Wide Open by Shelly Crane
Milo is trouble.
He lives it, breathes it. He embraces anything that numbs and takes his mind somewhere else, a world where his mother is herself and not just a shell, and his brother didn't almost kill her, severing any relationship they had. But more importantly, Milo drowns out the guilt for leaving his mother and not being able to forgive his brother. He drowns his pride and moves on to another girl and another party, pretending that life isn't moving on around him and he's stuck in the same place. He's stuck in the past and doesn't know how to let go.
Maya is trouble.
She's done the party scene and has had her fair share of close calls and handcuffs. Not the kinky kind. She's so over it all and fought like hell for that life to let go so she could move on. She now works as a teen counselor. Her life is better, but her life is empty. She has no one but her brother in the whole world left and he's sick with a disease that no medicine can cure.
When they meet, a romance that scares them both emerges, but the love you fight for is the love that can mend bridges, heal scars, and open closed hearts. They'll need each other, they'll want each other, they'll have each other.
But will it all come too late?
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My mouth tasted like vomit. That wasn't unusual. The arm
creeping over my middle wasn't unusual either nor the way I felt
completely repulsed and sick. I worked so hard, drinking, doing any
drug that I could get my hands on, sleeping with any girl that looked in
my direction and didn't slap me for my foul mouth as I told her all the
things I wanted to do to her. Slurred, really.
I knew it wouldn't be long until Mason was there to pick me up.
The small get-togethers, he wouldn't get wind of, but the big ones, he
always came and tried to save me. It had been about a month since I'd
seen him. He just didn't get it. I didn't want to be saved.
At least, not at first.
I hated him. I hated him with every fiber of my being for what he
did to Mom. I couldn't stand to look at him let alone live with the
bastard. So I started going out all the time just to get away from him,
only seeing Mom during the day when I skipped school and Mason was
But she never remembered me the right way, so it was pointless to
keep seeing her. I just tortured myself by staying there and I wouldn't
feel guilty for leaving. Finally, I spent so much time away that it felt like
I didn't live there anyway and stopped going home.
Mason texted me so much that I eventually just tossed my cell out
of the window of my friend's car one night. They laughed and laughed,
whooping and telling me how free I was. We smoked enough dope to
chill for the next day and a half. I never went back to school after that. I
never went back home either. Why would I? No one understood me,
no one really cared about me. They all just wanted me to 'make
something of myself'.
But how can you do that when you don't even know the parts that
make you up, the parts that make you you, the parts that piece together
and make you feel whole. I hadn't felt whole in a really long time. I felt
older than I was. I may be a seventeen year old, but inside I felt like I
The girl next to me groaned and dug her nails into my side just a
little. "What time is it?" her raspy voice breathed against my shoulder.
I leaned over the side of the bed and lifted my phone from my
pants pocket. My new cell was dead. "Don't know. Does it matter?"
"I have to work tomorrow." She yawned and stretched.
I started to get up, but she grabbed my arm. I winced at the burn on
the inside of my elbow. I looked down at it, seeing the bruising from the
needles under her finger tips.
"I'm outta here." I shook her hand off.
"Wait. Why so eager to get away?" She rolled over on her stomach,
her naked behind peeking out from the sheet, her feet swinging back and
forth in the air. "You weren't so eager to leave earlier."
I scoffed. "Passing out and wanting to stay are not the same thing."
"Sometimes they are. Sometimes it just doesn't matter." She
watched as I zipped my jeans, commando. "I'll cook you breakfast," she
I paused. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd eaten. I was so
thin that I had to belt my pants to keep them up. I always crashed
wherever I was or with a friend, ate whatever came my way, but
sometimes it didn't come very often. For all intents and purposes, I was
homeless, but had yet to sleep outside.
At her mention of food, my stomach decided to throw a fit. "What
do you want for it?"
"Got any blow?"
I reached into my pocket and pulled out the little baggie. "Some."
"Split it with me," she said, biting her lip and sitting to let the sheet
fall away. I stared at her chest since she was offering the view. She
slithered up to me, unzipping my pants as she pressed her lips to my ear
and said, "Come back to bed for a while, we'll hit the blow, and after, I'll
make you some eggs."
"Why do you want me to stay?" I asked, not really caring, but
wondering why she was offering me more sex and breakfast.
