Hugo & Meg is on it’s way! It’s the second book in the Drawn to Fight series, but don’t worry if you haven’t read Zac & Evie as they’re both standalones that exist in a similar timeframe – they are two sides of a story revolving around a brother and sister (Zac and Meg) left to fend for themselves and their younger siblings. You can read one or both, and it doesn’t matter which order you read them in either. But those of you who have already read Zac & Evie are finally going to find out what Meg was thinking when she did what she did! As we know in our own lives, both sides of the story are rarely the same…
BIG bonus – the preorder is only 99cents! It’s releasing October 26th, and as I said, it’s a standalone story in the Drawn to Fight series. Full HEA. No cliffhanger. Just awesome angst and drama.
Sometimes, it’s inappropriate to fall in love with a certain someone. I should know. When I met Hugo Sparks, I didn’t know he was an art teacher at my school. But, by the time we found out, it was too late – we’d already fallen. But, we did the right thing, we tried to fight it. Eventually though, we gave in. That was when my brother Zac caught us. He said it would tear our family apart – we were already hanging on by a thread. I said I was in love. He didn’t believe me and did everything he could to keep us apart.
Including breaking my heart.
In return, I broke his.
My name is Meg Reid – Zac Rivers’ half sister. You may already know his story, and you may hate me for what I’ve done. But, that’s because you don’t understand. You only have one side.
This story is mine. It’s a tale of hurting the ones you love, and thinking it’s for the best. I wish things could have been different…
“Talk to me,” Hugo implored, his chest heaving as he stood in front of me, his emotions high, tension buzzing in the air as I stared into his ice blue eyes.
“I hate you,” I replied. “I love you.” My eyes stung, and when I licked my lips, all I could taste was salt from the torrents of tears I’d already shed.
“I have to do this, Meg. I can’t forfeit. That’s not the deal.”
“And I can’t stop what’s coming.” Folding my arms across my chest, I walked away from him. I didn’t want to talk about it.
He followed me and placed a strong hand on my slight shoulder. He was so gentle with me. No matter how he was feeling, he was always so gentle with me. It hurt my heart even more.
“If I don’t fight your brother, everything I’ve done – everything I’ve been working toward – fighting for – it’ll all be gone.”
“And if you do fight my brother, you’ll lose me for good.” I turned around and glared at him, showing him how much I understood. He gave me a pained look then ran his hand down the length of my hair.
“Now do you understand why we needed to wait?” he whispered, shaking slightly as he withdrew his hand and dropped it by his side. It’s then that I noticed the ring that was tied around his neck, attached by a leather cord.
Blinking back my tears, I reached and took it between my fingers, holding it between us, my breath unsteady as I squeezed my eyes shut tight. “What was the point of all this, Hugo? What were we even fighting for if you were just going to throw it all away?”
He looked down at the ring in my fingers and closed his hands over mine. “We were fighting for a chance.”
“And now we’re just fighting each other. What happened to us?”
He shook his head, his hand moving up to grip the back of his neck in frustration – a movement I’d come to know well in our time together. “I guess our timing was just wrong. Fate made us meet too soon.”
Pressing my lips into a straight line, I nodded. “I thought you didn’t believe in fate.”
Curving his lips in a sad smile, he reached behind his neck and untied the cord, letting it fall so that the ring was still in my hand. “With you in this world, I think I can believe in anything.”
I looked from the ring to him as he lowered his hand and pressed a kiss to my forehead before he stepped away.
“Take it,” he said. “It’s yours.”
The squeaking of brakes in the driveway caused me to lift my head, the crunch of gravel under tires let me know it was time to go. “That’s my ride,” I said, my voice almost a whisper as I reached down to pick up my bags.
“I wish you hadn’t done this.”
“I wish for a lot of things. But that was when I was a girl, and I still believed in magic. I’m not a little girl anymore, Hugo.”
“I know, Meg. I never thought you were.”
A buzzer sounded and I needed to go downstairs. He looked at me, his eyes flickering with a restrained panic.
“I have to go.”
I paused and waited.
“The promise in your hand – it will always be true.”
