One friendship. One heartbreak. One messy past. One open-ended future. One chance to fix regrets. Multiple hurdles to jump.
I knew returning home was never going to be easy. I hurt people when I abruptly left seventeen years ago. I hurt my brothers. I hurt the woman I loved. I lost touch with everyone and have missed so much. But running away can’t last forever. It’s time to face my demons and fight for the one person I can no longer live without.
Everyone knows me as the lovable, bubbly, happy girl. It isn’t untrue. Years ago, I had my heart broken and have hidden just how much that moment destroyed me. Every day that we have been apart has felt like a piece has been missing from me. But when Rian returns, I can’t bring myself to trust her. I can’t pick up the pieces of me that she carelessly broke and pretend everything is okay again.
However, when a story drifts into dangerous territory and someone important gets caught in the crossfire, sometimes you have to let the past stay where it belongs and forge a new future. There will be missteps, and maybe some tears, but fate cannot be stopped.
So, what does fate have in store for us now, and what are the chances we will survive it?
“Sounds like you want to hang around here.”
“I do. I know I’m incredibly late on coming back here, but I do want to make Midsummer my home again. I’ve missed this place. I’ve missed you.”
I watch the impact my words have over Love, and they aren’t necessarily good. She looks gutted by my admission.
“I have to get back.” She holds up her hands that just have tape and no fliers left. “Thanks for keeping me company.”
“Of course. It’s been good to see you. I don’t suppose you’d be interested in hanging out again? I know I hurt you by leaving, but I’d appreciate the chance to tell you my story and, if you are open to it, becoming friends again.”
I want much more than friendship with Love, but I know I have to tread lightly. I have to gain Love’s trust again before I promise her more. If we don’t get this new foundation right, then we’re doomed before we get a chance to start.
Love doesn’t immediately respond, which has my heart jacking up in tempo, but soon, a smile graces her soft lips.
“I’d like that. I’m sure we can make some time next week. I’d love to hear about how the teaching goes. I might have a favor to ask of you.”
“Anything!” I quickly agree, knowing I would still do anything for Love. “And let’s lock next week in. Do you still have my number?”
Over the years, we emailed to keep in touch, though those emails turned few and far between in recent years.
“Will you actually leave your phone on? From memory, you were notorious for letting it die for weeks on end.”
“I traveled far and wide, often in places where electricity wasn’t common. I got used to living without it,” I admit, knowing I wasn’t the best at it when I was a teenager, either. I had to hide even having it from my parents, which meant I couldn’t always leave it out charging.
“Luckily, The Last Resort boasts electricity!”
“Yes, I was very impressed to see many outlets in my room. Very fancy.” I lightly elbow her and smile when she laughs.
“Yeah, I have your number. I’ll text you when I’m free.”
“I look forward to it.” I don’t exactly keep the wistful note out of my tone, and Love sure doesn’t miss it, given her widening eyes and the way they dart to my lips. She looks away quickly, but I catch it.
“It’s good to have you back.” She gives me another hug, though it’s less surprising, and I’m able to focus more on how it feels to have her in my arms and to have her body against mine.
I probably hold on too tightly and certainly for too long, but I can’t help it. I missed Love more than I ever realized, and being back, close to her, is like finally feeling fiery warmth after being out in a wintery storm for years.
She pulls away, and then I watch her walk back in the direction of the hotel. I get the feeling she wants some space, so I let her have it. I have a date to look forward to next week, and I need to make sure it goes off perfectly.
For now, I’m going to go off in search of Reed and tease him relentlessly about the fact that he’s going to be a father to twins.
Jessica lives in Adelaide, South Australia. When she is not writing, you can find her reading, napping or watching excessive amounts of TV. Connect with her on Facebook and Goodreads.
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