Paige turned, p.1
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       Paige Turned, p.1
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           Erynn Mangum
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Paige Turned


  © 2014 by Erynn Mangum O’Brien

  A NavPress published resource in alliance with Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without written permission from NavPress, P.O. Box 35001, Colorado Springs, CO 80935. www.navpress.com

  NAVPRESS, the NAVPRESS logo, TH1NK, and the TH1NK logo are registered trademarks of NavPress. Absence of ® in connection with marks of NavPress or other parties does not indicate an absence of registration of those marks.

  TYNDALE and Tyndale’s quill logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  ISBN 978-1-61291-322-3

  Cover design by Studio Gearbox

  Cover images by Thinkstock and CSA Images

  Scripture quotations in this publication are taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

  Cataloging-in-Publication Data is Available.

  ISBN 978-1-61291-811-2 (ePub); ISBN 978-1-61291-812-9 (Kindle); ISBN 978-1-61291-813-6 (Apple)

  Build: 2014-03-07 10:05:08

  OTHER NOVELS BY ERYNN MANGUM

  PAIGE ALDER SERIES:

  Paige Torn

  Paige Rewritten

  LAUREN HOLBROOK SERIES:

  Miss Match

  ReMatch

  Match Point

  MAYA DAVIS SERIES:

  Cool Beans

  Latte Daze

  Double Shot

  For my mom—“Thank you” doesn’t cover everything you do for me. I only hope that someday I can be the kind of mother, wife, and friend you are. I love you.

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  About the Author

  Acknowledgments

  To my Jon—I love you. Let’s keep laughing together.

  To my sweet Nathan—thank you for dropping your one and only nap during the writing of this novel. It stretched my creativity even more. I love you so much, dear boy.

  To my miracle baby, Parker—You have been so prayed for, little one. You and your brother are the best, most precious things in our lives. I love you so much!

  To my family—Dad, Mom, Bryant, Nicole, Caleb, Nicole, Cayce and Nama—Y’all are great and I like being around you.

  To my friends—Shannon, Leigh Ann, Eryn, Melanie, Thalia, Jamie, Jen, and Kaitlin. Love you guys. You make life fun.

  To my NavPress Awesome Squad—thanks for taking the jumble of words I give you and making it sound like a novel. You guys are fantastic.

  And finally, to you, my dear friend—may we learn together how deeply God loves us, how gently He cares for us, and how perfectly He prepares for us the road ahead.

  Here’s the thing about roller coasters: I like them. Most of the time. I like them when they are completely enclosed in a building, and I generally prefer them to be in the dark so I can’t see what’s coming next.

  One of my biggest fears is that I will be on an outdoor roller coaster and get hit in the face by a bird.

  It could happen.

  So the fact that I’ve now talked my new boss and the youth pastor of our church, Rick, out of going to Six Flags three times in the last three months is something of a personal feat for me.

  “I think it would be great fun and so we shall do it,” he says now, slamming his hands on his desk.

  This action would have sent me into a nervous twitch only a few short weeks ago, but I’m getting used to Rick and his ways.

  That’s almost a scarier thought than being hit in the face by a flying bird on a roller coaster.

  “What will be great fun?” I ask, distracted by my new planner that is stuffed with names, dates, and times. I had no idea there were so many girls in the youth group until I took this job. Now it’s all I can do not to double book myself. Last week, I scheduled for three different girls to meet me at three different Starbucks at the very same time.

  I went that same day and bought the planner.

  Considering my past abuse of planners, I have conveniently forgotten to inform a lot of the people in my life of this fact.

  “Six Flags,” Rick says. “We’re going next weekend. Sort of a ‘Good-Bye Summer, Hello Fall’ trip. I’ll make up the postcard and you address them.”

  Rick is very good at delegating tasks to me. Too good. I look up at him briefly. He’s wearing loose jeans and a polo shirt, and he’s drumming out a little tune on his desk. Rick is a huge, barrel-chested man and is completely bald. Supposedly by choice. Either way, he’s a scary person to run into when you happen to be by yourself at the church after dark.

  I take pride in the excellent bladder control I had on that night.

  “I thought we were thinking about doing a park barbecue sing-along thing as our ‘Good-Bye Summer’ event.” I look back down and scribble in my planner while studying the text I’d received. MOLLY, 3 PM, JAMBA JUICE BY THE GALLERIA.

  “Oh yeah . . .” Rick says slowly, twisting his lips and staring out the window. “I do like the idea of a sing-along.”

  “Of course you do. It’s a great idea. And Six Flags has totally been done.” I am casual but still convincing.

  “True.” Rick nods. “All right then. Forget Six Flags. We’re sticking with the original plan. I’ll draw up the postcard.”

  I smile to myself and nod to Rick. “Sounds good.”

  I have a meeting with another girl in twenty minutes, so I stand from my tiny desk and stretch. “I’m out of here. I’m meeting with Bethany and then I’m going home. I have four weeks of laundry I have to do.”

  Rick makes a face. “Sounds like a great night.”

  “Oh yes.” I shoulder my purse and walk out of the church, waving at Geraldine, our church secretary.

