Home > From This Moment(4)

From This Moment(4)
Author: Melanie Harlow

But we were inseparable. Beyond best friends. Beyond brothers, really. People used to joke that we could read each other’s minds, but really I think it’s just that we knew each other so well. I’d have done anything for him, and he’d have done anything for me—including step aside if I’d told him I was interested in Hannah.

And I was.

I went to that diner almost every day for a month. I liked everything about her. The way she made talking to her so easy. The way she teased me about studying on a Saturday night. The way she made every customer smile. The way she sang along to Sarah Vaughn and knew all the words. The way she served me extra big slices of pie so good I could have licked the plate.

Oh God, those pies. Apple and peach and pumpkin and pecan. Served heated with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. She made the ice cream too, can you fucking beat that? She made the pie and the ice cream.

I only found out because I asked if I could buy a pie and bring it home for my mother’s birthday. I’d never forget that night—the beginning of them.

Hannah had beamed. “Which pie?”

“Uh, the pecan one maybe?” From where I sat at the counter, I glanced over at the display case.

“The Salted Caramel Pecan? Sure, I can make one of those for you.”

“You make them?”

Her cheeks colored and she dropped her eyes to her hands as she refilled my coffee cup, her lashes fanning over her cheeks. She had the longest, prettiest eyelashes I’d ever seen. “Yes. And the ice cream too.”

“Are you serious?”

Her grin was wide and a little sheepish, but I could tell she was proud. “Yes. And the muffins and cinnamon rolls and cake pops.”

“You should have your own bakery or something.”

She set the cup down in front of me and shrugged. “I don’t have much of a head for business. I just like the baking part. The creative part.”

“Well, my mother is going to go crazy. She’s from the South and claims you can’t find a decent pecan pie north of the Mason Dixon line.”

Hannah’s smile faded fast. “She doesn’t bake her own, does she? Because if she does, you can’t bring my pie home. She’ll be insulted.”

“Really?”

She nodded solemnly, her eyes wide.

“Huh. Okay. I guess I won’t then.”

“Sorry. I’m just trying to protect you. My mother is that way about her meat sauce.” She brightened. “But I’d be happy to bake something at your request any time. How was everything tonight?”

“Great.” I think you’re beautiful.

“How’s the studying going?”

“Fine.” Go out with me.

“You’ll be done soon, huh?”

“A few more weeks.” So we don’t have much time.

“And then what?” She leaned on her elbows across the counter in front of me, and I tried not to stare at her mouth.

“Then residency. I’m heading to Texas.” And if I leave without kissing you, I’ll always wonder.

“Will you stay in Texas when you’re done?”

“Probably not. I’d like to work for Doctors Without Borders.”

“Wow.” She straightened, picking up my plate and setting it down behind the counter, and sighed. “I really admire that. If I was smart enough to become a doctor like you, I’d do something like that.”

“You’re smart enough to do anything you want.”

“You’re sweet to say that, but I’m really not book smart. I had to work really hard to get B’s in school, and I didn’t do very well in college. I didn’t even finish.”

“But you’re…” Fuck, now what do I say? My heart was thumping so hard. What I wanted to say was, You’re people smart. You make everyone who comes in here feel good just by talking to them. And you have a beautiful voice. And you make the best pies known to man. Fuck book smarts. You’re amazing.

But the words wouldn’t come.

She was waiting for me to finish my sentence, and I swallowed. My throat was so dry. She was so beautiful. Say something. Say anything.

What happened next changed everything.

“Hannah, I—”

“There you are!” The bell over the door of the place jangled, and the energy in the room spiked. I knew instantly it meant Drew had walked in. He had a presence like that. “I knew I’d find you in here. Thought you wanted to come with us tonight.”

I looked up at Hannah, and saw the surprise on her face. “There are two of you?” She started to laugh. “Oh my God.”

“Well, there’s only one me.” Drew’s voice radiated confidence as he swooped in. “But that’s probably all a little thing like you can handle.”

I watched it happen.

Watched him charm her, say all the things I wanted to and couldn’t. Watched her expression change from outrage at his cocky flirtation to blushing pleasure at being the object of his attention. Watched the chemistry between them spark and start to sizzle.

“What are you doing tomorrow night?” he asked her. “A bunch of us are going to the Wings game. Want to come?”

“I’d love to.” She’d glanced at me. “Are you going too, Wes?”

I hesitated, debating the choice. I could say yes, and when Drew and I left tonight, I could tell him I had feelings for her, and he’d back off. On the other hand, if she really liked Drew, and the look on her face told me she did, it would be wrong to stand in the way. What girl would ever choose me over him, anyway? Plus, Drew’s residency was here in Detroit. He’d be around here the next few years, and I’d be gone. What was the point? “Nah. I have to study.”

“Come on, bro. Live a little. You’ve studied enough, you know this shit.” He dismissed my notes on Clinical Pharmacology with a wave of his hand. “You deserve a break.” To Hannah he said, “He’s always been like this. Way too hard on himself. Tell him not to be a hermit crab for once.”

She giggled. “Don’t be a hermit crab for once, Wes.”

I tried to smile. “You guys go.”

“You sure?” Drew put a hand on my shoulder.

“Yeah.” But you better be fucking good to her. More than once I’d had girls cry on my shoulder after Drew had moved on, but my loyalty had always been to him. This was the first time I was tempted to give him a warning—Hannah wasn’t just any girl.

A week later, he said, “Dude, thanks for introducing me to Hannah. I’m really into her.”

“No problem,” I said.

And that was that.

It wasn’t the first time—or the last—I gave up something up for my brother’s sake.

But it’s the time I regret most.

 

“I ran into Hannah at the store,” I told my mother, unpacking the bag of groceries I’d bought. On the drive home, I’d decided that it wasn’t Hannah herself who’d gotten to me; it was the visceral reminder of my brother. In Africa, I’d been able to throw myself into my work and disconnect from my grief. We’d been apart for so long, it was almost like I could pretend he was still alive, that he’d still be here when I got back. It had allowed me to cope. But seeing Hannah so visibly upset at the sight of me was a painful reminder that my brother was gone, and there was nothing I could do about it.

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