At eleven years old, Macie James was certain she saw her prince standing in her kitchen with his rosy cheeks and cute smile. She was going to marry that boy, she had no doubt about it. As she became a teenager, it was that boy who taught her how to become a confident and sure woman. As the years went by and they grew up, he taught her how to love and to be loved.
Greyden Michaels was surprised when he fell for his best friend’s little sister. He wasn’t opposed to it and, even more surprising, neither was his best friend. When he was in college and her just in high school, he realized they were too young to be committed, he opted for friendship with her and together they decided their love was for the future.
When you hesitate, life happens. When life happens, your plans change. Macie wanted her fairy tale and Greyden was prepared to give it to her when unfortunate events changed his whole life, including his future with the UFC and, most devastatingly, with her. Macie made the decision to live her life, to move on without Greyden, especially once she met the man who wanted to marry her and give her the life he couldn’t.
The problem with that was that Greyden had always seen her as his. Could he give her up completely for her supposed happiness or could he somehow manage to get his life in order to try and win her back, heart and soul?
“How does it feel to be fourteen? Any different from thirteen?” The deep but quiet voice startled her from her reverie and she jumped as she let out a silly little scream and dropped the towels she was just clutching.
Spinning around, Macie saw Greyden trying unsuccessfully to hold in his laughter. “Oh my God, you scared the crap of me! You idiot!” She swatted his now t-shirt-covered chest as her heart continued to beat wildly inside her own. “Why’d you do that?”
Greyden walked closer and wrapped her small frame up in his much larger arms, encasing her in his warmth. “I’m sorry, Mace, I didn’t mean to scare you. Are you all right?”
Macie allowed him to calm her down before she responded. Geez, he smells good.
“Yeah, I’m all right. But now you know better than to sneak up on me in the dark, you jerk,” she admonished with a pretty smile. She couldn’t stay mad at him for long even if she really wanted to.
“So, I actually came over earlier to bring you your real birthday present, but this works out better anyway,” Greyden explained with a crooked smile. “If I give you something, do you think you can keep it between us?”
“Sure,” she responded hesitantly, only because she had no idea what it could be that he would want to keep from her brother.
Greyden dropped one of his hands from around her waist and reached into his back pocket. Holding onto something in his closed fist, he brought his hand up to her jaw and she stopped breathing for just a few seconds until her brain kicked back into action. “Macie, have you had your first kiss yet?” he asked seriously.
His question caused her to suck in a deep breath. She wasn’t certain her voice would come out steady, so she just shook her head. Macie was aware that they’d come a long way in their friendship today, namely beginning a friendship today, but this was a whole different ballgame.
“How about you get your first kiss on your birthday so you can always remember it?”
She couldn’t help but wonder if this was a trick. Really, he could kiss her on any mundane day and she would forever remember it. If she fell for it today, was he going to run off laughing at her and it all be a big joke? Instead of answering, she chose to be mute and see if he could come up with his own conclusion.
“Can I be your first kiss, Macie?” Greyden asked, close to her face.
“Seriously?” she whispered, still not believing what was going on.
He smiled his half-crooked smile and answered, “Yes, seriously.”
“Okay.” Butterflies took flight and her hands fidgeted down by her sides, having no clue what they were supposed to be doing at the moment.
“Will you promise me that after tonight you won’t go all girly on me and start calling me your boyfriend? I don’t do that scene, beautiful girl, and your brother would kick my ass.”
“So this is just a kiss?” Macie wasn’t sure if she could handle that. He didn’t want her to go “all girly” on him, but she was already “all girly.” She couldn’t help that. But could she turn down the one chance she would have at her first kiss being Greyden Michaels? Um, no way.
“No. This is your first kiss, to set the bar for all your other kisses, one that no other guy will ever touch, by the way.” He smirked and ran his thumb along the line of her cheekbone.
