Waiting for Her, an all-new emotional, standalone second chance romance from Jennifer Van Wyk is available NOW!
Our relationship was such a cliché.
Friends to lovers. High school sweethearts.
Then… driven by insecurities, I broke Grady Ryan’s heart.
I was weak, afraid to love, and even more afraid to be loved.
There are secrets I’ve kept buried but I can’t forget what we once shared.
I’ve been given a second chance and this time, I’m prepared to fight for him.
After six long years of silence, Bri Jameson is back in my life.
I never expected to see her again, especially not to share in the biggest opportunity of my career.
When she walks toward me across my football field, I can’t stop my heart from racing.
But time hasn’t stopped me from knowing her – and I know she’s hiding something.
I can only hope whatever it is doesn’t ruin me.
I’ve finally moved on and I won’t fall into her trap again.
I wish I could tell my heart the same thing – it’s just been waiting for her.
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“It’s Bri.” Mia says, both shock and confusion in her voice.
“Yeah, that’s what I said.”
“No, Grady. It’s. Bri.” Savannah says, nodding her head with wide eyes.
Mia’s eyes are narrowed, and Cole looks like he’s seen a ghost.
Actually, he’s not even looking at me. None of them are.
They’re looking behind me.
I turn in my seat to see what they’re all gawking at, and wouldn’t you know it, the object of conversation is right there.
Standing behind me.
Bright green eyes glistening.
Top teeth biting down on her plush bright red bottom lip.
Dark hair down, curling over her shoulders.
To anyone else, she would look like she’s going to a St. Patrick’s Day party, but I know Bri. She has more green and white in her closet than anyone I know.
If I bleed the colors, she may as well paint them on her body. I’m sure it’s at least part of the reason she was chosen to do the story on me. She knows Warrior football better than anyone I know.
My eyes can’t decide which part of her to catalogue first. When I was younger, I was positive there was nothing sexier than Bri Jameson. It’s shockingly apparent nothing’s changed, at least in my reaction to her appearance. I take in the rest of her, wanting so badly to reach out and pull her into my arms. She’s grown into a beautiful woman.
“Bri,” I breathe out her name, stumbling like a moron to get out of my chair. The effects of two shots in less than a few minutes time hitting me more than I care to admit. Surprisingly, I have a low alcohol tolerance. With my size, one would think I’d be able to handle a lot of liquor. Not so much.
The sound of her voice causing my heart to speed up triple time.
I haven’t heard it in years.
Except for in my dreams.
Or nightmares, depending on the night.
And it still hits me direct in the gut.
“What am I missing?” I hear Drew murmur behind me only to be shushed by the girls.
“Um. What…” I trail off, clear my throat, look down at the dirty bar floor, shake my head and look back at her, standing up in the process. She takes a small step back to allow me room. She’s a little thing. Only about 5 feet tall. When we were dating, I would have to practically bend in half to kiss her. A lifetime ago. My chin meets my chest when I tilt my head down to her. “What are you doing here?” I ask, finally finding my voice.
She looks away quickly before returning those eyes that always drew me to her. I never could resist her shining emerald eyes. She simply had to flutter her long lashes at me, and I was putty in her hands. “Um, I heard about this incredible band and wanted to check them out since…” Her voice trails off as she glances at the table of my friends and family uncomfortably.
She’s back in town, is what she failed to finish saying.
She swallows and closes her eyes.
I lick my lips, blow out a breath, and wait for her to open them back up.
“Wait. A. Minute.” Cole’s voice breaks through our stare down.
“Bri?” Mia sneers. Or as close to sneering as she gets. “What the hell are you doing here?” I turn in time to see her waddle her pregnant body out of the chair, shove Cole’s hand away from her shoulder and come to stand in front of me, effectively pushing Bri away a few steps considering Mia’s, well, she’s not little at the moment.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize everyone would…”
“Realize what? That we would be here to support Brandon?” Mia crosses her arms over her chest and taps her foot.
I press my lips together to keep from laughing.
Mia’s hardly a threat, but she’s also protective of me.
I place a hand on Mia’s shoulder and she twists her head to peek at me. She raises her eyebrows and tilts her head to the side, narrowing her eyes at me in a silent challenge for me to let her be.
“Easy, mama bear,” I murmur.
Bri looks down at Mia’s protruding belly then in Cole’s direction. She smiles faintly, her eyes glossing over slightly. I doubt if anyone else noticed, but I’ve always been a little more in tune to Bri than anyone else.
