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Here's an epilogue, originally posted on Wattpad. Enjoy!


Gramps turned down their street and Bailey let out a squeal. She powered down her window and waved. “Meg! I’m home!”

On the curb, a girl wearing a flirty top and summer sandals whipped around, an easy grin curling her lips and Bailey’s jaw dropped. Gone was the ever-present ponytail. In its place, Meg’s hair skimmed her shoulders in a flattering and yeah, even sexy new look. As Gramps pulled into the driveway, Bailey bounded out of the car before it had even stopped moving. In the middle of the street, she grabbed Meg in her customary greeting – the hug-and-bounce- and-sideways rock.

“Oh my God, look at you,” Bailey flipped the ends of her friend’s new ‘do. “And you – are you wearing makeup?”

Meg rolled her eyes. “Jeez, Bay, it’s not a big deal.”

The tall brunette shifted in her summer sandals and Bailey grinned. There she was. “God, I missed you!”

Meg smiled. “Me, too. Come on. I’ll give you a hand unpacking.”

“Yay!” Bailey clapped, bounced on her toes. “Where’s Chase? Is he not home yet?”

“No, he still has class. He’ll be home Saturday.”

He would be home tonight – Bailey had already texted him to invite him over for a little reunion. They were keeping it a surprise for Meg, but Meg didn’t know that. “And?” Bailey slid a look at her best friend when she didn’t reply. “Oh, come on, Megan! Don’t make me get out the vacuum to suck all the details out of you.”

Meg shrugged. “Nothing to tell.”

Uh oh. Why was Meg upset? They couldn’t be having problems – Chase would have told her if he was worried. Oh! Oh, no! Had he broken up with her? She hurried after Meg, who’d already crossed the street and grabbed a box out of Gramps’ car. Bailey slipped out her phone and started to shoot Chase a text and stopped halfway through.

She stared at the display on her phone and with a loud sigh, deleted her half-done message. Instead, she texted Simon.

I’m home!


A few seconds later, he answered.


Can’t wait 2 C U!


Aww. She hadn’t seen Simon since spring break. But he called her almost every day and if he didn’t call her, he texted or messaged her. She’d forgiven him for the whole Ryder thing and he’d forgiven her for the whole mistrust thing. The only thing that was still a thing was Meg. Simon wasn’t interested in spending any time with her and Meg had no patience for Simon and didn’t truly understand why Bailey forgave him so easily.

Bailey pouted.

It had been a great year but some things just took longer to fix. She wished her best friend and her boyfriend got along as well as she got along with Chase. But Megan was a stubborn girl.  Simon had caused a whole load of trouble for Bailey – and for Meg. And Meg Farrell did not forgive easily.

Bailey grabbed a bright purple plastic storage tub from the trunk and hauled it up the steps. At the front door, Gran waited with a huge grin on her face. “There she is, home from a whole year of college!”

“Hi!” Bailey dropped her bin, greeted her grandmother and scanned the living room. “Where’s Mom?”

“Stuck in traffic.”

“Where did she go?”

“I don’t know. All she said was traffic.”

Bailey rolled blue eyes toward heaven. She and Nicole hadn’t exactly been tight these days. Ever since Bailey had found out the truth about her dad, Nicole had been quiet and withdrawn. She knew she’d hurt her mother by searching for him behind her back, but she’d needed to know. She’d needed to know who the other half of her DNA had come from. Her dad was dead and that really sucked, but he was a hero and a good man. Just knowing that built up her confidence and gave her the guts to go away to school in Rochester without her best friend in tow. She’d made new friends. She’d done her own class work and she’d passed.

She’d even gotten an A for the first time in her life.

She lugged the heavy bin upstairs to her room where Meg had one box already opened and was neatly pulling out clothes and tucking them in her dresser. She studied the way Meg stood. She didn’t hunch over anymore, like she was trying to hide from the world. She stood tall and straight.

But her eyes were quiet as ever.

“How’s Pauline?”

Meg flipped hair over her shoulder and beamed like a proud mama. “She’s great. She finished her degree requirements, Bay. She’s going to graduation – one of the oldest in the class – but she’s going.”

Bailey pressed both hands to her open mouth. “That’s awesome! Can I come?”

Meg shrugged. “If you want. They sent us two tickets and it’s just me.”

There it was again. That note of sadness. “Meg. What about Chase? Won’t he want to go, too?” Bailey picked her words carefully, trying her best not to violate all the ground rules she’d been the one to implement two years earlier.

“Not his thing.”

