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First pages

CHAPTER 1

“We’re going to have to bump you from first class to coach,” the bubbly brunette explained from behind the airline ticket counter. “You’ll be refunded the difference.”

“But I have a first class ticket,” I said politely, trying not to let my frustration show through. “I should be in first class.” It was the last four hundred dollars I had to my name - if I was going to bankrupt my savings, I planned to do it in style. “Can’t you bump someone else?”

“You’re the last one to check in,” she continued with a smile, “that’s just how it works.” I so badly wanted to wipe that annoyingly big grin off her face. There was nothing amusing about this situation. “Next guest,” she said motioning behind me.

Apparently this conversation was over.

I grabbed my oversized purse and slumped down in an uncomfortable torn pleather chair next to the jet way. I tied my long honey colored hair up in a tight ponytail and slid the sunglasses down from the top of my head over my eyes. Yeah, I was indoors - but this suited my mood. This entire agonizing week of my life was falling apart quickly.

Maybe my expectations were too big. After all, I was only twenty-three. But after giving up college for a career I was completely failing at, not to mention my crumbling relationship and the fact that I was about to be evicted from my studio apartment by the end of the month - it just felt like the world was giving up on me. Then, to top it all off, I got a call last night with news about my father’s ailing health. I just wanted to close my eyes and take a long nap, hopefully staying asleep until I was thirty and successful.

Ooooh, maybe that’s how I would strike it big - I could invent some type of hibernation capsule. You could push a button and not be let out until the world was finally ready to understand you and give you a chance.

And that’s why my life was currently crumbling - wasting all my brain power on dumb thoughts like that.

“Get it together, Whit,” I mumbled, leaning my head back against the chair. I closed my eyes, hoping to wish this entire day away.

My recent lack of sleep appeared to be catching up with me, and apparently I dozed off. I was startled awake by a splash of hot liquid cascading down my bare legs. I imagine I let out a squeaky, awkward scream, but I was too panicked to notice. I glanced down at my white sundress, now splattered with coffee. I raised up my sunglasses. A tall man with short brown hair and an unkempt stubbly beard frantically rummaged through his pockets with his free non-coffee holding hand.

“I am so sorry,” he said sincerely, “I swear I have napkins in here somewhere.” He continued searching.

“You keep spare napkins in your jogging pants?” I asked dryly, pointing to his thin black Under Armour attire.

“Yeah, I always have a few napkins on me for my dog,” he stated, reaching into the small black bag he had slung over his shoulder.

“You dump coffee on your dog that often, huh?” I snarled, not amused by this guy despite his athletic physique and flawlessly straight teeth.

“No,” he smiled, showing off his perfectly placed dimples. Of course, the clumsy jerk has a nice face. Why wouldn’t he? “The dog just has a bit of a drooling problem. Kind of like him.” He pointed to the old man sitting next to me, snoring in a deep sleep with his mouth hung wide open.

I couldn’t help but crack a smile, despite my annoyance at having coffee spilled all over my lap. I reached into my purse and pulled out a Kleenex. The damage was already done to my dress, there was no fixing that. I did however wipe the remaining drops of liquid off my tan legs. I’d had quite a bit of time in the sun lately thanks to my very part-time, meager employment status.

“I really am sorry. It’s a good story though, I promise,” he said reassuringly, finally locating a napkin in his bag. He held it out to me and I proceeded to dry off my cute, yet horrifically uncomfortable black heels.

“Let me guess, you just got out of the hospital after learning to walk again and it’s a miracle?” I speculated. “Or now that you’ve donated a kidney to an orphan in a third world country, your center of balance is off?”

“Well aren’t you a little bit cheeky,” he replied with an amused grin. “I like both of those options better than the real story, so pick whichever one makes me sound more noble. My name is Sawyer by the way,” he added, taking the seat across from me. “Sawyer Grant.”

