We’re only THREE days away from the release of my newest book, Anywhere! I’m so excited! You can pre-order it now so that it’ll already be downloaded to your Kindle when you wake up on Valentine’s Day morning. It’ll be like a gift to yourself! And gifts to yourself are awesome, FYI.
I promised two “sneak peeks” of Anywhere and posted the first last week. If you missed it, you can go back and read it here. I’m posting the second part right now. Enjoy!
It was all over too soon.
That’s what Gracie kept thinking as she packed up her bags at Beau and Mel’s house, yawning as she did so.
The weekend, of course, hadn’t been a vacation. It had been a respite from normal life back in Florida, but it hadn’t been a pleasure trip.
They’d come all this way for a funeral.
Not a pleasure trip.
But there had been plenty of pleasure on this trip. All because of Jacob Morales.
She’d recognized him instantly. She’d remembered so many things from their childhood, from her young memories, so old and so dated that they were tucked so far back into her mind that while she could recall him and all they had done, she couldn’t rightly reconstruct his face in her remembrances. His scent, the way his voice had sounded, his mannerisms. They’d all been fuzzy when she’d traveled out to Texas.
But as soon as she’d opened the door, it had all been restored.
Except… well, Jacob looked really good. Better than her little girl’s mind would have remembered anyway. Better than anyone else she knew as a grown woman, certainly.
It’s a funny thing, attraction. She’d thrown herself into his arms at first sight, then had felt moderately foolish later for having done so, reasoning that attraction wasn’t a reason to behave like this.
Until he spoke, of course.
Until he told the family all about his work, about how he was in charge of all the finances at his office, about how he went all over the country, sorting out the problems and making the business better, like some geeky superhero accountant.
Until he talked about all that he was doing at his church, discipling high school boys, serving on the evangelism committee, and praying about becoming a deacon.
Until he looked at her as everyone talked, and, heaven help her, seemed to be remembering all the same silly childhood memories that she was remembering, laughing out loud with her over them, without a single word being said to unite their memories.
Attraction wasn’t a reason to behave like this. But real, genuine connections, a shared history, commonalities, and, yes, attraction all combined was definitely a reason to act like they’d been acting.
Staying up half the night talking through the box of remembrances, saying goodbye only once their parents had come out to see them laughing by the pool, looking to one another in confusion as to how Jacob and Gracie had so easily reverted back to the way they’d been as children.
Staying side by side throughout the whole funeral, from the moment she arrived at the church, content to stay with him as they’d gone in, as her father and his father both spoke words of life in the light of death, Jacob and Gracie holding hands as they affirmed with squeezes the truth of what was being shared about Christ.
Staying away from everyone else afterwards at the reception at the family’s house, wanting only to talk more with one another without interruptions from anyone, going so far as to skip out after the meal, driving downtown to walk around together, her arm in his as the sky changed colors.
Staying up until sunrise, sitting on Beau and Mel’s couch, talking through life, bringing up old memories, talking about what their lives were like now, speculating on what they would love their futures to look like.
Staying here, up until the last possible minute to leave for the airport, so that she could have a few more minutes with him.
Her sister, Faith, had gone back to her home in Houston the night before. Her parents had gone back to their home in Florida as well. She’d changed her flight, telling them all that she was doing so in order to spend more time with Mel and Beau, whom she hadn’t hardly seen at all.
And she wouldn’t be seeing them now, actually, as only a few hours after he’d left their house Jacob was now returning to say a final goodbye.
She couldn’t help but smile as she opened the door for him, before he could even ring the doorbell.
He looked exhausted from the late nights they’d been keeping. Exhausted and happy. He hadn’t shaved yet, and he’d thrown on a baseball cap that very nearly hid his brown eyes from hers as he gave her a slow grin, his hands in his pockets and a sigh on his lips.
She could look at that face every day for the rest of her life. No kidding.
“Hey,” she whispered, moving towards him just as he reached out to hug her.
“Hey,” he murmured into her hair, rubbing her back as she clung to him. “You sure you have to go today?”
