As Aubrey walks down the aisle to marry the man of her dreams, she already knows the marriage will not last. Ian, her husband-to-be, is slowly dying from cancer. As Aubrey reflects on what once was and what will never be, she mentally returns to a time when she and her two best friends, Jack and Ian, were three teenage musketeers with not a care in the world. But after Jack and Ian force Aubrey to choose between them, a betrayed Jack suddenly moves away, changing their dynamic forever.
Six months after Ian passes away, twenty-five-year-old Aubrey knows she needs to escape her small town, her grief, and all those who pity her. Her travels lead her to Texas, where she is soon pulled over by a police officer-who immediately recognizes her. Jack knows he is still in love with Aubrey, but his anger over her rejection of him overwhelms any good feelings. As the two part with not a kind word between them, Jack has no idea that he is about to run into Aubrey again. It seems that destiny has taken over his life.
In this contemporary romance novel, Jack must reconcile with his past and learn to forgive others-and himself-before he can ever love again.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.41(d)|
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By J.C. Neway
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 J.C. Neway
All right reserved.
Chapter OneShe was marrying the man she loved more than life itself, but the whole time, in the back of her head; she knew this marriage wouldn't last. Her lover, the man she would die for was dying and there was nothing she could do about it. They would cherish this day and as much time as they could get until the cancer who was slowly taking over his body would finally take his life. Just thinking about it made her heart heavy and sadness overcame her. She couldn't keep dwelling on what was going to happen; this was a joyous time; and she had to think of it that way.
Looking out at all the people that came to share in their day was overwhelming; it brought tears to her eyes. They had both grown up here so they knew just about everyone. They were going to have a small affair, but with so many friends and family knowing about Ian's illness, they had no choice but to share their day with so many more. This would probably be the last time he would see some of them. It was hard for Aubrey to feel only joy on this day as she thought about how her heart was breaking because there was no future together.
It was hard not to ask why? Why was this happening to them? No one should be told at twenty-five that they are dying. She wasn't going to dwell on this, today was her day and she was going to make the most of it. There would be happy tears, there would be plenty of sad ones soon enough.
The day went off without any problems. Aubrey just hoped all the pictures came out; she never wanted to forget this day, not a moment of it. She wanted as many pictures she could get. She was never going to forget. She even put cameras on all the tables so the guests could take pictures as well. Not a moment of her precious time would be wasted without Ian; her friend, lover, and now husband. She couldn't help but smile every time she thought about Ian finally being her husband. They danced the night away knowing that he wouldn't have a lot of energy soon. This was the wedding she always dreamed of. Her hair flowed down the middle of her back, the front pulled up at the sides in a twisted braid, a simple crown made of small flowers called baby's breath, laid upon her head. She wore a white long sun dress with an islet design throughout. She really didn't care what she wore as long as she was with Ian. Being on the beach as the sun set, saying "I do" to the man she always knew she wanted; was all she could ask for. Well, maybe one more thing, more time or to never worry about cancer again. What does not kill you only makes you stronger. Well, if that's not the biggest load of crap! Aubrey countered in her mind.
There was also Ian's parents, they loved their son and didn't want to lose him either. They made it very clear that they thought marriage was not necessary, but understood why they needed to get married. Aubrey tried to be nice, but his parents were always trying to put doubt in their minds for the decisions they made. Why don't we stay with them? Why did we need to be married? They could also help care for him. They meant well, but Aubrey knew deep down she was in this alone. Ian's family had money and she often wondered if they thought she was with him for that reason. But after all these years, how could they still believe that? Ian didn't want people fussing over him and he knew his parents would. She knew it was going to be hard, but she could do this for him; give him this peace of mind. This was their son and they were losing him too. Once Ian was gone, she was going to be all alone in the world. She knew they would be kind because of Ian, but they weren't her family. This was one of those times being an only child really sucked. Aubrey wished she had a sibling she could share this with but her parents thought they could never have any more children and having her so late in life was a gift for them. It was too bad they had died when Aubrey graduated from high school.
Two weeks before they got married, Ian and Aubrey bought a little cottage that would be perfect for them. It was the cutest little house or 'beach shack' as they liked to call it; with its small back wooden deck and large flower beds against the sides. They had it painted white and added blue shutters to the windows. She always liked to garden and now she could. She had to think of her future and wanted something she could handle on her own. Nothing to big, that she would feel like she was rattling around in after Ian was gone. There would be no children for them. This was the one thing that broke Aubrey's heart. If she could have that one piece of him, it would be a child they made together. She wasn't going to think about that now. For Ian, she would smile and make everything right even if she wasn't fooling either of them.
