I just finished edits on Longing! And as a treat to you, I'm revealing the entire first chapter for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
People in love make me sick.
Not just people in love, but the general idea of love and all it entails for the mortals who decide to get married. All the frilly dresses, all the red roses, and all the I's dotted with tiny hearts? They can all go to hell.
I've purposely been avoiding eye contact with Sonya and Rodney ever since we walked into David's Bridal. They've been making googly eyes from the minute they picked me up. As they nuzzle their noses together and kiss sweetly on the lips, I have to turn away to squelch the nausea. God, they're perfect for each other. So perfect it’s disgusting.
“Can you believe we're getting married in five months?” Sonya says.
I'm sure she's talking to Rodney, but I can't help myself from butting in. “I wish it were sooner so you could stop the countdown.”
“You do realize I'd just start counting how many days we've been married instead.”
I bury my face in my hands. “It's only gonna get worse and worse.”
Sonya sighs heavily and peels my hands away from my face. Her chocolate-brown eyes peer into mine as she raises her eyebrows at me. “You never used to be this averse to lovey dovey stuff a couple months ago.”
“Don't,” I warn her.
She ignores me. “In fact, you've been a changed woman since a certain one-night stand with a gentleman—”
“I wouldn't call him a gentleman.”
“—you've decided should remain nameless.”
I shudder at the thought of speaking his name again. It brings back too many memories of our night together. Our glorious night together... “I'm not averse to it. I just...become physically ill at the thought of it.”
She picks a dress off the rack, glancing at it. “Like I said, you never used to be like that. You may not have enjoyed it, but you weren't this disgusted with love.” She holds the dress up to herself. “What do you think, Rod?”
“It's nice,” he says as he touches the dress, then her chin. “I like you in lace.” Rodney gives her the I'm-imagining-myself-peeling-this-dress-off-you-already look.
I throw my hands in the air and start walking away. “That's it. I'm leaving before you climb under one of those puffy skirts and do inappropriate public displays of affection.” Not only that, but all this white is starting to get to me. As if any of the women in this store right now are pure. Especially me. It's almost like holy water for the eyes, burning through my retinas.
“Allegra, get back over here,” Sonya calls. “You need to help me narrow it down.”
I turn around to face her. “Then pick out some damn dresses to try on and I'll tell you which ones make you look fat.”
She rolls her eyes. “Stop pretending to act like such a bitch. You're not mad at me, you're mad about him.”
“Not listening.” I cover my ears. “Just try on the dresses.”
“Fine.” At this point, she's piled three of them in Rodney's arms. She comes over, spinning me and pushing me toward the bridesmaid dresses. “You're going to try a few of these on for me today.”
I groan loudly. “But I don't wanna,” I whine.
She picks out a few different dresses—all in red, but different styles. “Too bad. You have to because you're with us and we're your ride home.”
“I knew I should have driven myself,” I grumble as I take the dresses from her. “Isn't red too sexy?”
“There's no winning with you, is there?”
“I'm not trying to be snarky. I thought the bride is supposed to outshine her bridesmaids.”
She shrugs. “I don't want my bridesmaids to look like they fell out of a cotton candy machine...or the '80s.”
“Well, at least there's a silver lining in all this,” I admit, admiring the sheen of the fabric.
“What? How about me getting married? I thought that was the silver lining.”
“For you, yes.” I smile.
She grins. “Thank you.” She drags me over to the fitting rooms. “Come on, Rodney. We're going to need your opinion, too.”
“Aren't you worried about bad luck?” Rodney asks as he slowly follows us, arms heavy with white poofiness.
“Not with you,” she says, blowing him a kiss.
I reluctantly step into one of the dressing rooms and put on the first dress. If it weren't for the fact that it comes to my knees, the plunging neckline would make it far sluttier. I look at the dress from different angles in the mirror and make a face. There's something not quite right...but what is it?
I step out in the open and walk barefoot to the mirrors. “Hey, Sonya. Can you tell me what it is about this dress that's weirding me out?”
She comes out of her dressing room. “Why would it weird you—” She stops dead. “Holy shit, Allegra.”
When I get the full view of her dress, I gape at her. “Sonya, that dress...”
She bursts into the biggest smile. “I know.”
She's tried the lace one on first. It's classy with a v-line, baring her shoulders, the skirt pooling at her feet. Her dark brown hair falls over her shoulders in waves, setting off her beauty even more. Gathering the skirt of the dress, she climbs onto the platform in front of the mirrors. She reaches out for my hand and pulls me up next to her. I look at the two of us in the mirror. We look amazing. No, amazing is an understatement. We look astounding.
“Oh my God...” Sonya squeezes my hand, biting her lip as she turns to me. “I can't keep looking, otherwise I'm gonna just start crying.”
“You're supposed to save that for your wedding night.”
She smacks my arm, but laughs. “Stop it.” She turns to Rodney. “What do you think?”
He stares up at her from his chair, blue eyes sparkling. “I'm speechless, babe. Just speechless.”
She beams and bites her lip again. “Not gonna cry, not gonna cry,” she repeats while blinking her eyes. She heaves a heavy sigh, and then looks down at the dress I'm wearing. “Again, Allegra, holy shit.”
