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       The Right Side of Forever (The Perfect Duet Book 2), p.1

           Meghan Quinn
 
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The Right Side of Forever (The Perfect Duet Book 2)


  Published by Hot-Lanta Publishing, LLC

  Copyright 2018

  Cover Design By: RBA Designs

  Cover Model: Diego Miguel

  Photo Credit: Sylvie Rosokoff

  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. To obtain permission to excerpt portions of the text, please contact the author at [email protected]

  All characters in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination.

  www.authormeghanquinn.com

  Copyright © 2018 Meghan Quinn

  All rights reserved.

  Contents

  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

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Epilogue

  Chapter One

  COLBY

  “To Colby and Sage.”

  “To Colby and Sage,” everyone cheers and clinks glasses.

  When I told Balboa about my plans to ask Sage to marry me, he insisted on throwing a little gathering the following day to celebrate. I told him he could as long as none of that grapefruit beer was offered. Thankfully, he took custom beer orders and promised if I made an honest woman out of his sister, he would get me whatever beer I wanted.

  It’s why I’m drinking a Sierra Nevada right now.

  Arm wrapped around my waist, Sage takes a sip of her champagne I requested for her and looks up at me, love in her eyes.

  She said yes.

  She fucking said yes.

  I’m on top of the world.

  After we hiked back down the mountain, we parted ways with Ryan—but not before going over the pictures one more time—and then spent the night together, making love and staring at her ring. Fuck, it was amazing.

  Speaking of Ryan.

  I look around the party and don’t see her blonde head or hear her addictive laugh. I thought she’d be here. Turning toward Sage, I ask, “Have you seen Ryan?”

  She scans the space as well. “I haven’t. Rocky told her about the party, right?”

  “I thought he did. Shit. Balboa.” I nod for him to come over. When he reaches us, I say, “Did you invite Ryan?”

  “Yeah. Is she not here?”

  “I don’t see her.” Maybe she’s running late.

  I take out my phone and send her a quick text.

  Colby: I thought you were coming to the party tonight. Where are you?

  I keep my phone in my hand in case she texts back and walk to one of the outdoor couches, taking Sage with me. She sits on my lap and brings her head down on my shoulder.

  “I still can’t believe you proposed.”

  “Why not?” I press a quick kiss against her lips.

  “I don’t know. You surprised me.”

  “Good, that’s what’s supposed to happen.”

  My phone buzzes in my hand and I open the text from Ryan.

  Ryan: Sorry, got called into work. Hope you guys have fun.

  My brow pinches together, confusion written across my forehead, as I read her text over again. She was called in? When has she ever been called in to work?

  “What’s wrong?” Sage asks.

  “Ryan. She’s not coming tonight. Said she was called in.”

  “Oh no. I have something to give her,” Sage says, disappointed. “I hate that she works nights. It makes it so hard to get together with her especially when I have to work during the day.”

  “Yeah, her schedule sucks.”

  “Ah, we’re getting married,” Colt says, running and tackling us on the couch. “I can’t believe it’s finally happening. I’ve waited so long for this day.”

  Sage laughs, and the sound usually warms me from the inside out, but it doesn’t right now. I’m concerned.

  Ever since I told Ryan I was going to propose, she’s been a little off, not her usual outgoing and fun self. More quiet and subdued. I first told myself it’s possibly she was a little shocked, or maybe because her love life wasn’t where she wanted it to be, but now, I’m thinking it’s something else. She would have never missed this party. Or at least she would have told me she was missing it and apologized profusely, because that’s how we are with each other. We depend on each other and when we can’t be there, we let one another know.

  Everything feels fucking weird.

  Needing some breathing space, I kiss Sage on the cheek and say, “I’m going to go check on something. I’ll be back, okay?”

  “Yup.” She presses her lips against mine one more time and then slides onto the couch, letting me get up. Colt gives me knuckles as I pass him.

  I make my way through the house and out the front door where I sit on the steps, music and voices sounding off in the backyard. I lean against the porch post and look to the sky.

  I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m fucking engaged, but a little part of me doesn’t feel right, like it’s missing, and until that part finds its way back, I won’t feel whole.

  I think that part is Ryan.

  I decide to text her back.

  Colby: Is everything okay? You’ve been a little quiet lately.

  I usually hear from you about ten times a day.

  I press send and kick my legs up on the porch, sitting sideways and resting my head.

  Fuck, I’m tired. I feel like all the excitement, long hours, and late nights are coming to a screaming crash, exhausting my body, draining everything from my limbs.

  I can’t remember the last time I took vacation days and with a TDY looming ahead, I don’t foresee myself taking time off anytime soon. At least my TDY is stationed in Colorado Springs. Seeing Stryder will be a welcomed relief, someone from my past, someone who knows me so fucking well. Maybe it will be a good refresher.

