Goodbye Guy - Jodi Watters
The walls were pistachio.
A putrid shade of green appropriate for a hospital, but not the specific ward she’d been admitted to.
Here going on forty-eight hours—though it felt like mere minutes—and already, Chloe Morgan hated the color pistachio.
As much as she hated him. And loved him, too.
Wincing in pain with every shift and slide, she sat up in the hospital bed. Propped the pillows behind her. Stared at the closed door in front of her. Willed him to open it, walk through, and rescue her. Rescue them. Prayed to a God she no longer believed in.
Stubbornly, the door remained closed.
The tears came then, one by one, fighting her to get out.
Was it possible to say both hello and goodbye to the love of your life in such a short span of time? A matter of minutes? Of months? Have him enter your world, turn it upside down, change it for the better—and the worse—then exit as though it wouldn’t leave a mark?
And yet . . . he still left.
Yanked from her like a material possession. One that no longer belonged to her. It was theft. Gun-to-her-head fucking robbery.
It split her heart right in two and took a chunk of her soul along with it. Let’s not mention her guilty conscience or aching body. Let’s not speak of the liquid flow of hate that gradually filled her veins like a locomotion chugging up to speed, fueling her as the surging steam engine gained powerful momentum.
The hurt gave her a reason for hating. The hate gave her a reason for living.
“I’m proud of you, honey.” Soraya, her stepmom, brushed lank strands of hair from Chloe’s face, her hand coming back damp with sweat. “You’re so strong.”
“I’m just glad it’s done,” her mother supplied from across the room, her attention on her phone. “If you love something, set it free . . . and more uplifting, inspirational things of that nature.”
“Christ, find a kernel of compassion inside your bony body,” her dad sneered, shaking his head. “Can’t you see our daughter is struggling?”
Struggling. A gross understatement.
But her parents were bickering as usual, and as usual, Chloe didn’t care. It took the focus off her. Allowed her a clear line of sight to the door.
A door closed, yes, but not locked. A door that could open at any time, changing their fate and giving her the courage to stand up for herself. For him. For them.
Open the door.
I’m in here. I need you.
We need you.
Come take us away.
But no matter how long she stared or how hard she prayed, the door never opened. It stayed firmly shut, sealing Chloe’s fate once and for all, along with his. Theirs.
It ignited that hate, direct and decisive, setting it to smolder.
A hate she would learn to love. A hate that would set her life in motion again. Keep her warm at night. Give her purpose for years to come.
“You’re gonna be okay.” Soraya’s voice brought her back to the horrible present. “I promise.”
Promises didn’t mean shit to Chloe.
She’d heard too many spoken in a rough, masculine whisper, in the dark of a lonely night, in a way that made everything okay. Then broken in the harsh light of day, in a way that ensured nothing would ever be okay again.
“For every goodbye, Chloe,” her dad said, his inherently confident tone laced with empathy, “There’s eventually another hello. A better hello.”
He and Soraya shared a private smile, and he squeezed Chloe’s slack hand. “That, I promise you.”
And that promise, Chloe grabbed hold of.
Then, because no amount of prayer made the closed door open, and because no amount of determination held the tidal wave back, she let it all out. The pain. The rage. The injustice.
Tears streamed. Shoulders shook. Torment reigned. And her hate surged. It blanketed her, providing warmth to her cold, aching, empty body.
For every goodbye, there’s eventually another hello.
Chloe Morgan anticipated the moment that promise came true. Not that day, that week, or even that month. But down the road. Once she healed. Once she gained the strength to resist him.
If it took years, so be it. She’d wait him out, not giving a good goddamn about the timeline, as long as it happened.
Because this particular hello would come with a reckoning.
Ten Years Later
Revenge didn’t feel as sweet as she expected.
Not surprising when it came ten long years later. Not surprising when it came with a monthly mortgage several digits to the left of a decimal point.
Not when that man—Jameson Maine—didn’t even know he was on the