Authors: Hazel Kelly
2016 Hazel Kelly
rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, copied,
or stored in any form or by any means without permission of the author. Your
support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
characters, events, brands, companies, and locations in this story are
fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons is purely coincidental.
Cover Artwork – © 2016 L.J.
Anderson of Mayhem Cover Creations
Table of Contents
gift in life is a second chance.”
He was the one that got away, and I knew it before I ever broke
things off with him.
I didn’t want to end it, but at the time I believed it was the
right thing to do… Because of who he was, who he wanted to become, and because
of where I came from.
I loved him more than I loved anything, but I thought he could
Even then I knew I’d never be able to replicate the happiness I
found with him, in him.
I tried, of course, but based on my experience, I’ve come to
believe there really is one right person for everyone.
And not only did I let my soulmate get away, I pushed him as far
as he would go.
As a result, I was convinced I deserved every second of
loneliness the universe handed me.
After all, I’d shunned the greatest gift it could offer anyone:
But luckily for me, it turns out the universe is just as
stubborn as I am.
Chapter 1: Laney
When I found the ring, I knew I couldn’t marry him.
Not that it wasn’t beautiful.
It was. In fact, it was princess cut perfection, and I was
tempted to slip it on my finger.
Just to see how it would look.
After all, what would be the harm? I knew it was meant for me.
But at the same time, it wasn’t. It was meant for the woman
Henry thought I wanted to be, the women he thought I was. And that wasn’t me at
It was all my fault, of course, for leading him on. And
obviously I’d lead him too far if he believed I was ready for an engagement
ring. But I didn’t mean to mislead him.
Like I said, it was only when I found the ring that I realized I
didn’t love him enough. Not like that. Not like you’re supposed to love someone
when you say yes to loving them through sickness and health and all those other
extremes that represent the crapshoot of goodies life might offer.
I’d been in love before and this wasn’t it. I could feel it in
my bones as I tilted the box in my hands, watching the sunbeams bounce off the
color trapped inside the diamond.
I wanted to love Henry that way. I’d spent the last year and a
half convincing myself that that head over heels feeling was right around the
corner, but finding the ring was proof that it wasn’t.
I felt nothing. Nothing but disappointment in myself.
Why couldn’t I love him back the way he was obviously prepared
to love me?
He was an amazing catch and a great provider. And not once had
he ever made me feel small because he was a successful accountant who was
actually important enough that had to keep his shoes shined, and I was a
retired wannabe artist who pretended to be a waitress every day in hideous,
practical sneakers that usually floated on a thin layer of crushed hash brown
mixed with lemon cleaner and a slippery coating of grease.
When I saw the ring, I should’ve started doing fucking
cartwheels and crying and ovulating like a normal woman.
Instead, I was looking back and forth between the ring and his
sock drawer, wondering if I could just put the box back where I found it and
pretend I’d never seen it.
But what then?
There were no good choices.
I could wait for him to pop the question, then let him
down easy and hope he’d be understanding.
But I knew from experience the only time that ever worked out was
on the Bachelorette, and it wasn’t because the potential suitors were better
behaved than regular guys. It was because there were cameras everywhere.
I suppose I could slip into conversation how I really wasn’t
ready to get married and hope he’d take the hint.
But then what? Just keep going through the motions as if I still
believed we might have a bright future together?
Maybe I could turn into some kind of unbearable monster
overnight that no one in their right mind would ever possibly commit to.
Granted, that was by far the most fun sounding option. The most
I could start using his toothbrush, burping in his face, and
breaking things. I could decorate his apartment in bright pinks and leave crazy
books around like
Why He Doesn’t Really Need Space
Why Real Men
My cooking was already below average, but I could start saying
nasty things about little kids on TV- maybe even tell him what I really thought
of his relationship with his mother or let it slip that I’ve always wondered if
his dad was well hung.
Ugh. Okay. So I wouldn’t go quite that far.
And to be honest, I wasn’t capable of doing any of that. Not to
Henry, anyway. He was too good. He didn’t deserve it.
Plus, after touching other people’s dirty plates all day and
pretending that I thought it was cute that they let their toddler pour his own
syrup or make her own powdered sugar finger paintings on the table, I really
didn’t have the energy to stage such a catastrophic mess on my own turf.
Not that it mattered.
