When everything falls apart, love remains . . .
The Edge of Always
Camryn Bennett has never been happier. Five months after meeting on a Greyhound bus, she and her soul mate Andrew Parrish are engaged-and a wedding isn't the only special event in their future. Nervous but excited, Camryn can't wait to begin the rest of her life with Andrew, a man she knows in her heart will love her always. They have so much to look forward to-until tragedy blindsides them.
Andrew doesn't understand how this could happen to them. He's trying to move on, and thought Camryn was doing the same. But when Andrew discovers Camryn is secretly harboring a mountain of pain and attempting to numb it in damaging ways, there is nothing he won't do to bring her back to life. Determined to prove that their love can survive anything, Andrew decides to take Camryn on a new journey filled with hope and passion. If only he can convince her to come along for the ride...
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The Edge of Always
By J. A. Redmerski
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2014 J. A. Redmerski
All rights reserved.
A few months ago, when I was laid up in that hospital bed, I didn't think I'd be alive today much less be expecting a baby and engaged to an angel with a dirty mouth. But here I am. Here we are, Camryn and me, taking on the world ... in a different way. Things didn't quite turn out how we planned them, but then again, things rarely do. And neither of us would change the way they turned out even if we could.
I love this chair. It was my dad's favorite chair, and the one thing he left behind that I wanted. Sure, I inherited a fat check that will set Camryn and me up for a while, and of course I got the Chevelle, but the chair was equally sentimental to me. She hates it, but she won't say so out loud, because it was my dad's. I can't blame her; it's old, it stinks, and there's a hole in the cushion from my dad's cigarette smoking days. I promised her I'd get someone in here to clean it, at least. And I will. As soon as she figures out whether we're going to stay in Galveston or move to North Carolina. I'm fine with either, but something tells me she's holding back on what she really wants, because of me.
I hear the water from the shower shut off, and seconds later a loud bang vibrates through the wall. I jump up from the chair, letting the remote control hit the floor as I rush toward the bathroom. The edge of the coffee table clips the shit outta my shin as I pass.
I swing open the bathroom door. "What happened?"
Camryn shakes her head at me and smiles as she leans over to pick the hair dryer up from the floor beside the toilet.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
"You're more paranoid than I am," she laughs.
She glances down at my leg as I rub it with my fingertips. She sets the hair dryer back on the counter, comes up to me, and kisses the side of my mouth. "Looks like I'm not the one of us who needs to worry about being accident- prone." She smiles.
My hands cup her shoulders and I pull her closer, letting one hand fall down to touch her little rounded belly. I can barely tell she's pregnant. At four months I thought she'd at least be emulating a baby hippo, but what do I know about this stuff?
"Maybe so," I say, trying to hide the red in my face. "You probably did that on purpose just to see how fast I could get in here."
She kisses the other side of my mouth and then goes in for the kill, kissing me fully and deeply while pressing her wet, naked body against mine. I moan against her mouth, wrapping my arms around her.
But then I pull away before I fall into her devious trap. "Dammit, woman, you've gotta stop that."
She grins back at me. "You really want me to stop?" she asks with that up-to-no-good smile of hers.
It scares the shit out of me when she does that. Once after a conversation laced with that smile, she stopped having sex with me for three whole days. Worst three days of my life.
"Well, no," I say nervously. "I just mean right now. We have exactly thirty minutes before we have to be at the doctor's office."
I just hope she's this horny throughout her entire pregnancy. I've heard horror stories about how some women go from wanting it all the time until they get really big and then if you touch them they turn into fire-breathing banshees.
Thirty minutes. Damn. I could bend her over the counter real quick ...
Camryn smiles sweetly and jerks the towel from the shower curtain rod and starts drying off. "I'll be ready in ten," she says as she waves me out. "Don't forget to water Georgia. Did you find your phone?"
"Not yet," I say as I start to ease my way out the door, but then I stop and add with a sexually suggestive grin, "Ummm, we could—"
She shuts the door in my face. I just walk off laughing.
I rush around the apartment, searching under cushions and in odd places for my keys and finally find them hiding underneath a stack of junk mail on the kitchen counter. I stop for a moment and take a particular piece of mail into my fingers. Camryn won't let me throw it away, because it was the one she looked at when giving the 911 operator my address the morning I had that seizure in front of her. I guess she feels like that piece of paper helped save my life, but really what it did was help her eventually understand what was going on with me. The seizure was harmless. I've had several. Hell, I had one when we were staying in the hotel in New Orleans before we started sharing a room. When I finally told her about that later, needless to say, she was not happy with me.
She worries all the time that the tumor will come back. I think she worries about it more than I do.
If it does, it does. We'll get through it together. We'll always get through everything together.
"Time to go, babe!" I yell from the living room.
She comes out of our room dressed in a rather tight pair of jeans and an equally tight T-shirt. And heels. Really? Heels?
"You're going to squeeze her little head in those jeans," I say.