“Oh, we’re getting acquainted now over this?” I said sarcastically. I still wanted to be irritated by this whole thing, but he had such a sweet, genuine look on his face that softened me. I still, however, wasn’t in the mood to talk to handsome strangers - especially athletic ones. His running pants somehow made me feel insanely guilty about not waking up earlier in the mornings for a workout. I didn’t need that kind of pressure in my life. “Well, I’m Whitley Rose, and I’m going to the restroom now,” I stated, gathering my bag while handing him the coffee soiled napkin. “With any luck I’ll smear this coffee stain even more and it will look like I’ve had an unfortunate incontinence issue by the time I return. What’s not to love about that?”

“You don’t want to hear me out? I don’t dump coffee on just anyone you know.”

I politely shook my head, wanting nothing more than to disappear.

“Please, let me at least buy you a new dress,” he insisted sincerely, standing up as I did. “There has to be a gift shop in this airport that sells dresses.”

“Thank you, but a ‘Welcome to Nashville’ dress isn’t really what I had in mind for my homecoming back to Nevada,” I teased. “Besides, I’ve already lived in Nashville for three years, and it hasn’t been all that welcoming to me,” I added before I could stop myself from rambling. I felt nervous while talking to him for some reason, though I wasn’t sure why, other than possibly the embarrassment of my soiled clothes. “I’ll suffer through it, but thanks for the offer.” I nodded courteously and made my way to the restroom. Eight paper towels and ten minutes under the hand dryer and I still had light brown splatters on my dress, but there wasn’t much else I could do about it. Everything about this trip was already a disaster, so I suspected this wardrobe mishap was just the icing on my tasteless, dysfunctional cake. I spent another few minutes trying to pick soppy paper towel remnants off of my dress, but finally gave up once I heard the overhead speakers announce boarding for my flight.

I grabbed my bag and handed the attendant my boarding pass, thankful not to run into Sawyer in the waiting area. Hopefully that meant we wouldn’t be sitting near each other. That was not what I needed.

I boarded the plane, glancing up as soon as I stepped into the aisle way. Lo and behold, my eyes locked with the same green ones I had been staring into fifteen minutes ago. Damn him. Sawyer was sitting in first class, his messy beard and jogging pants looking perfectly settled into the comfortable cushy seat. Probably my seat. After all I was bumped to coach for one of these smug people staring at me and my dirty dress.

“I really am sorry for the…” he began, but I cut him off quickly.

“Don’t mention it, it’s fine,” I huffed as I walked straight past him, walking shamefully all the way towards the back of the plane. Excellent. Right by the stinky bathroom. This day has finally peaked for me.

I checked my ticket, displeased to find that I was about to be smooshed into a middle seat sandwiched between two old ladies. This morning my plan was to give off some impression that I was well off and successful, on the chance I either ran into someone important from Nashville I could network with, or worse, in case I saw someone from back home. Instead this travel experience was far too comparable to my regular, subpar life. Luckily I didn’t see anyone I knew on the plane heading back to Mountain Ridge where I grew up. Also, I guess the back of the plane meant I wasn’t within ear shot of Sawyer, so that was a plus. It appeared my first class plane ticket would’ve been wasted anyway.

“Are you traveling for work, or heading out on vacation alone?” the old woman on my right asked. The ‘alone’ part seemed unnecessary.

“Family emergency,” I shrugged, not really in the mood for conversation.

“Oh, so you live in Nashville now then?” she continued. “How lovely, what do you do there?”

“I’m a songwriter,” I replied unenthusiastically. “Which means I’m a waitress. Don’t tell my mother,” I added dryly.

Usually I explained my life to people the way my overly optimistic mother did - as a successful songwriter, working with big country music stars - dating one in fact - with a beautiful apartment overlooking the city. On the surface, that was technically all true, which was why I never corrected her. The harsh reality, however, was less appealing. Yeah, I had a song picked up by a major label, and was fortunate enough to work with some people in the industry - and yes, I could see tips of the downtown skyline from my apartment window. But my song deal collapsed, I had no celebrities lined up to work with, and my apartment faced a park where I often watched homeless men urinate - so I wasn’t exactly living the dream. And my heartthrob country star boyfriend - that came with plenty of complications. I preferred my life story as my mom saw it, versus the stinging reality that I was nowhere close to ‘making it.’

