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The Way I Hate Him: Chapter 9


“You’re here,” I say as I fling myself at Maggie, her warm hug soothing my very soul in seconds.

“That drive was atrocious,” she says. “Rained the whole way until I got here. What the hell?”

I chuckle. “Old granny couldn’t handle the rain?”

“No, you know how I drive in the rain. White-knuckling it the whole time, even if it’s just sprinkling.”

“Well, you’re here now. Let’s get you upstairs. I have your cookies all ready for you.”

“See, I knew there would be light at the end of the rain-soaked tunnel.”

I take her bag and we go through the back of The Almond Store. Aubree has a lot of customers at the moment from the influx of tourists today, so I don’t want to bother her, and we head up the stairs to my door.

“I had no idea The Almond Store had an apartment above it.”

“Yeah, it’s cozy in here, so prepare yourself,” I say as I open the door and reveal my tiny studio.

Maggie pauses on the stairs, looking inside but not stepping in. “Um, what’s this?” she asks.

“My apartment,” I answer.

She shakes her head, still peeking in but never fully inserting herself. “No, this is not an apartment. This is a closet, Hattie, and a small one at that.” Her eyes dart around the tiny space. “It doesn’t have a kitchen.”

“No, but it has a mini fridge, and that’s a nice touch.” I walk over to the dresser, where I have half of the cookies I made with Hayes. Yup . . . half. “And look, I made you cookies. Yum. Yum.”

She sets her bag down on the top of the stairs and folds her arms across her chest. “Now, Hattie, you know I’m not a diva and I’ve slept on your dorm floor before, but I am a lady now. Do you truly expect me, as a lady, to sleep in this closet with you?” She glances over at the bed and points. “Are we supposed to share that? I don’t think I could even squeeze in on the end because the slanted ceiling eats up half of the bed.”

Huh . . . I didn’t think about that.

“Yeah, it is sort of tight, isn’t it?” I ask.

“It is,” she answers.


“We can make it work,” she says with an unsteady look. I know she’s being kind, and Maggie isn’t the kind of person who would care about something like where she sleeps, but if I look at it, with the ceiling, it would be as if we’re sharing a twin bed.

“Um, I might have something different. Give me a second,” I say as I pull out my phone.

“This is fine, really,” Maggie says, standing at the top of the stairs.

“Says the girl who won’t even enter the room.”

She chuckles and says, “I’m getting acclimated.”

Shaking my head, I turn around and text Hayes.

Hattie: So . . . remember when you were nice to me and said I could bring Maggie to your house? Is that offer still available, or did it expire?

Thankfully, he texts back right away.

Hayes: Still available.

Hattie: Cool . . . so could I bring her over now?

Hayes: If you bring lunch.

Hattie: Deal. What do you want?

Hayes: And the other half of the cookies.

Hattie: Hayes! Those are for Maggie.

Hayes: Cookies or no bed.

Hattie: Fine! Now what do you want for lunch?

Hayes: Blue cheeseburger from Provisions with a side salad.

Hattie: A side salad? When they have the best fries ever?

Hayes: It’s either fries or cookies, and I choose cookies.

Hattie: You’re massively annoying.

Hayes: You realize you’re saying that to the person offering their house to your friend.

Hattie: Why do I feel like you’re going to hold this over my head?

Hayes: Because I wouldn’t be the “anus” you think I am if I didn’t.

Hattie: Facts.

“Who are you texting?” Maggie asks. “Because you’re smiling.”

I look up at her and drop the corners of my mouth. “No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are,” she replies. “You were smiling. So tell me who the hell you were texting, and if you say Matt, I’m going to scream.”

“It wasn’t Matt,” I say, feeling slightly embarrassed that she caught me smiling when I didn’t even know I was smiling. “It was Hayes.”

“Hayes Farrow,” Maggie silently whispers as she moves—I mean floats, she’s actually floating from the sound of his name—into my studio. “Why were you texting him?”

“He offered to let us stay at his place while you were here because he knows how small my apartment is.”

“Well, what the hell are we waiting for?” she asks as she tugs on my arm toward the door. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Laughing, I say, “Wait, I need to pack my stuff first.”

“Hurry up. We can’t be wasting any time. Hayes needs us.”

Good . . . God . . .

I can already tell this is going to be a bad idea.

“IT’S BEAUTIFUL,” Maggie says, hands clutched together, looking up at Hayes’s house, her face practically pressed against the window of his vehicle, which she gushed over as well.

“Maggie, what did we talk about on the way over here?”

“Being cool, I don’t need a reminder. Trust me, I’m as cool as a cucum—oh my God, he’s opening the door.”

“Maggie . . . please,” I beg of her.

“It’s fine. I’m fine,” she says as Hayes appears at the front door wearing black jeans and a worn Eagles T-shirt with some holes around the collar. And, of course, he’s wearing a backward hat in typical Hayes fashion. “Ahhh,” she screams as she pops out of the car and runs right up to him, hugging him.



