Authors: Leigh Ann Lunsford
Tags: #General Fiction
Leigh Ann Lunsford
© 2016 by Leigh Ann Lunsford
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the author, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the email address below.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Edited by Chelsea Kuhel (
Cover Design by Kristen Karwan
Images bought and licensed through stock images.
Other novels by Leigh Ann Lunsford
As always to John and Evan . . . you are my reason.
Also, this book being complete is in huge part due to Stephie Walls. My other half. My #sisterwife. Your encouragement through this process and making me dig deeper, has made this book what it is.
When I couldn’t write, you told me it was okay. When I was scared with where the story was taking me, you told me to buckle up. Stay true to Binks and take the ride. Telling me how awesome it was and
me to offend every possible person through my words.
Then your ass took me to a psychic who told me I was in a dark place and needed to get out of it. Thanks for that.
I’m a better person with you by my side.
I smooth my hands down the ivory tulle surrounding my body. Deep breath. Dreams are made of every aspect of this day, and standing here waiting to walk down the aisle to the man who has possessed my heart for so long is my happily ever after . . . one journey is ending, and another one is beginning.
Getting here wasn’t an easy road. It wasn’t a path traveled without ease or for the faint of heart. Struggles. Tears. Pain. Betrayal. Anger. Our relationship was played out in front of all our friends and family, not many were left unscathed by events. The most important factor of all, the one which got us here . . . was love. Callie and Bronson were spot-on. It
that simple. Realizing that was like jumping without a parachute. I had to trust he would be there to catch me.
Trust. It didn’t come without tribulations. It was earned, broken, and it took us starting from zero to get here. We allowed our mistakes, our belief in one another to cleanse us. I’ve learned the hard way that perfection is all perception. What is perfect to me, won’t necessarily work for someone else, but I don’t have to live with his or her expectations. I live with my own realizations.
Bronson offers me his arm, “Ready?”
“I feel like I’ve waited my entire life for this day.”
“In a way you have. I’m proud of you. It wasn’t the traditional route, but you clawed your way here, and you deserve the happiness waiting for you.”
“Traditional is overrated.”
“Let’s get this show started. I’m sure your groom is restless.”
I bend down to slip on my shoes and gasp. Along the back, two pendants have been attached, and they each hold a picture of my father. The first is of him holding me the day I was born, the love radiating from his protective grasp and weeping eyes is my undoing. Make-up be damned. Looking to the left shoe, I remember that day. It was the last picture I remember taking with him. Prom night. He was so uncomfortable with his little girl all dressed up, and the looks he shot Dakota had him trembling in his dress shoes. I can’t stifle the giggle or muffle the sobs.
“Bronson, did Callie do this?” It’s beautiful. A way for my dad to walk me down the aisle at my wedding without him being here.
“No.” He smiles at me. That one word has me rushing through the door, dragging Bronson so I can get to my future husband.
The doors open, and my eyes meet his. His smile blinds me, his love draws me to him, and his devotion seals my fate. It’s him. It’s always been him. I begin the trek towards my ending, the one I wasn’t sure would happen. It is beyond everything I hoped for, everything I thought possible. Against all odds, we’re here.
“Do you, Bianca Rose Agosto, take . . .?”
Callie and Bronson’s Wedding
Every step I take leading me from him fractures my heart in different places while mending in others. The pieces I allowed him to break were welding back together, and what remained was splintered open. One foot in front of the other, pausing mid-step, my mind faltering, wavering if I wanted to complete this exit. Every limb feels like it weighs a ton, and it’s all settling in my stomach.
If I stay maybe I can work through my doubts.
If I leave maybe I can heal.
What if I could just find a common ground for us to rebuild our relationship?
What if I could just forget that one moment that derailed all we had built?
The endless possibilities aren’t enough to stop me. My hand reaches for the doorknob, and I can’t bring myself to turn it. I hate seeing the pain in his eyes, feeling the tears that still stain my body. He’s hurting, and all I ever wanted to do was bring him joy. It was supposed to be Dakota . . . he was supposed to be my forever. I gave him that, and he tossed it back.
Guilt gnaws at my conscience. I can’t intentionally hurt him, that makes me no better than him. I didn’t cheat; I’m not the one who ruined us. I don’t glance back; I turn the handle and step through the door. Looking back at his face after I’ve crossed the threshold is
my undoing. He’s fallen to the floor, his stare cutting to the deepest part of me. I suck in a breath, stifle my sobs, and fight the urge to comfort him.
