I am so excited to bring to you a novella I wrote in response to a question from one of Goodbye to You's earliest readers: Does Leesh get a happy ending?
The answer is YES! I loved writing Leesh in GtY, and after my friend asked me the question, I knew I had to write about Dev, too. Here's part one of their story. I hope you enjoy it!
The New Year's Eve weather in Key West reminds me so much of the coast of England-in August.
And thinking of Northern England leads to thoughts of Dev, and our two-week vacation there over a year ago. He'd taken me home to meet his family, making the two of us "über -official" as a couple. I remember his curly black hair, ruffled by the wind, falling into his deep brown eyes as he laughed at something silly I'd done standing atop Saltburn Cliffs as we listened to the waves crash below.
Boom. Boom. Ba-boom boom.
Aaaaaah. That's it. I was trying to dance to the beat of the tide pounding on the rocks. No wonder he laughed. I can't dance for shit.
Oh geesh. I miss Dev so much since he returned to England over a year ago, after graduation, that even the winds blowing across the seaport sound like him, delicious, cultured Downton Abbey accent and all calling my name.
"No more drinking for you tonight." I ball my fists into my hands, thinking the romantic atmosphere of my best friend's engagement party has conjured the love of my life from the mist rolling across the waterfront. I desperately need a date, or something. But no more alcohol.
I turn to walk the five minutes back to the Kelly house.
"You're just going to walk away without a word?"
Weird. The wind usually doesn't ask questions, or make note of my actions.
I turn in the direction from which the "windy voice" came. My heart jumps out of my chest and runs over to hug Dev. My feet are rooted firmly in place, but my heart won't stop dancing around.
I pry my dry tongue from the roof of my equally parched mouth. "Wh-what are you doing here?"
His melodious laugh makes my heart dance faster. "It's lovely to see you too, darling."
My toes curl at the soft "h" that wraps around the "r" in "darling."
Whenever we fought in the past, he would just call me "darling" and I would melt.
I straighten my spine, gather my heart in my hand and slip the chain mail armor back on the traitorous bugger.
There. That should do it.
"Hello, Devraj." My voice drips with saccharine as I cross my arms over my chest and spit out his full name.
"There's my girl."
He steps toward me, and I take two steps back, my heel catching on the edge of the pier. One more step and I'm in the black water. I step forward just enough to balance myself, but not enough to make it look like I'm trying to get too close to him. Because then I would smell his delightful aftershave, or reach out and brush that hair from his forehead . . .
I squeeze my arms tighter around myself to stifle all of these urges. "Not your girl anymore. Not for awhile now."
"Leesh." His tone finishes the sentence for him. Come now, love. Don't be that way.
"Remember, Dev? We decided the long-distance thing wasn't going to work."
By we, I mean Dev.
"How is she, by the way?" The fake sugar is replaced by bitter acid.
His eyes widen. "She who, darling?"
Just a tiny pin prick to the heart this time. The armor is working. "I figured the long-distance thing wasn't working because you found a near-distance someone in London. It's only a natural assumption, don't you think?"
Dev winced, his light brown skin flushing in the glow of the lamplight.
"Leesh, there wasn't anyone when we broke up."
What he didn't say spoke volumes.
"But. . . " I have to know. Even if the truth stomps all over my heart.
"There has been since. One. But that's over now. I couldn't. . . She wasn't you."
My heart starts bleeding. I turn my face away so he can't see the pain in my scrunched-up features.
"Dev, nothing's changed. You're still across the pond, and I'm still here." My voice, a bitch that's always betrayed my true emotions when I manage to hide them in other ways, cracks.
"Darling, you should know I'm not. . . "
My back pocket vibrates. I hold up my hand to Dev and pull my phone out. The face of Bennie, my other best friend, grins up at me. She's probably wondering where I got to. I need to get back to the house.
I hit "accept call" on the touch screen.
"What's up?"I try to keep my tone chirpy so she doesn't guess anything's wrong, but this time I squeak.
She doesn't respond to my greeting.
Nothing but a muffled voice. Hers? I can't tell. Now rustling fabric.
A sharp scream pierces my ear drum."Bennie? Bennie?"
