Chapter one

"Hello? Earth to Sess."

I opened my eyes. Lauren Ackerman was waving her fingers in front of my face.

"Sorry," I said, "What were you saying?"

Lauren brushed her brown bangs out of her face and sighed. "I was asking you what you're wearing the Paul Zinnman's party tonight," She said.

I closed my eyes, thankful that I was wearing my large sunglasses and she probably couldn't see my eyes. I thought. Another party? I really did not feel like it. Especially right now, with the sun hot on my back. I could feel the pool of sweat on the back of my body and it made me cringe. It was only a little after noon and the temperature was almost ninety degrees.

"I don't know," I finally said.

Lauren scoffed. "Well, you have to look cute. Paul throws great parties."

I opened my eyes and looked out at the pool. I was at Kaitlin Jordan's house, not that I'd really even wanted to come. Lauren had forced me into my bikini and dragged me out here so she could flirt with all of the guys that were normally at Kaitlyn's middle-of-the-day pool parties.

I rolled over onto my back. Lauren had pushed our towels so close together, I almost took out one of her golden brown eyes with my elbow.

"Where's Jake?" Lauren asked, looking over at me.

I had no idea, but wherever he was, I wished I was with him.

"I don't know. I think he had to work today," I murmured.

"Do you realize how lucky you are to be dating Jake Austin? He's literally the sweetest guy I've ever met. Well, other than Ryan Hollows. Which is funny. Because, they're bestfriends and all," She said, beginning to babble.

I nodded in agreement.

"And, they're both sexy as hell," She said, taking a deep breath.

I smiled lightly, definitely agreeing with that statement.

"I should date Ryan," Lauren said, suddenly, "I mean, why not? He's hot, funny, sweet, and is outgoing. My kind of guy."

If only she knew how obnoxious he thought she was..

She continued to talk about Ryan until I finally sighed a long irritated sigh. Lauren might of been my best friend since forever, but she could still get annoying.

I interrupted her suddenly, "I think I'm gonna head home. I'm in need of a shower," I said, wiping my forehead with the back of my hand.

She looked at me, nodding slightly. "Okay. I'll see you at the party, then," She said, smilling.

I nodded, standing up and pulling my jean cut offs on over my bikini. I didn't bother to put my tank on. I slipped on my flip flops, grabbing my towel. I began walking out to my car, bumping straight into Ryan.

"Oh, shit. I'm so sorry," He said, gently grabbing my bare waist to steady me, "You okay?"

I smiled lightly, his brown eyes actually concerned that he'd hurt me.

I nodded. "Yeah, Ry. I'm good."

He let go of my waist, smilling. "Okay, good. Cause, the last thing I need against my record is injuring my bestfriend's girl," He said, winking at me.

He began to walk away, but I turned around to look at him. "You going to Paul's party tonight?" I asked, realizing I was hoping he'd say yes. Ryan was a fun person to have around.

He turned back and looked at me. "Yeah. You and J going?"

I nodded. "See ya there," He said, waving his fingers and turning to walk away. I turned and started walking to my car.

When I was almost there, I peeked behind me just in time to see Ryan doing the same.

"Sess? That you?" My mom called when I walked into the house. I dropped the keys on the kitchen counter and walked down the hallway.

"Yeah. Hey," I said, leaning against the doorframe of her bedroom. I looked at her fragile body laying in her large bed. Today wasn't such a good day for her.

"Hi, honey. Have fun at the pool?" She asked, her voice soft and gentle. I walked over to the side of her bed, sitting down beside her.

"Yeah, it was okay," I said.

"You look tired," She said.

I ran a hand over my face. I was tired. Mentally and physically.

"Why don't you go take a nap?" She asked.

I shrugged. I couldn't let her know that ever since her cancer came back, I couldn't sleep.

"Where's dad? I thought he was going to stay home with you," I said, looking around her pale green bedroom.

"He was called into the office. It's okay, though. It gave me an opportunity to catch up on my reading. It's been so long since I could curl up and read a good book," She said, smilling.

I stayed silent and she ran her now wrinkly fingers over my hand. She was only forty three years old, but looked fifty or so. Cancer had destroyed her youthful looks.

"There's this party tonight at Paul Zinnman's house. Lauren is forcing me to go. Is it okay if I'm out tonight?" She asked.