  I’ve been on the payroll at this church for two months this week, and while it feels like a lot longer in some respects, the summer has gone by fast.

  I climb into my car and look at my planner to see what Starbucks I’m meeting her at. I have three I try to cycle through so I’m not going to the same one twice a day. And I also try to throw in the occasional Jamba Juice or semihealthy place because there have been a few days I have been so shaky at the end of the day from all the caffeine, I can barely sit down.

  My phone buzzes as I’m driving out of the parking lot, and I click the button before mashing it against my ear. “Hey, Layla.”

  Layla is my best friend, and she is getting married in a little over two months. I can’t even believe it. Especially since I’ve been so busy with this new job I’ve hardly had a chance to hang out with her all summer. Since all the kids are out of school, I’ve had back-to-back-to-back meetings for weeks. Rick keeps swearing the whole year will not be like this.

  Exhaustion is pulling at my brain, but I shake it away so I can appear happy and peppy for Bethany in fifteen minutes.

  “Hey.” Layla sounds tired.

  “You okay?”

  “No. I miss you. I haven’t even seen you in like nine years and I’m tired of people asking me questions, tired of caterers calling to tell me about there being no spinach because of a mad cow disease scare, tired of realizing that hey, we forgot to order napkins, and tired of being eng
aged.”

  I immediately feel bad. “I’m so sorry, Layla. I am an awful maid of honor.”

  “You aren’t an awful maid of honor. You’re just really busy and it just makes me wonder if you aren’t sliding back into the can’t-say-no Paige we all knew and didn’t love very much.”

  “Ouch.”

  “Anyway. I’m coming over for dinner tonight and I’m bringing Panda. So I don’t care what you have written in that planner you’re trying to sneak around. Cancel it. Call in sick or say you caught the mad cow disease.”

  “How did the spinach get the mad cow disease anyway?”

  “I don’t know. Maybe it was from the fertilizer or they grew it on the same farm as the cows or something. Or maybe it was salmonella.”

  “Well, I was just planning on doing laundry tonight, so as long as you’re okay with that, come on over.” I am already looking forward to the orange chicken.

  Layla cannot come over without bringing Panda Express. It’s a tradition now.

  “You weren’t going to see Tyler?”

  I bite back a sigh at the name.

  Tyler, for all intents and purposes, is my boyfriend. But if you look at the eight times I’ve seen him all summer, he’s more like a casual acquaintance than anything else. I’ve been working like crazy, his sister had a baby, and they had a family reunion so he was gone for a week. He has had some big projects come up at work and all manner of excuses.

  It all started after Tyler happened to see Luke, my ex-boyfriend, giving me a hug and kiss at our end-of-the-school-year youth party at the beginning of the summer. I didn’t intend on either of those things happening, and I explained everything to Tyler at coffee the next day, but he’s been a little standoffish since then.

  I don’t know what to do about it. Tyler is a slow mover anyway. It took him about six months to ever officially ask me to be his girlfriend in the first place.

  I’ve always wondered about it. And now I’m wondering whether the girlfriend thing is still even on.

  “No,” I tell Layla. “He’s got a big project due this week.”

  “He always has a big project due.”

  “I know. Hey, I’m at Starbucks to meet a girl so I need to go.”

  “You’re always meeting with a girl. Except never this one.”

  “I know, Layla.” I sigh. “I’ll see you tonight.”

  “Okay.”

  We hang up and I try to leave the guilt in my car. So I’m a terrible maid of honor. So I’m an awful girlfriend. So I can barely keep track of who I’m meeting with next. I swallow the big lump in my throat and blink back the tears—whether from the sense of failure or from exhaustion, I’m not sure.

  I paste a big smile on my face and wave at Bethany across the fragrant store. “Hey there!”

  Apparently this is what I quit my secretarial job at the adoption agency to be.

  Fake.

  * * * * *

  I get home at six o’clock and just lean back against my door after walking in. My apartment is immaculate, but that’s because I’ve hardly been home in the past eight weeks of summer. I’ve spent my days waking up, showering, getting dressed, and running out the door to either a staff meeting or meeting with a girl over breakfast or meeting with Rick to convince him not to go to Six Flags this summer.

  The man is nothing if not stubborn to an idea.

  Layla will be here in fifteen minutes, so I change into yoga pants and an oversized baseball-style T-shirt that was my dad’s. I yank my hair into a long braid down my back, then I check my pantry and decide to make some chocolate-chip cookie dough.

  It’s doubtful it will become cookies with both Layla and me in the apartment tonight. Cookie dough is like our kryptonite.

  I’m just finishing adding the chocolate chips when Layla comes walking into the apartment. Layla is not one for knocking. There have been a couple of times when I’ve accidentally left the door locked and she’s about fallen down my stairs from bouncing off the door so hard.

  “So, I have good news and bad news,” she announces, carrying in a paper take-out bag from Panda.

  “Bad news first.” I lick some cookie dough off my hand.

  “I’m going to start with the good news first.” Layla shakes her head and sets the bag on the kitchen table.

  “Okay.”

