Main Priceless


0 / 0
How much do you like this book?
What’s the quality of the file?
Download the book for quality assessment
What’s the quality of the downloaded files?
EPUB, 242 KB
Download (epub, 242 KB)

To post a review, please sign in or sign up
You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.

My Best Friend’s Brother

EPUB, 258 KB
0 / 0

A Finding Love Novel

Paris Hansen

Priceless Copyright © 2019 Paris Hansen

All rights reserved.

Without limiting rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be

reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by

any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without prior

written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. The scanning, uploading, and/or distribution of this document via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and is punishable by law.

This is a work of fiction. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events or real persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Cover Design by James,




Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14



Also by Paris Hansen

About the Author

Connect with Paris


Braeden - 16 Years Old

He’d never been more nervous in his entire life.

He wasn’t nervous when he had to give a speech in front of the entire school or when he’d had the chance to win the semifinal game if he could just get the ball past the goalie. His hands were shaking, and his heart felt like it might shoot right out of his chest because he was finally going to tell Andi how he felt. After three years of keeping his feelings in check, he realized he couldn’t hold on to them any longer.

To hell with her brother and their friends. To hell with the consequences.

The guys all had girlfriends while Braeden sat back and watched, too afraid to make his move. Part of him worried that Declan would be pissed off. He’d never outright warned any of them away from Andi, but it;  was kind of an unspoken rule that you didn’t go after your friend’s sister. The fact that Andi had been his friend before any of the others made that a moot point in Braeden’s eyes, but he wasn’t sure Declan, or the guys would see it that way.

He had no idea how they didn’t see the way he felt about Andi. When she was in the room, his gaze was drawn to her. He always made sure he got to sit next to her whenever they were together, even if it meant pushing one of the other guys out of the way. Braeden had a sneaking suspicion that Oliver was aware of his crush, but he never said anything. It was just the way Oliver looked at him whenever Andi was around, like he was in on a secret no one had actually spoken out loud, that gave him away.

The other part of Braeden worried that Andi didn’t feel the same way he did. She’d made off-handed comments over the years that led him to believe she did, but that wasn’t worth a lot when he was about to put all of his friendships on the line. What if he told her how he felt, and she laughed at him? He’d never be able to speak to her again, and it would make it really hard to be around her brother when he’d be a constant reminder of what he’d lost.

Shaking his head, Braeden reminded himself that he couldn’t think that way. He had to stop worrying about the what-ifs. Instead, he needed to focus on getting his feelings out. He’d gone back and forth over the entire summer about whether or not to tell her. When she kissed him on the cheek at Oliver’s end of summer party, he almost blurted the words out then and there. Somehow, he’d kept it in, but he couldn’t fight it any longer. Consequences be damned.

They had a week left before school started and Braeden was hoping like hell he’d get to start his junior year with the girl of his dreams as more than just his best friend. He wanted to walk through the halls of school holding her hand, kissing her between classes. He wanted everyone to know that Andi Reese was his girlfriend.

Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly before knocking on her front door. Her parents and brother were out of town for the long holiday weekend. Braeden had never been more thankful for one of Declan’s baseball clinics. He’d have the entire weekend with her or if things didn’t go well, he’d have the whole weekend to nurse his broken heart.

“It’s about time you got here,” Andi said in greeting as she threw open the door.

She smiled up at him before rushing in for a hug. Over the last few months, she’d started to touch him more. A gentle brush of her hand against his, a hug every time she saw him, the occasional kiss on the cheek that made blood rush to his face, then to other parts of his anatomy.

Once she let him go, he followed her into the house. She wore her usual summertime uniform of cut-off jean shorts and a tank top over a sports bra. The lack of fabric allowed him time to take in her long luscious legs. They were a nice golden brown from spending so much time outdoors over the summer. Braeden often wondered what it would be like to have them wrapped around him.

Her feet were bare, and her hair was pulled up into a messy bun on top of her head. When she opened the door, he noticed she wasn’t wearing a lick of make-up. She never really felt the need to slather the crap on her face like the rest of the girls at their school. She didn’t need to. She was more than gorgeous without it.

She led him up to her bedroom, and for the first time, he felt a little weird about entering. He probably spent more time in her room than he did his own, but always just as friends. Today, he was hoping to change that. Plopping down on her bed like she usually did, she patted the spot next to her before she picked up the two video game controllers from the floor. He took a seat on her bed then took the controller she offered him.

Without a word, they played video games for a couple of hours. His nerves still buzzed underneath the comfort of doing something he’d done thousands of times before. Andi was blissfully oblivious to his inner turmoil; unaware that he was about to change their relationship forever. He hoped he was doing the right thing. Maybe it was selfish of him to tell her how he felt. Maybe it was unfair of him to take this step, but it wasn’t like he could ask her before he went through with it.

While she kicked his ass in Street Fighter II, a game they continued to play even though newer games and consoles were released nearly every day, he worked up the courage to pause the game and speak his mind. Just as he’d gotten the nerve, the screen in front of him froze, but his finger was nowhere near the pause button. He turned away from the TV to look at Andi. He could already feel her eyes on him. When his gaze met hers, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was about to do the right thing.

“Braeden, can I ask you something?” Andi asked before he could say anything.

“Ummm...sure. Of course, you can,” he told her while hoping she’d hurry up with whatever she wanted to ask him.

He finally had the balls to tell her what he’d been dying to tell her forever, but he couldn’t interrupt whatever she wanted to say. The look on her face told him it was important. The slight shake of her hands told him she was nervous to say whatever it was. Without a thought, he reached out and grabbed her hands. The minute they touched, a rightness filled him. Holding her hand was what he was born to do.

Andi visibly calmed, but he could see wariness in her eyes before she took a deep breath and then let it out slowly.

“Braeden,” she started before stopping to lick her lips.

The swipe of her tongue along her plush pink lips stirred things to life that he was trying desperately to fight back. He nearly let out a groan as she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, a nervous habit he found sexy as hell.

“Go ahead, Andi. Ask me whatever it is you want to ask me.”

She closed her eyes while she took another deep breath. This one she held for a moment before letting it out slowly. She opened her eyes as the breath rushed out between her lips. Their gazes met again, but this time there was nothing but calm confidence within her piercing green eyes.

“Braeden, are you ever going to kiss me?”

For a split second, Braeden felt like he’d had the wind knocked out of him. Of all the things he’d imagined her asking him in that moment that wasn’t even in the realm of possibilities. He wasn’t sure what to say or do. It was everything he’d hoped for, but now that he had the opportunity, his lack of experience was making him freeze.

He could tell that with every second he didn’t give her an answer her confidence started to wane. Her gaze dropped from his to rest on their hands. Then when he still didn’t say anything, she tried to pull her hands away from his.

“Don’t,” he said, his voice cracking on that one word. How embarrassing. But he couldn’t let that stop him.

Andi looked up at him again. She looked like she wanted to run away as she searched his gaze for a reason to stay. This was it. This was the moment he’d dreamed about for years.

“All I’ve wanted to do for the last three years is kiss you, Andi. I came over today with the plan to tell you how I feel about you. I didn’t care what happened. I just knew I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I love you, Andi. I’m pretty sure I’ve loved you in some way since we were five years old, but now I know that I’m in love with you. You’re the only girl I see. You’re the girl of my dreams. The one I plan to marry someday.”

“Oh Braeden…” she whispered.

Before she could say anything more, he interrupted her. He needed to make sure she knew it didn’t matter what she had to say. He wouldn’t take back his words or his feelings.

“I don’t care if that was too much or if you’re not ready or even if you don’t feel the same way. I just needed to tell you.”

Before he could register that she was moving, she threw herself at him, her arms wrapping around his neck as she pushed him back on the bed. She nearly squeezed the life out of him as she hugged him, but all Braeden could focus on was her body pressed against his. While his friends had spent the summer making out with their girlfriends, Braeden had spent the summer fantasizing about what it would be like to have Andi in his arms. While his friends bragged about making it to second base, and even third base in Declan’s case, Braeden just wanted a chance to kiss Andi at least once.

Now here they were alone in her room, nothing standing in their way. Slowly he rolled them so she was on her back, his body nestled between her legs, her arms still wrapped around his neck. She looked up at him, her eyes filled with love and a hint of lust. Her lips parted, her tongue darting out once again to wet them.

“So, does this mean you’re finally going to kiss me?” she asked, her voice taking on a husky tone he’d never heard before, but one he hoped to hear a lot in the future.

He’d waited far too long for this moment and he wasn’t going to let it go to waste. Slowly, he lowered his mouth to hers. The second their lips touched, he knew his world was forever changed. No other woman in the world could ever take her place. Andi Reese was the person he was going to spend the rest of his life with and all it took was one brush of their lips to solidify that fact in his mind. The rest was just icing on the cake.

Chapter 1

Andi - 36 Years Old

Maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea. Although after a few drinks and reassurances from her friends it seemed like the best idea she’d ever had. Now that she was about to wade into her first of twelve dates, Andi couldn’t help but wonder what the hell she’d been thinking.

Looking around the room, she thought about trying to sneak out before the clock started. From where she stood, she could see through a gap in the curtain separating the dining room of Arrow from the new banquet room Gabriel built after buying the business next door. At least if she had to go through with the terrible idea, she was somewhere comfortable with familiar faces on the other side of the partition.

Before she could make her escape, Veronica, the host for the evening, called for everyone’s attention. Andi hated that her friend Kerrigan wasn’t there for event. She usually held on tight to everything her business was involved in, but Andi couldn’t blame her for handing over the reins to someone else. The beautiful redhead was on her honeymoon with her hot as hell detective husband. If Andi had been lucky enough to have one of those, she would have handed over everything to someone else too.

“First, I’d like to thank you all for coming tonight. You’re all here to find love, and hopefully, we’ll be able to help you with that,” Veronica said with a bright smile on her face. “Some of you have probably been to a speed dating event before, but for those of you that haven’t, here’s how this will work. The women have each been assigned a table while the men have been assigned numbers. The men will rotate clockwise through the tables, with number one being this table here, two this one here, and so on.”

Andi watched as Veronica pointed out the first two tables. Somehow, she was lucky enough to be assigned to the table at the front of the room which was where the first guy would start. She had no idea if being at that first table was a good thing or not, but she couldn’t wait to get things started so she could get them over with.

