I’m so EXCITED for everyone to meet Wesley and Anna!!! Here is a sneak peak of the prologue!

Keep in mind, this a standalone story.  If you’ve read Unconventional, you have met Anna, but you do not need to read that story before you read this one. (Though, I highly recommend Untouchable and Unconventional because they’re awesome.)

Anna and Wesley make mistakes.  We all make mistakes, right? But how do you deal with it when the mistake is a big one. One that has lasting consequences. Read on for the prologue.

_________________________________

Present Day

Anna (Twenty-Six Years Old)

I’m with my family for Sunday dinner, trying to pay attention to the conversation. We’re at Green Briars to celebrate Wes’s new job. My mom and dad are droning on about what they’re going to order. My brother, John, sits across from me. Two years my senior, he’s the dutiful son, commenting with interesting remarks, making everyone laugh, and updating my parents on his job. His girlfriend, Reanell, is next to him, hanging on his every word, a perma-smile in place due to her utter happiness. I forget what it feels like to be that happy.

The stiff cushion of the chair digs into my back, and I shift, trying to get comfortable. You’d think, for the price of belonging to this country club, that Green Briars would at least have plush seats in the dining room.

“This seat is killing me,” the voice to my right whispers to me.

Wesley Scott is my brother’s best friend and practically a member of my family. I look over at him and find him also shifting in his seat. Blue-gray eyes meet mine, his perfect lips curved in a crooked grin. His facial features aren’t symmetrical, with his nose tilting just slightly to the right from being broken years ago, and the right side of his mouth stretching just a bit further than the left when he smiles. His brown hair is cropped short, and the light from the window picks up shades of honey gold mixed in with darker brown. If you look at all the pieces of him separately, they’re a bit rugged with hard angles and lines—not handsome or pretty. But put them together, and the combination makes him so good-looking, it hurts.

What did he just say? Right, the chairs.

“You’re telling me,” I agree.

It’s when I glance over at Wes that it happens. A familiar face catches my attention over his shoulder, and I freeze.

Charlie Nelson is here, sitting in the center table with his family. My heart rate accelerates to race-car speed, and I’m feeling a bit light-headed. I can’t believe my eyes. I blink a couple of times—convinced that I’m hallucinating—but he’s still there.

What are the odds? I’ve avoided coming to this country club with my parents for years on the off chance that I’d bump into him. Yet John reassured me that he’d never seen Charlie here. It figures, the one time I cave and let my mom talk me into coming is the one time he decides to join his family, too.

It’s been eight years since I last saw him—when we graduated from high school. But, by then, we hadn’t spoken for almost two years. If you had asked me when I was sixteen what my life would be like today, Charlie Nelson would have been the biggest part of it. I would’ve laughed in the face of anyone who predicted we’d break up. We had a plan. We were going to get married and have four kids. I’d be a doctor, and he’d be a photographer. And we’d have an amazing house with a hot tub in the backyard.

Unfortunately, only one of those things is true; Charlie is a talented and successful photographer.

But…

We broke up. We don’t have kids. I’m not a doctor. There’s no amazing house with a hot tub in the backyard.

All because of me. I made a choice, and Charlie’s love for me turned into hate.

“What about you, Anna? How’s work?” Wes’s voice jolts me out of my thoughts.

I appreciate the fact that he always tries to bring me into the conversation. He’s the only one who treats me like I’m normal. My family always walks on eggshells around me, handling me with kid gloves, afraid to upset me. But, right now, even he can’t divert my thoughts away from Charlie.

“It’s okay,” I reply automatically.

I’m fine. Work’s good. It’s okay. Everything’s okay. The responses are programmed empty words. No one wants to hear the truth. What would they do if I responded with the truth? Nothing’s okay. I’m broken. I hate myself. My mom and dad would worry again. They’d try to convince me to move back in with them. My brother would start calling me every day. Everyone would go into let’s babysit Anna mode, and I don’t want to go back to that.

Conversation has moved on to Wes’s job, and I relax, not having the energy it takes to fake being normal right now. My eyes flit back to Charlie without my permission. No one at my table has noticed he’s here or else they’d initiate let’s distract Anna mode. I take him in while I can. He looks so good, so grown-up. He’s a man now. I always thought he was gorgeous, but sixteen-year-old Charlie has nothing on twenty-six-year-old Charlie. His eyes are still ocean blue, his hair still dirty-blond, his smile still breathtaking—complete with those playful dimples.

Tears prick behind my eyes, and I struggle to breathe. Seeing him brings back so many memories. He was my first kiss. My first everything really. We were inseparable our first two years of high school.

Until I fucked it all up.

Charlie’s last words to me were angry. Hateful.

Now, he’s here. With a date beside him. A gorgeous redhead. He leans over to whisper something in her ear, a mischievous glint in his eye. She smirks right back at him, a knowing smile on her face. He looks…happy.

My heart squeezes with regret at how things ended between us. I need to apologize to him. Maybe now that ten years have passed since we last spoke, he can hear me.

Maybe he can forgive me.

This isn’t the ideal setting, but I can’t waste this opportunity. I have to try.

No, that’s ridiculous. I can’t approach him here.

I shift in my seat again and try to pay attention to the conversation at the table. The food arrives at the table, but my appetite has left the building. My eyes continue to glance back at Charlie’s table, pulled to him like a magnet.