She nodded. "Of course. As long as your back by a reasonable time," I had never had a curfew before in my life. My parents had always trusted me to know when it was time to come home.

"Thanks. I think I'll go shower," I said, kissing her cheek softly and standing up. I walked out of her bedroom and down the hall, trying to hold back the tears.

Truth was, I was scared for my mom. My mom was a strong woman and didn't seem to be phased one bit by the fact that she was so close to death. When her cancer had suddenly come back, none of us expected it to come on so strongly.

It had started four years ago. She found a lump in her breast, and after going to the doctor, he diagnosed her with Breast Cancer. It was so severe that she had to have both of her breasts removed, and after a little bit of chemotherapy, the cancer seemed to be gone. Now, four years later, the cancer has spread to her liver and kidneys. Doctors said she probably wouldn't make it.

I took a slow shower, thinking about that summer. The summer my life flipped upside down.

Suddenly, I was fourteen again and the cool sand was between my toes. I was walking down the beach with my mom, the sun slowly setting over the ocean. The sky was a perfect pinkish orange color. My mom's soft, blond hair was blowing in the wind and she was smilling as I told her the story of how this guy, Jake Austin, was showing a liking to me.

When I was done with my story, she laughed lightly. "Puppy love. Those were the days," She sighed. The white sundress she was wearing made her skin look tanner than it actually was. She'd lost a lot of weight suddenly, and you could tell by the way the dress fit.

"Oh my gosh, mom! Look! A sandollar!" I said, bending down and brushing the sand off of a perfectly circular, white sandollar. My mom bent down and looked at it, brushing her fingers over the smoothe surface.

"It's wonderful," She said in her soft voice.

"I've never seen one in real life before," I said, "I mean, we always buy one at the surf shop. But, I've never actually seen one at the beach."

My mom grinned, "Me either."

I looked at her and watched as a tear slowly fell down her cheek. She picked up the sandollar and stood up. I stood up, also, watching as she wiped away the tear.

"What's wrong, mom?" I asked, my voice alarmed.

She sniffed, lightly. "Sess, there's something I need to tell you," She whispered.

"What is it?" I asked, worry filling my voice.

"I have cancer."

I shut off the water of my shower, grabbing my towel and wiping off my face. I dried my body off and stepped into my closet, putting on underwear and a bra. I walked back into my bathroom, standing in front of the mirror.

I wasn't fourteen anymore, I was eighteen; an adult. I brushed through my long brown hair and quickly blew it dry. I left it wavy, because it was naturally that pretty kind of wave. I put on a little bit of make up and walked back to my closet. I dressed in jean shorts and a yellow top. It was one of those cute tops that hung over one shoulder. I slipped on my flip flops, grabbed my phone, and walked downstairs.

"Where are you headed?" My older brother, Jebb, asked me. He was drinking milk out the carton, his blondish brown hair a mess.

"A party," I said, grabbing my keys, "Are you gonna stay with mom until dad gets home?"

Jebb nodded, "Yeah. Dad called me and asked me to."

Jebb still lived at home, but he was mostly always working.

"See ya," He said as I walked out of the door.

"What's wrong?" Jake asked, his lips at my ear.

I lightly shook my head. "Nothing," I lied.

He kissed right below my ear, his lips soft. His hands were wrapped around my waist and my fingers were laced around his neck. We were standing out in the backyard, away from everyone else.

"How's your mom?" He asked, looking at me. He asked me this everyday.

"She's still alive."

Jake frowned, his green eyes sad. I kissed his lips lightly, almost teasingly.

"Do we have to stay here? Can't we just go back to my house and snuggle?" He asked, smilling lightly. I was happy for a change in subject.

That's one of the main things I loved about Jake. He always knew what to say to make me feel better and he wasn't one of those pig guys that always thought about sex. When he said, Can we just go back to my house and snuggle, he meant snuggle. He didn't mean, slowly take our clothes off and have sex. He meant just lay with each other and be together.

"Lauren would kill me if I left," I said, sighing.

"We could sneak out. Nobody would notice," He said, his green eyes shinning in the Tiki Lights that were everywhere out back.

I smiled, brushing my fingers across his cheek. "How about we go mingle and then in about thirty minutes, we'll leave?" I asked.

He groaned playfully, lacing his fingers through mine. "Let the mingling begin."

