Authors: Jessica Wood
Promise of Forever
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by Jessica Wood
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.
First Edition: April 2015
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Promise of Forever
He promised to always be my best friend. He promised to marry me if we were both still single at thirty. He promised me a forever together.
But that was before I discovered a secret that seemed to shatter everything I’d come to believe in. Had I lost him before he was ever mine? Had this secret ruined any promise of a forever together?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ALSO BY JES
Emma’s Story Series
A Night to Forget
– Book One
The Day to Remember
– Book Two
– Contains Book One & Book Two
The Heartbreaker Series
This is an
spin-off series featuring Damian Castillo, a supporting character in
The Day to Remember
. This is a standalone series and does not need to be read with
– Prequel Novella to
– can be read before or after
The Chase Series
This is a standalone series with cameo appearances from Damian Castillo (
The Heartbreaker series
The Chase: The Complete Series Box Set
– Contains All Four Volumes
This is a standalone full-length book unrelated to other series by Jessica Wood.
This is a standalone series unrelated to other series by Jessica Wood.
Promise to Marry
Promise to Keep
Promise of Forever
Pre-Orders Currently Available
June 30, 2015
“Forever is composed of nows.”
People always say that when you’re about to die, your life seems to flash before your eyes. I’d never thought too much about what that’d be like until it actually happened to me.
During the last few seconds before the car crashed through the wooden railing and propelled me off the edge of the bridge, time seemed to somehow slow down around me. Those precious seconds seemed to stretch on for a lifetime as images of my past came into focus—one after another—like a continuous stream of clips captured from the various important moments in my life.
Inevitably, Jackson appeared in almost all of them. My heart broke a little more each time he entered my mind. Growing up, he had always been the good in my life, the light at the end of the tunnel, the hope to get me through the hard times. And after nine years apart, I thought I finally had my best friend back. I thought we could finally get back to how things were between us. I thought we finally had a chance to be together.
I was wrong.
After all that’d happened, our love wasn’t meant to be. No matter what we did, we couldn’t avoid what we couldn’t change: our past and who we were. The heavy weight of loss pressed against my chest as I tried to accept this reality. We could never go on that first date tonight. We could never be anything but friends—siblings. We could never keep our promise to marry each other.
But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. Maybe I should have seen it coming. After all, my life had been filled with broken promises since as early as I could remember. When I was young, it had been the promises my mom made to me. Her promise to stop drinking and popping pills. Her promise to get better so we could live together like a family. Her promise that she’d be around to take care of me and be there whenever I needed her. Yet in the end, none of those promises were kept.
So shouldn’t I be used to the let-down of unfulfilled promises? Shouldn’t I be numbed to the feelings of heartache and despair? Shouldn’t I come to expect that the promises I held most dear to my heart would inextricably be the ones that would be left unfulfilled?
Then why had I held on to the hope that Jackson’s promise to marry me would be anything different? Why had I ever thought it would be one promise that wouldn’t be broken?
As the impact of the car slammed against the surface of the steel-like waters, my body jerked forward like a limp rag doll against the seatbelt that held me in place.
But I didn’t feel the pain of the crash’s impact. All I felt was the numbing, all-consuming pain of my broken heart as the cold darkness of the water welcomed me into her chilling embrace.
I fell back onto my bed with a wide grin on my face. I let out a deep, soothing sigh, feeling a wave of contentment and excitement wash down over my body. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been as happy as I’d been in the last twenty-four hours with Chloe. I drew in a deep inhale of breath, taking in her sweet scent that still lingered on my clothes, instantly fueling my desire to have her back in my arms again.
“Just a few more hours,” I said as I closed my eyes and imagined her lying next to me on the bed. When I’d walked her to her front door, I hadn’t wanted to say goodbye. I hadn’t wanted to walk away from her. I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed her these past nine years until I’d finally given in to my feelings yesterday.
Since I was a teenager, I’d dated my fair share of girls, but none of the relationships ever turned into anything serious—I was never able to commit to a girl. I’d always blamed these failed relationships on external factors—we hadn’t been compatible, the timing had been wrong for us, or I had been too busy on my career to be able to make the commitment.
But after just one night with Chloe, I’d realized I was wrong. All my failed relationships hadn’t been caused by any external factor. Instead, it’d been an internal one: I’d already given my heart to Chloe years ago and it’d been by her side all along.
As I replayed my memories of yesterday and today in my head, I still couldn’t believe the moment I’d been waiting for since as early as I could remember was finally happening—the moment when I didn’t have to pretend I only wanted to be Chloe’s best friend, the moment I didn’t have to hide my feelings from her or everyone else, the moment we could finally be together.
I reminded myself that I needed to be patient and take things slow. To me, the idea of Chloe being my girlfriend had been a long time coming in my mind. Because of my stubborn pride, we’d lost more than nine years together, and a part of me—the crazy, irrational part—wanted to immediately make up for all the lost time. I wanted to rush to her side and propose to her right now. I wanted us to start our lives together, to begin our happily-ever-after together.
