I didn’t know much about the juvenile system, but from helping troubled kids get back on their feet through our foundation, I understood sealed records were closed to the public but still accessible to a few court or law enforcement personnel. If records were expunged, no physical or digital information existed.
There was a list of everything she’d done—robberies, car thefts, selling prescription drugs.
Why hadn’t she told me?
Why hadn’t she trusted me?
I didn’t care what had happened when she was a kid. Whoever she was then wasn’t who she was now, but I did care about why she hadn’t shared the darkest parts of her past with me.
I stormed out of my office. Josie stood chatting to my assistant Carrie like all was right in the world.
I ignored her and addressed Carrie. “If my brothers are looking for me, tell them I had things to do.”
“Going to find your criminal girlfriend?” Josie’s lips twisted, her eyes hard and cold. “I don’t know what the problem is with you and your brothers. You’re all attracted to white trash.”
“Shut the fuck up, Josie,” I burst out, heat flaming my anger. If I could have fired her, I would have. “Stay out of my private life and stay out of Noah’s. You can’t stand that he loves Aubrey and is happier with her than he ever was with you.”
I jumped into my car and sped to Willow’s apartment, but when I arrived, her truck wasn’t there. I ran up to her apartment and hammered my fist against her front door.
I fished under the doormat, found the spare key, and let myself in. She wasn’t there either, but all her stuff was. Wherever she was, she hadn’t skipped town. That in itself was a relief.
I jumped into my car again and went to her kitchen.
The truck sat outside, and my heart soared.
I ran up three flights of steps to her kitchen because I didn’t want to wait for the elevator. When I shoved the door open, I found her boxing up her stuff.
“Going somewhere?” I asked, barely keeping the emotion from my voice. “You didn’t think you should’ve talked to me first before disappearing from my life?”
She dropped a metal bowl to the floor, the sound reverberating around the room.
I covered my face with my trembling hands.
Embarrassment burned through every pore, and I prayed for a sinkhole to open up and swallow me whole.
I didn’t want him here.
I’d wanted to get away before he read about me. Before he found out the truth. The reporter hadn’t even bothered to call me to get my side of the story.
Everything about this was a nightmare. When I saw the words detailing my teenage years, I couldn’t believe my past was out there for the world to see.
The words had blurred in front of my eyes, and for over an hour, I’d sat in one spot, trying to figure a way out of the mess, but I couldn’t. There was no one else to blame but me.
For the past few weeks, I’d been wearing rose-tinted glasses, but the journalist’s words had well and truly broken those glasses, and they’d fallen to the ground and shattered.
I didn’t know how The Post had found out, or who’d they’d paid to get into my sealed records. A couple of hundred bucks thrown my mom’s way would have made her sing like a canary.
All of my regulars would know who I was and what I’d done. I couldn’t face them, and I didn’t want to face him.
I dropped my hands by my sides. “Please leave, Evan.”
Anger rolled off him in waves, and shadows darkened his eyes. “You’re just going to go to another city and start over? Ghost me like I was a one-night stand and not someone you love?”
Tears filled my eyes. I tried to blink them away, but one escaped and dripped down my cheek and off my chin. “It’s for the best.”
“For the best?” He laughed, but it didn’t sound like the warm, rich laugh that usually chased goosebumps over my skin. This version of his laugh was ugly and hard and prickled the hairs on the back of my neck. “You said you loved me. If you love someone, you don’t run out on them at the first sign of trouble. You talk to them. You confide in them.”
I hung my head, my now black hair falling like a curtain, hiding my face. “Do you know what I did? Did you read it?”
Unable to resist, I looked up at him.
His forehead creased, his eyes softening. “You were fifteen. Whoever that girl was, she’s not you. Remember when I said we all screwed up, we learn, then we move on. I meant that. This isn’t life or death. You’re not running away from this, and you’re not running away from me. Stop tying yourself up in knots and torturing yourself. I’ll find out whoever leaked your sealed records, and I’ll ruin them.”