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Fake Out: Chapter 23

MADDOX

The last place I thought I’d find myself was back in Clover Vale, PA. My bank account suffered a major blow, forking over three hundred bucks for the Uber to get me here.

I didn’t get in until late, so the parentals haven’t had the chance to grill me about why I’m home for the weekend.

Five years ago, I ran from my problems, and now I’m back to where I began, running again. I wonder if in five years I’ll have to take a girl to Damon’s wedding and pretend to be straight.

Damon’s wedding … Nope, I’d never survive seeing him marry some other dude.

My brain likes to confuse me. It made me yell at Damon for going behind my back to look at apartments, but now it’s the thing telling me that Damon didn’t actually rent a place for us; he was just looking. It told me to run home to PA and switch off my phone, and now I’m lying here wondering what the fuck I’m doing.

I try to get the image of Damon’s face out of my head—the face he pulled right after I said I loved Stacy in a way that implied I didn’t love him. It’s not at all what I meant. Stacy is like family to me, and that’s why I let her interfere. Yet, when Damon did it, I couldn’t see past my issues with Chastity that I never dealt with.

Damon’s nothing like Chastity, and I broke his heart anyway.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

I’m running away from the best thing that ever happened to me because of a fucking teenage relationship I was too chicken shit to put an end to. Why was I reluctant to break her heart, yet last night, I had no problem telling Damon I didn’t want a relationship with him.

Which is bullshit, because I do. I want him more than I’ve wanted anyone or anything.

So, why is it so hard for me to let go and allow it to happen?

Because you’re scared of being trapped again.

I thought Damon would never do that to me, but then those listings …

So what? Just because he was looking at listings doesn’t mean he was forcing me to move in with him. He wasn’t holding a gun to my head or giving me an ultimatum. He was literally looking for somewhere we could live together, because he wants a life with me.

That monster.

Fuck, I’m an idiot.

I’m about ready to give up on sleep, when Mom startles me, and I realize I must’ve fallen asleep after all. There’s drool on my pillow, and it takes a minute for me to realize I’m at home and not in New York.

“All right. You’ve had enough sleep now,” Mom says.

“Sleep? It feels like I haven’t slept at all.”

“Time to milk the cows.”

I throw my pillow over my face. “We don’t have cows. We don’t live on a farm.”

“With the way you talk about how country we are, I get confused sometimes.”

“Mom,” I whine.

“Oooh, he brings out the teenager in him.” The bed dips as Mom sits on the end.
“Out with it. What boy or girl has you running back here?”

I lean up on my elbows, and the pillow falls away from my face. “Dad told you?”

“That you’re not gay? Yeah. Also told me that my future son-in-law was a no-go.”

“You like Damon better than you like me. Admit it.”

“Well, he used his manners. Spill it. What did you do to piss him off?” she asks.

I groan. “I don’t want to talk about it. And how do you know it was him?”

“You have a visitor downstairs. I don’t think you’re going to get out of talking about it.”

Damon’s here?

I scramble out of bed, still in the clothes I was in last night. My feet bang loudly against the stairs. Damon stands from my parents’ couch, his hands go to his pockets, and his head hangs low.

I hate that I’m the one making him second-guess himself—something I promised I’d never do. I told him I wouldn’t be like Eric, and then I go and shut him out.

Fuck.

I rush over to him and practically knock him down as I kiss him hard. He stumbles back, but his hands go to my waist, and his mouth takes everything I give.

I try to express everything I feel for him, everything I want to say, because I’m not sure if I can admit it aloud yet. I love him. This is true, but the thought of saying it out loud makes the walls close in—just like they’ve always done. Only difference is, this time, when I remind myself that it’s Damon, all that doubt, the claustrophobia, the itchy feeling of wanting to escape disappears completely.

If I focus on the Damon part and not words like love and forever, I don’t freak out. I want it. Everything.

Mom clears her throat, and I force myself to pull back. “I’ll uh, let you boys talk it out,” she says.

When she’s gone, Damon turns to me. “I was expecting more yelling, maybe accusations of being a stalker, and maybe a I never want to see you again, but a kiss?”

“How did you know I was here?” I ask.

“Tracking app on your phone,” he says simply. When my mouth drops open, he smirks. “What, I can’t make jokes?”

