Forever (This)

By: J.B. McGee

To my children, Noah and Jonah, although I hope they wait to read it until they are much older (if ever). This book and series is about romantic love, but most importantly forever, familial love.

To my readers…thank you for loving me enough to wait years for this…





“Let me help you up.” Joe extends his hand toward the steps of the awaiting horse-drawn carriage.

My chin lifts ever so slightly. “You think I need your help?”

The lines of his lips curve up. “Don’t put words in my mouth. Being a gentleman, offering assistance, doesn’t mean I think you’re incapable of doing something on your own. What’s with you today, anyway?”

I shift my weight, contemplating touching him again. That day in the bar I thought it happened because of the shot, the emotions and weight of the situation regarding Gabe, my estranged father. But through the rehearsal and today, every connection of our skin, his mere words, glances, and smiles make my insides flip and turn. Blatantly ignoring his gesture would be rude. I’ve tried to subtly avoid any interaction possible. It’s kind of hard to do when I'm the maid of honor to my sister, Gabby, and he's the best man to his best friend, Bradley. We've been paired together for everything from pictures to dances. It’s especially difficult seeing as Joe is my boyfriend’s brother.

“Well? You’re holding up the entire wedding party. Take my hand, Sam.” His brown eyes bore into mine, and the tone of his voice is edgy. My breathing quickens. How can I even acknowledge the feeling Joe gives me? Everything about it is wrong. Pure lust. The reality is, it’s forbidden, and the grass is always greener on the other side. That’s the appeal. That’s the origin of these feelings. They aren’t real, but rather an illusion. A potentially painful one.

“Samantha…”

My hand seems so small in his when it finally reaches out and connects our palms. The instant they touch, a zap scorches through my body from my head to my core, ending in my toes. The blush I feel creeping from my neck to my cheeks betrays me. Turning my head away, I climb aboard, eventually releasing him. I sit on the cushioned bench, facing the back of the coachman. “It’s so hot today.” I fan myself. “Humid, too.”

He climbs in beside me, and I scoot an inch away from him. “Feels great out here, if you ask me.”

“I didn’t.” My eyes are drawn to his sly smile, the smattering of stubble on the rigid lines of his jaw as I turn my head. “Ask you.” My mouth is dry, and my voice cracks. “I didn’t ask you.”

He glances at my lips as he licks his. “You’re much nicer to me on the phone. What’s up your ass? My big brother not providing you adequate stress relief?”

“When you were asked to dig up dirt on Gabe, you could have lied to Bradley. Pretended you didn’t know who he was.” I huff before looking away, trying to break his spell. “That could have provided a shit-ton of stress relief.”

“This again?” He narrows his eyes. “Deceit doesn’t solve problems, Sam. It creates more. Secrets only destroy lives. You have dedicated your life to saving them, not destroying them.” His fingers tug my chin. “And I didn’t peg you for someone who condones shady behavior.”

Rolling my eyes and shaking my head, I can’t believe my thoughts even made it out as words. I’ve been ashamed of thinking them since the day I saw the file at Joe’s bar.

“What hurts most is you think I’m the type of person who would pull a stunt like that.” His lips purse into a thin line. “He…Ryan…has always been portrayed as the better brother, the one with the most accomplishments. And that’s fine and well.” He runs a hand through his hair. “I don’t give a shit about accolades. Don’t need ‘em. But I’m a solid guy, and I protect the people I love.” I hang my head as tears well in my eyes. The coastal breeze whips in my face. I suck the salty, soft skin of my bottom lip in between my teeth. “Bradley has been the best friend I’ve ever had. Sees me for more than anyone else ever has. I wasn’t going to deceive him. And I’m sorry if that decision caused you pain.” I refuse to look up at him like this. His fist is resting on his knee, which is right beside mine, and I watch as it tightens. It might as well be sucker punching me. “Is causing you pain.”

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