Weeks passed, but the chill between Addie and Coralie had yet to thaw. Unsurprisingly, Coralie was crushed, the loss of her fantasy – of what could have been – heavy on her heart. And unsurprisingly, Addie happily flaunted her relationship in her cousin’s face. Aurora did her best to comfort her daughter, but Coralie’s teenage heartbreak was still too raw to heal.
Aurora: I’m so sorry you’re going through this, sweetheart. I know this isn’t what you want to hear, but this is a normal part of growing up. Your first crush, your first heartbreak – it’s a learning experience. Who knows – Brennan might come around one day, once he sees Addie for who she truly is. And if he doesn’t, well – there’s plenty of fish in the sea.
Coralie nodded in silence, hearing her mother’s words but unable to believe them.
Aurora: You have to try and forgive Addie, okay? She’s family. I don’t know why she does the things she does, but if anyone is going to see the best in her, it’s us, right?
Meanwhile, Addie had been spending more and more time with Brennan. He was wrapped around her little finger, that much was obvious, and Addie was high on the power that came with that.
In the weeks since they’d met, Addie had seen Brennan nearly every day. He kept inviting her out, and each time she accepted. It had nothing to do with enjoying his company – of course not. It had nothing to do with those deep brown eyes and soft, tousled hair. It was a game, she told herself – to see how long she could keep him chasing her, how long he’d stay on her hook. And so Addie and Brennan had been to the theater, to a soccer game, out dancing, and to the beach. They’d gone fishing and admired art at the museum. He’d taught her the basics of computer programming, and she’d actually read that book he liked so much. Brennan was smart, Addie knew – just not smart enough to see through her charade.
She breezed in and out of the house, wearing her relationship with Brennan like a badge of honor.
“Off for dinner with Brennan!” she’d call over her shoulder in Coralie’s direction, as she strutted out the door. Callous, entitled – the mean girl she’d always been. The mean girl she’d always be.
But somewhere in the back of her mind, something felt different. She worried. She worried about Coralie, knowing that she’d hurt her cousin’s feelings. And she worried about Brennan, too. She worried he would catch on to her antics, that he’d find out what she was, that he was being used.
She pushed the feelings aside, brushed away her ever-growing guilt. Coralie was young and beautiful, and as a Hasslich heiress – she’d have plenty of men lined up, she’d be able to pick and choose at will. Did she really need Brennan too?
Kind, sweet Brennan…whose beautiful brown eyes were currently gazing into hers with such adoration that it took her breath away.
It wasn’t that she actually liked him – of course she didn’t actually like him – right? Addie didn’t like men – she used them. And Brennan was no different. Just because he was smart and handsome and funny and sweet – just because he was a gentleman, and treated her with respect – didn’t mean that she had feelings for him. She was Addie Hasslich, resident mean girl – and Addie Hasslich had feelings for no one.
Brennan’s voice brought her back to the present.
Brennan: I think I’m falling in love with you, Addie.
The next day, Addie and Brennan were scheduled for a date at the spa. It was something they had yet to experience together, and Brennan had generously sprung for massages and facials for them both.
After her facial, Addie hurried to the locker room. They’d made her take all her makeup off, and she didn’t want Brennan to see her without it. But he was already there, and waiting for her. She buried her face in her hands.
Brennan: What’s wrong, beautiful?
Addie: Nothing – just – don’t look at me!
Brennan: What? Why?
Addie didn’t respond, and turned her back to him. She heard him sigh, and felt his hands on her shoulders. He turned her around to face him, and then he gently removed her hands from in front of her face.
Brennan: You’re gorgeous, Addie. Now I’m going downstairs. That yoga instructor is the head of the Books for Tots charity I volunteer for, and I have a few things to run by him. Meet me in the sauna in ten?
Addie sighed heavily. I love you too, she thought.
And ten minutes later, as steam filled the sauna, Addie submitted to her growing feelings for Brennan. There was no denying it now – he was more than a pawn in some game she was playing. For better or for worse, she had fallen in love with him.
Afterward, Addie quickly excused herself to the bathroom, a bag of mixed emotions. She needed to collect herself. She’d set out to hurt Coralie, that much was true, but she’d never meant to take it this far. She never meant to fall in love, to care about Brennan’s feelings. She was mean Addie, nasty Addie – but if that was true, then why did she feel so bad?
She felt a rumble in her abdomen, and it was then that she knew. Beau was going to be a big brother.
