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Authors: Jennifer Ryder

Losing Faith (Surfers Way)

BOOK: Losing Faith (Surfers Way)
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LOSING FAITH

A Surfers Way Novel

 

by Jennifer Ryder

 

LOSING FAITH

Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Ryder

Published by Jennifer Ryder

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, please write to the author, addressed “Request: Copyright Approval”, at
[email protected]
.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are of the author’s imagination or are used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it to the seller and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Jennifer Ryder is in no way affiliated with any brands, songs or musicians or artists mentioned in this book.

Louisa Maggio from Love N Books

Editing by
Lauren K McKellar

 

 

The inseparable are well and truly split.

Mack, Faith and Lacey, joined at the hip since primary school, are about to graduate college.

You might think this sounds like a book about coming of age and taking that leap into adulthood.

It is, except one of them doesn’t make it.

Lacey Marone had two solid things on her agenda for her future — working in the Pepperoni Palace until she worked out what the hell to do with her life, and getting together with her bestie’s older brother, Quade, who she’s crushed on since she was a kid.

Then graduation night changed everything.

Almost three years later, Lacey won’t rest until she discovers the truth surrounding Faith’s unsolved death, outcast by those who want to move on from the tragedy as if the town’s sweetheart never existed.

Years after fleeing town after losing Faith, Quade Kelly returns home to Runaway Beach, determined to mend ties with his parents and cement a future in his hometown teaching Phys Ed at the local primary school.

When Quade learns that his sister’s ghost lives on, thanks to Lacey, the girl who still owns a piece of his heart, he knows settling back in won’t be as seamless as he first thought.

Lacey is hung up on suspects and clues. Quade wants to bury the failures of his past. The pull between them can’t be denied. Truths will be uncovered, hearts will be cracked open wide.

After all, graduation was never meant to end like this.

 

DEDICATION

For Liss and Simon.

May the days grow easier, but the beautiful memories never fade.

xxx

CHAPTER ONE

Only six more hours of pretending that my feelings for him don’t consume my every thought. Six more hours and he’s mine. On the flip side, tomorrow I’ll find out if a friendship so entwined in my heart will survive the news.
I’m in love with your brother
.

Will we still remain the best of friends we’ve always been? How will I handle it if she can’t deal? Can I have both the Kelly siblings in my life the way I’ve always dreamed? My best friend and my boyfriend?

I stare myself down in the mirror, mindful we’re leaving any minute now. With shaking hands, I fiddle with the dark brown waves that my girls have created from my dead-straight locks. I’ll treasure every moment of our little pampering session this afternoon. I can only hope that it isn’t the last.
Everyone is moving on but me
.

We’ve graduated. Final exams are over. Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we get ready to take on the rest of our lives as adults.
Adults
.
I’m not ready to adult.
By now, I was supposed to have my future sorted, but I have no idea.

Nada. Zip. Zero.

Apart from working in the Palace, the only thing on my radar for the foreseeable future stands about six-foot two and has dreamy chestnut hair and magical blue eyes. With a lazy smile he weakens my knees and sends my heart racing with a sly touch when no one is watching. My best friend’s older brother.

A perfect mop of long blonde curls appears beside my reflection.
Speaking of

“I have no clue,” I blurt out to her, staring at her twinkling blue eyes in the mirror. I know I don’t have to explain to her what I mean, because we’ve been talking about it for forever. She also knows me better than anyone on the planet. I only have to give her a certain look, and she knows exactly what I’m trying to communicate. We have our own secret language, something that frustrates Quade on occasion.
Which I enjoy.

“Lace,” Faith says, her voice almost a growl. Her perfectly manicured hands slip around my waist and she rests her chin on my shoulder.

I let out a loud sigh. Her hold on me tightens, relieving some of the unease that descended in my stomach with all these thoughts of adulthood.

“You have it all figured out,” I say.

“Like I keep telling you,” she says with a dramatic eye roll, “one day you’ll wake up and you’ll just know. Then you grab it and take it all the way, Lace.”

“I’m so frickin’ proud of you, Faith. You’re gonna be the best lawyer ever. Me, on the other hand? I’ll be sweating near a pizza oven ’til who knows when.”

“Hey. You are one of my best bitches. I have every faith in you. Whatever you decide to do,
I know
you’ll smash it.”

I dab at the tear at the corner of my eye with my finger before it ruins my put-together look. Faith places her hands on my shoulders and swings me around. A nervous giggle erupts from my mouth when she hugs me so hard my ribs ache.

