Conflicted (The Existing Series Book 2)

BOOK: Conflicted (The Existing Series Book 2)
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Conflicted
The Existing Series Vol 2
A.M. Guilliams

Copyright © 2016 Amanda Berberich. All rights reserved.

©
C
onflicted
. All rights reserved. Except as permitted by U.S. Copyright act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior permission of the author.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law.

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations is entirely coincidental.

This book is intended for 18+ due to language.

E
dited by
: Silla Webb

Cover Image and Design: Cassy Roop @ Pink Ink Designs

F
or Daddy
. Thank you for the late nights playing Rummy while you listened to me chat, for letting me believe I was driving while I sat on your lap, and for encouraging me to always stay true to myself. You will forever be in my heart until we meet again.

Prologue

T
he warm sun
heated my already hot skin as I laid there on the dock. Thinking about nothing and everything at the same time. My future depended on the decision that I made. A choice I didn’t take lightly. I knew whatever I decided that someone, mainly me, would suffer. That’s why it was so hard to choose. So difficult to make the decision that would determine how my future started. Or ended depending on how you looked at it. For me, I couldn’t see how one choice could make such an impact. Only when I allowed myself to visualize did I notice that the decision was harder than I originally let on.

College.

Who knew it would be so hard? Certainly not me. I always knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to stay here with my family and run the family farm. But for some strange reason, people, my father mostly, wanted a brighter future for me. Whatever that meant. I never saw myself doing anything else. Never saw myself leaving Nelson County. Apparently, that wasn’t the right choice.

Hell, no decision that I made would be the right one. After giving it some thought, I was just going to logically explain to my father that I wasn’t leaving. But that meant losing the one person I’d grown close to in the past two years. The one person I made promises to that at the time, I had no intention of breaking.

I never thought my life at seventeen would be this hard. Dumbfounded, I thought I would only have to focus on which party I’d be going to next. Which tractor I’d have to use to plow the fields. Never making such a life-altering decision. Never breaking someone’s heart. Only now I seemed to be breaking everyone’s. Because my whole family decided without me on what my future should entail. Because my girlfriend all but told me that I’d lose her if I didn’t follow her. The sad part about her demand was that she’d only be an hour away. A quick drive and I’d be there. That’s not how she saw it, though. She wanted us together. Experiencing life together. Because her life didn’t consist of Nelson County in her future. She had bigger plans. Bigger than me and her combined.

Frustrated, I reached my hands up and ran my fingers through my hair, pulling on the ends until my eyes stung from the pain. This type of hurt I could handle. I couldn’t handle seeing my family struggle with my choices. I couldn’t handle watching the girl that I’d reluctantly fallen in love with walk away.

Either choice that I made someone suffered. Only I didn’t know if I could suffer the brunt of the pain just to make everyone but me happy. I’d been a good student, getting honor roll every semester. But I was done with school. Everything I needed to know, I’d already been taught growing up. Only no one thought I should carry out the family legacy because my brothers had already beat me to it. Apparently, I was the one they thought would leave. I was the one they wanted bigger and better things for. Only when I looked at my future, all I saw was this land. My children running around catching fireflies, summer nights swinging on the porch swing, and cuddling with the woman I married on the cold winter nights. I’d always been the dreamer of the family. The hopeless romantic. Which is why I found it so hard to believe that my family was hindering the one and only dream I’d ever had.

My dilemma got harder and harder as time passed.

The longer I thought, the more complicated it seemed to make the decision.

The sound at the other end of the dock brought me out of my frustration, causing me to jolt up into a sitting position. Only I didn’t turn to face whoever approached. I already knew who it was.

The honeysuckle smell wafted through the air giving her away. The smell that calmed my heart and soothed my soul all at the same time. She’d become my light, my ray of sunshine on the gloomiest day. God, I sounded like a sap just thinking about her, but my heart just knew when she was near that she was my happy place.

Kenzie. My heart and soul.

Her footsteps came to a halt just behind me, but I waited. Longing for the touch I knew would calm my racing mind. Only it didn’t come. This was the little game that we played to see who’d crack most under the pressure. But this time, I was going to win. I loved her touch, but it was usually me who gave in.

Minutes passed, neither of us made a sound except for our breathing, and I wondered if maybe I should just give up. We’d never lasted longer than a few seconds before someone cracked and hugged the other. When I heard the hiccup behind me, I just knew this wasn’t the pleasant visit I was hoping for. That was her telltale sign that she was holding in her tears. I cringed at the next hiccup because her tears always broke me. And this time, I knew I was the reason for them. She hated that it’d taken me this long to make a final decision. She thought I’d choose her from the get go. Only something always held me back from making her my final choice. No amount of love that I’d held for her had helped with which way to choose. That’s why I just didn’t know if going to college with her would be my best option. The biggest problem was I just didn’t know who I was without this farm. Without these country roads. And I was too scared to find out.

