Nova and Quinton: No Regrets


By Jessica Sorensen

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From the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Saving Quinton comes a story about giving in to love-body and soul . . .

Today is the first day of Quinton Carter’s new life. The toxic guilt of his past left him in pieces-but one girl unexpectedly put him back together. Thanks to Nova Reed, Quinton can finally see the world with clear eyes. She’s the reason his heart is still kicking behind the jagged scar on his chest. And he would love to have her in his arms every minute of the day . . . but he’s not ready yet.

Playing drums in a band and living with her best friends are just some of the highlights of Nova’s life. But the best new development? Talking to Quinton on the phone each night. She wishes she could touch him, kiss him, though she knows he needs time to heal. Yet shocking news is on the way-a reminder of life’s dark side-and Nova will need Quinton like he once needed her. Is he strong enough to take the final leap out of his broken past . . . and into Nova’s heart?


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Table of Contents

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Chapter One

Two months ago…

October 30, day one in the real world


I write until my hand hurts. Until my head is numb. It's the only outlet I have at the moment. My attempt at a replacement for the drugs I've done for years. But most days it can't fill even a small part of the void I feel inside me since I stopped pumping my body with poison, slowly killing myself. But there are a few times when it briefly instills a small amount of silence inside me, makes taking one breath, one step, one heartbeat, just a bit more bearable. And so I write, just to feel those few and far-between moments of peace.

Sometimes I feel like I've been reborn. Not in a religious way. But in the sense that it feels like part of me has died and I'm learning once again to live with the new, remaining parts of me. Some of which I don't like, parts that are ugly, broken, misshapen, and don't seem to quite fit right inside me. But my therapist and drug counselor are both trying to build me back up to a person that the pieces can fit into again.

I still don't know if it's possible. If I can live with a clear head, feel the sting of every emotion, the weight of my guilt, the heaviness of each breath, the way my heart beats steadily inside my chest. I'm trying, though, and I guess that's a start. I just hope the start can turn into more, but I'm not so sure yet.

"Quinton, are you ready?" Davis Mason, the supervisor of the Belvue Rehab Facility, enters my room, rapping on the doorframe.

I glance up from my notebook and nod, releasing a nervous breath trapped inside my chest. Today is the day that I'm going back into the real world, to live with my dad, no walls around me, no restrictions. It scares the shit out of me, to be out there, free to do whatever I want, without anyone watching me, guiding me. I'll be making decisions myself and I'm not sure if I'm ready for that.

"As ready as I'll ever be, I guess," I say, shutting my notebook and tossing it into my packed bag on the floor beside my feet. I aim to appear collected on the outside, but on the inside my heart is hammering about a million miles a minute, along with my thoughts. I can't believe this is happening. I can't believe I'm going out into the real world. Shit, I don't think I can do this. I can't. I want to stay here.

"You're going to do awesome," Davis assures me. "And you know if you need anyone to talk to, I'm totally here and we've got you set up with that sobriety support group and your dad got you a really good therapist to replace Charles."

When I first met Davis, I thought he was a patient at the drug facility, with his laid-back attitude and the casual plaid shirts and jeans he always wears, but it turned out he was the counselor that I'd be spending two months with during my recovery here. He's a pretty cool and oddly enough was once an addict, too, so he gets some of my struggles. Not all of them, though.

I get to my feet and pick up my bag. "I hope you're right."

"I'm always right about these things," he jokes, giving me an encouraging pat on the back as I head past him and out the door. "I can always tell the ones who are going to make it." He places two fingers to his temple. "I have a sixth sense for it."

I don't understand his optimism. I'd think he was this way with everyone, but he's not. I overheard him once talking to one of the nurses, saying he was worried about one of the guys leaving. But he seems sure I'm going to be okay and keeps telling everyone that. I'm not, though. I'm going to fall. I know it. Can feel it. See it. I'm terrified. I have no idea what's going to happen to me. In the next minute. The next step. The next moment. I'm feeling so many things it's hard to even think straight.