"No, I'm not going to squeeze her or his head," she counters as she grabs her purse from the couch and shoulders it. "You're so sure of yourself, but we'll see." She takes my hand and I walk her out the door, flipping the lock on the knob before I close it hard behind us.
"I know it's a girl," I say confidently.
"Care to wager?" She looks over at me and grins.
We step out into the mild November air, and I open the car door for her, gesturing inside with my palm up. "What kind of bet?" I ask. "You know I'm all for betting."
Camryn slides onto the seat, and I jog around to my side and get in. Resting my wrists on the top of the steering wheel, I look over at her and wait.
She smiles and chews gently on the inside of her bottom lip in thought for a moment. Her long blonde hair tumbles down over both shoulders, and her blue eyes shine with excitement.
"You're the one who seems so sure," she finally says. "So, you name the bet and I'll either agree to it or I won't." She stops abruptly and points her finger sternly at me. "But nothing sexual. I think you pretty much have that area covered. Think of something ..." she whirls her hand around in front of her "... I don't know ... daring or meaningful."
Hmmm. I'm officially stumped. I slide the key in the ignition, but pause before turning it.
"OK, if it's a girl, then I get to name her," I say with a soft, proud smile.
Her eyebrows twitch a little and she turns her chin at an angle. "I don't like that bet. That's something both of us should take part in, don't you think?"
"Well, yeah, but don't you trust me?"
She hesitates. "Yes ... I trust you, but—"
"—but not with a baby name." I raise an eyebrow interrogatively at her, but really I'm just messing with her head.
She can't look me in the eyes anymore, and she appears uncomfortable.
"Well?" I urge her.
Camryn crosses her arms and says, "What name did you have in mind, exactly?"
"What makes you think I already have one picked out?" I turn the key and the Chevelle purrs to life.
She smirks at me, cocking her head to one side. "Oh, please. You obviously have one picked out already, or you wouldn't be so sure it's a girl and making bets with me when we have an ultrasound to get to."
I look away, grinning, and put the car into reverse.
"Lily," I say and just barely catch Camryn's eye as we back out of the parking space. "Lily Marybeth Parrish."
A little smile tugs the corners of her lips.
"I actually like that," she says, and her smile gets bigger and bigger. "I admit, I was slightly worried—why Lily?"
"No reason. I just like it."
She doesn't seem convinced. She playfully narrows her eyes at me.
"I'm serious!" I say, laughing gently. "I've been going over names in my head since the day after you told me."
Camryn's smile warms, and if I wasn't such a guy, I'd cave to the moment and allow myself to blush like an idiot.
"You've been thinking of names all this time?" She seems happily surprised.
OK, so I blush anyway.
"Yeah," I admit. "Haven't thought of a good boy name yet, but we've got several months to think about it."
Camryn is just looking at me, beaming. I don't know what's going on inside her head, but I realize my face is getting redder the longer she stares at me like that.
"What?" I ask and let out a laugh.
She leans across the seat and raises her hand to my face, her fingertips pulling my chin to the side. And then she kisses me.
"God, I love you," she whispers.
It takes a second to realize I'm grinning so big my face feels stretched out. "I love you, too. Now get your seat belt on." I point to it.
She slides back over onto her side and clicks the seat belt buckle into place.
As we ride toward the doctor's office we both keep glancing at the clock in the dashboard. Eight more minutes. Five. Three. I think it hits her as hard as it does me when we pull into the building's parking lot. In no time at all we may meet our son or daughter for the very first time.
Yeah, a few months ago, I didn't think I'd be alive ...
"The wait is killing me," Camryn leans over and whispers to me.
This is so strange. Sitting in this doctor's waiting room with pregnant chicks on all sides of us. I'm kind of scared to make eye contact. Some of them look pissed. All of the magazines for guys seem to have a man on the cover in a boat holding up a fish with his thumb in its mouth. I pretend to read an article.
"We've only been sitting here for about ten minutes," I whisper back and run the palm of my hand across her thigh, letting the magazine rest on my lap.
"I know, I'm just nervous."
As I take her hand, a nurse in pink scrubs steps out from a side door and calls Camryn's name, and we follow her back.
I sit against the wall while Camryn undresses and then puts on one of those hospital gowns. I tease her about her butt being on display and she pretends to be offended, but the blush gives her away. And we sit here and wait. And wait some more until another nurse comes in and has our full attention. She washes her hands in the nearby sink.
"Did you drink enough water an hour before your appointment?" the nurse asks after the hellos.
"Yes ma'am," Camryn says.
I can tell she's afraid something might be wrong with the baby and the ultrasound will show it. I've tried to tell her that everything will be fine, but it doesn't keep her from worrying.
She looks across the room at me, and I can't help but get up and move over to her side. The nurse asks a series of questions and snaps on a pair of latex gloves. I help answer the questions that I can, because Camryn seems increasingly more worried every second that goes by and she doesn't talk much. I squeeze her hand, trying to ease her mind.
After the nurse squirts that gel stuff on her belly, Camryn takes a deep breath.