"Because," she pushed my pants down my hips, "my parents will
be gone 'til tomorrow morning and there's nothing better than sex after a
I watched as she took the baggie from me with her fake nails. She
leaned forward and kissed my cheek before dipping her pinkie nail in
and sniffing the little she took up her nose. She put her finger back in the
bag and I took it, rubbing what was left of the powder on my gums.
Normally, I would have bolted, but I didn't have anywhere else to
go anyway. The promise of food was almost as satisfying as the sex I
was about to have.
She set up the lines and after we did them, one after the other, she
pushed me down on the bed and straddled me. I rolled with the drugged
ecstasy that crawled slowly through my veins as she groaned and
moaned on top of me.
And that was how Mason found me.
The door opened and my head fuzzed over as I turned to look at
him. His eyes locked on mine before he turned away, but not before I
saw the disgust on his face. I gripped the girls hips to make her stop
since someone coming into the room wasn't a clear enough cue for her. I
pushed her off onto the bed and sat up, scooting to the edge.
I stared at his back in the doorframe. "Leave. I don't need you
"You do, Milo," he said before turning. He looked and he saw all
there was left of me. I suddenly felt like I was wide open for him to see
it all, for him to see all the rot and gore inside me. He shook his head,
his eyes searching my face. "God, help me. You do need me."
I scowled. "No, I-"
"Milo…when's the last time you ate something?" He rubbed his
hair. I noticed how good he looked. He looked like he'd gained some
weight, the good kind. His arms and torso were bigger, new tattoos
peeking out from his shirt sleeves. I realized it had been weeks since I'd
I stood and yanked my jeans on, spitting my words, hating how
good he looked, knowing that he was happy with that girl that I'd seen
before. "None of your fu-"
"Milo!" he scolded, just as a hand crawled around his arm. The girl
- his girl - looked around him, the sympathy pouring off her in droves as
she looked at me. He touched her arm, his fingers caressing, smoothing.
He looked back at me. "Don't use that filthy mouth with Emma here."
She gulped as she looked at me. Her eyes lingered on my stomach
before she looked up at my face. She smiled, just barely. "I've got some
hot coffee in the car if you like mocha," she offered.
He looked at her again as she came to his side. They barely fit in
the doorframe together. He circled her waist with his arm, looking strung
out and guilty. It angered me that he felt like he deserved her or anything
else that would make him happy. "Trying to lure me out with hot
coffee," I mused angrily. "Wow, Mason. Getting the girl to do your dirty
work for you."
"Milo," he snapped.
"It's my coffee," she smoothed over, "but you're welcome to it. I
haven't drank any yet."
She rubbed his chest and he sighed. He looked at me again,
renewed determination in his eyes. "Let us take you to get some food at
least. Anything you want."
"No." I searched for my shirt and tugged it on roughly. I realized it
was inside-out too late, but left it. I didn't care.
"Come on, Milo. You can still hate me, but do it while you're
eating something." I gave him a droll look. "Milo…you look like hell,
"Aw, thanks," I sneered.
"I'm serious," he said quietly. "Please, Milo."
He begged me. He had never begged before, just ordered me
around, dragging me to my room, and then I'd sneak out before he woke
up. He'd never tried to feed me before.
"Come with us, Milo," his girl asked. "There's an omelet place five
minutes from here that's pretty amazing."
I gritted my teeth. I didn't want his charity. As if she read my mind
his girl said, "I'm buying."
She smiled and tilted her head. I sighed, sticking my dirty-socked
feet inside my boots without tying them. "Whatever. I eat, then I'm out."
I looked over at them and glared. "Don't try to stop me from leaving."
"We won't," she insisted. She rubbed Mason's arm and looked up at
him sadly. She looked as if she were about to cry. I had no idea why. It
couldn't be for me. I didn't even know this chick.
I lead the way from the room. The girl I'd left on the bed yelled
something at us. I could tell she was mad, not understanding what was
going on, but I just kept walking. I was pissed, really, because she had
gotten my last hit and I hadn't gotten off before Mason interrupted us.
Mason's car wasn't parked on the street. I looked for it, but blondie
passed me and went to a big truck in the driveway. He got a new truck?
How the heck did he have money for that?