They would have a small honeymoon. Four days out in the Outer Banks was all they could spare. Ian needed to go back for treatment after that. These few days together would be spent, not thinking about what could be, but about being in the moment. This was the most peaceful time they would have together not thinking about anyone or anything; just the two of them.
Chapter TwoShe was thinking about how long she and Ian have known each other and how they met those years ago ...
Growing up in a small town had its advantages and a few disadvantages knowing everyone was great, but if there wasn't a girl your own age you did what you had to and made friends with the boys. They were the three musketeers or at least that was what everyone called them. Growing up together they were very close. It was Ian, Jack and Aubrey until one day when the boys had a big fight over who was going to take Aubrey to the movies. Aubrey didn't understand why they all couldn't go together. But that was the end of the three musketeers. Aubrey wasn't ready to date either and neither could understand. Jack wanted her to choose him, but in his heart he knew she was going to pick Ian. Aubrey wasn't sure who she was going to choose; she loved them both so much. They were so different; Ian was easy-going and laid back, while Jack was quicker with a temper and less likely to be persuaded to change his mind. Turns out fate had another thing in mind when Jack's parents moved away right before they all turned sixteen. They always knew Jack's father would be transferred, he was a career soldier in the army and Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina was just one stop for him. So her choice was made easier, but a little part of her died when Jack was gone. Being only sixteen, she wasn't even sure why; she just knew Ian always needed her. He was the one who needed friends and Jack was the loner. She always felt Jack didn't need her, the way Ian did. She would love them both though and that would never change deep in her heart.
How could the two most important people in her life act like this, fighting over her? She always thought of herself as pretty, but not knock-out gorgeous. She was an average height with long legs, no waist and a chest too big for her body. The one thing she did like was her hair, it was lengthy, light blonde, and it had a natural wave to it; she didn't have to do much, and it still looked good. She did have her mother's green eyes. When she looked in the mirror, she was reminded of her mother and always felt safe.
But life went on and she didn't have time to think about Jack, she had to take care of Ian and make sure each day he was alive; was meaningful and pain free.
6 MONTHS LATER ...
That was all the time they were given, six measly months to share a lifetime. Aubrey was trying not to think about it but she was having such a hard time getting past losing Ian. The life they could have had, the things they still hadn't done. Why him, why did it have to be him? How would she keep living without him? How she made it through the funeral was beyond her. It was all a blur. She could hardly remember any of it. Maybe it was for the better. But at the moment she was alone, what was she going to do? Her family was all gone now; losing Ian was the last of her family. His parents were still alive, but she felt so guilty for living when he didn't. She knew it was stupid. She had enough guilt on her conscience for taking their son away when they all knew how little time he had left. They said they were fine with it; they still had Ian's brother and sister who gave them hope. They had been kind after her family died in a car crash. However, there was just something about not having the closeness of her parents. Having that shoulder to cry on when they were crying themselves. She took the last six months of their son's life away from them. She couldn't keep dwelling about it, but she was going over all the things she could have done differently. The one thing she did know was her time with Ian was not wasted. They spent their time having fun and not worrying about the cancer. They went on walks, traveled and had picnics; all the things they loved to do with each other. The only thing that she really wanted that they couldn't have was a child together. That was one side effect of the illness; no children. Not that they were ready to have kids, they only needed more time; the thing they couldn't have. They didn't even get a year, only six short months.
She always thought of herself as a home body, loving to cook and tend to her garden; however, now she had no one to do these things for. What was she going to do currently with her life, she couldn't see her future without Ian in it?
This wasn't her, this wounded person, wallowing in self-pity, crying all the time. How could she stop this self-destructive attitude, everywhere she looked? Were pieces of his or her life together and what she lost. She couldn't get away from it. Going anywhere in town, everyone knew them together and the sorrowful looks they gave now we're killing her. It wasn't just sadness; it was pity. That was the one thing she couldn't stand. Yes, she loved him; however, her life was not over. She was only twenty-five years old. She had to find more to live for.
It was time for Aubrey to take her life in her own hands; she needed to get away. Knowing no one would understand was the hard part. There was really no one who would understand; she had to pack a bag and get away. But where would she go? Would it even matter? She could just drive and see where it took her. She had some money from her parent's death benefit, and Ian left her comfortable, so she wouldn't have to worry right away. She could just travel around and see what the world had to offer. Maybe she would sell the cottage if she really needed to but for now, she wasn't going to worry about it. Aubrey thought to leave a brief note to Ian's parents explaining she had to get away so they wouldn't worry; they weren't really her family anymore now that she didn't have Ian with her. They would probably be relieved to see her go so they could grieve alone. Now if she could just find the courage to do it. No, she wasn't going to think about it; she was just going to do it. There was nothing holding her back. There was no one to care what happened to her. She had never felt so alone. Even after her parent's death, she had Ian; even so, now he was gone too.