Minutes later, he gets up from the table and heads to the bar. Now would be the perfect chance to talk to him. I rub my sweaty palms on the napkin in my lap as I track his movements. He gets to the bar and turns to his date. Is she his girlfriend? Wife? Shit. I can’t talk to him in front of her, can I?

But I can’t pass this opportunity up either.

You can do this, I sternly tell myself. If she’s his wife, she likely knows what happened anyway. You have to talk to him.

“Excuse me, I’ll be right back,” I say to no one in particular. My mom waves me off, and I stand on shaky legs.

Deep breaths. It feels as if I’ve left my stomach back at the table, so I wrap my arms around my midsection to help support my insides.

Charlie sees me approach and stiffens. Surprise filters through his expression, quickly morphing into dread, a grimace tightening his features. He used to look at me like I was his everything. Now, it seems like he’d rather cut off his arms than see me.

Retreat, retreat! my body tells me.

But it’s too late now; he’s already seen me, and I’m three steps away.

Then, two.

Then, one.

“Hi, Charlie,” I breathe. My heart is beating so fast and so loud, I’m sure he can hear it.

“Anna.” It’s the first time he’s said my name in a decade, and it’s harsh. Angry. Cold.

I can’t control my flinch, though I’m not sure what I was expecting.

“How are you?” I ask, unable to stop my eyes from roving all over his face, his neck, and his body.

He’s so much older now, so much bigger than he used to be.

“I’m fine,” he spits. “What do you want?”

His loud voice garners some attention, though that’s par for the course in this place. It’s basically a stage where everyone pretends to be perfect while they watch and wait for someone to feed the rumor mill. I need to just apologize before I lose my nerve.

“It’s been a long time, Charlie. I just…I need you to know how sorry I am.”

I stare intently into his eyes, trying to convey my sincerity. I bite my lip to keep my face from contorting in that weird way it does when I’m about to cry. He holds my gaze, and my heart pounds as I wait for his response.

I know it isn’t as simple as him saying, Oh, that thing you did ten years ago? Psh. Water under the bridge. Want to go out for coffee sometime and catch up?

I know there is no salvaging our relationship or our friendship. But maybe he can see how sorry I am.

He chuckles, and it’s part-anger and part-incredulity. “Time doesn’t change what you did, Anna.”

And there it is. Nothing can change what I did. Not time. Not sorrow. Not guilt. Not tears. Not apologies. I flinch again at his response, and it makes me blink, causing a tear to fall down my cheek.

I hate the way Charlie’s looking at me.

I hate the way he’s talking to me.

But, most of all, I hate myself.

“I know, Charlie. I wish I could go back in time; I would do so many things differently.”

His mouth twists in disgust. “Yeah, me too. I wish I never would have fallen for a selfish liar like you.”

“I wish I never would have fallen for a selfish liar like you.”

“…a selfish liar.”

“I wish I never would have fallen…”

Selfish.

Liar.

The words slap me. They steal my breath, shatter my composure. I realize this was a mistake. As usual, the realization is too little, too late. I try to wipe my tears, but they keep falling. Footsteps approach, and I have a feeling my family has initiated check on Anna mode. It’s probably my brother.

“Anna, you okay?”

I’m surprised to hear Wes’s deep voice, concern evident by how close he’s standing to me.

I’m not going to fall apart here in front of all these people. I’m going to get out of here and fall apart by myself at home.

“I’m okay, Wes.”

Wesley takes in my face, wet with tears, and glares at Charlie, jaw clenching. I’m about to pull him back to the table, but Charlie has one last jab to make.

“Careful with this one,” he warns Wesley. “She’s a liar.”

Wesley steps in front of me, muscles taut, attempting to shield me from Charlie.

Too late. His words have landed, and my heart is bleeding.

“That’s enough. I know you two have history, and I know it ended badly. But you have no idea what she’s gone through since then,” he growls at Charlie, defending me.

He always defends me. If only he knew what a rotten person I was, maybe he wouldn’t.

“And you have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about. If you did, you wouldn’t be looking at me like that.” Charlie’s voice rises, and the surrounding chatter quiets.

Everyone perks up at the thought of witnessing a scene, greedy for some firsthand gossip. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone busted out their cell phone to record this exchange and posted it on YouTube later.

The redhead takes Charlie’s hand. “Hey, I think we need to get back to dinner.”

At that, he takes her hand and walks back to his family’s table without looking back.

Breathe.

In, out.

Just keep breathing.

Isn’t breathing involuntary? I know it is, but I think my lungs forgot how because I have to force the air in and out.

Wes steps closer to me, so close I can feel the warmth of his body. I wish I could burrow into him because, all of a sudden, I’m freezing.

“Anna,” he says quietly, waiting for me to look at him. Waiting for me to talk to him.

But I can’t. I can’t look at him. I can’t talk to him. I can’t stay here.

“I wish I never would have fallen for a selfish liar like you.”

“I have to go. Can you let my parents know?” I manage to mumble, staring at my fingers.

“Why don’t I drive you?” he offers.

“Careful with this one. She’s a liar.”

“No, thank you.” I need to leave—right now.

I walk swiftly to the coat check, collect my purse and jacket, and get my car from valet. My apartment is twenty-two minutes away. I can make it twenty-two minutes.

If only I could stop hearing Charlie’s voice in my head.

“…selfish liar.”

“Careful with this one.”

“I wish I never would have fallen for a selfish liar like you.”

______________________________

EEEK – what did you think? Want to read more? You can buy it on Amazon.