Pressing her lips firmly together, Bailey did not say another word. She just grabbed Meg in another hug, one that told Meg without words that Bailey was there for, ready to listen, whenever she was ready. To her total surprise, Meg’s arms tightened around her and a sob escaped her lips.

“Oh, Bailey,” she squeaked out on the back of a sob. “I’m losing him.”

And because Bailey knew for a fact that Meg wasn’t going to lose Chase, she rubbed Meg’s back and soothed. “No, no, Meg. Chase adores you.”

“Bay, I know something’s wrong. Something he’s not telling me. I just – I just don’t know how to get him to trust me.”

Whoa. Megan Farrell unloading her problems without being threatened with bodily harm first? This was like an entire blog post. But, Bailey nibbled a nail, she couldn’t publish it unless Meg agreed. So she came clean. “I was saving this for a surprise, but you need to know Chase is coming home tonight.”

Meg jerked away. “He’s what?”

“He’s coming over tonight. I texted him a few days ago, told him when I’d be home and he said he could come home, too. We’d surprise you. Your two favorite people – together again.”

Meg smiled. “Oh. So maybe that’s why he blew me off before.”

“Of course it is, Meg! Chase isn’t the kind of guy who’d string you along and play with your feelings.”

Meg’s grin evaporated. “Like I did to him.”

Bailey’s eyes popped. “I didn’t say that!”

“I know you didn’t. But it’s true, that’s what I did.”

Slowly, because she wasn’t sure it was the right move, Bailey nodded. “Okay, you did. But he forgave you for that and you’ve been together ever since. So why all the doubts?”

Meg shook her head. “I don’t know, Bay. He just doesn’t sound happy to hear from me when I call, or happy to see me when we find time. I mean, jeez – I’m just a few blocks away from him and we still can’t get together.”

A frown creasing her forehead, Bailey wondered how she could kick Chase Gallagher’s ass for making Meg doubt him like this.

“Okay. You’ll see him tonight. Talk to him. He’s too important to just let go of, you know?”

Meg stared at her for a minute and nodded. “You’re right. He is.” And then she smiled. “I’m so glad you’re home. I’ve been obsessing over this for ages. I feel a lot better.” She squeezed Bailey in a quick hug and then jogged -- actually jogged-- downstairs for another box.

Bailey smiled and shook her head. It felt kind of good to be the one who made things better.

By the time they’d gotten the car unloaded, Simon arrived. “Hey, pretty Bailey!” He scooped her into a hug and swung her in a circle, perfect teeth bared in a perfect smile.

Meg tried not to yak.

She still didn’t fully understand why Bailey forgave Simon. But, she had to admit, when Simon shut his eyes and gave Bailey one more squeeze, the expression on his face convinced even her that he really did love her best friend.

She sighed and wished Chase were here, wished she knew what was weighing so heavily on him that he couldn’t even smile for her. She hadn’t seen Chase in a week – okay, so it was final exam time and he was working every hour he could to pay his rent. She understood that – maybe better than anybody. So why couldn’t he talk to her?

She turned, sat on the top step and waited for Simon and Bailey to finish saying hello. The churn in her belly, the ache in her heart – this was why, exactly why she’d done her best to avoid falling in love. She didn’t have time for the worrying and -- and all this drama every time Chase had a bad day.

Her eye fell to the scar on her hand and she remembered the day it happened, remembered the way he’d rescued her. Oh, she’d tried so hard not to fall, not to let go of her heart, but he’d slashed through her defenses and fought his way inside and now he was there – etched into it permanently. She pressed both hands to her heart now – where it ached with one thought. What if he didn’t want to be there anymore?

What if…

God, if there were any two words in the English language that could possibly cause more pain than those, she never wanted to hear them.


Her head shot up at the sound of that voice and before her eyes could focus, she was in his arms where he still smelled like cake batter even though he hadn’t worked in his parents’ bakery in two years.

“What’s wrong? Why do you look so sad?” Chase kissed her temple.

She melted against him, her breath stuck in her lungs. Her arms came up to circle his neck and she knew she was smiling her silly Chase-only smile. Yeah, even after all this time, he could still make her smile like that.

“Tell me,” he asked again.

She shook her head with a laugh. “You weren’t here.”

Chase’s kaleidoscope eyes softened. “You missed me?”

She nodded. “I really did.”

But the look in his eyes told her he didn’t believe her. He kissed her lightly and pulled away before she could react. “Listen, please don’t be mad, but I can’t stay.” He let her go and took a step back.

Meg wrapped her arms around that sinking feeling in her gut. She knew it. She’d always known she’d never be enough to hold on to someone like Chase Gallagher. “Yeah. Okay. It’s fine.” She sat back down on the top step of Bailey’s porch and tried not to cry.