I rubbed my hazel eyes, feeling exhausted after working until three in the morning at the dive bar across the street from my apartment. I’d only been working there for about six months, and I appreciated the income, but the schedule was really wearing on me. I took a sleeping pill and shut my eyes, hopeful to escape any further conversation about my disappointing life.

Hours later, I was being nudged by the old lady on my left. “We’ve landed. Time to get up,” she said cheerfully.

As the plane maneuvered its way to our gate, I pulled out a small compact mirror, assessing the state of my face. My eyes were a little puffy, but it wasn’t horrible. Mountain Ridge was a small beach town on the edge of Lake Tahoe. It was always full of tourists, especially since it was summer, but it was a small enough area that it felt impossible to remain unnoticed.

I was hoping to only be in town for a week or so until my dad’s health improved. When I got the call last night, they had yet to determine the full extent of my dad’s heart failure. They needed a few more tests before they could determine a course of action, but it sounded serious no less. My mother, no matter how positive she sounded about the entire thing, still had a hint of caution in her voice. It was that slight crackling in her words that convinced me to fly all the way home for an unexpected visit. Something seemed off. I knew if my mom reached a point of worry, the situation was likely far worse than what I was being told.

Even though I anticipated a quick trip, I doubted I would make it back to Nashville before running into at least a third of my past - some of it good, but most of it un-noteworthy. The only person I really wanted to see was my best friend Brie. I would be okay without seeing a single other familiar soul outside of her, my parents, and my annoying younger brother Warren.

As I exited the plane I let my long hair back down, thankful for the comfort I felt over somewhat hiding my face. I made my way to the baggage claim area, unsuccessfully avoiding another run in with the handsome jogger.

“First class, huh?” I stated as he walked up to me, apparently waiting for bags of his own.

“Why, do I not look the part?” he teased.

“Well your athletic pants and my assumption that you don’t own a razor led me to believe you were actually homeless,” I joked back.

“Maybe I am,” he mused. “Where are the good parks to sleep at in Mountain Ridge? I’ve never been here. I prefer a firm bench though, for my back.”

“Moonshine Park is my absolute favorite,” I replied, “but that’s my spot. So don’t even think about it.”

“So you’re homeless too?” he said with a boyish smirk, reaching out to grab a large black suitcase from the luggage belt.

I will be in less than two weeks when I can’t come up with my rent. My purple suitcase popped out of the carousel only a few bags behind his. I quickly grabbed it off the belt. “Only when I don’t want to stay home,” I politely grinned. “It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve slept there.” Again with the rambling… It had to end. “It was nice meeting you. Enjoy your stay in Mountain Ridge.”

I smiled and gave him a slight wave, heading away from him and out to the parking area. At least that was over. I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was about Sawyer that made me nervous. He was handsome, sure, but there were plenty of good looking guys in Nashville. Looks alone weren’t enough to fluster me the way he did. He seemed like a sincere guy - maybe that’s the part that caught me off guard. He acted genuinely apologetic about the coffee mishap, though I previously learned the hard way that it wasn’t too difficult for men to fake kindness. Either way, this was surely the last of our banter. Odds of us returning on the same flight were probably less than one percent according to my shoddy math, so I suppose I wouldn’t have to face anymore awkward nervous conversation with him.

I headed out the automatic double doors and spotted Brie’s red convertible down the way as soon as I stepped outside.

Before I made it down to her car, however, the exact scenario I wished to avoid became a reality.

“Whitley?” a male voice said from behind me. “Is that really you?”

I slowly turned around, preparing myself for fake conversation with someone I barely knew from years past. Maybe an old high school acquaintance, or someone from the lifeguard or ski resort jobs I held before I left town three years ago.

