Happy Ever Never (Written in the Stars Book 1), страница 1
Also By Brittany Holland
Happy Ever Never Playlist
Preview of Never Say Never
About the Author
Happy Ever Never (A Written in the Stars Novel)
Copyright © 2018 by Brittany Holland.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events 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.
Cover Design by Najla Qamber
Editing by Dawn Yacovetta
Formatting by Juliana Cabrera, Jersey Girl Designs
First Edition: March 2018
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ALSO BY BRITTANY HOLLAND
St. Helena Vineyard Kindle World
Imperfect Love Series
A Written in the Stars Series
Never Say Never (Spring 2018)
Now Or Never (Summer 2018)
HAPPY EVER NEVER PLAYLIST
Lost Boy by Ruth B
Written In the Stars by The Girl and the Dream Catcher
Forgettable by Project 46
Every Breath You Take by Chase Holfelder
Scarred by Jamestown Story
Find You by Alex G
Chasing All the Stars by Fleuri
Photograph by Ed Sheeran
Gravity by Sara Bareilles
Already Gone by Sleeping At Last
Ever After by Charlotte Lawrence
Anymore of This by Mindy Smith & Matthew Perryman
Follow You Down by Matthew Mayfield
Window Pain by Xenia
Unbroken Promise by Erick Baker
I Still Love You by Josh Jenkins
Never Enough by Loren Allred
Turning Page by Sleeping At Last
Hoppipolla by Vitamin String Quartet
Perfect by Ed Sheeran
Rewrite the Stars by Zac Efron & Zendaya
Jamie Nicole Rowley Manes
This book is for you, as you knew it would be. My heart is broken knowing you couldn’t be here to see it finished, but I find great comfort in knowing that you already knew it would be yours and yours alone. The tearful conversation we had when you found out it would be dedicated to you replays often in my mind. You believed so fiercely in me and my ability to make this dream come true! I will always cherish singing Lost Boy to you in that hospital room, as I tried to figure out how to let you go. But don’t you know, I never did and I never will. Your light goes with me everywhere I go, your smile and your laugh. We will always be cousins by blood, sisters by heart and friends by choice.
“You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you. That’s where I’ll be waiting.”
Tinkerbell from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
“Promise we’ll always be best friends?” she asks, big eyes staring up at me.
“I promise.” And I mean it. More than any other promise I’ve ever made. “Now hold out your hand.” Which she does.
“Will it hurt?” Her voice is quiet. I don’t want to lie, but I want her to be my best friend forever, so I risk the truth because I can’t bear to lie to her. There will never be secrets between us, only truth.
“Yes, just a little bit. Just hold really still.” I take her shaking hand in mine before she pulls it back.
“You go first,” she demands, and so I do. I would do anything for her. I lift the small blade of my pocket knife to my thumb, pressing until it pierces my pale skin, causing a drop of blood to surface. A hiss escapes my lips, but I grit my teeth, struggling to appear tough.
“Ewww,” she whispers. “You sure this is the only way?”
“Well, yeah.” I offer with as much authority as my ten-year-old voice can muster. “At least I think...a blood pact is the strongest kind of bond. Stronger than spit even.” I pretend to know what I’m talking about, even though I’m only a couple years older than her. She believes me. Believes in me. It’s a new thing. Something I never want to live without. Even though this is only her second summer here, it makes the rest of the year bearable, knowing I’ll see her again.
“Close your eyes and count to three,” I tell her.
“One, two—Ouch!” she cries, pulling her hand away to inspect it. Probably to makes sure I haven’t cut the whole thing off. “Piers! That hurt!”
“I’m sorry.” And I am.
Looking around to make sure we’re alone, I take her hand and place a tiny kiss to it before letting it go to hold up my thumb. Man, if the boys could see me now, they would make such fun. They don’t really understand my friendship with Willow. No one does. Except Wendy.
“Ok, now hold your thumb up like mine.” I gesture, pulling my hand into a fist, with only the thumb remaining up. She imitates me, and I press my cut to hers and whisper the magic words.
“Best friends, forever and always.” And mean every single word.
“Best friends, forever and always,” she repeats. I hope she means them too.
And just like that, we are bound by blood. Best friends, forever and always.
Ten years later
“Willow, why are you crying?” I sit next to her on the garden steps, and our legs brush, causing a feeling to stir deep in my belly. Those same large eyes look up to mine, full of tears.
“It’s my parents.” She sobs as I wrap her in my arms. “They’ve been in a horrible accident. Oh, Piers! They’re gone. They’re gone, and I’m all alone.”
