“What are you thinking about?” The soft rumble of Drew’s voice tickled my ear.
My head rested on his shoulder, caught between reality and the world of dreaming. After everything that had happened, I was mentally and physically drained. Now, thirty-some-odd-thousand feet in the air and for the first time in months, I felt truly happy, which seemed strange since I was heading straight for a hornet’s nest.
Boston scared me. Facing Drew’s family was bad enough, but coming face to face with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Olivia Hamilton, was even harder. For so long, I’d hidden from her my real reason for my leaving Sarasota. My departure hurt her in the worst sort of way. In her mind, I abandoned her when she needed me most. If she only knew the truth of how terrible of a person I really was, she wouldn’t consider me her best friend. Losing her friendship altogether was something I had to prepare myself for once we reached Boston.
Gah, how was I to face her?
Olivia deserved a friend who was there for her, as she had been for me when I lost everything I held dear in my life. She had so much on her plate already with her pregnancy and her job, and I was about to add to her burden by admitting that the father of her child and I were in love. It was because of me that all of her hopes and dreams would soon be destroyed. And while all of that weighed on me, my heart still couldn’t bear being another day without Drew. I’d punished myself long enough and suffered more heartache than anyone should have to endure. Losing Evan, then breaking up with Nate, then leaving Drew and abandoning Olivia—I was emotionally drained.
Only hours earlier I was in church begging God for guidance. I was conflicted and needed answers. Drew was about to leave for Boston and wanted me with him, and I wanted to be with him. But the idea of openly admitting our love, not only to his family but to Olivia, while at a wedding, seemed in poor taste to me. My heart struggled with its need to be near Drew and my desire to protect my friend. Even though Drew had confessed time and time again he held no feelings for Olivia, I still felt terrible for the predicament she now found herself in.
By the end of the service, I thought I was prepared to let him leave. Things were different now between Drew and me. All of the lies that held us back were no longer an obstacle. All that weighed between us was his family and my best friend. Those things could wait a week while he celebrated the union of Gavin, his older brother, and Morgan.
Or so I thought.
It wasn’t until Gavin became infuriated with the idea of leaving me behind that I realized I wasn’t trying to protect his wedding. I was afraid—terrified, really—of not only being hurt again, but of hurting someone I cared about. By not going to Boston, I was once again running away from my problems. No sooner had the fellas drove off, than I was in my car, barrelling down the E-way back to my apartment to pack. Poor Mackie, my kitten, thought I’d lost my mind as I shoved her little butt in a carryon.
“I know what I’m thinking,” Jared piped up. He turned around in his seat, that winning smile of his plastered over his adorable face. I’d missed the shit out of him. Our long conversations on the phone weren’t enough. Out of everyone, including Olivia or Drew, I’d say Jared knew me the best. He had a huge heart and a witty, sometimes sadistic, sense of humor. His shaggy blond hair fell into his golden eyes, but that didn’t keep me from seeing them bounce with mischief.
“And what’s that?” I dared to ask.
Drew slipped his hand into mine. A soft chuckle resounded from his chest. It was strange seeing him laugh at Jared. When I left Sarasota, they could barely be in the same room together without daggers flying. My Neanderthal wasn’t too keen on the discovery that my best bud had developed feelings for me that surpassed friendship. If I were to be honest, I’d known Jared’s heart long before he revealed his secret. But my heart had been conquered by Drew.
Talk about your messed up quadrangle. Olivia wanted Drew, but he loved me. Jared loved me, but I was in love with Drew. My life was one big soap opera.
Jared drummed his fingers together, the corner of his mouth twitching.
Gavin peered over the plush leather headrest and gave me the cutest little wink. His brown hair was slathered in a thick layer of gel. A thin beard lined his slim jaw. Eyes, blue as the ocean, stared back at me. They weren’t quite aquamarine like Drew’s, but they were pretty all the same.
“So, what are we talking about?” he buzzed.
“Jared here was just about to fill us in on what he was thinking. As if any of us cared,” Drew declared.
Jared gave a dramatic gasp. “If that’s how you’re going to be…” He started to turn back around in his seat, feigning disappointment.