“Yeah,” she nodded, pulling him into the house. “Flight leaves in two hours.”
He sighed. “That stinks.”
It really did. Florida was a long way from Texas. And her life was a long, long way from his, unfortunately.
She’d spent more than a few minutes that weekend thinking on this.
“I know,” she said.
He watched her quietly for a long moment then attempted a smile.
“Let me take you up there, at least, huh?,” he said softly.
She smiled at this, having already left a note for her aunt and uncle to that very same effect. “I’d love that.”
And the drive there, like the whole weekend, was over too soon. She’d not said half of what she wanted to say. Neither had he. Even after he parked and walked her to the security lines, cringing to see the wait, obviously knowing that she’d have to go early in order to get through them and make it on time for her flight, he said, “We didn’t have enough time.”
“No,” she said mournfully. “It all went by so fast.”
“Doesn’t seem fair, does it?,” he asked.
“Not at all,” she agreed. “I’ve known you my whole life, and I don’t feel like it’s been long enough, you know?”
He smiled at this. “Well, there were a few years that we didn’t talk much.”
“Let’s not make that mistake again,” she murmured, pulling his hand towards her and pushing up his sleeve.
“Uh, Gracie,” he asked, “what are you doing?”
She pulled a pen out of her purse, even as she held his bare arm in her other hand. “I’m writing my number on you,” she said, matter-of-factly. “You’re going to call me.”
“Oh, am I?,” he asked, smiling as she began writing.
“Yeah, you are,” she said. “We may be half a country away from each other, but phones? When you use them to call someone half a country away? They make it like you’re in the same room, Jacob.”
“No way!,” he exclaimed sarcastically.
“Yes way,” she chided him.
“Can’t be the same as being in the same room, though,” he said, just a little mournfully, putting his free hand to her waist.
Yeah, a simple phone call wasn’t going to be nearly as exciting as this.
But it would do.
“I know,” she sighed. “But…”
“Can’t be helped,” he shrugged. “I imagine they’re waiting for you back at work. Don’t know how they’ve managed without Tinkerbell this long.”
“There are others,” she said. “But I’m the best. So, yeah, I’m sure they’re eager for me to get back.”
“Of course,” he grinned.
“And you’ve got your big important superhero widget accountant job,” she said. “And your family. And your whole life here.”
He did. He had no reason to leave here, not even for her. Especially not for her, after just three days of getting to know one another again.
“And you’ve got your life and family in Florida,” he noted, the similar questions, hopes, and wonder in his own eyes.
“Still, though,” she said, over the lump in her throat. “I don’t want to lose touch.” And underneath the number she had written on his arm, she signed her name, dotting the “i” with a heart.
“Not unlike the way you decorated my cast all those years ago,” he said softly.
“Same arm?,” she whispered.
“Yeah. Except you drew flowers, too. And fairies.”
“Well, then,” she sighed, “let me draw one of each before I have to leave you.”
Oh, the thought of leaving him hurt. But she pushed the pain aside and drew on his arm, relishing the gift of being able to touch him, to breathe the same air he was breathing, and to feel his warmth so close to her, even if it was just for a little longer.
As she finished up, she noticed that he wasn’t saying anything. She looked up at him, surprised to see such tenderness in his eyes.
“It’s a long way, isn’t it?,” he asked.
And it was. It really was. She’d thought it herself more than a few times in the past few days. She thought about it again, even as he watched her.
“It is,” she said. “And I’ll miss you.”
He was like no one else she’d ever known. No other man was like him. She felt deflated at the thought of how perfect life would be if he was in Florida, if he was part of her home.
“I’ll miss you, too,” he said. “But we’ll always have all those years growing up. And this week, right?”
So many happy memories… such a sad conclusion.
“We were here,” she said, smiling, thankful at least that they had been who they were, even if there was no way of knowing who they would become.
“We were here,” he answered, smiling as well. “And I’ll call you, Gracie.”
She nodded at this, afraid to say anything lest her tears come. She simply held her hand up and waved before turning to go, letting go of the hand that held onto hers only at the very last possible moment…