The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times and USA Today best selling series.
Five years, six months, eight days….
It’s been eighteen years since Abigail was born with a hole in her heart. Five years since she collapsed on the soccer field. Five years, six months, eight days since she found out she was adopted.
Abby has spent five years wondering about the family she never knew and waiting for her eighteenth birthday. When Abby shows up on the doorstep of Chris and Claire Knight, her birth parents are overjoyed to see the little girl they lost eighteen years ago.
One summer is all they have to make up for the years they lost. But a summer of love soon turns into a summer of heartache.
AMY RIDES HOME with Caleb and me after school. An April storm swooped in while we were in third period. The smell of the rain and the sound of the drops tapping on the vinyl convertible top is soothing after a long day of fake smiles. Amy and Caleb are the only people who know about the significance of today’s date. Everyone at school was wishing me a happy eighteenth birthday, completely oblivious as to how unhappy today actually is.
I haven’t told Caleb or Amy, but I’ve already made my decision about opening the safe-deposit box.
Caleb pulls into the driveway, next to my dad’s silver pickup truck, and turns off the engine. The silence that follows brings a smile to my face. They’re both waiting for direction from me.
“Let’s go. I’m sure my mom is pacing the living room, waiting for me to walk through the front door.”
Caleb laughs, but Amy shakes her head. Her wavy brown hair is damp at the ends from the rain and the light freckles on her nose are showing through her makeup, but she still looks great. My makeup is probably all gone.
“Is your mom going to freak out?”
I push the passenger door open and a few raindrops fall on my arm. “Amy, this is my mom. Of course she’s going to freak out… on the inside. On the outside, she’ll pretend like everything is okay.”
Caleb grabs my shoulder as we stroll up the front walk, then he gives it a soft squeeze. “Whatever you choose is the right choice. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.”
I smile and, for some reason, the $4,000 guitar lying in his trunk comes to mind. Of course Caleb thinks that whatever I choose is the right choice. He thinks I’m so special I actually deserve a $4,000 guitar. I could probably run away tonight and Caleb would tell me I made the right choice. Of course, if I ran away tonight I’d probably end up spending the night with Caleb at the apartment he shares with his twenty-three-year-old roommate. So that’s a bit obvious.
“Is your dad supposed to be home right now?” Amy asks as I reach for the doorknob.
“No, he probably left work early. It’s a big day for them, too.” Pushing open the front door, I’m a bit surprised to find my dad standing in the foyer, as if he were waiting for me. “Hey, Dad.”
He clears his throat and smiles. “I know I wished you a happy birthday this morning, but I’m going to do it again.” He extends his right hand forward and I see the gold key lying flat in his palm. “Happy birthday, sweetheart. This is yours now.”
I draw in a few deep breaths, then I reach forward and take the key from his hand. I curl my fist around the sharp metal, squeezing as it digs into the soft flesh of my palm. Looking up into my father’s blue eyes, the barely disguised grimace crinkling the skin around the corners, I tuck the key into the front pocket of my jeans.
“I’m not going today,” I say, smiling so he doesn’t think this was a difficult decision to make. “I don’t know if I ever will, but thank you for trusting me to make the decision on my own. I love you, Dad.”
I wrap my arms around his thick waist and he squeezes my shoulders so tight it hurts. “I’ve always trusted you, sweetheart. I know you’ll make the right decision for you.”
“What’s going on?”
My mom’s voice is soft and laced with worry, but it still grates on my nerves. I love my mom, but her inability to trust that I would make the right decision has broken something between us. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear her speak and hear the same voice that sang me to sleep every night until I was eight years old.
“I’m not going,” I say, letting go of my dad.
Her eyebrows knit together, but there’s a spark of hope in her eyes and a slight curl to her lips. “Why not?”
I blink a few times to hold back the tears. “Because I’m afraid of hurting you.”
“What? That’s silly.”
“No, it’s not. I can see how much you want me to leave that part of me in the past. Even if you don’t say it, I can see it in your eyes.”
“I’m sorry, Abby. I just—”
“No, you don’t have to explain, Mom. I understand.” I sniff loudly as I wipe the tears from my face. “You don’t want to lose me. And I’m lucky to have you. I know that… I don’t want to lose you either.”
She shakes her head and takes my face in her hands. “Oh, honey. You’re not going to lose me. You’ll never lose me.” She kisses my forehead and tucks my hair behind my ear. “Yes, I’m afraid of what this will do to our family going forward, but it’s natural. We fought so hard for you, Abby. I just want to protect you. I want to protect this family.”
She presses her lips together as she considers this question. “I don’t know. But please don’t let my fear influence you. This is your decision, honey. Your father and I will support you no matter what you choose to do.”
I nod and she takes me into her arms. I allow myself to cry on her shoulder for a moment, before I excuse myself to my bedroom with Caleb and Amy. Closing the door behind us, I immediately take a seat on my bed while Amy sits at my desk and Caleb sits next to me.
“She’s hiding something from me,” I say as Caleb grabs my hand.
“Our parents probably hide more things from us than we do from them,” Amy replies, opening up my laptop. “Do you want me to respond to all your birthday greetings on Facebook?”
“Not the ones from guys,” Caleb adds, and I shove him. “Are you sure you don’t want to see what’s inside that box?”
I nod quickly. “I’m not ready. I’m actually glad my mom made me wait. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to face the people who gave me away.”
“What if they had no choice?” Amy says.
“No choice? In what kind of world would they have no choice? Of course they had a choice. Maybe it was a difficult one, but it was still the choice they made. Why do I even want to meet someone who didn’t want me? My parents want me. They’ve always wanted me and now I’m going to risk hurting them just to satisfy my curiosity? It doesn’t make sense.”
“You’ll know when you’re ready,” Amy says, an automatic response as she scrolls through my Facebook profile and responds to hundreds of birthday wishes.
I look up at Caleb and he’s staring straight at me. “What?”
“That’s bullshit,” he repeats. “You’re not going to hurt your parents. And you know that.”
I try to let go of his hand, but he tightens his grip. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I know better than you do. I had a mother who didn’t want me. Really didn’t want me. But you… you don’t know what your birth parents felt about you and I think that’s what scares you the most. Not knowing.”
The soft tapping of Amy’s fingers on the keyboard of my laptop stops. I bite my lip as I try to deny that what Caleb just said is true, but I can’t. He’s right. I’m not afraid of hurting my parents. I’m afraid of hurting me.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo grew up in California and has lived in three different countries. She loves to travel and her dream is to one day score a record deal based on her awesome shower singing skills. She is the author of the Shattered Hearts series (Forever Ours, Relentless, Pieces of You, Bring Me Home) and the Luke, Knox, and Chase series.
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