Sorry.” My cheeks heat up and I blink. “Sorry. I just… I needed some time away. I had to get out of there.”
“What happened?” His jaw sets, his eyes darkening dangerously. “Did he…” He already starts to turn around before I can even answer, probably imagining the worst.
I grab his arm. Everything is going wrong. I never meant to worry him, Jake least of all people. I never want to worry him, but, apparently, I still did. “He didn’t hurt me.” The words rush out of me. I know what Jake thinks of my ex, he hates the guy, and I guess he was right, he was right all along, even when I didn’t want to see it.
“Okay.” He slowly turns back to me, taking me in his arms. “If he did… I will…”
“He didn’t,” I insist as I slowly shake my head. It’s not like my ex didn’t do some other horrid things, but he never hurt me physically, though… Yeah… I wasn’t so sure of that on Monday, which is why I left, not wanting to wait for the inevitable anymore.
No matter how good it feels in Jake’s arms, how familiar, I know that he can’t stay. “You need to go back home.” I force the words out. I need to do the right thing for him, and that means not being here.
“I’m not leaving. I’m not leaving you alone.” His voice is so steadfast, making me wish I didn’t have to send him away again, making me wish I could keep him at my side, like in the old days. But I can’t mess up his life more than I already have.
“You can’t be here, you have work to do.” I break out of his embrace, putting my hand to his strong chest. “You have to go back.”
“I don’t have to be anywhere but here.” He places his hand over mine, his big and warm hand, and then searches my eyes out with his. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”
I want to tell him everything I’ve found out since I came here, but instead, I shake my head, and then my self-control breaks, tears starting to slide down my cheeks. “You can’t be here. You need to get back to your research. You need to finish that PhD. You need to… I can’t mess your life up more than I already have. You have to finish, you can’t be like me.”
“Mia.” His eyes go wide in surprise, and then darken in pain. “You didn’t mess anything up, that wasn’t your fault.”
“At least one of us needs to fulfil our dreams. It obviously can’t be me, so you need to be the one. You need fulfil the dreams you had. You need to… I can’t mess this up more.” My heart breaks as I speak the words I’ve practised so many times in my head.
He keeps being there for me, he stays at my side, no matter how much I mess my life up, but I can’t depend on him like that anymore, especially not when I’m only making his life harder the longer I keep clinging to him.
“You have to go back.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” His voice is low and he takes a step closer again, his eyes intense. “I’m staying here, for you. Because you need me to be here.”