“Wesley Cartwright,” I said softly. I’m pretty sure the color drained from my face.

Of course. Not a former co-worker or an old acquaintance. Just the only guy I was madly in love with before I left. The one who gave me up. The one I moved across the country to get away from.

The worst part of it - he looked even better than he did the day he walked away from me.

CHAPTER 2

“I had no idea you were coming home,” he said smoothly in his familiar deep voice. His thick dark brown hair was short on the sides and perfectly combed on top. His light hazel eyes looked as inviting as they did all those years ago when they pulled me in. The only thing that had changed, as luck would have it, was his broad chest. He always had an athletic build, but his arms and torso looked so much bigger and firmer than I remembered. He no longer looked like the uncertain, love-struck boy I once knew.

“I didn’t expect to be back, it was last minute,” I began, not sure how much more I wanted to say. “I’ll probably only be here a day or two. A week tops. Are you coming back from somewhere?”

“Yeah, just a bachelor party in Vegas,” he shrugged. “You remember Joe Moreland? He’s getting married next month.”

“You still hang out with those guys?” I asked with an amused expression. It seemed like so much time had passed. I wasn’t really sure who all stayed in touch any more.

“Of course, why wouldn’t I? Not much has changed around here, for the rest of us,” he grinned. He had such a kind face, but yet I still heard a hint of animosity in his voice. The last thing I needed on this quick trip home was to be reminded of everything I left.

Two arms reached out from behind me, embracing me in a tight hug. I could tell by the high-pitched squeal that it was Brie.

“Look at you two together, it’s just like the good ‘ole days where I was always the unwelcome third wheel,” she teased. Her short blonde hair framed her face perfectly and her electric smile looked just like it did when we met as seven year olds. I turned around and hugged her tight, thankful for the interruption. “Do you need a ride Wes?” she asked politely. My brain begged him to say no.

“Thanks, but I have a ride,” he smiled, nodding courteously at both of us. “Nice to see you though, Whit. It’s been too long.” He flashed an innocent smile and we hugged awkwardly as I vowed to forget the way his firm arms felt wrapped around me. “If you need anything, my number’s still the same,” he said sweetly as I pulled away.

The guilt I held onto wanted me to believe it was an insult, like I wouldn’t know if it was the same number or not since it had been years since I dialed it. But that was the thing about Wes - he was one of the most genuine people I knew. Despite the way we left things years ago, I was certain he meant those words.

“Oh, and Brie, don’t forget about Nathan’s bonfire next week. If you’re still in town Whit, you should come by. Maybe we can catch up.” He nodded again with a casually confident smile and turned away, swinging his black duffle bag over his shoulder. He climbed into the passenger side of a dark SUV, and I couldn’t help but wonder who was driving.

“What was that about, you hang out with Wes?” I grilled Brie as we walked to her idling car.

“Not on a regular basis, obviously, but Mountain Ridge is a small town, Whit. We can’t all run away from our past life like you did,” she teased. “Trust me, every time I run into an ex at a Starbucks, I wish I had your life.”

I studied Brie as we climbed into her car. She was always so happy and bubbly. She had three main obsessions in life: Vodka, Taco Bell, and reality dating shows, in no particular order. She was a hair stylist at one of the trendy salons in town, so it made sense she would still be connected to so many people we used to know. We talked on the phone about once a week, but we rarely talked about other people unless I was recounting celebrity run-ins I had in Nashville. Considering she knew me better than anyone else in my life, I did feel somewhat ashamed of the fact that she didn’t necessarily know all of the boring-but-true details of my life. I didn’t want to withhold anything from her, but I had this insane longing to make her proud. Unfortunately my current life was nothing more than a letdown on anyone’s scale.

“So how’s Kip Bentley?” she questioned as we pulled out of the airport and onto the highway leading towards Mountain Ridge. I hated the anger that coursed through me at the mention of his fake name.