I swing the handle of my duffel bag over my shoulder and walk down the hall with Davis following behind. I say good-bye to a few people I met while I was here and actually developed friendships with. There's not a whole lot—it's hard to make friends when you have to focus so much on yourself.

After the brief farewells, I head to Charles's office, which is right beside the front section of the facility. Every time I'm in this part of the building, I get a peek at the outside world, the cars on the highway, the pine trees, the grass, the sky, the clouds. It always makes me want to lock the door and stay behind it for the rest of my life, because behind that door I feel safe. Protected from myself and all the scary things out there. Like the last two months. And now I'm about to go into the wild.

"Quinton, come on in." Charles waves me in when he notices me lingering in the doorway, staring at the exit door just to my right.

I tear my attention away from it and step into his office, a narrow room with a couple of wooden chairs, a desk, and scenic paintings on the walls. It's plain, with minimal distractions, which might be on purpose to force whoever is in here to focus on nothing but himself. I've had a few meltdowns in this room, a lot of them stemming from when Charles urged me to pour my heart and soul out about the accident and express how I felt about the deaths of Lexi and Ryder. I haven't talked about everything yet, but I'm sure I'll get there. One day. But for now I'm taking things one step at a time. Day by day.

"So today's the big day," he says, standing up from the chair behind his desk. He's a short man with a bad comb-over and wears a lot of suits with elbow patches. But he's nice and gets things in a way most people don't. I'm not sure if it's because of his PhD hanging on the wall or because maybe he's been through some rough shit. If he has, he never shared it with me. "This is about you," he always said whenever I tried to turn the conversation around on him. "And what you've been through." I hated him for it. Still do a little bit, because he opened a lot of fucking doors I thought I'd bolted shut. Stuff poured out of me and is still continuing to stream out of me, like a leaky faucet, one I can't get to turn off, but now I'm not sure I want to.

"Yeah, I guess so." I move to the center of the room and stand behind one of the chairs, gripping the back to hold myself up because my legs feel like two wet noodles.

He offers me a smile. "I know you're a little worried about how things are going to be out there, but I assure you that as long as you stick to everything we talked about, you're going to be okay. Just keep going to meetings and keep writing." He strolls around the desk and stops in front of me. "And keep working on talking to your father."

"I'll try to," I say with apprehension. "But it's a two-way street, so…" My father has visited a few times, and Charles mediated for us. Rocky would be one of the words to describe the time we spent talking. That and awkward and uneasy. But it helped break the ice enough that it's not completely and utterly terrible to know that I'm going to be living under the same roof with him again. Just terrible, maybe.

Charles puts a hand on my shoulder and looks me straight in the eye. "Don't try. Do." He always says this whenever someone shows doubt. Do. Do. Do.

"Okay, I'll talk to him," I say, but just because I will, doesn't mean my father is going to reciprocate. I barely know him anymore. No, scratch anymore. I've never known him, really, and it feels like I'm moving in with a stranger. But I can get through this. I am strong. I tell myself this over and over again.

"Good." Charles gives my shoulder a squeeze and then releases me. "And remember, I'm always here if you need someone to talk to." He takes a step back toward his desk. "You have my card with my number, right?"

I pat my pocket. "Yeah."

"Good. Call me if you ever need anything from me." He smiles. "And take care, Quinton."

"Thanks. You, too." I turn for the door, my chest squeezing tighter with every step I take. By the time I exit into the hallway, I'm on the verge of hyperventilating. But I keep moving. Breathing. Walking. Until I get into the lounge area near the doorway, where my father's waiting for me in one of the chairs in the corner of the room. He has his head tipped down and his glasses on as he reads the newspaper that's on his lap. He's wearing slacks and a nice shirt, probably the same clothes he wears to the office every day. He must have had to leave early to pick me up and I wonder how he feels about that, whether he's irritated like he always used to be with me or glad that I'm finally getting out. I guess that could be something we talk about in the car.

