ABOUT THE BOOK:
On the night of her high school graduation, Vale McKinley and her boyfriend Crawford are in a terrible car accident that leaves Crawford in a coma. They were supposed to spend the summer planning for college, for a bright future full of possibility. Together. Instead, Vale spends long days in the hospital, hoping Crawford will awaken.
Slate Allen, a college friend of Vale’s brother, has been visiting his dying uncle at the same hospital. When he and Vale meet, she can’t deny the flutter of an illicit attraction. She tries to ignore her feelings, but she’s not immune to Slate’s charm. Slowly, they form a cautious friendship.
Then, Crawford wakes up . . . with no memory of Vale or their relationship. Heartbroken, Vale opts to leave for college and move on with her life. Except now, she’s in Slate’s territory, and their story is about to take a very strange turn.
CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT:
THE SMELL OF summer evenings always made me feel happy. Since I was a girl, it was the reminder that school was over and adventure awaited. Swimming in the lake, playing basketball with my older brothers, and of course our annual family vacation. However, this year it meant freedom. A new life, a new beginning. For me and Crawford.
I glanced over at him driving and the warmth in my chest grew at the sight of him. We had been together since we were kids. First as friends, and then it grew into more as we got older. Today we had walked across the large stage set in the center of our high school football field and received our diplomas. We were graduates. Finally.
“Still seems hard to believe it’s over. High school,” I added for clarification. Although I was sure he would understand what I meant.
He cut his eyes toward me and the corner of his lips curved up just enough for his eyes to sparkle the way they did when he was amused or pleased. “It’s not over. It’s just beginning, V. Our life will be exactly like we planned it.”
I wanted to believe that. We were going to the same college. Crawford had a scholarship for football. A full ride. It wasn’t my first choice for school but I wanted to be where he was. We had never been apart.
“Everyone seemed almost scared tonight. Like they were drinking and partying to forget the fact we’re adults now. This is it.”
Crawford shrugged. “I bet most of them are terrified. They don’t all have plans like we do. They have to decide what’s next.”
He was right, of course. He always was. One of the things I loved about Crawford was his confidence. He didn’t worry and back away from a problem. He faced it head-on and took control. I felt safe with him, like he would always have the answer I needed.
His hand reached over and covered mine. “Our life is going to be amazing. College is going to be just what we need. To get out of this town but not too far away. We can spread our wings and still come home to visit easily enough. You’re going to love it.”
And I believed him. My mind was playing through all the fun things we would see and do. Excitement for what was to come bubbled up in me and I was so ready for August to arrive.
Our favorite song came on the radio and Crawford turned it up and began to sing along with his off-key voice. He was a terrible singer, but he knew it made me laugh so he did it often. Joy swelled up in me for the life I had, so strong it was hard to contain it. I began to laugh as he hit another bad note. This was my life and I loved it.
It was then that Crawford slammed on the brakes and the world began spinning. The smell of burning rubber and the violent screeching of wheels took away all my other thoughts. Dreams vanished in that instant. Completely.
* * *
ONE MONTH. TODAY was the one-month anniversary of the car accident that turned our graduation night into a nightmare. I sat in the waiting room—now more familiar to me than my own bedroom—and stared at the white walls. The smell of stale coffee didn’t overpower the sterile surroundings. Those things didn’t matter, though. Nothing other than Crawford opening his eyes mattered.
It would be my turn to read to Crawford soon. I lived for this time of day. To see him and pray he would hear my voice and open his eyes. That we would be together again. That all our dreams were still there, waiting just outside the door of this lonely, cold place.
The doctor had told his parents the morning after the accident that he believed comatose patients can hear. If he heard us talking to him, he’d fight to come back. To wake up.
I shivered remembering those words. Comatose. I hated that. Crawford was so full of life and energy. Seeing him like this was so hard.
The doctor believed he needed to hear several voices he knew and loved. So Crawford’s mother put us on a schedule in the beginning, but then let me come in as early as I wanted to read. But as the days progressed, her schedule had started to change as her health went downhill. Seeing her only child like this day in and day out was weighing on her.
“Still here?” a masculine voice asked. I didn’t recognize the speaker. Normally it was one of my older brothers coming to check on me. Knox, my youngest older brother, was closest in age to Crawford and me, and he came to read, too. Not every day like me, but when he could. I was hoping he would come today. He hadn’t been in a couple of days and I knew Crawford would like to hear him.
I lifted my head to meet a pair of dark green eyes outlined by thick black lashes—pretty eyes for a guy. I’d seen those eyes before. Just as I’d seen the guy they belonged to. But we had never spoken.
“You’re always here,” he said. “There hasn’t been a day in the past two weeks that I’ve not seen you.”
His voice was smooth, but there was a thicker drawl to his accent than most of the guys had in Franklin. He almost sounded Alabama-ish. Was he studying me or was he waiting on me to speak? Probably the latter. I was being rude not responding.
“Nowhere else to be,” I said honestly. Because without Crawford I was lost.
He lifted the corner of his full lips and it looked a lot like a smirk. Why would he be smirking at something like this?
“I can think of a lot of places I’d rather be. But Uncle D is where my loyalty lies. So here I am.”
I wasn’t sure if he meant to be deep and heartfelt, but it didn’t sound that way. I wondered if he was even upset about his uncle being here. Not that it was my business. The guy had an air about him that rubbed me the wrong way. He liked himself. A lot. He knew he was beautiful and he liked the attention it got him. I’d seen his kind plenty. I wasn’t a fan.