  “The good news is that the people at Panda seem to have been extra generous with the orange chicken tonight.”

  “That’s not good news for my waistline,” I tell her.

  “The bad news is that our girls’ night is about to get crashed so it’s good that we got extra food.”

  I look at her questioningly, but I don’t have time to ask because right then there’s a soft knock on the door. I go open it and Tyler stands there, rubbing his hand over the blond five-o’clock shadow on his jaw.

  My stomach twists, but it’s not in the butterfly-style that used to be even a few months ago. Now, if anything, I’m just dreading the day he officially ends it. He looks ter-rible. My breath sticks like I swallowed too much gum as a child.

  “I’m sorry, Paige,” he says before even telling me hello. “I didn’t realize tonight was girls’ night.”

  Already digging a spoon into the cookie dough, Layla moves her hand from her left to her right in one of those weird waves at Tyler from the kitchen.

  “I’m sorry,” Tyler says again.

  I shrug. “It’s fine.” He’s here and I’ve barely seen him all summer so I feel bad just asking him to leave. But Layla obviously needs some best-friend time.

  And honestly, if he leaves, he can’t tell me it’s over.

  I look at Tyler and nod to the porch. “Let’s just go out here for a minute.” I push him out the door and close it behind me. I pull at my shirt, not necessarily appreciating the fact that I’ve hardly seen him recently and he shows up when I’m in my yoga pants and have my hair in a braid that is quickly loosening, letting pieces of hair fall around my face. He couldn’t happen to come by when I’m dressed cute and have my makeup still intact.

  Nope.

  Tyler smiles at me, but it’s not like one of the old Tyler smiles. This one seems forced. Sad. “So, I haven’t seen you in a while.” He rakes a hand through his blond curls.

  “I know.” And most of the times we have seen each other have been around youth events. Not necessarily the best place to have a date.

  Or a real conversation. Or a real apology about what happened with Luke.

  The awkwardness buzzes between us, and if I could just wish us back to that wonderful day at the beginning of the summer where he asked me to be his girlfriend at the Dallas Arboretum, I would do it in a heartbeat.

  He smiles another sad smile. “Well. I won’t keep you from your time with Layla. Maybe we can get dinner? Tomorrow night?”

  I think through my schedule, and I can’t remember what tomorrow holds. It’s Friday, which has been filled up with events for the youth group, but since we’ve got the backyard barbecue thing next weekend, Rick mercifully let us leave this weekend free.

  “I can probably do that.” I nod.

  “Really?” A mix of shock and enthusiasm crosses his face, and I’m sad to see how many times I’ve obviously said I was busy.

  Maybe most of this weirdness and awkwardness is my fault.

  Whatever it is, I miss the old Tyler. The one who called me out on all my crap and was constantly bugging me with his happy-go-lucky self. I just don’t know how to tell him that.

  And now is obviously not the right time.

  Tyler nods like we just decided on a business lunch. “All right then. So, I’ll pick you up at six tomorrow night. Does that sound good?”

  I nod because I don’t know what else to do. “See you then.”

  He looks at me for half a second and then just nods again and starts back down the stairs. No hug, no kiss on the cheek. No physical contact at all.

  I rub my arms, blink back tears, and watch him disappear around the corner before going
back inside to face Layla, who is already halfway through her orange chicken.

  “Sorry,” she says after she swallows. “Lukewarm Panda does not a good meal make. So . . . how’s the Tyler man?”

  “Weird.” I pull the bag over and get my two-entrée dinner out. It is pointless to even bother attempting to pay Layla back for tonight. I’ll just buy next time we eat out.

  “Well. He’s always been a little on the odd side. No offense.”

  “Not like that.” I stab my chicken so hard, my plastic fork breaks.

  Layla watches me, frowning. “What’s wrong with you?”

  “Nothing. It’s just . . .” I sigh, go get a real fork and knife from my kitchen drawer, and then use them to cut the chicken open so I can dig out the plastic fork tines. “Things are just . . . weird.” I haven’t told Layla about the thing that happened with Luke at the beginning of the summer. First because Luke is her brother and second because I’ve just barely seen her.

  She shrugs. “With what?”

  “Me and Tyler.”

  Layla purses her lips. “What did you do?”

  “Why do you automatically assume it was my fault?”

  “Because Tyler is a saint. And he’s obviously head over heels for you, so anything that happened is consequently going to be on your hands.”

  “Well. It’s not so obvious anymore.”

  “That it’s your fault?”

  “No, that he’s head over heels for me.” I think to the zero affection even two minutes ago and bite the inside of my cheek, half debating just telling her about the whole thing with Luke.

  Then I look over at her. She’s wearing sweatpants. Her brown curly hair is in a sloppy knot on the top of her head, and she looks exhausted.

  No good can come from adding one more thing to Layla’s plate.

  So I stay quiet. I’m getting used to the wad hardening in my stomach. “Let’s talk about the wedding.”

  “Let’s not. I’m wishing we had just eloped now. I cannot understand how there is so much divorce in this country because it seems like the engagement process would be enough of a struggle for people, the weak ones would be voted out of contention.”

 
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