I didn't say a word as I climbed into the backseat. She handed me
the coffee and I snatched it from her hands, tossing the lid off, and
gulping it down. It burned my tongue and lips, but my fogged brain was
past the point of caring or stopping. As I finished it, I watched as she
scooted all the way over to press against his side. They whispered things
back and forth that I couldn't hear. The drive was short. Blondie had
been right about that. We piled into a booth in the back, them on one
side and me on the other, and I didn't even pick up the menu.
It pissed me off just smelling the food. My stomach growled so
loud and hard it hurt. I was cold and rubbed my neck. When the waitress
came, I ordered a root beer and a western omelet with cheese and
hashbrowns. Mason ordered the same and the girl got waffles.
Before an awkward silence could settle in, she started talking. "I'm
Emma, by the way." She smiled. I stared at their intertwined hands on
the tabletop. Mason had never had a girlfriend before, really. He wasn't
the touchy-feely type either. I was oddly fascinated at the way his thumb
ran over her knuckles, over and over.
"Hi, Emma," I spouted sarcastically and let my gaze settle on her
She was one of those girls who was gorgeous by design and didn't
even have to try. Her eyes, her nose, her cheeks. They all seemed to fit
so perfectly. Her lips - they were Mason's favorite thing, other than her
legs, which I knew were his absolute favorite. He'd always been a legs
man. And she had some nice twigs on her, from what I'd seen. I settled
my eyes lower on the barely-there sliver of cleavage that peeked from
It was the first time I'd seen a girl blush in what felt like years. The
girls I kept company with didn't blush. They were beyond that point,
beyond the level that allowed them to feel embarrassed about sexual
things. They'd done it all.
This girl… I shook my head and smirked at Mason. "Not sampled
the goods yet, brother? She's mighty skittish."
"Shut your face, Milo," he stood and growled.
I was actually taken aback a little. This was as worked up as I'd
ever seen him. And over a girl of all things? Holy crap. He was in love
with this chick. I felt my hatred soften a little before snapping it back in
place. I rubbed my neck again on that itchy, cold spot.
"Whoa, Nelly," I joked. "Calm the eff down. It was just an
I laughed. It sounded strange even to my ears. It sounded like a
sick person's laugh. I glanced at Emma and actually felt a little bad at the
embarrassed way she tucked her hair behind her ears. I squinted. Was
there a story there that I didn't know?
"I'm Milo," I mocked. "Nice to meet you, princess."
"We've met before and you know it," she countered easily.
"Yeah," I muttered and rubbed my cold neck. "I remember. You
held my hair back as I puked." I laughed condescendingly.
"Basically." She smiled, not falling for my ploys to piss her off.
"You're welcome, by the way."
I didn't respond to the beauty queen. I just pointlessly stirred my
root beer. She was beautiful to the point of distraction, sweet and
annoying all wrapped up in one, and I could tell that she had my brother
wrapped around her finger whether she knew it or not.
And it pissed me off. Mason shouldn't be so freaking happy.
And he was, I could tell. He watched her when she wasn't looking.
His entire presence shifted when she did. The waitress brought our food
soon thankfully, and just as I was taking a bite, I saw the ring on Emma's
"You're getting married?" I heard my gravelly voice say.
Emma pulled her hands off the table into her lap, as if unsure if I
was supposed to know that. Mason lifted his arm around her shoulder
and pulled her close, kissing her temple. It shocked the hell out of me
how much I wanted to be happy for him.
"Yeah," he said low. "I asked Emma to marry me."
I didn’t ask when or how. I didn’t care.
"And she said yes," he continued harder.
"That's great," I spouted sarcastically with a mouthful of food.
"And mom's doing fine, too, by the way."
"I didn't ask," I growled and took another bite. I could see I was
going to have to get out of here so the food-shoveling kicked up a notch.
"She has a nurse that comes and helps take care of her. I work with
her every day on her exercises, but she still can't walk. She and Emma
get along great, too. Emma was one of my patients and lost her memory
I jerked my gaze up to the beauty queen. She was watching me
with parted lips, her eyes practically begging me to give in to Mason and
stop the feud. I wondered if she knew what Mason had done, how
Mason leaned forward and glared as he barked, "Don't look at her
like that. And yes, I told her all about me. How I'm the devil that
destroyed your life and Mamma's. How I killed my best friend." She
gripped his arm, tugging on it and pleading with him to stop. "She
knows it all."