“Your selflessness humbles me,” I replied with a heavy dash of sarcasm. The way his eyes sparked with amusement made me dislike him more than I’d already decided I did.
As he crossed his arms over his wide chest, I couldn’t help but notice the way his biceps flexed and the tattoo peeking out of his sleeve. His long dark hair was a little messy and tucked behind his ears. I imagined it would complete his pirate look if he had it pulled back in a ponytail.
“Don’t mistake me for pretending to be selfless. That was never my intention at all. I’m here to see my uncle. Nothing deeper than that. But then, I don’t sit like a martyr in this waiting room day after day and stare at that wall. Selflessness is your thing. Not mine.”
Why was he still talking to me? Where was Knox? He should have showed up with a late lunch from my mom by now. And it was his turn to go sit with Crawford before my scheduled time in three hours. Knox needed to get here and this guy needed to move on along.
“Jesus, you’re high-strung,” he muttered, and I jerked my gaze back to his. Again with that amused smile.
“Aren’t you here to see your uncle?” I asked, hoping to get rid of him.
He laughed this time. The real kind. It was pleasant. Maybe more than pleasant. Until I remembered he was laughing in that attractive way because of me. Then it annoyed me.
“I am. Just thought I’d try and give you something to do other than stare at the wall. It makes me sad when I see you here all alone. My mistake. You’re obviously alone because you like it that way.”
I would not rise to the bait. He wanted me to bite back, but I wasn’t going to do it. He wasn’t worth my anger or the energy it would take to get angry.
“Slate, what are you doing out here? Your uncle was just asking about you.” The young female nurse was seriously batting her eyelashes and sticking out her chest as she spoke to … Slate—apparently that was his name.
He turned his gaze to meet hers and I was almost positive he winked. Her cheeks began to glow and her eyes went all sultry. Jesus. I had seen enough of this. If I wanted to watch a soap opera, I’d turn on the television in the corner.
“Tell the old man I’m coming,” he said.
She giggled like that was hilarious and gave me a brief glance before turning to walk away. The swing in her hips was exaggerated—any girl who actually walked like that would need to get her hips adjusted at the chiropractor weekly.
“You enjoy yourself, Miss…” He trailed off, as if waiting on me to give him my name. He would be waiting forever.
“Your fan club needs you,” I replied with a disgusted tone, and went back to staring at the wall. Just like I did every day. Thinking. About life and my future, our future. Mine and Crawford’s.
“Yeah, it does.” He chuckled. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him shake his head before turning and walking away. It wasn’t a walk, really. More of a saunter. If guys actually sauntered. Maybe a swagger?
Oh, who cared? He was gone.
I reached into my canvas tote bag and pulled out my phone. There were five texts and two calls from my mother, a text from each of my four brothers, two from my oldest brother’s wife, and the last three from my dad. They did this every day. Checking on me, asking me to come to dinner, a movie, shopping, to play basketball … anything to try to get me out of this hospital.
None of them understood. Crawford was in a coma.
That was all that mattered. I couldn’t just continue to live as if he weren’t lying in that bed, unmoving. I had to be here when he woke up. Because he would. He had to. We had a future we’d been planning since childhood.
I opened my text messages and did what any good girl would do: I began replying to them. My mother’s offer to take me shopping for a new bathing suit—as if I were going to the beach anytime soon. Then her attempt to guilt me into a family dinner. My nieces missed me. I did feel slightly guilty about Maddy and Malyn, my oldest brother’s twin girls. They were only two, and Aunt Vale not being around probably confused them.
Before the accident, I babysat them every Tuesday and Thursday night while Catherine, my sister-in-law, worked late shifts at the nursing home. My mom kept them now. I wouldn’t leave the hospital each day until I had to. When Crawford’s mother came back at seven every evening, I told him good night, kissed his cheek, then cried the whole way home. When I woke up at seven every morning, I got dressed, packed my bag with books and snacks, and headed to the hospital. It was my routine. It was all I had left.
My brothers were getting together tonight after family dinner to play basketball at the house. Jonah was in the military and currently on assignment. So I was the even number four. They didn’t really need me. My dad would be there to fill in. But each of them acted like they couldn’t play without me.
I was the baby of the five and the only girl. That being said, I was also overprotected and worried about too much. They all thought it was their job to make sure I was okay. Because I loved them each for it, and because Jonah texted me even while he was off serving our country, I replied to all of them that I’d be at the basketball game if they’d wait until seven thirty. It wasn’t what I wanted to do when I got home. But it was what they needed me to do.
So I’d do it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Abbi Glines is a #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Rosemary Beach, Sea Breeze, Vincent Boys, Field Party and Existence series. She never cooks unless baking during the Christmas holiday counts. She believes in ghosts and has a habit of asking people if their house is haunted before she goes in it. She drinks afternoon tea because she wants to be British but alas she was born in Alabama. When asked how many books she has written she has to stop and count on her fingers. When she’s not locked away writing, she is reading, shopping (major shoe and purse addiction), sneaking off to the movies alone, and listening to the drama in her teenagers lives while making mental notes on the good stuff to use later. Don’t judge.
You can connect with Abbi online in several different ways. She uses social media to procrastinate.
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