Hopeless, p.32
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       Hopeless, p.32

         Part #1 of Hopeless series by Colleen Hoover
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  concern in her eyes every time he leans in to kiss me or puts his hand on my leg. She is, after all, my mother.

  After several hours pass and we’ve all reached the most peaceful point we can possibly reach after the weekend we’ve had, we call it a night. Holder and Jack tell us both goodbye and Holder assures Karen that he’ll never again send me another ego-deflating text. He winks at me over her shoulder when he says it, though.

  Karen hugs me more than I’ve ever been hugged in a single day. After her final hug for the night, I go to my room and crawl into my bed. I pull the covers up over me and lock my hands together behind my head, looking up at the stars on my ceiling. I contemplated tearing them down, thinking they would only serve to bring about more negative memories. I didn’t remove them, though. I’m leaving them because now when I look at them, they remind me of Hope. They remind me of me, and everything I’ve had to overcome to get to this point in my life. And while I could sit here and feel sorry for myself, wondering why all of this happened to me…I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to wish for a perfect life. The things that knock you down in life are tests, forcing you to make a choice between giving in and remaining on the ground or wiping the dirt off and standing up even taller than you did before you were knocked down. I’m choosing to stand up taller. I’ll probably get knocked down a few more times before this life is through with me, but I can guarantee you I’ll never stay on the ground.

  There’s a light tap on my bedroom window right before it rises up. I smile and scoot over to my side of the bed, waiting for him to join me.

  “I don’t get a greeting at the window tonight?” he says in a hushed voice, lowering the window behind him. He walks to his side of my bed and lifts the covers, then scoots in beside me.

  “You’re freezing,” I say, snuggling into his arms. “Did you walk here?”

  He shakes his head and squeezes me, then kisses my forehead. “No, I ran here.” He slides one of his hands down to my butt. “It’s been over a week since either of us has exercised. Your ass is starting to get really huge.”

  I laugh and hit him on the arm. “Try to remember, the insults are only funny in text form.”

  “Speaking of…does this mean you get your phone back?”

  I shrug. “I don’t really want that phone back. I’m hoping my whipped boyfriend will get me an iPhone for Christmas.”

  He laughs and rolls on top of me, meshing his ice-cold lips with mine. The contrasting temperatures of our mouths are enough to make him groan. He kisses me until his entire body is well above room temperature again. “You know what?” He pulls up on his elbows and peers down at me with his adorable, dimpled grin.

  “What?”

  “We’ve never had sex in your bed.”

  I roll him onto his back. “And it will remain that way as long my mother is down the hall.” He laughs and grabs me by the waist and pulls me on top of him. I lay my head on his chest and he wraps his arms tightly around me.

  “Sky?”

  “Holder?” I mimic.

  “I want you to know something,” he says. “And I’m not saying this as your boyfriend or even as your friend. I’m saying this because it needs to be said by someone.” He stops stroking my arm and he stills his hand on the center of my back. “I’m so proud of you.”

  I squeeze my eyes shut and swallow his words, sending them straight to my heart. He moves his lips to my hair and kisses me for either the first time or the twentieth time or the millionth time, but who’s counting?

  I hug him tighter and exhale. “Thank you.” I lift my head up and rest my chin on his chest, looking up at him while he smiles back at me. “And it’s not what you just said that I’m thanking you for, Holder. I need to thank you for everything. Thank you for giving me the courage to always ask the questions, even when I don’t want the answers. Thank you for loving me like you do. Thank you for showing me that we don’t always have to be strong to be there for each other—that it’s okay to be weak, so long as we’re there. And thank you for finally finding me after all these years.” I trail my fingers across his chest until they reach his arm. I run them across each letter of his tattoo, then lean forward and press my lips to it and kiss it. “But mostly, thank you for losing me all those years ago…because my life wouldn’t be the same if you would have never walked away.”

  My body rises and falls against his huge intake of breath. He cups my face in his hands and he attempts to smile, but it doesn’t reach his pain filled eyes. “Out of all the times I imagined what it would be like if I ever found you…I never thought it would end with you thanking me for losing you.”

  “End?” I ask, disliking the term he chose. I lift up and kiss him briefly on the lips and pull back. “I hope this isn’t our end.”

  “Hell no, this isn’t our end,” he says. He tucks a stray lock of hair behind my ear and keeps his hand there. “And I wish I could say we were about to live happily ever after, but I can’t. We both still have so much to work through. With everything that’s happened between you, me, your mother, your dad and what I know happened to Les…there will be days that I don’t think we’ll know how to survive. But we will. We will, because we have each other. So, I’m not worried about us, baby. I’m not worried about us at all.”

  I kiss him on his dimple and smile. “I’m not worried about us either. And for the record, I don’t believe in happily ever afters.”

