Crazy Beautiful (Redemption #2) - Jessica Prince



Three years ago

It felt like someone had just punched a huge, gaping hole right in the center of my chest. I was still standing, still breathing, but the space where my heart had once been now sat completely empty.

I should have seen this coming. All the signs had been there. The missed calls, the unanswered texts. The nights out with his buddies that got later and later as more time passed. The gulf-sized distance he put between us.

But still, I ignored all of it, fighting tooth and nail day after day in an attempt to get back what we’d once had.

I’d told myself I was never going to end up with a man like my father, a selfish jerk who’d so easily walked away from his family like they meant less than nothing, but there I was, once again, watching as a man I cherished above everything was preparing to leave me behind.

“I-I don’t understand,” I stuttered, watching motionless from the doorway of our bedroom as Cory emptied another drawer, moving to the bed to stuff his things into the bulging duffle bag sitting on the middle of the mattress. “You said this was what you wanted.”

Cory stopped packing to reach up and rub at the back of his neck. “I thought it was. I thought I could be happy with this, but . . .”

“But what?” I demanded to know. If the man I’d loved with everything I had was going to throw away what we’d been building for years, I wanted answers. I deserved at least that much. “But what, Cory? Finish your damn sentence!”

“But I was wrong!” he shouted, throwing his hands out to his sides. My eyes brimmed with tears as I jolted back on one foot like he’d just slapped me. “Christ, Poppy,” he continued, oblivious to the pain he’d just caused. “We’ve been together since we were kids. We’ve lived in the same goddamn town all our lives. Haven’t you ever wanted to see what else is out there?”

I hadn’t thought it possible for words to cut through flesh like a white-hot blade, but it had to be, because I felt like I was bleeding out.

“No,” I whispered, that one word breaking as it pushed its way past the lump in my throat. “I never cared about what else was out there because I had you.”

He lowered his head, but not before I saw the shame spread across his features.

“We were supposed to do this together,” I said, batting the moisture from my cheeks. “We planned this together; buying the inn, getting married, and starting our life. It’s all we ever talked about. When did that stop being enough for you, Cory? When did I stop being enough?”

And why was I so damn easy to walk away from?

The coward couldn’t bring himself to look me in the eyes as he murmured, “I don’t know.”

The pain those three words caused was almost unbearable. Up until the very moment when he told me he was leaving, Cory had been my entire world. We’d been together since senior year of high school. We’d dreamed and made plans for our future. He was going to propose. We were going to get married and build something great . . . or so I thought. He was the only man I’d ever loved, the only man I’d ever been with. He was so engrained in every fiber of my existence that I didn’t have a clue who I was without him.

And maybe that was my biggest mistake.

Wrapping my arms around my stomach, I held tight to keep myself from falling apart