I glance down at it. “Isn't there something weird about it?”
“What the hell is weird about it? You look...wow.”
“It's not too sexy for a bridesmaid?”
She shakes her head. “God, I wish he could see you in this,” she mumbles.
I glare at her. “What did you say?”
“You're bringing him up again.”
She lets go of my hand and puts her hand on her hip. “Oh, come on, Allegra! Can you blame me? I want to see you happy.”
“I know, but he—”
“Makes you happy.” She narrows her eyes at me when I shoot her a look. “You've lost weight since you came back.”
My nostrils flare and I point a finger at her. “You take that back.”
Rodney stands, coming over to us. “I thought women liked to hear that.”
Sonya leans on Rodney, running her fingers through his short black hair. “Not Allegra. When she loses weight, it's a telltale sign.”
“Of what?” he asks.
“That she's in love,” she answers.
“I am not in love,” I snap. “And I didn't lose weight.” I look at myself in the mirror again. Have I lost weight? I peek at the tag and my eyes widen. “Oh my God, I did lose weight. You purposely picked one size smaller!”
She laughs. “I had a point to make! You gotta admit, it was ingenious.” She puts her hand gently on my arm. “You like him.”
“I barely know the man.” I'm clearly incapable of making a good argument based on how I sputter the words out.
“You guys had sex four and a half times in one night. I'm pretty sure you know him.”
“Four and a half times?” Rodney asks loudly, his voice echoing in the small room, eyes widening like saucers.
I smack his arm and shush him. “Keep it down.”
He turns to me with a quizzical expression. “Wait a second. How do you have sex half a time?”
I shrug. “It's complicated.”
Sonya butts in. “They almost had sex in the elevator.”
“Oh geez, Sonya.” He claps his hands over his ears, scrunching his eyes shut. “I don't need to hear about Allegra's sex life.” His phone rings and he drops his hands to pull the phone out of his pocket. He glances at the screen. “I gotta take this. It's the office.”
“The TV show?” I ask.
He ignores me, shaking his head. “I'll be right back, babe.” He gives Sonya a quick kiss on the cheek before opening his phone and walking off.
“Does the office call him on weekends often?” I ask when Rodney's out of earshot.
“Sometimes. Don't change the subject. Why couldn't you have just exchanged numbers? I'm not going to let you stand there pretending you didn't feel something from that night because you obviously did. You clearly—”
“What? I clearly liked him? Yes, I did. I liked Devlin.” It annoys me how true it is. It annoys me even more that Sonya got me to admit it out loud for the first time. I don't know why I thought I could fool my best friend. “But we wouldn't have worked out. He made it clear where he stands.” Part of me wishes I did have his number, but the rest of me knows he's not husband material. He made it clear he isn't ready for a committed relationship, and that's what I'm looking for.
“That doesn't matter. Something changed in you since then, and you're trying to fight it. Maybe it's a sign that you shouldn't fight it.”
“He could have tried contacting me, too.” In fact, it would've been pretty fucking easy for him. If he were interested, he would've made the effort. But he didn't. “It's like the book says: he's just not that into me.”
“He was. Based on what you told me, I don't see how he couldn't be.”
“Then why didn't he try?”
“Probably because you ran out on him and he figured you'd kick his ass if he did.”
“Point taken.” I close my eyes and shake my head. “I'm not going to open my heart up to something like love again unless I know the other person reciprocates. It hurts too much if I do.” I press my lips together and give her a sidelong glance.
Her face softens and she takes my hand in both of hers. “Well, you've gotta do something. Reach out for other possibilities. You can't stay hung up on Devlin forever. You might as well move on.”
Even the idea of that kind of hurts, but I’ll never own up to it. It's hard to ignore feelings as powerful as the ones I felt for Devlin. I used to be more open to those kinds of emotions. I believed in them, believed in love. Now the feelings scare me to the point where I'm not willing to let anyone in for fear of losing again. Especially Devlin. It doesn't matter what I felt or could be inclined to feel eventually, he isn't ready for commitment. I won't let my heart be crushed. Not again. Never again. Soon there will be no love left in me to give, and I won't believe anyone who truly does love me.
“Hey,” she says, touching the side of my face. “Don't drown in your sorrows all over again. You've come so far; don't go back to that place.”
I let out a long breath. “You're right. About that and moving on.” I smooth the skirt down. “Who knows? Maybe I'll meet my dashing prince tomorrow.”
“That's the spirit!” She gives me a high five. “Now, let's finish trying these dresses on.”
It's been two months since Allegra walked out of Devlin's hotel room. Well, two months and five days, but she's not counting. She needs to move on, but before she can, Devlin shows up again...as her new coworker.
Seeing him at work every day is enough to make her lose her mind. Allegra tries to stay away from Devlin, knowing the effect he has on her, but she can't. The more she's around him, the more she's tempted to have something more with him. After everything that's happened in the past, it's a slippery slope that may land her in a place she never wants to revisit. Something is happening to her heart, though. A longing is building up that isn't one-sided...and doesn't feel temporary.
He wants her. She wants a forever. Is it possible to have it all?