A knock on my door brought me out of my thoughts. I walked back through the balcony’s French doors, wondering who it was. No one came over this late. The hope that it was Bethy was brief and fleeting. When I opened the front door and saw Woods standing there, I knew Della hadn’t been able to keep what I’d said a secret. I knew deep down when I admitted it to her that she’d tell one person. The one person she told everything to. I accepted that. I stepped back and waved him inside.
     Woods didn’t speak as he stepped into the condo and walked into the living area.
     “She told you what I said.” I decided to get to the point of this visit.
     “She’s asleep and has no idea I’m here. But yes, she told me because she’s worried about you. And worried about Bethy. I’m here because I’m confused as hell. I’ve tried every fucking scenario in my head I could think of, and nothing makes sense. Eighteen? You left town when you were eighteen. Bethy would have been, what, sixteen?”
     I walked over to the open doors and stared outside, unable to look at him. Admitting this to Della was one thing, but telling Woods, Jace’s best friend, was another. I already had Bethy’s hatred to deal with. I didn’t want Woods’, too. Even if I deserved it. “The summer before I left,” I reminded him. “You were around. And you know how I was missing a lot. No one knew where I was or who I was with.”
    Woods blew out a breath and muttered a curse. “That was Bethy?”
     He remembered. I’d been so caught up in her, and I’d gotten into the habit of giving excuses whenever they wanted to hang out. “Yeah,” I said simply.
     “Holy fuck. I can’t believe that was Bethy.”
     “I was coming back for her when I could. But she was too young, and I’d have ended up in jail if we’d been caught. She was my secret. I almost didn’t leave because of her. But then my dad found out and made it very clear that my time in Rosemary Beach was over. I’d spend the school year at Yale and my summers in Manhattan at the firm. If I stayed, I’d lose her. If I ran, then I had a chance of coming back for her.”
     Woods didn’t respond at first.

     This was a secret I’d carried for a long time. It was one that had changed everything for me. I understood that. I was ready to accept it. If everyone hated me, then I’d deal with that, too. All that mattered now was that I watched over Bethy. She was all I had left.

     “Jace was going to ask her to marry him,” Woods said finally.

     “I know. He was the better man. He was going to give her the life she deserved, and I wanted that for her. I wanted her happy. I wanted her to have a life she was meant for. She loved him. That’s what mattered. I was her past. A past she hates now.”

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     Woods walked over to stand beside me. “He never knew?”
     I shook my head. “No. There was no reason to tell him. Bethy was his. I’d lost her long ago.”
     “But you love her.”
“More than my next breath,” I replied.
“Shit,” Woods muttered.