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Authors: Meg Jolie

Holding On (9 page)

BOOK: Holding On
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“I didn’t know Luke.
I swear, I didn’t.” Worse yet, she’d had a crush on Luke for years. What she’d felt was probably far beyond a crush. They’d known each other so well. Except, apparently, the one big secret they’d each kept. But she hadn’t wanted to ruin their friendship, either. She felt like she understood exactly where he was coming from. In fact, it took falling in love with Jake to get herself over Luke.

“You know what I was thinking about before you came down here?” he asked
. A small smile flickered across his lips.

“What?” Quinn wondered.

“That time I kissed you in middle school.”

“Really?” she asked in amusement. “Why?”

“While we were kissing I was so sure you were going to come to your senses and sucker punch me. And I knew that if you did, I’d totally deserve it,” he said with a grin.

She smiled back. “All
I
was thinking was that I really hoped I didn’t mess up.”

“Why would you have messed up?” he asked with a laugh. It sounded genuine, as if some of the earlier tension had faded.

“Because it was my first kiss, dummy!” Quinn said as she smacked him across the chest.

His smile faded and he blinked at her in surprise. “Really? I didn’t know.”

She laughed. “You couldn’t tell?”

He shook his head and smiled again. “Nope. I was too busy enjoying it. And you did great.”

She laughed again. “Well, um, thanks.”

“There was no dare, you know. I made that up. I kissed you because I wanted to,” he finally admitted.

She bit her lip for a second before answering. Then she shook her head and smiled just a bit. “That would’ve been really, really nice to know. All these years I thought I finally had my first kiss not because you wanted to…but because someone had to dare you to.”

“I wanted to,” he said quietly and the mood suddenly changed again.

“Can I ask you one thing?” he wanted to know.

She
nodded.

He hes
itated, his eyes searing into her. “Would’ve you said yes? If I’d asked you out?”

She opened her
mouth to answer but he put a finger to her lips and shook his head. “I changed my mind. I don’t want to know. If you say ‘no’, it would probably break my heart,” he admitted with a terse laugh. “And if you say ‘yes’, it just might shatter it.”

What was that supposed to mean?
she wondered.

But when she
looked at him, she finally, after all of the years she’d known him, saw what she wished she’d seen all along.

“Does Jake know I’m the reason you left
?” Quinn wondered. She needed to know because the Jake she thought she knew, never would’ve hurt his brother that way.

Luke shook his head. “I don’t know.
I told him I was over you. I’m not sure if he really believed me or if it was just that he really
wanted
to believe me. Either way, he never questioned it. I started dating Tabitha and I left so it never came up again.”

“Luke,” Quinn said. She wished
she had something else to say. If she’d known, would things be different? Yes, she was sure they would be. Would she want them to be different? At this point, no. She didn’t think so. She loved Jake. Completely. And she loved Luke as a friend. Now. She felt like a horrible person for not ever knowing she was hurting him.

“I know,”
he said, as if he could read her mind. And so often, he seemed to. “Come here,” he said as he pulled her into a hug. He dropped a lingering kiss on her forehead as her arms wrapped around him. “Let’s both just forget this conversation ever took place. Nothing good can come of it. Besides, everything happens for a reason. You must belong with Jake. And I know he’s going to make you happy. And really, that’s all that matters.”

 

*~*~*

 

“Why did you ask me out?” Quinn softly demanded of Jake. They were back at home, curled up on the couch trying to relax for a bit before heading to bed. The groom’s dinner had passed in a haze for Quinn. She couldn’t get the conversation with Luke out of her head long enough to concentrate on anything else. “That first time, I mean. Why?”

He grinned at her
. “Because you’re gorgeous and completely irresistible.”

Quinn
didn’t smile back.

He groaned. “You’ve been talking to Luke.” It wasn’t a question.

“Actually, it started with Tabitha talking to me. I ran into her at lunch and it was…an interesting conversation,” Quinn said carefully.

“I’ll bet,” Jake muttered.

“She said some things,” Quinn went on. “So when I saw Luke tonight…we talked. So is it true? Did you only ask me out to get at your brother?”

He wa
s quiet for a while, studying her face. Trying to gauge just how upset she was, she thought.

Finally he sighed before he trudged ahead with the conversation.
“I gave him crap about it, yeah. I told him if he didn’t get his ass moving and ask you out, that I would. But no, it wasn’t like what you’re obviously thinking. I had a thing for you, too. I
wanted
to ask you out. I just felt like he had dibs—”

“Dibs?” Quinn
asked with raised eyebrows.

He gave her
a meek shrug. “Okay. I don’t know what you’d call it. But you were his friend. You were close to him. He knew you a whole lot better than I did. It would’ve only made sense for him to ask you out. Especially considering he’d wanted to for years. But he didn’t. So I did. Don’t be mad.”

She
was feeling sad and confused. But she wasn’t mad, exactly. It just sounded like such a guy way of thinking. She rolled her eyes and he kept talking.

“Remember the weekend when we went to my grandparents’ cabin?”

Quinn nodded. It was the summer after she and Luke graduated. Luke had invited her to
spend the weekend, just to relax and have some fun. Their grandparents’ cabin was gorgeous and overlooked a river. They used it for weekend getaways and holidays. But there was a weekend that they had other plans so they’d offered it to Luke and Jake. Quinn was sure that his grandparents did not plan on the guys bringing girls with them. She was also sure that the guys never enlightened them after the fact.