Tears stung my eyes again and rising on my toes, I pressed my lips to his softly. “I never wanted a promise, Hugo. I only wanted you.”
Then I pressed the ring back into his hand and walked to the door. I placed my hand on the handle before turning back to him and giving his apartment one last look over. This was the place all my best memories were. I didn’t want to leave, but I had to.
I sniffed back a tear and forced a smile. “Hey. Maybe I’ll see you in school. You can get your job back now that I’m gone. You can teach again.” I knew it wasn’t possible, but pretending was what we did. It fit so well with all the secrets and the lies…
He nodded his head, his mouth open. He wanted to say something that could change what was happening, but he couldn’t. It was too late. We were already through. Fate was wrong to bring us together.
When I left his apartment, I was driven away to an entirely new life. It wasn’t what I wanted, but someone had to put a stop to all the fighting and the secrets that were governing our lives and our decisions. Someone had to be the adult, even if it was a seventeen-year-old girl who took charge – going against the wishes of everyone else involved.
I didn’t do it for revenge.
You need to understand that. Everything was falling apart. I had to take a stand. Someone had to stand up and say that we were suffering. Someone had to save us from each other.
And, being that someone, it cost me everything…everything.
‘It is difficult to know at what moment love begins;
it is less difficult to know that it has begun.’
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Falling for him wasn’t something I planned. In fact, it was entirely an accident that we were brought together – a literal accident. You see, shopping trolleys and car park aren’t exactly made for each other. Especially when said car park had a slight tilt to it, and the girl pushing the trolley was rail thin and not built for wrestling four uncooperative wheels over the tiny stones in the asphalt.
“Fucking, Zac.” I cursed my older half-brother under my breath as the one of the wheels jarred against a bump on the road. He was supposed to be doing the groceries. I was supposed to be at a friend’s house, swimming in their pool and enjoying just a moment of summer. But he’d gotten so badly beaten the Friday night before that his eye was swollen shut, and he couldn’t see to drive. That left me, a sixteen-year-old girl, to do the grocery shopping for our family of five kids abandoned by their parents. Well, there was almost one adult. Zac would soon be eighteen – not that it made much of a difference. If social services found out we didn’t have parental supervision, they’d put us all into foster care faster that you could list our short names. And that was our worst fear. We didn’t want to be separated. Zac insisted that no one would take on three primary school kids along with their sixteen-year-old sister. I’d be put in a group home. My three younger siblings would be split up and sent to whatever family could accommodate them, and Zac would be left alone, hating himself for not being able to keep us together. And Zac had suffered enough.
With a resounding sigh, I looked over the trolley full of food that we wouldn’t have been able to afford if Zac hadn’t fought as hard as he did. He did whatever he could to provide for us all and keep me in school. I felt guilty for being annoyed with him. He was trying his hardest – we all were.
I gave the trolley a shove with my hip to get it moving again.
I shoved too hard, and it rolled out of my grasp then went hurtling toward the entry lane, bumping and bouncing along and picking up speed as though it was laughing at me for being unable to control it.
I ran after it. “Come back!” I yelled. I don’t know why I did that; it couldn’t hear me. But at the time, it seemed fitting, as it wouldn’t be long before it hit the street and then, well, it would all be ruined and Zac’s black eye would have been for nothing.
“No, no, no.” A blue sedan had turned into the drive, and I could see what was about to happen. In that moment I could actually peer into the future, and there was no way I was going to be able to stop it. Zac was going to kill me.
A screech of brakes. A crunch of metal. Shocked murmurs coming from people around me. I’d covered my eyes, not wanting to see, and when I peeked through my fingers the first thing I saw was a dark haired man standing at the slightly bent trolley while surveying the dent in his car. His hand was on the back of his neck, his arm muscular as it strained against the cotton of his dusty blue shirt. Milk dripped on the ground, leaving a massive white puddle that ran down to the gutter and took off toward the closest drain.
He turned to the side, looking around for the trolley’s owner. I lowered my hands and stepped forward, my heart thudding against my chest as I took in his features and prepared to meet my doom. He was beautiful. Ice blue eyes. Pitch black hair. A slight tan to his skin and a strong stubbled jaw. Pink lips… I noticed all this in seconds as his eyes met mine.