Without standing, I slid around on my butt and faced her, pulling her down into my lap. She settled quickly, her head landing on my shoulder and her arms holding on for dear life around my neck. She draped her legs over top of mine, and I gently rocked her from side to side until her tears slowed. The wetness from her outburst soaked my shirt, but neither of us moved. I just held on as tight as she did. Fearing this would be the last time I’d hold her. The last time she’d even speak to me if I made the wrong choice in her eyes.

God, why couldn’t my life be easy? Why couldn’t someone just make the choice for me?

Because that would be too easy.

The air cooled, and the sun started to set off in the distance. The sky turned a pretty shade of orange and pink as it went down behind the mountains. The sight before me was one of the things that calmed me. Made me feel like there was still hope in a world filled with hate.

She lifted her head before I could think any further and moved until she had one leg on either side of me and was in a more comfortable position in my lap. My arms continued to rest on her lower back, and when she stopped moving, I pulled her even further into me. My head was still looking down, my eyes focused on the strings fringing from the bottom of her cut off shorts. She was all country girl on the outside, but the inside longed to be in the city. Which is where we butted heads.

Her fingertips grazed the bottom of my chin and with a little force she lifted my head until my eyes were looking into the depths of hers. The bright green eyes that looked back at me were red around the edges from her crying and cloudy with emotion. Emotion that I couldn’t read for a change. I took in the rest of her, noticing that her usually perfect hair was whipped up on top of her head in a bun, and she had on one of my camouflaged shirts that she’d confiscated from my truck a while ago.

My eyes met hers again, and she opened her mouth as if she was going to speak only to quickly shut it again. When she went to open it for the second time, I stopped her from asking what I knew she wanted to know. My lips crashed onto hers with a force that I wasn’t used to possessing, and when she gasped I used that as an opportunity to let my tongue dip inside. The next best thing to holding her was kissing her. I could kiss her for hours and it would never get old.

My fingers entwined in her blonde hair and tugged slightly so that I could get her head at the angle that I wanted. My other hand roamed down her back to the bottom of her shirt, lifting the material so that I could rest my hand on her skin, feel the heat that radiated off of her. When her body stilled, I knew that was my cue to stop. After two years, we’d yet to decide to take the next step. One that I was dying to take. Only I was man enough to wait. Man enough to make that special moment one she’d remember for a lifetime if she chose me to be the one.

I rested my forehead on hers and allowed my breathing to slow and other parts of me to calm down before I said something irrational. Before I suggested things that she wasn’t ready for.

“That was one way to shut me up,” she giggled, her breathing still ragged from the intensity of our kisses.

“I wasn’t ready to hear what you wanted to know. I needed that moment with you to give me the strength for whatever comes next.” I shouldn’t have admitted that, but I was all for the truth. All for telling her things even if they were hard to hear.

“Are you ready now?” she whispered, sounding unsure if she should even ask.

Shaking my head with regret for making her feel that way, I told her to ask me anything.

Her hands moved from around my neck to rest in her lap as she ran her fingers back and forth over her skin.

“Have you made a decision yet?”

Instead of facing my choice, she looked off to her left into the night sky. I knew this was the moment that would define us. This was the time that would make or break me as a person.

Instead of choosing the right choice, I made the only decision I could. One that would inevitably break me in the end.

I moved my finger to her right cheek and lightly traced her cheekbone. When I reached her chin, I turned her head to face me. The look in her eyes showed that she was searching mine for any clue as to what I was about to say. That look alone gutted me. My heart began pounding out of my chest at the realization of how much this one choice would impact so many people.

Taking one last deep breath, I revealed my decision.

“You know I love you, right?’

She nodded her response. The legs that she had wrapped around my waist began to shake with the rest of her body indicating just how nervous she was to hear my revelation.

“But you also know this is where I’ve always seen my future, right?”

This time, she was reluctant to nod, her breath catching in her throat as she held it, waiting for me to tell her.

“As much as it pains me to even have to think about what my future should entail, I know what I need to do,” I said, pausing and taking a moment to think about what I’d decided for one final moment. Once it was spoken aloud, I couldn’t take it back. I was a man of my word, and I’d follow this choice through to the end.

“Will you just tell me already?” she demanded.

I leaned forward until I was right next to her ear and hugged her into me.

“I’m choosing the University of Virginia,” I whispered into her ear.

Instead of the shriek I expected, I was met with silence. Unspoken words lingered into the air as her grip tightened on me.

Finally, after what felt like a lifetime she squealed and wrapped her arms tight around my neck.

“You won’t ever regret choosing me, Wes,” she promised.

Only I wasn’t so sure.

College promised a future.

But at what expense?

I’d made the choice that would make everyone else happy. But when did my happiness come into play?

Only I should’ve trusted my gut.

It knew that Mackenzie would be my demise, not my reason to hope for a better future. When everything came crashing down, I wouldn’t have any hope to cling to, and I’d be questioning everything, including my reason for ever loving her.

BOOK: Conflicted (The Existing Series Book 2)
7.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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