Me, the ever gullible one, called out, “I care. What were you thinking, Jare?”
Jared sprang back around, his smile flared wide. “I was thinking about the look on the Skanky Ho Momma’s face when she sees you.” He clapped his hands, flamboyant and giddy.
“Someone better have a cell phone ready to snap a pic of that. I want to plaster it everywhere!” Drew cackled.
“Why do you hate Liv so much?” I questioned.
All of them did, and I couldn’t understand why. Okay, so she wasn’t Mother Teresa, but she’d always done right by me. She took care of me in college, and came to my rescue when I needed her most. Never once did she turn me away. Olivia might be self-centered and a little ostentatious with her wardrobe, but deep down, I knew she had a good heart.
“I don’t hate her…” Jared paused, “…exactly. But I can say if she were ever on fire and I had a bottle of water,” his eyes bounced between the three of us as he leaned in closer and stage whispered, “I’d drink it.”
Laughter ricocheted from Gavin and Drew throughout the compartment. Jared wore a look of pride at making everyone laugh. Well, almost everyone.
Drew released my hand and nearly buckled over in laughter. “Quack, quack,” he snorted.
This caused an even further uproar of laughter that I didn’t quite understand.
“What the hell does that mean?” I demanded. It was difficult not to laugh with the three of them howling, but somehow I managed.
“Nothing. Nothing.” Drew gasped for breath, holding his gut.
“No! Really. Someone tell me what that means?”
Drew, realizing I was getting a little frustrated, managed to calm down enough to tell me a story about Olivia appearing at his place wearing a bright yellow dress and waddling like a duck. “She’s got a baby bump, but she’s not big enough to waddle yet,” he crooned.
All at once, the weight of everything came crashing back down on me. Olivia was pregnant with Drew’s child. Out of everything I would have to endure, that was probably the worst of it. I’d prepared myself for the shitstorm that would ensue the moment Olivia discovered Drew and I were together. Not that I would blame her for hating me. If the roles were reversed, I’d hate me, too. But her pregnancy was a constant reminder that she would always be in his life. Together, they had something I longed for…a baby.
“Wow,” I muttered, unable to mask my disappointment. “I guess I missed a lot.”
Gavin reached over the seat and patted my cheek. “Nothing you can’t get caught up on quickly.”
Drew wrapped his arm around my shoulders, drawing me in close to him. “Honestly, Baby, you haven’t missed much. I’m happy to have you with us, Mickie. I can’t express how much we all missed you.”
If he only knew that wasn’t what really had me upset. This was my secret to keep. A jealousy I would always have to endure. And maybe one day, Drew and I might start our own family.
I rested my head back on his shoulder and closed my eyes. He smelled so inviting, and his gentle touch was very relaxing. So relaxing, in fact, I fell asleep. I was awakened by the sound of the intercom coming to life.
“Ladies and Gentleman, we are beginning our final descent to Boston Logan International. It’s now nine twenty-three P.M. local time, and the temperature is currently eighty-one degrees. We have certainly enjoyed having you aboard today, and we hope to see you again soon. Thank you again for flying Skyway Airlines, and have a wonderful evening.”
My stomach lurched as the plane started to descend. I stretched, wiggling my toes inside my sneakers.
“How long was I out?”
“Not too long. You looked so peaceful. I couldn’t bring myself to wake you.”
“You never could.”
“I enjoy watching you sleep. It comforts me.” Drew brushed his knuckles across my cheek. “You comfort me.”
I leaned into his hand, content to feel the warmth of his skin and the love in his touch.
Drew placed a soft kiss to my lips. A bright smile appeared as he pulled back and glanced out the window. “Look, Baby.”
I shifted forward to look out the window. Such beauty and history lay out before me as we lowered closer and closer to the ground. The evening glow of the moon danced over the water, and buildings full of history towered above the trees, beckoning me to explore their mysteries.
He leaned in and whispered tenderly in my ear, “Welcome to my home, Baby.” I turned my head to find the most amazing man staring back at me. His eyes were filled with so much love that it took my breath away. He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me.