She laughed at him being a dumb boy and playfully shoved him back. He quickly stepped forward again and gathered her up into his arms; this time she hugged him right back. Macie was on cloud girly nine and loving every minute of it. After a few seconds of him rocking them back and forth, he pulled back so she could see his face. He paused for half a second before dipping his head down and allowing his lips to meet hers. She knew it was coming, she watched his face getting closer, but it still took her by surprise; she couldn’t help the flinch that overtook her. Greyden held on tighter around her waist, offering her much needed support, but that didn’t stop her stupid overactive eyelids that refused to stop blinking. Then Macie felt his tongue at her lips, parting them, making its way into her mouth.
Oh! He wants to really kiss me! She opened her mouth so her tongue could meet his. This feels good. Nice, this feels nice. My eyes are still open! Crap! Crap! Crap! Close your eyes, you idiot!
Their tongues swirled together as Macie finally fell into sync with Greyden and lost herself in her first kiss. She felt his hands glide slowly up her sides until they stopped near her neck. He continued to kiss her as something cool dropped down onto her neck and chest. Just as she was starting to feel like she couldn’t fully catch her breath, Greyden grasped her face in both of his hands and broke their connection. He rested his forehead on hers briefly before rolling his head down again to sweetly kiss her one more time. He reached down and brought her hand up to cover the cool metal lying against her chest.
“I got you a locket,” he whispered. “I didn’t have a picture to put in it. I figured you would have something you would want to put in there.”
Macie looked down as he removed his hand from her own small one to see a lovely silver heart locket on a dainty chain. Her fingers skimmed across the etched design along the top of the heart and let it sink in that Greyden just kissed her—not just kissed her, but knocked her socks off kissed her—and then gave her a locket for her birthday. Overwhelmed was an understatement, but she tried her best to stick to their agreement and not go all girly on him. She could freak out after he went home.
“Do you like it?” Greyden asked as he took another small step back from her, clearly setting their boundaries.
Before he could get too far, she stepped back in to embrace him one more time and reached up on her tippy toes, her hands gripping his shoulders. Macie moved her face next to his and lightly blinked, brushing her long lashes against his cheekbone, and then whispered, “I love it, Grey. Thank you.” Her heart may take a beating after tonight, but she could accept that. If she got to be friends with him and knew that they have a couple secrets between just the two of them, then she could live with a bruised heart for a while.
Greyden pulled back and looked at her, confusion and amusement etched across his perfect face. “What did you just do?”
It didn’t even cross her mind that that might not be cool to do. God, I’m such a nerd. She shrugged the thought off and answered, “I gave you butterfly kisses.”
Grey just sort of smiled and reached out to rub one of her shoulders and whispered back, “Butterfly.”
The guilt is stronger than I expected as I watch her walk out the door, but as soon as I turn and see Macie sitting there in complete despair, I swallow that guilt and go to her. I lean down and kiss her forehead, letting my lips linger so I can breathe in her sweet, fruity perfume. She always smells amazing.
“You smell like sex,” she says coolly as she reaches around me and grabs the bottle of whipped cream flavored vodka that she automatically brings to her lips for a long, torturous pull.
“Yeah, well, that would make sense.” I run my hand through my hair and pull the bottle from her plump pink lips as she drags them around the opening.
She keeps her eyes on me as her tongue darts out to catch the droplets of vodka on her bottom lip, watching me set the bottle back down on the table. Something is obviously really bothering her tonight. Aside from the fact that I haven’t heard from her in weeks and she’s here now at eleven o’clock at night, she’s drinking like a fish and looking very somber. Macie drinks wine, not vodka or any of the other shit she has here. I’ve only ever seen her drink in excess a handful of times and unfortunately I think each of those times were my fault. I know I have nothing to do with this bender tonight, though. On top of all that, she apparently doesn’t give two shits that she just pissed off Allison, either. Normally, she would’ve apologized, but then again, normally she wouldn’t even be here right now.
