Authors: Meghan Quinn
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Sports, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Military
Book Three of the Hot-Lanta Series
Published by Meghan Quinn
Cover by Meghan Quinn
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All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination. www.authormeghanquinn.com.
PLEASE READ – A NOTE TO THE READER
This was a difficult book for me to write because it deals with such a sensitive topic, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is such a devastating and debilitating disease that affects Americans every day, especially our country’s finest, our soldiers.
will introduce you to a pretty heavy and dark side of PTSD that many soldiers go through on a daily basis, but is not necessarily spoken of. There will be some vivid and possibly disturbing scenes in the book where PTSD is affecting a character. This is not to deter you, but to educate you on the seriousness of this illness. If you know someone who is suffering from PTSD, or a family member of someone suffering, please seek help or refer to this
My heart goes out to those who are suffering and their families as well.
This book is for the soldiers in my life, who fight every day for our freedom, the men and women who have blessed me with their stories of struggles and triumphs. You are my true heroes.
Molly stared at herself in the mirror. She looked like a completely different person. She’d cut her hair into a bob, just above her shoulders and added some highlights. The bags under her eyes that were starting to look like they might be permanent had slowly started to disappear and her complexion looked healthier. She hadn’t had a drink of alcohol since Jane had practically kicked her ass and she’d replaced cigarettes and drugs with exercise, something Molly had always balked at when Jane suggested it before, but she found running in the morning made her feel more invigorated throughout the day.
She talked to Jim and Marcia, Luke’s parents, and told them about the changes she’d made in her life and the steps she was taking to improve her life. They all decided that splitting time with Winnie during the week, until Molly got her feet fully back on the ground, was the best plan.
Molly got a job with her old school. The new principal, who was a teacher when Molly worked there before, always got along with Molly and when Molly approached her about finding a job, she was instantly offered a position that had just opened up, teaching fifth graders. The timing was perfect and Molly thought Luke must be looking out for her. She used to teach third graders, so she had to brush up on her fifth grade curriculum, but she had a while until the school year started back up in September.
She pretty much had everything back in her life, except for a man. She thought long and hard about inviting Austin back into her life. Who knew if he would even consider taking her back? But before she even tried to ask, she wanted to make sure she was ready to have a man permanently in her life again.
Before Luke, she was a wild child. Luke was the one who calmed her and made her settle down with a guy. She never thought she’d be in a serious relationship, but Luke changed everything when he asked her to dance at Deuces. When he died, he took that Molly with him. The committed, relationship-type Molly was no longer alive, but she wanted to try to resurrect her. She wanted to make sure she was going to be able to throw away the partying Molly permanently and give her heart to Austin.
She took her time thinking about what life would be like, sharing it with another man, and the thought didn’t bother her as much as it used to. Austin was an amazing guy who cared about her, wanted to meet Winnie, and was one amazing lover. She knew it was going to be hard, but she wanted to share her life with Austin. She wanted to try and see where life took them…together.
It took many phone calls, text messages, and emails to convince him to come over for dinner and talk, but she was feeling positive about the night. She knew he wouldn’t come if he wasn’t interested; therefore, she had hopes for the future.
She cooked up a meal of pulled pork made in the crock pot, some cornbread, mashed potatoes and corn. He was from Texas and she wanted to make him feel at home, show him she was trying.
She wore a yellow sundress that cinched at her waist and lightly flowed out from there. Her make-up was very light, in contrast to what she normally wore, and she made sure her hair was in place. She was ready for tonight. She had huge butterflies, but she was confident she could convince Austin to give them another chance.
She went around the house lighting candles and was startled by a knock at the door. Her heart plummeted…knowing this was it. She checked herself out in the hall mirror before she peeked through the peephole. In view, there was a fabulous display of flowers. She smiled, confirming the thought that tonight was going to be okay.
She threw the door open and was instantly smacked in the face by the past. Standing in front of her was what she could only imagine was a ghost. Luke was grinning back at her, holding flowers, and looking thinner than she remembered. She couldn’t breathe and she started to hyperventilate. She felt her legs go weak and she tumbled to the floor.
“Baby, it’s me. It’s okay.”
Next thing she knew, she found herself being held by Luke on the couch. Her Luke…her Luke who was supposed to be dead. She couldn’t process the thought.
The only thing she could think to say was, “You’re supposed to be dead.” She was crying hysterically.
“I know, baby, I know. I’m so sorry.”
She shot out of his arms and crawled away, scared out of her mind, not knowing what was happening.
“Is this some kind of sick dream? Or trick? It’s not funny.”
Luke tried to come near her, but she stopped him. “Don’t come near me. You’re dead; you died two years ago. I went to your memorial service. They told me you were dead. Why would they do that?”
“Baby, please calm down; come sit down and I’ll tell you everything.”