"Wow, that's some tattoo you've got there," the nurse says. "It must've been pretty special to sit through one as large as that on the ribs."
"Yeah, it's definitely special," Camryn says and smiles up at me. "It's of Orpheus. Andrew has the other half. Eurydice. But it's a long story."
I proudly raise my shirt over my ribs to show the nurse my half.
"Stunning," the nurse says, looking at both of our tattoos in turns. "You don't see that in here every day."
The nurse leaves it at that and moves the probe through the gel pointing out the baby's head and elbow and other various parts. And I feel Camryn's grip on my hand slowly ease the more the nurse talks and smiles while explaining how "everything is lookin' good." I watch Camryn's face go from nervous and stiff to relieved and happy, and it makes me smile.
"So are you sure there's nothing to worry about?" Camryn asks. "Are you positive?"
The nurse nods and glances at me briefly. "Yes. So far I don't see anything of concern. Development is right where we want it to be. Movement and heartbeat are normal. I think you can relax."
Camryn looks up at me, and I have a feeling we're thinking the same thing.
She confirms it when the nurse says, "So, I understand you're curious about the gender?" And the two of us just pause, looking at one another. She's so damn beautiful. I can't believe she's mine. I can't believe she's carrying my baby.
"I'll take that bet," Camryn finally agrees, catching me off guard. She smiles brightly and tugs on my hand, and we both look at the nurse.
"Yes," Camryn answers. "If that's possible now."
The nurse moves the probe back to a specific area and appears to be giving her findings one last check before she announces it.
"Well, it's still kind of early, but ... looks like a girl to me so far," the nurse finally says. "At about twenty weeks during your next ultrasound, we'll be able to determine the sex officially."
I honestly don't think I've ever seen Andrew smile like that before. Maybe that night I sang with him the first time in New Orleans and he was so proud of me, but even still I'm not so sure anything can match his face right now. My heart is pounding against my ribs with excitement, especially over Andrew's reaction. I can tell how much he wanted a little girl, and I swear he's doing everything in his power to keep from tearing up in front of the nurse. Or me, for that matter.
It never mattered to me whether it was a boy or girl. I'm like just about every other expecting mom out there who just wants it to be healthy. Not that our baby's health doesn't take precedence over gender in Andrew's mind, though. I know better than that.
He leans over and kisses me lightly on the lips, his bright green eyes lit up with everything good.
"Lily it is," I say with complete agreement, and I kiss him once more before he pulls away, running my fingers through his short brown hair.
"Pretty name," the nurse says. "But keep a boy name handy, too, just in case." She pulls the probe back and gives us a moment.
Andrew says to the nurse suddenly, "Well, if you don't see a little package of junk already on my kid, it's definitely a girl."
I choke out a small laugh and vaguely roll my eyes as I look at the nurse. What's even funnier is that Andrew was being serious. He cocks his head to one side when he notices the amused look on my face.
We spend the rest of the day shopping. Neither of us could resist it. We've spent some time looking at baby stuff before but never bought much, because we didn't know if it should be pink or blue and we didn't want to end up with a room full of yellow. And even though there's still a chance it could be a boy, I think Andrew is more convinced than before that it's a girl, so I go along with it and let myself believe it, too. But he still won't let me buy much!
"Just wait," he insists when I go for the next girlie outfit in the newborn section. "You know my mom's planning a baby shower, right?"
"Yeah, but we can get a few more things now." I put the outfit in the cart anyway.
Andrew looks into the cart and then back at me with his lips pursed in contemplation. "I think you've surpassed a few, babe."
He's right. I've tossed about ninety dollars' worth of clothes in the basket already. Oh well, if anything, if it turns out to be a boy I can exchange it all later.
And that's how the rest of the day goes until we stop by his mother's house to give her the news.
"Oh, that's wonderful!" Marna says, pulling me into a hug. "I thought for sure it'd be a boy!"
My hands slide away from Marna's arms, and I sit at the kitchen table with Andrew while Marna heads to the fridge. She pulls out a tea pitcher and starts preparing us a glass.
"Baby shower will be in February," Marna says from the bar. "I've already got everything planned out. All you have to do is show up." She beams at me and puts the tea pitcher away.
"Thank you," I say.
She sets a glass down in front of each of us and then pulls out the empty chair.
I really do miss home. But I love it here, too, and Marna is like another mom to me. I haven't been able to bring myself to tell Andrew yet about how much I miss my mom and Natalie, just having a friend to talk to. You can be in love with the greatest guy on the planet—and in fact, I am—but it doesn't mean it won't be somewhat difficult not having other friends. I've met one girl my age here, Alana, who lives upstairs with her husband, but I just haven't been able to click with her on any kind of level. I think if I'm already making up lies to keep from going somewhere with her when she calls, then clicking with her at all might never happen.
Excerpted from The Edge of Always by J. A. Redmerski. Copyright © 2014 J. A. Redmerski. Excerpted by permission of Grand Central Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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