We walked up to the house and I groaned out loud. The music was loud and obnoxious, everyone was slap drunk, and I didn't see Lauren anywhere.

"How does everyone get so drunk within the past two hours?" I asked.

Jake shook his head and led me through the people dancing so close, you could barely fit half a body between them. I finally found Lauren.

She was talking to Ryan Hollows. When he saw me and Jake walk up, you could see the relief in his eyes.

"Hey, man," Jake said to Ryan, slapping him on the back.

Lauren was dressed in her notorious booty shorts and a black halter top, her blond hair down and straight.

"Ohmehgawd, you look so presh, Sess," She said, grinning at me.

"Thanks," I said, only half listening to what she was saying. I was trying to eavesdrop on whatever Jake and Ryan were talking about, there heads practically together.

Lauren peeked over at them, suddenly curious. I shook my head just so she would notice. I listened very closely.

"They're upstairs right now?" "Yeah. He put something in her drink." "Why didn't you stop him?" "What was I suppossed to do?" "Obviously you shouldn't have let him take her up there! She doesn't know what's going on! That's your brother, man! He could get arrested because she's only fifteen." "Shit."

Suddenly Jake looked over at me and Lauren, his face full of concern.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

Jake shook his head, turned and ran upstairs. Ryan had turned completely white and I was just wondering what the hell was going on.

"Where is he going?" I asked, looking at Ryan.

Ryan looked at me. "You know Daniel? My alcoholic brother that just got outta rehab?" Ryan asked.

I nodded.

"He put something in Paul Zinnman's little sister's drink and then he took her upstairs. I don't think he realized what he was doing, because he's so fucking drunk," He said, running a hand through his hair nervously.

My eyes widened. "Ryan! How could you let him do that?"

I turned and ran up the stairs before he could defend himself. I heard Ryan following. I heard Jake's voice down the hall. Jake was always saving someone's ass, he was like a superhero.

I walked down the hall and saw Jake pulling Daniel out of the bedroom by his shirt. He threw him against the opposite wall. When he saw me coming, I looked at him with alarmed eyes.

"Go make sure she's okay," He muttered before turning his attention back to Daniel.

I walked into the bedroom and saw Paul Zinnman's younger sister laying on the bed. I didn't know her name, but I knew she was a freshman. She was asleep, her shirt pulled up, revealing her huge boobs covered by a lacy pink bra. I immediatley pulled her shirt down, pushed the blankets back, and covered her up. I turned the light off, locked the bedroom door, and shut it so no one could come bother her.

How had this night taken such an ugly turn? Ever since I met Jake and Ryan, Jake had always been helping Ryan out of some hole. Even if it wasn't Jake's mess, he still helped Ryan out of it. There had been so many nights where I'd had to ride with Jake to go pick up Ryan's brother, because Ryan was so upset about it he couldn't drive. Jake was always covering up Ryan and his brothers tracks.

Jake was talking in a low voice to Ryan, Daniel laying on the bathroom floor asleep. I crossed my arms over my chest.

Jake turned around and looked at me, suddenly walking over to me. He brushed my hair of my neck and cupped my face. "I'm sorry," He whispered.

He knew how I felt about always being second best. Because, that was how I felt. If Ryan or Daniel had a problem, Jake rushed to their side, leaving me behind.

I nodded my head. "You're going to his place," I stated, my voice barely audible. He didn't even have to answer, because I already knew he was.

He smoothed his thumb over my cheek. "I'm sorry, Sess. I'll make it up to you," He said, his face guilt stricken.

I shrugged. "It doesn't matter."

He kissed my lips sweetly. "It does matter. I love you, okay? I do. More than anything."

"I love you, too," I whispered.

Then, he kissed me one more time, picked Daniel up, and left with Ryan.

Okay. I have a lot of stuff to talk to you guys about.

Obviously I took down Crush. I'm sorry, I know you hate me. This story is not in any way related to The Donnovan's. I know. You hate me.

This chapter is really slow, but this story is SO good. It's one of the few stories I was REALLY pleased with. I have like five more chapters and I'll be done writing it, so updates should be frequent. I hope you guys enjoy it! Pictures will be up soon, same website as always.

beautifully southern . webs . com

(without the spaces)

REVIEW! Love you guys!