Barnes and Noble Pre-Order Link:
ibooks Pre-Order Link:
It was only the middle of September, but I knew I had to start putting away a little bit every paycheck, so I would have something extra if Jamie suddenly asked me to purchase all the treat bag paraphernalia or juice boxes for the entire school.
“You look tired, baby,” Mom commented. “Hard day at work?” “Just a hard day.” I sighed and slid onto the stool beside her. “Don’t you hate how many of those there are?” she asked, her eyes glittering with mischief.
“This grown-up thing is for the birds.” “Amen.”
Max returned with the cuss jar. “Two dollars, Grammy.” “Two dollars?” she gasped. He grinned at her. “The F word is five! You’re getting a bargain.” We laughed at my crazy, smart, ridiculous kid. He’d been the one to decide the varying
degrees of fines. On one hand, I knew I should be a better mom and protect him from all these words to begin with. On the other, I knew it was more important to raise him the right way than to always put him in the right situations. I couldn’t possibly control every single thing he’s exposed to during our lifetimes. But I could help him become the best man possible. I could teach him through the hard and awkward and awful situations and help him become kind and honest, loyal and giving.
Or, at least that’s what I hoped to do. “I guess I am.” My mom laughed. “What about homework, little man?” I asked him after he’d collected my mom’s money. He made a frustrated sound. “Maybe, I don’t know.” Pulling out his folder, I dove into the after-school mom responsibilities I knew so well. It was
weird that Jamie had invited us over for a playdate. But it was even weirder that Levi Cole was coming back.
What did he want here? How long was he going to stay? Not that it mattered to me. I planned to ignore him, remember?
Rolling my eyes, I waved him off. Honestly that was a tamer word than usual. And Max was unfortunately used to grownups saying words he wasn’t supposed to hear by now. “I’ll tell you later, okay? Why don’t you go find a great big stick and let Mommy talk to the scary man.”
Max tilted his head at Levi. “I don’t think he’s scary.” “Ha! Looks can be deceiving,” I mumbled to no one in particular. “Go on, babe. Find a stick.” He looked up at me like I’d grown a second head. “Then what?” “Then… then whack that cornstalk with it.” “Why?” “Because it needs to be whacked.” “Why?” Levi walked closer. “Just pretend it’s Darth Vader and you’re on a mission to save the
galaxy.” Max’s attention swung back to Levi. “Who’s Dark Faber?”
“Who’s Darth Vader?” Levi repeated, stunned. “What do you mean, who’s Darth Vader?” To me he said. “What kind of parent are you? He doesn’t know who Darth Vader is?”
“He’s six,” I reminded him patiently.
“Exactly the right age to know about the glory that is Star Wars. You’re depriving him of a fantastic childhood.”
“Are you seriously giving me parenting advice right now?” He leaned forward. “Are you seriously considering passing it up? It’s good advice.” A frustrated growl rumbled in the back of my throat. Max, getting bored with our back and
forth, wandered off to whack the cornstalk. Levi and I watched him in silence for a minute. Eventually, curiosity got the better of me. “What are you doing here, Levi? Why are you in
my neck of the woods?” He shrugged, and that damnable smile was back. “I feel bad about the other day… about the
gas station.” I couldn’t let him get away with his behavior then nor now. Or the questions he was hell bent
on asking. Or the sheepish, repentant smile he was wielding like a weapon. “You have no right to stick your nose in my business, Cole.”
He shrugged. “I’m trying to say I’m sorry.”
It wasn’t exactly a promise to leave me alone, but Levi didn’t usually give me what I wanted. This was probably the best I could ask for, and yet, I couldn’t let him get away that easily. I lifted a hand, half hidden in the sleeve of my shirt, and pointed a finger at him. “You can mess with me, Levi, but you better not hurt my son. Got it?”
He took a step forward, closing some of the space between us. “Just to be clear though, you’re saying I can mess with you, right?”
He stared at me, unspeaking, unmoving. The hurt in his eyes and the frown on his face devastated my already broken spirit.
“And I don’t even know what to tell you,” I cried some more. “Because my mistake led me to Max and for that reason I can never really regret it. But I hate how I hurt you. I hate that my mistakes meant pushing you away. I hate that I finally know how I feel about you and it’s too late.”
His eyes flashed with something so intense I gasped for breath. “How do you feel about me?” How could he ask me that now? How did he not know? How had he not always known? “Don’t make me say it,” I whispered, my voice dragged over gravel. “It hurts too much.” “Ruby,” he pleaded, his voice just as fragmented. “Say it. Please.”
I didn’t bother brushing away the tears, there were too many of them, my grief was too heavy. “I love you,” I whispered. “I’ve always loved you. I’ve just been too afraid to say it.”
To admit it.
Trailer park born and raised. It’s my legacy. That’s how my mama lived. And that’s how her mama lived. It’s the life I was born into and it’s the life I swore I would leave the second I was old enough to make it out.
Only legacies have a funny way of sneaking up on you. An innocent decision the night of high school graduation led to a series of complications in my plans to escape.
Seven years later, I’ve resigned myself to this small town and the roots I’m tied to. Nothing could make me leave. And nothing could make me spill the secrets that keep me here.
Until he walks back into town with a chip on his shoulder and a stupid hunch nobody else in town has been smart enough to follow.
Levi Cole is my opposite. Born on the right side of the tracks with family money to spare, he’s the kind of black sheep that can afford to be rebellious—because his family will always pay for his mistakes. He’s also the only living heir to Cole Family Farms, after his brother Logan was killed in duty seven years ago.
He sees something in my life that he thinks he has a right to. But he’s wrong. And obnoxious. And he needs to take his stubborn good looks and that intense way he looks at me and go back to wherever it was he came from.
I know better than to trust men like him. I was born and raised in a trailer park, I know nothing good happens to girls like me—girls with trailer park lives and trailer park hearts. Especially from gorgeous, kind, pigheaded men like him.