She steps back and hooks her hands on her hips. “Now, get your shite together, biatch, because tonight we are partying hard.”

I nod and mentally tell myself to harden up. “You got it.”

“I’ll go hurry Mack,” Faith says with a kiss to my cheek, and then floats from the room.

After taking a few deep breaths, I smooth my hands down the front of my pale pink dress which fits tight at my waist. The square neckline gives the illusion that I actually have boobs.
Hopefully Quade likes it.
With deliberately slow steps I navigate down the timber stairs. With each movement, my dress flares out at the knee and then flows back against my thighs as I near the grand entry of the Kelly house.

A flash of light brown hair comes into view. I choke as Quade plants his feet shoulder-width apart at the bottom of the stairs. I halt mid-step as he links his hands behind him. The stark white T-shirt pulls tight across his chest, accentuating his muscular frame. He rocks back in his black Converse sneakers, and of course he’s wearing my favourite pair of his boot-cut jeans.
Who am I kidding? Anything he wears is my favourite.

His eyes grow wide as his smouldering gaze burns a trail down my body, slowly returning to meet my face. This guy has turned me into a blushing beetroot within seconds.

I told him he can’t look at me like he wants to pick me up and hoist me over his shoulder.
Not yet, anyway.
After what happened here yesterday, stealing kisses when Faith was in the next room, he knows he can’t ogle me like that. Even though we’ve only ever kissed twice, he must know that he blends my insides to pulp with a look that holds such promise. As a scowl unfolds on my face, a smug smile spreads over his kissable pink lips.

Do I need to remind him that up until midnight is about me and my girls?

“Quade,” I say in a gruff voice to try and break the weird hold he has on me with his penetrating gaze. My lower belly tingles knowing what’s to come. Second base, third base …

“Lookin’ good, Lacey Lou,” he says and winks, holding his outstretched hand towards me, aiding my last few steps. My insides dance and my heart responds with an up-tempo beat. His touch always does that.

“Thanks. You like?” I say in a soft voice.

His mouth curls on one side. The dimple on his cheek threatens to swallow his small beauty spot as his smile grows.
That damn dimple
.

“I really do, but something’s missing,” he says, and brings his other hand from behind his back. He takes my hand and slides something over my fingers. An elastic-type band cinches around my wrist. He raises it, revealing an arrangement of small pink rosebuds.

“It’s not weird that I got you this, right?” Quade says, his blue eyes shining under the sparkling chandelier.

“Nope,” I choke. “It’s very sweet of you.”
I want you so bad
.

“I got one for Mack too, because, well, you know.”

My smile falters, but I pull it back into place, trying to ignore the uncomfortable niggle in my chest.
It’s my fault we’re not out in the open yet. I can’t be annoyed that Mack is getting his attention, to put everyone off the scent.

“I would’ve given them to you guys for the proper formal if I had’ve been back from uni, so hopefully it’s not lame doing it before you go to a bonfire at my relo’s.”

I nod and take in a deep breath. In doing so, I take in a lungful of his crisp aftershave, which sends goosebumps flooding over my skin. Pretty sure I just hummed, too.
Tonight
I’m needier than I’ve ever been.
I guess the clock is ticking. My hormone-stricken body is on the final countdown to getting some attention.

“Lace?” he mumbles.

I take a few seconds to truly appreciate him in all his edible manliness. My eyes lock on his crotch.
Smooth. I bet he feels smooth. Hmm.

“What are you thinking ’bout?” he prompts.

My head shoots up to meet his heated expression. I swallow down.

“Um, baseball,” I blurt out.

“Baseball?” he asks in a higher-pitched voice.

“You know, bats … balls.” I swallow down hard. “Sliding home.”

He looks down to his crotch, and I swear the bulge in his jeans does this twitchy thing. “Jesus, Lace. Think of another sport would you?”

“Um.”
Think Lacey.
“Cricket?”

“No good. Still bats and balls,” he says with a shake of his head.

“Um.”
Think of summer sports.
“Tennis?”

“Same problem.” His hands shifts and he re-adjusts himself.
He can’t be hard now, can he?
Don’t boys have better control over this stuff? The last thing I need is his family walking out here and his soldier trying to escape through the zip in his pants.

“Beach volleyball?”

He takes a step closer, the warmth of his breath tickling my ear as he slips his hand into mine. “Now I’m imagining you bouncing around in a bikini. Nice work.”