What was she waiting for? Why couldn't she pack a bag and leave? Going into the bedroom that she shared with Ian was hard enough, but looking at the bed where they made love countless times was heart wrenching. If she could only have one more day, one more day with her Ian; but, sadly that was not going to happen. Wiping her eyes, she started packing a bag. What she didn't remember to bring she could buy along the way. What did it matter, she was on her own? That was the part that scared her most being on her own she had never had to be first her parents and then Ian. This would be the first time she would be doing anything on her own. There would be no one there to ask, what do you think? This was all up to her, and she was grabbing the bull by the horns; (so to speak) if she didn't chicken out first.
No she couldn't stay, she had to get away from all her grief; and that of everyone around her. Didn't they understand what they were doing to her with all those looks of pity? It was slowly killing her as well. She couldn't let herself forget for one moment if no one else would. Wasn't it bad enough that she lost a piece of herself when they put that coffin in the ground? Watching them lower the coffin was one of the worst moments of her life because she would never see Ian again. Her lover, the one man who could make her smile when she was down would never be able to make her smile that way again. Thinking about that made her realize, she couldn't remember the last time she smiled or for the matter laugh. There was no happiness in her life. Aubrey was usually a happy person, but now all that was gone.
Her bags were packed; it was strange, but she felt she needed some pictures and other things that they shared together. Deep down, she knew she wasn't coming back; at least, she didn't see herself living here again. There were just too many memories. Anything left at the house, they could sell. It just didn't matter. It was just stuff and they wouldn't bring Ian back, so why load her down with it all? Tears rolling down her cheeks, she pulled out of the driveway and looked at the little house her and Ian bought together. She could do this, be strong, and be the woman she always knew she was. Aubrey just had to believe in herself. Driving away from the little town she always knew; was one of the hardest things she had done? If she really thought about it, there was nothing left here; all she loved was gone now. The town where she grew up was the only place she really knew, she was going to have to find a place where she felt at home. Just grief and misery were left here; she had to do this. Her heart couldn't take anymore.
Leaving the place she was comfortable with was scary, but staying was not right for her either. It was time for her to take her destiny in her own hands. However, she couldn't help but cry, watching the house get smaller through her rear-view mirror. She cried all the way to the Parkway; she couldn't help herself. It was a pity party for one; thank god she was alone, if anyone was with her, they would wonder if she was sane. This was so unlike Aubrey to cry like this; even so, she had it coming. Trying to be strong during the funeral and then leaving it all behind was her breaking point. There was nothing left in that town for her. The pity, the looks and finally, not having someone to rely on were enough for her. It wasn't like she killed Ian but sometimes the way they looked at her made her feel that way. Besides wasn't it time for her life to have an adventure, to start over somewhere new. No one would care, so why not? She just had to get there without crashing and that wasn't going to happen if she didn't stop crying. She could see the newspaper now, "woman drowns in her own tears while driving a car; news at eleven."
Chapter ThreeAubrey drove all around America; stopping in some cities that looked good, but not finding her place. If she liked the look, she would stay on a week or two, but nothing really said home. She even tried working in a few of the towns. She would stop in a bakery or deli, just trying to get a feel for the people; but still she never had that feeling of peace. The place she could settle down in had to feel like home. She was starting to worry wondering around all these months. Did that place even exist for her anymore without her Ian?
Now she found herself driving through Texas, but how she got here she had no idea. She had been traveling to long, never feeling like her old self. It was like the SUV drove itself. It was the middle of the night, and she was exhausted and needed to find a place to stop. Just thinking about how exhausted she was, and how Ian would be mad at her for not taking better care of herself; It only made her cry harder. She couldn't stop herself because he would say, "you're not taking care of yourself, and you're going to get sick." She could even see the way he would shake his head when he was making a point. This was not good she couldn't stop, and she was going to crash if she didn't get herself under control. All the things she knew Ian would say to her was right she was taking care of herself and this constant traveling was getting nowhere. It was the same thing she told herself every day, but she still didn't stop herself.
Before she could get herself under control, she saw the flashing lights coming up behind her. Great this was just what she needed. If someone saw her right now they would have to wonder if she was sane sitting in a car crying by herself, they would have to wonder. This was a new low for her.
Excerpted from Aubrey's Choice by J.C. Neway Copyright © 2012 by J.C. Neway. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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