Made for you, p.1

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Made for You
 



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Made for You


  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  Advance Reader’s e-proof

  courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

  This is an advance reader’s e-proof made from digital files of the uncorrected proofs. Readers are reminded that changes may be made prior to publication, including to the type, design, layout, or content, that are not reflected in this e-proof, and that this e-pub may not reflect the final edition. Any material to be quoted or excerpted in a review should be checked against the final published edition. Dates, prices, and manufacturing details are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  DEDICATION

  For the nurses, techs, and doctors in NICU, CCN, and Pediatrics at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, Maine. There aren’t words enough to tell you how much I appreciate your care, support, and love this past year.

  Contents

  COVER

  DISCLAIMER

  TITLE

  DEDICATION

  DAY 0: “THE PARTY”

  DAY 1: “THE ACT”

  DAY 3: “THE VISION”

  DAY 5: “THE VISIT”

  DAY 5: “THE DETECTIVE”

  DAY 6: “THE PIPER-ETTES”

  DAY 6: “THE SURPRISE”

  DAY 6: “THE GIRL”

  DAY 7: “THE BEST FRIEND”

  DAY 8: “THE CRUSH”

  DAY 8: “THE MESSAGE”

  DAY 9: “THE NEWS”

  DAY 9: “THE SLEEPOVER”

  DAY 10: “THE PARENTS”

  DAY 10: “THE STALKER”

  DAY 11: “THE EX-BOYFRIEND”

  DAY 11: “THE LIES”

  DAY 11: “THE JOB”

  DAY 12: “THE SACRIFICE”

  DAY 13: “THE VEIL”

  DAY 13: “THE ADMISSION”

  DAY 13: “THE FUNERAL”

  DAY 13: “THE SUBSTITUTE”

  DAY 13: “THE PICTURES”

  DAY 14: “THE FLOWERS”

  DAY 14: “THE PLAN”

  DAY 14: “THE ADULTERER”

  DAY 14: “THE TESTING”

  DAY 14: “THE PROOF”

  DAY 14: “THE TASK”

  DAY 14: “THE KISS”

  DAY 14: “THE CHALLENGE”

  DAY 15: “THE TALK”

  DAY 15: “THE EPIPHANY”

  DAY 15: “THE CABIN”

  DAY 15: “THE GUN”

  DAY 15: “THE FIGHT”

  DAY 15: “THE CONFESSION”

  DAY 15: “THE PIPE”

  DAY 15: “THE KILLER”

  DAY 136: “THE AFTERMATH”

  ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  ALSO BY MELISSA MARR

  COPYRIGHT

  ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  DAY 0: “THE PARTY”

  Eva

  “DID YOU SEE HER?” Piper whispers, lifting the same plastic cup of wine she’s been holding the past two hours as if it hides her. It’s a prop. She’s sober. She always is. She’s also hopelessly prone to melodrama.

  I nod, face carefully blank. Of course I saw her. I’ve seen every single girl that flirts with Nate at these parties.

  I’d rather not be a witness to it, but that’s one of the downsides to being me: I’m expected to be at every party. Like Piper and the rest of our crowd, I am here because it’s who I am and what I do. Nate isn’t one of us, hasn’t been for a couple years, so he doesn’t always attend, but when he does, he inevitably goes upstairs or down a darkened hallway with some girl. I pretend not to care. My act works on everyone but Piper and Grace, who sit on either side of me.

  “She’s not even that pretty,” Piper lies.

  Grace says nothing.

  The girl is no prettier than us, but she’s not less attractive either.

  Nate is a lot more than good-looking. Tall and lean without being gangly, short dark hair that’s cut in an almost military style, and muscles that make it hard not to find an excuse to touch his arms. Even with the fact that he has no social standing, he has to use exactly zero effort to convince girls to wander off into the dark with him.

  We used to be friends. He used to be my best friend. Then his parents got divorced, and he became someone I didn’t know. I still watch him, but I never speak to him. I haven’t since the start of sophomore year. Every time I see him glance my way as he walks past with a girl, I think of the last time I tried to talk to him.

  It’s the first party of the year, and my parents are away again. I’m sitting with Grace, a new girl who moved from Philadelphia to tiny little Jessup, North Carolina.

  “Who’s he?” Grace asks.

  “Nathaniel Bouchet.” I look at him, standing in the doorway surveying the room like a hunter. He doesn’t look like my Nate anymore. He’s always been wiry, but now he looks like he works at it. I swallow, realizing that I’m staring and that he can tell.

  “Excuse me a minute,” I say.

  Robert and Reid are sitting with us, but I excuse myself to walk over to him. It’s been forever since we spoke. He hasn’t called or come to see me in weeks. I never catch him at school either. I miss him. Even after he stopped being around the rest of our friends, he was still my friend. I thought that would never change, but now, I think I might be wrong.

  I’ve had a couple drinks, and it gives me the courage to ignore his dismissive glance and walk up to him.

  “Nate,” I start.

  I only want to talk, to go back to the way we were, but he looks right at me, his gaze roaming from my sandals up my jeans and over my blouse and ending on my face. “Not interested.”

