A poignant new novel about family, first love, grief, and betrayal is coming next week from author Colleen Hoover, and I have a sneak peek for you, as well as a chance to win a signed print copy.
All the smaller tables were taken, which meant we were left choosing between a table with six chairs or the love seat.
Miller went for the love seat, and I wasn’t sad about that. We’re both relaxed into the couch, our heads pressed into the back of the cushions, facing each other. I’ve pulled my legs onto the love seat, and Miller has one leg propped up.
Our knees are touching.
Most of Starbucks has cleared out by now, and my drink is almost empty, but we haven’t stopped talking and laughing, not even for a few seconds. This version of us is so different than when we were in his truck earlier but just as comfortable.
It just feels natural with him. The silence, the conversation, the laughter. All of it feels so comfortable, and that’s something I didn’t even know I’d been missing. But I have missed it. Since the moment of the wreck, everything in 157
my life has felt like it’s edged in sharp corners, and I’ve been tiptoeing around this world in the dark for the past month, trying not to injure myself.
We haven’t talked about his breakup, despite my curiosity about what happened. I was hoping we would avoid talking about the wreck and all that has transpired since then, but he just asked me how my mother is doing.
“Okay, I guess.” I down the last sip of my coffee. “I walked in on her trying to tear down the kitchen door with a hammer for no reason at all. Now there’s a huge random hole in the center of our door that’s been there for two weeks.”
Miller smiles, but it’s an empathetic smile. “What about you?” he asks. “Any destruction on your part?”
I shrug. “Nah. I’m okay. I mean … it’s only been a little over a month. I still cry every night. But I don’t feel like I can’t get out of bed anymore.” I shake my empty coffee cup. “Acquiring a taste for coffee helped.”
“Want another one?”
I shake my head and set my empty cup on the table next to me. Then I reposition myself on the couch to get even more comfortable. Miller does the same, so we’re even closer now.
“Will you do me a favor?” I ask him.
“Depends on what it is.”
“When you become a famous director someday, will you make sure the coffee cups actually have liquid in them when actors hold them in scenes?”
Miller laughs at this. Loudly. “That is my biggest pet peeve,” he says. “They’re always empty. And when they set them down, you can hear the hollowness of the cup when it hits the table.”158
“I was watching this one movie where an actor was angry, holding a cup of coffee, and he was slinging it around, but not a single drop spilled. It pulled me out of the moment and ruined the entire movie for me.”
Miller smiles and squeezes my knee. “It’s a promise. Every coffee cup on my set will be full.” His hand remains on my knee. It’s too obvious to pretend I don’t notice, but I try. I keep glancing down, though. I like seeing his hand there. I like feeling his thumb brush back and forth.
I like how I feel when I’m with him. And I’m not positive, but I think he likes how I make him feel. Neither of us has stopped smiling. I know I’ve blushed at least three times during our conversation.
We both know we’re interested, so we aren’t even trying to play coy. It’s just a matter of me not knowing where his head is. What he’s thinking … if he’s thought about Shelby at all.
“So,” he says. “You decided on a college yet? Still planning on majoring in acting?”
This question elicits a big sigh from me. “I really want to, but my mother is so against it. So was my father.”
“The odds aren’t in my favor, so they want me to do something more practical.”
“I’ve seen you act. It’s what you were born to do.”
I sit up a little straighter. “Really? What have you seen me in?” I always do theater every year at school, but I’ve never really noticed Miller there before.
“I can’t remember what it was. I only remember you onstage.”
I can feel myself blushing again. I lean back against the couch and smile shyly. “What about you? Did you at least apply to UT yet? Or anywhere?”159
He shakes his head. “No. We can’t afford a school like that, and honestly, I need to stay around here. For Gramps.”
I want to ask him more about that, but he seems sad when he talks about it. I don’t know if it’s because there isn’t anyone else to care for his grandfather if he were to move away or if it’s because he’d never leave him regardless. Probably a combination of both.
I don’t like that this conversation is sending his mind in that direction, so I try to redirect his thoughts. “I have a confession.”
He looks at me expectantly, waiting for me to spill it.
“I filled out the form for the film submission.”
Miller smiles. “Good. I was worried you wouldn’t do it.”
“I might have filled it out for you too.”
He stares at me, his eyes narrowed. “In case I broke up with Shelby?”
He laughs a little and then says, “Thank you.” There’s a pause. “So does this mean we’re partners?”
I shrug. “If you want to be. But I mean, if you end up getting back together with Shelby, I’ll understand if you can’t do—”
Miller leans forward, dipping his head as he stares at me. “I’m not getting back together with her. Get that out of your head.”
Such a short sentence, but such a big statement. One that sends a surge of heat up my chest.
He has such a serious look in his eye that it makes me nervous when he begins to speak again. “Earlier, when you called yourself my backup plan, I wanted to laugh. Because if anything, Shelby was my backup plan to you.”