I whisper, “Dakota, I’m not leaving you. I’m leaving us. I’m letting you go. We’re toxic. I thought you were my future, but I don’t want my ending to feel like this.” He doesn’t hear me. I was only saying it for myself.
It was my way of releasing him.
I find Callie near the edge of the dance floor watching Bronson and Angelo steal the show. I search her face; I see the utter peace and contentment shining through. Her smile says it all . . . her life and heart are full. This is what evermore is supposed to be.
Definitely not agony so deep it seems as if there is no cure.
As much as I don’t want to leave my best friend and brother’s reception, I need to. I won’t torture us any longer. He’ll need our friends, and I’ll get through this. He may have set in motion the events that led us here, but it was my choice to make this permanent. My choice to end us.
“Callie.” I grip her shoulder. One look at my face and she knows. We don’t need words.
“Binks, what happened?” She is immediately focused, her reception forgotten, ready to console me.
“It doesn’t matter. I hate to do this, but I have to go. Dakota will need y’all.”
“You need us, too. It isn’t one or the other in this situation.” My champion. My best friend, always striving to be there for me.
“He needs you more.” The tears running down my face tell her otherwise, but I ignore it, along with her look of pity. “I’m serious, Callie. I’ve never seen him like this. I have to go.”
Nodding, she says, “Then go. We’ve got this. I’m a phone call away, remember that.”
“I know, but there isn’t anything you can do. I promise, I’ll be fine.”
“No you won’t, but you’ll continue to tell yourself that.” Nothing will ever be the same again. I gave up Dakota. I wasn’t able to get over the betrayal, and I lost Heath trying to hold onto my past.
A fucked-up mess.
“I’m sorry I ruined your day.” If anyone deserved the perfect day, it was them.
“Nothing is ruined. We’re married, and our family is together. And you didn’t do this Binks, it was him.
blames you.” I blame myself; I don’t care if anyone else does.
“Talk to you later.” I wrap her in a hug, and as much as I want to break down in her embrace, I force myself to step back. I give her a smile, watery at best, and escape the reception. As much as I would love to curl up in my old bedroom, cry like a teenager, I can’t stay here. It’s filled with too many memories; the bad outweighs the good.
The media room where countless hours were spent wrapped in his arms.
The hallway where we shared stolen kisses.
The stairs where he held me while I mourned my dad.
The steps outside where Heath kissed me for the first time.
My lips still feel his.
How could something so true end so horridly? I get in my car and drive. With no destination in mind, I find myself in front of the hotel where I spent my first night with Dakota.
I walk in and request room 512. I am a glutton for punishment. In fact, glutton is my middle name right now. I climb on the bed, letting my hand reach out, my fingers sweeping over the soft sheets, and I close my eyes and reminisce.
His hands roaming my body, his lips tasting my skin, the love in his eyes.
The way he felt inside of me.
It all turns ugly. I see him inside her. I can’t control the emotions. Memories besiege me and a scream escapes my dry throat. I’m trying to purge them from my system. I want it all to end. I want this to stop. The recollections flood my mind, and it’s too much. I wonder if they stock razors here. I could make this end.
Not my life, just this pain. I don’t want to die. I just want this turmoil inside me to stop. Release the physical ache and let the peace take hold. I need it. I crave it. I yearn to be serene again. For years it’s been push and pull, up and down with Dakota and my life, my needs, my wants have all taken a backseat. I used to be strong. Fearless. That girl disappeared, and in her place is someone who is weak. Someone indecisive. I don’t recognize this shadow. I don’t recognize myself.
I shouldn’t give him this power, but I relinquished it to him. I can’t take a full breath between the wracking sobs, and I feel lightheaded. Maybe if I close my eyes, it will all stop. One way or another.
I need solace.
I need relief.
I make my way to the bathroom and stare at myself, the reflection staring back at me a perfect stranger. One I loathe. I hastily tear through the drawers in the bathroom, seeking anything to ease this fear. Nothing is here. I ball my hand into a fist and punch the mirror in front of me. Once. Twice. Again. I want to make the person staring back at me disappear. I need a sharp object. The first slice of my skin is instant relief. It calms the chaos in my head, distracting me from the problems at hand. I need more. I’ve found a way to control the uncontrollable. I feel like I’m boiling inside. Over and over I pound into the glass my fist not strong enough to shatter the mirror. The voices and memories are still flowing throughout my head so I exert more force, all I have; finally, it cracks.