by Rachel Van Dyken

  This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are

  fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and

  persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks,

  service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be

  the property of their respective owners, and are used only for

  reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are

  used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in

  whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a

  copyright violation.


  Copyright © 2013 RACHEL VAN DYKEN

  ISBN 978-0-9890783-0-6

  Cover Art Designed by Laura Heritage


  Death is everywhere. You can’t escape it. You can’t hide

  from it. And for me, the very minute I decided to embrace it as

  inevitable, the planes of my universe shifted, leaving me more

  confused and broken than I’d ever been in my entire life.

  For me, death was the ultimate betrayal. For some, it was the

  easy way out. I had no way of knowing that my life would change

  so much in two short months. Maybe I wasn’t prepared for him.

  I was happy in my darkness, at least that’s what I told

  myself. Because life is cruel — it’s so damn cruel to give me what I

  had and then rip it away. It’s cruel, because the minute I was finally

  okay with being numb to the world — he showed up.

  My heart wasn’t ready to be pieced together again. He did it


  My soul wasn’t prepared for heartbreak. He broke it


  My life wasn’t ready to be given to a soul mate. He stole it


  Everything has changed — even death. And all because of a

  boy, who fell in love with a girl.

  I sat down on the cold asphalt and bawled. I cried for me. I

  cried for him. But most of all, I cried for all those minutes I was

  allowed to breathe, when I deserved to be without breath. How do

  you thank someone who saved your life? How do you mourn them

  at the same time?

  I struggled against the cop and then, I must have died,

  because the very person I thought I lost not a few minutes ago was

  standing over me.

  “Demetri?” I gasped.

  Chapter One

  Seven weeks previous


  I sighed for the tenth time, hoping to gain some flicker of

  sympathy from Nat. But she was immobile. Like a really hot stone

  that refused to crack.

  I nudged her with my foot.

  Which made things worse.

  I feel like that’s all I do these days. Make things worse and

  then reap the awesome benefits of being a total and complete screw


  Maybe it’s because I’m clueless. I’m the guy who chases the

  girl when clearly she wants someone else.

  Damn. I’m the pathetic number two.

  “Nat?” If she wasn’t going to give in, at least I could ask her

  honestly. She was never the type of girl to completely ignore me

  when I asked her a question.

  After my near death experience, where I swear I saw my life

  flash before my eyes, Nat had been a lot nicer about things between

  me, her, and my brother.

  The ménage a’weird.

  “What, Demetri? You’ve only been sighing like some

  lovesick teenager for the past hour. What do you want?”

  Now that I felt completely stupid, I didn’t want to ask her

  anymore. I knew she’d either tell my brother, Alec, or laugh in my


  “Promise you won’t tell Alec?”

  “He’s my boyfriend. I love him. I tell him everything.”

  Crap. “Everything?”

  Nat rolled her brown eyes and shook her long blond hair to

  the side. She had no idea how beautiful she was. Maybe it was a

  good thing, because she had every right to be a total brat; instead

  she was convinced she was plain.

  “Yes, Demetri, everything. Including the time Mom and I

  helped you shower after your accident, and you pretended to fall,

  only to have me fall on top of you.”

  Like an idiot, I grinned. I couldn’t help it. “I take it Alec

  wasn’t amused.”

  “You think?” She pushed me and switched the channel.

  Wonder of wonders, it was my brother, singing at some awards


  Nat sighed. “I wish I could’ve gone with him.”

  “Nat.” I nudged her with my leg. “You know he wishes you

  were there too. He’ll be back in a few days to take you to college, so

  you can both move on with your lives and leave me here in Hell.

  Thanks for that, by the way.”

  “Hey. Your choice, not mine.” She lifted her hands in the air

  and sighed. “Besides, aren’t there some really good rehab places in

  California? We could all be close and —”

  I shook my head and managed to interrupt her by waving

  my hand wildly in the air. “Not gonna happen.”

  “Why?” She seemed genuinely upset, which made me want

  to shoot myself — in a total non-suicidal way, of course.

  “You guys need your time away from everything, away

  from this.” I pointed at myself and managed a tight smile, even

  when it was killing me inside to even be talking about that again.

  Last year Nat had fallen for both me and my brother. I, being

  the genuine ass that I was, knew she had the hots for him but

  jumped in and tried to steal her anyway. I still wasn’t dealing with

  some past shit that had nearly ruined my life. I blamed Alec for it,

  and for once I just wanted the girl first, so I could rub his face in it.

  Eventually it blew up in my face.

