Home > Stay Forever (Kincaid Brothers #2)

Stay Forever (Kincaid Brothers #2)
Author: Kaylee Ryan

 


PROLOGUE

 

 

Twelve Hours Ago

 

Kennedy

 

Why is it that when one bad thing happens in your life, it seems as if a shit show parade of unpleasant events follows? Mine started with my failed marriage. Lyle and I met in college. We were friends first, and he eventually swept me off my feet. We dated for two years and married right after graduation. Somewhere over the past four years, we grew apart. A lot of that had to do with wanting a family. As in, I wanted one, and he didn’t. I was told when I was sixteen that I might not ever be able to conceive, but there were other ways for me to be a mother. It’s something I’ve always wanted. My husband agreed that when the time came, we could discuss it. We married, but over the next four years, the time never came that he was willing. There was never a good time to talk about adoption, or fostering, or any of the other options available to us. He just didn’t want that life.

About six months ago, I sat him down one night and told him it was time to talk about it. He refused and said he needed some space. He packed a bag and left. He’s stopped by a few times, and we’d talk on the phone a few times a week, but he wasn’t budging, and neither was I.

He hasn’t slept here since.

Honestly, something changed between us. If I felt as though he loved me, truly loved me, I could handle giving up my dream of being a mother. The truth of the matter is that he was gone more than was here. He had late client dinners, golf outings, and a million other reasons he wasn’t at home with me. His wife. He works in finance and hangs out with the guys from his work, who can only be described as a group of douchebags. I’m not dinging the entire finance workforce, but these guys are assholes to the highest power. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt unnerved by their beady eyes roaming over my body, even with Lyle standing right next to me.

I don’t want that life.

So six weeks after he moved out, we decided it was time to call it quits. I’m twenty-five, soon-to-be-divorced, and the second half of the shit show parade just called me. My grandma fell and broke her leg. She’s out of commission for a while and needs me to come help her run her business. She owns Willow Manor. It’s a small venue used for weddings, anniversary parties, and a host of other different things in her small town of Willow River, Georgia.

After talking to the doctors, and her neighbor Carol, I’ve been assured that she will be taken care of until I can get there. Luckily for me, I can work from anywhere. As a book editor for a host of indie authors, my job travels with me, which is why I’m frantically packing up my life to make the three-and-a-half-hour drive to Willow River tonight.

I take stock of my two open suitcases, and I think I have everything I’ll need. I’m going through my mental list when there’s a knock on the door. Glancing at the alarm clock on the nightstand, I see it’s just after nine, and I’m not expecting anyone. Grabbing my cell phone just in case—you can never be too careful, especially living alone—I make my way to the door. On my way, I pull up the camera on my phone and see Lyle standing there. He has a key, but I’m glad he respects my boundaries and the reality of our current situation not to just barge in on me.

Pulling open the door, I step back, letting him enter. “What’s wrong?” He tilts his head to the side to study me.

“Nothing.”

“Come on, Kennedy. I know you better than that. What’s going on?” He reaches out and takes my hand in his, giving it a gentle squeeze, and hot tears well behind my eyes.

“Grandma Hoffman fell. She broke her leg. I’m going to Willow River to stay with her for a while.”

“Come here.” He pulls me into his arms, and it’s been so long, so damn long since I’ve felt his arms around me. I go easily, needing the comfort. I hate that I need it, but I’m taking it anyway. It’s not him that I need, but the security of his arms. Regardless of the state of our marriage, he’s familiar. “How is she?” he asks.

“Okay. Her neighbor and good friend, Carol, is at the hospital with her. I don’t know how long she will be in the hospital, but I know I need to get there. They had to do surgery to fix the break. I’m packing now and driving there tonight.” My grandma retired to Willow River five years ago. She bought Willow Manor and never looked back. Most grandmothers retire to our home state of Florida, but not my grandma. Nothing slows her down. She talks about her small town like it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I’ve been there a few times during the holidays, but this year, I opted to stay home with my parents. Grandma and I had plans to take a cruise in January, which we’ll have to reschedule. Thank goodness for vacation insurance.

“Why don’t you wait and leave in the morning when the sun’s out?”

I step out of his arms. “I need to get there.” That’s when I notice he’s holding an envelope. “What’s that?” I ask, but I already know.

The tears are back as he tells me, “Divorce decree.”

I nod, waiting for the tears to fall, but they never come. I’ve accepted that our marriage is over. “When did you get it?” I manage to croak out.

“Today. My attorney called and asked if I wanted it mailed or if I wanted to pick it up.”

“I told mine to mail it whenever it was official.”

“I wasn’t sure, so I thought I would stop by and let you know.” He looks down at the envelope he’s holding.

“It’s official,” I say. Even I can hear the sadness in my voice. I never thought I’d be divorced at the age of twenty-five, but here we are.

Before I know what’s happening, Lyle pulls me into his arms and holds me close. “I love you too much to let you give up your dream of a family for me.” He pulls back so he can see my face. “You understand that, right?”

I don’t reply because even though he looks sincere, I know that our marriage hasn’t been happy for a while now, and I’m not willing to brush that under the rug. It’s more than him not wanting a family. We just drifted apart. Neither one of us fought to keep it from happening.

“I hate to see this hurt in your eyes.” He leans in and presses his lips to mine, and I let him.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s been so damn long since I’ve had this level of intimacy in my life or if it’s the fact that I’m worried about my grandma, or hell, maybe it’s the closure that we both need, but I don’t stop him.

I let him kiss me.

I let him carry me to the couch, and one thing leads to another, and we’re ripping at each other’s clothes. Once we’re both naked, lying on the couch that we chose together when we bought this house, he stares down at me. There is a silent question in his eyes.

“This doesn’t change things, Kennedy.”

“I know.”

“Are you sure?”

I nod, and he dips his head to kiss me as he makes love to me for the last time. I know he’s been faithful. That’s not the kind of man Lyle is. He’s truthful to a fault, but I’m glad. I wouldn’t want either one of us in a marriage that we’re not happy in. He doesn’t want a family. That’s a deal-breaker for both of us, so this is our reality and, with sudden clarity, the closure we both need.

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