“I kissed Brandon.”
Three little words. One drunken night. And everything changed.
Starting over is never easy to do, and Chloe made it that much harder on herself when she lip-locked Brandon. Guilt-ridden, she confesses to Allie about the kiss. Instead of the black eye she figured was coming, she gets way more than she bargained for in the form of an Allie-sized reality check…but she still can’t shake the haunting memory of a certain toe-curling, leave-you-breathless, wet-your-panties kiss.
With Brandon and Chloe walking on egg-shells around each other, fate, this time in the form of two scheming, hormonal, pregnant women and three funny furballs, steps in once more, forcing them to face the fact that things have definitely changed between them…
But is it for better or worse?
*Recommended for readers 18+ due to HOT sexual encounters, adult situations, and language.
**This is book three of the Skin Deep Series; recommended to read after Skin Deep, book one of the series, and Under My Skin, book two of the series.
“I kissed Brandon.”
The words exploded from my mouth, following a whispered apology, before I could even think about stopping them. Horrified, I clapped my hand over my lips, squeezing my eyes shut as I imagined Allie’s fist meeting my face. That was so not how I envisioned finally getting this off my chest.
When nothing but silence met my comment, I risked peeking over at her. She was standing beside me, her hands frozen over the flaps of the box we were unpacking that had just come into her store. She stood like that for just a second before she smoothed her hands down her swollen stomach and nodded decisively.
“You know, I was going to ask you why there was some kind of tension between you two. Guess I don’t have to do that now, huh?”
She chuckled wryly, the corner of her mouth tilting up in a half-smile.
My heart stopped, but my face crumpled and my mouth started running of its own volition.
“I…I don’t have any excuse, really, Allie. I’m sorry. I’m so, so completely sorry, and I really never meant for it to happen. We were just on that road trip and I got drunk one night when I was feeling sorry for myself and…I just kissed him.” I threw my hands up, shaking my head as I felt tears threaten.
Soft, small hands cupped my cheeks and brought my face around. My eyes clashed with the big, bright blue ones of my future sister-in-law.
She sighed, her thumbs gently wiping away the tears that had just started to fall. “Chloe, don’t cry. You didn’t do anything wrong. Brandon and I were done at that point. I’m marrying your brother, and I’m having your nephew. I’m not mad…I won’t lie to you and say it doesn’t hurt a little…but I’m not mad.”
The tears began flowing faster down my cheeks. How could I have done this to the amazing person standing in front of me? How could I have hurt the person who has done so much for me ever since I showed up unannounced and buried under a mountain of personal baggage?
A sob bubbled out from my chest and I choked it back, not wanting to break down completely. I didn’t deserve to break down in front of Allie…she was the one who was hurt. I deserved nothing more than an ass kicking.
Allie groaned and pulled me into her arms, hugging me tightly and the dam broke. She just held me tighter, letting me cry on her shoulder, literally. And as shitty as it was for me to do, I let her do it, and I cried. Hard.
When the storm of sobs had finally slowed, she pushed me back and looked me over as I stood there, struggling to catch my breath and wipe my face.
“Okay. I think that this is a perfect time to just close up shop, head over to your house, and have some special sundaes.” She paused, rubbing her belly again before shaking her head and smiling as she said, “Well, you’re gonna have a special sundae and I’m just gonna eat the frozen yogurt.”
I gave her a watery smile and nodded. We shut down the store and headed to Allie’s, er, my house. It was still so weird to say my house, and even weirder to hear Allie say it, too, especially because not too long ago, it was Allie’s house. I guess I’m even more flabbergasted at the generosity of Allie…I mean, I had nowhere to stay when I showed up on Luke and Emma’s doorstep, looking for my brother. I knew he was building a house and I could always crash with him, that went without saying. Instead, I ended up at Allie’s house in her spare room, and when she moved into Jackson’s house, she’d handed me a piece of paper that turned out to be the deed to her house. I tried to refuse, but…I finally gave in a took it for what it was worth; a chance to start over fresh on my own two feet, which is exactly what I came here for. I just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly.