“Were they playing a trick on me?”
“No, babe, they thought I was dead. Everyone on the plane died…except me. I was taken hostage by some drug-dealing natives. I was able to escape a couple of months ago, made contact with my commanding post and they came and got me. It’s over babe. I’m back for good.”
“What do you mean? I don’t understand.” She ran her hands over his body, checking to see if what was in front of her was actually real. “You’re home for good?”
“Yes, babe. I got an honorable discharge. No more missions. I’m yours forever.”
Her mind couldn’t process what was happening. She’d said goodbye to Luke two years ago and now he was back? Could they just continue from where they’d left off? Were they still engaged? She was so confused. She looked around the room and remembered the candles. Shit. What about Austin? What about her feelings for him?
At that moment, she saw him walk through the door with a single rose in his hand. The look on his face was pure confusion. He looked at Luke and his eyes lit up with fire. Molly turned to look at Luke and he looked hurt.
“Jesus, I didn’t even think about the fact that you could have moved on.” Luke started to get up, but Molly stopped him.
“No, it’s not what you think.”
Austin took that moment to chime in. “Oh, it’s not what he thinks? What is this then, Molly? You call me a million times telling me you want to see where the future takes us and I convince myself it’s a good idea to give you another chance, but I find you’re here with some other guy. That’s bullshit.”
She strode across the room to Austin, gripping his hands. “Austin, it’s not what you think.”
“Please, by all means, tell us what we’re thinking,” Luke said.
She turned on a dime to look at Luke and pointed her finger at him. “Don’t you dare even give me attitude; you have no right. You can’t expect me to drop everything in my life after two years and go running back to you. Jesus, I still don’t even know if you’re real yet.”
“What the fuck is going on, Molly?” Austin practically screamed.
Molly exhaled and said, “Austin, this is Luke Cartwright. Luke, this is Austin Lee.”
Austin’s jaw was practically dragging on the floor. “You mean…God, I didn’t even recognize him. This is Luke, as in your ex-fiancé who should be dead, the father of your child?”
“Child?!” Luke exclaimed.
Four months later…
“Do you want to know the sex of the baby?”
“NO!” Lucy, Connor and Austin all shouted at once as they turned their heads away from the monitor. They had all decided earlier on that they didn’t want to know the sex of the baby, so when the doctor asked if they wanted to know, their panicked cries of “no” vibrated the walls of the small room.
Connor stood on one side of Lucy, held her hand, and occasionally whispered in her ear how beautiful she was and how amazed he was by her strength. She didn’t deserve such sweet words from the most amazing man she had ever met; if anyone, he was the strong one.
Austin stood on the other side of her, when he was able to make the appointments, which would be more often now that baseball season was over. The Braves had won their division, but ended up losing the fifth game of the division series, extinguishing their hopes for seeing any games in the brisk air of October.
The tension in the room was thick and Lucy didn’t think she could feel any more uncomfortable than she was at the moment. Ever since the test results had come back designating Austin as the father of her baby, she felt like she was being pulled in two different directions. Connor was her love, the man she saw herself growing old with, but Austin was the father of her child, her best friend she had known since high school and her biggest mistake.
Remembering the night she spent with Austin and the morning after when he fled her bed and went straight into Molly’s arms was still at the forefront of her mind. Every day she wished she could take back that night, erase it from her memory or replace it with Connor because, in the pit of her stomach, she wished Connor was the father of her baby. Life would have been so much easier. There wouldn’t be this tension that was enough to choke someone; she wouldn’t have the constant worry of Connor and Austin bashing each other’s heads in whenever they were in the same room, and she wouldn’t have to deal with shuffling her baby around…she’d be able to have a normal family with Connor.
“Sorry, I seem to have forgotten,” the doctor said, as she pulled Lucy out of her thoughts. “Everything looks good, Lucy. Keep taking your pre-natal vitamins and going on your morning walks. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks. Before you leave, do you have any questions?”
“We’re good, thank…” Connor began to say before Austin cut him off.
“She’s been doing a lot of yoga and weight lifting, is that okay for her?”
Connor blew out a heavy breath next to Lucy, making her blood pressure start to spike. She hated when Austin actually acted like he cared. From the beginning of her pregnancy, he wanted nothing to do with it. He didn’t even care when Molly had conveniently spilled the beans while her vagina was half-full of Jane’s cousin’s dick. Bitch. Instead of being concerned and worried about Lucy’s pregnancy, he’d just walked away, not even giving her another glance; but now that he was the father and it was confirmed, he had an interest. She knew she should feel happy that she had two men in her life that cared enough about her well-being and her baby to be there, but she really only wanted Connor. It wasn’t very often that a pregnant mom wanted a deadbeat dad, but Lucy practically prayed for it every night. Her life would be so much easier if Austin would just act like the giant douche she knew he could be.