A Beautiful Wreck (Second Chance #3)

By: CeeCee James

Chapter 1

Hey, Buttercup. Only a few more days left until I come home. I can’t wait to see you. I swear I’m going to grab you in my arms and never let you go.

Shock ran through Cassie at Leif’s words. He’s finally coming home? She took a second to catch her breath but then her fingers couldn’t type fast enough. Me too, babe. Can’t wait!

When was his message sent? Scrolling up, she checked the timestamp: ten days ago. Hidden away in her college email account, it was just luck that she’d even seen it. Cassie read the last line. Surprise! I get to be there when you graduate. I’m incredibly proud of you. Besides, I have a little question I’ve been meaning to ask you. ;)

Oh, man…. She tipped her head back, blinking hard to stop the tears. A lump rose in her throat. It’s really happening.

The air conditioner kicked on and sent a column of icy air across Cassie’s bare legs. She rubbed her bare arms and reached for the lacy sweater on the back of the chair.

“Ouch!” she gasped, as her necklace caught on the inside of her sweater, choking her. Carefully, she threaded her hand up to untangle the dangling silver charm. She ran the charm over her bottom lip, in the way she always did, before looking at it.

Silver booties.

Cassie shoved the laptop across the quilt on her bed, her long, blonde hair falling in her face. Impatiently, she twisted it up. She looked for something to fasten it, then lunged for a rubber band on the night stand, and tucked the ends under in a bun.

I really need some of my paper love. She clambered to the floor and stretched under the bed for a box. Notes and cards burst over the top as soon as she raised the lid—all from Leif. She began to shuffle through them, searching for her favorites. She pulled one out. His printing— he refused to use cursive— was crammed tightly together and used every last square inch of space.

It’s hotter than Hades here—you just can’t believe it. But every day is worth it when I think of you waiting at home. Can’t wait to jump in that lake with you.

Lying here, trying to sleep. Not easy with a tent full of men snoring and bumping my cot as they move around. Miss you so much, babe.

It’s five o’clock in the morning here. The sky is gorgeous, so wide it feels like it goes on forever. Love thinking about you asleep in your bed, and wish I could be there to see the sun hit your face.

Cassie studied the last letter, her eyes stinging, her insides doing a tug of war between love and pain. She returned it to the box. Eighteen months. Eighteen months since I’ve seen him.

Curling around her happiness was an unexpected emotion. Fear.

Stop! Don’t think about that!

Wincing, she squashed it down.

Looking up, she caught her reflection in the mirror across the room. She stood up and walked closer. Her face was pale; that was normal. She rarely tanned in the sun, burning bright red instead. Fading freckles marched across the bridge of her nose, barely visible but still prominent enough to make her grab for the foundation bottle. Sighing, she dabbed on the foundation with a sponge.

His last message lingered in her mind. I’ve got a little question to ask you. ;)

Cassie pulled the necklace out from under her shirt again and clutched the silver baby booties tightly in her hand. She closed her eyes. He’s coming home. We’re lucky to have a new beginning.

This was going to be their chance to overcome the tragedy that had almost torn them apart. The one moment in time that had changed everything, and the one thing that would always hold them together….the death of their son.

Two eighteen-year-olds. So young and dumb. They hadn’t thought an unplanned pregnancy could happen to them.

And then the dark night when Cassie had lost the baby after the car accident. We both fell apart the night of the accident. Our little family torn to shreds. Leif turned to the military and me to college. Almost didn’t make it, but we’ve both grown up so much since that day.

“Leif, we can do this,” she whispered out loud. “We can build our family again.”

Cassie tucked the charm back under her shirt, wishing it was as easy to lock the memories away.

Humming softly, she rummaged among her perfume bottles and grabbed her favorite one. She held it to her nose, breathing in the faint summery scent of honeysuckle blossoms. Leif had given it to her just before he’d left for boot camp. She spritzed it on her neck and straightened her shoulders, nodding at her reflection. Welcome to womanhood.

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