I never bothered to mention to her that his real name was Chris Jones. His “team” thought that was too boring for a rising country star though, thus ‘Kip Bentley’ was born. I hated the name. I was frustrated in so many ways by his duel identity.

“He’s great,” I replied. That part was true. I imagined he was enjoying his new relationship with his marketing manager. At least that’s how they appeared when I walked in on them pressed together in his home recording studio. “He’s on tour right now, doing some shows down south, so he couldn’t make it.” That part was only half-true. His tour didn’t start until next week, but he definitely wasn’t invited on this trip. “I’m not sure it’s going to work out between us anyway. He’s gone a lot, and I’m really busy,” I shrugged. In reality, I was devastated about the way we fell apart, but I was trying to hold it all together. I would obviously tell Brie everything soon enough, but I just needed to process it all first. The call about my dad was completely unexpected and out of the blue, and it really threw me for a loop. My head was spinning.

“Do you want me to take you to your parents’ place first, or straight to the hospital?” Brie asked, continuing to smoothly maneuver the car in and out of traffic. “Have you talked to your dad? How is he?”

“I spoke to him briefly last night, but I don’t really know what’s going on,” I answered truthfully. “The doctor indicated he was in pretty bad shape, but my dad was making jokes and my mom just called it a little ‘episode,’ whatever that means. But there was so much concern in her voice despite her words, and that’s what really shook me. I feel like no one is actually telling me anything. So I guess I should go to the hospital first.”

Brie flashed me a reassuring smile and we changed the conversation. We reminisced about old childhood stories and sang loudly to our favorite old songs. I felt like I was in a time capsule - carelessly driving around in a convertible with my best friend, singing at the top of our lungs with the wind in our hair. It was as if time stopped and we were sixteen again, with bad bang haircuts and no cares in the world. Oh what I would give to stay trapped in this moment. But the truth was, my life was so far away from this feeling.

We eventually pulled into the parking lot of Mountain Ridge Memorial Hospital and Brie parked right outside the main entrance.

“Do you want me to go up with you or do you want some time alone with your family?” she asked thoughtfully.

“I should probably go up alone, just to see what’s going on. Hopefully it’s nothing,” I shrugged. I tried sounding confident, but my voice wavered. “I’m exhausted, so I’ll probably crash early tonight, but maybe we can meet up tomorrow?”

“Call me if you need something,” Brie replied, reaching over to wrap me in a tight hug. “If anything, maybe I can cut your hair tomorrow and throw in some highlights. It’s so long I almost didn’t recognize you. Let me hack it up so you can’t be prettier than me,” she teased.

I smiled at her warmly and we let go of each other. “I could never compete with this face,” I joked back, tugging at her chin. She pushed me out of the car.

I waved goodbye to her as I rolled my small suitcase towards the hospital. The warm summer air felt good on my face and although I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to this trip back home, I wondered if it might settle my nerves in some way with everything else I had going on.

I made my way up the hospital elevator to the eighth floor, surprised by how eerily calm everything seemed. I hadn’t spent much time in any hospitals, but from what I saw on TV, they always seemed full of noise and chaos. Apparently this cardiac wing was the opposite of that.

I nonchalantly peered into the rooms with open doors as I passed. I mostly spotted elderly men with oxygen tanks and thick socks, lying in bed. The only sound I heard was rhythmic beeping, erratic beeping, and horrible infomercial sales pitches.

810. This was the room. I knocked softly and slowly entered. There were machines everywhere, ugly curtains, and an empty chair near the hospital bed. My mom must’ve been down in the cafeteria, getting some snacks, or perhaps pestering the doctors for more information on my dad’s condition. Other than the doctor explaining he was in congestive heart failure, I didn’t know much else.

I smiled as I saw the contents on top of the table next to the hospital bed - there were my dad’s glasses, his favorite leather journal, and a family picture of us from the beach taken before I moved. It was such a happy picture of us - splashing in the clear water on a bright summer day. We spent all of our summers that way. Well, until I moved away of course. The following year my younger brother also moved away, to an out of state college in Utah. My parents were supposed to be enjoying their life with children out of the nest - but instead here they were in the hospital, my dad only fifty-two.