“Each date will last for five minutes before a buzzer will sound. That buzzer will signal that it’s time to rotate. You’ll all have a chance to meet each other. At the end of the evening, you will write down the name of the person or persons you are interested in getting to know better. If that person writes your name down on their card, then we will send you each a text with the other person’s contact information. If the other person does not write your name down, then no information will be passed along. Don’t even think about asking ‘cause it won’t happen.”

Andi laughed into her glass, then took a sip of her wine. The drink was almost empty, so she moved over to the bar. There was no way she was going to move through the process without alcohol. If only she could take a whole bottle to her table, she might have a better shot of enjoying herself.

“Okay, does anyone have any questions before we get started?” Veronica asked. “Alright, well, I guess that means it’s time to get started. Ladies, please head to your tables.”

Grabbing her now much fuller glass from the bar top, she slowly walked over to her table. The guys were all lined up on the right side of the room. She had no idea if they were standing in their numerical order or not, but she wasn’t sure it mattered. None of them were giving her the “meant for her” vibe. Not that she thought that was actually a thing, but she’d hoped for some sort of sign that would make the entire ordeal easier.

Before she could get too lost in her thoughts, someone approached her table. She looked up to see a man with slicked-back blond hair sit down in the chair across from her.

“Do you have a mirror in your pocket?” he said a lecherous smile on his lips.

Of course, the first man to sit at her table would have to be a prick who thought offensive pick-up lines were the way to impressing women.

“If you say what I think you’re going to say, you’re going to end up with a fist in your face,” Andi warned as she glared over at him.

“Ooooh, feisty. I like it,” he said as he waggled his eyebrows at her.

Andi fought the urge to kick the man in the shin and instead took a huge swig of her wine. It burned a little going down, but it helped her keep herself in check.

“I thought it was hot in here, but it turns out it’s just you,” he said as he leaned across the table. “I’ve been watching you since I got here and I’ve been wondering if you were a magician, cause the minute I looked at you everyone else disappeared.”

Andi groaned at the use of not one, but two more cheesy pick-up lines. Less than a minute in and he’d tried using three lines on her that should never actually be used in public and he still hadn’t told her his name. Casanova was never going to find a match if he didn’t at least start with that. Not that she’d be matching with him, but there was bound to be someone desperate enough to fall for the kind of crap he was spewing.

She spent the next four minutes listening to the greatest hits of terrible pick-up lines. The guy was like an encyclopedia of what not to say. The minute the buzzer went off, Andi let out a sigh of relief. She felt terrible for the next woman in line, especially when she heard him start his impressive repertoire all over again.

“Hi. I’m Gary,” a new man said as he lowered himself into the vacated chair.

Andi smiled over at Gary, happy that he at least took a moment to introduce himself.

“Hi Gary, I’m Andi. Nice to meet you,” she said as she held out her hand.

Gary looked at her hand, then up at her face, then back down at her hand. When it was evident he wasn’t going to shake her hand, she picked up her wine glass and took another drink. It was nearly empty, and she still had ten and a half dates to get through.

“Andi is a boy’s name.”

Oh brother… “Well, the name’s technically Andrea, but I go by Andi.”

“Mother wouldn’t want to call you Andi. It’s a boy’s name. So, Andrea, how old are you? I’m turning forty in a couple of months.”

What the fuck? She almost wanted bad lines guy back instead of this guy calling her by the wrong name and bringing his mom into the conversation. Who the hell cared if his mom liked her name and why was he asking about her age? And where the hell was the waitress with a refill on her wine?

“Well, Gary, I prefer Andi. No one calls me Andrea...ever,” she said with a slight growl. “As far as age goes, I’m thirty-six.”

“Crap. You’re too old then, Andrea. Mother would never approve of someone who’s got geriatric eggs. We need babies.”

Andi nearly choked on the remainder of the wine in her glass. What in the actual fuck? Where the hell did Veronica find the men she’d picked for this event? She most definitely wanted bad lines guy back. Gary was starting to creep her the fuck out.

“Mother would hate that you drink so much too. That wouldn't be good at all.”

After the third mention of his mother, Andi knew she couldn’t move on without more wine. Excusing herself, she left her table and headed over to the bar. Gary tried to protest, but then said it was probably for the best since his mother would never approve of her. As the bartender refilled her glass, she watched Gary type frantically into his phone.

Two duds down, ten more to go. It was going to be a long-ass hour as she weeded through the options. As the buzzer went off, she waited until Gary left her table before hurrying back. She arrived at the same time as her next date. He was kind enough but boring as hell. In their five minutes together, she learned his name was Patrick, named after the great Pat Sajak, and that was it. The man barely talked and never seemed to look directly at her.

By the time five more guys came and went, Andi was ready to run screaming from the building. She’d had to stop drinking because she was starting to get tipsy, but that only seemed to make things worse. The guys were nearly unbearable. One was a total jerk that had to hold a position of power in the Misogynistic Assholes Club. Another seemed to have a creepy fetish about armpits, although she couldn’t be entirely sure since she excused herself to use the ladies room when he asked to see hers.

The other three were of the boring variety, which was a lot easier to handle than the creeps and assholes. With the boring guys, she could just sit there and think about other things. None of them were outgoing enough to make eye contact with her or even look at her, so she didn’t have to worry about them trying to picture her naked.

She was down to the final four and Andi had a feeling it was going to be the longest twenty minutes of her life, but she knew she could make it. At least she’d have great stories to tell her friends when they had their next girl’s night although she wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t have to wait that long to tell them. She half expected to find a couple of them waiting in the restaurant for her when the whole thing was over, they’d all been so eager to hear about her night.

The next guy to sit down at her table was pretty good looking which gave him more potential out of the gate than her previous dates. Not that she was in it for looks, but physical attraction did help move things along. Unless the good looking guy turned out to be a total asshat, then looks meant nothing. With any luck, the guy sitting in front of her wouldn’t be one of those guys.

“Hi, I’m Jeremy.”

Jeremy turned out to not only be cute, but funny and charming as well. As their time wound down, Andi was actually feeling hopeful. It only took most of the night, but she finally had a possible name to write down on her card at the end of the evening.

“I hope you’re going to write my name down, Andi. I plan on writing yours down.”

She smiled over at him, wondering if he could read her mind. She started to respond when a commotion near the entrance drew her attention away from her date. A striking brunette was stalking toward her table, yelling out her dates name as she approached.

“Jeremy. What the fuck are you doing here? Speed dating? Seriously? Why can’t you just pick up a chick on Tinder like the rest of the world’s cheating asshole husbands? You sign up for speed dating and try duping a whole group of women instead. You’re such an asshole.”

“Holy shit, you’re married?” Andi asked as she looked back at Jeremy who seemed to be sinking lower in his chair by the second. “Oh my god. How the hell is this even happening?”

“I’m sorry. I meant everything I said, Andi. You seem really great…”

“Oh fuck off, dude. Seriously? Your wife is standing right here.”

The brunette continued to yell at Jeremy all while the rest of the attendees watched. The buzzer had gone off, barely noticed by anyone else while the show was going on. Andi wanted to use the distraction to run from the room, but since it was happening at her table, she was kind of stuck.

“Oh my gosh, what is going on here?” Veronica asked as she finally made her way through the crowd.

Andi looked over at the blonde, who seemed extremely upset by the turn of events and gave her the cliff notes version. She knew Kerrigan was going to be pissed when she heard about what happened. Her friend took great pride in being the best matchmaking service in the Seattle area. Anything less than perfection was unacceptable, and a scene like this could end up being embarrassing for her brand. Andi felt a little guilty being a part of it.

“Seems your screening process missed the fact that this one’s married.”

“That’s impossible.”

“Is it? Cause it sure and the hell sounds like he’s married.”

“Oh fuck. How could this have happened? Kerrigan’s going to lose it when she finds out,” Veronica muttered as she turned and walked over to the bar.

Andi waited for the other woman to break up the fight that was still happening in front of her, but Veronica seemed to be having some kind of mental breakdown. She was probably worried about losing her job, which she really couldn’t blame her for. The entire speed dating thing had been a shit show. There was no way they could finish things up now that they’d been interrupted.

As Andi looked around the room, she realized finishing didn’t seem to matter to anyone else. The other attendees were pairing up, chatting with each other like they were actually on a date. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves but her. Grabbing her purse, she took one last look at Jeremy and his wife, then made a beeline for the exit. She’d almost interrupted their arguing so she could thank them for putting her out of her misery.

Once in the dining room proper of Arrow, she looked over to the bar to see if any of her friends were there. When she didn’t see anyone that wasn’t a member of the staff, she took that as a sign to get the hell out of dodge. She was eager to get home and wash off the desperation that had soaked through her clothes. As she got into her car, she sighed, not looking forward to being stuck with her thoughts for the twenty-five minute drive back home to Issaquah.

Not for the first time, she wished she lived in West Seattle again. It would make life a bit easier, not having to commute to work or to see her friends. Maybe instead of dating, she should think about making a different change in her life. Her niece would be leaving for college soon and she’d no longer have a reason to share a home with her brother.

All thoughts of her disastrous evening were pushed from her brain as she thought about the possibilities that would come with having a home of her own. Maybe something good would come out of her evening after all.


Andi - Five Months Later

Everything was changing. Her life seemed to be spinning out of control and Andi had no idea how to get it to slow down. It wasn’t that the change was bad; in fact, it was the best damn thing to happen to her family in a long time. She was pretty damn ecstatic about everything, but that didn’t make things any easier for her. Especially since she’d been forced to take a long, hard look at her life and what she’d seen made her cringe.

At some point in the last eighteen years, Andi had stopped living. She’d become complacent. Going through the motions, taking care of her family’s wine distribution business, and her brother and her niece, but not herself. She occasionally hung out with friends, but she hadn’t had sex in over five years, having given up putting in the effort to even find a casual hook-up when it started feeling like too much work.

At first, it had all made sense. She had to help her brother take care of her niece. That’s what family was for, after all. Especially after their parents practically disowned Declan for “ruining his future”. She put her life on hold to help raise her niece and Andi didn’t regret that for a second. When she was really little, Erin had needed her, but as she got older, Andi could have had a life of her own. She could have gone after what she’d always wanted.

