A breathtaking story about first love, second chances, and starting over.
Teagan Berkley is trying her best. A single mom raising a precocious teen, she may have given up on her dreams, but she’s accepted her life in her small beachside hometown. Now the one person who abandoned her when she needed him the most has returned, bringing back memories of what might have been.
Derek Hartz arrives in town with a teenage daughter – and he’s full of guilt over his failed marriage and the way he ended his friendship with Teagan. He’s determined to set things right with her, but first he needs to gain her trust. Something he’s not convinced he deserves.
As Teagan and Derek open up to each other-and confess their deepest secrets-it’s impossible for them to deny what’s always been between them. But just when their happily ever after is within reach, their complicated history surfaces again and threatens to keep them apart. Forever.
Fate. Hope. Love.
All words I think of as I stand at the front of this church in a gorgeous dress beside my best friend, Derek. It should be a happy day. One filled with tears of joy instead of tears of sadness.
No one knows that I’m not happy, though.
No one knows that he’s the one I love.
No one knows that I wish I was standing in her place, hearing him proclaim his love to me.
“Do you, Derek Matthew Hartz, promise to love, honor, and obey Meghan Kimberly Aston from this day forth?”
I stand behind him as his best woman, as he so called me, unable to see his face, but I don’t have to. I know what’s there. His strong jawline will be set, because when he’s serious he can’t stop himself from showing the determination that fills him. His two-day stubble that covers his cheeks is there just to please her. The love, though, the love that’s in his eyes should bring her to her knees. Because no one loves like Derek.
Another tear falls, but I plaster on a smile so people won’t see how much I’m breaking.
Please don’t say it, Derek. I want to beg. Please see that it’s me who you belong with. Just turn around. Just look to your left. See me. See us. See what could be if you’d open your eyes.
“I do,” he says with pride.
The ring slips on her finger, sealing their love, and I try not to feel the pain that’s threatening to overtake me. I would give anything to be the friend he believes me to be. The one who loves him like a brother, wants him to be happy, and stand beside him on the biggest day of his life. Instead, I’m dying inside. I know I will never—we will never—recover from this.
I can’t be his friend when I love him this much, and yet, I’m not strong enough to quit him.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride,” the pastor says with a triumphant smile.
Derek dips Meghan back, presses his lips to hers, and seals their union and my broken heart.
I follow behind him as he walks his wife back down the aisle.
Another wave of emotion hits me, and I rest my hand on my very large stomach, trying not to be sick when the baby kicks, reminding me why exactly I could never have Derek anyway.
“Are you okay?” he asks as we exit the church.
Our eyes meet, and I use every ounce of strength to mask my emotions. “Yeah, sorry, just felt a little dizzy.”
Meghan immediately takes my arm. “Here, honey, sit. Someone get Teagan some water.”
“I’m fine! Really, I stood too long because Derek talks too much.” He rolls his eyes, and Meghan smiles. “I mean it, the baby is doing the salsa in there and I’m fine. This is your big day, please don’t worry about me.”
He eyes me like the protector he has always been. “You don’t have to be so tough around me.”
Oh, but I do.
I shake my head. “I would tell you. I always tell you.”
The lie slips from my lips so easily it’s scary. Derek and I have been best friends since high school. I’ve always told him the truth, until now.
“Okay. Just know, I’m really happy you’re here, Tea,” Derek says as he tucks Meghan into his side. “It was a lot for you to travel and probably hard to be on your feet the entire wedding, but you’re my best friend and I couldn’t have imagined anyone else by my side.”
The ache I had gotten under control is back to a steady throb. He has no idea why the wedding was hard. He thinks it’s because my now ex-boyfriend knocked me up and then left me. Keith doesn’t want anything to do with the baby, neither emotionally nor financially and now, I’m here, with a choice to make. I can fight him or run the risk of him exposing a secret that I never want out. I’m conflicted, angry, and my heart is decimated.
Yeah, this wedding is hard, but it has nothing to do with my ex and everything to do with Derek.
My chest feels tight, and I want nothing more than for it all to stop. I should’ve told him. So many times I could’ve opened my mouth, but it was one missed chance after another.
Then, it was too late. He and Megan had fallen in love and were expecting a baby.
But he’s my best friend and I’m glad that at least one of us will be happy. There isn’t a person who deserves it more than he does.
“I love you, Derek.” I tell him, wishing this was the confession where he understood my love was more than just friendship, but that opportunity is gone, and I would be the worst friend in the world to tell him now. “You’re my best friend and I’m so happy for you and Meghan. You guys…you’re both so…” The tears start again, and for the first time, I’m grateful for the pregnancy. “God, I’m such a hormonal mess!”
They both laugh. Meghan steps forward, pulling me in her arms. “We love you so much, Tea.”
I know she doesn’t mean it. She’s always had issues with Derek and me, which if I were her, I would too.
Derek puts his arms around both of us. “My girls.”
We break apart, and it feels like so much more than him releasing me. It feels like he’s letting me go—letting us go. I watch the two of them greet their guests, laughing, smiling, and completely in love.
It hits me like a bullet to the chest. Not only did I lose the love of my life today, but I also lost my best friend.
This book deals with grief (off page) and an emotionally abusive ex.