I quietly approached the hospital bed, confused as I discovered there appeared to only be pillows underneath the sheets. Without warning, my dad jumped out from behind the curtain, making a loud grizzly noise while my mother popped up from behind a hospital couch, snapping a picture.

“Gotcha,” my dad said with a huge grin. He grabbed his mobile IV drip and reached out to hug me. I think I was still in shock.

“What’s going on here? I thought you were sick,” I huffed, baffled by whatever game they were playing. “I came all the way home and you’re not sick? What’s wrong with you guys? Mom made it sound serious, that’s a horrible thing to do!”

“Well it is serious, sweetheart, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun,” my dad shrugged, sitting down and climbing back into his hospital bed.

“You were crying on the phone when you first called, Mom,” I replied with a hint of anger in my voice. “You said this was serious. I spent a lot of money to fly out here as soon as I could.”

“It is serious,” my mom repeated as if I didn’t hear my dad. Her tone and expression finally turned a bit less jovial. “Your father is really sick. His heart is in bad shape.”

“And you’re jumping out behind curtains, scaring people?” I questioned. “Aside from all the tubes, you look perfectly fine. What’s really going on here?” I looked back and forth between both my parents, hoping there was a good, reasonable explanation for all of this.

“Well, we do need to have a serious conversation. The doctors say I’m not going to make it,” my dad stated quietly, finally losing the smile he held onto seconds earlier. He pulled a blanket over his legs. “They said this is it for me.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” I repeated several times as my parents just stared back at me with sad eyes. “You’re perfectly healthy. We Skyped last week and you said you were just winded from your afternoon hike.” I studied my father in the hospital bed before me. I don’t know what I expected to see when I walked in, but it certainly wasn’t this. Other than the medical equipment surrounding him, he looked exactly the same as when I last saw him six months prior on their last visit to Nashville.

“We thought it was some type of walking pneumonia,” my mom explained, settling in the chair next to my father’s bed. “They ran some tests though, and it’s far more serious than we thought.”

“I still don’t understand it,” I responded, shaking my head. “Did you have an actual heart attack or something? I saw all of these other patients up here, they’re all old and dying. They’re ancient, with purple skin and wispy white hair. You do not belong here.”

“It wasn’t a heart attack,” my dad replied calmly, shaking his head. “Apparently I have two bad valves that have caused my heart to work far harder than it’s supposed to, and it’s been swelling beyond belief over time without my knowledge. I need an aorta repaired too, but my heart is so enlarged from the stress it’s been under. It’s not an easy fix.”

“But there’s a fix, right?” I asked, not sure of what to make of all this information. Their reactions were confusing me. My dad made it sound like he was going to die, but my welcome into the room suggested the complete opposite. My head couldn’t make sense of it.

“I need surgery,” my dad continued. “But there’s only a five percent chance I’ll make it through that.” His eyes became a bit moist as he spoke, and I could finally tell by his face that this was in fact a very serious thing. “We’re not making a decision tonight,” he added, looking at my mom. “We want to wait until your brother gets in tomorrow and we’re still waiting to be seen by another surgeon for a second opinion.”

“Thank goodness,” I gasped, feeling at least a little relief. “So another surgeon might have a better prognosis.”

“No, the last guy refused to operate because the odds are too low. But if I don’t do anything, my odds are zero,” he shrugged. “So we need to figure out what to do.”

“Well they have to fix you,” I stated a little too loudly, as if that was an easy option he just detailed.

“They don’t think they can,” he replied, staring back at me. His eyes looked like they completely lost the spark they held before.

“What does that even mean?” I asked directly.

“That means this might be the end for me.” My dad’s eyes welled up as he said it, and my mom let out a soft cry.

I stared back at the two of them in disbelief, expecting to throw up at any given moment.