But in reality, this was new territory, and I didn’t want to rush Chloe or our relationship. Plus, now that I knew what actually had happened with Chloe in college and the part I’d played in it all, I realized that I didn’t deserve the forgiveness and acceptance that she’d offered me so easily. I realized that I didn’t deserve her.
For all the times I’d selfishly pushed her away, took her for granted, and misjudged her actions, I knew I needed to make it up to her. I knew I needed to earn her trust and love back.
With a sudden sense of urgency, I leaped out of my bed and strode over to my desk and switched on my laptop. I pulled out my smartphone and pulled up a number.
“Hey, Jackson. What’s up? I didn’t see you in the office today.” I could hear the click-clacking of Nick’s keyboard as he answered the phone.
“Hey, Nick. I’m actually still in Philly.”
“Oh, I thought you were back yesterday?”
“Yeah, that was the original plan, but something came up and I’ll be staying in Philly for at least a few more days. So I’ll be working remotely.”
“Really? Is anything wrong?”
“No, not at all. Quite the opposite.” I laughed at how different and unexpected this past weekend had been. Just last week, I’d thought about canceling on my trip back to Philly. I hadn’t wanted to go to Clara and Sam’s wedding because Chloe had been the last person I wanted to see.
“Anyway,” I continued, “I was calling to ask you for the name of that new restaurant in Philly you were telling me about a few weeks ago. It was the one you took your wife to when you guys were here visiting your in-laws—the nice, intimate one that you said your wife loved?”
“Oh?” I heard the click-clacking of his keyboard stop abruptly as Nick snickered. “Is this about a girl? Did you actually meet someone at the wedding? Is this why you’re not back in New York yet? You know I was just teasing you last week about being a bachelor forever, right? I wasn’t serious when I dared you to meet someone you can be serious with at the wedding.”
I laughed. “Yes, it is about a girl, but no, this has nothing to do with your dare. I’ve had my eyes on this girl for over twenty years.”
“What? No way.” Nick chuckled, thinking I was playing with him.
“I’m serious.” I smiled to myself at how incredible it was that Chloe and I finally found each other again.
“That doesn’t even make sense, though. You’re Jackson Pierce—the forever bachelor. Since as long as I’ve known you, you’ve never mentioned being interested in a girl for longer than a few months. Twenty years?”
“It’s a long story, and I’ll tell you about it sometime. But I need to get going, so can you tell me the name of the restaurant?”
“All right, but you owe me a story when you get back into the office.” He laughed as I heard the sound of his keyboard start up again. “Okay, found it. It’s Ela in the Queen Village neighborhood in Philly.”
As soon as I hung up on Nick, I called Ela and made reservations for tonight. I also called the florist to pre-order a special bouquet of Chloe’s favorite flowers. I wanted tonight to be special. I wanted Chloe to know how much she meant to me.
After I made all the arrangements for tonight, I jumped into the shower to get ready. As much as a part of me didn’t want to wash off the smell and memory of her from my skin, I wanted to look good tonight for our first date. My stomach flipped with anticipation at the thought—it was
going to happen.
By the time I got out of the shower, I was filled to the brim with nervous excitement. I’d spent the last twenty minutes in the shower playing various scenarios of what would happen tonight on our date. I’d imagined how beautiful she would look as she smiled at me—that smile that was sure to be the end of me. I’d imagined the different ways I’d try to sneak in an extra kiss from her at every chance I could. I’d imagined how cute she’d be when she playfully punched me on my chest after I teased her about something.
I looked over at my alarm clock on my nightstand and groaned. There were still four more hours to kill before I was supposed to pick Chloe up from her place. There was so much pent-up nervous energy swirling inside me, I started pacing my room, wondering if I could really wait another four hours.
I strode over to my window that faced her house and glanced over at the window to her bedroom. I smiled and wondered what she was doing right now.
Is she as happy as I am right now? Is she nervous about tonight like I am? Does she miss me already, too?
“Maybe I could see if she wants to meet earlier?” I asked aloud as the idea popped into my head. I reached for my phone and wondered if I should call her and ask.
Just then, I saw the front door to the house swing open and a second later, Chloe stepped out. A wide smile spread across my face as I felt my chest soar at the sight of her.
Did she have the same idea? Is she coming over to see me?
But my smile quickly disappeared when I saw the bewildered expression on her face. As I watched her sprinting from the house, leaving the front door wide open behind her, I knew that something wasn’t right.
What’s going on?
Without missing a beat, something propelled me to run out of my house and catch up to her. But when I got out of the house, I saw that she had already gotten into her car.
“Chloe!” I cried out as I ran across the lawn. But she didn’t hear me. Before I was able to get to her, she had already backed out of the driveway, knocking over the recycling bins at the foot of the path, and was speeding down the block.