Addie promptly vomited – whether it was nervousness or guilt or morning sickness, she would never know. Coralie would never forgive her for this. And Brennan – she could never tell Brennan. She couldn’t drag him further into this, further into her twisted ways and warped schemes. He deserved far better than this, better than her. She’d lied to him and used him. Losing Brennan, she realized, was exactly what she deserved.
She changed out of her towel and walked straight out of the spa without looking back. Brennan would be better off without her.
Addie had meant to avoid Brennan forever, but that turned out to be impossible. He’d sent text after text, worried about her, concerned for her safety.
Where are you? he asked.
Are you okay? he asked.
What’s wrong? he asked.
And finally, when her phone rang for what seemed like the millionth time, Addie caved and picked up.
Brennan: I don’t know what I did, Addie! Why are you ignoring me?
Addie sighed. He was right – she did owe him an explanation. She’d put him through enough – and it was time to come clean. It was late – the sun would be coming up in just a few hours – but there was no point in waiting.
Addie: Meet me at the dock in half an hour. We need to talk.
Addie heard his footsteps before she saw him. She took a deep breath.
Brennan: What’s going on, Addie?
Addie: I owe it to you to be honest. Brennan – I’ve been lying to you all along. The truth is… Coralie has a huge crush on you. She told me about you – that you worked at the library. She didn’t order that book or try to set us up. I went behind her back, and went after you, and I did it because I knew it would hurt her. Because I was jealous, I think… I’m a bad person, Brennan. I always have been. You should hate me – my own mother would be ashamed of me. I used you to hurt my own family. I’m not the person you think you love.
Brennan: You…. used…. me? Why are you telling me this now?
Addie: The thing is – well – I went after you because I wanted to hurt Coralie, but somewhere along the way…. I fell in love with you, Brennan. I couldn’t lie to you anymore… you deserve better…and especially after yesterday, in the sauna… Brennan – I’m pregnant.
Brennan: PREGNANT?! We’re having a baby!?
Addie: No, Brennan, WE are not having a baby! I am having a baby! You’re the father, yes, but you should RUN from me! I’m a terrible, awful person! You shouldn’t be with someone like me! You should be with someone like…. like Coralie! Someone sweet and nice and agreeable and who doesn’t intentionally hurt the people who love them! I hate myself for being this way, Brennan, but it’s who I am!
Brennan looked at her, silently. He looked her up and down, and just when Addie thought he would turn and walk away, he took her by surprise. He reached out, caressed her arm. Touched her hair.
Brennan: Addie – you don’t think I knew that Coralie had a crush on me? She wasn’t exactly subtle… of course I knew.
He chuckled quietly to himself, and Addie looked at him, dumbfounded. Why wasn’t he running, screaming?
Brennan: But the truth is, Coralie is a kid. She’s a great kid, but she’s still a kid. I’m too old for her, she’s too young for me. I could be put in jail just for looking at her the wrong way! And besides that – I don’t want sweet and agreeable. I want you, Addie. I won’t tell you it’s okay that you went out of your way to hurt your cousin. But people can change – and it’s obvious that something’s changed in you. I love the honest, caring Addie Hasslich. Just promise me that the conniving and scheming is over….okay?
Addie may have worked things out with Brennan, but she knew she wasn’t off the hook yet. She still had to go home and work things out with her family. She owed Coralie an apology.
Unfortunately, Coralie was not as forgiving as Brennan had been.
Coralie: How could you, Addie? You KNEW how I felt about him! You did this JUST to hurt me! When my family has let you stay in this house, even after all the terrible things you’ve done!
Addie apologized, over and over again, but Coralie’s usually quiet voice only increased in volume, and soon enough, Aurora came running to see what the commotion was about. She heard Brennan’s name, and the words “baby” and “lies,” and it didn’t take long for her to catch on.
Aurora: Addie, I appreciate your honesty, and I believe your apology is sincere. It takes a lot of courage to come clean, and to ask for forgiveness, and I’m proud of you – and I think your mom would be too. But I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave. I just can’t subject my family to this kind of drama anymore. It’s just…. this is just too much. I’m sorry.
Aurora walked away, shaking her head sadly, and Coralie stalked off in the other direction. Addie just hung her head in remorse.
The next morning, Brennan called to ask Addie to meet him at what he now referred to as “their spot” out on the dock. Addie, having nothing else to do and nowhere to go, was there in record time. Brennan was there waiting for her.
Addie knew she still had a lot of work to do to repair her relationship with her cousins. But at least now she knew that whatever would come, she’d have Brennan at her side. And as she hugged him tight, filled with love and gratitude, she cast her eyes to the sky and thanked the Watcher for bringing him into her life. Because despite the pain and chaos their love had caused, Brennan Summerfield had changed her for the better.