Home > Southern Sunshine (Southern #8)

Southern Sunshine (Southern #8)
Author: Natasha Madison






"I can’t believe you’re leaving," my little sister, Harlow, says from beside me.

With a laugh, I look over at her. "You already came in and measured my room for your glam room," I remind her, and she rolls her eyes.

"Yeah." She crosses her arms over her chest. “Until Mom found out and started crying about her baby leaving." She shakes her head and fake vomits. I have this sudden twinge in my chest when I think about not being here anymore. "It’s annoying. They still have me."

She turns and walks back into the crowd of people. We are at Amelia’s bar celebrating Asher becoming a cop and me leaving. "There he is," Quinn says, putting his arm around me to slap my shoulder. He’s my older brother, and he followed in my cowboy father’s footsteps. It made following in his footsteps almost unbearable, especially since the last thing I wanted was to be on a farm. "Have you been drinking?" he asks, smelling the whiskey on me. "You aren’t even twenty-one." He smirks. “I’m telling Mom."

I shake my head, smirking back at him. “She was there when Grandpa gave it to me." I puff out my chest and fold my arms.

He groans. “Is she still crying?" He looks around the bar to see if he can spot her. “She called me all week to tell me that she misses me.” He puts his head back and exhales. “I live five minutes away from her." Grabbing his bottle of beer, he brings it to his mouth. “All kidding aside,” he says, “you stay fucking safe out there." He stands taller at six foot four to my six foot two, and where he is blond with blue eyes, I have black hair with blue eyes.

"I’ll try my best," I say, and he hugs me. “See you tomorrow morning." I know he’ll be at my house for the big breakfast my mother makes.

The rest of the night is spent saying goodbye to all my family. Lots of tears from some and then smiles from the rest. "Tonight was good,” I say, sitting at the bar watching Amelia and Asher clean up. Usually, I would be helping, but I gave up the job two weeks ago. "I mean, I got more lovin’ than I’m used to." I look over at Amelia and wink.

"Okay, big boy, time for you to go," Amelia says, putting down the rag she’s using to clean the bar.

I look around the empty bar, and all these emotions are hitting me. Emotions I’m shocked to feel. "Where the hell is Hazel?" I’ve known Hazel my whole life. Our grandfathers were even friends when they were in high school. Since she started working here a couple of months ago, we have been getting closer, but she is leaving for college in two months.

"She took the night off," Amelia says, not looking at me. “It was supposed to be just family and friends tonight. She didn’t want to impose, so I gave her the night off." The disappointment hits me more than I expected it to.

I tap my finger on the bar. "Okay, I’m out. See you all tomorrow.” Getting up, I walk out of the bar.

The hot air hits me right away. I start to take the path I’ve taken for the past two months that leads straight to Hazel’s house. I take my phone out of my pocket and text her.

Me: Where are you?

I wait for her to answer me, but all it says is delivered. I finally get to the clearing and see her house is all dark. Usually, her grandfather leaves a light on for her or waits up for her on the porch. This time, though, everything is off, but I still make my way over to her window. I don’t know if it’s the fact I’m leaving tomorrow or if it's the whiskey in me, but the urge to see her is strong. I pick up a little pebble and toss it at her window, missing it by a mile but hitting the wood.

I duck down in case her grandfather hears the noise and gets up to chase me with a shotgun. I think about picking up more rocks but then decide just to call her. Pulling out the phone from my pocket, I call her, and she answers in a groggy voice after the second ring.

"Hello," she grumbles.

"Hey," I say, smiling when I hear her voice. “It’s me."

"I have caller ID, Reed,” she says, and I hear the rustling of her covers. “What time is it?"

"A little after midnight," I say, looking up at her window. “Why didn’t you come to my party?" I ask.

"I don’t know. I thought it was for family. What difference does it make?"

"I’m outside," I say, my eyes never leaving her window.

"Outside where?" she asks. I hear her getting up and see a light coming toward the window. I see her silhouette, and I hold up my hand with a smile. “Oh my God,” she says, pushing her window up. “What the hell are you doing here?"

"I wanted to see you," I answer, then hang up the phone. “Come sit with me."

"It’s the middle of the night,” she huffs. “You are crazy, Reed."

"Spend my last night with me." I put my hands in my back pockets, and my heart starts to speed up as I look at her. She turns around and closes the window.

"Does that mean she’s coming?" I ask the universe, and a couple of minutes later, I hear the front door open softly. I walk over to the porch and see her quietly close the door behind her, the smile on my face hurting my cheeks when she looks over at me.

"What the hell?” she says, coming down the steps. She’s wearing shorts and a tank top with a flannel button-down tied around her waist. “Why couldn’t you just go home?" She steps closer to me. “What is that smell?" She scrunches up her nose, and I know her hazel eyes are browner at night than during the day. "Is that whiskey?"

I grab her hand and pull her with me toward her grandfather’s barn. “It’s my grandfather’s whiskey," I say as we walk side by side, her hand slipping out of mine. When I’ve walked her home the past couple of weeks, we would go into the barn and talk for most of the night. "We were celebrating." I look over at her as we walk through the grass toward the red barn. "You would know that had you shown up." I push her shoulder with mine.

She doesn’t look over at me. Instead, she continues to look down at the ground and shrugs. “Didn’t think it would be that big of a deal that I wasn’t there." Her voice is soft, and I slide the barn door open just enough for us to slip in. She makes her way over to the side and starts climbing the wooden ladder up to the loft. Nothing but hay and a flannel blanket are up there. “I should have worn pants," she says, going to sit down on the blanket, and all I see are her long legs as she crosses them. “This time tomorrow, you’ll be in a single bed."

I sit in front of her, my legs stretched sideways next to her, and lean back on my arms. “I know,” I say excitedly. “I can’t wait."

"So I’ve heard." She breaks into a huge smile. “You might have mentioned it a time or two." She lies down and looks up at the window. I lie down beside her, looking up at the stars.

"Aren’t you excited to leave?" I ask, and she just nods her head.

"But I’ll miss home,” she says softly. “I’ll miss my pops." She turns to look at me. “There has to be something you are going to miss."

"My family," I answer right away. “Without a doubt, that is the only thing I’ll miss from this town." I look back up at the twinkling stars in the sky. “I just don’t fit in," I tell her my deepest secret. “Being a farm boy is never the life I wanted, but it’s all I know." I look at her and see that she’s looking up at the stars. “Yet it’s what I hate the most." I turn back to look at the stars. "It’s suffocating."

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