Chapter 1

Danika

Present day

 

The world spins in a not so good, probably gonna throw up later, kind of way. I carry my heels in one hand and what’s left of my hard cider in the other while I amble across the closed pool deck to the sandy beach, stumbling in the dark into a lounge chair. 

Tonight was the rehearsal dinner for a wedding I’d rather not be attending. A wedding I tried my hardest to get out of, but when your plane ticket is non-refundable and the bridesmaid dress comes in the mail with the invitation, it’s hard to say no. Especially when the person getting married is your father.

 

Too bad he’s marrying the wicked witch of the west, Tessa Harris. Aka Mamma T. Aka Logan Harris’ pathetic excuse of a mother. So, not only is my dad marrying the worst woman in the world, he’s making the man who crushed my heart my step-brother. 

Peachy. Right?

 

Even though I was the one who ended our relationship, leaving Logan broke me. If I’m being honest, I’m still not one hundred percent over him. Every so often bits of memories flicker in my mind, reopening old wounds and making it impossible to move on.

I rub the sore spot on my shin and continue my journey to the beach. The soft sand under my toes is just what I need to settle my churning stomach that’s unhappy from both the environment I’ve been forced into and the six hard ciders I drank while hiding from my family. 

Needless to say, they found me. Well, my best friend Sarah Archer found me peeking through the doorway. Thankfully it was at the tail end of the rehearsal dinner, meaning I didn’t have to mingle and pretend to be happy to be back at the Horizon Hotel. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to see Piper Lovelace and Cooper Harris and spend time with Sarah. There’s just too many other people in that ballroom I’m less than excited to be around. So, after the quickest hello in the history of time, I ran away. The people in that room may be my family at the end of this weekend, but we are not a family. Of course, the one person I want to get away from most has his elbows resting on the driftwood banister, preventing my toes from feeling the wind chilled sand. 

 

I could turn back and head up to my room. 

 

It’s what I should do. 

 

After all, I’ve never been able to trust myself around Logan Harris. He has the ability to get under my skin and eat away at my resolve without trying because, like a moth to a flame, I’m drawn to him. 

 

The wind blows, carrying the scent of his cologne with it. It’s different, not the same smell I spent hours in department stores searching for. If not for my Nona, I would have caved and come running back home after day one. I owe her everything. She ran her fingers through my hair, lulling me each night I cried myself to sleep. She didn’t judge me when I refused to wear anything but pajama shorts and Logan’s shirt for a month, only taking it off to wash. She accepted every emotional outburst and tear filled breakdown with grace. She reminded me daily that I made the right decision, that Logan wasn’t ready to be a father, and that until he found a way to manage his demons, he wouldn’t be. 

I don’t have her tonight. I have this mirrored sky, where the stars and the moon are just as bright as they were on homecoming. I have Logan’s scent swirling through my head, replacing my semi-happy drunk with longing. And I have a mostly empty bottle of hard cider.

Had a mostly empty bottle of hard cider.

 

“The fuck?” Logan grumbles, rubbing the back of his head. He turns, face pinched in pain and anger, but softens his expression the moment our gazes lock. He bends down and picks up the bottle with a chuckle. “This yours?”

 

“Yup. I missed my mouth.” I take a step forward and hold my hand out. “I’ll take it back, ”I say, adding “please” for good measure. I may be drunk and slowly burning up from the inside out, but I will not let Logan think he unnerves me. Even if he does. 

Even if my world is spinning and I’m not sure if the cause is him or the alcohol. 

 

The corner of Logan’s lip lifts into a smug smile. He brings the rim of the bottle, my bottle, to his mouth, then leans his elbows on the banister behind him. “Come and get it.”

 

I shake my head, losing my balance and stumbling a step to my right. I raise my hand and point my finger at his chest. That chest… god, how does his shirt even fit over those muscles? Like seriously! I can practically see the broad lines of his pecs through the thin white material. Walk away,

Danika. “You, sir, are drunk.”

 

I open my fist and block Logan’s face with my hand, ignoring the deep rumble of his chuckle, and the warm air between us as I descend the stairs. I need to put some space between us and get the fluttering in my stomach under control. Too bad I don’t make it. My ankle gives out as I try to go down the first of only five steps. 

 

I should be tumbling to my sandy demise, but strong hands grip my hips. Fire ignites my skin through my dress. I feel sweaty, and clammy, and like I need to take the flowing black fabric off or jump in the water to cool myself. Both of which I know would be terrible ideas because this is the nicest dress I own and there are scars across on my body Logan doesn’t need to see.

 

“Easy there, killer.” Logan doesn’t pull me against him and I can’t decide if I’m disappointed or grateful. “If you sprain your ankle, you won’t be able to walk down the aisle with me tomorrow, which would be a shame, considering it’s the only time I’ll have that privilege.”

 

Guilt stabs at my side. Was that an intentional dig at what our relationship could have been or am I just drunk and overthinking things?

I push Logan’s hands off my body then grip the handrail, taking each step painfully slow. When my toes finally meet the moon kissed sand, a chill slithers through me, bringing my body temperature a little closer to normal. I walk through the soft grains. My ankles roll and I topple to the side a time or two, but eventually make it to the solid stuff—the sand the water teases, making it hard just so she can run away. 

I drop my shoes just out of the tide’s reach and walk knee deep into the waves. I don’t care anymore that the hem of my dress is wet or that I’m ruining my perfectly painted toes from the first pedicure I've had in months. All I care about is slowing my heart and making my body feel a bit more normal. A hard feat considering that I am most definitely drunk.

I close my eyes and drop my head back, allowing myself to become one with the waves. But then there’s a jingling of keys hitting sand and a grunt of frustration from behind me. I exhale, pulled from the tiny moment of peace I found 

I strain my ears, listening to the sound of a buckle being undone and the soft thump of pants falling to sand. I’d be worried anywhere else in the world, but no matter how much time passes I know Logan would never let anyone hurt me. 

Water sloshes and my skin is hot again. Heat bounces between us, the tiny hairs over my body standing on edge, waiting for Logan’s voice or touch, anything. Finally, he speaks, his voice almost to a whisper. “How do you do it?”

“Do what?” There’s something about this moment that feels so beautifully wrong. Like a painted sky before a missile sails through it and destroys everything in its path.

“Suck the air from my lungs while breathing life into me at the same time.”

© Bailey B Books