But she didn’t. Not really, anyway. Instead, she stuck with what she knew. She rolled with what was comfortable. For too long she stood around and watched life pass her by.

She couldn’t blame it all on wanting to be there for her brother though. Andi knew it was more than that. She just wasn’t ready to explore the more profound meaning yet. So rather than delve into all the shit in her head, she opted to let her friends push her out of her comfort zone. Now that her brother had found love and was moving on with his life and Erin was off to college, Andi knew it was time to take her life off of pause.

The first thing she tried to change was her lack of a love life. Taking part in her friend Kerrigan’s first speed dating event had been a total bust. Truthfully, It had been a full-fledged disaster. But ultimately, it had given her the push to make the change she really needed to make. Suddenly, it had become clear that to have a life of her own she needed a home of her own.

For the entire thirty-six years of her life, she’d shared a home with her twin brother. Half of that time, she lived with him under their parent's roof, but as soon as they’d graduated high school, they’d bought a house together. For eighteen years, she went through the motions, taking care of her niece, living a solitary life because her brother was.

Finding her own place turned out to be easier than she thought. Even breaking the news to Declan had been easy. Of course, it felt weird once she was living on her own. Thankfully her new condo wasn’t far from where her brother was living at Brooklyn’s house which gave her some comfort.

Now that she was on her own, she knew she had to give dating a shot again even though the idea made her nauseous. It started with letting her friend Stacy set her up on a blind date with her brother-in-law. Tony was a nice guy, but he wasn’t her type. Aside from that, Andi was pretty sure Tony was gay, but not ready to admit it to himself or others. He’d checked out their waiter’s ass more times than he’d looked at her boobs. Usually, she would’ve been happy not to be ogled, but they were on a date, and she expected it to happen at least once. Her boobs were just of no interest to Tony at least not the way their waiter’s ass was.

Then Stacy and their friend Brandy had decided to drag her out to random bars on Friday nights so she could hopefully meet a guy. Andi tried telling them that meeting a guy at a bar was the last thing she wanted, but they wouldn’t take no for an answer.

For a month, she was forced to spend her Friday nights dealing with the meat market otherwise known as the Seattle nightlife. Nothing was appealing about the men she met. Most were sleazy, some far too young for her and others far too old, but all of them sleazy nonetheless. None of them were looking for more than a hook-up, which would have been fine ten years ago, but wasn’t what she was looking for now that she was on the downhill slide to forty.

Thankfully, Stacy and Brandy gave up after the month from hell. They both had men of their own and decided to spend more time with them then with their dating-challenged friend. Andi wasn’t ready to give up though. She just knew herself well enough to know that what her friends were trying wasn’t going to work for her. So instead she went to an expert to find out when she could get a do-over on speed dating, even though she still wasn’t sold on the idea.

“I really am sorry about the first time around, Andi. I know I keep saying it every time we see each other, but I still feel terrible,” Kerrigan admitted as she took a seat on the barstool next to the island in Andi’s kitchen. “I promise things will be different next time. I dropped the ball and let someone else plan things since I was so wrapped up in planning my wedding and then taking time off for my honeymoon. I should have warned you.”

Andi shook her head as she leaned against the counter, a nearly empty wine glass in her hand. “You had no way of knowing that things weren’t going to work out. And I one hundred percent don’t blame you for focusing on you. You’re one of the hardest working people I know. You deserved the wedding of your dreams and to take some time off to enjoy your new husband.”

“It’s not that it didn’t work out. Our first attempt at speed dating was a catastrophe. We’ll be lucky if we can get any sign-ups for the next one.”

“Aside from the obvious, it wasn’t that bad. It was pretty much exactly what I expected. Men with mommy issues and ones who still lived with their mommies. And of course the lecherous jerks.”

Kerrigan sighed and ran a hand over her perfectly styled auburn hair. “That’s exactly the problem. That is not our usual clientele. Anyone who showed up expecting Finding Love’s usual standards was probably pissed. And the outburst? There’s no telling how many people heard about that and now associate that crap with my company.”

Andi tried not to laugh at how dramatic her friend was being. The speed dating event back in May hadn't been nearly as terrible as Kerrigan was making it out to be. Sure there were a lot of guys there that Andi wouldn’t have given the time of day to on a normal day, but she had a feeling she was a hell of a lot pickier than the other women at the event.

“I don’t think anyone left pissed off, well maybe Jeremy and his wife,” Andi said with a shrug. “A lot of people seemed to pair off and make connections. The guys there just didn’t turn out to be for me.”

“I can’t believe they aren’t even married. All that bullshit and it wasn’t even true; just some game they like to play. They could have ruined my reputation with that crap. I was beyond pissed when I found out. They made us look stupid for their amusement. Who does that?”

“Assholes,” Andi joked before switching to serious advice mode. “I think you’re harder on yourself than you need to be. Make the changes you want to make and do it again in the style you think your normal clients would expect. Just don’t make it too stuffy or impersonal. I know you love your questionnaires and your rules, but even I know love doesn’t give a shit about any of that.”

“For someone who hasn’t been in a relationship in forever, you sure seem to know what you’re talking about.”

“I’ve been standing here watching everyone around me fall in love. It’s hard not to figure a few things out along the way.”

“Makes me wonder then why you’re ignoring the universe and trying out speed dating instead of going after what’s right in front of you,” Kerrigan said with a knowing smile.

Andi shook her head again. “We’re not talking about that. Just let me know when you get things figured out so I can sign up again.”

Kerrigan held her hands up, a smile on her face that told Andi she’d stop talking about it, but she wouldn’t let it go. If Andi was a betting woman, she’d bet the minute Kerrigan left her apartment she was going to be on the phone to Brooklyn, the woman Andi’s brother was head over heels in love with who also happened to be Kerrigan’s best friend. The two of them would spend the entire phone call talking about Andi and the man she was trying desperately to forget.

“We should have a new plan put together in about a month. Veronica thought it would be fun to do a Halloween version of speed dating, but I threw that idea out immediately. We’re thinking the first Saturday in November, the weekend before Oliver and Meghan’s party,” Kerrigan paused, a smile lighting up her face. “Hey, maybe you’ll meet someone to take with you.”

“Yeah, that might be a bit too quick of a turnaround for me. Meeting the guy one week, then introducing him to my friends and family the next. Definitely not going to happen.”

“I get it. We were talking about pushing it back until after the holidays since there are a few people on my staff who think dating right before the holidays can be tricky. What if people hit it off, then they have to navigate through holiday protocol, and it can get awkward. I don’t want to wait that long to clear the company’s name from the first fiasco, though. We’ll let other people worry about the dating during the holidays thing.”

Andi let her friend continue to ramble on about the pros and cons of dating around the holidays. Considering this would be the first year it wouldn’t be just her, Declan, and Erin for the holidays, she was all for finding a potential match before then. It’s not that she didn’t love Brooklyn or that she wasn’t excited that her brother finally had someone else in his life. It was that she was starting to feel like a third wheel in every aspect of her world. Everyone was paired up. Everyone had someone to rely on, someone who needed them in return. Everyone she knew had someone to love except her, and she felt like she was missing out.

Until recently, Andi had been perfectly fine being on her own. At least that’s what she kept telling herself. In reality, she wanted what Declan had. She’d always wanted it. At one point in time, she thought she was going to have the husband, the kids, the picket fence and the whole nine yards, but fate had something else planned for her.

Andi wouldn’t take back the choice she made eighteen years ago. She loved Erin more than anything. Helping raise her was the highlight of Andi’s life so far. It meant a lot to her to be able to help her brother when he needed it the most especially since their parents abandoned him in his time of need.

“I’m excited to help you meet someone. You deserve to have a life of your own finally. Moving into this apartment was a great first step. Getting out there to meet people and start dating will be a great second step.”

Andi looked around at the space she now called hers. It was weird having a place all to herself. After spending her entire life close to her brother, being on her own was a shock to her system. She still expected to hear her brother getting up at the crack of dawn to get ready for work or to hear Erin coming home just before curfew. Now the only noises she heard were her own mixed with the occasional closing of her neighbor’s door.

It also felt weird living back in West Seattle. She’d moved away as soon as she and Declan had graduated from high school. They took Erin and moved to Issaquah and barely looked back. Of course, most of their friends lived in West Seattle, so they spent time there every once in a while, but until their parents moved to Florida, they did their best to avoid them and anywhere they might go.

“It’s weird living on my own.”

“I bet. You’ve always lived with Declan, right?”

“Since the day we were born. Although, thankfully we stopped sharing a room once we were five.”

“Lucky,” Kerrigan said, the word drawn out dramatically. “I had to share a room with my older sister Trisha until I was eleven and she left for college.”

“Thankfully, it was only ever just the two of us. My father got more than he bargained for the first time around, so he ended up getting fixed, so there were no other surprises.”

“Your father sounds like a real peach.”

Andi rolled her eyes. “He’s something alright.”

“Enough about that depressing topic. Are you sure you won’t let me set you up with the same plan I had Savannah on?”

Andi laughed. “You know I’m not ready for that kind of commitment. Speed dating gives me enough anxiety. Jumping right into the deep end would probably kill me. Hell, I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for your regular experience.”

“I have a feeling you’d surprise yourself, but I won’t push about this or that other thing I promised not to bring up. You’ll come around eventually.”

“I wouldn’t hold your breath if I were you.”

It was Kerrigan’s turn to laugh this time and Andi couldn’t blame her. Things were changing fast, and there was no way Andi could deny the fact that the changes were going to keep coming. Without acknowledging that her friend was right, she took a sip of her wine and thought about topics she could switch their conversation to. She knew it would only take one to make Kerrigan forget all about Andi’s dating life.

“So, how’s that gorgeous husband of yours?” Andi asked then watched as Kerrigan’s gaze softened, a blush rushing to her cheeks as she thought about the man in question.

Mission accomplished, Andi thought as Kerrigan started talking about Ben. Someday she’d be able to lose herself in a conversation about the man she loved. The journey might not be easy, but Andi knew it would be worth it when she got to be the one with the dreamy look on her face and the swoonworthy stories to share with her friends.

She remembered what it was like to be in love; to want to shout about it from the rooftops. Back then she couldn’t share her feelings with anyone. Now she had girlfriends she could talk to. She had women in her life who would understand how she felt instead of a bunch of guys who didn’t know what love was. Guys who would’ve been pissed if they ever found out who she was in love with.

