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I gaze up at her from where I’m kneeling on the floor with my fists clenched so tightly my fingertips ache. My vision blurs as her words sink in. “You can’t go.”
Sitting on the edge of my bed, she holds her tiny face in her hands as tears fall between her fingers, landing on my jeans. “My dad got his orders weeks ago but never told me until tonight. We leave tomorrow, Jack.” Her voice cracks on my name.
I swallow, desperately trying to process the information yet not wanting to believe it at the same time. “Tomorrow?” Panic starts to settle in my bones. “You can’t leave now.”
“I have to.” She lifts her eyes to mine in a silent plea and apology.
I wipe the tears from her cheeks, wishing we could run away and leave our lives behind. “Maybe you can stay with me.” I refuse to let her walk out of my life. We’re so close to being free of her father, only nine months from graduation.
Shaking her head, she whispers, “I can’t.” Her bottom lip trembles as she squeezes her eyes shut. “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you.”
“I’ll talk to my mom. She knows we love each other, Evie.” My throat starts to close, and I feel like I’m suffocating at the thought of her not being here. Evie opens her mouth to say something, but I stop her. “Don’t give up.” I hold her hands in mine, caressing the soft skin with my thumb, and search her eyes for a glimmer of hope.
“My dad will never go for it. You know that.”
I grip her hands tighter and shake my head. I’m unable to believe we only have tonight. “There has to be something we can do.”
“I have to go, but it’s only for a year,” she whispers softly, barely able to look me in the eyes. “I’ll come back.”
“I can’t wait a year. I’ll visit you every weekend.”
“Jack,” she says as more tears fall, turning her head away from me. “We’re moving to Germany.”
Her words punch me in the gut, almost knocking me backward. “Germany?” I stammer.
Her father’s moving her to another continent, halfway across the world, and it’s entirely because of me. He’s hated me from the moment he found out Evie and I were dating.
“In a year, we’ll graduate, and we can be together forever.” I refuse to believe this will be the end for us. Evie and I have plans…a future.
“I’ll come back to you,” she promises, resting her hand on top of mine as I grip her cheeks and gaze into her blue eyes.
She’s everything to me.
I try to memorize every detail of her face. The blueness of her eyes and how they match the sky just as the sun meets the horizon on a summer evening. The flecks of brown in her blond hair that turn auburn in the sunlight and how those silky strands feel wrapped around my fingers. Near the corner of her right eye, she has the tiniest collection of freckles resembling the Big Dipper. There’s no one more beautiful than her.
She’s become part of me.
My other half.
The first thought I have every morning and the last every single night before I close my eyes is of Evie. My chest tightens at the thought of not seeing her every day.
When she leaves, what will be left?
How can there be an us if we aren’t even in the same country?
Evie being my girl is all I’ve ever known. She’s as much a part of me as the air I breathe.
I love this girl more than life itself.
“How long do we have?”
She nestles her face into my hand and closes her eyes. “He gave me an hour to say goodbye. If it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t even be getting this. You know how he can be.”
“It’s not goodbye, Evie. I can never say goodbye to you. We’ll see each other again. I promise you.”
“I’ll love you always, Jack. I promise I’ll come back to you. I’ll be back before you have time to miss me.”
I miss her already, and she’s right in front of me. I don’t know how I am going to do this. How do I let her go? I’m terrified that once she walks out this door, it is going to be the last time I see her.
“I’ll wait an eternity for you, Evie. I’ll never stop loving you. Just come back to me, no matter how long it takes. I’ll be here waiting.”
“I promise.” She flings herself into my arms, needing my touch as desperately as I crave hers.
We’re holding each other so tightly that I can barely breathe, but it doesn’t matter. All I want is for Evie to stay.
I never want to let her go.
Not like this.
Not before our last year in school.
We made plans.
Shared our dreams.
I breathe in the scent of her strawberry shampoo, committing the smell to memory. Not that I could ever forget anything about my Evie girl. She’s unforgettable.
“I don’t want to cry anymore,” she whispers in my ear and grabs the back of my hair, tangling it between her fingers. Those soft lips I have tasted so many times brush over mine, full of desperation, matching my own.
We fall back onto my bed as I kick off my shoes and pull my shirt over my head. I need to feel her skin-to-skin. I try to push away the thought that this could be the last time I hold her in my arms. This could be the last time I taste her lips. This could be the last time she is truly mine.
“God, I love you, Evie.”
“I love you too,” she whispers as I cover her body with mine.
CHAPTER ONE – JACK
Six years later
It’s the only word that describes how I feel in this very moment. Setting eyes on Evie—my first girlfriend—the only girl I’ve ever loved, feels like strong hands wrapping around my throat, squeezing with such intensity that I’m suffocating.
“Hey.” My little sister, Myra, appears in my peripheral vision. She nudges me in the side with her sharp elbow when I don’t respond. “You okay?”
The way Evie’s hair is blowing in the wind, licking her shoulders with each sweep of the unseasonably warm spring air has my dick stirring like she stepped straight out of a wet dream. She’s laughing and holding her stomach as she talks to some guy—a man I’ve never seen before.
I want to run over there, throw her over my shoulder, and claim her in front of the entire town, but I’m in shock and can’t bring myself to move.
I can’t help but stare at her long legs and remember the way they felt wrapped around me the last time we were together. When I made love to her for the last time. The promises we made reverberate in the back of my mind. “I promise, Jack…” Her voice is still so clear inside my head.
Myra takes a step forward, and her cotton candy tumbles to the dirt in front of her. “Son of a fuck,” she whispers, finally seeing Evie.
“Watch your mouth,” I growl.