I watch as my best friend barrels into him and the surprised look on Hayes’s face as he wraps his arms around her, her face burying itself into his chest.

Mortified, I get out of the car as well, just in time to hear Maggie say, “Oh my God, I love you so much. Everything about you. Your look, your attitude, your music. You breathe life into my soul on a daily basis. Without you, I’d be dead, absolutely dead. So freaking dead. But I’m not, because you exist and your magical guitar-playing hands exist.” She lifts his hand and twiddles his fingers. “Ooo, look at those well-earned calluses. Calluses that have graced this world with your beautiful, bone-chilling music.”

This was a huge mistake.

“And look at your eyes.” She grips his cheeks and pulls him in closer to get a better look at him. “Holy shit, Hattie, have you seen his eyes? They’re so much grayer in person like I’m almost staring into a mirror. Look at those things. I’ve never seen anything like it. And these pecs.” She slaps the palm of her hands to his chest and gives him a solid fondling.

“Maggie, don’t touch him.” This is so humiliating.

“They’re so beefy. You should really wear tighter shirts to show them off, or do more shirtless cologne ads. I mean, sure, I’ve bookmarked every single one I’ve seen for research purposes, but I think the world needs more. I’m a wedding planner, and sometimes the grooms tell me they want to get in shape for the wedding, so I send them some Hayes Farrow inspiration . . . that’s a lie.” She shakes her head. “The inspiration is for me, and me alone . . . if you know what I mean.” She elbows him knowingly in the stomach.

“Maggie,” I hiss.

“And honestly, I never would have known about you unless it was for Hattie. I remember the first time I heard your music.”

Oh fuck!

No, Maggie, nooooo . . .

“Maggie, let’s not—”

Hayes holds up his hand, a devilish grin on his face. “No, I want to hear this.”

Dread envelops me as I feel all the color rush from my face.

Completely oblivious, Maggie continues, “It was in our dorm right before classes started. We just met each other and she was playing music when I returned from the bookstore. She asked if I wanted her to turn it off, and I told her it was fine. It was the first time I heard your rustic, earthy voice and I was addicted. I asked her who was singing, and she said Hayes Farrow and then proceeded to show me her secret playlist of your music. I remember the first night we tried pot, we stared up at the stars and listened to The Reason on replay.” She leans forward and whispers, “I lost my virginity to that song.”

And I want to be sucked into the earth as Hayes stuffs his hands into his pockets and looks past Maggie and straight at me as he talks. “I’m glad I could be of service . . . with losing your virginity and all.”

Maggie goes into detail about the awkward night, but the whole time, Hayes stands there, staring at me, a satisfied look strung across his handsome face. It’s official, I’ll be looking for a new best friend starting tomorrow.

“WHAT THE FUCK, MAGGIE,” I whisper to her once we’re alone in her room, the room Hayes assigned her after she stopped gushing.

“Wow, this place is so nice,” she says, smoothing her hand over the pristine white bedding. “I feel like we’re in a five-star resort.”

“Uh, hello, I’m talking to you.”

“Huh?” She finally looks at me, and I notice the stars in her eyes. Jesus.

I pinch the bridge of my nose and say, “Do you even realize what you said back there?”

“No.” She winces. “I swear I blacked out. I didn’t embarrass myself, did I?” She nibbles the corner of her mouth, and I nearly fly out of my spandex to tackle her.

“Uh, you jabbered on for a solid five minutes while throwing me under the bus about liking his music.”

“Why is that a bad thing?” she asks. “He’s your boss, after all.”

“Because he thinks I hate him.”

“Why, though? Like, why does it matter?”

“Because . . .” I go to answer and then realize I don’t have an answer other than because of Ryland . . . and pride.

“That’s what I thought.” Maggie shrugs. “As far as I’m concerned, I probably did you a favor. I saw the way he was looking at you. Can I just say, I’m jealous. If that man was looking at me the way he was looking at you, I’d have torn off my shirt and plopped my boob right in his hand, without question.”

“There is something seriously wrong with you,” I say as I flop back on the bed, the most comfortable bed I’ve ever lain on. Damn him.

She joins me on the bed, lies back, and clasps her hand with mine. “Let’s forget about that and tell me why you need me because as far as I’m concerned, it seems like you have a friend in Hayes.” She’s wrong. If there’s one thing that has been so abundantly clear since I landed back in Almond Bay, it’s that I have no one in my corner. Except Maggie . . . before all her gushing. I’ve just felt so . . . lonely.

“He’s not my friend and he hates my brother and my brother hates him and my brother hates me and my sister hates me and the only person in this town that seems to care a hint about me is Hayes and I don’t like that. I feel like my sister and my brother should care about me, but all they care about is me going to school and I failed out this semester so what the hell am I supposed to tell them? The only thing they care about when it comes to me is something I failed. They barely talk to me now, they won’t want to talk to me after this . . . oh my God, and if they ever found out about Hayes, they’d hate me even more.”

