From #1 New York Times bestselling author Colleen Hoover, a new novel about risking everything for love—and finding your heart somewhere between the truth and lies.
At age twenty-one, Auburn Reed has already lost everything important to her. In her fight to rebuild her shattered life, she has her goals in sight and there is no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.
For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is keeping a major secret from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.
To save their relationship, all Owen needs to do is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin.
Excerpt from CONFESS by Colleen Hoover
I pass through the hospital doors knowing it’ll be the last time.
On the elevator, I press the number three, watching it illuminate for the last time.
The doors open to the third floor and I smile at the nurse on duty, watching her expression as she pities me for the last time.
I pass the supply room and the chapel and the employee break room, all for the last time.
I continue down the hallway and keep my gaze forward and my heart brave as I tap lightly on his door, waiting to hear Adam invite me in for the very last time.
“Come in.” His voice is somehow still filled with hope, and I have no idea how.
He’s on his bed, lying on his back. When he sees me, he comforts me with his smile and lifts the blanket, inviting me to join him. The rail is already lowered, so I climb in beside him, wrap my arm over his chest, and lock our legs together. I bury my face into his neck, searching for his warmth, but I can’t find it.
He’s cold today.
He adjusts himself until we’re in our usual position with his left arm under me and his right arm over me, pulling me to him. It takes him a little more time to get comfortable than it usually does, and I notice his breathing increase with each small movement he makes.
I try not to notice these things, but it’s hard. I’m aware of his increased weakness, his slightly paler skin, the frailty in his voice. Every day during my allotted time with him, I can see that he’s slipping further away from me and there’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing anyone can do but watch it happen.
We’ve known for six months that it would end this way. Of course we all prayed for a miracle, but this isn’t the kind of miracle that happens in real life.
My eyes close when Adam’s chilled lips meet my forehead. I’ve told myself I’m not going to cry. I know that’s impossible, but I can at least do everything I can to forestall the tears.
“I’m so sad,” he whispers.
His words are so out of line with his usual positivity, but it comforts me. Of course I don’t want him to be sad, but I need him to be sad with me right now. “Me too.”
Our visits over the last few weeks have mostly been filled with a lot of laughter and conversation, no matter how forced. I don’t want this visit to be any different, but knowing it’s our last makes it impossible to find anything to laugh about. Or talk about. I just want to cry with him and scream about how unfair this is for us, but that would tarnish this memory.
When the doctors in Portland said there was nothing more they could do for him, his parents decided to transfer him to a hospital in Dallas. Not because they were hoping for a miracle, but because their entire family lives in Texas, and they thought it would be better if he could be near his brother and everyone else who loved him. Adam had moved to Portland with his parents just two months before we began dating a year ago.
The only way Adam would agree to return to Texas was if they allowed me to come, too. It was a battle finally getting both sets of parents to agree, but Adam argued that he was one dying, and he should be allowed to dictate who he’s with and what happens when that time comes.
It’s been five weeks now since I came to Dallas, and the two of us have run out of sympathy from both sets of parents. I was told I have to return to Portland immediately are my parents will be slapped with truancy charges. If it weren’t for that, his parents might have let me stay, but the last thing my parents need right now is legal issues.
My flight is today, and we’ve exhausted all other ideas for how I can convince them that I don’t need to be on that flight. I didn’t tell Adam this and I won’t, but last night after more pleas from me, his mother, Lydia, finally voiced her true opinion on the matter.
“You’re fifteen, Auburn. You think what you feel for him is real, but you’ll be over him in a month. Those of us who have loved him since the day he was born will have to suffer with his loss until the day we die. Those are the people he needs to be with right now.”
It’s a strange feeling when you know at fifteen that you just lived through the harshest words you’ll ever hear. I didn’t even know what to say to her. How can a fifteen-year-old girl defend her love when that love is dismissed by everyone? It’s impossible to defend yourself against inexperience and age. And maybe they’re right. Maybe we don’t know love like an adult knows love, but we sure as hell feel it. And right now, it feels imminently heartbreaking.
“How long before your flight?” Adam asks as his fingers delicately trace slow circles down my arm for the last time.
“Two hours. Your mother and Trey are downstairs waiting for me. She says we need to leave in ten minutes in order to make it on time.”
“Ten minutes,” he repeats softly. “That’s not enough time to share with you all the profound wisdom I’ve accrued while on my deathbed. I’ll need at least fifteen. Twenty, tops.”
“I laugh what is probably the most pathetic, sad laugh to ever leave my mouth. We both hear the despair in it and he holds me tighter, but not much tighter. He has very little strength even compared to yesterday. His hand soothes my head and he presses his lips into my hair. “I want to thank you, Auburn,” he says quietly. “For so many things. But first, I want to thank you for being just as pissed off as I am.”
Again, I laugh. He always has jokes, even when he knows they’re his last.
“You have to be more specific, Adam, because I’m pissed off about a whole hell of a lot right now.”
