Her stomach churned, thinking of the impending conversation. This would be difficult; there was no telling how he would act. She wasn't yet sure how she would act, either. She wasn't sure how she was supposed to break it to him. Her position was such a hard one to be placed into, but she couldn't imagine his would be much better. He was too young to be a father. She was too young to be a mother. But she had to stick by this. There was no doubt in her mind about giving birth to her baby; abortion – just the thought of it – made her sick. He, on the other hand, had his entire life ahead of him.

Maybe it would be best to avoid it. Maybe she should just let him go on, and live the life he had planned for himself. Living with the guilt of ruining his life would be worse than raising a child by herself. There was no doubt in her mind that she would be completely along; her dad would go ballistic when he found out. Gram and Brynna would be disappointed, and side with Dad. She might as well start packing her bags now. She would need them the moment they found out.

She was a disappointment to her family. An un-wed pregnant teenager: everything her father didn't want. Exactly what she was. At least graduation had come and gone. At least he wouldn't have to suffer through all the rumors. She would never be able to look him in the eye again. Not that he would want to look at her. She didn't want to look at herself.

Her head fell to her hands as the tears spurted to her eyes. Why did she have to deal with this? All her life she had strived to make her father proud, and to keep him there. Now, because of one little mistake, all her hard work was out the door, and so many lives were messed up. It wasn't fair. Her fingers dug into her scalp as she tried to think of an easy way out.

She didn't know how long she sat alone before the rustling of the hay bale she was perched on alerted her to a new being. She refused to lift her head to the other. After all, there were only two people it could be: Jake or Gram. Everyone, including Cody, was out on the range check the cattle.

"Sam," the deep voice rumbled, and she fought back a groan. Of course.

"What?" she mumbled, her hands muffling the sound. Why could she not have a moment of alone time? Why could she not be awarded ten minutes of solitude on the worst day of her life? She hadn't yet decided if she should tell Jake the news. Why did he have to show up now, of all times?

His hand touched her should, and she felt her spine stiffen. He must have felt her tense, because his hand withdrew almost immediately. She felt bead, of course, but it wasn't her feeling she was worried about not. "What's wrong?" he asked, concern clouding his voice. Of course he would make it that much harder. He would hate her if she told him. He would hate her for ruining his life, for ruining his future. It was her fault, after all. She was the one that had convinced him to participate in the activity. There was no way she could tell him what was wrong.

"I've got a major headache," she lied, hoping he would buy it. She didn't really expect him to. He always caught her lies.

"Then why are you crying?"

She hadn't noticed the silent tears trailing down her face until he mentioned it. She pulled her hands back to look at them. They were soaked.

"uh, uh, uh…" she trailed off, at a loss. Anything she said now would be immediately recognized as a lie. There was no way she could answer him. Maybe, if she just stayed quiet, he would give up and leave her alone. Fat chance. He was ten times as patient as she was, and there was no way she could out run him.

His large hand entered her field of vision and wrapped around her much smaller wrist. "Brat, you can tell me. You know that." What had gotten into him and possessed him to say so much in such a short amount of time? He had to be on the edge of his daily limit. Right? She sure hoped so.

"Not this time, I can't. I just can't tell you. This is my own mess up, Jake, and not even you can help me this time." There, now he would leave. He hated to be spoken to disrespectively, and that was as close as she could possibly manage.

But he didn't leave. Of course he didn't leave. The one time she wanted him gone, he refused to budge. Typical.

"Try me." The two words echoed in her ears, and she had to fight to restrain herself from telling him. She had to remember how important his dreams were to him. A baby would hinder them.

She wanted so bad to be rid of the terrible burden. She wanted her conscience to be clear, she wanted to be able to breathe again. She needed to tell someone, but definitely not Jake. Tonight, she would tell her family. They would solve her problems by kicking her out. Then she would have no choice but to leave. She would move far away, and remove herself from the lives of the people she loved. Maybe Aunt Sue would let her live with her long enough to save up enough money to move across the country. Kentucky sounded like a nice place to live. But she had heard nice things about Tennessee, too. "No, I can't."

Her wrist jerked from his hand before he could sway her, and she dashed from the barn and to the house. His eyes drilled into her back, and she almost stumbled. She almost went back. She was crazy to hide this from him.

The door slammed behind her, and she tripped up the stairs, passing an astonished Gram in the kitchen. Mere seconds after she locked her bedroom door behind her, she heard the soft click of the front door closing again. The voices of Jake and Gram rumbled through her floorboards. She threw herself on her bed and covered her head with her pilled. Anything to block them out.

Footsteps thudded up the stairs, and her heart pounded. No, no, no. why wouldn't they leave her alone? That was all she wanted! A heavy fist pounded against her door and she jumped. "Let me in, Sam. Please?" Jake never said please. Before she knew what she was doing, before she regained control of herself, she had launched herself off of her bed and half way across the room. But the door remained locked. She knew if she opened the door and took even a glance at him, she would tell him, and it would all be over.

Instead, she stopped in place, frozen. She lowered herself quietly to the floor and prayed he would give up. She prayed like his life depended on it. His life did depend on it.

Finally, night had fallen. Finally, Jake had left his post in the hallway and returned to his own home. Finally, her family had retreated to their warm, comfortable beds. Finally, she could pack her things and leave them to continue their lives in peace.

Her short letter shook in her hands as she read it once more:

"I'm sorry. I love you.


and taped it to the front of her door.

She almost dropped her duffle bag three times before she reached the front door. She almost forgot about the squeaky step, just a few from the bottom. She almost forgot to make a lightning fast detour to the barn to tell the horses goodbye. She almost didn't notice her stallion watching her progress from the wild side.

One more stop, and everything would be complete. The Ely's mailbox was at the farthest end of their driveway, so it was easy to leave her letter to him.

"I'm not sorry I love you.

Please don't look for me.


She felt her heart break when she laid it inside and turned her back on Three Ponies, and left the only man she would ever love behind.