It might be slow going, but Andi could feel things falling into place. A new outlook on life...check. New home...check. New man...hopefully, maybe coming soon. Only time would tell, but for now, Andi felt pretty good about her odds.

Chapter 2

Braeden - 5 Years Old

He hated school so much. It was the worst of the worst. He hated it even more than he hated eating his vegetables and he really, really hated vegetables.

Almost everything about school sucked. The kids were mean and picked on him every day. His teacher never listened to him and never wanted to give him any help. The only good thing about school was that he got to color and he didn’t really mind that they made him take a nap. He’d only started school two days ago, but it already felt like forever. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t stay home like he used to.

School was stupid, and the kids were stupid, and it all made him feel stupid. But no one would listen. Even his dad ignored his complaints and instead told him he’d eventually like school before he went back to watching TV.

“Hey look. It’s B...B...B...Baby B...B...B...Braeden.”

Braeden’s shoulders slumped as the voice of the school bully reached his ears. He turned his tiny body around to face the group of boys that had ruined school for him. He knew he should have kept walking, but he learned on the first day it only made things worse.

“L...L...leave me alone,” he said, the stutter he’d yet to master making the kids around him laugh.

“I don’t think so.”

Braeden looked at the bully and his friends, then looked around at the other kids that were standing around watching. It was the exact same scene as the last two days.

He really hated school.

It sucked that he was too little to do anything. The other kids were bigger. The meanest ones were in third grade, three whole grades ahead of him. One day he’d grow taller. One day he’d make them wish they’d never picked on him when he couldn’t defend himself. Until then he’d just have to deal.

“Let’s see what your mommy packed for you,” Curtis said as he reached for Braeden’s bag.

Braeden fought not to show how much Curtis’s use of the word mommy hurt. She was the reason he was in school instead of at home. His heart ached just thinking about her, but he brushed it off and tried to focus on not getting beat up. He wasn’t going to just hand over the lunch his father packed for him, so he tightened his grip on the bag. He might not have much of a choice when it came to getting bullied, but he didn’t want to give up his lunch so easily.

“Hey Curtis, leave him alone.”

A murmur of voices filled the playground as heads turned to see who was crazy enough to interrupt Curtis when he was in the middle of bullying someone. Braeden turned so he could see who the owner of the slightly high-pitched voice was. His jaw fell open when he discovered the owner of the voice was a girl. She had dark hair and was just as short as he was and a heck of a lot skinnier.

“Andi...don’t do it,” someone called out from behind her, but she didn’t stop walking toward Curtis and his friends.

When the little girl stepped in between him and Curtis, Braeden couldn’t believe what he was seeing. She was tiny and Curtis was huge. There was no way the older boy was going to listen to her. She was just going to end up getting picked on too.

“Oh look...Baby Braeden needs a girl to fight his battles for him.”

“Leave him alone. Leave all of us alone. Stop picking on the kids smaller than you. I mean it.”

“And who’s gonna stop me?”


Braeden had no idea where this girl got her guts from, but he needed to find out. He watched in awe as she stood up to the meanest kid in school. Curtis didn’t back down, but neither did she. Despite the urging of the two boys that had followed her when she came to Braeden’s rescue, she kept right on standing up to Curtis. And when Curtis put his hands against her shoulders and pushed her into Braeden, she did the last thing Braeden ever expected anyone to do, especially a girl.

“Holy crap. She punched Curtis in the nose.”

The sound of her tiny fist making contact with Curtis’s nose echoed through the playground. Followed by his outcry of pain. As he stared down at her stunned by her actions, he held his hands around his nose, tears streaming from his eyes. Curtis looked around at the crowd and then back down at the girl before he turned and ran away.

The kids around her cheered as she was joined by her two friends. Braeden watched them wondering if maybe they would be mad at him because she stood up for him. One of the boys had the same dark hair as her and when she turned to face Braeden, he realized she and the boy looked a lot alike. Braeden assumed the kid was her brother and was instantly jealous. He’d always wanted a brother. The other boy had brown hair and was just as tall as he was. None of them looked mad; in fact, they looked like they were happy to meet him.

“Hi, I’m Andi. That’s Oliver and that’s my brother Declan,” she said as she pointed to her two friends.

“Andi...that’s a boy’s name,” Braeden stupidly pointed out instead of saying thank you or introducing himself. The boys snickered behind her while she scowled at him.

“Do you want some of what I just gave Curtis?” she asked her fists clenched at her sides.

“I’m sorry. I…I...I don’t...I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry. I’m just kidding. Andi is a boy’s name, but it’s a lot better than Andrea,” she said with a giggle that seemed so different from the girl he just watched punch a bully in the nose.

“I’m Braeden,” he said finally.

He was rewarded by the brightest smile he’d ever seen; her green eyes sparkled with happiness. For the first time in days, he forgot about his mom, how much he hated school and the kids there. For the first time since his dad forced him out of the house, Braeden was happy and it was all because of the girl smiling at him.

“Oh Braeden, I have a feeling we’re going to be such great friends.”


Braeden - Present Day

“Remind me how I ended up getting roped into helping you with all of the party preparations again. I would think one of the girls would be a hell of a lot better at tying a ribbon around bubbles than I am.”

Although he loved spending time with one of his best friend’s, Braeden could think of a thousand things he would’ve rather been doing with her than dealing with ribbons and bows. When she’d first asked him to come over, Meghan hadn’t said a thing about helping her out with favors for her party. He couldn’t remember her exact words, but he knew they included hanging out and having pizza and beer. So far, he’d only gotten the hanging out part of her promise. The pizza and beer apparently couldn’t join the party until after they finished the tasks on her to-do list.

Meghan laughed as she shook her head. “Come on now, don’t get down on yourself. You’re doing a great job.”

“My fingers are too big for this crap. Isn’t there some other menial task you can have me do?” Braeden asked before jutting his bottom lip out and giving her his best puppy dog eyes.

Of course, the look didn’t work on her. It never did. Meghan was immune to his charms, and she had no problem making him work for everything.

“Braeden, you’re my only hope. Savannah’s home with a sick baby, Brooklyn’s incubating two tiny humans, Andi’s out at speed dating with Kerrigan, and Sylvia had to work. We’ve only got a week until the party, and there’s still so much to do. Have you finished writing your parts for the ceremony yet? I’d like to see that before Saturday.”

Braeden tried to ignore the bomb Meghan dropped like it was absolutely nothing, but he couldn’t. Just the mere mention of Andi’s name had him perking up. Hearing the words that came after her name had his stomach sinking into his feet.

“Can we back up real quick? Andi went where with Kerrigan?” he asked gruffly.

Meghan’s smile dropped as she realized she’d said something she wasn’t supposed to. “Oh fuck.”

“Yeah, oh fuck. Give it up, Crosby, or Brooks, whatever the hell your name is now. Where the hell did Andi go?”

Sighing, Meghan put another expertly ribboned bottle of bubbles in her box. He could tell she was hesitating, trying to figure out what she should tell him. All he wanted was the truth, and she was damn well going to give it to him now that she let the cat out of the bag.

“Look, it’s not like anyone specifically said ‘don’t tell Braeden’. We just didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“What the hell are you talking about? What’s this we bullshit? Are you telling me that you and Oliver knew, and you both decided you didn’t want to tell me that Andi was finally dating again?”

Meghan chewed on her bottom lip as her gaze met his. “Yep. That sounds about right.”

Braeden’s blood boiled in his veins. His friends, hell his family, made a decision for him that could have cost him his shot and they didn’t think anything of it. He’d been planning on talking to her, but he needed to speak to her brother first. He kept thinking of going over to Declan’s place then thought better of it or made up an excuse not to go. Now here he was learning that his window might have closed and it pissed him off.

“The odds of her meeting someone she wants to see again are pretty slim, Braeden. I mean the first time around was a total shit show. Let’s hope that’s how things go this time too.”

Running a hand through his hair, he gripped the back of his neck, massaging his suddenly tense muscles. His worst nightmare was on the verge of coming true and no one seemed to care.

“What if she meets someone, Meg? You guys should have told me.”

“Okay, we should have told you, but you shouldn’t have needed this to motivate your ass. It’s been months since we first talked about you getting Andi back. What the fuck is taking you so long?”

Fighting against the urge to yell at his friend, Braeden grabbed the frilly throw pillow that sat next to him on the couch and held it in front of his face. He screamed into it, letting out every ounce of anger he had. At least all the anger he had toward his friends for not telling him about Andi’s latest foray into dating. His anger for himself still burned bright in his chest. He’d probably never be rid of it, especially not if Andi met someone.

Meghan was right. It wasn’t their fault he hadn’t gone through with his plans. He was a coward, plain and simple. He had no one to blame but himself.

“Fuck Meghan, what do I do? I can’t lose my shot with her. I’ve waited too damn long for us to get here. For her not to come straight to me hurts, but it’s also my fault for not letting her know my intentions.”

“You need to go talk to Declan. Then you need to make things right with Andi. You guys are meant to be together. Everyone can see it, even Declan, in case you’re worried about how that’s going to go. Stop being a pussy and get it done.”

Running a hand over his face, Braeden laughed at the way his friend laid it out for him. He loved that she wasn’t worried about sparing his feelings.

“Damn girl. Have you ever thought about being a motivational speaker cause I think you could really do wonders for people.”

“It’s called years of experience at being a coward. It does you no good to sit back and watch the life you want pass you by. Fear can kick your ass, or you can let it give you a kick in the ass. I hope you choose the latter because I want you to be happy. You deserve to be happy.”

Before he knew it, Meghan was sitting next to him on the couch, wrapping her arms around his waist so she could give him an awkward side hug. He should’ve expected the gesture given how touchy-feely Meghan tended to be. He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her in tight. Meghan was like the sister he never had and never knew he wanted. Since she’d come into his life, she’d nearly changed it as much as she’d changed the life of his best friend. Even though she flipped him a lot of shit, he wouldn’t trade their relationship for anything, except maybe a chance with Andi.

“Now stop crying and get to tying buddy. There’s a whole ‘nother box of bubbles to tie and then we’ve got to focus on centerpieces.”

“Son of a bitch,” Braeden muttered. “You’re lucky I love you and Oliver, little girl.”