He loosens his grip from around me and makes a tremendous effort to roll toward me so that we’re facing each other. One could argue that his eyes are hazel, but they aren’t. They are layers of greens and browns, touching but never blending, creating the most intense, define pair of eyes that have ever looked in my direction. Eyes that were once the brightest part of him but are now too defeated by an untimely fate that is slowly draining the color right out of him.
“I’m referring specifically to how we’re both so pissed at Death for being such a greedy bastard. But I guess I’m also referring to our parents, for not understanding this. For not allowing me to have the one and only thing I want here with me.”
He’s right. I’m definitely pissed about both of those things. But we’ve been over it enough times in the last few days to know that we lost and they won. Right now I just want to focus on him and soak up every last ounce of his presence while I still have it.
“You said you have so many things to thank me for. What’s the next one?”
He smiles and brings his hand up to my face. His thumb brushes over my lips and it feels as if my heart lunges toward him in a desperate attempt to remain here while my empty shell is forced to fly back to Portland. “I want to thank you for letting me be your first,” he says. “And for being mine.”
His smiles briefly transforms him from a sixteen-year-old boy on his deathbed into a handsome, vibrant, full-of-life teenagy boy who is thinking about the first time he had sex.
His words, and his own reaction to his words, force an embarrassed smile to cross my face as I think back to that night. It was before we knew he would be moving back to Texas. We knew his prognosis at that point and we were still trying to accept it. We spent an entire evening discussing all the things we could have experience together if we had a possibility of forever. Traveling, marriage, kids (including what we would have named them), all the places we would have lived, and of course, sex.
We predicted that we would have had a phenomenal sex life, if given the change. Our sex life would have been the envy of all our friends. We would have made love every morning before we left for work and every night before we went to bed and sometimes in between.
We laughed about it, but the conversation soon grew quiet as we both realized that this was the one aspect of our relationship that we still had control over. Everything else about the future, we had no voice in, but we could possible have this one private thing that death could never take from us.
We didn’t even discuss it. We didn’t have to. As soon as he looked at me and I saw my own thoughts mirrored in his eyes, we began kissing and didn’t stop. We kissed while we undressed, we kissed while we touched, we kissed while we cried. We kissed until we were finished, and even then, we continued to kiss in celebration of the fact that we had won this one small battle against life and death and time. And we were still kissing when he held me afterward and told me he loved me.
Just like he’s holding and kissing me now. His hand is touching my neck and his lips are parting mine in what feels like the somber opening of a good-bye letter.
“Auburn,” his lips are whispering against mine. “I love you so much.”
I can taste my tears in our kiss and I hate that I’m ruining our good-bye with my weakness. He pulls away from my mouth and presses his forehead against mine. I’m struggling for more air than I even need, but my panic is setting in, burying itself in my soul and making it hard to think. The sadness feels like warmth creeping its way up my chest, creating an insurmountable pressure the closer it gets to my heart.
“Tell me something about yourself that no one else knows.” His voice is laced with his own tears as he looks down at me. “Something I can keep for myself.”
He asks this of me every day and every day I tell him something I’ve never said out loud before. I think it comforts him, knowing things about me that no one else will ever know. I close my eyes and think while his hands continue to run across all the areas of my skin he can reach.
“I’ve never told anyone what goes through my head when I fall asleep at night.”
His hand pauses on my shoulder. “What goes through your head?”
I open my eyes and look back into his. “I think about all the people I wish I could die instead of you.”
He doesn’t respond at first, but eventually his hand resumes its movements, tracing down my arm until he reaches my fingers. He slides his hand over mine. “I bet you don’t get very far.”
I force a soft smile and shake my head. “I do, though. I get really far. Sometimes I say every name I know, so I start saying names of people I’ve never even met in person before. I even make up names sometimes.”
Adam knows I don’t mean what I’m saying, but it makes him feel good to hear it. His thumb swipes away tears from my cheek and it makes me angry that I couldn’t even wait a whole ten minutes before crying.”
“I’m sorry, Adam. I tried really hard not to cry.”
His eyes grow soft with his response. “If you would have walked out of this room today without crying, it would have devastated me.”
I stop fighting it with those words. I fist his shirt in my hands and begin to sob against his chest while he olds me. Through my tears, I try to listen to his heart, wanting to curse his whole body for being so unheroic.
“I love you so much.” His voice is breathless and full of fear. “I’ll love you forever. Even when I can’t.”
My tears fall harder at his words. “And I’ll love you forever. Even when I shouldn’t.”
We cling to one another as we experience a sadness so excruciating, it makes it hard to want to live beyond it. I tell him I love him because I need him to know. I tell him I love him again. I keep saying it, more times than I’ve ever said it out loud. Every time I say it, he tells me right back. We say it so much that I’m not sure who’s repeating who by now, but we keep saying it, over and over, until his brother, Trey, touches my arm and tells me it’s time to go.
We’re still saying it as we kiss for the last time.
We’re still saying it as we hold on to each other.
We’re still saying it as we kiss for the last time again.
I’m still saying it . . .
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Meet the Author
Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Slammed, This Girl, Point of Retreat, Hopeless, Losing Hope, Finding Cinderella, Maybe Someday, Ugly Love, Maybe Not, and Confess. She lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. Please visit ColleenHoover.com.