“How about chess with your mother then?” I say and poke him in the chest. I move one hand to my hip and challenge him with a scowl, just like the one I’ve seen grace his mother’s face on occasion.

He lets out a forced breath, his shoulders pulling free of the tension in his upper body. “There we go. Instant mood-killer. Deflation has commenced.”

The warmth of Quade’s hand disappears from my touch, leaving me desperate for the party to be over so I can finish this conversation, with any luck under the sheets in his bedroom.

“Let’s go!” Faith shouts as she makes an entrance into the room. She loops her arms around my waist and squeezes me from behind. Faith dances around me in her bright floral dress, which is scattered with pinks and reds. “Party time!”

One by one we exit the house, Quade locking up behind us.

Faith, Mack and Byron climb in the back of Quade’s black V8 Commodore and I hop into the front passenger seat. As we fasten our seatbelts, Quade kicks over the engine and takes his time revving it higher and higher. I’m sure he knows the engine is warm.
Boys.

I snort and roll my eyes at him. His smile widens and he shrugs as if he doesn’t know what I’m eye-rolling over.

I swing around to check out everyone. Faith sits in the middle, her grin a mile wide, and Mack and Byron stare out their respective windows. What’s with those two? Why aren’t they as pumped as Faith and I are about tonight?

I turn up the volume on the radio. Quade says something that I don’t catch.

“You guys ready to party?” I yell over the R&B song.

Three sets of eyes shoot my way, and I’m met with smiling faces.

“Hell yes!” Faith squeals, raising her fist to punch the car ceiling.

“Absolutely,” Mack says and winks, brushing her auburn hair from her freshly made-up face. “Bring on the bonfire!”

“You know it,” Byron calls out and nods his head to the thumping beat.

After weaving through the streets of Runaway, we reach our destination. The tyres crunch along the gravel driveway as Quade pulls up near the house. The car comes to a grinding halt.
Shit!
I press my flattened hands against the dash and brace for impact. Quade chuckles beside me, and for that, I knuckle-punch his upper arm.

He rubs at the point of impact and then turns off the music. “Just ring me guys, whenever, and I’ll come pick you up,” Quade says casually.

“We don’t need a babysitter, Quade,” Faith scoffs.

“I know you don’t, Faith, but with Mum and Dad out at yet another fundraising dinner, I’m on orders to make sure you all get home before you turn into pumpkins or some shit.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Faith drawls, as everyone climbs out of the back seat. The rear doors slam shut, leaving the two of us in silence.

“So, um, thanks,” I tell him, and tap his hand, which is clutched around the gear stick.

“Later,” he says, with his eyebrows raised.

That one word rings true in my ears and rattles around the chambers of my heart as a sweet promise.
Later
. Tonight is the night. Together at last.

“Yeah. Later,” I breathe.

Before the party is over I’ll tell Mack and Faith. I’m not holding back my feelings for Quade anymore. I don’t know how far we’ll go tonight, but I do know that I’m ready to take the next step
.

Soon I’ll be more than just his baby sister’s friend. I’ll be the girl that he takes in his arms and holds tight until morning light.

I know he’ll be heading back to uni in the new year, but for the next six weeks he’s here. I have no idea where I’ll be next year or what I’ll be doing. If things work out like I hope, then I’ll happily move to Sydney so we can be close. Surely it wouldn’t be too hard to find a job? There are always jobs going in hospitality.

I blow Quade a kiss and wave him goodbye. Alone, I make my way towards the back paddock, following the sound of music, laughter and chatter.

My phone beeps in my small clutch bag.
Ha
. Quade’s barely out of the driveway and he’s texting me.
The anticipation is getting to him, too
. When I see who the text is from, my smile slips from my face.

 

Jamie: Just doing a run to the grog shop on our way. Do you want me to pick you up anything?

 

It’s not the first text I’ve got from him today. God, I hope things won’t be weird when I see him tonight. When he’d wanted to pick me up earlier this arvo so we could come to the party together, I had to turn him down. He’s a super nice guy, but I didn’t want to give him the wrong impression. Not when my heart is set on someone else. It wouldn’t be fair.

I send a reply so I can get on with the party.

 

Me: All good thanks :)

 

I jog to catch up with Mack and loop my hand inside the crook of her arm. I’ll cherish these last moments with her before she heads off for study. It won’t be the same without her, but I’m so proud she’s going places. Both her and Faith. I just need to hurry up and find my path, so they can be proud of me too.

BOOK: Losing Faith (Surfers Way)
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