They stared at each other and I believed him that they had talked
about it. It looked like they had talked about it plenty, in fact, but I could
also tell that she kissed his boo-boos and made him think that it was all
But it wasn't.
I chugged my root beer and grabbed both pieces of toast, wrapped
them in a napkin and stuck them in my pocket, scooting down the bench
seat. "I'm out here."
"Will you just eat, Milo," Mason said in exasperation. "I'm not
going to make you come home. Just eat."
"You couldn't make me," I spat. I stood and leaned right in his face
with my palms on the table. "Always trying to run my life. Good ol'
Mason." I saw him flinch slightly at that. He stood, too, licking his lips
angrily in an attempt to calm himself. "I hate you so much. You killed
"Our mother is alive," he replied loudly.
People in the restaurant were now privy to our conversation, but I
went even louder. "What she is isn't alive! When she doesn't even
"She remembers you," he countered.
"Not in the right way."
"She remembers you in the most important way. In the only way
that truly matters."
"What could be worse than her not remembering me as I am?"
"Not remembering you at all," Emma said, barely. She looked up,
her eyes dark. "When I woke up from my coma, I didn't remember
anyone. Not my parents, or my friends, even the guy I had been dating. I
still don't." Mason sighed as if all of this was exhausting. "It could be
worse, Milo. She could not remember you at all."
"Doesn't matter," I steamed ahead, unwilling to let them deter me.
"The fact is that you ruined my mom. It's pointless to even go see her
because she won't remember that I've been there."
"Doesn't matter," he spouted back at me. "Doesn't negate the fact
that you should come see her."
"Ooh," I mocked. "Using big words on little high school drop-out
I turned to go, scratching my cold neck and feeling the rawness of
my skin begin to set in. He grabbed my arm and before I knew it, I was
looking at Mason holding his jaw as he leaned back against the table.
Emma fussed over the blood coming from his lip with insistent
ministrations with a napkin. I hadn't even realized I hit him until my
hand started to ache. The entire diner was watching us with these looks
of disgust on their faces. Well, they were watching me.
I shook out my fingers, wincing but not regretting it. I turned to go
once more and heard Mason from behind me. "I love you, bro."
That stopped me in my tracks. I didn't turn around. "I love you and I
know that you won't ever forgive me. It took me a long time to forgive
me, too. I would still hate me if Emma hadn't come along and showed
me that I couldn't blame myself forever. It was an accident, nothing but.
I not only lost my best friend that day because he wouldn't listen to me
and drove anyway, and my mom, the way she was, but I lost you, too. I
take care of Mom; I became a physical therapist to take care of her. But
you, I don't know what to do for you, Milo. I don't know how to help
you. If you ever need anything or want to come home, the door's always
wide open. Always. I love you, even if you can't love me back."
I hated the fact that he made me want to turn around, to make-up
and forget everything that happened.
I hated him. I hated all he'd done. I hated how he tried to reconcile
every time I saw him. And I hated that he was getting this great, perfect
little life with a wife and kids.
I didn't look back again as I weaved through the tables on my way
out. He yelled my name and something about giving me some money. I
should have taken it and would have had it been anyone else. But I didn't
want his money.
I walked for a long time to a friend's apartment over the Irish Mug
bar. Not only would he let me crash, but more than likely he had some
smoke he'd front me. After Mason's little haphazard intervention, I
needed it. I crossed the street to the bar and heard the honking before
seeing the bright lights. I raised my hand and saw the car screeching to a
stop right in front of me. He cursed and honked. I flipped him off and
kept walking across the road. I heard him peel away as I climbed the
stairs on the side of the building for his apartment. The bar was hopping,
the music was so loud I couldn't even hear my footsteps up the stairs.
I knocked, but knew he couldn't hear me, so I tried the handle.
When it turned, I pushed it open. He had called me a few times, but I
never checked my messages. My phone was just a drug ferry basically. I
never used it except for making a drug buy or find a friend's how to stay
at because minutes cost too much for someone who never had money. I
had odd jobs sometimes, but after you don't show up on time for a few
days in a row, they can you. That was the only way I could buy minutes
and buy weed on a regular basis. But usually, I floated until my next
paycheck, whenever that may be, and some friends would front me some
things if I didn't have the money.