My stomach lurched as a wave of worry hit me. By the way her car swerved, I knew with certainty that something was really wrong. I rushed back up my own driveway and jumped in my rental car. I turned onto the street as I saw Chloe’s car round the corner.
I pulled out my phone and dialed her number. Her phone started ringing but she didn’t pick up. When I was sent to her voicemail, I hung up and called her again.
“Pick up, Clo!” I could hear the panic in my voice as I felt nerves gnaw against my insides. Is she ignoring me? Or is her phone on silent? Or did she leave her phone behind at the house?
I must have taken the wrong turn after rounding the corner on my block because I didn’t see her car. After several blocks and turns, I finally saw her car driving erratically down the block from me. I started honking my horn at her, hoping to get her attention, hoping if she saw me, she’d come to her senses and slow down or pull over to tell me what happened.
But she didn’t pull over. She didn’t slow down. It was as if she couldn’t hear me. It didn’t take long for me to catch up to her. I continued to honk at her as I approached her car from behind.
It was no use. She still didn’t stop or slow down. I felt completely powerless as I continued to honk at her while trying to call her phone. As my heart pounded violently against my chest, I knew I needed to get her attention.
I rolled down my passenger-side window and tried to drive my car up next to hers.
“Clo!” I screamed out at her. “Stop the car!”
But she didn’t seem to notice me. There was a dazed gleam in her eyes and I could tell she was crying.
Suddenly, my chest tightened as I saw her car abruptly swerve to the right, just as we approached the bridge overlooking the lake.
“No!” I yelled out when I watched in horror as her car crashed through the wooden railing and hurled off the edge.
I slammed on my brakes and pulled my car to the side of the road. Pushing my door open, I leaped out of the car and ran to the edge of the bridge. Panic and shock nearly paralyzed me as I leaned over the railing to look for Chloe’s car. I spotted the back half of her silver Volkswagen Beetle jetting up from the water. But there was no sign of her. A lump developed in my throat, knowing that she was completely submerged underwater.
Adrenaline rushed through me as I raced down the slope of the hill that led down to the lake. I could hear several on-lookers calling out to me, but my mind was too frantic to register anything they were saying. There was only one thought I could focus on and one thought that consumed every fiber of my being: I had to save Chloe.
By the time I reached the edge of the lake, I’d already kicked off my sneakers and ripped off my shirt. Without missing a step, I pulled off my jeans and dove into the bitter-cold water. I swam toward the car as fast as my body could take me. When I reached it, I drew in a deep breath of air before plunging under the icy water, swimming toward the front of the car.
I tried to remain calm and forced myself to focus on the task at hand and to not think about Chloe in pain. But any false sense of calm I’d managed to muster immediately abandoned me the second I reached the front of the car—the second I saw her. She was floating lifelessly inside the car, her long, dark chestnut hair swaying with the undercurrent as it hid her face from me.
I wanted to scream out to her. I tried to pound against the window, but quickly realized I wouldn’t be able to break through it. I reached for the car door handle, and to my surprise, it was unlocked. I pulled against the handle, but the door only opened slightly against the pressure of the water. With some force, I finally pulled opened the car door and pulled myself inside. As soon as I unbuckled the seatbelt from around her, I pulled her limp body out of the car and swam as hard as I could toward the surface of the water.
By the time I pulled Chloe to land, the ambulance had already arrived at the scene. Several EMTs rushed to my side as I tried to perform CPR on Chloe.
“Come on, Clo! Breathe!” I begged as I performed compressions against her chest.
“Sir,” said one of the EMTs who rushed in front of me, “please step aside so we can take over.”
I reluctantly pulled away from Chloe as I watched the EMTs hover over her body, promptly placing her on a stretcher while placing an oxygen mask over her face.
“Her pulse is weak, but there,” one EMT said.
“She may have sustained some head trauma,” another EMT announced.
Their words felt like knives through my chest as I tried to mentally process what had just happened. Lost for words, I followed the EMTs up the hill to the road, my eyes never leaving Chloe’s motionless body.
Once they reached the road, they transferred her to a gurney and pushed her toward the ambulance. Before they rolled the gurney up into the back of the ambulance, I reached over, grabbed Chloe’s cold hand and squeezed it.
“Clo, you’ll be okay. I
you’ll be okay.”
But she didn’t respond.
After she was secured in the ambulance, one of the EMTs looked over at me expectantly. “Sir, are you a family member?”
“I’m…I’m her boyfriend,” I finally managed to croak out.
He gave me an understanding nod. “Okay. We’ll need you to follow us and meet us at the hospital and provide us with her information. Also, if possible, could you inform her family that we’re taking her to the Chester County Hospital?”
“Yeah,” I responded in a low voice. “Will she be okay?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t know, but we’ll do everything we can to save her.”