Authors: A. L. Jackson
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
Copyright © 2013 A.L. Jackson
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under
the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be
reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any
means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior
permission of the publisher.
The characters and events in this book are
fictitious. Names, characters, places, and plots are a product of
the author’s imagination. Any similarity to real persons, living or
dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover Image: iStock
Cover Design: Devyn Jensen
To my Molly. Because even the smallest
souls live on forever.
Devyn and Katie ~ This has been a crazy run.
Thank you for sticking with me and putting up with it
Chad, Eli, and Braydon ~ Thank you for always
Christine, Gail, and Stacy, my amazing betas ~
Thank you for devoting your time to me, for all the suggestions and
wisdom, and for sharing your stories.
Nancy ~ Thank you for whipping this thing into
Present Day, Late
I once made a promise that no matter what life
brought our way, I would never walk away.
I’d meant it. Every fucking word of
But life had taken Elizabeth and me down a
path neither of us knew how to navigate. One neither of us could
bear. Life sometimes puts so much weight on our shoulders we
crumble, bends us so far we break.
It’d broken Elizabeth. Cruelly.
In turn, she’d shattered me.
I lifted the glass to my lips. The golden
liquid burned a path down my throat and settled as a pathetic
excuse for comfort in the pit of my stomach.
Lifting the glass again, I bled it dry. Ice
clanked around in the bottom when I slammed it to the bar. I raked
my hand through my hair and palmed the tense muscles in my
Kurt inclined his head toward my glass. “You
I shrugged and pushed the empty toward him.
He laughed with a mild shake of his head and
began to pour me a fresh drink. “You playing coy tonight? I’ve
watched you stumble your sorry ass out of here at closing damn near
every night for the last three months. Planning on cutting yourself
off early or something?” Sarcasm rolled from the question, and he
cocked a disparaging brow.
An incredulous snort shot from my nose. He had
me pegged. The only plan I had was drinking myself into a stupor
and praying when I woke in the morning, I’d wake from this fucking
nightmare and be in Elizabeth’s bed.
“Just keep them coming.”
He set the tumbler in front of me. “That’s
what I figured.”
The little bar was quiet tonight. I only had
to walk two short blocks inland from my condo to seek its
seclusion. I’d passed it what seemed a million times when I’d
travel to and from Elizabeth’s house, and now it’d become some kind
of fucked-up refuge that fed the destruction, something to knock me
down a little further. Yeah, I knew exactly how to get here, but
that didn’t mean I wasn’t lost.
That’s what we were. Both of us. Completely,
Slumping forward, I propped myself up on my
elbow, head supported by my hand. I took a deep swill of my drink,
wishing that missing her didn’t hurt so bad. It was
But I knew in my burning gut that she was
hurting worse than I was, more than I could imagine, and that was
what was absolutely killing me.
I jumped when a stool skidded against the
floor beside me. I cut my eye to whoever thought it necessary to
take a seat right beside me in a bar that was nearly
He plopped down onto the stool with a heavy
sigh and leaned forward on his elbows.
Kurt approached. “What can I get you,
The two of us said nothing while Kurt twisted
the cap and slid the beer toward him.
“Thanks,” Matthew mumbled.
Matthew drew the beer to his mouth, looked
ahead without a word as he swallowed hard.
Tension flared between us, this dense weight
that thickened the air. On edge, I sipped at my drink and tapped my
fingers on the bar, my defenses all wound up and on
“You’re a hard man to find,” he finally
“That’s because I don’t want to be
So obviously that was a lie. All I wanted was
for Elizabeth to somehow find her way back to me. What I didn’t
want was to sit here and listen to Matthew feed me bullshit about
how everything was going to be all right. To give it
It was always more fucking time. But time only
turned around and heaped more sorrow on top of us. And Matthew
hadn’t suffered through what we had. He hadn’t watched the light
dim in Elizabeth’s eyes. Not the way I had. I wasn’t sure any
amount of time could rekindle it.
“So is this what you do with yourself night
after night when you don’t have Lizzie?”
I lifted a noncommittal shoulder. “What? You
think I should sit alone in my condo instead?” I released a
resentful snort. “Fuck that.”
Anger pinged around in my chest. My condo had
finally gone under contract too, while Elizabeth and I had searched
for the perfect home to raise our family in. But I had to back out
of the sale at the last minute so I’d at least have someplace to
sleep while the rest of my world fell apart.
Matthew pinned me with a look of disbelief.
“So this is better? This is your solution?” His words hardened as
he waved an exasperated hand around the room. “Do you think I don’t
get it, Christian? Do you think I don’t know how hard this is for
I shook my head and turned away, tipped my
glass back to my mouth. No, I didn’t think he
the hell could he? He got to crawl in bed with the woman he loved
every night, not lie across town from her, wide awake, worrying
that might be the exact moment she was breaking into pieces every
god-damned minute of the night.
He dipped his head and turned his face up to
capture mine. “Do something,” he pleaded.
Pain fisted my heart, because I really wanted
to, but then the bitterness came surging back. “Like what?” My face
pinched. “I fucking tried. I tried and I only made things worse.
She won’t even look at me when I see her.”
“Because she’s hurting, Christian.”
“Don’t you think I realize that? But I can’t
take that pain away. If I could, I would, but there is absolutely
nothing in this world I can do to change what happened.”
“So…what? Give up? Pretend that both of you
aren’t miserable without each other?” Frustrated, Matthew forced
his stool back from the bar and stood, dug out his wallet and
tossed a ten on the counter. He turned to leave, hesitating, then
took an aggressive step toward me.