  My phone buzzes in my hand, and I quickly read the text message.

  Ryan: Just busy.

  I drag my hand over my face. Something is definitely wrong.

  Colby: Don’t lie to me, Ryan. Something is up. Why won’t you tell me? We tell each other everything.

  Ryan: Everything is good, Colby. Don’t worry about me.

  Colby: Well, I am worried about you.

  Ryan: No need. I’m good. How’s the party?

  Of course. She always deflects when she doesn’t want to talk about real-life things. Normally I would push her more, try to drag the truth out of her, but I feel like our relationship is fragile for some unknown reason, and I don’t want to fuck it up. So I take the opportunity she’s giving me now.

  Colby: It’s all right.

  Ryan: Just all right?


  Colby: Good beer, good food. Would be more fun if you were here.

  Ryan: Ah, looking for the life of the party, huh? Isn’t Rowdy there?

  I smile to myself, relieved she’s talking to me, relieved there is humor in her texts, relieved that, for a moment, I feel a weight lift off my chest.

  Colby: He is, but he’s being a Debbie Downer, sulking in the corner. Pretty sure it’s because he wanted TDY in Colorado Springs.

  Ryan: Oh I forgot you’re leaving soon.

  Colby: Yeah, and I better see your ass a few times before I leave.

  Ryan: My ass? Aren’t you an engaged man? You really shouldn’t be sexting with a single lady.

  Colby: And there she is, the sassy girl I’ve been missing.

  Ryan: She didn’t go anywhere. But yes, if you want to see my ass, just ask and let me know thong or granny panty.

  Colby: You’re ridiculous.

  Ryan: So I take that as granny panty.

  Colby: Always thong, Ryan. Always thong.

  Ryan: Some things never change.

  Colby: When do I get to see you?

  Ryan: I’ll have my secretary finalize a date with you. I’m a hot commodity these days.

  Colby: Still full of yourself.

  Ryan: Hey, trying to stay on the left side here.

  Colby: Always stay on the left side. It’s the most beautiful.

  Ryan: So you keep telling me. Hey, I have to run, makeup emergency.

  Colby: Let me guess, an eyelash fell off?

  Ryan: Something like that.

  Colby: When do I get to see you, seriously?

  Ryan: Uh, I don’t know. I’ll think about it and let you know tomorrow. How does that sound?

  Colby: Don’t avoid me.

  Ryan: Couldn’t if I wanted to. Have a great party, Colby. XO

  Sighing, I set my phone next to me and lean back on the post, a smile curving my lips, as I start to feel a little more whole again. It’s funny how much one person can impact your status quo. I need to know . . . I need to know she’s okay. And that we’re going to be okay.

  And I think we are.

  Chapter Two

  RYAN

  “Do you want more salad?” Leah asks, hovering above me with a bowl in hand.

  My plate is full, my chicken’s cold, my salad’s wilted, and the only thing touched on my side of the table is the water in the tall glass.

  “No, I’m okay.”

  She sets the bowl on the table and sighs, resting back in her chair. Arms folded over her chest, she stares at me, her gaze not letting up. She’s going to ask, I know she is. Leah has been a pretty decent friend out here. She’s always been there when I’ve needed her even when she’s been occupied with her new boyfriend, Tyler. But when I asked her if I could come over tonight when she knew I had an engagement party to attend, she kept quiet.

  Until now.

  It’s on the tip of her tongue.

  And yet, I don’t want to talk.

  I don’t want to really do anything at this point.

  When Colby texted me, asking where I was, I felt so guilty lying to him about being called in for work, but there was no way I would have been able to attend their engagement party and put on a happy face. Not when I feel like my heart has broken into a million unfixable pieces.

  I need some time to let my mind adjust to what’s happening. Colby’s marrying Sage.

  Even knowing that, it’s still incredibly hard for me to comprehend. It feels like it came out of nowhere. They haven’t been dating that long, have they? I knew things were going well for them, but that well?

  Married?

  God, I want to go cry in my bed. Coming here was a big mistake, especially with Leah staring me down, wondering why I haven’t eaten any of my food, or why I’ve only been silently texting.

  “Are you going to make me ask?” Leah finally breaks the silence.

  I shake my head. “You don’t need to.”

  “Are you going to talk then?”

  I shake my head again and lean back in my chair. “I don’t want to.”

  “Well, that’s not good enough. I made you dinner, not that you touched it. You’ve lost weight, and there are some serious bags under your eyes. You were supposed to go to that engagement party, but now you’re not. What happened?”

  “Nothing.”

  “Ryan, I swear to God, don’t tiptoe around this. I know something is up, so instead of keeping it inside of you, talk to me, talk to someone. Does Colby know what’s going on?”