I shove him.

“I was going to let you cool off and give you space, but well, I’m me. I called around to like … everyone. I found out you were here, and I told myself to stay away. If I drove you to escape to PA, something had to have been seriously wrong. But you have to know I didn’t do what you think I did.”

“I don’t care anymore.”

“Huh?”

“I’m not like you. I’ve never thought of something I wanted and just gone for it. I don’t travel because I’m content to sit back and complain without actually making an effort. You know what you want and you go for it. I’ve always admired you for it, so it makes sense you would’ve been planning for the future and looking for possible apartments—”

“That’s just it. I wasn’t,” he says.

“You weren’t?” Why does that fill me with crushing disappointment?

Fucking hell, I want to live with him now? I shake that thought off and tell myself to come back to that later.

“I was looking for me,” Damon says. “My lease is up next month, and we both know I hate my apartment. I asked Stacy to check out a few buildings near your work, but when I sent through the list, I accidentally sent her the one I saved before you told me you didn’t want to live with me. I don’t want to pressure you into anything you’re not ready for, and I’ve been chasing you down trying to tell you that. I’m pretty sure I’m in a relationship with your apartment now though. I gave it a killer speech last night, hoping you were on the other side of the door listening.”

I burst into laughter. “Speech? Do I get to hear it?”

“Nope. It’s between me and your door. But it had lots of apologizing and groveling, and now you may never see that side of me.”

“I treated you as if you were Chastity, when you’re not. You wouldn’t hold me back or make me do something I didn’t want to do. Last night, I was too freaked out to see it rationally and went into flight mode because it’s my automatic reaction to everything. But I don’t want to run away.”

Damon wears a grin that lights up my Goddamn world. “You’ll come home with me now?”

“How did you get here?” I move to the front windows and see a Beemer outside.

“Borrowed Noah’s car. I would’ve been here sooner, but he decided to lecture me about fucking it up with a guy who could put up with my shit.”

“Noah loves me more than you,” I sing. “When do you have to have Noah’s car back by?”

Damon shrugs. “Dunno. He rarely uses it. Who has a fucking car in New York?”

“When’s your graduation?”

“Wednesday.”

I smile. “What are the chances of getting two days off from OTS?”

Damon fake coughs. “I think I feel the flu coming on. Where are you going with this?”

“Do we need passports to cross over into Canada? Niagara is what, four, five hours away?”

“Maddy, what are you planning?”

“I’m planning to jump in headfirst with my eyes closed and hope for the best. I’m acting instead of wishing for more, and I want you to do it with me.” I swallow hard and force myself to say the words I’ve been too scared to admit. “Because I love you.”

A breath gets caught in Damon’s throat. “Your door blabbed, didn’t it?”

“Huh?”

“Can we state for the record that I told you I loved you first? It just happens that I told your door instead of you.”

“You told my door you love me?”

“I fell in love with you weeks ago but didn’t want to scare you off.”

“Even when you scare me, I promise I’ll come running back,” I say. “It might take a while for my irrationality to be drowned out, but I will always overcome it. I know that now. You’re worth it.”

Damon steps forward, wrapping his arms around me and bringing his forehead to mine. “If we’re making promises to each other, I promise to not get ahead of myself, to consult you on everything before acting, and also to follow you wherever you want to go … unless baseball is on.”

“Of course.”

“I’m even willing to go to Canada. If that doesn’t tell you I love you, I don’t know what else will.”

“It’s a hardship, I know.”

“Guess we have a road trip ahead of us.”

“I’ll make snacks!” Mom yells from the kitchen.

“I think she was eavesdropping,” Damon says.

I lean in and whisper, “Lucky I didn’t mention the road head I plan to give you.”

Damon glances around the house as if looking for something.

“What?” I ask.

“Was waiting for someone who overheard you to jump out.”

“I really should learn to shut my mouth.”

“Or put it to good use.”

When our lips meet, I’m in a tortured heaven. I can’t believe I almost walked away from this. This guy owns me, and it’s killing me that I fucked up.

“Maybe we should save this for Canada,” Damon says. “You know, where your parents aren’t eavesdropping or watching.”

“The next five hours are going to be the longest of my life.”


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