Bonus Scene: Caring and Conflict, a bonus Ian scene for Changes and Chocolates
As promised, here is your bonus scene for reaching 200 reviews on Changes and Chocolates. Because there was such a pivotal scene at the very end of the book for all of our characters, I decided to rewrite it from Ian’s point of view both to take you on the journey of what was going through his head that morning as well as to wish Elisabeth the very happiest of birthdays. She’s never given up on Ian. Not once. Please note that if you have not read Rules and Roses or Changes and Chocolates, this bonus scene will contain spoilers.
For Elisabeth.Chaos Coordinator. Wonderful friend. Champion cheerleader. Fabulous alpha reader. Sweetest person. Happy birthday. xoxo Heather
Frankie spent most of the first movie curled up next to me. As worried about her as I was, I couldn’t help but soak in her presence. The last few days had been hell. The dinner with her mother and Archie’s father had only served to shine a light on just how ugly and complicated this whole situation had become.
Even when she shifted to curl up with Coop, her head on his stomach. Jake started giving her a foot rub and what little oomph she’d had left after her brutal day just melted away. I barely paid attention to the film when so much of my attention lingered on her.
It lingered on the growing sadness in her eyes. The signs of loss as she worried at her lip. The long, deepening sighs as the world around her shifted. Some of those sighs were our fault. Directly. Indirectly. But the blame lay squarely on all of us.
Frankie had never responded to our flirting beyond friendship. Her friendship was worth more than any date I’d ever had. Yet at the same time, we’d assumed her lack of interest in directly or indirectly meant she didn’t want anyone.
Mistake number one.
Then we set the terms for who could or could not date her. If we couldn’t then no one could. As much as I wanted to tell myself it had everything to do with her happiness and her safety, a part of me couldn’t help but feel that it was also very much about our possessiveness. Even if we couldn’t be the ones to have her, we wouldn’t let her be anyone else’s.
She was our girl.
She always had been.
I cut a look at Archie. He leaned back against the chair, legs stretched out in front of him and his face turned toward the movie but his gaze was a thousand miles away. His father and Frankie’s mom. The whole thing was a convoluted and complicated mess. One made more so because Archie had taken the very first opportunity presented to stake his claim.
I hated it. Hated the fact I didn’t like the idea he’d made that choice for her even if I knew damn good and well, if Frankie had said no, he would have stopped. Yes, jealousy factored into that some and so did envy, but below all of that was an undercurrent of worry.
As excited as I was that she’d suddenly noticed us—noticed me—I couldn’t escape the very real feeling we were going to do her irreparable harm. Look what had happened already? She was getting hell from the girls and that was so fucking on us it wasn’t funny. It was also pissing me off that I couldn’t do anything about it.
Throw in the complication that Jake had his hat in the ring and her bed and we were going to take far too much advantage of the situation.
Fuck. I rubbed my eyes. The conversation I’d had with my father kept replaying over and over in my head. I needed to not hear him right now. When the movie was over, Coop scooped Frankie up before Jake could and then we were all piling into her room.
They snagged the bed, tucking her in between them, and she was so out she didn’t even wake up. Archie and I made good with the floor and one by one their breathing all evened out around me and I was left staring at the ceiling.
Staring at all the possibilities of what could go wrong if we mishandled this situation. Frankie wanted to date. She wanted all the “benefits’ of high school we’d been indulging in but she’d somehow missed out on. Dating. Sex. Parties. Fun.
Those words weren’t anathema to a girl like her, but they were a cry for help.
A cry I don’t think we’d all heard in the same ways. Frankie had drive like no other person I’d ever met. Her focus was unshakeable and her determination unwavering. When you earned her loyalty, she’d have your back to hell and back.
We’d all had her loyalty. We’d had her affection. Hell, we’d had her encouragement, zeal, and passion for what we wanted to do. I had it. She was one of the only people I played for. The only people I let hear my music. More, she was the only person who always encouraged me and seemed far more confident than I was that I could even do it.
Again, a wild benefit to her friendship—an utter and total belief in me that was so intense, it made me believe in myself. What had I given her in return?
