Let Love Live - Prologue

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After I click the gate at the side of the house closed, I walk toward Maddy, who is facing away from me, talking animatedly with her best friend, Melanie. She jumps a little when I drape my arm casually over her shoulder. Giving me the side-eye, she smirks. “Look who the cat dragged in.” She leans over and pops a quick kiss on my cheek. “Glad you could finally make it.” Girls are definitely not my strong point, but I can hear the snark in her words. Melanie hears it too and, after giving me a quick hug and whispering “good luck” into my ear, Melanie excuses herself to go find her boyfriend, Bryan.

I guess an apology is in order.

Crossing her arms across her chest, she stands there and waits for it. “I’m sorry, Maddy. I didn’t mean to miss everything.”

She sighs and unfolds her arms, some of the tension dissipating between us. “It’s not just about today, Dylan. The last few months you haven’t been yourself. Today’s supposed to be a happy day, and when you’re not here, we’re not happy.”

I find that hard to believe. Even though I do feel like part of the family, especially since my own parents recently moved down to Florida, saying that upstate New York was too cold for them. “Does it help that I bought you something?” I offer up her gift as an olive branch. She’s right; I haven’t been myself, but now is not the time to get into it. Needless to say, talking about it, whatever it is, with my best friend’s wife is not going to happen.

“It does if it’s sparkly.” Even though she tries to hide her excitement with a frown, her lips quirk up into a small smile.

I hand over the small box. “You’ll have to open it and find out.” A chuckle bubbles past my lips as she tears through the paper like a kid on Christmas.

Holding the silver charm bracelet out in front of her, she looks at it dreamily. “It’s beautiful. Thank you so much.” With another quick kiss to the cheek, she says, “You’re forgiven.” I latch it onto her wrist and she plays with the charms, watching them catch little glints of the sunrays.

“But,” she draws out the word as she looks over my shoulder. “I doubt he’ll be shut up as easily,” she mutters as she tips her chin at Reid. For the second time in less than ten minutes, I’m wished “good luck.”

Reid claps a hand on my shoulder and squeezes…hard – harder than he should and I know he must be pissed. He should know better, though. We work together. He sees the shit I see. He knows firsthand what it’s like to deal with the bullies, to witness someone so disgusted by who they are they’d rather…

Pushing those thoughts back, I turn to face him and hold up my hands, palms out. “Before you say anything, Maddy already laid into me. I gave her jewelry and she’s okay now. I shouldn’t have been late and I’m sorry.”

Reid drops his hand and he manages a tight smile. “Fine. As long as she’s not pissed. That’s all that matters.” Crisis averted. Sometimes Reid just lets himself get all worked up over nothing. He hands me a beer and walks us over to table on the edge of the yard. They’ve got one of those party tents and bunch of plastic tablecloth-covered tables. There are balloons everywhere and groups of people are littered around the yard, lost in casual conversation – all here to celebrate Maddy and her accomplishment. All here for her because for so long, no one ever was.

I really am an ass for missing this for her.

“What the hell is going on with you lately?” Reid’s angry question snaps through my thoughts. I take a pull on my beer and scrub a hand through my hair.

“Nothing,” I deflect, with a roll of my shoulders, even though I know, full well what he’s getting at.

A snide huff fills the space between us. “You’re full of shit. You know that, right?” The mood lifts a little and I lean back in my chair.

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