Because I already knew what I was going to do. I was going to
flee. It was the only option.
I couldn’t possibly look him in the eye over dinner later and
pretend I hadn’t found it. I couldn’t tip toe around believing he might jump
around the corner and drop to his knee any second.
After all, I knew what it was like to break someone’s heart, and
it was the last thing I ever wanted to do the first time I did it.
So I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit by and do nothing if I thought
I might have to do it again.
I needed time. And I needed to put the ring down before I got my
fingerprints all over the little velvet box.
I took one last look at it. It made me sick to think how
different the face I was making was from the one he probably made when he was
picking it out.
Then I closed the box gently so it wouldn’t make a sound (as if
he might hear it in his office on the other side of New York) and returned it
to the back of the drawer where he kept his collection of black work socks
twisted into careful little balls.
Seriously, even his sock drawer was proof that I didn’t deserve
I mean, I was only in this mess because I’d failed to keep up
with my laundry like other adults seemed to do so effortlessly. And I still might’ve
avoided this problem if I’d happily slapped on a pair of dirty socks. But nooo,
I wanted to be fresh footed on a Monday like some kind of princess.
If only I had someone to call.
Unfortunately, all my friends in this city were Henry’s friends,
too. Except for my friends at work, and I couldn’t vent to them because I had to
give them an excuse for why I couldn’t be there for a few days.
Because I desperately needed some fresh air.
And to be on the safe side, I figured I could do with more fresh
air than fit in Central Park. Plus, a safe distance would help make sure Henry couldn’t
pop in while I was hatching a plan to free him from my broken, inadequate love.
Fortunately, I’d only moved in three months ago so it didn’t
take long to chuck some stuff in a bag. Not that I had much anyway.
My former apartment was only about twice the size of a standard
parking space. It also featured the occasional six legged hissing guest and an
elevator straight out of a Hitchcock film.
Needless to say, the conversation about who should be the one to
move when we opted to cohabitate was a relatively short one.
And it had been a wonderful few months, some of the best I’d had
in my adult life quite frankly.
And he had to go and ruin it by buying a damn ring.
Chapter 2: Connor
I faked to the left before dribbling around Dave and landing
“Is it me or are you getting rusty?” I asked, grabbing the ball
and jogging back towards center court.
He bent over and set his hands on his knees. “I think it’s that
you’re getting taller.”
I laughed and held the ball against my hip. “Something tells me
that’s not it.”
He leaned up and wiped the sweat off his brow. “Would it be
really pussy of me to blame the kid?”
I narrowed my eyes. “How old is she now?”
“A year,” he said. “And the other two are vampires.”
I laughed. “I thought vampires were superfast.”
He walked to the side of the crumbling court and grabbed his
water bottle off the bench. “They get it from their mother’s side.”
“I suppose it’s not a bad excuse,” I said. “I did notice a few
grays the other day.”
“Fuck you,” he said, water dribbling down his chin. “You did
“Maybe I imagined it,” I said, shooting a free throw from the
line. It swooshed in, nothing but net, and I ran to collect it.
“I’m not even twenty eight,” Dave said, sitting on the bench.
“Didn’t your dad go gray prematurely?” I asked, walking back to
“Didn’t your dad teach you some manners?”
I shot again and watched the ball hit the backboard and go in.
“And don’t guy’s hair genes come from their mom’s side?”
“Good point,” I said, walking over to him. “In which case
there’s definitely no hope for you.”
He glared at me. “Someday your kids are going to make your thick
blond waves fall out, too. Then we’ll see who’s gloating.”
“I’m not gloating. I’m just saying you seem a bit rusty.”
“Maybe you just aren’t rusting fast enough,” he said. “Maybe you
should come on patrol with me later and see what breaking up gangland warfare
does for your stress levels?”
I sat on the bench next to him and wiped some sweat on my
shoulder. “Gangs in Glastonbury, huh? Would that be the gang that sells the
lemonade on Fourth Street or the gang that washes cars and sells Thin Mints on
“So there are no gangs.” He leaned back. “You got me.”
I slammed some water, which was grossly warm from sitting in the
“Sometimes I wish we’d see some more action around here to be
honest,” he said. “The biggest problem we had last year was when we thought
Mrs. Johnson’s purse had been stolen.”