  Literally blew up in my face in the form of a killer car

  accident that I just barely managed to escape with all my limbs


  After all that, it was apparent that while Nat loved me, it

  wasn’t the type of love you sell your soul for, or die over. Nope, it

  was more like the kind you feel for your hot cousin or maybe your

  grandmother. You love them. You hope they do well in life, and

  yeah, they may be good-looking (just to be clear, we’re talking

  about the cousin here, not the grandma), but that’s as far as it goes.

  The love she felt for Alec?

  Well, it was the Twilight kind. Sorry, but it’s the only

  comparison I could think of on the spot, especially considering Nat

  made me read all the books. It was the I will literally stop breathing if

  I can’t have you type of love.

  A love I’ve only experienced once in my life. A love like that

  doesn’t happen twice. It’s impossible.


  “What?” She seemed irritated with me. So what else was


  I turned around and sat back down. “Do you think?” Oh

  man, I really needed to find a substitute for all the alcohol and pot,

  because right now all I wanted to do was go get hi
gh or drunk or

  jump off a cliff. Ever since I quit partying, I felt like a complete and

  total girl. Commercials about dogs made me teary-eyed, and last

  week when I saw an old man cross the street with his little wife and

  watched him pat her hand, I grinned like a fool and whistled the

  entire way home. Demetri Daniels does not whistle.

  “Spit it out, Demetri.”

  “Fine,” I grumbled and looked away from her. I couldn’t

  look at her if I had to ask this. “Do you think that true love, the type

  you have with Alec, do you think it could happen twice in a


  Nat flipped off the TV.

  Aw, crap. She only did that when she needed to concentrate.

  “Demetri, if this is about us…”

  “No! Hell, no!” Nat scowled. “No, not like that. I don’t mean

  it like that. What I meant was it’s not about us. I know how it

  sounds. Sorry. I just… I don’t know. What I guess I’m asking is, do

  you think I could be lucky enough to have that pull that you have

  with Alec again in my lifetime?”

  “Why wouldn’t you be able to?”

  I looked at her. I mean, really looked at her. Damn, the girl

  was too adorable. Was she serious? “Nat, I’m a recovering druggie

  and alcoholic at nineteen. I almost died. Because I’m a rock star, I

  have one true friend — two if you count my brother. And, oh right,

  I’m stuck in Seaside, Oregon, for the next year while you go off and

  have the time of your life in L.A. Add that in with all the intense

  psychotherapy I’m in from two years ago when my girlfriend not

  only cheated on me with my brother, but died in a tragic car

  accident with their son, and yeah… I guess I’m being a little

  pessimistic. Perhaps a bit depressing, but come on, Nat! Shit, look

  at me!”

  Nat’s lip began to tremble.

  Crap. I made her cry.

  Alec was going to have me by the balls.

  “Nat, I didn’t mean…” I reached out to touch her arm.

  She shook her head; a single tear ran down her cheek.

  “Demetri, I’m so sorry!”

  I hated it when Nat cried. It made my chest hurt, and I knew

  Alec would be pissed that I was the one that caused it. I had always

  caused it. Feeling like a total ass, I pulled her into my arms and

  shushed her. “Nat, you know I didn’t mean it the way it sounded. I

  guess I just want to know there’s more out there for me, you know?

  More to look forward to than a life full of twelve steps and empty


  Nat sniffled and pulled back. “Do you really think that

  poorly of yourself? That it would be impossible for someone to fall

  in love with you?”

  I shook my head. “It’s not that easy, Nat. Everyone loves me.”

  She punched me and laughed as she wiped a few tears


  “Nat.” I groaned. “It’s true, and you know it. But who’s ever

  going to see me for me and fall in love with me? The real me.” I

  wanted to smack myself. Why was it so important that I find what

  Nat and Alec had anyway? My heart clenched a bit in my chest. I

  tried to ignore the pain. I mean, it could be heartburn or something,

  right? It just sucked, and honestly, after all the paparazzi stopped

  stalking my every waking move, and after Alec left for L.A… I was

  kind of, lonely. Shit. I was a freaking girl.

  Nat was silent. She bit her lip, sniffling still. “Demetri,

  nobody’s going to fall in love with you.”

  My heart pounded loudly in my chest as the truth of her

  words hit home. I opened my mouth to speak, but she kept talking.

  “Not until you learn to love yourself. Not until you learn to

  forgive. You can’t ask someone to love you when you still don’t

  even love yourself.”

  Natalee Murray, ladies and gentleman. Wisest woman in the

  world. “You sure you’re only eighteen?”

  “Going on ninety,” she joked and punched me in the arm.

  “Seriously, Demetri. Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s good you’re

  staying back here this summer. I think it will be good for you to just

  lay low. Besides, Mom said that you still had some things to work

  through with her rehab program.”

