Forever in Cape May

Page 62

She shook her head, enjoying the familiar teasing, and settled back with the people she loved.

Chapter Twenty-Three


Pierce froze on the path the moment he spotted her a few feet in front of him. The rehearsal dinner was being held at the famous Peter Shields restaurant, known for its impeccable food, charming atmosphere, and impressive bar.

Taylor smiled shyly and closed the distance, and just like that, all his good intentions shattered around him.

Damn her. Why did she have to be so arresting? The woman would never be called classically beautiful—she was too bold for such a polite type of word. But the short, glittery black dress she wore was both elegant and unapologetic. It dipped low in the front and back, emphasizing the tilt to her small breasts and lean figure. She’d slicked her pink hair back away from her face, showing off ruby-red lips, her nose piercing, and sexy, dangly earrings. Her shoes were a kick-ass mingling of combat boots with high heels, somehow matching perfectly with the fancy dress.

He locked his muscles in place to keep from attacking her right there and throwing away weeks of discipline. God, he’d missed her. But every time he’d reached for the phone, which was hundreds of times per day, he’d reminded himself that she didn’t want him. Not like he did her. She’d sold the painting as a symbol of rejecting what he wanted to offer.

Seeing her now, he wondered if there’d be enough time in eternity to get over her.

“Hi,” he said with a nod.

She picked at her thumb, her telltale nervous gesture. “Can we talk?”

“Of course.”

She motioned him to the side of the restaurant, tucked away from the arriving crowd. Her gaze probed, searching for something he didn’t have to give her anymore, so he kept his own gaze hooded, hoping he’d get through this weekend without a mental breakdown. “How have you been?” she asked.

“Good. How about you?”

Taylor gave a shrug. “Okay. Busy. Painting, taking lessons, studying French. Making business contacts.”

“It’s everything you wanted, right?”

She flinched.

He muttered a curse. “I didn’t mean that as a jab,” he said stiffly.

“I know. I’ve just missed you. I understand you need time, and I didn’t want to pressure you. I called once, and Samantha answered.”

“She told me.”

Taylor waited for more, but he had nothing else to offer. He stayed quiet, refusing to explain or detail his and Sam’s relationship, which was just a simple friendship. She’d gone out with his friend Nick, which had fizzled after two dates, but yesterday, he’d introduced Sam to Rob Livery, a local cop, and sparks immediately flew. Pierce bet they’d be dating soon.

“Oh. Well, this wedding is really important to everyone, and I don’t want it to be awkward between us.”

He looked at her coldly. “For you or them?”

Those Bambi eyes widened. “For all of us. Pierce, please understand—I didn’t know what else to do, but I don’t want to lose you.” Her bottom lip trembled, and he caught the raw pain stamped on her features, the misery cloaking her. “I think about you all the time. Not talking to you for so long has been like losing a limb. I hate that I hurt you.” Her voice finally broke. “I didn’t know what else to do,” she repeated.

Calling himself every curse word in his mental bible, he reached out and squeezed her hand in comfort. Watching her in pain was his own special torture, and though he was still angry and hurt as hell, he couldn’t blame her for making a choice. “I know, Taylz. It’s just hard for me, that’s all. I hope one day we’ll work our way back to each other, but I think, right now, it’s important for both of us to structure our lives alone. We need that. That’s the reason you went to Paris—to discover who you are separate from all of us back here. Including me.” He dragged in a breath. “I need to do the same thing for myself. I can’t depend on you anymore. Maybe, if we can both build ourselves back up on our own, we’ll be able to be friends again, in a new way.”

He looked deep into her eyes and saw a certain hope slipping away—one he didn’t understand, because she’d already made her choice. “Yeah, I know I can’t go back and change things. I just never thought this would happen to us.”

He slowly released her hand. “Me, either.”

“I’ll try to give you space, but I didn’t tell anyone what really happened between us. My sisters think we just decided to return to a platonic relationship.”

“So do the guys.”

“I don’t want the wedding to be awkward.”

Pierce hated to hear the aching sadness in her voice. “I promise it won’t be. Let’s keep the focus on Avery and Carter, and everything will be okay.”

“Okay.” She offered him a smile, and they walked back to the restaurant. She paused briefly on the pavement, turning to look at him. “Pierce?”


“Even with the fallout, I won’t ever regret what happened between us.”

And then she was running ahead inside, greeting her family, playing her role in a sparkly evening dress while she pretended not to hurt like he did. It took him a few more minutes before he felt strong enough to follow.


Pierce had almost made a clean exit after the rehearsal dinner, but then he heard his name bellowed down the street. Shaking his head, he turned and saw Carter and Gabe coming toward him.

“Have one beer with us at Barefoot Bar,” Carter said, slapping him on the back. “I didn’t really get to talk to you guys during dinner with so many people needing attention.”

Gabe grinned. “Yeah, it’ll be his last drink as a single guy.”

Pierce laughed. “Does that give you cold feet, Romeo?” he teased.

Carter waved a hand in the air. “Hell no. I can’t wait to marry this woman. I just figured we’d talk.”

At his friend’s sharp gaze, Pierce stiffened. Oh no.

And there it was. The gleam of sympathy in Carter’s blue-gray eyes. Gabe had the same look, as if trying to pretend this was a casual beer and not a grilling session.

In one whoosh, his breath exited his lungs, and he was suddenly too tired and sad to lie anymore. “You know, don’t you?”

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