Matthew Caldwell never forgot about me…
Exposed, an all-new second chance romance and book 7 in the Empire High series from USA Today bestselling author Ivy Smoak is available now!
Matthew Caldwell never forgot about me. I know that now. And a part of me wants to give us a second chance. When I’m in his arms, I feel 16 again. He takes away my pain. But I’m worried he’ll never forgive me…
Brooklyn has always been mine.
I loved her when she was a Sanders. I loved her when she was a Pruitt. And even though I’m angry, I know I’ll love her now, as a Miller. But it’s about time I made her a Caldwell.
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She’s alive. I pushed into the restroom and put my hands on the sink.
I felt the wetness on my cheeks.
Brooklyn’s alive and she’s married to someone else?
It felt like someone was strangling me.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
This was a dream. A nightmare. I can’t breathe.
I closed my eyes tight. I’d wake up soon. I’d realize it wasn’t real. Just like I did most mornings when I reached out and felt the empty sheets.
I shook my head.
It couldn’t be real. Brooklyn had died 16 years ago. I’d gone to her funeral. I sat on her grave and talked to the dead. I’d lost the love of my life. And I’d been drowning ever since.
This isn’t real.
The girl I loved wouldn’t have married someone else. She wouldn’t have. She wouldn’t have done that to me. She wouldn’t have disappeared for 16 years to torture me. She wouldn’t break her promises.
Breath in. Breathe out.
But I’d just touched her. I’d smelled her. I still smelled her on my skin. And for just a second, I’d felt whole again. I didn’t feel alone. I felt loved. I felt needed. I felt like myself.
I opened my eyes and stared at my reflection in the mirror. And I saw myself standing there 16 years ago. The same haunted expression on my face. Right after losing her. I’d stared at my reflection wishing I’d gotten one more chance to do everything differently. To be better for her. To be enough. Just one more chance.
What the fuck am I doing? She’s alive!
I ran back out of the bathroom. “Brooklyn!” I shouted in the hall. But I didn’t see her. I ran to the auditorium. “Brooklyn!” I yelled as I threw the door open.
She didn’t respond.
“Brooklyn?” I hit the lights and looked around. But the auditorium was empty.
I put my hand to my forehead. It felt like I’d lost my mind. Like I really had imagined the whole thing.
But she’d been here. I swear she’d been right here. I ran back out into the hallway, shouting her name. I pushed open the front doors of Empire High and stared down the empty steps. She wasn’t in the parking lot. I turned toward the stadium. The homecoming floats were heading back out, blocking my view. But I didn’t see her.
I’d regretted my last words to her my whole life.
I’d gotten the second chance I’d dreamed of.
And I’d fucked it all up again. “I have no idea who the fuck you are. But you’re definitely not the girl I knew.”
What the hell had I just done?
I took a deep breath and sat down on the front steps of Empire High.
I hadn’t let myself think of the possibility that Brooklyn was alive in years. But when I used to let my mind wander…I’d always pictured her still being mine. Never once had I pictured her having a life with someone else.
She’d promised me forever.
I put my face in my hands. Yes, I’d thought about proposing to Kennedy. And I was in a fake engagement with Poppy. But none of that was the same. Because there was never any question over whether or not I was alive or dead.
Brooklyn disappeared. And married someone else. She’d purposely let me drown.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
She’d ruined my life. And I hated my last words to her. I hated the words I just said to her. But it was the truth. Who the fuck was that person? Because that wasn’t my girl. That wasn’t Brooklyn.
I can’t breathe.
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