With Whom We Spend Our Lives
AUTHOR: K.S. Thomas
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
COVER DESIGN: KG Cover Art
CONTENT WARNING: Adult language
It should go without saying that it wasn't by choice. A guy like me, doesn't dare to dream of getting a girl like Harper even once, he sure as sh*t doesn't let her go on a whim. Nor does he ever think for a moment he'll get a second chance with her. Even if he wants one.
I want one. I NEED one.
And now...through some twisted turn of fate and a wedding I never should have been invited to...I just might get one.
I bang my head into the cupboard door and groan. “Do you have to call me that?”
She drops her purse and keys on my kitchen counter and snags the bottle of water I was just about to pour over my glass of ice. “Yes. I call everyone I love Pickle.”
She winks and gulps my water right in front of me. Regina Richards. The bane of my existence. And the only person on earth who ever gave a fuck about me. Well, maybe not the only one. I’m still kind of hoping there’s one other.
“I take it, it’s safe to assume I’m not getting any of that water back?” I slide my empty glass along the surface of my marble counters until I reach the fridge and retrieve another bottle.
“Sorry, kid. I was parched. The sun is scorching out there.” She walks over to the breakfast bar and has a seat. “Meanwhile, is your air conditioner broken? It’s not much better in here.” She’s fanning herself with the stack of mail she brought up from downstairs.
“I like the natural breeze.” I nod toward the open windows and pull up the barstool beside her. If she’s taking the time to sit, she’s going to be here for a while. “What’s up, Gina? And don’t tell me my place. I’ve got shit to do today and I’m not in the mood to hear you complain about my choosing to live on the top floor for the fifty-thousandth time.”
“Wouldn’t be so fucking horrible if the building came equipped with an elevator. You try hauling your ass up five flights of stairs in six inch heels.” She eyes the newest addition in her ongoing collection.
“Stop dressing like a hooker and you won’t struggle so much.” I take my mail from her and start to sort through it. Bills, mostly. Then.
“What is this?”
Gina shrugs. “Looks like an invitation.”
“Don’t give me that shit. You know exactly what it is. What am I being invited to?” I wave my envelope in her face accusingly. She doesn’t even bat an eyelash. She never does.
“Well, I’m no psychic, and I make it a habit never to open other people’s mail – it’s illegal, you know – but, I did get an envelope just like that one, and it was addressed to me, so I did open it.”
She’s been here less than five minutes and she’s already making me batshit crazy.
“Meg and Barret are getting married. Shocking. I know. It only took them ten years to set a date.” She screws the cap back onto her now empty bottle and then has herself a mini-basketball moment by shooting it straight for my recycling bin.
“That’s great. I’m happy for Meg and Barret. Whatever. Why am I invited?” It doesn’t even matter why. I’m not going.
“How should I know? I didn’t make the guest list.” She’s glancing at my glass with a dangerous amount of interest. “You going to drink all that?”
“What? Yes. What were you doing before you got derailed and wound up here? Running a marathon? Why are you so thirsty?” I get up and head for the fridge. Then I launch another cold bottle at her, which she catches without skipping a beat.
“I wasn’t doing anything strenuous. I just drank too much damn coffee all morning. Now I’m completely dehydrated.” She has a sip. This time there’s less fervor in her gulping. “So, the wedding. You’ll be there?”
I laugh. “Fuck no, I won’t be there. Why on earth would I go to Meg’s wedding?” Meg hates me. Always has. Not that I blame her. I was a seventeen year old fuck up when she met me. I hated myself, too. And I definitely would have hated my fifteen year old daughter going out with a guy like me.
“Um, because Harper will be there?” Gina’s an asshole. I knew this already, but moments like this serve to remind me of that fact.
“So what?” I turn away and start toward my studio. I have work to do.
“So, you’ve been waiting for seven years to get a chance like this. Why let it go by the wayside?” She’s on her feet. I can tell, because the clickity-clack of her hooker heels is following me.
I stop and spin back to face her. “How did I get an invite, Gina?”
She just purses her lips and raises her brows like it’s the biggest damn mystery she’s ever encountered.
“Fine! Barret might have let it slip that he was wondering where the hell you ended up and I might have let it slip that I knew…and then it’s totally possible that I pointed out how great it would be for you all to catch up…and…you know, what better time than the wedding? When everyone would be in the same place at the same time anyway.”
Barret was my high school music teacher. The only one I actually learned anything from during the twelve years I attended school. Even then, he was engaged to Meg, Gina’s best friend. Not that Gina and I met back then. Wasn’t until after I dropped out and wound up in LA that Barret called her, the only person he knew out here. Guess he had to ease his conscience one way or another. And Gina was it. Whether Meg knows about any of this, I don’t know. Gina’s never said, and I’ve never asked. It just sits there on a long list of things I don’t know, and frankly, I like it that way. Of course, if Gina has her way and makes me attend the wedding, and this farce of a reunion, that list is about to get a whole lot shorter.
“I’m not going.”
She grins. “You’re going.”
I’m getting pissed. She makes me feel like a fucking toddler, only at thirty-seven she’s not exactly old enough to be my mother. “You can’t force me.”
“True.” She takes her phone from her back pocket and begins to tap away at the screen.
I slant my eyes suspiciously. This can’t be good. “What are you doing?”
“Just setting a few daily reminders to call you.”
My hands drop to my sides. I already know surrender is inevitable. “And by few you mean?”
“Not too many. Maybe one little jingle, every fifteen minutes or so between now and the time you agree to go.” She’s got a wicked smirk on her face. I hate her. I don’t really. Some days I wish I did though. But who could hate Gina? Really. She’s a piece of work, but only because she cares too freaking much.
“You can put your stupid phone away. We both know I’m going to the wedding.”
Her face lights up in mock surprise. “You are?”
“Whatever.” I shake my head and take note of the sudden bounce in her step as she goes to retrieve her belongings from my kitchen. “You know, I’m starting to see why they call you Aunt Dick.”
She swings her purse over her shoulder and squints at me. “Shut it, twat sucker. They call me Aunt Dick because my last name is Richards. And that’s all.” Then she blows me a kiss and starts down the stairs, leaving the door wide open as she goes.
“Yeah. And because you swear too damn much,” I mutter as I stare at the ground, contemplating my shitty new fate while I listen to her heels plinkety-plink down the stairwell.
“That too,” she calls back from somewhere down below.
My head pops up. “How the hell can you still hear me?”
“Bye, Cole.” Then the main door slams and she’s gone.
I stand there for way too fucking long, just staring at the invite in my hands. I still haven’t opened it up. I probably won’t. What would be the point? I already know what it says. And knowing it is messing with me plenty. I don’t need to have the words permanently seared into my memory bank via the handy visual of a printed invite.
Harper. The girl who got away. Well, that’s the romantic version. The realistic one is far more sadistic than that. She didn’t so much get away as I packed up all my shit one night and drove across country without ever saying goodbye to her. I’d had my reasons. Still do. I change my mind almost daily on whether or not she’ll ever know what they are. And whether or not she will think they were worth it.