“Is this…yours?” He pointed to the trolley, and I saw that some of my groceries were on the hood of his car. I swallowed hard and nodded.
“I’m sorry. It slipped from my hands and…” I let the words trail off. “I’m sorry. I’ll fix it. I’ll…I’ll…” I shrugged my shoulders and bit my bottom lip. I didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t afford this. “I’m sorry,” I said again.
He stared at me for a long moment. Just enough for me to feel uncomfortable. I wondered if he would start yelling at me for being a ‘stupid girl’…
His eyes moved from my face, scanning the car park for a moment before he turned back to me. “Don’t worry about it,” he said with a sigh, surprising me with how calm he was being.
I stepped forward. “I should pay for the damage.” Don’t make me pay for the damage.
Reaching out, he picked up some of the loose groceries and returned them to the trolley. I moved quickly to help him. “There’s no serious damage. Just a few scratches,” he said softly as he pulled the trolley away from the side of his car and checked if it still worked.
My eyebrows shot up. “That’s not a scratch.” I pointed to the dent in the body of his car, just above the front wheel. A lot of the paint had been scratched off. He’d need to visit a panel beater to get it fixed.
“It’s entirely possible that was already there,” he said with a smile as he took hold of the trolley then looked around the car park again. “Which one is yours?”
“Car. Which one is yours?”
Unsure of why he wanted to know, I pointed to the large family van that Zac had spent all of his savings on when our stepfather had taken off – mum had left long before for many selfish reasons…
He nodded and began to push the trolley toward it with great speed. Oh god, I thought. He’s going to dent the van to get back at me.
“What are you doing?” I demanded, rushing up beside him, a slight edge of panic in my voice.
Glancing at me, he smiled and I noticed that one tooth was the tiniest bit crooked. A tiny blip in his perfection. I suppose that’s when it happened – when I started to like him. I liked faults. I could understand faults. When you’re a sixteen, your faults are all you see – all you can focus on. Sometimes they were the only things that seemed real.
“I’m helping you,” he said, pushing the bowed trolley with ease until we reached the back of the van and stopped.
I looked over to where his car was still sitting near the entrance of the car park. There were cars swerving around it, their drivers yelling out mouthfuls of expletives – ‘fucking idiot’ being the most common of them. “Don’t you think you should move your car?”
With a non-committal shrug of his shoulders, he held out his hand to me and without thinking, I handed him the keys. Then he opened the boot and began to load the bags into the van.
“You work at a florist?” he asked as he slid the bags in place. I helped, working beside him while checking the damage our accident had done to the food. Most of it was all right.
“I um…” I started to respond with the truth. I started to tell him that I was still at school, that I was only a kid. But, there was something in the way he treated me, something in the way he looked at me. He thought I was older. He thought I was like him – a grown-up – one who could actually drive legally. I was still six months off turning seventeen and getting my license.
I glanced in the back of the van. There were large white buckets and blue crates, along with the distinct scent of mixed pollens and still water, a scent synonymous with florists everywhere. Zac worked for the florist. I was about to become a high school senior.
When I looked back at him, he was still smiling, tilting his head curiously as he waited for my answer.
I didn’t want to lie to him, so I settled for a slightly different version of the truth. “This is my housemate’s van.”
“Housemate? What’s that like?”
“It’s all right.”
“All right? What are you, still at Uni or something?”
I nodded. Now I was lying. Now the sun felt incredibly hot and I was starting to sweat. “I’d better get back inside. I need to buy milk again,” I said, trying to change the subject.
Reaching for the last bag, he looked inside then closed it again. “And eggs. These are destroyed.” He placed the bag back in the trolley then reached up and shut the back of the van.
“I really am very sorry about your car.”
He shook his head and leaned against the back of the van, his eyes squinting in the bright sun as he looked over to his sedan. “Don’t be. It’s a bomb.”
“I still wrecked it.”
“Nah. It’s not your fault. They need to fix the parking lot.”
“Move your fucking car!” A man hit his horn, the loud burst of noise causing me to jump and turn sharply toward the sound.
“I guess I’d better go. It was nice to meet you…?” He held out his hand for me to take.