I don't say anything as I cross the room toward him. Sensing my presence, he glances up right as I stop in front of him.

He blinks a few times like I've surprised him with my appearance. "Oh, I didn't even see you walk out," he says, setting the newspaper aside on the table beside the chair. He glances at the clock on the wall as he rises to his feet. "Are you ready to go?"

I nod with my thumb hitched through the handle of my duffel bag. "Yeah, I think so."

"Okay then." He pats the sides of his legs awkwardly, glancing around the room like he thinks someone's going to come out and take me off his hands. Realizing that nothing is going to happen, that it's just him and me, he gives me a small smile, but it's forced. Then he heads for the door and I reluctantly follow. Ten steps later, I'm free. Just like that. It feels like it happens so fast. Faster than I can handle. One minute I'm saying good-bye and the next I'm walking out the door into the outside world and fresh air. There are no more walls to protect me, no people around me who get what I'm going through.

I just exist.

The first thing I notice is how bright it is. Not hot, but bright. The grass has also browned, along with the leaves on the trees. It's managed to turn from summer to fall during my two-month stay here and somehow I didn't even notice. I've been outside and everything, but not outside with freedom. It makes things feel different. Me feel different. Nervous. Unsteady. Like I'm about to fall down.

"Quinton, are you okay?" my father asks, assessing me as he removes his glasses, like that'll help him see what's going on inside my head or something. "You look like you're going to be sick."

"I'm fine." I squint at the general brightness of being outdoors. "It just feels a little weird being outside."

He offers me another tight smile, then looks away and starts toward the parking lot at the side of the building. I trail behind him, grasping the handle of my bag slung over my shoulder, the wind grazing my cheeks, and I note how unnatural it feels. Just like the cars driving up and down the highway that seem way too loud. Everything seems extremely intense, even the fresh air that fills my lungs.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, I make it to the car and get my seat belt secured over my shoulder. It grows quiet as my father turns on the ignition and the engine rumbles to life. Then we're driving up the gravel path toward the highway, leaving the rehab center behind in the distance, the place that for the last couple of months protected me from the world and the pain linked to it.

I stay quiet for most of the drive home and my dad seems pretty at ease with that at first, but then abruptly he starts slamming me with simple questions like if the heat is up enough or too much, and am I hungry, because he can stop and get me something to eat if I need him to.

I shake my head, picking at a hole in the knee of my jeans. "Dad, I promise I'm okay. You don't need to keep checking on me."

"Yeah, but…" He struggles for what to say as he grips the steering wheel, his knuckles whitening. "But you always said you were okay in the past but then after talking to you with Charles… it just seems like you needed to talk to me but you didn't."

He's probably thinking about how I told him, during one of our sessions, that I felt sort of responsible for my mother's death because he never seemed to want to have anything to do with me. He was shocked by my revelation and I was equally shocked that he didn't realize that's how I felt—at how differently we saw things.

"But I promise I'm okay right now." I ball my hands more tightly into fists the closer we get to the house. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. I can do this. The scary part is over, right? I'm sober now. "I just ate before we left and I'm warm, not hot or cold. Everything's good. I'm good." Which I am, for the most part.

He nods, satisfied, as he concentrates on the road. "Well, let me know if you need anything."

"Okay, I will." I direct my attention to the side window and watch the landscape blur by, gradually changing from trees to a field, then ultimately to houses as we pass through the outskirts of the city. Before I know it, we're entering my old neighborhood made up of cul-de-sacs and modest homes. It's where everything started, where everything changed, where I grew up and where I decided I was going to slowly kill myself with drugs. Each house I've passed a thousand times on foot, on bike, in the car, yet the surroundings feel so foreign to me and I feel so off-balance. The feeling only intensifies when we pass one of the houses I used to buy drugs from. I start wondering if they still deal or if that's changed. What if they do? What if I have drugs right on hand? Right there? Just blocks away from where I'm living? Can I handle it? I'm not sure. I'm not sure of anything at the moment, because I can't see five minutes into the future.

