Nearly eight hours later, I exit the interstate and onto the two-lane county road that will lead me into Crescent Ridge. More than forty miles with not a streetlight in sight is all that is left to travel. Stars light up the bright sky, guiding me home—to the one place I vowed I’d never return to. The evening sky was one of my favorite things growing up in Crescent Ridge. The stars provided hope that there was more than the small town I lived in. A town I was willing to stay in for Cole. I would’ve given up every dream I had—for him.
The sound of his voice on the phone echoes through my head, and my stomach clenches at the thought of seeing him. I swallow hard and push my anger to the side as I think about my mom and what I’m about to walk into.
As I ease my car down the long road that dead ends into the cul-de-sac where my childhood home sits, a flood of emotions overcomes me. Tears fill my eyes when I see how different everything looks since I fled ten years ago. The houses look smaller and the trees look bigger. Ahead of me lies a quiet street full of houses that have seen better days.
Gravel crunches beneath the tires as I pull into the small driveway. My fingers are wrapped tightly around the steering wheel and my eyes are glued to the front porch. Baskets of flowers once hung from the covered porch and flowerbeds used to hang from the porch railing, displaying beautiful arrangements of flowers.
It was the one splurge my mom indulged in. Our house was less than modest, but she claimed the flowers gave it an appearance that we cared about our home. Even in the dark, I can see that nothing is left but the hooks that the baskets used to hang on and the empty flowerbeds appear to have not seen a flower in years.
Where the porch was once painted white, it’s now mostly gray from the weathered wood beneath where the paint has long since cracked and mostly disappeared. The three wood steps that lead up to the front porch lean to one side, and the dilapidated wood looks as if it could splinter and break apart.
I swallow hard against my dry throat when memories overcome me and take me back to a time where I spent summer nights sitting on those steps, shoulder to shoulder with Cole. My legs would be crisscrossed and tucked tightly underneath me while I talked to him, telling him stories and the plans I had for us. I planned our entire lives on those wooden steps, and I realize now that those plans were as dilapidated and weak as those steps had become.
Shaking off the thought, I remember Cole lying on his back, his long legs bent at the knee and propped on one of the steps. He’d lie there with a giant smile on his face as he listened to me talk. He rarely spoke when I’d tell him my dreams, instead he’d listen. He was a sponge, taking in every word. As we got older, he could recite every detail of my plans, and he’d whisper them to me as I’d fall asleep in his arms.
There were two things I believed in back then—Cole Ryan, and the plans I made for us. Sadly, both of those turned out to be nothing but a lie.
At eleven he was my first crush. At sixteen he became mine. At nineteen he broke my heart and destroyed me. That was ten years ago and the last time I saw Cole Ryan.
They say you never get over your first love...I beg to differ. I left my shattered heart buried in a town I never expected to return to. I erased every thought of him and buried the memories never to be found.
I moved on...now ten years later I have the perfect life, the perfect fiancé, the perfect career. Everything I ever wanted until I'm forced to go back and face my past and the man that destroyed me.
He won't stop until I know the truth no matter how hard I fight it. In the end, lies will be uncovered, hearts will be broken, and my life as I've come to know it destroyed.
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