“I’ll be your family,” I offer, a lump wedged in my throat at the possibility of her rejection.
“I’ve still got family Piers. I need a friend,” she whispers, her tears soaking my shirt.
“I’ll be your friend Willow; you know that, forever and always,” I remind, taking her hand in mine, between our bodies, pressing my thumb to hers. But I need family. I want you to be my family. The selfish words I don’t dare speak out loud.
Our foreheads rest together, and on instinct, my mouth finds hers. I place the gentlest of kisses to her lips, surprising us both. My cheeks heat in embarrassment because Willow and I, we’re just mates. At least that’s what I pretend. Because I think that’s what she wants. We’ve never had secrets, but I think maybe just this once, I’ll keep my tho
And salty from the tears that stain her face. And I immediately feel like a giant arse for kissing her like this. Now, of all times. Our first kiss should be under a moonlit sky or in a field of flowers, not on the garden steps with the sun beating down and with the chance that anyone could see, even though it’s just one person in particular that has me concerned. And not while she’s crying, having just lost her parents.
A very dark part of me thinks the most awful of thoughts. Things I can barely even bring myself to admit. Maybe now she will stay here and not have to go home. Maybe I will finally get more than her summers. How was I to know that I would get just that? All of that and more, in fact. Summer love… we would weather the seasons, all life’s changes, building our hopes and dreams. But only for a spell. Because winter comes… just two short years later, shrouding me in darkness, taking it all away.
Including her. And my summers were no more. Our story was over before it ever began.
Just a few more strokes and these fairy wings will be perfect. I roll my aching shoulders, stretching as I stand back, studying my work. Laying on the table before me is another little piece of myself, bled out on the page in a mesmerizing swirl of colors. It’s missing something...my mind can’t figure out exactly what it could be, and my heart screams that it knows. Goosebumps blossom down my exposed arms, and I wrap myself in a hug to ward off the chill of memories, both good and bad.
Lost in thought, I stare at the magical willow tree taunting me from the thick linen paper. Blinking back tears, I study the fairy fluttering beneath the tree, using the wispy vines as a barrier of protection from those who would harm her. Remembering another time, another place. Stolen kisses and magical lands. Lands that are laden with secrets. My secrets.
Loud banging erupts downstairs, jolting me back to reality, and I nearly spill the cup of soaking brushes. Shit, that was close! Setting the cup aside, I breathe a sigh of relief that the day’s work wasn’t in vain as my fingertips swipe gently under my eyes. Who could it be?
Dashing down the stairs I pull the phone out of my back pocket to see how long I was lost in my work. It’s only 2:35 and Drew isn’t due home till 3:00. I’m confused as to who it could be. Emotionally drained from today’s session, I’m not really in the mood for visitors, not that we get many visitors.
As I pause to grab an armful of clothes from the base of the stairs, the knocking grows persistently louder. “Coming!” I yell, continuing to the door.
Jerking it open, the greeting dies on my lips as the bottom falls out of my carefully constructed world...and I find myself staring into the greenest eyes I never thought I’d see again. My heartbeat speeds up to a deafening boom, boom, boom, echoing in my ears. Clothes fall to a pile at my feet as I grasp the door frame for support, fingers of one hand digging into the wood whilst the other is drawn to the base of my throat as I struggle to find breath...as if it’s willing air into my burning lungs.
“Hello, Willow.” His voice is the same but deeper; he is, after all, a man now. Hearing my name on his lips, tainted with distain, is like a lover’s caress and a sword to the heart, all at once.
My senses are on overload, so much so that my mind is partially convinced that he isn’t real. Grappling with the possibility that he is here, on my doorstep, causes a tsunami of emotions. He keeps his eyes trained on me as my mind struggles with the fact that this is not a dream.
Running a hand through my wild mane, suddenly I feel self-conscious under the weight of his stare. It’s a studio day. I’m barefoot and wearing torn jeans, an old white tank, and hair piled on my head. Not how I imagined I’d look when I finally saw him again. Because, I did...imagine it. About a million times.
He looks every bit perfection. Charcoal suit with a black shirt beneath, sans tie, smart black dress shoes...polished and poised. Finally lifting my eyes back up I notice a lean waist and broad shoulders. His normally unruly hair is slicked back, looking darker than it’s usual blackish brown. Stubble covers a jaw that’s square and defined and currently set in a scowl. But it’s his eyes that draw me in, they always have. Clearing his throat, he smirks, ever so slightly, watching me take him in. Arrogant arse!
“Are you going to ask me in, or shall we stand on the porch all day having a staring contest”? he questions, his demeanor cold while any hint of amusement has now disappeared.