Maggie takes a deep breath and says, “That’s a lot to process. You’ve only been here for a few days. How the hell did you do that much in less than a week?”

“I work fast, apparently.”

“You do,” she answers. “Why don’t we grab a drink, our burgers, and talk?”

I nod. “Okay.”

“HERE YOU GO,” Hayes says, carrying our drinks out to his patio overlooking the ocean.

“Thank you,” Maggie says. “You’re so sweet. And thank you again for allowing us to stay here. You should see the studio Hattie’s been living in. There is no way we would have fit in there together.”

“I told her she could stay here, but she refused.”

Maggie whacks my arm. “Why would you refuse? It’s so nice here.”

“It’s because she doesn’t want me being nice to her,” Hayes says, hands in his pockets again. “I’m known as the devil in her family, you know?”

“Oh, I’ve heard. You wronged Ryland in some way, right? At least, that’s what I’ve been told.”

“I’m sure you have,” he says. “But she’d rather stay in a tiny studio than in a lavish house like this. Goes to show just how goddamn stubborn she is.”

“You realize if I stayed here, my brother would legit lose his mind,” I cut in.

“Seems like a fun game we should try, don’t you think, Maggie?” Hayes rocks on his heels, enjoying this far too much.

“I mean, as her best friend looking out for her, I’d say no. But as a longtime fan of Hayes Farrow, I’d say let’s try the drama.”

“Your loyalty remains with me, remember that,” I say.

“Alas,” she sighs. “I must say, let’s not piss off the brother, which means, stop being nice to my friend.”

“Fine,” Hayes says. “Guess I’ll start kicking her in the crotch as a greeting every time I see her.”

“That’s all I’m asking,” I joke, making him smirk in my direction. It’s a cute smirk.

“Well, I’ll leave you two to it. I’ll be in the house, not seeing if you need anything else.” He turns on his heel, heads back into the house, and shuts the door behind him.

Maggie shakes her head but doesn’t say anything as she takes a bite of her burger. She doesn’t have to say anything for me to know what she’s thinking, it’s written all over her face.

“Just say it,” I finally say.

She glances over my shoulder, then leans in and whispers, “He would be great for you.”

Yup, I knew she was going to say that.

“Maggie, he wouldn’t. There is so much frustration and anger between him and my brother, and with the town involved, them picking sides, it would be such a Romeo-and-Juliet-type situation with an ugly ending.”

“But . . . you like him, don’t you?”

“No.” I shake my head, even though in the back of my mind, it sort of feels like a little bit of a lie. “He has his good moments, but I don’t think we would be good together, and honestly, I’m not sure he’s my type.”

“Extremely hot, great voice, and kind is not your type? Jesus, Matt really did a number on you, didn’t he?”

“It’s not that, Maggie, and you know it.” I pick up my burger. “It’s complicated, and I don’t think getting involved or even thinking about getting involved with anyone at this point is a good idea. I can barely foster the relationships with my brother and sister, let alone someone else.”

“I understand,” she says, growing serious. “Tell me what’s going on with Ryland and Aubree. Are they preoccupied?”

I nod. “Which I totally get, their lives have been turned upside down with not only losing Cassidy but also taking on new responsibilities they were not expecting. And the pressure to keep Cassidy’s spirit alive. I know they’re struggling, but they just won’t let me help them. I went to grab pizza with Aubree and it was almost as if she was horrified that I even asked her to share a meal with her, alone. But we barely started eating when she ditched me. Legit, got up and left. It was saddening and humiliating. And she just won’t talk to me.”

“Is the problem more with Aubree?” Maggie asks.

“Yes, she’s the one pushing me away more. I think with Ryland, I feel so guilty with what I’m doing that I don’t have it within me to face him, which is putting a gap in our relationship. I know this because he hasn’t reached out since I had dinner there the other night.”

“He’s also busy trying to take care of a four-year-old,” Maggie points out and gently places her hand on mine. “I truly believe their lives have changed, their perspectives, and their day-to-day operations. Maybe in the past, it would have been natural for them to reach out to you while you were in town, have meals, hang out, but I don’t think any of it has anything to do with you, and a lot of it has to deal with what they’re going through.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t have feelings about it. I’m sure you’re feeling left out, like you don’t belong . . . fit in, especially since Cassidy was your person.” Maggie takes my hand in hers. “That’s such a valid feeling, Hattie, and you’re allowed to experience the loss of all that. I truly believe you’re going through some growing pains with your family, but I have no doubt it will all come together.”

“You think so?” I ask.

She nods. “I know so. If I know anything about the Rowleys, is that no matter what, you’re there for each other.”

I nod. “Yeah, we are.” Well, we used to be, anyway. It doesn’t really feel like that anymore. Not since we lost Cassidy.

“And until they’re able to peek their head up for some air, I’m here for you every step of the way.”

“It’s why I love you.”


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