My adrenaline starts pumping relentlessly and no matter how hard I try to get my heart to settle down, I can't. It only beats faster when we pull into the driveway of my two-story home with blue shutters and white siding. I've been in this house more times than anywhere else in the world, yet it feels like I've never been here before. I'm not even sure that it ever really was my home, though, more simply a roof over my head. I'm not sure about anything anymore. Where I belong. What I should feel. Who I am.


But what am I going to be reborn into?

"Welcome home," my dad says, again with a taut smile. He parks the car in front of the shut garage and silences the engine.

"Thanks." I return his forced smile, hoping we're not going to pretend that everything is okay to each other all the time because it's going to drive me crazy.

He takes the keys out of the ignition while I get my bag out of the backseat, then we get out of the car and walk up the path to the front door, where he unlocks it and we step into the foyer. It hits me like a bag of bricks, slamming against my chest and knocking the wind out of me. This is bad. So bad. I needed more preparation for this. The memories, swirling in torturous circles inside my head. The good ones. The bad ones. The ones connected to my childhood. Lexi. It's too much and I want to run out the door and track down one of my old pothead friends, see if they're still into drugs, and if I can get something—anything—to take away the emotions swirling around inside me.





I suck in a sharp breath and then turn for the stairs, telling myself to be stronger than this. "I'm going to go unpack," I say as I head up the stairs.

"Okay." My dad drops the keys down on the table by the front door, below a picture hanging on the wall of my mother and him on their wedding day. He looks happy in it, an emotion I've rarely seen from him. "Do you want anything in particular for dinner?"

"Anything sounds good." I remember how many days I could go without eating dinner when I was fueling my body with crystal and smack. Getting healthy was actually part of my recovery over the last two months. Exercising. Eating. Thinking healthy. I actually chose to get some tests done just to see how bad my health was, if I'd done any permanent damage to my body with the use of needles. Like HIV or hepatitis. Everything came up negative and I guess I'm grateful for it now, but at the time I felt upset because disease seemed like the easy ticket out of the hellhole I was in coming off heroin and meth. I'd hoped that maybe I'd have something deadly and it'd kill me. Then I wouldn't have to face the world and my future. My guilt. The decision between going back to a world full of drugs and living.

When I reach the top of the stairs, I veer down the hallway, walking to the end of it to my room. I enter gradually, knowing that when I get in there a lot of stuff I've been running from is going to emerge. I thought about asking my dad to clean everything out for me: the photos, my drawings, anything related to the past. But my therapist said it might be good for me to do it because it could be the start of giving myself closure. I hope he's right. I hope he's right about a lot of things, otherwise I'm going to break apart.

I hold on to the doorknob for probably about ten minutes before I get the courage to turn it and open the door. As I enter and step over the threshold, I want to run away. I'd forgotten how many pictures I had of Lexi on the walls. Not just ones I drew. Actually photos of her laughing, smiling, hugging me. The ones I'm in with her, I look so happy, so different, so free. So unfamiliar. Less scarred. I don't even know who that person is anymore or if I'll ever be him again.

There are also a few pictures of my mother, ones my grandmother gave me before she passed away. Some of them were taken when my dad and mom first married, and I even have one from when she was pregnant with me, her last few months alive before she'd pass away bringing me into this world. The only pictures of her and me together. She looks a lot like me: brown hair and the same brown eyes. I was told a lot by my grandmother that we shared the same smile, but I haven't smiled for real in ages so I'm not sure if it still looks like hers.

I manage to get a smile on my mouth as I look at a photo of her giving an exaggerated grin to the camera. It makes me feel kind of happy, which makes me sad that I'm supposed to take them down. It's what I've been taught over the last few months, let go of the past. But I need just a few more minutes with them.