  My throat begins to tighten, his name hitting me like a sucker punch to the gut. Of course Leah would ask if Colby knows, because pretty much everyone here knows Colby is my go-to guy, the one I rely on for everything. They know he’s my best friend; they just don’t know that I’ve fallen for him, and fallen hard. And that soon, he won’t be my go-to guy anymore, because that wouldn’t be right. In some ways, it’s like losing Rory again to Stryder. Our friendship is still great, probably because we’re women. But I’m no longer her person, understandably. And being really honest with myself, I can’t be Colby’s person, because that’s not fair to Sage.

  “He doesn’t know.”

  “Why not?” She leans forward, almost like she’s about to pounce on me if I don’t tell her the truth soon.

  “He doesn’t know because”—my breath hitches in my chest—“because he’s the reason I’m like this.”

  Leah cocks her head to the side, a questionable look in her eyes. “What do you mean he’s the reason?”

  A tremble rocks my lip, my jaw shakes, my hands sweat, and my eyes fill with sorrow. “I love him, Leah.” A tear dribbles down my cheek. “I love him.”

  As understanding hits her, her eyes quickly soften from their once annoyed state, and she rounds the table and sits in the chair next to me, taking my hand in hers.

  “Oh, Ryan. I had no clue.”

  “Neither did I,” I answer. “It struck me a few weeks ago, and I haven’t been the same since. We haven’t been the same since. I’m awkward and uncomfortable around him, and I can’t seem to find normal. He sees it. He called me out on it, and I don’t know how to make it better.” I take a deep breath. “I love him, Leah, and he’s marrying someone else, someone who I actually really like.”

  “Sage is really nice.”

  I roll my eyes. “I know. She’s the best. It’s almost impossible to hate her.”

  “How can you hate someone so sweet and kind?”

  I throw my hands up in defeat. “You can’t, which makes this situation so much worse. At least if I hated his girlfriend, I could possibly throw him for a loop and tell him about my feelings, see if on some off chance he felt the same way . . . but I can’t do that to Sage.”

  “You really can’t, and you can’t do that to Colby. He is in love with her, Ryan, and he wants to be married to her.”

  “Yeah, thanks for the reminder.” I wipe away my tears and take a deep breath. “I don’t know what to do.”

  Leah twists her lips to the side and stares at me, her eyes searching mine. The look. “There is really nothing you can do, sweetie.” I knew I wasn’t going to like what she had to say. “You don’t want to hurt either of them, so you’re going to have to get over him.”

  “Get over him? Just like that? How is that even possible when he wants to hang out with me? Before he got engaged, when I realized the feelings I had for him, it was hard enough. I’ve never been in love with someone before, so trying to act like everything is normal . . . It was horrendous. But now”—I shake my head—“I just can’t.” I can’t pretend.

  “So what are you going to do? Phase him out? Do you really think he’s going to let you do that?”

  I shake my head, knowing that’s not an option.

  “I don’t know, Leah. Maybe I find a new job, a new place to live and start fresh.” Again.

  “But you haven’t even been here for a year. You should have a year at least under your belt before you move on.”

 
So then how do you think I combat these feelings? I can’t go five minutes without wanting to cry. Life really isn’t fair, you know? Why couldn’t I have had him? I focused so hard on being perfect. I tried so hard to be worthy of love. Why did it take me so long to find the one? Why did it have to happen this way? With someone I can’t have?”

  “Because life is fucked up and doesn’t work like the fairy tales we used to watch as little girls. Life is complicated, a roller coaster of emotions that strips us bare and exposes all of our insecurities. Can I ask you a question?”

  “Sure.” I feel drained, what’s one more question at this point?

  “Do you honestly, in your heart, think you can do something about this? Looking past your feelings and desires, is it realistic to say this could turn around? That Colby could be yours?”

  Could he be mine? In a fantasy world where everything goes my way, sure. But in the real world . . .

  Deflated, I shake my head. “I don’t see how.”

  Leah squeezes my hand. “Then I think you need to take some time and try to accept it.”

  “Easier said than done.”

  “Love is never easy, sweetie.” She brings me into a hug, her arms wrapping around my shoulders. And even though I love and appreciate Leah, her comforting hug isn’t half as wonderful as Colby’s.

  When she pulls away, she wipes a tear off my cheek and says, “Tyler’s friend is still single, and he would be perfect for you.”

  “No, Leah.”

  “Come on,” she presses. “He is so hot, has that whole dark-hair, dark-eyes vibe, kind of like Colby, but this man is something else. Real smooth. He would easily get you out of this rut.” If only it was just a rut.

  “No. I don’t want to jump into a relationship because I’m heartbroken. That’s asking for trouble.” And it would probably hurt just as much. I need to harden my heart. That’s the only way to get through this. Go back to feeling . . . devoid of everything good. Empty.

 
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