Lea Holder watched a boy die in the same DUI accident that ruined Lea’s legs and threw her little sister into a coma. As the only eye-witness to the accident, if she tells the truth in court, the drunk driver will go to prison and the dead boy’s family will have justice.
But Lea lies.
If she had told the truth, Lea would have put her own mom in prison for causing the accident. With the trial over and her mom set free, Lea attempts to rebuild her shattered life as she waits for her little sister to wake from her coma.
When Lea transfers schools, she finds herself in the same senior class as Seth Ashbury, the brother of the boy her mom killed. As Lea gets to know the person buried underneath Seth’s grief, she quickly falls for his quick wit and passionate soul. But Seth remains completely oblivious that Lea is the same girl who robbed his family of justice.
As their relationship deepens, Lea finally gets a taste of the love that’s been missing from her life since the accident. But soon she’s faced with a choice: she can continue her lies and accept the comfort it gives them both. Or she can tell Seth the truth about everything, and risk destroying both her family and her newfound love.
“We should get back inside,” Seth says, his voice sounding exhausted.
“Why?” I ask.
“It’s starting to snow, and I’m not going to be responsible for you getting frostbite.”
“No, I mean, why do you want to get that degree for your brother? Seth, it’s…it’s not going to bring him back.”
“That’s why I need to get the degree,” he says, his words suddenly desperate and rushed. “Because it was Parker’s dream for years, and he might not be around anymore, but that degree is. He deserves to have his dream survive, even if he can’t.”
“I’ll do it,” I say. The words slip from me before I can think them through, but as soon as they’re out, I realize I don’t even want to take them back. “I’ll help you with the project. Just tell me what to do, and, yeah. I…I’ll do it.”
Seth deflates then, his shoulders sagging and breath heaving from his chest. For a moment, I think I’ve said something wrong, but then he hoarsely murmurs, “Thank you. Really. It means a lot.”
I wonder if I’m finally helping Seth instead of hurting him. Taking a couple pictures will never, ever make up for what I did, but still…it’s obviously a comfort. And I have absolutely no right to deny him any comfort I can offer.
“So are you going to tell me what this project is?” I ask.
He bites at the inside of his cheek. “It’s a thesis project, so it’s definitely not something I can explain quickly. But how about we meet in the library tomorrow and go over stuff properly. At eight-thirty, maybe?”
“Eight-thirty in the morning? It’s the weekend.”
He shrugs, but his tone is unapologetic as he says, “I like mornings.”
“Okay,” I say, giving a reluctant nod. “Eight-thirty it is.”
He nods and pats his leg, silently calling Koda. She comes bounding across the patio, skidding to a stop hardly inches from him. Then she trots over to me, licks my hand, and dutifully goes back to Seth’s side, looking up at him with adoring eyes and a lolling tongue.
I head back inside, leaving behind the cold and the snow, and Seth hovers next to me with Koda guiding him along.
“Sorry she keeps licking you,” he says, absently stroking his dog’s head. “She doesn’t usually do that, you know.”
“It’s no problem,” I say, reaching over to ruffle Koda’s ears. “I like it.”
“I knew you were a dog person,” Seth says, sounding almost smug.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He offers me a vague smile. “It means dogs have good taste.”
Brie waves at us as we step back into the main room, and the others toss out greetings like we’ve been gone for days instead of just fifteen minutes. Cameron suggests getting coffee across the street, and waves around a couple twenties, saying he’ll buy. Judging by Landon’s scowl, I get the feeling he just lost the cash over a pinball game. Everyone starts packing up their stuff and throwing coats back on, and we’re about to leave when a hand brushes my shoulder, the touch a strange mixture of strength and gentleness.
“Thanks,” Seth says softly as the others push past us, heading for the door.
I wait for myself to cringe away from his touch, but instead, a sense of warmth washes over me. “Like I said, it’s no problem,” I say, hoping I don’t sound as confused as I feel. “I’ll bring my camera tomorrow, and we can get started.”
“No, not that. Well, yeah, thanks for that, too. But thanks for not calling me crazy for wanting to finish Parker’s project.”
He offers me a small, soft smile that’s a thousand times more sincere than the one on my lips. If there’s anything insane about him, it’s that he still manages an expression that genuine when he’s in so much pain.
“You’re not crazy,” I say. “You just care.”
“Sometimes I think they’re the same thing,” he murmurs, his smile falling away.
I nod slowly. “Sometimes I think you’re right.”
Before he can make me explain, I follow the others outside, holding my breath as I brace against the inevitable surge of cold.