But I was a little behind right now and owed a few people. OK, a
lot of people, and a lot of money. Even my friend I was going to see had
threatened to cut me off if I didn't pay him something. I usually just
avoided the ones I owed money to.
I'd gotten into the other side of the business a couple times, but
didn't sell much of it when I smoked it or snorted it instead. I had my
foot broken once for not paying up when they realized the drugs were all
gone and it was me who had used them.
I still walked with a little limp because I couldn't go to the hospital
without them calling Mason or my mom. So my friend put a makeshift
cast on me and I practically dragged the thing for a few weeks.
Nikko's place was dark and I couldn't hear anything but the noise
below us. I turned the corner to find him on the couch, some girl on his
lap. I turned around to keep her naked behind out of my sight. I heard
"Milo! What the hell, man?"
"Sorry, uh…" I peeked back, but it was still too soon and turned
back around. "I wanted to see if I could crash here."
"Damn it, Milo…" He kissed her, I heard the smacking, and told
her he'd see her later, that he needed to take care of something. She
walked by me and gave me a sullen look for ruining her night. I turned
to find him pulling a black wife-beater on. "Dude, you can't just come in
"I knocked. The music's too loud." I stuffed my hands into my
pockets. "Let me crash, OK?"
"Milo." He shook his head. "You look like a heap of hell, man."
"That's because I haven't had anything all day and my nosey
brother wanted to flaunt his hot girlfriend in my face."
He sighed. "There's nothing wrong with getting lit on the weekends
and making a living off of selling, but you...you're not just having fun
anymore. You're hooked. You're hooked, messing with deals you
shouldn't, and people are looking for you." He took a step forward, but
looked at me sadly. "I tried to help you. I knew you had it rough at
home, but…you can't stay here, man. Go."
Oh. It wasn't sadness he had for me, it was pity.
"Just for the night," I begged.
"I can't." He gulped and leaned against the kitchen bar. "Mikey's
looking for you. And…so is Roz. Go. Now."
The curses piled in my head. I knew I owed him money, but for
him to start actively looking for me wasn't good for my health.
But I needed a place to stay and I needed…something, anything to
make me stop shaking and scratching. It felt like ants were in my veins
and he needed to give me something. "Fine," I bit out. "Just…float me a
"You already owe me for ten joints, not to mention all the blow and
nuggets I fronted you."
He looked around, nervous as all get out. My brain was in a fog. I
didn't care if I slept on a bench outside. My friends usually came through
for me, but lately they seemed less eager to let me stay. So fine, he could
throw me out as long as he gave me something to tie me over.
"I'm good for it. My brother said he'd give me some money until I
get back on my feet. I've got a job lined up starting next week," I lied.
"It's just…been bad lately. I'm under so much stress."
"Classic druggie line," he scoffed. "Get out, Milo. The longer you
stay here, the worst you're making it for me." We heard a car door
outside and he sucked in a breath. "Go, man, now!"
I went to the window and peeked past the dingy blue curtain that
the previous tenant had left and saw one of the guys who always set up
my buys from Roz. I shook my head, backing away, and looked at him
to help me. "Go out the back. And don't say I never did anything for
you," he growled and went to the front door. "Go!"
I ran, but as soon as I opened the back door, there was another guy
there. "You got Roz's money?" he asked.
I stalled and started the typical plea. "Well, I'll have it-"
He didn't wait for anything else. His fist connected to my jaw and I
heard the crunch, knowing it was hurt tomorrow, as I went down. He
followed me and gripped my collar in his fist before slamming my cheek
with his free fist. He beat on me for so long and hard all over that I
blacked out. I came out of it a couple times, but it was so blurry and the
haze of pain was thick. I could never grasp onto reality.
No time passed at all for me. I closed my eyes and the next time I
opened them, I was in a hospital bed. No one was there with me. It was a
regular room, not the ER. I lifted my head to survey the damage and
immediately regretted that hasty decision. My head hurt so badly, I
thought I might black out again. I pushed with my elbows and made
myself sit up. I touched my head to find a bandage, my eye was swollen,
my lips all busted up, and my jaw was so sore, it hurt to even touch it, let
alone try to open my mouth.