“I have to go back to school on Monday, so maybe we could do something tomorrow?”

She shrugged. “I guess.”

His jaw tightened and he rolled his eyes. “Jesus, Megan—“ But he never finished the sentence. He blew out a loud sigh and just turned away. “I’ll see you later.”

Meg’s heart gave a lurch inside her chest, like it wanted to break out and go after him. She watched him say something to Bailey and Simon and stride back down the street.

“Come on, Meg. Let’s go eat, okay?” Bailey took her hand so Meg put on her brave face and smiled at Simon.

“Hey, man. How’s it going?”

Simon blinked, managed a fake smile. “Um. Good. Real good.”

She nodded. “How do you like Princeton?”

Simon’s fake smile got real. “It’s pretty awesome. How about you? How’s Cooper Union?”

“I really love it,” she admitted, following Bailey into the house. “I got to do some really cool things in graphic art last semester. I never actually considered that career path before, but it was fun.”

“How about you, Bailey?”

“Drexel’s fun! I got to test some really cool third-person shooter games a group of seniors coded.”

“Sweet,” Simon grinned as they sat around the Grant kitchen.

“Hey, kids! Who’s hungry?”

Bailey’s Gran put a platter of sandwiches in front of them, followed by a pitcher of iced tea. The three of them ate and talked about school and grades and plans for an hour, but Megan couldn’t get Chase off her mind.

Suddenly, a stream of curses filled the air and Bailey’s grandfather stormed into the kitchen, carrying a laptop. “Damn thing’s frozen. Again. I don’t have time for this technology crap.” He muttered.

“Let me take a look.” Bailey grabbed the computer, tried a soft reboot, but it didn’t do a thing. She powered it off and when it restarted, she clicked a few keys and suddenly, the screen filled with text.

“What’s that?” Meg frowned.

“Windows Safe Mode,” she replied. “I’ll go through the Startup menu, see if one of these programs is causing the problem. Did you install anything new?”

Gramps spread his hands. “I don’t know. I barely know how to turn it on.”

Megan watched Bailey click through screens and finally, the Windows logo appeared. “Here you go, Gramps. You downloaded some RAM-resident thing you didn’t need. I took it off.”

Meg’s jaw dropped. “Holy crap, Bay, look at you! You’re doing it.”

“I know, right? It’s so cool, Meg. Wait until you see all the work I’ve done on my game.”

“Did you stick with the same premise?” Simon asked but Bailey shook her head.

“Not really. I’d wanted it to be a mash up of my favorite games, but then I figured that good old role playing games have big fan bases for a reason, so that’s where I’m heading next.”

Meg smiled and stood up to hug her best friend. “I am so proud of you.”

Bailey smiled. “Good. Now leave.”

Meg’s jaw dropped. “What? Why?”

Bailey’s smile grew. “Because you’re worried about Chase and need to talk to him. We hung out, we ate, and we can do it again tomorrow.”

Meg considered that and shook her head. “No. He won’t – “

“Megan. You’re doing it again.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I am not.”

Bailey got up, took Meg’s hands and squeezed. “You are. You know something’s bugging him. We saw it, too. So just go and talk to him.”

“Bay, what if he doesn’t –“

Bailey flung up a hand. “So what if he doesn’t? At least then, you’d know. Come on. Go over there, tell him you’re not leaving until he tell you what’s up.”

Meg stared at Bailey for a long moment and then grinned. “Okay. Okay, I’ll do it.” With a quick hug, she was back outside, striding across the street and around the corner. Stepping around a pair of bikes, a soccer ball, and a Frisbee, she rang the Gallagher doorbell, not surprised to hear a chorus of shrieks and feet pounding for the door.

Chase’s mom answered the door, surrounded by his twin brothers and baby sister. Molly Gallagher was a year and half old. Her red hair was a nice contrast to the Gallagher green eyes she’d inherited. “Hey, Megan! How are you, sweetie?” Mrs. Gallagher waved her inside.

Meg ran her hands down her jeans. “Um, good. Is he home?” The baby held up her arms, so Meg picked her up.

“Yeah, he’s in the garage. Ethan, take Megan out to the garage, okay?”

“Sure, Mom.” Ethan jerked his chin. “Come on.”

With a smile of thanks, Meg handed off baby Molly and followed Chase’s brother through the house and out the kitchen door, where the sound of hammering thundered like primitive drums.

“He’s pounding nails so you might want to stay out here and play with us for a while.”