After I take each one in, breathing through the immense amount of emotional pain crushing me, I drop my bag onto the floor and wander over to a stack of sketches on my dresser. I lost my most recent drawings when the apartment burned down, and this is pretty much all that's left. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. One thing's for sure, I'm glad I don't have any of my self-portraits. In fact, I hope I never have to see myself look the way I did two months ago. I remember when I first looked in the mirror right after I got to rehab. Skeletal. The walking dead. That's what I looked like.

There's a mirror on the wall to the side of me and I step up to it. I look so different now, my skin has more color to it, my brown eyes aren't bloodshot or dazed. My cheeks are filled out instead of sunken in, my arms are lean, my whole body more in shape. My brown hair is cropped short and my face is shaven. I look alive instead of like a ghost. I look like someone I used to know and am afraid to be again. I look like Quinton.

I swallow hard and turn away from my reflection and back toward my sketches. I fan through a few of the top ones, which turn out to be of Lexi. I remember how much I used to draw her, even after she died. But during the last few months of tumbling toward rock bottom, I started drawing someone else. A person I haven't seen in two months or talked to. Nova Reed. I haven't talked to her since I got on a plane to go to rehab. I wrote her a few times, but then never sent the letters, too afraid to tell her everything I have to say, too terrified to express emotions I'm pretty sure I'm not ready to deal with just yet. She tried to call me a few times at the facility, but I couldn't bring myself to talk to her. A month ago she wrote me a letter and it's in the back of my notebook, waiting to be opened. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to do it. Face her. Be forced to let her go if that's what she wants. I wouldn't blame her if she did. After everything that I put her through—having to visit me in that shithole I called home, my mood swings, the drug dealers threatening her.

Blowing out a heavy sigh, I get my notebook and a pencil out of my bag, then flop down on the bed. I open the notebook up to a clean sheet of paper and decide which I want to do more, write or draw. They're both therapeutic, although I'm way better at drawing. After some debating, I put the pencil to the paper and start drawing. I know where it's headed the moment I form the first line. I lost all my drawings of Nova when the apartment burned down. Not a single one remains. It's like the memory of her is gone. But I don't want it to be gone—I don't want her to be gone. I want to remember her. How good she was to me. How she made me feel alive, even when I fought it. How I'm pretty sure I love her, but I'm still trying to figure that out for sure, just like I'm trying to figure out everything else, like where I belong in this world and if I belong in this world. Everyone keeps telling me yes—that I belong here. That what happened in the accident wasn't my fault. That yes, I was driving too fast, but the other car was, too, and took the turn too wide. And that Lexi shouldn't have been hanging out the window. And I want to believe that's true, that perhaps it wasn't my fault entirely. That's the difference between now and a couple of months ago, but it's hard to let go of something I've been clutching for the last two years—my guilt. I need to find a reason to let it go and to make life worth living in such a way that I don't have to dope my body up just to make it through the day.

I need something to live for, but at the moment I'm not sure what the hell that is or if it even exists.

Chapter Two


"I sometimes sit in the quad and watch the people walk by. It probably sounds creepy but it's not. I'm just observing. Human nature. What people do. How they act. But it's more than that. If I look close enough, I can sometimes tell when someone is going through something painful. Maybe a breakup. Perhaps they just lost their job. Or maybe they've lost a loved one. Perhaps they're suffering in silence, lost in a sea of questions, of what-ifs. Pain. Loss. Remorse." I shift in the bench that's centered in the quad yard as my back starts to hurt. I've been sitting out here for hours, recording myself, watching the people walk by. What I really want to do is run out there and stop each one. Ask them their story. Listen. Hear it. If they need consoling, I could do it. In fact, that's what I want to do. Be able to help people. I just wish I could somehow figure out a way to do it through filming.