  Then he steps around me like we’re strangers. He just walks past me like I’m not there, like he doesn’t know me, like we haven’t been in one another’s lives since we were in preschool. I feel like everyone there is staring at us, but if they are, no one mentions it—not to me, at least. My last name protects me from that, and for a change, I’m glad to be a Cooper-Tilling.

  Nate, on the other hand, has just sealed his pariah reputation. It was bad enough that his parents divorced, and he suddenly seemed to forget that there were clothes in colors other than black. Now, he’s rude to me in front of everyone. If he was trying to make the rest of my friends declare him invisible, he just succeeded.

  On Monday, I find out that he slept with Piper’s cousin, Julie, who was visiting. She’s three years older than us, a freshman at Duke. After that, it became a thing to talk about which girl he chose for the night when he turned up at parties. After that, I never tried to talk to him—or let him see me watching him—ever again.

  Piper is waiting for her cue, for me to tell her what to think. It’s how things are in Jessup. She’s one of the elite, but I’m the one she follows. My parents are the top of the food pyramid here. It’s not a situation I cherish, and I pretend not to notice.

  I simply play my part, fulfill their expectations and smile. It’s the best plan I have.

  I know that Piper is hoping for permission to tear Nate down, but I’m not going there. “She’s no different than the last three. He’ll leave in the morning with her phone number, but he won’t use it.”

  “What are you two whispering about?” Reid
asks as he flops down next to Piper and drapes an arm around her shoulders. They’re not dating; he simply has no awareness of personal space.

  Piper shrugs him off. “Losers.”

  “I’ll protect you,” Reid promises.

  “Who’s to say you weren’t on that list?” Piper says, but she doesn’t mean anything by it. Reid is one of us.

  “Yeung.” Reid glances at Grace and nods at her, then turns to me. “Eva.”

  “I have a first name!” Grace snaps.

  Before they start bickering Piper quickly redirects the conversation. “Did you guys want to go to Durham for the Bulls game? Daddy has a bunch of tickets that he said we could use.”

  I tune them out. It’s far too easy to do, really. The conversation, the people, the whole party is like most every other Friday for the past couple years. Sometimes I want to ask them if they’re happy, if they enjoy their lives or if they feel like they’re just playing roles like me.

  Grace tolerates Jessup, but this is only a pit stop for her. Reid is hard to decipher; he never gives a straight answer. On the other hand, my boyfriend, Robert, seems to like being one of the town darlings. He has an entourage everywhere he goes—and likes it. I don’t. They’re my friends though, so I smile at them before I top off my glass of lukewarm wine from a bottle that has my grandfather’s last name on the label.

  Politely, I carry the bottle over to Robert where he still stands with Grayson and Jamie. Robert absently kisses the top of my head and holds his cup out toward me. The other boys are drinking beer, but Robert always drinks wine from the Cooper Winery when I’m with him.

  I don’t glance toward the doorway that leads to the bedrooms. I don’t think about Nate kissing some girl who isn’t me. No, not at all. Not even a little.

  After I fill Robert’s cup, I wait. I’m not clingy; I don’t interrupt. I simply wait until the boys notice and walk away. Once they’re gone, Robert looks at me carefully, studying my face for a moment before asking, “Is everything okay?”

  “I’m bored.”

  He laughs. “All of our friends and a bunch of people from school are here, and you’re bored?”

  “Piper only wants to gossip. Reid is . . . Reid. Grace is pouting or maybe arguing with Reid by now. You”—I poke him in the chest—“were over here, so yes, I’m bored.”

  He grins, sips his wine, and waits. I can’t deny that he’s one of the best-looking boys I’ve ever seen. He’s certainly one of the best-looking in Jessup. Basketball, baseball, and tennis keep him in perfect shape, and he has the bluest eyes of anyone I know. It’s not his fault that I wish they were chocolate brown instead.

  “Can we leave? Maybe drive out to—”

  “You know better than that,” he interrupts quietly. “Everyone would want to come with us as soon as we said we were heading out.”

  Everyone, of course, means only our closest friends, but they’re the same people I’ve spent the past few hours with—really, the past seventeen years with if I want to get technical. They’re my friends, and I love them. Sometimes, though, I want to be just a girl with her boyfriend, not a girl, her boyfriend, and their dozen closest friends.

  “Fine.” I blush a little before suggesting, “We could go to one of the bedrooms . . .”

  “With all of our friends out here?” Robert looks at me like I suggested we have sex on the coffee table.

  “Just to fool around,” I clarify.

  He leans in and kisses me briefly, lips closed, and then he wraps an arm around my waist. “Come on.”

  For a moment I think he’s agreed with me, but then I realize that he’s headed back to the sofa. He murmurs in my ear, “We can do that at your house any day. Tomorrow, I’ll meet you at Java the Hut, and then we’ll go to your house for a dessert.”

  I nod. There’s no way to say that it isn’t really physical contact I want.

  I want to feel swept away. I want to not sit here listening to gossip while Nate has sex in another room. I want to be wanted—and distracted. Instead, I sit next to Robert, our hands twined together, and resume the same routine.