They both laughed knowing he was all talk. Spending time with Meghan was the highlight of his week even if his thumbs kept getting in the way of the knots he was trying to make. For now, he’d forget about what Andi was up to while he helped out their friend. He’d make it through the next week dealing with preparations for the vow renewal, but the minute it was all over, he was going to talk to Declan.

It was about time everyone was very clear on how he felt about Andi, especially the woman in question. He’d been a coward long enough. It was finally time to get his girl.



“That’s when I went from a junior analyst to a senior analyst. The promotion didn’t happen as soon as I thought it should have, but…”

Looking around for Kerrigan, Andi wondered if she could get her friend to end the current session sooner than she was supposed to. She felt like she was fifteen minutes into her five-minute date with Brad. When he’d first sat down, Andi thought he had some potential. He wasn’t bad looking, and he was dressed nicely, which wasn’t something she could say for some of the other men. When he said he worked in accounting, she thought they might have a love of numbers in common. It turned out he didn’t really like accounting, he just sort of fell into it.

She had no idea how much longer she was going to have to listen to her current date, but it once again seemed to be par for the course. It turned out even when speed dating was open for Kerrigan’s hand-picked clients, the potential options for Andi were still slim. Of the eleven men she’d spent time with, including Brad, not a single one of them caught her interest.

Most were decent looking enough, but they either had no personality or too much personality. Some, like Brad, talked non-stop, others barely said a word, which made getting them to answer a single question feel like pulling teeth. One guy, whose name she couldn’t remember, talked loudly and with his hands. While Brad continued to babble, she could hear everything the other man had to say to his current date five tables away.

A dull ache started to form behind her eyes. Andi had one guy left to meet and then she could run for the hills. A hot bath and a glass of wine were calling her name. Or maybe two glasses of wine. Whatever it took to erase the memory of the evening from her brain. No matter how much sweet talking Kerrigan did, Andi knew this was her last attempt at speed dating. Hell, this was probably going to be her last attempt at dating period. It was too much work for little to no reward. She’d been on her own for years, as she sat there listening to Brad drone on Andi couldn’t think of a reason why she shouldn’t keep that streak alive.

The buzzer announcing their time was up sounded throughout the banquet room of Arrow. Andi felt a weight lift from her shoulders knowing she was nearly free. She just had to make it through five more minutes. That seemed like nothing after everything she’d dealt with over the last hour. Of course, it was easy to say at the moment, but if the last guy was anything like Brad, Andi might lose her mind.

Brad didn’t even stop talking as he left her table. She felt terrible for the woman that had to deal with him next. In the time he was at her table, she never even got a chance to tell him her name. She was going to be shocked if he ended up matching with anyone after the fact. Hell, Andi wasn’t sure he’d even have a name to write down on his sheet since he never seemed to let the women speak.

“That was a bit brutal. He could have at least let you tell him your name so he knew who he was boring to death.”

Andi’s head shot up as her final date sat down in Brad’s vacated seat. She gave him a quick once over, then another, slower, more thorough perusal. He was good looking although in a prim and proper sort of way. Everything about him screamed perfectionist. His hair was perfectly styled. His scruff perfectly groomed. He wore a suit tailored to fit him like a second skin. Glasses that she was reasonably certain weren’t a prop were perched on his nose giving him an air of intelligence. The frames were rectangle which was a look she didn’t see often.

“It’s a bit rude of you to notice how my date went when you had one of your own,” she pointed out before taking a sip of her wine.

For the first time in an hour, Andi was feeling a bit nervous. There was something about the man in front of her that she found both intimidating and intriguing.

“That’s probably true, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t even notice. Her face was buried in her phone the entire time. Her inattention gave me plenty of time to observe what was happening around me and I happened to notice you looked absolutely miserable during your date.”

“What? I didn’t realize that was an option. I thought we were supposed to keep our phones away from the table,” Andi jokingly whined. “To think I could have done something other than roll my eyes for the last five minutes. What a wasted opportunity.”

“Now that you know it’s an option, I hope you won’t be tempted to use your phone during the rest of our time together,” he said giving her a thousand-watt smile. “I’m Matthew, by the way.”

He reached a hand out across the table and for a moment, Andi wasn’t sure what to do with it. Not a single guy she’d met so far had wanted to shake her hand. Her cheeks heated as she took his hand in hers. His skin was soft, his handshake firm. He held onto her hand longer than necessary, but for some reason, she didn’t care. Had one of the others guys she’d met that evening tried it, she probably would have decked him.

“It’s nice to meet you, Matthew. I’m Andi.”

“What an unusual name for a beautiful woman.”

Andi fought the urge to roll her eyes. Matthew had started out with so much potential but was going to lose a ton of points for the lame ass line he tried to feed her about her name. Like she hadn’t heard it, or something like it, for most of her life. She pulled her hand back out of his grasp and grabbed her glass of wine. The liquid was getting dangerously low, and it didn’t look like the servers were making the rounds anymore. She’d have to nurse the last of the liquid for the rest of her date. With any luck, the crap coming out of Matthew’s mouth wouldn’t get any worse.

“Sorry. That was pretty bad, wasn’t it? That’s not usually my style. Can we start over?”

Andi smiled. Finally, a guy who seemed to be aware of when he was being a douchebag. Either that or he was really good at reading body language and could tell that his line had irritated her. Either way, Matthew seemed to be a rare species in the dating world.

“Sure. I’m Andi, and you are?”

“My name’s Matthew. It’s lovely to meet you, Andi.”

He gave her another blinding smile, showing off perfectly straight, white teeth and dimples hidden behind his well-manicured five o’clock shadow.

“I would love to get to know you better, Andi, but it looks like we’re running out of time. Mind if I rapid fire some questions your way?”

“Not as long as I can return the favor. Go ahead.”

“If you were on death row what would you choose as your final meal?”

Andi laughed at his choice of opening question. “That’s a bit dark don’t you think?”

“Not at all. I think this question delves into the heart of a person. I suppose you were expecting something lame like favorite color.”

Shaking her head, Andi felt her cheeks grow warm. “For my final meal, I would choose tacos.”

“Tacos, really?”

“Yes, tacos. They’re the absolute best food ever. I’d ask for hard-shelled tacos and soft tacos and a variety of meat. They’d have to have lettuce and tomatoes, olives and sour cream. Guacamole of course, which wouldn’t cost me extra cause I’m on death row and the state would be paying for it. Slather them with some hot as hell hot sauce, and I’d die happy. The only thing that would make the meal better would be a margarita as big as my head.”

“ kind of sounds like you’ve thought about this before.”

“Nope. I just love tacos,” she said with a laugh. “So what about you. What would your last meal be?”

“Oh, that’s easy. A thick, juicy steak and garlic mashed potatoes.”

“Interesting. Okay, if you could live anywhere else in the world, where would you live?”

“Another easy one. I’d move to London. Are you a morning person or a night person?”

“Night person for sure,” Andi said quickly, noticing a hint of disappointment flash over Matthew’s face as she answered.

Apparently, they didn’t have that one in common. He also didn’t seem to like tacos, which in her opinion should have been made into their own food group. And while London seemed cool, she couldn’t understand how that would be someone’s dream home. It seemed a bit stuffy, although there were a ton of exciting places to travel to.

“If you could have any superpower known to man, which one would you choose?” she asked somehow knowing he would pick something practical like flight.

“Oh, I would want to fly of course. I hate traffic, and if I could fly, I wouldn’t have to worry about it ever again.”

Bingo. Matthew was adorably dorky and extremely predictable.

“What do you do on Sundays?”

Andi paused for a moment, wondering if it was some sort of trick question. Although the man gave boring, predictable answers, he was still cute and charming. There was still a chance until he asked the Sunday question. Was he the kind of guy who wanted to hear that she went to church twice on Sunday? If he was, he was going to be sorely disappointed.

“Depends on the time of year. September through December, or January if we’re lucky, I’m watching football. The rest of the year it’s baseball or hockey or racing. Sundays are for sports.”

“Me too. I’ve got season tickets for the Seahawks and the Mariners. Maybe we can catch a game together sometime.”

Smiling, Andi felt herself relax a little. “That would be nice.”

“Do you have any pets?” she asked picking their game back up.

“No. I work long hours, so it never seemed right to get a pet. Hopefully, I can change that someday. Do you have any siblings?”

“I have a twin brother.”

“Wow, that must be weird and cool.”

“Yes, to both. Do you have any siblings?”

Matthew shook his head. “Only child, despite years of begging my parents for a little brother.”

“Sorry, they disappointed you.”

Laughing, he reached across the table, his hand brushing against hers. When Andi didn’t immediately pull it away, he picked it up, caressing her palm with his thumb.

“What are you looking for in a relationship, Andi?” he asked softly, his gaze rising to meet hers.

The man might give boring, predictable answers, but he gave ridiculously intense eye contact that sent chills down her spine in the most delicious way. Partnered with the seemingly innocent gesture of her hand in his and the intensely personal question, she found herself crossing her legs. Suddenly, the adorably dorky man in front of her had become dynamic and intriguing.

She flicked her tongue out to lick her suddenly dry lips and noticed the way Matthew’s gaze dipped down to take in the action. So, she wasn’t the only one affected by the sudden uptick in the sexual attraction between them. Good to know.

“This is going to sound stupid, but I’m just looking for someone to share my life with. The highs, the lows, the in between, all of it.”

“That’s not stupid,” he assured her. “Isn’t that what we all want? A partner in life and love.”

“I guess. Although, after this experience, I’m not so sure. I think what most people want is sex...that or someone to be their mommy. Or maybe even both. I’m not really sure.”

Throwing his head back, Matthew laughed, the sound music to her ears. She enjoyed watching him let go. She assumed it didn’t happen very often, given the fact that he was pretty buttoned up and serious. Although, there was a chance she was reading him all wrong. Maybe he only came across as boring but was really a wild and crazy guy. Or perhaps he was a combination of wild and stoic.

Andi just hoped she’d get the chance to figure out who exactly Matthew was. There was no doubt in her mind that she was going to be writing his name down on her card. She hoped he’d do the same. Before she could express that desire, the buzzer went off, and Kerrigan was making her final announcement. Matthew smiled over at her and winked before getting up and walking toward the front of the room. He grabbed a pen and card from one of Kerrigan’s helpers, scribbled something down quickly and then walked out of the banquet room without giving her a second glance.