“Meg,” I said, placing my small hand into his large palm. He closed his hand around mine. I didn’t want him to let go.
“Meg,” he repeated, his eyes travelling over my face as he completely ignored the continued yelling of the man in the four-wheel drive stuck behind his sedan. “I’m Hugo.”
We shook once. I smiled at him. He smiled at me. Then he let go and jogged back to his car. I wanted to go with him and tell him to drive away and never look back. The idea seemed so perfect to me at the time.
“That will be eight dollars and sixty cents,” the cashier told me after she’d scanned the milk and eggs. I counted out the cash and thanked her, and as I took my receipt and went to pick up my bag, I realised it wasn’t there anymore.
“Thought I should make sure these make it to your car safely this time,” Hugo said, that smile of his calling to me like a siren at sea. My heart soared. He was back. All at once, I wanted this man to see me as a woman. I wanted to be his equal. I wanted to feel like more than I was. I wanted to be different – someone else.
He seemed like the perfect escape. But, I wasn’t supposed to let anyone get too close…
“You don’t have to do that. I can manage.”
“I want to. Besides…” He reached into his pocket. “I still have these.” He handed me back my keys.
“Jesus. Thanks. I don’t know how I would have gotten home without them.”
“Your housemates would have gotten hungry and come looking for you,” he said. It was meant to reassure me, but instead I looked at him sharply, worried that perhaps I’d already been caught in this lie.
We walked along quietly until we were once again at the van.
“Listen, I feel really bad about your car.”
“I’m sure we can find a way for you to make it up to me,” he started before his face went bright red and he shook his head. “That came out completely wrong and sounded creepy. I don’t normally do this by the way.”
I smiled up at him; it was kind of interesting to watch a man becoming nervous in front of me. I only knew boys, and while I knew I should have just gotten into the van and left, I couldn’t help but stay standing in front of him, wanting more of this moment.
“What is it you’re doing?” I asked after a while.
“It probably doesn’t seem like it, but I’m trying to ask you if you want to go to dinner sometime.”
I nodded. “Ask me.”
A nervous laugh escaped his lips and his tongue snaked out to wet them. “Would you like to have dinner with me?”
“No,” I said immediately.
“No? Wha– Oh wow, that was embarrassing. Do you…do you have a boyfriend, or…Jesus, I should just shut up. I’m sorry.”
“Give me your phone,” I told him, holding out my hand as I watched him flounder, his face almost bright red. It was endearing to say the least.
He frowned. “Seriously?”
“I don’t have a boyfriend.” With a dubious expression, he handed me his phone and watched while I entered my number and saved it. “But maybe, if you call me at the right time, I might answer.”
“OK.” He said the word slowly and grinned as he took his phone when I handed it back to him. “Wait,” he said when I went to get in the van. I stopped and turned to face him with my head tilted in question. He aimed the camera at me and took a shot. “Now I won’t forget which one you are.”
Laughing, I took a step away from him. “I thought you said you didn’t do this all the time?”
“I don’t. That was just a shitty joke.”
I smiled and moved to the driver’s side of the car. “I’ll see you around, Hugo.”
“I hope so.”
Grinning, I shut the door and started the engine. He was leaning against the car parked beside me as I reversed out, and I waved to him as I left, struggling to wipe the cheesy grin from my face the whole way back home.
I knew I’d never be able to date him. For one, he was older, and two, we weren’t allowed to let anyone get close. But, I still liked him. I liked him a lot.
The sound of the rubber mallet hitting against metal echoed with a crack in the distance, momentarily obscuring the noisy chirp of the cicadas in the eucalyptus trees overhead.
Pete paused for a moment, wiping the back of his forearm across his sweaty forehead before he picked up his beer, kept cold in the heat with a stubby holder depicting the Australian flag, and took a thirsty swig. “Jesus, mate. I hope you at least got this girl’s number. She did a good job fucking up the side of your car.” He took another mouthful of beer then set it back on the sandstone rock beside him.
“Yeah, I got her number.” Although, I’m not going to tell him I already called her and didn’t get an answer. Twice. That was over a week ago. “Want me to take over?” It was thirty-eight in the shade. I was sweating buckets just standing still.