I sit down next to her, but she doesn’t move. She continues to stare straight ahead, as if she’s watching an invisible movie in the air. I wait her out a few minutes and let her go at this on her time until she reaches for the bottle again. My hand touches her elbow and slides down her forearm to her hand, where I interlock our fingers. My touch snaps her out of her trance and she turns to stare at me. It’s then that I realize she isn’t sad; she’s confused and troubled. I can see it in the crease of her forehead and the way her irises have darkened to a stormy blue.
“What’s got you so worked up, sweetheart?” I can see the different thoughts coursing through her eyes as she watches my face. Call me a dick of epic proportion if you want, but I’m having a hell of a time staying on my side of the sofa right now. I hate that she’s battling something so intense and I can’t just hold her the way I want and make it all go away.
“Mitch is proposing.” Her words exit her lips in a soft exhale, her eyes continuing to watch me as if she’s waiting for something.
Hell, now I’m waiting for something. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?
“You’re getting married?” I blurt out. There’s no other way to handle this. There’s not going to be any pretending that I’m happy for her tonight. I’m not sure if she came over here looking for support from me or not, but she’s not getting it right now. I feel like I just got kicked in the gut. All of my previous thoughts of dealing with her moving on were a crock of complete shit now that I’m faced with the ultimate “moving on.”
Macie turns her head away from me and sinks down into my sofa, rolling her neck from side to side a couple of times before answering, “Apparently.”
This is her dream. Getting married to a family guy that’s devoted to her and wants a family as badly as she does is something she’s wanted since she was twelve. I assume he wants a family, at least; politicians usually have at least two perfect children. I actually don’t know anything about their relationship and suddenly I feel like a selfish prick for having not been around as her friend to make sure this is what she should’ve been spending her time on. Why the hell are they getting married so fast?
I release her hand and grab the bottle back off the table, taking a large swig in preparation to ask a question that I need—I don’t want, but I need—the answer to. “You said yes?” My voice isn’t that of the strong man she came to for support. It’s shaky and making me vulnerable. Exactly three people have ever heard me sound like this and one of those people is hearing it again right now. The other two are my parents.
Macie reaches for the bottle again, taking another swig, much less dramatically this time. I watch as she slides the bottle to rest between her thighs; it moves smoothly, without glitch, against the material of her yoga pants. Macie is always dressed up these days. Always wearing slacks, skirts, or dresses—this apple did not fall far from the tree—she’s Nancy James to a T lately. To see her in a form-fitting tank, yoga pants, and bare feet is refreshing. She’s always beautiful, always, but this is one of my favorite Macies. Relaxed. This, and her in a really good pair of jeans that hug her ass in just the right way, that’s my Macie.
She turns to me with so much weariness, hurt, and sadness in her eyes. “Not yet,” she says carefully, judging my reaction, which was an unfair deep exhale. Obvious relief. “He asked my dad for permission tonight. My mom was so excited she couldn’t keep it a secret, so she called me.” She speaks carefully and slowly, as if she’s taking time to choose her words, watching me the entire time.
Instead of taking another drink, this time she offers it to me and I take it. My heart is pounding a treacherous rhythm and I would do anything right now to make this conversation go away. I would do anything to take Macie to bed and just lie there with her, make plans with her for our future, hold her small, soft hand in mine and just breathe her in again. I want to carry her out of here, lock us away, apologize to her every day for the rest of my life, and make her believe that I can be what she needs me to be. I want to love her to where she has no doubt in her mind that I never stopped, because I haven’t. My love for her has only grown in time. She is everything to me, even if I’ve tried to prove to myself otherwise. In this moment, I know how very fucking wrong I’ve been. There is no getting over her for me.
“What are you thinking, Grey?”
As my eyes come back into focus at Macie’s whispered words, I realize that I’ve been staring at her this whole time. She wants to know what I’m thinking, but this isn’t something I can just blurt out to her. She’s obviously considering marrying him or she wouldn’t be here discussing it. I need to figure out how to convince her that I’m where she needs me to be. Hell, I need to do that for myself too, but first I need to make sure she doesn’t get married before I get my shit straightened out.