“I remember, yeah. You were there with some girl. Um…” She tried to think but couldn’t come up with the name.

“Tara,” he filled in for her. “What do you remember about her?”

Quinn laughed
and crinkled up her nose. “You’re asking me what I remember about one of your old girlfriends? I don’t know. I don’t think I liked her very much.”

Jake snorted a laugh. “Yeah, that’s the weekend I decided I didn’t like her much
, either. I broke up with her when I dropped her off.”

She looked at him in surprise. “
Now that I think about it, I actually didn’t think she was very nice. And she complained about everything. When you and Luke invited me to go fishing she was furious that I went. Even though you’d asked her and she declined.”

“Exactly,” Jake said. “I think it was that weekend
…no…I
know
it was that weekend that I started seeing you differently. I mean, yeah, I’d always thought you were cute. And then when you got older I thought you were a knockout. But it was that weekend when I realized how different you were from the girls I’d been dating. You were gorgeous but you weren’t prissy. You weren’t afraid to literally get your hands dirty. You were game for anything and you never got snippy or whiny. It was just…your personality, I really liked it. I realized then just how fun you were to be around.”

“What you didn’t know that before?” she asked, feigning annoyance.

“No,” he said with a small laugh. “I really didn’t. To be honest, I thought that was the weekend Luke would finally do it. I thought it was the weekend he’d come clean. I mean, I was there with my girlfriend and he was there with you and I just thought…” He shrugged.

Quinn didn’t admit it but she had hoped desperately at the time that something would happen that weekend. Obviously it hadn’t. She refrained from telling Jake this simply because things were complicated enough.

“That weekend you helped gather firewood and you insisted on baiting your own hook. You didn’t complain once even though the bugs were awful. A big storm went through that night and we lost electricity. Tara just about had a breakdown. I remember you just twisted your hair into a ponytail and asked what we were going to do that day. You were just so easygoing.”

Jake laughed. “Actually, remember that morning? While Tara was whining about not being able to shower you and Luke started running around like a couple of preschoolers. At first I just shook my head at you two, acting like kids. You were splashing through the puddles. Then you started picking up night crawlers that had come to the surface due to the heavy rain.”

Quinn laughed too. “Yeah, I remember that. But I also remember you joined us.”

“Hell yeah, I did,” Jake agreed. “You made it look so fun. And I was trying to get away from that whining wench. By the time the three of us were done, we were fi
lthy. We had to jump in the river to clean off.”

“It was a fun w
eekend,” Quinn reminisced.

“Yeah, for you. Tara made it clear to me that she hated every second of it.
It was after we got home that weekend that I
started
giving Luke a hard time. That’s when I started telling him I was going after you if he didn’t. I kind of started to feel like if he didn’t go for it that weekend, that he never would. Then…I don’t know…every time I saw you after that I felt myself falling a little bit deeper.”

Quinn shook her head. “I must be the most oblivious person on earth. I had no idea.”

“The night of the party, I told him I was going to ask you out if I saw you there. The truth was, I’d been going to places where I thought you’d be. But you never showed up. I wonder now if Luke was purposefully making sure you stayed away. Anyhow…He was dating that Kassandra chick at the time. I thought things were getting serious with them. I thought it would be a good time to go for it.
I told him if you showed up at the party with him, that that was it. He brought you anyway.”

Quinn frowned slightly and shook her head. “You know what…I don’t think he wanted me to come.” In fact, she was sure of it. It was so long ago that she didn’t remember the exact conversation. She did remember that he’d tried to talk her out of
going. “Kass and I were friends. Kind of. It was Kass that invited me along.”

“All I’m saying,” Jake went on, “is that I gave him his chance. He refused to take it. He might’ve been willing to sit on his ass forever. I wasn’t. It’s as simple as that. I mean, what sense was there in
neither
of us having you? So when I saw you at that party…he was on one side of the room doing his thing…you were on the other side doing yours…Yeah, I jumped at the chance to ask you out. Is that so bad?”

“No,” she said, honestly feeling it wasn’t. Now that he’d explained his side of things.

“I swear Quinn, by the time I asked you out, it was because I
wanted
to. I rode Luke’s ass hard for years and he just…didn’t. Honestly, I don’t think he ever would have. He was willing to let you slip away. I wasn’t. I didn’t realize right away how hard this would be for him. And by the time I realized it, it was too late. I couldn’t give you up. I always knew he liked you as more than a friend. I never realized just how much in love with you he was.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe we’re talking about this the night before our wedding. But the only regret I have about you and I…is that Luke got hurt along the way….”

He was quiet for a while, watching her but letting her process.

“Was that so bad?” Jake asked. “Do you wish things had happened differently?”

“No,” she said quickly
as she snuggled a little deeper into his side. “I’m so happy with you. But I feel the same way. I never wanted Luke to get hurt.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7

The day of the wedding could not have been more perfect if
Quinn could have put in her own, personal request. The weather was warm and balmy with just enough of a breeze coming off of the lake to keep the beautiful sunny day from being too warm.

BOOK: Holding On
4.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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