"Death. It's around more than people realize. Because no one ever wants to talk about it or hear about it. It's too sad. Too painful. Too hard. The list of reasons is endless." The wind gusts up from behind me, causing leaves to circle around my head and strands of my hair to veil my face. The fall air gets chilly in Idaho during this time of year and I forgot to bring my jacket.

Shivering, I get to my feet and collect my bag. After putting my camera away, I start back to the apartment, picking up the pace when I realize how late it is and that I should have been home already. Today is actually a very big and important day. Not because I have a calculus test or had to turn in one of my mini video clips for my film class. Nope. Today is important because Quinton was released from the drug facility. It's not information I learned directly from him. Sadly, I haven't even spoken to him since the day he got on the plane with his father and headed back to Seattle to get help. But I have other sources to get me information. Tristan sources, to be exact.

Tristan is Quinton's cousin and he just happens to be my roommate. They talk occasionally on the phone and I think he hears stuff from his parents, but that's mainly negative stuff, since Tristan's parents still blame Quinton for the car accident that killed their daughter, Ryder. It's a messed-up situation, but I don't think it's ever going to change. Tristan agrees. He told me once that he doesn't believe his parents will ever let their blame go, that they have to hold on to it in order to live each day, no matter how fucked up it is. But thankfully, Tristan is a good guy and tries to make up for it by being Quinton's friend and forgiving him.

Forgiveness. If only more people could do it. Then maybe there'd be less pain in the world.

When I walk into the house, it smells of vanilla, the scent flowing from a candle burning on the kitchen countertop. There's a stack of magazines by the front door, along with the mail. And Tristan is sitting on the sofa, staring at his phone as if it's the enemy.

"Hey," I say, dropping my bag to the floor. "Are you ready to call him?"

"I feel like a narc," Tristan gripes as I plop down on the sofa beside him.

I give him a friendly pat on his leg. "But I assure you, you're not."

He narrows his eyes at me, pretending he's mad, but I know him enough now to know he's not. Just a little annoyed. "But I sort of am, seeing as how I'm calling him, but only so I can get information for you."

"But you want to know, too," I remind him, grabbing a handful of Skittles out of the candy bowl on the coffee table. "What he's going to do—if he's okay. If he needs anything now that he's out."

"Yeah, but I'm not even sure he'll talk to me since he barely would in rehab," he says as I pour the Skittles into my mouth.

I stop chewing and pull a pouty face and clasp my hands in front of me. "Pretty please."

He shakes his head and then swipes his finger across the screen. "Fine, but I'm only doing this because you let me live here and because your pouty faces are ridiculously hard to say no to."

"You don't owe me for living here," I say reassuringly. "And you pay rent, so this apartment is as much yours as it is mine."

"But you take care of me," he says as he pushes buttons on his phone. "And keep me out of trouble."

"And you're such a good boy about it." I pat his head like he's a dog, although he's much cuter than a dog. His blond hair, blue eyes, and smile make him seem like he belongs in a boy band, all perfect and charming. But his past is dark. Haunted. Full of mistakes and addiction, something he struggles with every day.

"I'm not a dog, Nova." He gives me a dirty look for the head pat and then gets up from the sofa with the phone pressed to his ear, rounding the coffee table and heading toward the hallway.

"Hey, where are you going?" I call out after him, slanting over the arm of the chair and peering down the hallway at him.


  • "Beautifully written."—RT Book Reviews on Breaking Nova
  • "Romantic, suspenseful and well written---this is a story you won't want to put down."—RT Book Reviews on The Coincidence of Callie & Kayden
  • "Sorensen's portrayal of... relationships and long-distance love, as well as the longing to escape one's past, raises her above her new adult peers."—RT Book Reviews on The Secret of Ella and Micha

On Sale
Apr 7, 2015
Page Count
368 pages

Jessica Sorensen

About the Author

Jessica Sorensen is a #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who lives with her husband and three kids in Idaho. When she’s not writing, she spends her time reading and hanging out with her family.

You can learn more at:
Twitter @jessFallenStar

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