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The Game Changer (The Perfect Game #2)

By:J. Sterling

everyone to see and judge. And trust me, everyone had an opinion about your breakup."

I cringed. Just hearing this was painful enough; I couldn't imagine my girl having to live through it. "I had no idea that was happening or I would have done something to stop it. I would have made sure no one ever said another negative word to her again."

"I'm not telling you this to make you feel bad, Jack. I'm telling you this so you'll understand the repercussions your actions had on her. You made the mistake, but she had to pay for it."

I dropped my head into my hands and pulled at my hair in frustration, my fingers twisting the strands as I fought back the tears forming in my eyes.

"You broke her, Jack." Melissa added the final blow as my stomach dropped to my feet. I'd hurt Cassie in ways I'd never imagined. Ways I'd never meant to. Ways I'd never be able to forgive myself for.

"I broke me too," I admitted, brushing away the lone tear that dared sneak down my face.

"Jack, look." Melissa sat down across from me and folded her arms on the table. "I love you, I really do. But you have to let her go do this."

My chest constricted with the truth of her words as I swallowed hard. "I want her back. I need her. It's either Cassie for me or no one."

"I'm not the one you have to convince." She reached out her hand, her fingertips brushing over my knuckles before I pulled away.

I ripped my gaze from her bright blue eyes and glanced at my brother. "I know."

"She still loves you," Dean said, before taking a pull from his bottle of water. My eyes narrowed and he reacted with, "What? You don't believe that? She does."

"It's not about whether or not Cassie loves him," Melissa said.

"It's a little bit about that, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation," Dean said with a smile.

"Have you even been paying attention?" she teased, her hair bouncing along her shoulders as she shook her head.

"Dean's right," I said. "I mean, I wouldn't have a fighting chance if she didn't love me anymore."

"So, what are you gonna do?" Melissa's expression challenged me.

"First, I'm going to get that marriage annulled. Then I'm going to hop on a plane to New York and get my girl back," I said with newfound determination.

"How?" she asked.

I ran my hand through my hair and let out a huff. "I don't know yet."

Uncertainty lingered in the air, awkward in its silence. Pressure gnawed at me, insisting that this time I get it right. If I was going after this girl and begging her for another chance, I'd better make sure it counted. Because if I messed this up, we'd be over for good. I knew at least that much.

"Can I use the bathroom?" I asked before standing, needing an excuse to go into Cassie's room, longing to be surrounded by any parts of her that she left.

"Of course."

"Can I use hers?" I don't know why I was asking if I could use Cassie's bathroom. What the hell was Melissa going to tell me-no? Like I'd listen to her even if she did.

"Uh, yeah," she said, with an eye roll she knew would annoy me.

I stepped into Cassie's bedroom and scanned the walls, my insides aching at the emptiness. All her photos were gone; there wasn't much left aside from her furniture. But then my eyes caught a glimpse of it, and my heart pounded out a ragged beat. I inched toward her bed, sitting down on the edge before reaching for her nightstand. The Mason jar filled with quarters sat there mocking me, almost filled to the top. The same one I'd given her, the quarters intended to "pay" her for every time I touched her. I flashed back to grabbing her arm the first time I saw her at the fraternity party that night. She ripped herself from my grip and practically shouted, "It costs fifty cents every time you touch me. Don't do it again." I wanted that sassy little mouth back in my life.

My eyes refocused on the Mason jar; the handwritten note that read "Kitten's Quarters" was still attached. She didn't take it with her. Why the fuck didn't she take it? This was a bad sign. She moved all the way across the freaking country and left a piece of us here. A very important piece.

The jar in my hands mocked me, boasting its fullness while my heart remained empty. I turned the glass with my fingers, running my thumb across its smooth surface. I thought about smashing it against the wall and watching it burst into a hundred pieces so it mirrored my fractured emotions, but knew I'd instantly regret it.

The roller coaster of my relationship with Cassie needed to stop. It's not that I wanted to get off the ride. I simply wanted it to be less like the bone-rattling, headache-inducing, rickety wooden roller coasters of the past, and more like the fluid smoothness of the state-of-the-art steel coasters of modern day.

I set the jar back in its place and walked out of her room, leaving what was left of my heart somewhere between the nightstand and the bedroom floor.

"How come some of her stuff's still here?" I stared into Melissa's blue eyes as I reentered the living room.

"We figured it would be easier to leave it here for now. We don't know how long she's staying there, and I'm not moving anytime soon. Besides, finding a fully furnished apartment in New York is easy."

"What do you mean that you don't know how long she's staying there?" I asked, eager for every piece of information I could gather about Cassie's future plans.

"She might hate living there. Or the job might not work out. She just didn't know for sure, you know?"

I nodded, averting my eyes as my mind replayed memories of being in this apartment with her. A quick vision of her in that white sundress before I brought her home to meet my family for the first time flashed in my head and I winced, squeezing my eyes shut against the sharp pain that followed.

"Are you OK?" Melissa's voice forced my eyes to reopen.

Swallowing hard, I said, "Just fighting ghosts.