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Best of Me
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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the dark to my sister’s light—the awkward loner to her social butterfly. Growing up, she had it all: our parent’s unyielding approval, perfect grades, a permanent spot at the popular table, and the attention of the hottest guy ever—Duke Kincaid.
After eighteen years of living in her shadow, I couldn’t wait to escape—to finally be my own person. Yet here I am, I’m back in my hometown, once again in Valorie’s shadow. Only now, it’s eternal.
I had life all planned out: join the force, marry Valorie Parsons, and start a family of our own. I have the job, but the girl and all my dreams died before my very eyes.
Finally ready to move on, I agree to a blind date. Imagine my shock when I arrive and find, Valorie’s twin sister, waiting across the table from me. Mallory should be a reminder of all that I’ve lost, but instead she feels like my redemption . . . like maybe life’s giving me a second chance.
But, how can I be enough for her when I’ve already given her sister the best of me?
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The first time I ever laid eyes on Valorie Parsons, I could’ve sworn I was looking at an angel. I remember it as if it were yesterday…
It was the first day of tenth grade, and I was posted up at my usual table in the cafeteria with some guys from the team, shooting the shit and talking about our first game later that week. And then she walked in. Swear to God, the air crackled with her presence. She was only a freshman, but she waltzed into the room like she owned that school. Her long blonde hair was done up in those messy waves that immediately makes guys think of sex, her skin sun-kissed like she’d spent the entire summer lounging at the beach, and her lips…her glossy, perfectly kissable lips had my heart—and my shorts—feeling more than a little tight.
As crazy as it sounds, I knew right then and there that she was it for me. Right hand to my heart, I leaned over, nudged my buddy’s arm and said, “I’m gonna marry that girl.” Laughing, he replied, “You don’t even know her.” I shot him a grin and hopped up from my seat. “Not yet, but I’m about to.”
The rest, as they say, was history. From that day on, Valorie Parsons was my girl. The two of us were damn near inseparable, spending all of our free time wrapped up in each other. And now, eleven years later, I’m hoping like hell that when I drop down to one knee and offer her my all, that she agrees.
“Rook, are you even hearing me?” my partner, Cal, asks as he hangs a sharp right onto the four-lane highway.
I jolt in the passenger seat. “Huh? What? I’ve been riding shotgun with you for the better part of four years, asshole; I ain’t no rookie.”
Cal laughs, a deep gruff sound. “You’re damn sure acting like one, sitting over there looking like a possum on the side of a busy street. You got something on your mind?”
I shrug, not quite sure how to verbalize exactly what I’m feeling; hell, I’m not even sure I’d want to, even if I could.
“Listen up, Kincaid. We may not be blood, but we’re family. We talk. We break bread. We work through our shit so we can stand in the sun together, you feel me? We don’t keep secrets. So, I’m gonna ask you again, what’s got you so out of it?”
I glance over toward my partner, the man who’s had my back for the last four years, who eyes me warily. He’s fucking right. If there’s anyone I can tell my deepest fears to, it’s Cal. “I got plans to ask my girl to marry me tonight.”
“That’s good, man, real good.” He quirks a brow. “Y’all are still pretty young though, huh?”
I heave out a deep sigh. He’s not saying anything I haven’t heard before. But I’ve been thinking about asking Val to marry me since she agreed to that first date all those years ago. What she and I have is special—it’s that once in a lifetime, knock-you-on-your-ass kind of love.
I wanted to marry her the day she graduated high school. Hell, I even went as far as dropping down to one knee outside of our favorite summertime ice cream spot with nothing but a waffle cone of rocky road to accompany my proposal. But she always said she didn’t want us to be two dumb kids who stumbled down the aisle in a fit of lust and bad decisions. She wanted to finish college first so we could have a solid foundation to build our future on, and who was I to argue with that logic?
But now, I’d say we’re well on our way.
Last month, Valorie donned her cap and gown and collected her diploma. I was proud as punch when my girl told me she wanted to study law. In my mind, we’d be like superheroes, working to keep our small town safe. I could just see the headline in the local paper: Local cop and his prosecutor wife working together to fight crime by day and make babies by night.
Then she dropped the bomb that she wanted to be a defense attorney, and my dream shattered. Us being on opposing sides of the law was a fissure in the armor of our relationship, but I knew our love was enough to mend the crack.
Last week, she accepted a position with a hotshot law firm over the bridge in the city. Some Ivy League asshole with a reputation for fucking his female employees and representing the worst of the worst runs it, and even though it burns my gut, I know Val getting hired there before she’s even passed her bar exam is a big deal.
“Yeah, Cal, we’re young. But…I think we’ve got what it takes to make it for the long haul.”