Who I Am With You

By: M. Lynne Cunning

Book One in the My Kind Of Country Series



Prologue


CHAD



“I’m sorry, Chad.”

The silence grew thick between them, not because he didn’t have anything to say, but because Chad was doing everything in his power to calm himself and not blurt out every thought catapulting through his mind. All he could manage was to stare at Liz in disbelief, unable to comprehend how she could so easily sum it up with a simple apology.

“That’s it? You’re sorry. You say it like it makes it all right, Liz. Do you even know what you’re sorry for?” His voice was getting louder, his desperation to maintain control now shrouded in anger.

“For hurting you,” she explained in a weak voice. The edge of calmness he was about to careen over must have been obvious. Liz seemed less sure of herself, suddenly unable to look him in the eyes. Another bout of silence fell between them. Chad didn’t trust himself enough to speak. Instead, a defeated sigh tumbled past his lips and he ran his hand through his hair. The truth finally sank in and he let his shoulders lower slightly as he reluctantly accepted the ending of the life he’d led, the life he and Liz had built together for the past decade. Without warning, it was Liz who had changed everything in a matter of minutes, not seeming to give a damn about how the decision might affect him. She was done, they were over, and there was nothing else for Chad to do but let her go.

“There’s nothing I can do or say to make you stay, is there?” It was his last feeble attempt at holding onto the hope of reconciliation, a chance to make things good between them again. Even in his own ears, however, the question sounded like a desperate plea.

It was Liz’s turn to sigh, although she sounded more annoyed than broken. “I told you, Chad, we’re just too different now. We’re not the same people we were ten years ago. We’re going in different directions.”

He knew what she was referring to, and it wasn’t the first time they had discussed it. It was, however, the only time it had resulted in her bags being packed and her guitar case by the door.

“Just because I won’t change the kind of music I make doesn’t mean we have to be over.” It was the only time during the whole conversation he’d defended himself. Maybe Liz was right. Maybe he did fight more for his music than he did for her. Then again, Liz of all people, should have understood that Chad’s heart and soul went into doing what he loved. After all, she was doing the same, and that was why they had moved to Nashville straight out of high school. Two like-minded, passionate dreamers with unwavering aspirations of being the next big thing in the country music industry and a devotion to each other that was unheard of between teenagers. He never dreamed there would come a day when she would make him choose, when being together wouldn’t be enough.

“Change isn’t always a bad thing,” Liz advised.

He wasn’t sure if she was referring to the kind of country music he was set on writing or the unexpected change in their relationship status. Either way, Chad didn’t agree with her.

“What’s his name?”

“Pardon me?” Shock laced her voice, her eyes wide as she glared at him.

“I said, what’s his name?” Not once did Chad take his eyes off her, not daring to blink even though each second he stared at her guilt-ridden expression pained him more than the last. He swallowed audibly, knowing he was right.

“This is about us, Chad. Nothing else.” Liz’s gaze faltered. She didn’t look nervous, just caught in the web of lies and suspicions that continued to extend across and taint what little remained of the love between them.

“Liz, everything was fine while Take Me Home was climbing nicely up the charts. Admit it, you saw dollar signs and glitz and glamour. You thought we’d finally made it. I did, too, babe. So the follow-up single didn’t cut it on the radio—big deal. We’ve fought this long to get where we are. We’ll keep fighting. Eventually—”

Liz held up her hands, cutting him off mid-sentence. “There is no eventually, Chad,” she announced, exasperated. “We came here to make music, to be a part of the country music world. This world is changing, though, and you’re not willing to adapt to it. You’ll never be a part of something you’re not willing to change for.”

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