From This Moment(3)


by Melanie Harlow

I sighed. “He wants to come by the house and see Abby. I’m sure he’ll want to be part of her life.”

“That means part of your life, too,” Tess said. “Can you handle it?”

“I don’t have much choice, do I? It would be cruel for me to keep him away from her. The whole reason I stayed here was so she could be close to her dad’s family. I don’t have family up here. But seeing him with her is going to be so hard.”

Anne reached out and patted my arm. “Well, don’t pressure yourself. If he’s a good person, I’m sure he’ll understand how difficult it is for you to see him.”

“He’s a good person.” I found myself almost smiling, at a memory. “I actually met him first. He introduced Drew and me.”

“Really?” Tess cocked her head. “I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah. I had just gotten a job at this diner in Detroit and Wes came in all the time to study. He and Drew were finishing up medical school at Wayne State that year. I remember being really surprised at how different they were, because they were so identical.”

“How were they different?” Grace asked.

“Well, for one thing, Drew hit on me right away—he was such a big talker—but Wes had never even flirted with me. I even thought he might not be into girls, but later I realized he was just really shy, especially compared to Drew, who was always the life of the party.”

“Has Wes ever been married?” Tess wondered.

“No.” I tried to think back. “Drew told me once he had kind of a serious girlfriend in college, but that was over well before I met them. And he didn’t bring anyone to our wedding. I think he’s just been really dedicated to his career all this time. I mean, in the four years Drew and I were married, I can count on one hand the number of times Wes was around. Drew always missed him so much.”

“I bet. Twins are usually so close.” Anne cocked her head. “Is there any chance talking to him might help you?”

I thought about it. “I don’t know. I like Wes, but I’m scared, you know? I finally feel like I have a handle on things, and when I saw him today, I was so rattled. I nearly had a panic attack in my car.”

“Then take your time,” Anne said. “A good guy will respect your boundaries. Maybe he can see Abby at your in-laws’ or something. Then, if and when you’re ready to be around him, you can reach out.”

I nodded, but I wasn’t sure I’d ever be ready for that.

Two

WES

She still got to me.

How many years had it been since I’d first seen her behind the counter of that diner? I’d walked in, she’d greeted me like an old friend, and I’d known without a doubt the most beautiful girl in the world had just smiled at me.

I’d been instantly drawn to her.

But I wasn’t great at talking to girls. I could never find the right words. And what if I said the wrong ones and got rejected? Drew, on the other hand, had a golden tongue. He never had any trouble talking to girls. He never had any trouble taking to anyone. He could convince a teacher to give him a higher grade, persuade our parents to un-ground him, or coax a cheerleader right out of her skirt and into his bed in no time flat.

It never bothered me, though. When we were kids, he’d do all the talking for us. I liked it that way, because I was so shy. He was fiercely protective of me, as if he were four years older instead of four minutes. And if we got in trouble, he was quick to take the blame. He never wanted anyone to yell at me. In return, I gave him first choice of everything. The top bunk. The bigger cookie. The front seat. Sometimes I let him win a race, even though I was slightly faster. I passed the puck to him instead of taking the shot. I was quick to celebrate his victories and reluctant to draw attention to my own.

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?”