Meg glanced around the backyard, found Ethan’s twin, Evan, digging in a dirt pile with older brother Dylan. “Where’s Connor?”


Meg nodded. “What about you?”

Dylan shook his head. “I’m chief babysitter now that Chase moved out.”

She nodded again. “Cool. I bet you’re really good at it.”

He grinned. “They like me better than Chase. I let them in my room.”

“Whatever works, I guess.” Meg laughed. “Okay. I’m gonna talk to Chase. See you later.”

Meg opened the side door to the garage, walked in and froze. Chase was stripped down to his waist, sweat matting his hair as he swung a hammer with all the force of Thor on a Warrior Madness rampage. Her mouth went dry and she considered – for one brief and entirely dumb-ass moment – about pulling up a lawn chair.

And then she saw the expression on his face. Chase was miserably unhappy about something – and Bailey was right. Whether Meg had caused it or not didn’t matter. What mattered is that he needed her.

She flicked the lights on and off to get his attention – without getting a concussion.

“What?” He snapped out, whipping around to glare at one of his brothers. Finding her instead shocked him. The hammer slipped from his fingers, nearly smashed a toe. “Megan. What are you doing here?”

She took a step closer, smoothed the sweaty hair off his face. “I miss you.”

He dropped his eyes to the floor, picked up the fallen hammer, hung it off a peg on the garage wall. She moved to his workbench, unclamped the hunk of wood from the vise. It looked to be more iron than wood. He must have pounded an entire box of nails.

“What’s upsetting you, Chase?”

“I’m not upset.”

“You told me you hammer nails whenever you’re upset, so I’ll ask again, what’s bothering you?”

He cursed, took the wood from her hands, tossed it back to the table and shrugged. “Nothing. Everything’s fine.”

“Okay,” Meg took a great big gulp of air for courage. “One more question. Do you need to break up with me?”

“What?” He spun around so fast, he nearly knocked her down. “No! Why would you say that?”

“Because you don’t want me around. You don’t want to talk to me. I need to know what I did so I can apologize for it, fix it.”

The shock on Chase’s face changed to remorse. He grabbed his shirt, tugged it over his head and Megan couldn’t help feeling it was another way to step back from her. She shut her eyes and tried not to wish she’d listened to her father and his stupid plan because even though her heart was bruised, it was still better than never loving Chase at all.

His hand on her cheek made her eyes snap open. His green eyes glittered in the overhead lights. “Megan, I love you so incredibly much. I’m not breaking up with you. Not now. Not ever.” His hands moved to her shoulders, gripped hard. “I’m… well, just not in the mood to hang out with bouncing Bailey and Super-Simon, you know?”

She smiled. Yes, it was true. Bailey was like Tigger – always bouncing. And yes, Simon was pretty damn perfect – for Bailey, not her.


“And I’m probably not gonna finish school.” He blurted, flinging out his hands. “I didn’t want to tell you. I didn’t want to let you down.”

Meg’s heart did a slow somersault and she shook her head. “Let me down?”

“Yes!” he blew out a frustrated breath. “Your plan and everything you want in the future. Pretty sure that doesn’t mean stuck with a bicycle messenger forever.”

Meg searched her mind, replaying conversations, looking for some clue into Chase’s sudden panic. “Did your grades fall that much since we hooked up?”

He shook his head. “My grades are okay. They won’t let me play if they weren’t. I don’t want to lose that scholarship.”

Meg spread out her hands. “I don’t understand. If it’s not your grades, why do you think you’re not going to finish school?”

He kicked at a bucket on the garage floor, sent it careening into the wall. He dragged both hands through his hair and finally fell back against the tall red tool chest beside the workbench. “It’s them,” he admitted, jerking a finger toward the house. “Something’s up. Something’s wrong. And they won’t tell me.”

“Your parents?” Meg moved toward him, took his hand. To her immense relief, he gripped it hard.

Nodding, he tugged her into his arms. “Dylan told me Mom and Dad have been arguing. A lot. He’s scared. Connor’s scared. But none of them will tell me anything. I don’t know if they’re sick or, or bankrupt or God help us, pregnant again. Whatever it is, they’re gonna need me around here so…”

“No more school.” Meg let that sink in for a long moment. She ran her hands up and down his back, touched her lips to his neck. “How long have you been worried?” He’d been acting weird for weeks.

“I don’t know – since last month, maybe?”

“You didn’t say anything. You never said a word. Why?”

His arms tightened around her. “Because I didn’t want you to worry, the way you are now. You had your grades and classes to worry about.”