“Mom mentioned you were expecting. When are you due?” she asks quietly.
Mia lifts her chin, probably determined not to answer her because she’s a stubborn little shit, but Cole pipes up.
“Congratulations.” She smiles but it’s sad.
“Yup. We got married, too,” Mia says, a hint of snark in her voice, raising her hand to show her ring finger.
“Mia,” Cole murmurs a quiet warning.
“Yes, I heard that.”
Of course she’d heard. Her entire family was there, celebrating with us. I’d swallowed down the hurt all day, enjoyed the moment of celebrating with my brother and Mia. Pushed away the jealousy I felt toward him and Mia, who’d also been friends before they started dating. It had been a little over two years at that point since she had walked out on our relationship. Walked out of my life.
Part of me had wondered if she’d show up at the wedding.
A bigger part of me held out hope it would happen. I missed the hell out of her and as pathetic as it may make me sound, I was still waiting for her to come back to me.
That night, more changed for me than only getting a new sister.
With Bri’s stepdad working for our dads, who own a construction company together, it’s not as if we’re strangers. Our families don’t just know each other, we’re connected in every way that matters. Which leads me to believe she knew Mia and Cole were expecting, too.
“You missed a lot,” Mia reminds her, hurt and anger lacing her voice.
In another time, Bri would have been one of Mia’s bridesmaids. It was a hole that was missing on the special day that everyone felt, not just me.
I was always waiting.
Waiting for her to come back.
Waiting for her to come to her senses.
Waiting for her to love me enough to fight.
“I did,” she nods her head sadly. “I wish I hadn’t.”
I can’t take my eyes off her.
Can’t believe she’s here.
Standing in front of me.
Still looking too beautiful for her own damn good.
Life, man. What a mother-effing bitch it is.
“Yeah, well. It’s done,” Mia snaps. Bri breaking up with me didn’t hurt just me. That hurt and pain extended far and wide.
“Mia,” Bri whispers. Raising her eyes from where they’ve been fixated on the floor between us, she looks directly at me, rather than Mia. My gut clenches when our eyes lock, afraid she’ll see the hurt still living inside me. The sound of a chair scraping along the floor behind me startles me, breaking our stare down. She turns and starts to reach out a hand to Mia but pulls back. Rather, she lifts a hand and twists a finger through the thick strands. I used to be obsessed with running my fingers through her hair A flash of déjà vu hits me when I remember she would always mess with it when she was nervous, especially in front of a crowd of people. “I’m so sorry I missed it. I have no excuse. I won’t pretend any of what I did was okay.”
“You’re right. It wasn’t. But like I said, it’s done,” Mia says dismissively.
She doesn’t accept Bri’s apology, but I know Mia. She will eventually. The only reason she’s holding a grudge right now is because she thinks I need her to and because she’s more hurt than she’s letting on.
If Bri wants forgiveness, she’s going to have to earn it.
“So. You’re back?”
Bri takes a step in my direction, and I see realization hit Cole’s features.
He points a finger at her then me. “Wait. Is she the one?”
Out of the corner of my eye I see Drew’s head going back and forth like he’s at a tennis match, but I ignore him. I should introduce them, but I figure they’ll get to know each other soon enough.
Irritation suddenly settles in my veins. Being this close to Bri used to provide me with a sense of calm. “The one, what?” I growl, staring down at the girl I once thought was my forever.
“The one doing the article,” he explains. Cole’s not stupid. He knows she’s a reporter and who she works for. Her showing up after all this time obviously isn’t a coincidence.
I pause a few beats, breathe in deep as her eyes, so expressive and beautiful, blink up at me. “Yeah,” I admit, my heart in my throat. “She is.”
From the Ground Up was Jennifer’s first published novel and now that she was bitten by the writing bug, has no intention of ever stopping. Jennifer makes her home in small town Iowa with her high school sweetheart, three beautiful, hilarious and amazing kids, one crazy Jack Russell terrier. This is where her love for all things reading, baking, and cooking happen. Jennifer’s family enjoys camping, boating, and spending time outside as much as possible. You’ll be her best friend if you can make her laugh and follow up with asking her what to read next. When she’s not writing, you can find her cheering the loudest at her kids’ sporting events (read as: embarrassing them), sipping coffee or iced tea out of a mason jar with her Kindle in her lap or binging on Netflix.
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