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Authors: Meg Jolie

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BOOK: Holding On
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The gue
st list had grown a little longer than Quinn had anticipated but the extra large tent was sure to accommodate everyone. The photographer arrived from out of town and pictures commenced on time. The lake was, as Quinn had hoped, an amazing backdrop for the photos. The photos themselves seemed to take forever. But everyone dutifully complied with no complaints.

The bridesmaids all looked
astonishing and Luke, as Jake’s best man, looked stunning. The tension that had been evident between Luke and Quinn during the rehearsal had faded. Quinn wasn’t sure if she was the only one who thought it had been replaced by a feeling of melancholy instead.

That morning, all of the girls had gotten ready at the Johnson’s home. Jake had dropped Quinn off shortly after eight o’clock. The other girls hadn’t arrived yet so Carly had towed Quinn upstairs. In the privacy of Carly’s bedroom, Quinn had shared
the details from the conversations with Tabby and Luke. She’d shared with Carly and no one else. Carly had been supportive and sympathetic even as she’d pointed out what Quinn already knew. The past was in the past and there was no dwelling on it. Jake and the baby were Quinn’s future. There was no point in looking back.

By the time Jemma and Lily had arrived for the breakfast Margo had made, Quinn had resolved to do just that. She had a beautiful future ahead of her. She had every intention of holding on to it with all of her heart and soul.

The quartet of young ladies had gotten ready at the Johnson’s home and then met the young men at the park. Quinn thought that Luke seemed perhaps not happy but a bit more peaceful than he had the day before. Jake’s groomsmen Jesse and Shane, who were longtime friends of his, seemed to keep Luke preoccupied.

By the time the pictures were nearly wrapped up, Quinn was feeling worn out. The photographer had saved the pictures of the McGraths for last. So while Jake was busy having photos taken with his family, Quinn was free to do as she pleased for just a little while.

“You need to come sit in the shade,” Jemma said as she gently led her away. Lily scampered off to find Quinn something to drink.

“You two do not need to wait on me,” Quinn said with a smile.

“Of course we do. It’s your wedding day,” Jemma insisted.

“Where did Carly run off to?”
Quinn wondered aloud as Lily returned to her, carrying a bottle of water.

“Umm…well,” Lily began hesitantly. But her eyes wandered to the trail that led through the woods, giving her away.

Quinn rolled her eyes, even as she smiled. “Who did she sneak off with?” Jemma raised her eyebrows in amusement and Quinn groaned. “Jesse?” she guessed.

“Of course,” Jemma said with a wicked grin.

Jesse and Carly had a love hate relationship. Mostly, Carly loved to hate him. Or at the very least, deemed it necessary to hate him. They had a long, semi-sordid history that dated back to Carly’s freshman year of high school. Jesse had managed to relieve Carly of her virginity in the clichéd backseat of his car. Only a few weeks later, he’d moved on to someone new.

It was purely coincidental that he was one of Jake’s best friends. Over the years, Carly had become adept at toying with Jesse whenever the chance arose. She’d never forgiven him for what he’d done. Now that she was all grown up and
as gorgeous as ever, Quinn was sure that Jesse would like nothing more than to start something real with her. But Carly still held a grudge. She seemed forever intent on making him pay for the stupidity of his youth every chance she got.

Carly
, who was never shy about her exploits, become unusually tight lipped whenever Jesse was concerned. Quinn had always been sure that she let things go further with him on a regular basis than she would ever care to admit to. Quinn almost just wished that if Carly actually still had any type of feelings toward Jesse—other than the resentment she claimed to have—that she would just admit it. But Carly was stubborn and that didn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.

“We have about fifteen minutes before we should tuck Quinn away,” Lily announced. The guests would be arriving shortly. There was a small building on the premises and this was where the bridal party was to hide out until the actual ceremony.

“How’s my make-up?” Quinn wondered.

Jemma gave her a scrutinizing once-over. “Perfect, actually. I wouldn’t even try to touch it up if I were you. You might just end up overdoing it. Right now, it’s completely lovely.”

“It is,” Lily agreed. “Jemma was right yesterday when she said you were going to look like you stepped out of a fairy tale. You really do.”

“Thank you,” Quinn said. She was
sincerely grateful for their compliments.

She had been happy with the overall effect. From her simple satiny ballet flats (that no one would see) to the top of her tiara crowned head. Carly had swept up her hair and pinned it firmly in place. There was no danger of it being whipped about in the gentle breeze. A few romantic
, spiraling tendrils hung down. A simple pair of pearl earrings hung from her ears and a thin strand adorned her neck. Everything had looked just as she had hoped. Simplistic, yet elegant.

The enormous white canopy tent was set up with nearly a hundred white chairs beneath it.
At the end of each row was a brilliant sky blue bow, similar to the color of the bridesmaid’s dresses. Their bouquets were made up of pale pink roses.

“Did I miss anything?” Carly asked as she appeared in front of Quinn. She looked a little flushed and Quinn grinned at her sister.

“You didn’t miss anything. But is there something you want to fill me in on?” she asked sweetly. Her eyes darted around until she found Jesse. He was gazing longingly at Carly. When he spotted Quinn watching him, he quickly turned away.

Carly delicately cleared her throat. “No. Nothing at all,” she replied just as sweetly.

“Carly,” Lily said gently, “you need to put that man out of his misery. You do realize that as soon as he heard you weren’t bringing a date that he decided not to either, right?”

Carly blinked at Lily. Her eyes darted to Jesse but she quickly snapped her attention back to Lily
again. “I didn’t know. But I doubt it’s true.”

“It’s true,” Quinn chimed in with a big smile.

Carly shrugged, struggling to look unaffected.

Jemma laughed. “Just how long are you going to make him pay?”