“Okay,” she said after some careful consideration. “Instead of kicking your ass for shutting me out, I’m going to stand right next to you while you go inside and calmly sit down with your mother and get some answers.”

His muscles coiled. “No. No, I can’t ask you to do that. This is my problem.”

“First, you didn’t ask. Second, I love you, Chase. When you have a problem, so do I.”

And like that, the tension left his body. He lifted her face to his and kissed her. “Thank you, Megan.”

They pulled apart. Chase led her from the garage to the kitchen, where his mother was filling a cup for his sister.

“Mom?” he began, his voice shaky. “Can we talk?”

Mrs. Gallagher glanced from Chase to Meg and back again. “Um, sure. Just let me put on a Disney video for your sister.”

They walked into the family room. Molly immediately climbed up to a corner of the sofa, grabbed her favorite blanket, and sipped from her cup. When the opening song from Frozen began to play, Molly clapped.

Mrs. Gallagher sat on the sofa, waved a hand for Chase and Meg to sit, too. “What’s going on? You two look awfully serious. You’re not, um, in trouble?”

Meg’s eyes popped. “No! No, definitely not.”

“Mom,” Chase cleared his throat. “Are you and Dad keeping anything from me?”

Kelly Gallagher lowered her eyes, shifted in her seat. “What makes you say that?”

“The tension around here has its own gravity, for one. Dylan and Connor are scared because you and dad have been fighting. And you even told me not to come home this weekend.”

“Okay, look,” she said with a sigh. “Your father and I have some big decisions we’re wrestling with –“

“What kind of decisions?”

“Financial ones.”

Chase’s hand jerked in Meg’s and she squeezed to let him know she was still there and not leaving him alone.

“Mom –“

“Honey, your grandfather’s getting on in years and can’t live alone anymore. We’re trying to work out where to put him.”

“Put him?” Chase echoed.

“We’re looking at homes.”

“God, Mom!”

“We’re also trying to figure out ways he can move in here.”

Chase’s eyes popped at that. “Um. Okay. If Connor and Dylan share a room again, that frees up a bedroom.”

“Yes, but it’s upstairs. He can’t manage stairs very well so we were thinking about converting the garage into a small studio for him – put in heat and plumbing. It’s…well, it’s going to be really expensive. Then we considered converting this room into a little apartment for him, but with five kids, we really need the space.”

“Four.” Chase corrected quietly.

“Five.” She shook her head. “Your dad thinks we can give him your room and install one of those staircase lift systems. He thinks that’ll be cheaper than construction but it’s your room.”

“Mom, it’s okay. You should do that if it’s the cheapest option.”

She glanced at him, her lips pursed. “Chase, at some point, you’ll come home, right?”

“For visits, definitely. But I live in the city now, Mom. When I come home to visit, I can sleep on the couch or bunk with Dylan and Connor.”

She shook her head. “Your dad’s brothers and sisters should help. They have bigger homes, fewer kids.”


“This is your home, Chase.” Tears filled Mrs. Gallagher’s eyes.

“Mom, Grandpa needs it more. And when you need me—“

“I always need you. You’re my son. My first born.”

Meg watched Chase’s amazing eyes swirl with emotion. It was a few minutes before he could talk. “When you need my help, I’m just a train ride away.”




Later that night, Chase sat with Meg on the steps in front of her house. “I feel kind of like I lost fifty pounds.” Chase admitted.

“So do I,” Meg replied. “I was so scared you didn’t want me around anymore.”

He dropped his arm around her shoulders, pulled her to his side. “I’m sorry, Megan. I thought I was protecting you.”

“Do me a favor, okay? Don’t protect me again.”

He turned wounded eyes to hers. “Hey, don’t I at least get points for the attempt?”

“Chase, how did you feel while your parents were keeping all that financial decision stuff from you?”

He opened his mouth, ready to argue, and then closed it. “Okay. Okay, Megan. I get the point. I’m sorry I hurt you and made you worry.”

Megan leaned over and kissed him. “I was scared, Chase. Everything I did to make it better only made you pull further away.”

He sighed heavily. “Right. I should have caught on…you’d just want to go home, sit in your room, paint and cry.”

“Yeah, pretty much. Bailey was the one who insisted I come over here and get in your face.”

He laughed. “Bailey’s pretty smart.”

“She really is.” Meg agreed and snuggled closer. As she and Chase stared up at the stars, she knew that if it hadn’t been for Bailey, she’d still be crying on her bed for a love she never thought she could have. “You just forgot about our Plan for a little while. It’s lucky you have me to remind you.”

Chase laughed. “It’s a really good plan, Megan.”