  “You totally missed it,” Piper gushes. “You will never believe what Davey Jackson just did!”

  Nothing ever changes, not here, not for me.

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  DAY 1: “THE ACT”

  Judge

  I SIT AND WAIT in my stolen car. The engine is still; the lights are off. I can’t even listen to music. I don’t want anyone to see or hear me.

  I thought Eva understood me. Last night, she proved me wrong. She looked straight through me like I wasn’t there and spent half the night paying attention to him, one of the countless people who will never ever deserve her. He’s not right for her. I am.

  When I see Eva walking away from the mostly empty parking lot and heading down the deserted street, I wish I had another option. I’ve been waiting for her to see the real me for so long, doing the things she asked of me so she would know I was the one for her.

  I listened to every secret message she gave me. She was like a goddess in my mind.

  Maybe that’s where I went wrong. The Lord ordered that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In my heart, I raised Eva up like a false idol. That was a mistake. Now I have to atone, not just for my sake, but for the safety of my future children. The good book says “I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children.” I have to protect the children I’ll one day have.

  “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I say the words quietly as I wait in the dark and quiet.

  I picture her even after I can’t see her anymore. She could’ve called Grace to pick her up tonight. She didn’t. It would have been a sign if she had. I watch the signs. Eva Tilling—princess of Jessup, North Carolina—is alone. I made sure she would be, but I hoped we would be saved from this.

  I turn the key, and the engine wakes. I turn on the stereo and shift out of park. My eyes burn, and my hands tighten on the steering wheel as I drive into the dark where she waits. I flick the high beams on and turn the music up so loud that she can probably hear it now. I feel like I can hear the gravel crunch under the tires as I swerve onto the shoulder, but I can’t, not over the music. I searched for the perfect song, “Lift Me Up,” to tell her all the things I can’t say. I hope she is listening. I know the Lord is.

  I feel like my heart is beating in tune with the thundering drums, and I slam the gas pedal down before I can hesitate. I feel the thump, and through my tears, I see her hit the hood of the car and slide off.

  I don’t slow down. I can’t. I can’t even look in the rearview mirror. I did it, but it hurt. God, it hurt to sacrifice the one person I thought was meant to be mine. My Eva is bleeding along the side of the road. This was the only choice left to me.

  I had to kill her.

  UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

  HarperCollins Publishers

  ..................................................................

  DAY 3: “THE VISION”

  Eva

  MY MIND IS FUZZY. I hear unfamiliar noises, and I don’t know why. My eyelids weigh too much, and I can’t make them open to see where that awful beeping is. I think about sitting up, but if I can’t move my eyelids, I surely can’t move my whole body. I try anyhow. Someone grabs my arm, speaks softly in words I can’t make out, but it doesn’t matter.

  All that really matters suddenly is that I’m falling.

  I know I’m already on my back but somehow I still fall.

  I fall into someone. I know it’s not my skin I’m wearing even though it somehow is mine for the moment. The woman I am inside is waiting for her grandson, Ethan. He should have been here by now. My chest hurts. I have—no, she has—had this twinge all day, and even though it’s probably nothing, it scares me.

  Somewhere in my mind, I
remind myself that this is not me, that I am Eva Elizabeth Tilling. I am only seventeen, and I have no children or grandchildren.

  I try to pull myself out of her skin, but I’m stuck here. My heart hurts. It feels like the beats are going too fast, like I’ve been drinking nothing but caffeine for days, and somehow it keeps going faster and faster. My hands tighten on the arms of the chair. I need to get up, to call someone, to do something. Ethan isn’t here, and I can’t drive, and I think my heart is going to pound out of my chest.

  I hear footsteps. He comes into the room. I look up, but I don’t recognize the boy standing there.

  His hands are on me, helping me not to fall so fast to the ground. I try to say something, but my heart stops racing. I feel it stop.

  “Eva?” Grace’s voice interrupts my death, pulling me back into my own skin with a snap, making me try to squirm away from the nurse who holds my wrist in her hand.

  I feel her hand like it’s burning me. I try to look to see if the skin is red, but I still can’t focus my eyes.

  “You’re awake,” the nurse says, before releasing my wrist to write something on the folded-up paper in her hand.

  “Heart attack.” I’m shaking all over and cold like I’ve just been wrapped in icy sheets. Every part of me, other than my wrist, feels frigid.

  “No, sweetie. You’re fine.”

  “Heart attack,” I manage to say, even as I notice that my heart isn’t aching now. Just a dream. It was a dream. I’m not a mother, much less a grandmother. I don’t know anyone named Ethan either. I can’t remember what he looked like. I only remember the voice, the fear in it, and the way his hands felt strong while he helped slow my fall. I can see the whole thing playing over in my mind, can catalogue everything but his face.

  “Your pulse is fine,” the nurse says as she puts medicine into the tube that hangs from an IV bag beside the bed. “Your heart is fine, Eva.”

  “I don’t want to die. So cold.” I feel like I’m drifting again, and I’m scared, so I grab the nurse’s hand. “Freezing.”

 
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