This got a smile from Carly. “Forever. If I have anything to say about it.”

“Did it ever occur to you that you might be making yourself even more miserable than you’re making him?” Quinn wondered.

Carly hung her head down for a second and Quinn knew without a doubt that she was right.

“Whose side are you on, any
way?” Carly asked as she narrowed her eyes at her sister.

“I’m on whatever side brings a happy ending,” Quinn said decisively.

Carly shrugged and smiled. “I guess it’s just not my turn for a happy ending yet. And I’m okay with that. I’m young and I’m having fun and there’s no end in sight.”

“What is your mom doing?” Lily asked. The question was as much out of actual curiosity as it was an effort to take the attention away from Carly, who clearly wanted to change the subject.

Carly and Quinn looked around, catching sight of their mom. Margo was straightening the bows. Never mind that they were straight already. Pete was following along behind her. He was most likely simply humoring her and keeping her company.

“She’s just being Mom,” Carly said with a sigh.

Quinn noticed then that the McGraths’s photo session had ended. Jake had his back to her and he looked like he was in deep conversation with his dad. Luke…She caught a glimpse of Luke as he disappeared down the trail again. She slowly got to her feet.

“I think I’m going to go for a quick walk,” she said.

“We’ll come with,” Lily immediately volunteered.

“No…let’s just give her a few minutes alone,” Carly decided as she caught Quinn’s eye. She had seen Luke, too and knew exactly what was on her sister’s mind.

Quinn smiled gratefully. “I won’t be long.” She scampered off, her delicate shoes not making a sound as she quickly hurried to the trail. She lifted the edge of her dress to keep it off of the ground as she hurried through the short patch of woods. When the trail spit her out on the other side, she found Luke standing on the wooden look-out again. He had his back to her, his hands braced against the railing. He was looking out over the calming waters of the lake.

Quinn walked up behind him an
d put her arms around his waist in a backwards hug.

“Hey, Quinnie, back again?” he asked quietly. His hands fastened over hers but he didn’t look over his shoulder to greet her.

She rested her
cheek on his back, between his shoulder blades.

“How’s it going?” she
managed to ask. She’d caught a glimpse of his face before he’d darted down the trail. The sadness that was etched into his features was breaking her heart.

He sighed. “Oh, you know.

“I’m sorry,” she said as she continued to rest against him. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was sorry for. Just sorry that he was hurting. It seemed so surreal that
she
was the cause of it.

He
gently removed her hands from his waist. Then pushed himself off of the railing so he could turn to face her. Today, dressed almost identically, he looked so much like Jake. Jake was taller by an inch or two but Luke was broader. While Jake’s hair was a few shades darker, their eyes were the same deep brown. Their features were similar too. Not identical by any means. But unlike Quinn and Carly, they could easily be identified as siblings.

“Yesterday you asked me why I
never told you how I felt. I thought about it all night. I realized there’s only one answer to that question. You want to know why? Because I. Fucked. Up. That’s why. I mean, you wanted the answer,” he said quietly. “And that’s pretty much it. Right there’s the answer for both of us. I fucked up big time. I made a mistake and now…it’s too late to do anything about it.”

Quinn didn’t know what to say to that because he was right. Maybe not about fucking up, but about it being too late to do anything about it.
It twisted her heart into painful knots to realize that he may still want to do something about it.

“Don’t be mad, Quinn.
But there’s something I want to say to you,” he scrubbed his hand across his face and she waited patiently. “I’m just going to say this once because I have to get it off of my chest. Then I want both of us to forget about it. But this past year, seeing things get serious with you and Jake, I realized how completely I blew it. The way you look at him…you’ve never looked at anyone else like that. Before, I always just knew it wasn’t going to last with whoever you were with. So while I didn’t like it, I tried not to worry about it.” He shook his head and sighed without looking at her. “But with Jake it was so different. Right from the start and…I knew…I knew right away that I’d blown every chance I ever had right to hell. But I kept hoping anyway. I kept telling myself that if you two split up, I would be there for you. I feel like a bastard for saying it…but I was
waiting
for it to happen. I decided I wouldn’t drag my feet another second. I was done sitting on my ass. I’d go for what I always wanted.” He gave her a guilty look but she just continued to listen.

“Figures that when I finally get my shit together in my head, it’s too late.
I knew I’d already lost you for good but I wouldn’t admit it to myself. Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for both of you when it comes right down to it. I really am. I guess where I’m really going with this is…I just wanted to tell you that this past year, in the back of my head, I always thought there was still a chance. A slim chance, sure. But still a chance. So I’ve held on to that. But now,” he paused and took a deep breath, “you’re getting married. You’re starting a family. And I think it’s for the best. I guess in a way it’s bringing me closure. I know Jake believes marriage is forever. It should be. So I think maybe now I can finally let you go. In here, I mean,” he said as he tapped his head.


I miss you,” she said quietly after a few silent moments had filled the air.

He sighed. “I miss you too, Quinn
ie. But I just can’t…I mean, I’m trying to deal with this. But being around you two when you’re together it’s just…hard. I know I have to get used to it. Because this is it. You’re getting married today and you have a baby on the way. You’re marrying
my brother.
That means I’m going to see you two together at every holiday and family event for the rest of my life. So I know I need to just get over it. I need to move on,” he said as a self-deprecating laugh erupted from his mouth. “And maybe that’s what I need to have happen for me to finally get that there is no chance for us. Ever. I mean, you love my brother right?”

Of course I do. More than anything
, she thought. Yet she didn’t want to say it. Not if it would hurt Luke to hear it. Even though he already had to know it.

When she didn’t say anything, he studied the expression on her face. He laughed softly. “Quinn, come on, this is the part where you say…yeah, I do.”

BOOK: Holding On
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