Excitement coursed through her as she made her way to the front and took the pen and card that Kerrigan offered. Her friend had a huge smile on her face, but Andi wasn’t sure if her smile was because she knew something Andi didn’t or if she was just happy the event went off without a hitch. Taking a deep breath, she uncapped the pen, then wrote down the name of the man that had finally made her feel something. She just had to hope he’d done his part.

Chapter 3


“Dearly beloved we are gathered here today,” Braeden paused for dramatic effect and tried not to laugh when Meghan raised an eyebrow at him. “We’re here today because we love the heck out of these two people and we wanted to show them how much we love them by throwing them this party. Of course, they decided to hijack it and turn it into a vow renewal instead of just a plain ol’ anniversary party. I mean, they did owe us something, right? Considering they eloped and none of us actually got to witness them getting married the first time.”

“Braeden…” Meghan warned.

“You knew what you were getting into when you asked me to do this,” Braeden said with a wink. “Now, where was I? Oh yeah. We could all see from the beginning how crazy Oliver was about Meghan. And she was just as crazy about him but too stubborn to admit it. Vegas was the best damn thing to ever happen to them.”

Braeden looked around the room to see nearly everyone in the room nodding in agreement. No one knew what would have happened if Meghan and Oliver hadn’t drunkenly gotten married in Las Vegas. He liked to think that true love would have won out and they’d end up exactly where they were. He hoped that Oliver wouldn’t have given up on her and would have chased her to the ends of the earth.

Of course, that was Braeden’s optimistic, romantic side seeing everything work out exactly how they were supposed to. The realistic side of him feared that Meghan would have run so far and so fast there was a good chance Oliver would’ve never found her. Not if Meghan didn’t want to be found.

Thankfully, they’d never know how things would have played out. Vegas happened, the drunken wedding happened, and now they were going to live happily ever after for the rest of their lives. Just like they were supposed to.

“My brother from a better mother has done his best to rein me in over the years and has been a constant in my life when I needed one. Thanks for that man. And thank you for bringing Meghan into my life. That night in Vegas, Oliver didn’t realize it, but he was gifting me with the sister I never knew I wanted. Even when she was dealing with some seriously heavy shit, she was able to knock some sense into me. I’m thankful to have you two in my life, and I’m honored that you asked me to stand up here in front of your friends and family even though I’m betting you’re getting real close to regretting that decision.”

Meghan held up her hand, her thumb and forefinger an inch apart. She had a smile on her face, her eyes glistening with unshed tears. Braeden laughed before grabbing her hand and placing a quick kiss on the back of it. He then looked over at Oliver who had a similar smile on his face but wasn’t as close to getting choked up. Braeden knew it was only a matter of time before his friend was shedding tears of his own.

“Since neither of them remembers the vows they said in Vegas...owww,” Braeden said as he rubbed the arm Meghan punched. “Oliver and Meghan would like to exchange the vows they’ve written for this occasion.”

“Since Oliver’s are probably going to be good and sappy, I’m going to go first,” Meghan said garnering a laugh from the crowd. “Oliver, I don’t think you realize this, but you saved me. In more ways than one, you’re the reason I’m alive today. Your stubborn perseverance, your love, your amazing smile, your sexy as hell body...just everything about you, I couldn’t resist and because of that, I’m here. Thank you for loving me so much you refused to let me go, even when I tried to force your hand.”

As Meghan continued pouring her heart out, Braeden looked out at the crowd surrounding them. Some people were smiling, others dabbing at their eyes with tissues. His gaze landed on the one person he’d wanted to see more than any other and noticed that surprisingly she was one of the dabbers. Seeing her cry made him want to wrap her up in his arms; to give her comfort even though they were tears of happiness.

Even with red eyes and tear-stained cheeks, Andi Reese was the most beautiful woman in the room. Her dark hair was swept away from her face on one side and brushed against her shoulders in soft curls. She was wearing something strapless and green, the color making the green of her eyes pop. Braeden wished he could get a better look at her, but she was surrounded by people who were blocking his view. Briefly, their eyes met, but she quickly looked away which annoyed him. As his friends talked about love, there was no one else he’d rather lock eyes with than the woman he’d been in love with for more than half his life.

Reluctantly he tore his eyes away from Andi. He had a job to do, and she was distracting as hell. He’d have plenty of time to focus on her once the ceremony was over. She hadn’t brought a date which was a good sign in his eyes. It wasn’t too late for Braeden to make his move, to make things right with Andi and start over. The minute the ceremony was over he knew he was going to need to have the conversation he’d been putting off for years.

“I love you more than I ever thought possible, Oliver. You are by far the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I promise no matter how difficult things get, I’ll never try to push you away again. You’re stuck with me now. I hope you know what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

Laughter filled the room as Oliver nodded his head. He leaned in whispering something in Meghan’s ear that Breaden couldn’t hear. If the blush that crept up her cheeks was any sign, Braeden was glad he hadn’t been able to make out what his friend said.

Looking over at Oliver, Braeden couldn’t help the jolt of jealousy that coursed through him. Of course, it was mixed with happiness and love and all the stuff that he was supposed to feel for his best friend in that moment, but the jealousy nearly knocked him on his ass. It only took him a second to realize he wasn’t jealous of his friend, but of what his friend had. The love that flowed between Oliver and Meghan was nearly palpable, and Braeden wanted that for himself.

Mentally chastising himself for getting distracted again, he cleared his throat before saying his next line. He was mostly ad-libbing what he was supposed to say even though Meghan had made him write everything down. Braeden had always been a more go with the flow or what feels right, kind of guy, so he’d use her notes as a guideline, but definitely wouldn’t say them word for word. What fun would that be?

“Oliver your wife did a pretty good job squeezing tears out of everyone in the room, but I’ve got no doubt you’re about to top that and bring on the real waterworks. You always were good with the words buddy. Go ahead and show ‘em what you got. Owwww.”

Braeden once again rubbed at the spot Meghan hit. The girl might be small, but she was strong and threw a mean punch. Next time he said something questionable, he’d have to figure out how to dodge her flying fist, or he was going to end up black and blue before the night was through.

“Meghan you should have known from the start that you weren’t going to get rid of me that easily. The moment our eyes met for the first time, I knew you were the one for me. There was no doubt in my mind that we’d end up here because I dreamt about you long before I ever met you. In the beginning, we were supposed to be about having fun, casual, hot as hell fun, sorry mom,” Oliver said as he looked out to find his mother in the crowd. “But I only let you believe that was the case. I planned on wearing you down until you decided to let me love you. And now that I say that out loud, I realize how creepy that sounds. I swear though in my head it was all about being romantic and wooing you, not about keeping you locked up somewhere.”

“Dude, you better hope Ben over there doesn’t decide to check your basement for other people you might have dreamt about. Son of a...owww. You two were meant for each other,” Braeden said as he covered his other arm that was now throbbing from being hit by Oliver.

“I don’t have a basement, jerkface. Now stop interrupting me.”

Holding his hands up, Braeden took a step back so he was a little further away from the couple’s fists. He planned on trying to keep his mouth shut, but there was no way he could promise it. Sometimes they threw up a softball, and he couldn’t help but comment on it. He’d spent years being the jokester of their group, and even though he was looking to be taken a little more seriously by his friends and Andi especially, he couldn’t just quit being who he was.

By the time Oliver finished declaring his love for his wife there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Even Braeden found himself wiping at his eyes a time or two. He was ecstatic for his friends; they both deserved to find the love and happiness they shared. They’d been through so much in such a short time. Their story really showed that love could conquer least in their case. Braeden wasn’t so sure it could in his, but he was damn well ready to find out.

“Now that you’ve all ruined your make-up or cried for the first time in front of your friends, and no I’m not too manly to admit I just shed a few tears, it is time to pronounce these two husband and wife again. Oliver, you may now kiss the hell out of your bride.”

Oliver pulled his wife into his arms, then dipped her backward, his mouth capturing hers. They kissed for a lot longer than Braeden expected, all while their friends and family whistled and applauded. Someone yelled ‘get a room’ which was followed quickly by Oliver’s mom yelling ‘yes please’ which made everyone laugh, including the two love birds. Oliver fixed Meghan’s lipstick, while she wiped some of it off of his face, then they turned to look out at the crowd of their loved ones.

“We all know I didn’t do anything and I have no power at all since this shindig isn’t an official wedding, but I do get to be the first to announce something that is going to make Oliver really happy. If you’d like to check her driver’s license later you can. I saw it, and it has officially been changed. So for the first time ever, I would like to introduce you to Oliver and Meghan Brooks.”

The room filled with the loud sound of applause as Oliver kissed his bride again. Pride and love and a bit of surprise were evident on his face as he pulled away from her before they got out of control again. Braeden clapped along with the rest of the crowd while he waited impatiently for Oliver and Meghan to be swallowed up by well-wishers so he could make a beeline for Declan. The minute they stepped off of the raised platform, he was off, pushing his way through the people milling about waiting for their turn to congratulate the couple.

Braeden weaved through the tables set up around the perimeter of the stage. He knew precisely where Declan was and as he approached he realized he was too late. His heart sank as he watched Declan gather his and Brooklyn’s stuff together. Knowing he’d probably have to wait to have the conversation didn’t stop him from moving forward as it would have in the past. He wasn’t going to let any excuse get in his way this time.

“Hey guys, you heading out?” he asked trying to sound as casual as possible but failing if the look on Brooklyn’s face was any indication.

Declan nodded as he helped his girlfriend into her coat. “Brooklyn isn’t feeling well; the twins are doing a number on her tonight. What’s up?”

“I was hoping we could talk, but it can wait. Get this beautiful woman home so she can put her feet up and you can take care of her.”

Brooklyn smiled at him, but even through it, he could see she was exhausted. He could only imagine how difficult it was to grow a human being, let alone two human beings at the same time. He did not envy everything she had to go through to bring those babies into the world, but he did envy the fact that she and Declan were going to have a family soon. It was something he’d always wanted, especially after losing his dad and being on his own. Now he wondered if a family was just one more thing he’d never get.

“Are you sure, Braeden?” Brooklyn asked a knowing look on her face. “I can probably wait if you need to talk to Declan.”