  Nat’s mom was one of the best addiction counselors on the

  west coast. How fortunate for me that she lived in the most boring

  place in the world. Also known as the taffy capital of the universe.

  I groaned. “I’m going to be bored out of my mind.”

  “You have Bob!” she said enthusiastically, pointing at my

  security guard and, sadly, one of my only friends if you didn’t

  count Nat or Alec. And again, the loneliness reared its ugly head.

  “He’s bald and watches American Idol to fill the void that

  killing too many people has put in his life.”

  “Heard that,” Bob mumbled from the corner.

  “Wasn’t whispering!” I shouted.

  Bob cleared his throat.

  “Sorry, Bob,” we said in unison.

  Ever since the accident, the media had been relentless, so

  Bob was the only relationship I was in. Sadly, I looked forward to

  seeing his ugly mug every day. Of course, it may have to do with

  the fact that he made coffee every morning.

  One would think that after the accident things would have

  died down. Instead, not a day went by that I didn’t see some new

  story about myself on the news. That’s always fun, seeing ugly

  pictures of myself with headlines above them saying I’m on drugs.

  It’s a real self-esteem booster. I groaned into my hands.

  “You’ll be fine, Demetri. I promise.”

  “What am I going to do?” I whined.

  Nat laughed. “Why don’t you work?”

  “I work.”

  “You’ve been sitting on your butt ever since the accident.

  You haven’t even written one song — not even a jingle. Why don’t

  you get a job?”

  Bob laughed from the corner.

  I narrowed my eyes at him and pointed harshly before

  turning back to Nat. “Sorry, babe I don’t know the meaning of the


  “You put in hours, make money, pay bills.”

  “Hmm, sounds an awful lot like prostitution, and I don’t

  want to give away the goods for free, if you get my meaning.”

  Nat groaned and put her face in her hands.

  I grinned, liking our little exchange. No way in hell was I

  getting a job.

  “I’ve got it!” Nat jumped from her seat. “Follow me!”

  She ran up the stairs.

  I chose not to follow.

  Hey, I almost died! Physical exertion? Not my thing. I was

  the type of guy that had the six-pack abs without even trying.

  Pretty sure that was another reason I got hate mail.

  Nat came back downstairs and breezed past me. “Close your


  I glared.

  “Just do it!”

  “Fine.” I closed my eyes and waited, while she fashioned

  something on my head.

  “Okay, open!”

  I opened my eyes and slowly walked to the kitchen mirror. I

  gazed at my reflection and swore. Nat was jumping wildly behind

  me. Bob was trying his best not to

  “Hell. No.” I reached up for the visor on my head that said

  Seaside Taffy, but Nat swatted my hand away.

  “It will be perfect! You’ll see!”

  “No, I won’t, because I’m not doing it. No.” I shook my head

  and crossed my arms. “No. Never.”

  Nat smiled and pulled out her phone. “We’ll see about that.”

  “Who are you calling?” I tried to keep the panic from my


  “Your brother.”


  “I’m going to tell him you tried to get me to give you a

  sponge bath tonight.”

  I cursed. “You wouldn’t.”

  “I would.” She held the phone up. “Take the job, Demetri.

  Make friends. Get a life.”

  “Sometimes I wish we weren’t friends.”

  She threw back her head and laughed. “No, you don’t. You

  love me, and I love you.”

  “That’s what got me in this stupid situation in the first

  place,” I grumbled, keeping the visor on and slumping into the

  nearest chair.”

  “Just think,” Nat leaned over me whispering. “You can try

  all the taffy flavors! Bob over there is on number two hundred


  “Swell.” How sad that trying every taffy flavor was

  supposed to be a perk.

  “Oh, and Demetri? Mr. Smith says an early riser is a happy


  Chapter Two


  Add evil.



  And crazy to all of Nat’s attributes. Somehow she convinced

  her old boss that not only would it bring lots of business into

  Seaside Taffy, but having a legit rock star singing on the street

  would be almost like a tourist attraction.

  Alec wasn’t any help at all. I begged. I pleaded. I called my

  agent and told him I would gain a hundred pounds, and he would

  find his money maker face down in a pile of taffy wrappers, dead

  from asphyxiation, or worse in a sugar coma.

  But they all laughed. Yup, they laughed. And told me it was

  a good idea.

  I was not amused.

  And I am still not amused.

  Not when I was driving to an actual job in a Mercedes that

  costs more than the building the taffy is sold in.

  Nor when I got out of the car, grabbed my bucket — yes,

  there is an actual taffy bucket — and plopped myself on the corner

  of the street.

  I’ve been at it for around five days now. Five days of pure

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