“I’m thinking…it’s awfully quick, yeah?”
Once again she sinks back, letting her body slump lazily into the sofa on a heavy sigh. “Maybe…but I’m tired of waiting for my life to start, Grey.”
She’s been telling me this for a while now. She doesn’t want to wait for her future, she wants her future to be her present. The girl doesn’t have a lot of patience. I take that back; she held onto me until she couldn’t take it anymore. She showed more patience with me than anyone I’ve ever met. I guess she’s just at the end of her rope.
Getting off the sofa, I slip to my knees in front of her and grip her thighs. The tightening of her muscles tells me she might be uncomfortable, but the silence of her mouth tells me she’s curious. If she wasn’t, she wouldn’t have come here tonight.
“Butterfly, I also think you might be settling in order to get that life started that you want so badly. I admit I don’t know a whole lot about your relationship, but to me it seems like you’re rushing it for the wrong reasons and with the wrong guy.” I make sure to keep my voice low and as soothing as possible even though I feel like I’ve been eating sand. I hate this with every fiber of my being, but I know her about as well as I know myself and if I just go off on her and tell her this is a shit idea, she’ll rebel, storm out of here, and marry him tomorrow.
My beautiful girl contemplates my words without arguing them for quite some time. She doesn’t cry, either, which almost bothers me more. She just lets the situation we’re in saturate us in a comfortable silence, neither of us breaking eye contact. Eventually, she sits up and strokes my face with her right hand as her left grips mine. “I’ll never have any other choice than to settle, since my perfect relationship will never be an option for me.”
She is settling. And it’s because of me. I’ve been so pissed at her for taking away my future that apparently I’m the one handing out shit cards. And why am I never an option? The panic I feel deep in my chest, like my soul is catching fire, must be expressed on my face since Macie leans in and kisses my forehead first then brushes her long eyelashes against my cheek, giving me her adorable butterfly kisses. My hands glide up her legs, over her hips, then rest on her waist, where I grip her tightly enough to let her know I’m just barely hanging on. My breathing increases as I sit there, my eyes closed and her cheek pressed into mine, her head bowed. There’s so much to say, so much to work out, that I don’t know where to start.
“You just fucked Allison. And I have an almost fiancé. We should go swimming or something.” Her bated breath trails across my ear in the most erotic way. She swallows audibly and then sits up to look at me.
“Macie, shit, woman. It’s been years now. You would think it wouldn’t be that hard to not swear in front of me. Why do you have to defy that request at every turn?”
Macie laughs then taps my shoulders, suggesting I stand up and get out of her way. “I’m going to go get my suit. I’ll be right back.”
I watch her walk away from me, watch her hips glide from one side to the other and take note that she’s definitely not the teenager I started asking to not cuss. She’s a magnificent woman and I’m in a hell of a situation.
Once I have my board shorts on, I go back out to find that she’s still not ready and go get the pool lights on. A few minutes later, she emerges from the house in just her bikini. The last one I bought her for her birthday. We weren’t talking really, but there was no way in hell I was missing her birthday. This year I just had it shipped to her house rather than giving it to her myself. I missed out on seeing her face when she opened it, the fashion show afterward, and the amazing sex instead of the thank you card I actually got. But seeing her walk towards me in it right now almost makes up for all of that missing out.
“Stop looking at me like that. Did you bring out the vodka?”
I clear my throat and look back at the table where I had set up some drinks for us. “Yeah, I did. I also brought some black cherry juice and a glass so you can stop chugging and cussing like a sailor. Maybe I can see some of my Butterfly come back.”
“Oh, I’m not that bad,” she scoffs. “You’re just ridiculous when it comes to things like that and me. You don’t seem to have a problem with Allison drinking and cussing.” She pins me with a stare that says she really doesn’t care what my answer is going to be, so I don’t bother with a reply other than shrugging a shoulder. “Speaking of which, Ava told me you’ve been dating more. I think that’s probably good. If you were going to get serious with Allison, you would have by now.”