Damn it, Meghan. She had to have blabbed to Brooklyn. They were best friends after all, and girls tended to share their secrets. As long as no one told Andi before he was ready, Braeden didn’t care all that much if they talked about him. It might make things easier for him if Brooklyn knew. She’d be able to keep her man from freaking out on him and rearranging his face when Braeden told him everything.

“No, it can wait. Maybe I can come by tomorrow though. Would that work for you guys?”

“Of course. Why don’t you come over around ten so you guys can watch the game while you talk,” Brooklyn suggested.

She definitely knew what he wanted to talk to Declan about. Having football on would hopefully help Braeden’s case...or it could make things worse depending on how the game was going. Maybe going over there that early wasn’t the best idea. Braeden didn’t need any help making Declan angry. He was fairly certain telling the man that he’d been the one to deflower his sister when they were in high school was going to be more than enough to send him into a rage.

Nevertheless, he wanted to get the conversation over with. He needed Declan’s blessing before he could talk to Andi, so he’d go over there in the morning and take whatever Declan had to dish out. Andi was worth everything he had to go through to make their future a reality even if that meant losing a limb to Declan’s anger.

“Sounds good. I’ll see you two in the morning. I’ll pick up some doughnuts on my way over.”

“I knew I liked you for a reason,” Brooklyn said before kissing him on the cheek. She grabbed Declan’s hand and let him lead her out of the reception hall.

As Braeden watched them walk away, he realized that Declan hadn’t said a damn thing during their entire exchange except when he told him that Brooklyn wasn’t feeling well. After that, Brooklyn had been the one to steer the conversation and offer the invite to their house. Braeden wasn’t sure if Declan’s lack of dialogue meant something or if it was just Declan being his usual stoic self. Not that it mattered since Braeden was going to his house in the morning whether Declan liked it or not.

The man who’d been his best friend growing up had been difficult to read since they’re relationship had changed. Braeden knew it was his fault. He was the one who pushed Declan away and treated him like he’d done something wrong by having a child at seventeen. He was the one that severed their friendship because he blamed him for Andi choosing her brother over him.

Tomorrow he’d have the chance to clear things up. Not just about his feelings for Andi, but why he’d turned into such an asshole and turned his back on his friend when Declan needed him the most. It was finally time for Braeden to not only get his girl back but to get his friend back. He just hoped it wasn’t too late in either case.


Braeden - 18 Years Old

It was time.

It didn’t matter that he was just barely eighteen or that they were both still so young. He’d known she was the one since he was thirteen and he was made even more sure of that the day he told her he loved her when they were sixteen. Now that they were graduating from high school, he knew it was time to tell the world how much he loved her.

He hated the fact that no one knew about their relationship. That they’d spent almost two years together as a couple without anyone realizing it just showed how self-absorbed their friends were. Sure, Declan had a lot going on. Knocking up his girlfriend hadn’t been a part of his plan. Neither was becoming a single father at seventeen. But still, Braeden had no idea how he could have missed how insanely happy he and Andi had become since they made it official.

Of course, things had become chaotic the minute Declan told his family about the baby. His parents weren’t pleased to learn that he planned on keeping it. They were certain Declan was ruining his life by bringing a baby into the world. Braeden didn’t agree. Sure, he was probably too young to have a kid, but there was no way she could ruin Declan’s life.

Braeden didn’t change his mind even though he rarely got to see Andi by herself since the baby was born in March. When they got to hang out she either had her niece with her or the guys were around. When the twins turned eighteen, their father threatened to kick them out of the house, which made things a hell of a lot more awkward. With her brother giving up baseball to take care of his child, Andi never had the house to herself and Declan’s neediness made it difficult for her to sneak away to see Braeden.

Now that they were done with high school none of that was going to matter. They could go on with their plans to go to the University of Washington together. He had dreams of becoming a lawyer, while she was going to study statistics. He never understood her love of numbers and collecting data, but it made her happy, which was all that mattered to him. They would get a little apartment near campus and not have to worry about Declan coming between them.

While Braeden hated what his friend was going through with his parents, he was starting to resent Declan for always being in the way. For years no one gave a shit about what Andi was doing. Now her parents were harping on her for siding with her brother and her brother was constantly asking for her help. Braeden tried to stay out of it, tried to hide his anger when he was around Andi and Declan, but it was getting harder and harder as time went on.

That was another reason why he’d decided it was finally time. He needed to make it known that Andi had someone else looking out for her, that she had someone else that needed her. Braeden wanted her to know it was okay to finally choose him over her family. It was Declan’s fault they never came clean about their relationship in the first place. Andi had always been too afraid to piss him off, then the news about the baby came, which threw everyone off their game. Then the shit really hit the fan when Declan refused to give the baby up for adoption. Andi never wanted to create waves, which Braeden had understood for the most part. But now he wanted waves.

Now he wanted to rock the fucking boat.

Shaking his head, he scanned the crowd around him. The graduation ceremony had ended more than a half an hour earlier. He’d gone off to find his dad in the crowd knowing it would be a while before Andi was ready to go. She’d been on the stage the entire ceremony as valedictorian of their class. Her speech had been inspiring and surprisingly emotional. He couldn’t wait until he could get her alone so he could congratulate her. He looked forward to finally having her in his arms for the first time in days.

His dad left as soon as they exchanged a longer than usual hug. Never one for a big speech or really much emotion at all, the hug from his dad had been surprising. Braeden had grown up knowing how much his dad loved him, but the way he showed it was more subtle than other parents. Braeden sometimes wondered if that was because his dad was afraid he’d leave him just like his mom did. Of course, Braeden had no plans to leave his dad behind, which was part of why he picked a college in Washington to go to. It helped that his friends, aside from Declan, were planning on going to UW as well.

Finally, he spotted her walking toward him. As his eyes focused on her, everything else seemed to fade away. Andi was the most beautiful girl he’d ever laid eyes on. The most beautiful person he knew, inside and out. Every time he looked at her, he fell more in love with her. He knew he was the luckiest guy in the world getting to have her in his life. She’d given him everything and in return, he’d given her all of him. He wanted nothing more then to slide the ring in his pocket onto her finger.

Braeden knew everyone would say they were too young to be engaged, but he didn’t care. All he cared about was her and what she thought. He’d call the ring whatever she wanted to call it, promise ring, engagement ring, random graduation present, whatever, as long as she wore it every day knowing that someday they would be husband and wife.

“Hey baby,” he said as she approached.

He didn’t care who heard him or who saw him pull her into his arms even though he should. The area where they stood was nearly empty at the moment, but that didn’t mean there weren’t people lurking around who would run off and tell her brother before he got a chance to.

She hugged him back, but the gesture lacked enthusiasm. Something was wrong. He felt it immediately. When she took a step backward so she could look at him, he knew what was coming.



“We have to talk.”

“No. Damn it, Andi. No.”

He knew exactly what she was going to say, but he didn’t want to hear it. Didn’t want to acknowledge that his worst fear was coming true. She was choosing her brother over him. His heart was starting to splinter into a million pieces and she hadn’t even said the words yet.

“I’m sorry. You know this isn’t what I want, but he needs me. They need me,” she said quickly. “Dad officially kicked them out this morning. He has a week to find somewhere to live. I have to go with them, Braeden. I have to help them.”

“What about us? What about me? We had plans, Andi.”

He hated to see the tears fill her eyes, but it didn’t make it any easier on him knowing she was hurting too. He rubbed at the spot in the middle of his chest where it felt like he was being stabbed repeatedly. Part of him wanted to show her the ring. Wanted to show her that he’d been planning for forever. It wouldn’t do any good for her to see the proof. It wouldn’t change her mind.

“I know. God, I’m so sorry Braeden. I wish things were different. I wish we could move forward with our plans, but I’d never be able to forgive myself for leaving my brother to fend for himself. And that little could I leave her behind?”

“But you can forgive yourself for breaking my heart?” Braeden asked anger lacing through his voice.

He didn’t want to be mad at her, but it was better than showing her how much she’d hurt him. He’d break down when he got home. At the moment, he didn’t think she deserved the right to know just how badly she was breaking him.

“I’m breaking my own heart in the process if that helps any,” she said meekly knowing full well it didn’t make anything better. Andi was anything but stupid.

“I’ve gotta go.”

“Braeden, please. Don’t go.”

“I can’t stay here talking to you Andi. I can’t look at you right now, okay. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to look at you again without remembering this moment. And the really shitty thing is, I have no one I can talk to about how much this fucking hurts. For the rest of my life, I’m gonna have to be around you while pretending that everything is okay. I’ll have to pretend that you didn’t rip my heart out and I didn’t lose my best friend.”

“We can still be friends Braeden. One day you’ll realize that I was just the girl you loved in high school. There will be other girls, one you’ll love more than you ever loved me.”

“You can’t truly believe that.”

He couldn’t believe the words coming out of her mouth. There was no way he could love someone more than her and there was no way they could be friends. Not after everything they’d been through. She couldn't honestly believe what she was saying. The tears spilling down her cheeks told him she was hurting just as much as he was. The fact that she wouldn’t look him in the eyes told him she didn’t really want to do this. Yet she kept speaking nonsense.

“I truly believe we’ll always be friends, Braeden. And yes, someday, you’ll find someone new. Someday, you’ll forget all about what we had.”

“Bullshit,” Braeden growled. “That’s all a bunch of bullshit. If you believe that crap, then there’s no way you ever loved me as much as I love you. There will never be another you. You’re the one for me and if we’re over, then that’s it. Just know I will never stop loving you.”

He looked at her one last time before turning to walk away. He couldn’t stand there any longer and not break. Tears pricked at the corners of his eyes, but he refused to cry in front of her. She called after him as he strode away, but he didn’t turn around. Instead, he straightened his shoulders and walked as quickly as he could out of the stadium. He waived at a few of his classmates as he made his way to his car, thankful as fuck that none of them had wanted to stop and chat.

By the time he made it to his car, the dam had broken. Tears spilled down his cheeks as he hit the steering wheel over and over. When he finally calmed down enough to drive, he maneuvered his way through the parking lot and out onto the road. His head filled with thoughts of Andi, until he forced them out.