“Didn’t she just leave it at the fabric store?”
“At least no one can accuse you of not doing your job.”
“True,” he said. “What about you? Haven’t seen many sick animals
around so you must be doing well.”
“Busier than ever,” I said. “And people have started coming from
out of state to see me because of my new invention.”
“That rubber wine stopper you showed me?”
I rolled my eyes. “It’s not a wine stopper. It’s an artificial
“I know it’s hard for you to get excited about it, but if your
dog lost her leg for some reason, you’d be panicking in my office and begging
me to bring back the pep in her step, too.”
“So it works?”
I nodded. “Over ninety percent of the time.”
I hung an arm over the back of the bench. “It’ll be even cooler
if the patent comes through.”
“Because you’ll get paid every time another vet wants to be a
“When will you know?”
I shrugged. “There’s no telling with these things. It’s all
paperwork and paper pushing and waiting around for papers to be processed.”
“Well, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you- and not just
because we don’t know who’s going to be this year’s local hero in the Fourth of
“I’m not doing that regardless.”
He dropped his chin and raised his eyebrows. “If I ask you to
wear a flag and throw candy in my parade, you’ll fucking do it.”
I groaned. “That is so not why I moved back here. And it’s not
your parade just because the mayor thinks you have a nice speaking voice.”
“Everyone thinks I have a nice speaking voice.”
“Whatever, the local hero should be some retiree who’s running
out of chances to be the local hero.”
“Hey,” he said, raising his hands. “I’m open to suggestions.”
“How about Billy Porter?”
Dave furrowed his brow. “Hardware store Billy Porter?”
“Yeah, why not? He’s never been properly recognized for setting
up that sump pump hotline a decade ago, which has kept countless basements in
this town from flooding. Plus, he didn’t charge anyone for borrowing his extra
snowplows last winter when the blizzard rolled in. The guy’s a saint.”
“You’ve sold me,” Dave said. “I’ll run it by the mayor.”
“Maybe you could get one of the local gangs to make a giant sump
pump for the top of the float?”
He shook his head. “You’re an idiot.”
“Are you kidding? A giant red, white, and blue sump pump?! Who
wouldn’t be pumped to see that?”
“You’re so right,” he said. “What a treat that would be for
I smiled and tilted my face up towards the late afternoon sun.
“Any other problems you need solved now that you have my full attention?”
“My girls want a treehouse.”
“You’re on your own there,” I said. “Why don’t you get them one
for the ground like a normal parent? They make pink ones and everything.”
“They already have one of those.”
“Maybe one of the local gangs could conveniently steal it for a
few days,” I said. “Then you can be the hero that brings it back right after
they’re all cried out over thinking they’ll never see it again.”
“I love that idea,” he said. “But I’m not sure Amber would be up
“Do you have to run everything by her?”
He tilted his head. “Do you know nothing about marriage?”
“Can’t say I do.”
“Speaking of which, I meant to ask if you’d come by ours this
weekend. We’re barbequing for some family reason I can’t remember. Probably the
anniversary of someone’s first bite of solid food or some other bullshit.
Should be fun.”
“Is this your way of tricking me into mingling with the single
ladies of Glastonbury?”
He shrugged. “It’s not really a trick if you know about it.”
“Plus, it will be more fun for me if you’re there. Amber’s lined
up a babysitter so she’s guaranteed to hit the white wine until it hits her
back. And I could use a trusted grill master in case I have to piss.”
“Won’t all your work buddies be there?”
“Some of them,” he said. “But I only invited them to make you
“Oh look,” I whispered, nodding over his shoulder “Here comes
one of those gangs you warned me about.”
Dave turned around just as some teenagers approached the court.
“You guys using the court or can we shoot some hoops?” the one
in the Jordan’s said.
I leaned forward. “It’s all yours.”
“But play on this side to be safe, guys,” Dave added. “The
pavement on that side’s a disgrace.”
“We know,” the boy said. “Thanks.” Then he turned and threw the
ball to a friend before dropping his Gatorade, pulling up his sagging pants,
and strutting onto the court.
“How long has the court been busted up like this?” I asked.
Dave scanned the faded grey pavement. “It started crumbling
during the recession, and it’s only gotten worse.”
“Someone should really fix that,” I said.
“Yeah,” Dave said. “Someone should.”