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Author: Adriana Locke







“I’ve made a decision.”

My best friend, Rebecca, looks at me with a heavy dose of skepticism. Although I’d like to think that her dubious reaction to my announcement is overblown … it’s probably not. That’s especially true when my recent rash of spontaneous decisions—although justified—is taken into consideration.

Oh, well.

“Not sure I even want to hear this,” she says before taking a sip of her drink.

“Becca, I’m going on my honeymoon.”

She sputters into a napkin, sending a million particles of tequila into the fabric. The blues of her eyes mist in a watery fog.

I sip my coconut lime margarita and enjoy the evening breeze while Rebecca tries not to die. Even though it’s balmy, the air rippling across the rooftop patio is a pleasant reprieve … and a nice distraction from Rebecca’s complete overreaction.

“Okay, now that I can breathe again, can you repeat that?” she asks before clearing her throat. “I misheard you.”

“I’m going on my honeymoon.”

I say the words as though each is its own sentence. Not that the emphasis or the clarity is needed. She heard me. She heard me just fine.

Rebecca holds my gaze. Disbelief mixed with confusion and maybe a sprinkle of amusement is written on her pretty, freckled face.

“Come on,” I say, pressing my lips together. “I have to go. How can I let five days in the Caribbean go to waste? What kind of person would I be if I let that happen? I’m a travel agent, for goodness’ sake.”

She shakes her head, her chestnut tresses dusting her shoulders. She makes a show of holding up her glass and inspecting it. “I haven’t drunk enough to be so intoxicated that I’m imagining this conversation, have I?”

“Stop it.” I laugh. “Be serious.”

“Be serious? Okay.” She folds her hands together on the table and leans forward, looking me straight in the eye. “I’m worried about you. Are you well?”

A smile stretches across my face. Even though she fights it, she grins too.

I knew it was the right decision to call off my wedding a month before the ceremony was set to take place. What I didn’t know—what I didn’t envision—was just how relieved I would be when it was all said and done.

When I got out of my lease, put my things in storage, and showed up on Rebecca’s doorstep until I figured out what I was going to do—my relief came in waves. And I’ve basked in it ever since.

I got my power back. I hadn’t realized I’d lost so much of it somewhere over the past two years.

“Don’t worry about me,” I say, licking the salt off my bottom lip. “I’m good.”

“I haven’t been worrying about you. I’ve been too busy celebrating the fact that I got my best friend back from Lord Farquaad.”

I giggle. “Stop calling him that.”

“It’s not my fault that he’s power-hungry, obsessed with perfection, and has an affinity for red and black. He was one pageboy haircut from me buying him a freaking horse to fulfill his destiny.”

I shake with laughter.

“To this day, I’m still confused about why you fell for that guy,” Rebecca says.

Yeah, well, me too. “Honestly? At that moment in my life? Dad had just died. I was grieving him and the relationship we never had and was sort of processing the trauma of that situation, I think. And Eton embodied a … power, a sense of control and almost detachment that I wished that I had.” I swirl the liquid around my glass. “I’m not sure I ever fell for him, but that drew me in.”

Rebecca starts to say something but reconsiders.

“I’m just thankful I’m home in Kismet Beach right now and not in Orlando,” I say. “The rest is water under the bridge at this point.”

“I don’t know how you stayed away from here for so long. You were gone almost a year. Do you realize that?”

Of course, I realize that. I felt it every day.

Rebecca grins. “Let’s steer this conversation away from Duloc.”

I snort.

“Are you sure you want to go on your honeymoon?” Rebecca asks carefully. “You were pretty against it last night, and now you’ve made a one-eighty—which you’re allowed to do. I just want to make sure you’re not going to get to the Bahamas and start overthinking how you planned the whole thing for you and Eton …”

“Becca.” I lower my chin as I watch her over the table. “While I’ll admit I’ve been one to overthink a little—”

“A little?”

“Or a moderate amount. Either way, I sat back and let Eton dictate the past two years of my life. I thought the year of dating long-distance was just rough because of the miles and that the engagement would change things. But the past eight months of living in Orlando …” I scoff. “I walked around on eggshells more and more until I was a shell of myself. And I’m not letting the man who called my travel agency a gold-digger’s hobby to pass time hover over any of my decisions.”

She tilts her head, side-eyeing me. “So this doesn’t have anything to do with that book you were reading last night?”

“Ha. No.”

“It is titled Intimacy with Strangers,” she teases me.

“You know,” I say, setting my glass down. “You should think about reading my book when I’m done. It might help you relax a little.”

“I don’t need a book written by some smarmy dude on the back cover with a smile that reminds me of a serial killer just before he turns to the dark side to tell me how to have intimacy with strangers.” She laughs, her eyes going wide. “Oh, my gosh! I get it. That’s how they do it.”

I furrow my brow. “Who are they, and what do they do?”

“Serial killers. They write books angled toward people feeling emotionally fragile and convince them that being intimate with a stranger is somehow healing—”

“The book is not even about sex.”

She lifts her glass, her lips pressed together to hide her smile. “At least make the strangers wear condoms and keep your tracking turned on so we can find your body.”

I wad my napkin and throw it at her. She ducks, missing it easily, and then plucks it off the ledge behind her.

“All joking aside,” I say, our laughter fading. “I have an idea.”

“What’s that?”

“You should come to the Bahamas with me.”

I nibble my bottom lip and wait for her response. It’s a shot in the dark, I know, but I’m willing to try.

Rebecca doesn’t travel much. She’ll go on trips here and there with me and our friend Sara, but she’s much more of a homebody than we are. I used to think it was because of finances. But Sara and I always offer to pay, thanks to my inheritance from my father and Sara’s kick-ass job. Now I’m not sure.

“Ash, I can’t. I wish I could. I just paid my rent, and I need to stay home and get my money’s worth.”

“Well, I’ve stayed with you for ten days, and I might be there a while longer. So let me pay the rent this month and—”

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