SNEAK PEEK OF: Heather & Mike
The One That Got Away
(Echoes of the Heart, #1)
RELEASING 5/25 - FIRST OF A NEW SERIES
ECHOES OF THE HEART
SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE STORIES.
New York City, Upper East Side of Manhattan
Thrusting his hand into his pocket, Mike Sullivan made sure the little box from the jewelers was there. Of course, Amy might prefer to pick out her own ring, but she’d been hinting around about marriage for so long he guessed any ring would be welcomed.
On his way to the hair salon to pick up his girl, his phone dinged. It was a text saying they had been backed up and she was behind schedule. Already halfway there, he kept going.
His stomach became queasy. Was proposing to Amy a good idea? Good, old reliable Amy. Bill, his buddy, had made a case for her. He’d pointed out how dependable she was, how down-to-earth, rock solid, predictable. She’d never surprise him with something unpleasant, like screwing around. Mike gave a short laugh. Nope, Amy would never cheat on him because he doubted anyone would ask.
It wasn’t that she wasn’t a beauty, though she put out a lot of effort and came damn close. The woman had no sexual heat, but she was dependable as hell. He knew, when he got home from work, dinner would be on the table fifteen minutes later—every single night. As he waited for a red light to change, Bill’s words echoed in his head.
“What do you expect? Marriage is about give and take. You want someone who’s gonna be there to raise your kids. Pick ’em up from school every day. Cook dinner. Amy’s an excellent cook.”
He was right about that. Amy could cook like a gourmet chef. Mike frowned.
“You’re not still mooning over that flaky chick from Fire Island, are you?” Bill had asked.
“You mean Heather?”
“Yeah. That’s the one. It’s fuckin’ five years already. You’ve looked everywhere for her. She’s gone, buddy. You need a dependable girl, like Amy. Get married. Have a couple of kids.”
“What about happiness?” Mike had asked.
“Much overrated,” Bill had said as he shook his head.
Mike wasn’t so sure. Still, he’d planned to move into Amy’s apartment. In three days men were coming to stuff his belongings into a storage locker. His place was pretty well packed up. He couldn’t move in with her without at least the promise of marriage, could he? A lot of men did, but not Mike. He didn’t roll that way. Still, marriage meant giving up his dream of Heather. Was he ready to do that? He pushed her out of his mind and crossed the street.
When he arrived, he had about a half hour wait. Her hair had to be perfect. Everything about Amy had to be perfect; her clothes, her house, he hesitated to put down a glass, even on a coaster, on the coffee table. So God damn perfect it made him nervous. That was about to come to an end, once he moved in. “Messy Mike” she’d nicknamed him. He hated it, but she was right.
Heather popped into his mind. Her shoulder-length light brown hair hadn’t been perfect. Wind-blown from the ocean breezes, it had whipped around her face before settling on her shoulders in loose, messy curls. She’d worn no makeup that he could see, except a little lipstick. Pages of articles and stories had littered her beach house. There had been nothing perfect about Heather, except that she’d been perfect for him.
Sitting back, he rummaged through the magazines for customers until he found his favorite, Esquire. Glancing over the cover, he spied a small headline for an essay inside. It was titled, The One that Got Away. And it was written by a best-selling author named Heather Stone. He searched his brain, but couldn’t recall Heather’s last name, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t Stone.
Heather had been an aspiring writer when he knew her. But this couldn’t be her. Still, he thumbed through to the article, just to make sure. He read the opening sentence, and his mouth went dry.
“Mike, where are you?”
His eyes widened. No, this couldn’t be, she must be talking about someone else. But he read on anyway.
I’ll be darned if I can remember your last name. But you were the love of my life five years ago and I tossed you away like an old pizza box. I’ve regretted it ever since. I didn’t even listen to your explanation. I dumped you like a hot coal. I was wrong. If you’re out there, please give me another chance.
He stared into space, remembering that last day, five years ago.
Broken-hearted, Mike had leaned against the railing on the Fire Island ferry, riding back to civilization. Amid a crowd of twenty-somethings, he had struggled to keep his emotions in check. The boat was jammed with bodies making their way back to life in the big city on Labor Day. Summer was over.
He’d met the girl he’d been waiting for, then screwed it up. Listening to Bill, his best friend, was totally stupid. Anger had seethed in Mike when he thought of the idiotic advice his friend had given him.
“She’s one chick. It was ten days. Don’t be an asshole. Branch out.”
Under Bill’s guidance, Mike had spent the next weekend with a girl he’d barely known, instead of Heather. After finding out about it, Heather had cried, refused to speak to him, and taken the ferry back two days early.
On the choppy ride across the bay, he’d stood alone, searching for a way to mend the relationship. In a feeble attempt at a fifth apology, he’d called her, but she’d blocked his number.
She’d breezed into his life and seized his heart as if it was her due. And then she was gone because he had been an idiot. He’d been devastated.
Eventually, he’d moved on. But Mike had never forgotten her.
“Ready?” Amy asked.
Mike looked up. Smiling, Amy stood before him, every hair in place.
“I thought we’d go to Romeo’s for dinner. Is that okay?” she asked.
Flustered, he tucked the magazine under his arm and struggled to bring his brain back to the present.
“Sure, sure. Romeo’s is fine.”
He closed his fingers over the tiny box in his jacket pocket and transferred it to his pants. He pushed it all the way down before opening the door for her and heading uptown.