I remembered being brought there, the cops, they asked
I had to get out of there.
Right then, that was the only thing that truly mattered. I had rolled
over on Roz. I owed so much money to so many people, but none of that
mattered compared to the fact that I told the cops Roz's operating spots
and their names and everything. He was going to kill me.
I had no idea how long I'd been in the hospital and the lack of
drugs made me way more lucid than the drug-induced stages I usually
resided in. There wasn't any morphine in that drip because I hurt all over
so badly, I thought I might vomit. The fact that they hadn't given me any
morphine made me realize that they knew I was a…drug addict. There,
OK, yes, if I didn't get drugs every day, I felt like I'd crawl out of my
own skin. So, yes, I was addicted. And they knew it because they hadn't
given me anything to help with the pain.
And I knew I was in deep.
It hit me all at once as I yanked the needle out of my arm how bad
things had gotten. I'd ran myself into the ground. It had been way too
long since I hadn't had anything in my system and my hands shook as I
eased off the bed onto the floor. I tried to yank the hospital band off, but
I was too weak. The name on the band read John Doe. So they didn't
know who I was. I pulled on my jeans from the back under the bed. My
body ached so bad all over, but I knew I had to get out of there.
Once all my clothes were on, I peeked out the blinds to see an
officer standing by my room. I cursed under my breath. That was
probably the only reason the Roz hadn't come after me. But the cops
wanted me for something, and I could guess it was for me to roll over on
Roz. They didn't just guard anybody; only the people who they wanted
I pushed the food cart to slam into the bed and then jumped behind
the door. When he opened it, like I knew he would, I waited until he
came into the room. He cursed and moved forward, bending to look
under the bed. I scooted behind him around the door and acted as normal
as I could as I walked down the hall. I heard him on his radio as he said
that the suspect was missing. Then he argued with them that he'd been
by the door the whole time. I turned into the first stairwell I saw and
took them as quickly as I could. I heard them coming from the lower
floor and stopped. I could hear the crackle of a radio, so I jumped
through the door with a peeling number four on it.
It led to an alcove in the hall and I waited for them to go up as they
passed. When it was quiet, I opened the door slowly and crept my way
down the stairs, out of the hospital, and into the street.
I didn't know where I was going, but I knew I had to get away. It
was then that I knew I'd never see Mason or my mother again.
I went to the highway, even though it was almost dark, stuck my
thumb out and waited for someone to stop and take me away - give me a
ride to anywhere but there.
Two Years Later
I sat and looked at the envelope. It had the results of my GED
exam. Finally, I was going to have a piece of paper that told me I had
finished high school instead of just dropping out and being a runaway.
I flipped it over and over in my fingers. It wasn't like this was an
application into Harvard or anything. It was a GED, but it was my GED.
It was all I had.
"If you don't open that already, I'm going to stab you with my
I glared up at Joey playfully. "Shut it."
Joey had been my friend for a long time now. It felt like forever,
but had actually only been a little shy of two years. Joey worked at the
shelter that I crawled into a few nights after I left the hospital. I
hitchhiked for two days, sometimes with a ride, sometimes walking or
sitting on the side of the road. I was starving, so weak I could barely
walk, dehydrated except for a bottle of water a trucker gave me. They
pulled me into the shelter at the church in some town.
GET A CHANCE TO WIN COMPLETE SIGNED PAPERBACK OF WIDE OPEN SERIES!!GIVEAWAY ALERT!!
Joey was the one who made sure I got a bed in the shelter that
night and for the next two months while I tried to straighten myself out.
There were many bumps in the road. I still wasn't sure exactly how
many days the hospital had kept me, because I hadn't know even what
day it was when I went in, but the detox had begun then. I struggled with
it, but had already gotten through some of the hard part. They made it
clear that drugs would not be allowed in the shelter and anyone on drugs
after the rules had been explained would be removed.
To be completely honest, I fell hard off that wagon once or twice. I
couldn't believe how hard it was. That first pill or sip or hit after days
and days of not having anything was like pure ecstasy, my body
betraying me and making me believe it was what I needed and wanted.
But Joey came and got me from wherever I was, yelled and told
me how I needed to get straight, snuck me back into the shelter and
made me promise never to do it again. Finally, that promise stuck. It's
been over a year since that wagon had caused any problems for me.