Then a long moan.
"What the hell?"
"Felicia, what's wrong?"
I must be scowling. Dev only calls me Felicia when he's concerned. Which means I appear concerned.
"I. . . I don't know. It was Bennie. Or at least her phone. And there was a. . . scream."
"A scream? Like a 'please don't hurt me' scream?" He runs his long brown fingers through his hair, pushing a few stray curls back.
"I couldn't tell. Maybe. We need to find her." Correction. "I need to find her."
He does not get the message. "I'll go with you, of course."
I try to call Bennie back, but there's no answer. My long legs carry me quickly past Dev, but his even longer legs catch up with me quickly.
"No. Don't be silly. I'll go back to Thea's fiancé's place-"
"Yeah. How did you know?"
"I flew in to Charlotte yesterday, and drove to your mum's. You changed your number, and I didn't have your new address since you moved from the dorm. Your mum told me you were here, and why. Even gave me the address. She's always liked me."
Everyone's always liked Dev. No one more than me, until he broke my heart. Maybe I should have answered one of the dozen calls from my mom in the last twenty-four hours. She didn't leave a voicemail, but that's common for her.
Still curious about one thing, though. "How did you find me here?"
"Driving around looking for a parking spot. I thought I saw you, and so I followed you in the car. In fact. . . "
He wraps his fingers around my wrist, my skin burning at his touch. I yank my arm back, and he throws his hands up in surrender.
"Sorry." He motions to the metered parking lot at the corner of Grinnell and Mustin. "Let's take the car."
Oh. Right. Of course.
My legs wobble in the uncomfortably narrow flats-why did I let Bennie pick these shoes out for me?-as we make our way to the lot. I bite my lip and climb in when he opens the passenger door of a blue compact that looked barely long enough to contain his six-foot-three frame.
As he hops in I point the way, though I'm sure he already knows, from the GPS and all.
In two minutes we're at the Kelly house, and it looks like some of the engagement party attendees have left, so we secure a space nearby.
Before Dev puts the car in park, I bound out of the door, through the white-washed gate and up the stairs to the Kellys' house.
I fling open the heavy wood door, and Dev is right behind me, his hand on the small of my back. While I should shrink from his touch, I relax into it instead, and a warmth spreads from point of contact straight to me fingers and toes.
"Thea!" I want to stay calm, but it seems that won't happen.
I spot a crown of curly blonde hair from my five-foot-ten vantage point, and rush over, Dev not skipping a beat as he keeps up with me.
I tap Thea on the shoulder. "Hey, I need to talk to you."
She turns around and her bright blue eyes widen at the sight of my ex. She nods in his direction and grins. "So it would seem. How are you, Dev? You look well."
He leans down and charmingly kisses her on the cheek. "And you are lovely as always. Congratulations. I'd love to meet the lucky bastard who snagged you."
I wave my hand at them. "Hello! Later, Dev, okay? I need to tell her about the, you know, thing."
I hold up my phone and wave it.
"Right, right, of course. If you'd be so kind as to show me to the washroom. I've been driving for fifteen hours and would love to clean up a bit."
"This way." Thea loops her arm in Dev's and leads him to the powder room, then rushes back to me.
"Leesh! What is going on? Why is Dev here? In the country? In Key West?" She breathes after finishing her string of questions I don't have answers to myself.
I take her by the hand and pull her out to the porch, the door closing with a thud behind us.
She looks at me, her mouth screwed up tightly, eyebrows drawn together. "I thought she went outside with you."
"Nope. I got a weird call. Butt dial maybe. But it was from her phone, and I heard a scream on the other end."
She squeezes my wrist. Ow. "A scream. Oh shit, Leesh. We need to find her. Call the police."
"Yes, of course, Mr. Kelly knows some of the cops, right? I mean, she's not a 'missing person,' but they could put out a bulletin or something, right?"
"I would think. I'll go talk to Da, ask him to call the police, and you go find Shay. We'll head out on foot to search around here for her."
We go back inside, and I find Dev talking to Shay.
Great. Someone else to love him.
I still have no idea why he's here. I'll find out as soon as we know Bennie's okay.