She sips on the drink I hand her, her eyes questioning me over the top of her glass. This time she does want me to respond. This time I really don’t want to.
I set my own drink down and quickly step towards her, grabbing her at the waist and jumping into the pool while Macie screeches, sputters and kicks. Her left arm flails about behind my back, her right pressing her cold glass into my shoulder blade. When we resurface, her glass is missing, I’m laughing, and she splashes as much water at me as she can muster up. It doesn’t take but two seconds for her to join in and laugh with me.
Before I know it, we’re tangled up in each other’s arms. Macie is wrapped around me with her head thrown back in laughter, water dripping off her chin and running down her neck. My breath catches in my throat and I stop myself from following that droplet any further down. It takes me back several years; it’s like we’re just kids again. If only we were.
Pulling her closer to me, I know nothing has ever felt more right. Her hands slide from my nape to my shoulders as she stops laughing and her gaze meets mine. Her legs lock tighter around my waist and my hands find their way further down hers, landing on the underneath side of her thighs. Her expression turns concerned and she slightly shakes her head no. I smirk and nod my head yes.
“I’m not going to cross any lines, sweetheart. I want to, but I won’t do that…” Changing my smirk to a mischievous grin, I think I’ll try to throw her off balance. “Unless you do it first.” I smile at her until she lets loose a heart-crushing sigh. I move in to kiss her nose. She closes her eyes and holds her breath. Pressing my forehead to hers, I whisper, “I miss you. So much, I miss you. I can’t lose you forever, Butterfly. We’re not finished yet. What we had…we just barely scratched the surface. We have so much to break into still, there’s so much for us, Macie. Don’t marry him. Dammit, don’t marry him.” To hell with pride; I’m losing it and I don’t give a damn. I know now more than ever that I need her in my life forever.
Her exhale is harsh and the inhale is shaky. The two tears that leak from her closed lids do me in and I reach up to cradle her head to my chest in the most soothing way possible.
She rests her head there on my shoulder for a couple minutes, hugging me as I sunk us further into the water to avoid the cold wind on our wet bodies. The heated pool feels like bath water, but standing here the wind is frigid on our wet skin.
“I think we’re already crossing lines,” Macie mumbles into my shoulder but makes no attempt to remove herself.
“I guess that depends on who you’re asking.” Smoothing her hair back, I continue to feel anxious over the fact that she’s not responding to my plea. “Are you cold?”
“Yes. But I’m not ready to give this up yet.”
There’s my answer.
I don’t know what happened!” she wails. “I don’t know where it all went wrong and I don’t know where to begin to fix this, Grey.”
Cradling her to my body, I carry her to bed, laying her down beside me while she continues to cry. I brush her hair back from her face and kiss her forehead.
“I literally feel broken inside, like I’m not working right anymore.” She sniffles, hiding her face.
“You’re not broken, Butterfly, maybe just misfiring a little. We’ll get you back in working order, I promise.”
“That’s the problem, though, I don’t know how or where to start. I used to have it all figured out, ya know?” She takes a shuddering breath. “We were so young, but we knew what we wanted. Before. I was certain that you were all I needed. If I had you and we had our family like we talked about.” She laughs through her tears; it hurts my heart. “All the time, I thought that was all that mattered, that nothing could touch us.” I’m at a loss for words as she wipes her face off and gets a little more comfortable. “I mean, what eleven year old knows what boy she wants to marry and actually gets him for a good amount of time before she does something stupid and throws it all away?”
I get up off the bed and pace. She’s going to take our whole history, blame herself for it, and then blame it as the cause for where she is currently. Not happening. I swallow hard as I try to focus on the main priority here, getting Macie to a place where she can get back to her normal.
“Butterfly, you need to start by realizing that when we went wrong, it was only because it wasn’t our time to be right. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. There’s no telling what would have happened if you would’ve stuck around, so there’s no use in playing the ‘what if’ game with it. Okay?”