“Is that…” Her voice trails off because it’s like we’ve both seen a ghost.
Swallowing the lump that’s lodged in my throat doesn’t make my ability to breathe any easier. “Yeah.”
“Well, Jesus.” Myra moves in front of me and tries to get my attention with a shove to my chest. When I don’t budge, she grabs my face and forces my eyes to her. “What do you want to do? I’ll go kick her ass if you want.”
“Myra.” I remove her hands from my face as my gaze drifts away from Evie. “Do not make a scene.”
Myra Nelson is a whopping five feet two, but she has the attitude of an NFL linebacker. Even as a little girl, she walked around the house crashing into everything on purpose just to watch it crumble in her wake, and she hasn’t stopped sixteen years later.
She crosses her arms in front of her chest and scowls. “I never make a scene. But I would for you,” she sasses, pitching a thumb over her shoulder in Evie’s direction. “Especially when it comes to her.”
“What happened is between Evie and me.” I know I need to de-escalate the situation before Myra goes apeshit. “Ma would have a fit if you got in trouble.”
She rolls her eyes. “I don’t give a crap. Some things need to happen, no matter the consequence.”
I focus my gaze on Myra’s, tightening my grip on her shoulders. “You will not do or say a thing, or I’ll carry you straight home.”
Her mahogany eyes sparkle in the sunlight as she takes a step forward, getting in my face. “You wouldn’t dare,” she hisses with all the attitude of a teenage girl.
Leaning forward, I drop my voice to a whisper so low only she can hear me. “In a fuckin’ heartbeat. Go find your friends, and forget you saw her.”
I can tell she wants to say something, and it’s hanging on the tip of her tongue. “Fine. But…”
“But nothing. Just go. Do as you’re told for once.” I tip my chin to the midway behind her. “Ride something.”
A smile spreads across her face, and she quirks an eyebrow. “Anything?”
I instantly regret the carelessness in my word choice. “A damn ride, Myra. Go be a kid instead of a pain in my ass.”
“I’m sixteen, Jack.” She pokes me in the chest with her bony finger. “You can’t control me anymore.” Her glittery painted fingernail starts to bite into my skin, and I growl.
As if I ever could. But I tried like hell to keep her out of trouble. Once Myra began to develop breasts, every boy in town wanted a piece of her. I made sure everyone knew I’d break their fingers if they touched her, and so far, I haven’t had an issue.
“How much will it take for you to go away?”
I’m done with her bullshit, and there’s only one thing that gets her ass moving—money.
She rubs her chin like she’s deep in thought, but we both know how much she’s going to ask me to give her. “Hmm. A hundred bucks.” The corner of her mouth turns up into a smile because she thinks she’s won, but I would’ve paid her twice as much to get rid of her.
Reaching into my pocket, I pull out a wad of cash, plucking a bill off the stack and fanning it in front of her face. “Don’t find me for an hour. Do not go near Evie either. Disappear, Myra. Got it?”
She salutes me before snatching the hundred from my fingers and stuffing it in her bra. “One hour. Anything more will cost you.” Spinning around on her heels, she stalks off toward the cotton candy stand, kicking the dirt-covered sugar puff across the midway as she walks.
I turn my attention back to Evie. The guy has his arms wrapped around her waist, whispering something in her ear. Her hands rest on his shoulders as she laughs. My fists tighten at my sides at their public display.
I loved her from the moment she walked into homeroom on the first day of eighth grade. The fact that she had on a Nirvana T-shirt and a pair of ripped jeans just made me fall even harder.
Now she stands only feet in front me, a little taller and a little more well-endowed, but still…she causes my heart to beat out of control.
When the guy spins Evie around, I get my first full glimpse of her face in six years, and the small amount of air in my lungs evaporates. Every muscle in my body tenses, and I’m momentarily frozen as I take her in. My need to talk to her overtakes all rational thought, and I head straight toward her as if I’m on autopilot.
As she makes another rotation in his arms, Evie’s eyes lock on mine. Her mesmerizing blue eyes go wide as she turns her head, following me as I stalk toward her.
Picking up my pace with each step, I move through the crowd with ease.
She wiggles free of his embrace as I get closer, pushing against the guy’s shoulders. For a moment, I think she’s going to run to me and jump in my arms because she has missed me as much as I have missed her, but when her feet touch the ground…
She takes off in the opposite direction.
As I chase after her, the crowd surges inward, closing the gap as if they’re trying to keep us apart.
“Evie, wait!” I reach for her even though she’s too far away. The thought of touching her after all this time sends a shiver down my spine.
Peering over her shoulder, she glances back with tear-stained cheeks, no longer smiling. Her body’s moving forward, propelling her farther away, but her eyes never leave mine.
“Evie!” I plead for her to stop, but she doesn’t.
I know what’s about to happen, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. She’s moving too fast for me to even scream a warning. Her body bounces backward as she hits the parade float and collapses on the grass.
People rush to her side, but I don’t want anyone to touch her…only me. I push them away, layer after layer of nervous and nosy bystanders, until her motionless body is at my feet.
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Six years ago, the only girl I ever loved moved away. She said she’d come back to me. She promised she’d write. She swore she’d always be mine, but Evie Bailey lied.
Now, Evie’s back, and this time, I’m not letting her go without a fight.
Before senior year, I was forced to move away, leaving behind the only boy I ever loved. He said he’d love me forever. He promised nothing would tear us apart. He swore he’d wait for me, but Jack Nelson lied.
Now, Jack wants to make me his again, but he may never be able to forgive my sins.
This is a STANDALONE Second Chance New Adult Romance by USA Today bestselling author Chelle Bliss.