I left L.A. a broken and battered mess, running to the little town of Phillus, Ohio where my brother had decided to relocate. Initially, he’d come to see his best friends, Luke and Brandon, but one look at Allie and his mind was made up. He bought land, started building a house, and now he and Allie are engaged and expecting my little nephew in a little over two months. Of course, their story was a little more complicated than that, but…you get the idea.
Half an hour later we were sitting on my couch after a slight detour to the store to grab special sundae items. The first time they’d handed me one, I was a little skeptical. Strawberry daiquiri wine cooler over strawberry frozen yogurt? Yeah, not a combination I ever really thought would be good. But lemme tell ya, it is yummy!
I took another bite of my sundae and laughed at the yearning, pathetic look Allie shot my bowl as she spooned up her own bite of boozeless fro yo. She scowled as she shoveled it into her mouth on a huff.
We ate in silence for a minute before Allie broke it on a sigh. “Look. I know I said it hurt earlier when you told me you kissed Brandon. It’s true…it does hurt. But I have no right to be mad at you, and like I said, I’m not mad at you. Brandon made his choice to walk away from what we had, and I made the choice to let him. I gave up, didn’t fight for him, and do you know why?”
I shook my head, my own eyes beginning to brim with tears as they started falling from hers.
“I didn’t fight for him because I realized that, deep down, I knew the love I had for Jackson was so much deeper than the love I have for Brandon. But I’m selfish, I guess, because if he hadn’t walked away, I would have kept him with me, and honestly, that would have probably ruined us…someone would have ended up unhappy and, in the end, we wouldn’t even have the friendship that we do. I couldn’t bear that. Besides Emma, he’s my best friend.”
She paused for breath and to wipe away the tears falling unchecked down her cheeks. “I was so jealous of you, Chloe, when you showed up. Brandon was always running to help you, sleeping in your bed. You knew it…I mean, hell, you apologized every five fucking seconds. And I think my jealousy stemmed from the fact that you guys were close…you’ve known each other and been friends for years. Not only that, but…you’re fucking gorgeous!”
She laughed and I just shook my head at her. She held her hand up when I would have voiced my protest, and I shut up, allowing her to continue.
“In the long run, Brandon did what was best for him, and for me and Jackson, too. And yes, God, it still hurts and I’m still so pissed off at him at times, so much that I just want to throat punch him! But, again, he did do what was best. For all of us. Regardless, I love him, and I always will. He’ll always hold a special place in my heart, and the woman who finally lands him is just gonna have to deal with it, because I’m not letting go of his friendship. I can’t. Trust me, I’ve went back and forth about this whole thing many times since he walked away. Emma was ready to castrate him because of it; she kept saying that he had made such a big deal about making it work and everything…and then just left it all behind when things got hard.”
“But, he didn’t!” I interjected loudly, shocking both myself and Allie.
She quirked her eyebrows at me and cocked her head. “Well, yeah, Chloe, he kinda did,” Allie said softly.
I shook my head, still unsure as to why I was forcing the issue, but…I just couldn’t let her think differently. Unable to stop, my mouth opened and the words poured out, memories overtaking me…
About the author
J.M. Stone is a legal assistant by day, and a writer by night. She started writing at a young age, mostly poetry and song lyrics, some of which were published. She currently lives in Ohio where she’s lived for most of her life, and enjoys spending time with her other-half, their mouthy daughter, two spoiled and crazy dogs, and the rest of her abnormal family. (Don’t worry, abnormal is good!) In her spare time, she loves to read, write, sing, and make people laugh, which usually happens at her own expense! Skin Deep is her first novel, and is the first in the Skin Deep series.
She loves to hear from her readers, so drop her line at [email protected] or stop by her Facebook Page!
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