He shook his head. “Just keep the cold ones flowing and we’re good. I’ll be finished soon.”
Pete was a panel beater by trade. He did jobs for those he knew in exchange for a slab of beer. He was my older brother’s best mate, and because my brother and I were so close in age that we were enrolled in the same school year, Pete was my mate too. Although, I hadn’t seen a lot of him socially in the last six months, things had been awkward for everybody since then. But, we preferred not to talk about it. It was easier that way.
“Looks good to me,” he stated, turning the panel over and running his hand along the chipped paint. “I can put something on here to seal it, but we’ll have to paint it another day when I have the right colour.”
Helping him carry the panel back to my car, I held it while he fixed it in place. “Still looking after your mum?”
“I am, and she’s still consistently drunk and irritable,” I replied with a smile.
“So no change from normal then.”
“No. No change.”
“You’d think she’d change her tune without Donovan anymore.” Pushing himself off the ground, he stood and dusted himself off before looking up at the clear blue sky.
“I’m pretty sure she thinks Donovan is my fault too. She barely says a word to me when I go over there.”
“Then why do you?’
I shrug. “She’s the only family I have.”
He looked at me for a moment then nodded his head before looking up to the sky. “Fuck this weather, mate. Fuck summer.”
I leaned down and pulled a fresh beer from the ice in the Esky and handed it to him, taking another for myself. We twisted off the tops and tilted the bottles toward each other without actually clinking.
“Cheers, mate,” he said, tipping it back and draining the ice-cold liquid before letting out a loud ‘ah’ when he finished. Then he sniffed and looked at me. “You wanna go a few rounds with the bag for old time’s sake?” He motioned toward the house where he’d installed a gym in his spare room, when he, my brother and I started training together for the Londonderry fights. We were just kids then, and to us, Londonderry was the height of every wannabe fighter’s dream. Although we knew better now. Experience had taught us that they were a trap that sucked you in and never let you go.
“Maybe some other time,” I said.
In the early morning air, my feet pounded the concrete path as I wound my way through the mulberry bushes, the scent of their rotting fruit mixing the hot damp earth and polluted river invaded my nose. There had been a storm last night that broke the worst of the heat, although it swelled the river and caused it to collect debris from its banks. It made the churning water a muddy brown as it rushed to wherever it emptied out, eager to become the clearer steady flow it was only a day before.
While the temperature had lowered, the storm had caused a humidity that hung heavy in the air. It caused my shirt to stick to my body uncomfortably, and I stopped running, breathing heavy as I walked toward the water to stand under the shade of a maple tree. Reaching down, I peeled my shirt off and wiped it across my face, tucking it into the side of my black running shorts as I looked out at the water and watched it rush by. A blowfly attacked my face, hitting against it angrily as I swatted it away.
“Fuck off,” I growled, trying to actually hit it so it wouldn’t bother me again.
“They’re terrible after the rain,” a voice said from above me. I jerked my head up and frowned – surprised – taken aback. It was her. It was Meg. I was staring, my mouth open. The blowfly seized its opportunity at a new source of moisture, and I jerked my head away quickly, blowing a raspberry in disgust at almost swallowing the repugnant insect.
She was kind enough not to laugh, but when I looked up at her again, she was smiling at me. “Of all the trees along the river, you chose mine.”
“Yours? You climb up there often?”
She giggled. “I do. The view is better up here than it is down there.” She let out a sigh and looked out in front of her, her long slim leg bent at the knee, swinging, as she balanced on the wide branch with feline ease. “You should climb up and see.” She looked back down and met my eyes, her long white-blonde hair, hanging over her shoulder in a long ponytail. She had blue eyes, darker than mine. They reminded me of an angry sea and had featured quite heavily in my dreams of late.
Without hesitating, I climbed the tree and she slid along the branch to make room for me.
“See?” She tilted her chin upward, indicating the view of the blue sky with its cumulus clouds peeking between the green leaves of the canopy. I could see homes across the river. I could watch the cars on the other side, driving along River Road. I could see all the way to the freeway bridge and in the opposite direction, to the railway bridge. I could even see the pontoon where there were rowers lined up and getting out of their skulls. “I like to come here too for a change of perspective. You can see the beauty in the world when you aren’t smack in the middle of it.”
