Chapter One

Savannah

 

The moment I open the curtains and see the waves crashing against the sandy beach, I have zero regrets paying the expensive upgrade fee for ocean view. The sun is shining, and the sky is blue and clear. It's perfect weather for a wedding, and I'm actually excited to celebrate my friend, Lena’s big day.

Being back in my hometown after all this time feels nostalgic especially when I think about all the memories this place holds. After high school, I moved across the country to pursue theatre, and I've only come back for holidays and weddings. It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since I’ve called this place home, but even after all this time, a part of me will always be here.

A knock rings out on the door, and I'm quick to answer it, hoping it's my breakfast. When I see it’s Donny, I frown.

“Well good morning to you,” he says with attitude. He purses his lips, cocks his hip then lets himself inside.

“Sorry, I was hoping you were food. I’m starving.” I close the door behind him.

“Oh, girl. You're gonna eat today?” He turns and asks me seriously, gazing his eyes up and down my body. I'm still in my PJs, so I glare at him for being judgy.

“Um yes? I kind of need it to like survive and stuff.”

“Not if you want to fit into that thing you call a dress you packed.” He snickers.

“Thanks for your support and all…” I mock. “But I'll be fine. Now, why are you here so early?”

“Uh, no reason.” He immediately looks away, and I know he’s lying through his teeth.

“Donny, I’ve known you for most of my life and know when you're hiding something from me. So you either spill the tea, or I'll just assume it's nothing important.” He lives for the drama considering we both majored in theatre arts, and he's the king of blowing things out of proportion, so anytime I pretend it can't possibly be interesting he instantly caves.

“Woman, you know me better than that,” he tells me with a head shake.

Exactly. “Then just tell me because once my food is here, I’m giving all my attention to my eggs.”

“Fine.” He sits on the bed and pats next to him. I purse my lips and take a seat. “I might've run into Bobby Dillon last night.” He bites down on his lower lip, and I laugh at his pathetic attempt at being coy.

“What? How?”

“At the hotel bar,” he explains. “While you went to bed like an old lady at seven, I stayed up and enjoyed my youth.”

I roll my eyes. “It wasn’t seven,” I defend. Seven-thirty.

“Okay well anyway, Grandma we started talking and taking shots, and one thing led to another…” He lingers, and I know exactly where this is going. Donny’s my best friend, but he’s also a manwhore—his words, not mine—but true nevertheless.

“And you banged his brains out all night long, and now you're avoiding him while he sleeps in your room?” I finish his sentence.

He makes a face and crosses his legs. “Something along those lines.” He pretends to look at his nails as if they’re the most intriguing thing in this room.

I burst out laughing. “You’re just gonna leave him in there?”

Donny lays back on my bed like a starfish. “I haven’t seen him in a decade, Sav, but it was like no time at all had passed. Bobby still has those luscious dark curly locks, facial hair that feels rough along my skin, and a mouth like…”

“Err, stop. Too much information.” I hold up my hand. “Did you know he’d be here?”

“Well, I might follow his Instagram page.”

So that’s a yes. Stalker.

“I didn’t know Lena stayed in touch with him.” If I recall, she didn’t even talk to him except in chem class our junior year.

“He works with her fiancé, and they asked him to do a reading during the ceremony.”

“Oh, I wonder who else from high school is here then?” I ask aloud, though mostly to myself.

I haven’t stayed close to anyone since graduation except Donny and Lena. After I had my diploma in hand, I moved from California to New York to attend theatre school and have been there since. Donny and I were both in the drama club, and once I was accepted into an acting school specializing in stage performance, I couldn't let the opportunity pass by. Donny was chosen for a scholarship at the same one, so we took the plunge and became roommates. We met in middle school, and as they say, the rest is history. He's the reason I was interested in performing arts in the first place, so it only felt right we did it together.

Though, pursuing theatre in New York wasn’t the only reason I’ve stayed away from this town.

“Considering Lena was quite popular and stuck around, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of our graduating class is here,” he tells me, and it's the first time I've really thought about the potential of seeing himagain.

“I haven't talked to anyone aside from you and Lena since I left. Doubt I'd even recognize them,” I say, licking my lips and suddenly feeling nervous.

“Well if you’d be active on social media, you'd know these things,” he reminds me once again. I have pages for my theatre photos and exploring New York, but they're public, so I don't post anything too personal or follow anyone from high school. I've tried to leave that part of my life behind.

