For a moment, I just sit here, hands on my steering wheel, staring out the window in disbelief.

I can’t believe what just happened.


Tears run down my face and onto my lips. I wipe them away with my hands.

“Baaahhh.”

I glance over at Gucci. “I know, baby. I just…I don’t know what’s happening. I’m as confused as you are.”

I pick her up and set her in my lap, hugging her to me. I bury my face in her soft fur. Tears start to soak her coat.

“Sorry, baby girl.” I dry her fur with my hand and wipe my eyes dry.

I don’t know what to do. I could call my brother, but he’s in Japan at the moment, and I don’t want to bother him. And I know, if I call Mom and Dad, they’ll want me to come home to New York. Stupidly, I don’t want to leave here. Because Gabe’s here.

I know; I’m a fucking idiot.

But he’s alone, and he’s hurting.

He might hate me and think I’ve done an awful thing. I might be angry and hurt as hell that he thinks I could have done that to him, but I love him, and I don’t want him to be alone when this story hits the press.

I think about calling Tate because I know Gabe won’t, but I don’t know his cell number. I don’t want to call the hospital.

Then, it hits me.

There is one person I can call.

I lean over and grab my cell from my bag. I take a deep breath, steadying my breathing, and press her number.

“Hey, stranger.”

“Hey, Charly.”

Charly is a good friend of mine. I’ve known her for years. I’ve not spoken to her in a few months, but this is how we’ve always been. And I know I can call her whenever I need help.

“I know it’s been a while since I last called, but I really need your help.”

“Sure. What’s up?”

“Are you in LA at the moment?”

“No, I’m in Oregon.”

Charly lives there with her boyfriend, Vaughn West, who’s a famous movie star, and he also happens to be a close friend of Gabe’s. That’s the reason I’ve called her. I know Gabe has just been a world-class asshole to me and has hurt me like no one has before, but I also know he’s hurting over the fact that the whole world will soon know about his past, and I don’t want him to be alone when that happens. I know it’s killing him that this will be getting out.

“Oh. Okay. Just…could you do me a favor?”

“Sure. Anything.”

“Could you have Vaughn call Gabe?”

“Gabe? As in, Gabe Evans?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. But why are you asking me to get Vaughn to call Gabe? I didn’t think you guys knew each other well. Or at all.”

I take a deep breath. “We didn’t. But we do now. It’s a long story. I just really need Vaughn to call Gabe.”

She picks up on the urgency of my tone. “What’s going on, Ava?”

An unexpected sob bursts from me. I press my hand to my mouth.

“Shit, Ava. What’s going on?”

“Just Gabe and I were together, and now, we’re not because he thinks I did something that I didn’t. And, now, something’s about to be made public and it’s going to really hurt him and I don’t want him to be alone and I would have called his brother, but I don’t know his number, and I know Vaughn is a good friend and I thought he could call him—”

“Okay, babe. I’ll get Vaughn to call Gabe. But, first, I need you to take a deep breath and tell me everything from the start.”

So, I do. I tell her everything—from the moment I hit Gabe with my car to what just happened in his apartment. The only things I leave out are the details of Gabe’s past. It might be public knowledge soon, but I made a promise that I wouldn’t ever tell a soul, and I’m keeping that promise even if Gabe thinks I didn’t.

“Jesus, Ava. I don’t know what to say. I just—”

“It’s fine, Charly.”

“No, it’s not fine. He blames you for this when you haven’t done anything wrong.”

My heart swells because she believes me at my word, which is more than Gabe did.

“And the first thing you do is call me, so I can have Vaughn check on him. Guy doesn’t know how lucky he is.”

“He’s hurting.”

“He’s an asshole. I’m sorry, Ava, but he is.”

No, he’s in pain. He thinks I’ve betrayed him.

But I don’t want her to think I’m making excuses for him, so I say nothing.

“Will you just have Vaughn call him, please?”

“He’s calling him now.”

“Oh. Good. That’s great. Thank you.”

There’s a brief pause, and then Charly says, “So, what are you going to do now?”

I let out a sigh. “I don’t know.”

“Do you have anywhere to stay?”

I look around my car and at Gucci, who climbed back onto the passenger seat while I’ve been talking to Charly.

“Well, I can try to get a hotel room, but I don’t know of any hotels that’ll take Gucci.”

“Who the hell is Gucci?”

“She’s my pygmy goat.”

“You have a pygmy goat? When—actually, never mind. What about Logan? Can you go to his place?”

“He got a job in Maine. Went there a few days ago. But I’ll be fine, honestly. Don’t worry about me.”

“Yeah, of course I’m not going to worry.” I can practically see her rolling her eyes at me. “Look, I’m gonna call the hotel where Vaughn and I stay when we’re in LA. I’ll get you a room there.”

“What about Gucci?”

“They’ll take you and Gucci, or they’ll lose business they don’t want to lose.”

Her confidence makes me smile.

“It’s really kind of you to offer to do this, Charly, but my bank account won’t stretch to the kind of hotels that you and Vaughn stay in. I’ll just try and get a motel. And, if not, I’ll sleep in my car.”

“The hell you will. I’m calling the hotel now, and I’m paying—”

“Charly, no.”

“Ava, I’m not taking no for an answer. I’m booking you a room for you and your goat. And then I’m catching a flight to LA first thing.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

“I know I don’t. But I want to. You’re my friend, babe. And I know, if this were reversed, you’d do the exact same for me.”

“Of course I would. In a heartbeat.”

“So, it’s settled then. I’ll text you with the hotel details in a few minutes. Call me if there are any problems when you check in. And I’ll see you in the morning.”

A tear rolls from my eye and down my cheek. “Thanks, Charly. I’ve missed you.”

“Missed you, too, babe. I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early.”

“See you then.”

I hang the phone up and hold it to my chest. Then, I rest my head back on the headrest and stare up at the roof of my car, praying that Gabe is okay up there, in his apartment, alone.

Gabe

I pick up the bottle of scotch that I’ve spent the night with and drain the remains.

I glance out at the morning creeping into the dark.

Foo Fighters’ “Best of You” is playing on a loop. It’s been playing for hours. It’s stuck on repeat. But I can’t be fucked to get up and change it. And, honestly, it’s pretty fucking apt for me at the moment, so I’ve just left it playing.

My cell starts to ring. I glance over at it on the coffee table.

Tate.

I leave it to ring out.

My cell’s been ringing all night. Vaughn. Julian. Gil. Donna. My publicist. And a bunch of other people I don’t give a shit about.

This is the first time that Tate’s called though.

He must’ve just seen the news.

Jesus. The thought of my baby brother knowing what I used to do to make money…

I squeeze my eyes shut and breathe through the pain.

I should have called him to give him a heads-up, but I just couldn’t bring myself to call him.

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