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Authors: Ahren Sanders

Staying on Course

BOOK: Staying on Course
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Staying on Course

Ahren Sanders

Copyright © 2015 by Ahren Sanders

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 publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

This book is a work of fiction. All names, characters, locations, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Editing: Kendra Gaither at Kendra’s Editing and Book Services

Cover Design: Melissa @MG BookCovers and Designs

Formatting: Erik Gevers

Prologue

Destin, FL…

Excerpt from Finding Our Way

“Again,” Bryce demands as he glides in and out of me. I feel every inch of him hitting my sensitive flesh since he just gave me an earth-shattering orgasm two minutes ago.

“Yours, forever,” I repeat for the hundredth time since he proposed.

He takes his time building me up and I allow myself to feel the beauty of him. We got rid of the condom on the first night in Destin. He knew I was on birth control, but still insisted on condoms for extra protection. Once we hit the door to our cottage, he took me hard and fast and we both never looked back.

He picks up speed, driving into me with purpose and we moan at the same time. His mouth claims mine as he swivels his hips until I turn my head away gasping. When our eyes meet I push up into him and he lets go, taking me with him as we both yell out. His sweaty, hot body falls on top of me and I hold him close.

The surf crashes against the sand in the background and I see the light starting to peek through the windows. Seagulls fly through the air squawking and the sea breeze flies in the open windows of our room.

The two days we have been in Destin have been spent mostly in bed, reconnecting and celebrating. We’ve only left the room for showers, food, or bathroom breaks. I’m not sure we’ll even make it to the beach today.

It was a whirlwind of activity after we got engaged. My mom arranged for food to be delivered to Bryce and Nate’s apartment, and we all celebrated the entire night. That evening, all the secrets came out. According to Bryce, once he knew I was truly back to myself and had let the darkness go from what happened, he started making plans. He talked to his parents first, then Nate. My brother told Quinn she needed to be at graduation but gave her little details until my parents knew what was going on. She suspected but promised to be quiet.

Bryce planned the elaborate proposal with the help of his ROTC class and then told my parents everything. My mom jumped for joy. My dad was harder to convince, but once Bryce promised to wait until I graduated, he relented.

Even though we are young, no one gave Bryce any flack because they all knew. We are perfect together. He makes me happy. Once we finally jumped our hurdles, he held my heart forever.

I also learned it wasn’t his ROTC speech he was nervous about our first night together after six long weeks. It was his proposal speech and the elaborate display by his classmates. Apparently, all the guys dropping to their knees was a sign of respect for him. This is not really a common practice, but one of the guys told him about it happening before in a similar situation, and they decided to copy it.

He and Nate’s actual graduation was boring, as suspected, but my mom and Sheila still cried. Quinn opted to skip it and stay locked away in a hotel with Dean, which I was jealous of. They came out to dinner to celebrate but didn’t hang out afterwards. Dean fit into our group well; he was hilarious. Maybe it was my euphoric endorphins, but I could see him and Quinn with a future.

I’m not going to lie; the highlight, for me, on Bryce’s actual graduation was when Holli showed her pathetic face. She zoned in on Sheila and Dave and hugged them tight. They hugged her back uncomfortably. When she saw me, I didn’t move. But when she saw the sparkling diamond, her face paled and she stuttered her congratulations. I didn’t flaunt it at all, but a sense of satisfaction overwhelmed me.

“Baby, if you’re thinking again, I obviously didn’t do that right,” Bryce interrupts my thoughts and I bite softly on his shoulder.

“I was thinking, but it was all good. You think we might actually see the beach today?”

“Yeah, babe. Let’s shower and eat. Then I’ll take my gorgeous fiancée to the beach.”

“I love the sound of that.”

He stays silent.

“Don’t you?”

“Yeah, but I’m pretty sure I’ll like the sound of ‘my gorgeous wife’ better.”

We get out of bed and head to the shower and my phone starts ringing. I ignore Quinn’s tone and walk into the hot water with Bryce, rubbing my body against his.

The shower takes longer than expected and when we finally get our suits on and are ready for the beach I have five missed calls and a slew of text messages. I decide to check the texts first.

Quinn: Bitch! Check your email. We were both accepted to the summer program. You have to call me soon!

Me: I just got out of shower. BRB

Quinn: You may want to lay Bryce down. This isn’t good, but amazing for our future.

My stomach drops and I sit on the arm of the sofa.

Me: Tell me!

Quinn: No—open the email.

I scroll through my email and find the message I’m looking for.

The opening is pretty generic, congratulating me on acceptance and telling me the details, including the financials and credits received. It’s not until I get to the location that my heart stops. The description of the project is outlined and my enthusiasm starts to rise. I see myself in this environment and bringing the stories for my future projects.

But no one is going to support this. My parents are going to have a fit and Nate will forbid. But I don’t care. My enthusiasm spikes.

I text Quinn immediately.

Me: I’m in! You?

Quinn: No doubt. But only with you. Talk to your fiancé first. Not confirming until you have his approval.

Me: I’ll be fine!

“Are you done yet?” Bryce nips my neck and stands in front of me in his swimsuit and nothing else. His chiseled chest makes me lick my lips, and I almost forget my news.

“I got accepted to the programs I applied for.” I wave my phone, and he takes it.

As he scrolls through the message, his expression goes from excited to shocked when he finishes then hands my phone back.

His stance gets solid, and he crosses his arms across his chest. “No way! Absolutely not. You are not going to Israel! You think I’m going to let my fiancée travel to a country in absolute chaos?”

