First and Forever (Heartache Duet #2) - Jay McLean Page 0,1

look up, I’ll see a hell of a lot more than I want to. “I don’t know, taking in the scenery?”

“What?” she huffs out, sitting down in front of me, her legs kicked out next to mine.

“My car broke down, obviously.”

She sighs. “I should start wearing a cape if I’m going to be saving your ass this much.”

“You don’t have to stay,” I tell her. “My dad can come get me. He’s just not answering his phone right now.”

Karen nods, a frown pulling at her lips. “But you’re all pathetic and miserable, and I feel sorry for you, so…”

I laugh once. “Am I that obvious?”

“Connor,” she whines. “It’s like you forgot that I lost her once, too.”

I look down at my hands, clear the knot in my throat.

“But you’re so tragic right now, and I get it,” she says with a surprising amount of sincerity. “Maybe it would help if you talked about it?”

“I don’t think there’s anything to say.”

“Well, what happened with you guys? What changed?”

“I don’t know…” I find a loose rock and flip it in my hands. “Her mom happened, and my basketball took over any free time we had. We just never seemed to be on the same page at the same time.”

“That sucks and all, but it’s kind of unavoidable, no?”

I sniff away the memories flooding my mind and ask, “You know what the worst part is?”

“What?”

I look up at her and give her a truth I’ve kept only for myself. “I was doing it all for her.”

Her brow lifts. “What do you mean?”

“My plan was always four years at a D1 college and then hopefully go pro. But then I met Ava and her mom and… and they’re struggling so much with everything. I just… I thought if I put in the work now, then I could get the offer I need, do my one year and then declare for the draft and hopefully get a decent enough contract that I could… I could take care of them, you know?”

Karen’s quiet as she stares at me, right into my eyes, and I don’t look away because I have nothing to hide. Barely a whisper, she asks, “Does she know any of this?”

I shake my head

“Why not?”

“Because I didn’t tell her,” I sigh out.

“Why?”

I suck in a heavy breath. “Because what if I don’t make it? What if all her hopes for her future relied on me and I couldn’t follow through?” I throw the rock across the road. “What if I fail?”

Karen’s throat moves with her swallow, and she breaks her stare, looks down at her lap. “That’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself, Connor.”

“But it’s not just that,” I continue, feeling the weight of my words release the pressure in my chest. “I didn’t tell her because I didn’t want her to feel obligated to stay with me if or when she ever stopped loving me.”

Karen’s gaze meets mine again, her eyebrows raised. “She said she loves you?”

I nod.

“And you… do you love her?”

“My heart beats for her.”

Ava

Mr. Ledger opens his door, his eyes widening when he sees me. “Hey, Ava. Connor’s not home right now.”

Good. “Actually, I came to see you.”

“Sure,” he says, nodding. “Do you want to come in?”

I look over his shoulder to the open door of Connor’s bedroom and push away the memories. “I’d prefer to stay out here if that’s okay?”

He offers a smile before flicking on the porch light. “What can I help you with?”

“You mentioned before that if I ever needed help with anything I could come to you… and I know that Connor