Before I can respond, there's a knock, and I fly to my feet then to the door. I'm relieved when I smell my food and tip the room service attendant after he brings it inside.

Donny looks at my plate, and his eyes widen. “Are you eating for two?”

“Screw you, ass. Oh wait, you just did.”

He throws a pillow at me, and I dodge it right before it smacks into the wall.

“Just for that, I'm not sharing.”

Ten minutes later when my stomach is full and satisfied, I tell Donny I'm getting in the shower and that he better get dressed if he doesn't want us to be late for the ceremony.

“I hope Bobby left…” I hear the nerves in his voice and laugh. “You made your bed, now go lay in it.”

“Ugh, you’re one to talk.” He grimaces.

“Whatever. I’m an angel.”

“Riiiight. Tell that to whatshisface from last month.” He points a finger at me, so I twist his hand around, so it pokes him in the chest instead.

“Whatshisface became an obsessive stalker.”

Donny rolls his eyes. “What number excuse is that again? Twenty-three?” He coughs then crosses his arms. “You find something wrong with every guy you date then run for the hills.”

“Not true,” I say, walking to the shower. Lies.

“It’s because you compare every guy to him.”

Bye, Donny! Get out!” I groan and shut the bathroom door. I turn on the faucet and strip while I wait for the water to warm up.

As I clean my body and hair, I think about himand everything I left behind including our relationship. Though it sounds corny as hell, he was my high school sweetheart, and before I left for New York, I thought we'd get married and have kids someday. The day I left was the last time I saw him in person, but he was always on my mind even when I tried to forget him.

Ten years later, and I still sometimes think about the what ifs.

We dated from freshmen year through our senior year and even the first semester of college. Our friends and family always said we were glued to the hip, and constantly teased us for never being too far apart. I went to all his football games, and he watched every show I was in. Between practices and schoolwork, we mostly hung out on the weekends. His mom and dad became my second set of parents and vice versa. My family adored him, and I'm pretty sure they were more heartbroken than me when things didn’t work out between us. I step out of the shower, wrap a towel around my body, and head toward my suitcase.

“I know that look.”

Jumping, I nearly lose my footing when I hear Donny’s voice before seeing him. “Jesus! Why are you still here?”

He stands and shows off his nicely tailored suit. “I went and got dressed and been waiting twenty minutes for your slow ass. Didn’t know masturbating took that long. You women have too many things going on down there, no wonder it takes a magician to get you off.”

“Funny. You scared the shit out of me, by the way.” I tighten my towel then shake out my hair. Long and thick, it takes forever to blow dry. “And it’s called a G spot.”

“Sounds way too complicated for my tastes and really grosses me out,” he says matter-of-factly, and it makes me snort at the irony.

“Figured you watched enough porn to read us like a map.” I smirk, knowing way too much about his personal habits.

“Girl, no. I close my eyes during the scary parts.” He makes a face.

I chuckle and dig through my suitcase for a pair of clean panties. My dress is hung up in the closet already, but now I’m questioning if it’s fancy enough for this occasion.

“You’re wondering if he’s going to be here, aren’t you?” Donny asks, taking me by surprise.

“Huh? Who?”

Donny tilts his head at me and rolls his eyes. “You’re a great performer but a bad liar, sweetie. You know exactly who I’m talking about.”

I lift my upper lip in a mock face and ignore him.

I’ve only been thinking about it for the last half hour while naked in the shower. That doesn’t mean anything though.

“I’ve wondered about him some through the years, yes. Wondered if he’s married, has kids, became a football star. Not sure how it’d be seeing him again after all that time,” I say to the closet as I take out my dress.

“Not married, no kids, and he played football through college and now works as a college football recruiter,” Donny casually says as if he’s reading it off a notecard.

I spin around, narrowing my eyes at him. “You really area stalker.”

“No,” he argues pointedly. “We're Facebook friends, and I might've taken an extra interest when we got Lena's invitation, wondering who was coming.”

I toss my dress on the bed then twirl my finger in circles at Donny, so he turns around.

“I’ve seen your tits more than I'd like to admit,” he groans but follows orders.

“And I’ve seen your bare ass enough times to need to bleach my eyes, doesn’t mean I want to watch you get dressed.”

“Fair point.” He chuckles.

I put on clean panties, a bra, and pantyhose before slipping into my dress. Wearing nice clothes is the norm for my shows and after parties, yet I feel out of my element.

“Zip me, please.” I stand in front of him with my back to his face.