I turned to look back at her, absorbing her words, deciding in that moment that she was probably the best part of this entire view. “I’d like to paint it. Or at least photograph it.”
She shook her head. “Not me. Then I’d have to share it. I like having it all to myself.”
“You’re sharing it with me.”
A smile curved her pink soft looking lips. “That’s because I like you.”
I smiled in return. It’s funny how often you spend smiling at someone when you don’t really know them. There are so many things you want to say. So many questions you could ask, but instead, you smile, and hope they don’t see the secrets you’re hiding just behind the light of your eyes.
“I tried calling you,” I started, rubbing my palms together as I looked down at the ground below, littered with dead leaves and dark dirt.
“You didn’t call back.”
“I didn’t know what to say.”
We stared at each other, and without knowing much about her, I felt sure she was the most interesting person I’d ever met. There was something about her, something that made me want to learn all there was to know about her, while at the same time, I wanted nothing at all. It was like she was a moment in time, one I couldn’t quite grasp, but I wanted her just the same.
“Are you hungry?” I asked.
“Come on then.” I pushed off from the branch and dropped to the ground, bending my knees softly to break the fall. She dropped next to me almost immediately, and stood there watching as I pulled my shirt back over my head.
“You have a nice body,” she stated, her tone serious, her expression even as if she was just rattling off a fact.
“So do you,” I returned, a smile curling at my lips from her compliment. I liked the way she looked at me. I liked the way I felt when I looked at her…
“So they tell me.”
I grinned fully. “I’m sure they do.”
Then she did that curious tilt of her head before she turned around and began to walk back toward the path. I followed, drawn to her side, and together we walked to where I’d parked my car, a gentle hum between our bodies where we almost touched.
“You fixed it.”
“A friend did.” I leaned in front of her and unlocked the passenger door, holding it open to let her in, hoping I didn’t smell too bad after running in the heat. She thanked me and I walked around to my side, starting the engine before driving us both to the nearest café.
We both ordered their big breakfast, an apple juice and coffee, and while we were waiting for our order we continued to make small talk, asking questions, learning answers.
“What are you studying?”
“I’d like to be a lab technician,” she said, twisting the saltshaker between her fingers.
“As in pharmaceuticals?”
“Yes. My brother seems to think I’m going to discover the cure to cancer or something.”
“Or the common cold. I hear they’re after a cure for that as well.”
She glanced up at me. There was that smile again. “What about you? Are you an artist or something?”
“I studied art, yes.”
“Studied? So you’re finished with school?”
I sat back in my chair. “For the most part, yes.”
The server brought over a tray with our drinks and placed them in front of us before returning to the counter and bringing out our meals.
“Smells wonderful,” she commented as she inhaled the scent of bacon, eggs, tomato and mushrooms with a wedge of buttered toast on the side.
My stomach grumbled in agreement and we both laughed, eating and chatting away with ease. I was leaning so much yet so little. I didn’t want it to end. But her phone rang, and without answering it, she simply looked at the screen and silenced the call before announcing that she had to go. She wasn’t even finished eating.
“Wait. Can I see you again?” I asked as she stood to leave.
She smiled again, her hands sliding into the back pockets of her jean shorts as she stopped beside me. Then without warning, she leaned down and she kissed me. It shocked me, and at first I didn’t respond. But that was a momentary pause before I reached up, my hands sliding along either side of her face, holding her steady as I entwined my lips and moved my tongue with hers, taking that first stomach flipping taste of her. Immediately I was addicted. I breathed in deeply, drawing her scent inside me, memorising her taste, my head spinning, my body feeling more alive than it had in months.
Regretfully, I released her, my eyes locked with hers as she pulled away, her cheeks pink, her blue eyes dark, her lips red. She was prettier than the most perfect oil painting.
“We’ll let fate decide,” she whispered.
“I don’t believe in fate.”
She shrugged. “You should. It led you to my tree.”
Then she turned away and left the café without even looking back, and I wondered if she was right. I wondered if fate really had intervened…