Doubt. Loneliness. Exhaustion. And now—terror. Because the girls were going to keep on terrorizing her. They were angry that we’d finally admitted what we felt, but none of them should pretend we hadn’t felt this way the whole time.
I’d pretended. I’d tried with Sharon. Really tried, but the fact it took effort at all when being with Frankie was so effortless should have been my first clue.
We were going to fuck this up. We made up those rules, but it wasn’t enough. The ride toward loving her was something we’d all been on for years, only the crowded access and the fact she seemed oblivious to our feelings beyond friendship, had kept us in check.
Now we were all in a race to win her affection and cement our place. It was like some game of immortals. There could be only one. What happened when our jockeying for her attention pulled her apart?
Or worse, what else had we missed all those times we’d shut down other guys looking at her? What would we continue to cost her?
The very idea of hurting her was repulsive. But how were we not going to end up hurting her? Sure she could date all of us, but what if she only wanted one? Or worse—what if she ended up wanting none of us?
What if we all lost her? What if the cost of all of this dating was the destruction of years of friendship. This was the single concern she’d brought up over and over. She didn’t want to lose us.
Already what made all of us, us, was shifting. The very last thing I wanted to see happen was for Frankie to be hurt ever again.
More hurt was coming.
Something had to give.
I didn’t sleep all night as I wrestled with what to do. I could talk to the guys but I already knew their responses. Archie wouldn’t back off. Not when she’d already welcomed him into her bed and more, they were allying against their parents.
Jake? I loved him like a brother, but he charged ahead nearly as forcefully as Archie and Frankie was his dream come true.
Coop? He’d been here long before the rest of us and I had a feeling long after. That said, he went with the flow and that flow took him to Frankie. Why would he want to challenge that?
By the time I dragged myself out of the room and away from where she slept so soundly between the guys, I’d already admitted to myself that I knew the answer.
I’d known the answer for the last week but I didn’t want to admit it. She needed to be protected. She needed to be cherished. She needed to have her needs looked after. It would be difficult even for a lover with so much going on, but with a lover in competition with the others? I couldn’t afford to let my own possessiveness overwhelm what was good for her.
So if anyone took a step back, it needed to be me. She didn’t want to lose our friendships, then I had to fight to preserve them and if that cost me my shot with her but at the same time provided her with a safety net, then that was exactly what I would do.
Even knowing it was the right thing didn’t make it the easy one.
I didn’t want to walk away from her.
I didn’t want to lose the chance at being the one she picked.
At the same time, she needed us to look after her. Or maybe she just needed me. Fuck if her mother had ever bothered. I kind of understood why Coop hated her now. Still, it didn’t make it any easier when Frankie walked out, all rumpled and warm from sleep.
It grew almost impossible when she kissed me and wrapped her arms around me. I wanted so much to just soak her in and keep her there. I could win this race. I had…
No. It didn’t matter which of us won, in the end Frankie would be the one to lose and I couldn’t do that. Protecting her even if it hurt me was worth it.
Dad—Dad hadn’t been wrong when he said Frankie had been damaged by her mother. Probably damaged in ways we couldn’t see yet and that we could easily overwhelm her.
Sex didn’t always equal love. Sex definitely complicated things.
Didn’t mean I didn’t want to have it. But right now, I wanted her to have stability more than anything else.
When I left, it wasn’t easy and my heart burned with all the things I hadn’t said. There’d been confusion in her eyes and I needed to find a way to explain so she would understand. No matter what happened between us or didn’t, I was always going to be here for her.
The last thing I expected was to say it so badly or miscommunicate in any way. Yet that was exactly what I had done.
The day she officially broke up with me because she didn’t want the push and pull—it was already too late to repair my mistake.
Didn’t make me love her or want to fight for her any less. It just meant now I had a whole new battle to wage.
She was still my angel.
That was a hill I’d die on if necessary.
Maybe she’d forgive me some day.
Maybe then I could forgive myself.
Caring and concern should never hurt the one you loved. That need to protect her just grew even more fierce. More desperate.
We could fix this.
We had to.