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Through the Layers (Rumor Has It series Book 4) by RH Tucker (1)

Chapter 1

Micah

What’s the saying? ‘Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, I’m a complete and utter moron’? I know that’s not it, but it might as well be. I hear them inside. I know it’s her because her two roommates have class right now.

I’m not devastated. Not like I was a year ago when we only had a few months until we graduated high school. Everyone says high school sweethearts never last, but I know they do. My parents are high school sweethearts. So I know it’s more than possible. Just like I know following your dreams isn’t a lost cause because that’s what my dad did. He got the girl he wanted, the family he wanted, even the dream job he always wanted. Impossible dreams can come true. But right now I couldn’t give a shit about any of that.

It’s her birthday today. So here I am, standing outside of her apartment, a bouquet of her favorite flowers—daffodils—because I thought I’d surprise her. I guess the surprise is on me. To be fair, I shouldn’t be surprised at all.

I think about calling her, seeing what her response will be if I say I want to stop by. Would she even answer the phone? Then I think about just gently knocking, acting like I didn’t hear anything yet, trying to stay calm. But I don’t do either of those things. Instead, I slam my fist into the door, striking it as hard as I can. The noise inside stops.

I wait patiently, wondering if she’s going to answer. First I hear whispers, then the door unlocks, barely opening. Her eyes widen for a split-second. She tries to cover it up, placing her hand over her mouth like she’s yawning.

“Micah? Wh-what are you doing here?”

I let out an incredulous chuckle. “Wow, really?”

“What?”

“Lana, it’s your birthday.”

She bites her bottom lip. That used to be a turn on. “I know that. You should’ve called.”

“Yeah, but I wanted to surprise you.” I lift the bouquet up to her. “But it sounds like you already got your birthday surprise today.”

“What are you—”

I press on the door. She tries to block it from opening, so I push hard enough that she has to take a step back. The door swings open and I see a guy who has his shirt halfway on. He stares at me like a deer caught in headlights.

“Don’t worry, bro, I’m not staying,” I say, glaring at him before returning my attention to Lana. “You two can finish up your little birthday treat. Have a nice life.” I throw the flowers in her face, before turning around and walking down the stairs.

“Micah! No, wait, Micah!”

Like I said, I’m not devastated. I caught her cheating before. Now, I’m just pissed off. And as furious as I am at her, I’m even angrier at myself. How could I be so stupid? What did Taylor tell me when I said we were getting back together? Once a cheater, always a cheater? I know when he finds out he won’t laugh in my face, but he might as well. And while he’s at it, he can scream at the top of his lungs, ‘I told you so’ because he did.

“Please, Micah. Please, wait. Don’t leave.”

She grabs my arm as I make it to the bottom of the stairs. I pull it away from her, so she gets in front of me.

Lana’s gorgeous. Just a little shorter than me, she always liked that I was six-two. She said being five-ten meant she was a giant for a girl. Her hair, platinum blonde, always seems to shimmer in the sun. But it just pisses me off right now because it’s messy. That dickhead was probably running his hands through it. She’s fair skinned with full, pink lips, which she always used to her advantage. Yeah, she’s gorgeous. Not my type, something my friends always reminded me of back in high school, but she’s absolutely stunning.

She brings her hands up to my face, stepping closer. “No, please. Please, don’t go. I’m sorry. I screwed up. I’m so, so sorry.”

Her eyes start watering, and the tears fall. She begged and pleaded the summer after we graduated. She cried her eyes out. And I believed her. She told me it was a mistake when I caught her with some guy. That she was drunk and high. At the beginning of our first semester, she was still pleading with me. She’d call me every day. Sent text messages. And even though I believed her, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to get back with her. As much as I wanted to emulate my parents—my father—I couldn’t get the sight of catching her with some guy out of my head.

But then Christmas rolled around. And New Years. She was still calling me, begging for another chance.

Taylor and I went to a New Year’s Eve party, and she was there with a couple friends. Again she begged. She promised it was a one-time thing and that she hadn’t so much as gone out on a date with anyone since it happened. When the party started, I was still resolute. But by the time it ended, and a New Year began, things changed. I could say it was the drinks in me at the party. I could blame it on me telling myself “one more time, for old time’s sake” before we slept together New Year’s Eve. But that’s only partially true. The other part was that I wanted to believe her. Believe that it was all a mistake. I wanted to believe we could still have a happily ever after.

So, New Year’s Day, we talked about it. I told her it wouldn’t be easy. That I’d need time, and I did, but that I did want to try again with her. I’m a dumbass.

“It’s not a mistake, Lana,” I say, bluntly.

“But it is.”

“No. It’s not.” She’s still crying. “You’re not drunk. You’re not high. You’re just being yourself.”

“No, that’s not it.” She wraps her arms around me. “Please, please you have to—”

“I don’t have to do shit.” She recoils from the words, looking at me like I just slapped her. “You did this. You can’t blame this on anything or anyone but yourself.” I reach up, prying her hands away from my neck. “It’s over.”

She doesn’t chase me this time.