Home > The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1)(8)

The Ones Who Got Away (The Ones Who Got Away #1)(8)
Author: Roni Loren

   “I don’t know,” Rebecca offered. “Maybe that’s just a consequence of being a grown-up. Dreams are called that for a reason. They usually don’t happen.”

   “Oh, that’s uplifting,” Kincaid said, her East Texas twang turning dry. “Put that on a motivational mug, y’all. If you can dream it…you probably can’t do it.”

   Taryn snorted. “Let’s call Oprah. She’d love the hell out of that one.”

   Rebecca gave both of the women a gimme a break look. “Just being realistic.”

   “Realistic?” Kincaid straightened, her nose wrinkling in derision. “Screw that. We need to do better.”

   “Kincaid—” Liv began.

   “No. Realistic? Practical? What in the hell is wrong with us?” she demanded, her gaze alighting on each of them. “We made these promises to people. People we lost who will never get the chance to chase their own dreams. We’re not eighty. We still have time.”

   “I don’t think time’s the issue,” Liv said, giving in and pouring herself another drink. Maybe she didn’t drink like this anymore, but if there was ever a time to have earned being drunk, it was tonight. “Once you’re on one path, it’s not easy to take a hard left. Like Rebecca said, we’re grown-ups. We have bills to pay, responsibilities. Jobs. We can’t just chase whims.”

   “Why not?” Kincaid asked, in full bulldog mode now. “Does it have to be an either/or thing? There’s got to be a way to do some of both—the practical and the exciting, right? Why couldn’t you pick up your photography project on the side? Or travel? Or have a passionate affair?”

   Liv shifted in her seat and frowned. “It’s not that easy.”

   “Exactly,” Rebecca said with a curt nod. “And how about you wait until we read your letter, Miss Rah-Rah-Siss-Boom-Bah, before you start making battle cries for us?”

   Kincaid lifted a haughty brow. “If that’s a cheerleader joke, it doesn’t work. I was dance team. Totally different.”

   “I was referring to your cheering now,” Rebecca said. “And how were you not on cheer?”

   “Dance team had better outfits, and I didn’t have to trust other girls not to drop me from great heights.” Kincaid flicked her hand at Rebecca, giving her the cue to read her letter. “Bring it on, lawyer. I don’t remember what I wrote. But either way, I’m definitely adding ‘have passionate affair’ to my to-do list.”

   “Agreed,” Taryn said. “That’s going on mine, too. Good suggestion, Liv.”

   “Thanks,” she said distractedly.

   The conversation moved on. But Liv had trouble focusing on any of it. Kincaid’s challenge had landed on her with a thud. Why can’t you? Why not?

   Those questions poked at that long-ago rebellious girl who thought she could do anything. And they weighed on her as the other letters were read and as the night started to wrap up. She and the other women weren’t doing badly. Kincaid was a successful real estate agent, Rebecca a lawyer. Taryn hadn’t kept up with sports or moved away from town like she’d wanted, but she’d gotten a doctorate in forensic psychology. More than a little impressive.

   From the outside looking in, they appeared just fine. Successful, even. They’d all managed to get good jobs, make a living. But it wasn’t lost on Liv that none of them were in relationships. None had started families. No one had taken any risks. And none had lived up to the women they’d wanted to be in those letters.

   They were still young, just entering their thirties. But they’d already settled. They’d been given this second chance when others hadn’t, and they’d settled for good enough, for getting by, for not making waves.

   Teen Liv had been racked with anxiety and nightmares, but still, she’d craved adventure. Art.


   She’d believed she could still have it.

   What did grown-up Liv believe? Want?

   Did she even know?

   Her attention wandered from her friends as her thoughts tangled around themselves, and her gaze lingered on a booth in the far corner. The waitress was dropping off the check, but Liv caught the profile of the man taking it from her, the big, capable hands. Hands that never dropped the football. Hands that had once held Liv close.


   He didn’t look her way, just accepted the check and fished some bills out of his wallet. But as she watched him move, something stirred in her, something old and familiar and dangerous.

   Suddenly, she was back in the library, hiding from Mrs. Wentz—the eagle-eyed librarian—and trying to keep quiet. She was supposed to be tutoring Finn in history. But instead, Finn’s hands were in her hair, his scent in her head, and his lips on her neck. They’d always known exactly how many minutes they had before the bell rang. They’d used every second.

   As if hearing her thoughts, his gaze drifted her way. Their eyes locked, and a still quiet filled her. This was the part where she was supposed to do something. But she didn’t turn her head, didn’t offer a wave, didn’t do what any normal, polite person would do. She just let it go on. The staring.

   Let herself remember how he used to look at her. How that made her feel. There’d been steel gates between them in public, but alone, there were never any walls with Finn. He’d made her feel wanted. Dangerous. Alive.

   She realized right then how long it’d been since she’d felt that brand of high, that flavor of reckless abandon. That good. She wasn’t supposed to think of that, wasn’t supposed to imagine the before because there was no going back. She certainly wasn’t supposed to let herself entertain how things used to be with him. But she couldn’t stop staring.

   Without looking away, Finn lifted his half-empty glass in a silent question. Drink?

   This time there was no hesitation with her answer. It was as if her body were on autopilot. She tucked her letter in her back pocket, grabbed the margarita pitcher to top off her glass, and then wished her friends a good night, saying that she needed to get some air and would see them in the morning.

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