CHAPTER 3

I was awoken many times throughout the night by the erratic beeping of the machine next to my father’s bedside. It tracked his heartbeat, and I started getting lost in which sound I preferred. The silence of it jolted me awake, as I realized in those moments his heart was stopping periodically throughout the night, but the loud chaotic beeps startled me as well as I struggled to keep track of what it all meant in the darkness. My mom had gone home for the evening at our request. She seemed in denial and her face looked like a ghost - she desperately needed a good, quiet night of sleep to regroup before our meeting with the new surgeon in the morning. I, however, couldn’t leave. My heart ached a thousand different pains, and it felt like an anchor in my chest, pinning me to the uncomfortable vinyl pullout hospital couch.

I got up around seven, but stayed quiet so I wouldn’t wake my father. I headed out into the lobby area, just to be greeted by my past all over again.

“How is he?” Wesley asked, holding out a cup of coffee for me. For some reason I thought of Sawyer in that moment, grateful that this cup wasn’t spilled all over my clothes.

“What are you doing here at the hospital?” I asked, reaching out to take the cup from him. His presence caught me off guard.

“Marissa told me about your dad,” he replied quietly. He uncomfortably put his free hand into his jeans pocket, and his fitted red v-neck shirt made him look as handsome as he had when I ran into him yesterday at the airport. At the mention of Marissa’s name however, I wanted to slap him. “She works at the hospital, you know.”

“And how’s your engagement coming along?” I asked snidely. As if it wasn’t enough for him to give me up, he then went on to date and propose to a girl Brie and I used to be best friends with. I really didn’t mean to be so catty about it. I knew it was immature, but the whole thing really made my blood boil, even after all this time. You want your exes to pine after you and regret not holding on to you, or at the very least you want them to age poorly and become less attractive. Wes however didn’t lose any time moving on with her within weeks after I moved, and he was somehow getting better looking with time. All of it made me angry.

“I’m sure you already heard the story from Brie,” he shrugged, unaffected by my sarcasm. Of course I’d heard it all from her. Marissa was a nurse at the hospital, and Brie knew the whole scoop from some other medical staff who were regulars at her salon. Apparently Marissa had cheated on Wes with one of the doctors at the hospital. Actually, she’d been cheating on him most of their relationship. The genuinely kind side of my heart wanted to feel bad for him when I heard about it. He was a good guy who didn’t deserve that from her, as I’m sure he treated her well like he did me while we were together. But the way he abandoned me at the end, that left a bitter taste in my mouth, so I couldn’t help not sympathize more over his failed relationship.

“I know a bit about it,” I caved, not mean enough to make him recant the entire story to me.

“Well I just wanted to check on him, on you, to see how you’re all holding up.” He said it so sincerely that I believed him.

“I’m not sure what’s going on with him to be honest,” I replied.

“I wish I knew you were coming home,” he said quietly.

I wasn’t sure how to take that comment. “I’m not sure I’m glad to be home,” I answered truthfully. It felt weird being in a place I’d known all my life - it should’ve felt comfortable and familiar, but instead I felt like an outsider. “I hadn’t planned on coming back for awhile.”

“Too busy living the dream?” he asked casually.

“Something like that,” I murmured. I think that’s the part that made me feel out of place the most. I left here to become something, but I didn’t seem to be anything different than that uncertain, heartbroken girl who left this place three years ago.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Randileigh Kennedy grew up in Nevada and now resides in the Midwest. When she's not writing, she likes planning random theme parties, attempting (and often failing at) DIY projects, and swimming in the lake with her mini pig Kevin Bacon (true story). Find out more at www.randileighkennedy.com.

Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
Finding out my father was in heart failure was a bit of a shock for me. I wanted to tell his story as it was quite impactful for me, and this was a good way to deal with that experience.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
A.
I love - LOVE. I'm obsessed with reading love stories, watching love movies, and being in love. So getting to write about it is a bonus. :)
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
www.randileighkennedy.com

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