“Pl—please come in Mr. Nichols?” I stammer, the door creaking as I hold it open wider, kicking the clothes out of the way. My body is going through the motions yet feels like I’m in a fog. The shock of seeing him is…
“Oh, so it’s Mr. Nichols now, is it?” His coldness transforms into mocking, interrupting my thoughts.
I take a deep breath as we leave the foyer and enter the living room, doing my best to remember my breeding. “Piers, welcome. Please have a seat,” I urge, proud of myself for hiding the quiver in my tone.
He sits on the small sofa, and I choose a chair opposite him, trying to keep my distance. My hands twist and turn, locking and unlocking in an attempt to settle my nerves. Everything I imagined I would say, if given the chance, remains lodged in my throat.
“Look...” I start at the same time he says, “I’m sure...”
“Please go ahead,” I offer, nodding in his direction.
He knows. It’s why he’s here. He knows. Pressure builds between my eyes as tears well up and I wait for him to say it. But the words never come. However, what does come shocks me nearly as much.
“I’m sure your wondering why I’m here,” he begins, “so I’ll just get right on with it. I’m the executor of the will, and since you couldn’t be troubled to return for the services nor the scheduled reading, I had to come to you and try to convince you to come back for a proper reading. It’s what the will stipulates. Which, I might add, was somewhat troublesome, seeing as how you disappeared to the other side of the globe. But then again, you were always better at hide and seek than I was.”
“What?” I question, not missing the bite in his tone but much too confused by his words to be wounded. This is about Wendy?
“Willow, you know you were like a daughter to Wendy and...well, James.” He sighs as if annoyed to have to spell it out for me.
“What about James?” I spit out, finding my voice as my anger starts to bubble to the surface, and I look him right in the eyes, challenging what he thinks he knows, this man who I don’t recognize.
He holds my gaze before hanging his head and releasing a ragged sigh. Seeing his guard drop, if even for only a second, makes me think that my Piers might still be there, under the polished perfection, even the scowl. He knows my feelings about James. He has to. “They both loved you, just in different ways—” he tries to explain, his tone remaining flat.
“So you’re on his side now? Hmmm. I suppose that’s what a university education buys these days...loyalty.” I cringed as the spiteful words fall from my mouth, standing and turning, so he can’t see the regret on my face.
I begin to pace as he continues. “Look, you were Wendy’s world, and when she passed— Willow, James has fallen ill. You need to take your place at the family estate. I really can’t say more. You would know this if you had just—”
I whirl around, finding some venom of my own. “Don’t lay that on me. You don’t get to come in here, into my house, and judge me. You have no idea how bad it hurt to not be there.” His comment cuts me to the quick. Not being there when Wendy died is a burden I’ll bear the rest of my life. And James, this news about James, comes as another shock.
“Infuriating as ever I see.” An annoyed look etches its way across his handsome face. “I’m not going to go at it
I look at him with shock. Why would Wendy do that? I hadn’t been home in years...I couldn’t return. Collapsing on the sofa, my head falls heavily between my knees, fighting off a panic attack clawing it’s way to the surface. Breathe in. None of this makes any sense. Breathe out.
A comforting hand rests on my back, and his touch sends heat scorching through me. As if he could sense it as well, he quickly draws back as if I’ve burned him.
Hair falls out of my line of vision as I lift my head and notice he’s opened a briefcase and is now sorting papers.
“Wait, what? We have to do this now? I just need...a minute.” The chime of the Big Ben replica lets me know it’s now 3:00, and Drew will be home any minute. Panic sets in, he needs to go. Now! I jump up, startling him.
“I’m really sorry. I forgot I have somewhere to be,” I tell him. “Just leave me your number and I’ll be in touch.”
“Willow, calm down. I know you’re shocked and upset, but we really need to discuss arrangements.” Ignoring him, I walk to the window and stare out at blue skies. How serene and peaceful it seems just beyond this room. Ironic, since I feel like a thunderstorm has taken residence in my chest.
“What could be more important at this very moment?” he questions me, frustration lacing his tone and continues rummaging around in his damn satchel. I turn and look at him, sitting on my sofa. Discussing wills and death like it’s nothing. I feel like I’ve been sucked into some type of alternate universe. He looks up and stares right through me as if he’s not a puddle of nerves at being face to face after nearly six years, his tone growing more frigid. “Then once this is settled, we have some unfinished business of our own to address.”
My gaze falls to the floor. I don’t want to be rude, but he can’t be here when Drew gets home. This won’t end well.