“Suck it in,” he taunts, pretending to struggle with the zipper.

“I'm going to junk punch you,” I retort. “There's plenty of room, and before you even make a comment, yes I'm eating at dinner and dessert, and probably gonna enjoy happy hour too. Deal with it.”

Donny slaps my ass before I turn around and let him judge my appearance.

“Well sorry. We can’t all have a super metabolism.” He leans back slightly to look over my dress.

“Jealousy is a bad look for you, Don.” I smirk, patting his cheek. “I just need another ten minutes to finish my hair and face. Thirty tops,” I say as I rush to the bathroom sink where my makeup bag exploded.

Donny releases a throaty groan of disapproval, but we still have time before we have to head down.

“Oh my God,” he shrieks moments later. I pop my head out of the doorframe with my lipstick in hand.

“What?” I ask and notice he’s looking at his phone, scrolling through pictures.

“Er, nothing.” He swallows and keeps his eyes down. When I call his full name and give him a look, he finally budges. “He just posted a picture.”

“Okay…and?”

“He’s coming with Veronica Miller.”

Everything freezes, and it's the first time in years I've allowed those feelings to resurface. Once I left and broke things off, I buried myself in classes and performances. Barely giving myself enough time to breathe, let alone reminisce about what I was missing, I tried to forget about him.

“Are you sure?” I finally speak.

“Oh yeah. Definitely.”

Veronica Miller. My nemesis. I hated her with every fiber of my being. She taunted me almost every day in high school. With her straight, white teeth, bleach blonde hair, and fake tan—she was picture perfect—and guys worshipped the ground she walked on. I had braces, glasses, and acne. Didn’t help that I hadn't developed until I was seventeen. She made my life miserable.

I swallow around the knife in my throat and shrug. “Well, a lot has changed in ten years.”

Twenty minutes later, we head out, and I shake my nerves down the best I can. I haven't seen Lena yet since I only flew in yesterday morning, but I already know she's going to be a stunning bride.

The ceremony is classically beautiful and decorated in black and white. We’re surrounded by flowers, and as the fresh scent hits my nose, I smile at how much work this must've taken her to plan. I wish I'd been able to help out more, but she reassured me her wedding planner had it all under control.

Donny and I find a spot to sit, and by the end of their vows, my eyes are watering with happiness. I focus on the happy couple, not wanting to look around and potentially see him with her. I don’t know how I would handle it.

Lena and her new husband skip down the aisle to the wedding march, and their wide smiles tell how genuinely happy they both are.

Once it’s our turn to walk out, I make a beeline for the bar. “I need a drink,” I tell Donny as soon as he catches up to me.

“You need to relax, babe. There’s like three hundred people here. You probably won’t even see him.” I know he’s trying to comfort me, but it’s not helping.

The bartender finally notices me. “Vodka tonic,” I tell him. Donny gives his order, and by the bedroom eyes he just flashed at him, I know there's going to be another repeat of last night.

“You’re such a whore,” I mutter after we get our drinks and Donny tips him a ten.

“Takes one to know one.”

His lame comeback makes me laugh, and once we drop our drinks off at a bar top table, I tell him I'm going for the shrimp.

“Don’t eat your feelings, Sav,” he calls out after me. I flip him the bird over my shoulder and hear him laugh shortly after.

Once I grab a plate, I start stacking the mini appetizers. I’m not even sure what half of these things are considering they look like food for Barbie dolls. I spot the shrimp tower in the middle of the table and smile. Come to mama.

With no shame at all, I take the serving tongs and start piling them on my plate. Realizing I took most of it, I start wondering if I should put some back or assume the waiters will bring more. Before I make a decision, someone walks up beside me and just as I’m about to tell Donny to fuck off, I smell him.

Ten years later and he’s still wearing the same cologne that always drove me crazy.

“Looks like we had the same idea, except you beat me to it.” I can hear the smile in his voice, which only makes the butterflies in my stomach flutter faster. His voice is deeper than I remember, and fuck, it’s really sexy.

Deciding it’s now or never, I turn and face him with a forced smile. His eyes widen in shock, clearly not expecting to see me.

“Oh my God. Savannah?” His smile drops, and it's like I can physically feel his pain from seeing me again.

The corner of my lips tilt up slightly, and I suck in a deep breath, hoping he won’t notice the heat on my cheeks.

“Hi, Hayden.”

We hope you enjoyed this installment of Forever Mine!

Stay tuned next Friday for chapter two!