He was never going to love someone the way he loved her. He knew that with every fiber of his being. Maybe someday he could convince her that they were meant to be together, but that someday was not going to be anytime soon. Instead of focusing on her, he was going to focus on his future. He was going to put everything he had into becoming the best fucking lawyer he could be. Then maybe he’d work on convincing Andi she’d made the wrong decision.


Andi - Present Day

The evening had been magical. The air filled with love. It was everything Andi wished she could experience for herself but wasn’t sure she’d ever have. The vows Oliver and Meghan exchanged had been beautiful and heartfelt. They’d made everyone laugh and cry. Even the men in the room had shed tears, most of them because they could relate to the words being said. Almost everyone at the party was part of a couple, very few were there all alone, like she was.

During the vow renewal, Andi looked around at the other happy couples as they held their loved one close, placed a kiss on their temple, their forehead, their lips. She longed for the day she’d be one of those couples, nearly oblivious to those around them, love shining in their eyes. Her day was coming. That’s what she kept telling herself; manifesting her destiny and all that.

Looking around the room, she found her friends on the dance floor. Savannah, Kerrigan, and Meghan all looked at their husband’s adoringly, and the men looked at their wives like they were their reasons for breathing. She knew if her brother and Brooklyn hadn’t left early, they’d be out on the dance floor looking just like the rest. Although they weren’t married yet or even engaged, there was no doubt in Andi’s mind they were headed that way fast.

As a wave of longing swept over her, she let her gaze wander through the room. She tried to tell herself she wasn’t looking for anyone in particular, but she knew that was a lie. There was always one person in the room that she was drawn to and it had been that way for over half her life. She wasn’t surprised to find him surrounded by a group of people, his head thrown back as he laughed at something someone said.

Standing close to him was Meghan’s friend Sylvia, a woman Andi didn’t know well but had heard about from the others. Her chest ached as Sylvia placed a hand on Braeden’s arm. The familiarity between them evident in the small gesture. Andi didn’t know the details, and she didn’t want to know them, but she’d heard through their friend grapevine that Braeden and Sylvia had hooked up once upon a time.

It shouldn’t bother her that they’d been together. Andi knew Sylvia wasn’t the only one over the last eighteen years. It wasn’t like she’d lived a life of sainthood over the years either, but none of them were a part of their circle, not even loosely. Knowing she’d probably have to see them together, even if they were no longer hooking up, was still a bit painful. Of course, she couldn’t tell anyone how she felt because their entire situation was royally fucked up.

Hell, it was fucked up thinking about Braeden at all given the text messages she’d been receiving most of the night and over the last week. Although they weren’t officially dating or anything, she was having a great time talking to Matthew since the speed dating event. He’d texted her seconds after they received their matches from Kerrigan’s team. His eagerness was endearing and his interest in her made her feel something she hadn’t felt in a very long time.

“We need to get your ass on the dance floor.”

Andi’s thoughts were interrupted by a rather boisterous Meghan as she took a seat in the chair next to her. Savannah and Kerrigan quickly joined her. All of them were without their men which was a rare sight.

“Yeah, come on Andi. You should join us out there instead of sitting over here all alone. What the heck are you looking at anyway?” Kerrigan asked.

The three women turned so they could see what was in Andi’s line of sight. Unfortunately, she was too slow to realize what they were doing, so there was no way she could deny what they saw right in front of them.

“Well, that explains things. You know there was never anything between them, right?” Meghan said as she turned back around to face Andi.

“Wait, seriously? I thought they hooked up,” Savannah said practically taking the words right out of Andi’s head.

“Not for lack of trying on Sylvia’s part. They kissed a bit, but that was as far as it went. He said he couldn’t go through with it and took her home.”

“You’re joking, right? Then why have both of them let us believe otherwise?”

Savannah really needed to get out of Andi’s head. Then again, she was saving Andi from having to ask any of the questions that were burning on her tongue.

“You know he hates it when I tell you guys his secrets, but he’ll forgive me. Braeden has a plan, and he’s had one for a while. Letting people believe what they want to believe has made it so no one is asking questions he’s not ready to answer yet. He’s maintaining a reputation without actually having to do something he no longer has an interest in doing. Does that make sense?”

Kerrigan looked confused, while Savannah seemed thoughtful, but Andi had no idea what to think. What Meghan said made sense, but she had no idea what it meant. Before anyone could say anything else, they were interrupted by the ping and vibration of Andi’s phone as she received a text. She tried to fight back a smile, but couldn’t.

“Oh...what is this? Andi’s smiling before she’s even seen who just sent her a message. Is it from a boy?” Meghan asked as she waggled her eyebrows.

Savannah and Kerrigan both piped up with an immature “oooooh” as Meghan reached out for the phone and swiped it off of the table.

“So Andi, who’s Matthew and what exactly is he looking forward to?”



Usually, the smell of doughnuts made him happy, but as he carried the box of delicious goodness up to Declan’s door, Braeden felt like he was going to throw up. Only once in his life had he ever been as nervous as he was in that moment. Of course, that time didn’t work out in his favor, so Braeden was hoping today wasn’t going to be a repeat of that experience.

What happened in the next hour was going to determine his future. He needed Declan to be on board with his plans for Andi. While he’d go after her even if Declan said no, he knew it would be an uphill battle. He also knew that without her brother’s blessing there was a chance Andi wouldn’t want to get back together. What little family she had meant the world to her, their opinions were important.

Shuffling the box of doughnuts onto one hand, he knocked on the door. As each second passed the butterflies in his stomach became more aggressive.

“This is ridiculous,” he muttered just as the door swung open.

“Nice to see you too,” Declan said his lips curving up in a smile.

“Sorry, I wasn’t talking about you or anything, I just…”

“You just talk to yourself now. It’s cool. We all had a feeling you were starting to lose your mind. Good to know we weren’t wrong,” Declan said as he tried to keep a straight face, but failed. “Come on in, man. My girl has been talking about doughnuts non-stop since you mentioned them last night.”

“I have not,” Brooklyn yelled from inside the house.

Braeden laughed as he walked through the front door. He held the box of doughnuts out in front of him expecting to be pounced on as soon as he got inside. He walked through the sunken living room into the kitchen where he found Brooklyn making coffee. Setting the doughnuts on the island, he walked over to her and gave her a side hug as she handed him a cup of coffee.

“You are most definitely my favorite,” he said as he took a sip of the scalding hot liquid.

She laughed and swatted at his arm before pushing him out of the way so she could get to the doughnuts. Pulling out a maple bar and taking a bite, she moaned as she leaned a hip against the island.

“How did you know the twins were craving a maple bar?” she asked between bites.

“Maybe because I know their mom loves maple bars. I made sure that at least half of the box was your favorite since you made this happen,” Braeden said with a wink.

“Quit flirting with Brooklyn. I don’t want to have to hurt you.”

Braeden shook his head as he laughed and held up his hands in surrender. “I promise, I’m not flirting. I was thanking her for allowing me to come over this morning.”

“Yeah, she didn’t give me much of a choice in the matter, but you’ve made up for that with the doughnuts,” Declan said as he pulled a glazed old-fashioned out of the box. “So what did you want to talk about.”

“And on that note, I’m gonna grab another doughnut and leave you two alone. I’ll be upstairs reading if you need me.”

Braeden watched Brooklyn as she hurried out of the room as fast as her body would let her. Part of him wanted to beg her to stay, but he knew he needed to talk to Declan one on one. He couldn’t use Brooklyn as a buffer no matter how badly he wanted to. Declan needed the freedom to rage at him, to hit him if he felt like it. He wouldn’t do either of those things if his pregnant girlfriend was in the room.

“Let’s go sit in the living room. The game’s about to start.”

Braeden grabbed his coffee and a doughnut from the box and followed Declan back into the living room. Declan took up residence in his favorite recliner while Braeden sat down on the couch. He recognized most of the furniture from Declan’s old house in Issaquah, but some of it was distinctly Brooklyn. Setting his coffee and doughnut on the table, he took a deep breath. His heart pounding in his chest, his stomach flip-flopping as he thought about what he was going to say. It was do or die time.

“I’m in love with your sister,” he blurted out before his brain could stop his mouth.

The sound of his blood whooshed in his ears as he waited for Declan to react. The game was on low in the background, if not for that, Braeden was sure he’d have heard crickets in the room. He watched his former best friend and wondered what was going through his head.

“I’m sorry...can you repeat that please?”

Fuck, Braeden thought as he let out a sigh. He had no idea why Declan was making him repeat himself, but he would do it. He’d do just about anything to get through the conversation so he could go see Andi.

“I’m in love with your sister.”

His gaze met Declan’s as he once again waited for the other man to acknowledge his confession. When he still didn’t say anything, Braeden felt himself start to word vomit to break the uncomfortable silence.

“Look, man, I’ve been in love with your sister since I was thirteen years old. I’m tired of waiting to be with her. I want your blessing for us to be together. This is a long time coming. She’s the one for me, and I needed you to know.”

“Does she know?” Declan asked.

He’d always been a man of few words. That became even more obvious after Erin was born. Now it was driving Braeden crazy because he needed the man to fucking talk.

“She’s well acquainted with my feelings, although not so much recently but I plan on changing that. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the years, and some of them had to do with you. I want to make everything right, which is why I’m starting here like I should have when we were sixteen.”

“What are you talking about?”

Running a hand through his hair, Braeden looked down at his lap as he pulled up the courage to give up the secrets of his past.

“Andi and I started dating when we were sixteen. We kept it a secret from everyone because we were afraid of how you’d react. No one seemed to notice us anyway, so it wasn’t that hard to keep it from you. I bought her a ring, Declan. I was going to propose on graduation day.”

More crickets.

The man was driving him crazy. He’d almost prefer it if Declan got up and hit him. It would make things a little easier. He could work with an ass kicking. This complete and utter silence bullshit was something he couldn’t handle.

“What happened?” Declan asked, still refraining from showing any emotion whatsoever. Braeden wanted to shake him and yell at him to react. Instead, he continued his story.

“You did,” he said pointedly. “Andi chose you and Erin over me…over us. We had plans for a future together, but she threw them all away so she could be there for you. After that, I slowly pushed you away because I was bitter and hateful. When she broke my heart a second time after my dad died, I became an asshole to you both. I couldn’t be around her without remembering what she did to me, and I couldn’t be around you remembering that you were responsible for the pain in the first place.”

Braeden watched him, waiting once again for Declan to res