“I think you need to calm down. I’ll be with a guided troupe, and we’ll be fine. It says in the email that we have designated families to interview.”

“I’m not letting the love of my life go willingly into the Middle East? No! Over my dead fucking body.”

My mind rages. There’s no way I’m giving up this opportunity. He may think he’s dealing with the sweet and sassy Devon, but he’s wrong. This is a chance that could shape my future. I may love this man with all my heart, but I’m going to Israel, with or without his support.

Game On…

Chapter 1

As soon as we drive into my parents’ neighborhood, I start to fidget. It’s been five days since we’ve spoken because I’ve purposely avoided their calls. Exactly like Bryce, they freaked out when I told them about the trip to Israel. And as expected, Nate called me within ten minutes of hanging up with them and went bat-shit crazy. His exact words were,
‘I absolutely, positively, fucking forbid you to participate in this summer program’.

I listened to all of them lecture me on the danger involved until I finally had enough. We agreed to drop the subject for the rest of my vacation, then I’d sit down and logically discuss the pros and cons of the program. This seemed to appease them because they thought I’d given in. But in reality, I’d only delayed the inevitable rip-roaring argument that was bound to happen.

I replay that morning in my mind and wonder again if I’m being selfish.

Bryce paced the room and alternated between running his hands through his short hair and shaking his head. After five minutes, he finally looked at me and my heart hurt. His eyes were glassy and his expression pained. He knew what photojournalism meant to me and, subsequently, the subject matter of social and cultural issues. And I knew in that moment, he was going to try to talk me out of it, but in the end, he’d support my decision.

“Bryce, can we put this aside for the rest of the week and enjoy the beach?” I asked softly.

He came to me and cupped my cheek. “Hear me out, and then we’ll drop it until we get back to Nashville.”

I nodded and stepped into his chest, wrapping my arms around his waist.

“I’m feeling every bit of fear and anxiety that your parents are. Even in a sanctioned environment, this is not a safe location right now. But, it’s more than that. I can’t stand the thought of anything happening to you. It would absolutely kill me, Devon. I finally have you in my life in the way that was meant to be. We have a future, something I’ve dreamed about since you kissed me the night of my graduation. I’ve already told you how I felt the year and half we were apart. Now I have everything— I mean everything—coming together. If something happened to you, I wouldn’t survive.”

Tears pooled in my eyes as I looked up and felt his pain. “I’ll be safe, promise.”

“You’re going to go anyway, aren’t you?”

“Can we talk about it later? I’ll email my professor and tell him I need to think it through. Quinn will do the same. We can both give him our answers sometime next week. It’s an amazing experience to turn down. Don’t make me feel selfish for wanting this.”

There was an inner turmoil in his expression until he finally grinned and leaned down to kiss me briefly. “Wouldn’t want my fiancée to feel selfish. We’re officially dropping the subject until I have backup to talk some sense into you.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to argue about siding with my parents, but I decided to take the reprieve and save my logic for the whole firing squad. Most likely the same firing squad that would be waiting in my parents’ living room the minute we got home.

Bryce went to get our stuff ready for the beach, and I took advantage of the privacy to call Quinn. She wasn’t surprised at everyone’s reactions because she was receiving the same from her parents and Dean. We made a quick plan, which included her doing massive research while I frolicked on the beach with my fiancé. Her suggestion was to fuck his brains out until he was too tired to argue. I liked her idea.

Bryce reaches over and squeezes my knee before linking his fingers through mine. “You nervous?” His smooth voice breaks me out of my trance.

“Yes.”

“I can tell. Your hand is sweating. Relax, Devon. Things will be fine.”

My eyes grow wide as I stare at him in disbelief. I was prepared for him to pounce the minute we drove into the city. His relaxed attitude is throwing me off.

“Fine? Do you know what I’m probably walking into?
WE
are walking into? I know you may not like my decision to go to Israel, but I expect you to respect it. Especially with my parents about to go berserk. Nate too. He may be your best friend, but I’m going to be your wife, and we need to establish boundaries right now. He’s always been protective, but he forbid—”

“Devon, take a breath,” he interrupts. “It’s going to be FINE. We’re not walking into an ambush. I’ve already had a discussion with Nate. He’s not going to get in your face about this. Tonight is about our homecoming and figuring out our schedule. We’ll worry about the rest later.”

I blink hard and shake my head to make sure I’m not asleep and imagining
this. Bryce may be a master at conflict resolution, but there’s no way he’s going to calm my family. I’d bet my car that they’ve been stewing over this since we hung up the telephone. By now, my mom’s likely planned a way to force me home for the summer, so she can watch my every move.

“Baby, are you insane?”

“Yes, insane about you, and I put my foot down. Told Nate to get everyone’s shit together and let us have a nice night. Tomorrow, we can work through the details and the discussions. They agreed.”

My shoulders relax as I lean over and kiss him on the cheek. “And that is why I love you so much, Mr. Randolph.”

He smiles and turns into my parents’ driveway. I giggle when I spot Quinn’s car in the mix. She texted this morning and promised we were prepared to argue like professionals when our families tried to shut down our trip.

As soon as the car is stopped, the front door flies open, and Quinn comes barreling out, running directly to me. Before I can speak, she squeezes me until the air leaves my lungs.

“No mention of Israel.”

“Bryce said they’re leaving it alone tonight. We’re safe,” I wheeze, trying to breathe.

She steps away and scans my face. Then she breaks out in a wide smile and kisses my cheek loudly. “Glad you’re home.”

BOOK: Staying on Course
13.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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