When a stuntwoman and bodyguard collide, will they heal two broken hearts or leave behind more scars?
Harper Walsh’s first reaction to seeing a familiar face from her past is to make the man eat dirt. Fred Sullivan was her best friend until he abandoned Harper in her darkest hour. The guy deserves to get body slammed. But after the slightly violent reunion, Harper can’t seem to escape the charming man who could always make her laugh. A meddling sister lands Harper and Fred in a mountain cabin together, and a twist of fate (or poor planning) has the two working for the same A-list actress. Every day spent with Fred reminds her of the boy she used to love and has her prickly defenses softening.
Soon, the burn of her anger transforms into a heat of a different kind…
Fred Sullivan doesn’t mind getting tossed to the ground if it means Harper’s hands are on him. He still doesn’t know if cutting off contact with his closest friend a decade ago was the right choice, but he’s had to live with the pain of her absence for years. He’s not eager to let her go again. She was his first crush. First love. First heartbreak.
But he never told her the depth of his feelings. Is this his chance to fix an awful mistake? Can he get the words out before the furious redhead breaks his jaw?
Seventeen Years Old
We linger at the foot of the escalator that will take Harper Walsh up to the airport security line and out of my life.
“Don’t go,” I beg.
“Come on, Fred. Don’t do this.” Harper stands still in front of me. Quiet. Subdued. Not her. She’s been this way for the past month, and now, she’s leaving before I can get her—the real her—back.
“Me? I shouldn’t do this? I’m not the one leaving!” My voice rises with my panic, and a security officer gives me a closer look.
Harper digs her fingers into my arm and drags me to a corner, glaring at me all the while.
Good. This is the first sign of life I’ve seen from her in weeks.
“That’s right. I’m leaving. Stop making this harder than it already is.” The cracks in her calm allow anger and desperation to seep through.
Those I can grab on to. Use to change her mind.
“But you don’t have to go. You can live with Mom and Phoebe and me. Finish high school here. Go to college here. Your whole life is here.” And my whole life is her. She’s taking my life on a plane to Ireland.
I can’t lose someone else I love this soon. This will break me.
“You three have each other,” Harper says, and I stifle a flinch at the reduced number. “My mom needs me. And I need my mom.” All the fire from a second ago dims, snuffed out by the wetness gathering in her eyes.
Oh no. She can’t cry.
I can’t take it when Harper cries. I’ll give her anything to stop the tears.
“Please, Freddy. Just hug me and tell me to have a safe flight.” She slides the strap of her duffel off her shoulder before opening her arms, begging me with her damp eyes.
“Motherfucking goddamn shit!” I mutter the profanities while wrapping her in a crushing hold.
The glorious sound of her laughter brushes against my ear as her strong grip hugs my neck.
Normally, I complain when she uses that annoying Freddy nickname. But what I wouldn’t give for her to stay here and call me that every second of every day.
“It’s not forever,” Harper whispers.
Not forever, but it is for an undetermined amount of time. Do I have to wait a whole year to see the girl I love again when she’s old enough to come back for college?
What guarantee do I have that she’ll come back at all?
I can’t let Harper leave without her knowing how I feel. How much she means to me. That she’s my best friend, but every part of me wants us to be more. I should’ve been telling her all this time. Every day. Starting from when we were five years old and she shoved me off the swings at the playground and I fell for her in every way possible.
“I love you,” I growl into the soft skin of her neck.
There. I said it. Now, she can’t go because I’m the person she’s supposed to spend the rest of her life with, who’s going to love her forever. You can’t leave that person. You can’t just take a plane across an ocean and go to live on the opposite side of the world from your soul mate.
Harper releases her hold on me to cup my face with her hands. Tears trickle in uneven tracks to pool and drip from her chin, and her normally ivory-colored cheeks have gone blotchy red. She’s an ugly crier. That makes me love her more.
“I love you too.” Her words don’t sound the same as mine did. Hers sounds like a good-bye. “I’ll call you as soon as I get to my nan’s place. And I’ll text you the minute I get a phone over there.”
She drops her hands to my arms, only to grip my wrists and unwrap my hold from her waist, sliding away from me.
Harper covers my mouth. Her skin is warm and smells like her favorite peppermint hand lotion. She stares me down, determined, even in her sorrow.
“I’m going now. It might be a while, but I’ll see you again. I promise.”
Harper steps back, grabbing her bag off the floor as she uses the sleeve of her sweatshirt to wipe away her tears. But she doesn’t leave. Not yet. Instead, my friend waits, arms crossed, cheeks damp, staring at me with expectation.
I glare back at her. “Soon. You’ll see me again soon.”
The side of her mouth curves right before she plants a kiss on my cheek.
I catch her hand as she goes to walk past me.
“Not good-bye.” The words hurt and are harsh as they leave my throat.
Harper smiles and shrugs one shoulder. “See you soon then.”
Her fingers slip from mine. My hand fists, grasping at the bit of warmth that was hers, hoping I can hang on to that small part of her at least.
The escalator carries Harper up and away from me. Just as she reaches the top, my friend turns at her waist to give a final wave. The last sight I have is of her silky crimson ponytail swinging when she turns and disappears from my view.
Maybe she’ll change her mind. Maybe I’ll see her bright yellow Converse sneakers sprinting down to me. Maybe she’ll fling herself into my arms, declaring that leaving me is too painful to bear. Maybe her heart is breaking as much as mine.
But Harper doesn’t come back.
She said she’d see me soon.
Apparently, soon means ten years.