  He laughs. “Good, because you’re not really getting one. All you’re getting is me.”

  “That’s all I need,” I say. “Well…I need the lamp. And the ashtray. And the remote control. And the paddleball game. And you, Dean Holder. But that’s all I need.”

  “What’s he doing out there?” I ask Lesslie, looking out the living room window at Dean. He’s on his back in their driveway, looking up at the sky.

  “He’s stargazing,” she says. “He does it all the time.”

  I turn around and look at her. “What’s stargazing?”

  She shrugs her shoulders. “I dunno. That’s just what he calls it when he stares at the sky for a long time.”

  I look out the window again and watch him for a little longer. I don’t know what stargazing is, but it sounds like something I would like. I love the stars. I know my mom loved them, too, because she put them all over my room. “I want to do it,” I say. “Can we go do it, too?” I look back at her but she’s taking off her shoes.

  “I don’t want to go. You can go and I’ll help my mom get our popcorn and movie ready.”

  I like the days I get to have sleepovers with Lesslie. I like any days I don’t have to be at home. I slide off the couch and walk to the front door to slip my shoes on, then walk outside and go lay next to Dean in the driveway. He doesn’t even look at me when I sit down next to him. He just keeps looking up at the sky, so I do the same thing.

  The stars are really bright tonight. I’ve never looked up at them like this before. They’re so much prettier than the stars on my ceiling. “Wow. It’s so beautiful.”

  “I know, Hope,” he says. “I know.”

  It’s quiet for a long time. I don’t know if we watch the stars for lots of minutes or hours, but we keep watching them and we don’t talk. Dean doesn’t really talk a whole bunch. He’s a lot quieter than Lesslie.

  “Hope? Will you promise me something?”

  I turn my head and look at him, but he’s still looking up at the stars. I’ve never promised anyone anything before except my daddy. I had to promise him I wouldn’t tell anyone how he makes me thank him and I haven’t broken his promise, even though sometimes I wish I could. If I ever did break my daddy’s promise, I would tell Dean because I know he would never tell anyone.

  “Yes,” I say to him.

  He turns his head and looks at me, but his eyes look sad. “You know sometimes when your daddy makes you cry?”

  I nod my head and try not to cry just thinking about it. I don’t know how Dean knows that my daddy is always the reason why I
m crying, but he does.

  “Will you promise me that when he makes you sad, you’ll think about the sky?”

  I don’t know why he wants me to promise him that but I nod anyway. “But why?”

  “Because.” He turns his face back up to the stars. “The sky is always beautiful. Even when it’s dark or rainy or cloudy, it’s still beautiful to look at. It’s my favorite thing because I know if I ever get lost or lonely or scared, I just have to look up and it’ll be there no matter what...and I know it’ll always be beautiful. It’s what you can think about when your daddy is making you sad, so you don’t have to think about him.”

  I smile, even though what we’re talking about is making me sad. I just keep looking up at the sky like Dean is, thinking about what he said. It makes my heart feel happy to have somewhere to go now when I don’t want to be where I am. Now when I’m scared, I’ll just think about the sky and maybe it’ll help me smile, because I know it’ll always be beautiful no matter what.

  “I promise,” I whisper.

  “Good,” he says. He reaches his hand out on the concrete between us and wraps his pinky around mine.

  The End

  When I wrote my first two novels, I didn’t use beta readers or bloggers. (By ignorance, not choice.) I didn’t even know what an ARC was.

  Oh, how I wish I would have.

  Thank you to ALL bloggers who work so hard to share your love for reading. You are definitely the lifeline for authors, and we thank you for everything you do.

  A very special thank you to Maryse, Tammara Webber, Jenny and Gitte with Totallybookedblog.com, Tina Reber, Tracey Garvis-Graves, Abbi Glines, Karly Blakemore-Mowle, Autumn with Autumnreview.com, Madison with Madisonsays.com, Molly Harper with Toughcriticbookreviews.com, Rebecca Donovan, Sarah Ross, Lisa Kane, Gloria Green, Cheri Lambert, Trisha Rai, Katy Perez, Stephanie Cohen and Tonya Killian for taking the time to give me such detailed, incredibly helpful feedback. I know I annoyed the living hell out of most of you for the entire month of December, so thank you for putting up with my many, many, many “updated” files.

  And ERMAGHERD! I can’t thank you enough, Sarah Augustus Hansen. Not only for making me the most beautiful cover ever, but for granting my requests for millions of changes, only to end up going with your original suggestion. Your patience with me knows no bounds. For that, I’m declaring Holder yours. Okay.

  For my husband who insists he be listed in the acknowledgments of this book for suggesting that one word which helped me finish that one sentence in that one paragraph in that one scene. Without that word (it was floodgates, people) I don’t think this book would have been completed.
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