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Third time’s a charm.
Second Chances, book 6
Georgie has always been a full-steam-ahead, spur-of-the-moment, no-looking-back kind of girl. But as midnight on New Year’s Eve rolls around with her friends coming up with wine-induced, second-chance goals, all eyes turn to her. They all know her “runaway bride” history. Three exes attest to her aversion to vows of any kind. Maybe it’s time she tried to make amends, especially to ex-fiancé number three. The one she literally left at the altar—Nick.
Nick has spent the better part of a year working overtime to get over Georgie. As a divorce attorney surrounded by broken marriages day in and day out, he figures she did him a favor. But when they wind up at the same bar one night, he realizes he hasn’t moved on at all. All it takes is the feel of her arms around him, and his heart is ready to jump out of the frying pan to get close to her fire…even if it means risking another serious burn.
Previously published as Say Something.
Georgie Russell picked up a couple of paper plates and threw them away. Another New Year’s Eve was winding down. While she had enjoyed this one—grateful to spend it with her friends—it also made her sort of sad.
Not just for herself, but for her girlfriends. She was in a house surrounded by some of the most wonderful people she’d ever known and yet it felt like all of them were swimming in a sea of loneliness and regrets.
Then Zoey had suggested they come up with resolutions, and while Georgie thought that was fine for her friends, she was a little bit worried about that vow to turn over a new leaf working for her. She’d always sucked at committing to something in January that might mean squat to her by September. She was more comfortable as a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal.
But hopefully that would change. It needed to change. Because this year she knew what she wanted now would be the same thing she wanted in September. And the September after that. And…
Georgie grinned as she recalled how much fun they’d had this evening. Damn, she was blessed with great girlfriends and she definitely saw the value of this idea for the other women. Over the course of the night, she’d seen a spark of hope emerge in all their faces. Georgie had to hand it to Zoey. She’d found the perfect way to keep everyone’s spirits up considering they were six single women facing yet another year alone. Georgie suspected none of them had been particularly happy about the fact they had no plans for New Year’s, even though they pretended otherwise.
Kristen came into the kitchen and bumped Georgie’s hip in a friendly manner. “What’s up with you? Wine usually makes you chattier as the night rolls on, not quieter.”
Georgie shrugged, trying to shake off her uncharacteristic lethargy. The girls counted on her to bring them up, but tonight she was too distracted. “I’m cool.”
Kristen crossed her arms and leaned against the doorframe, blocking the exit. “Tell me more about this resolution of yours.”
Georgie winced. “I thought we agreed they weren’t resolutions. I can’t do anything that even remotely resembles taking a vow.”
Kristen snorted, then quickly tried to hide her response with her hand.
Georgie rolled her eyes. “You can laugh, smartass. It’s not like we’re not all aware that Georgie left three guys standing at the altar. I’m in serious contention for Runaway Bride of the Century.”
She expected Kristen to laugh again, but her friend’s face sobered up instead. “I have to admit I’ve always been curious about this. Your trips to the chapel of love all happened before we were friends. Were the grooms actually standing at the altar when you took off?”
Georgie shrugged. “I guess. Maybe.”
“Depends on what you consider an altar. If you’re talking about in a church, then just the last one was left standing at an actual altar. Nick.” As she spoke his name, she felt a pang of regret, an ache in her chest and a hell of a lot of guilt. Those feelings had taken up permanent residence there in the year since she and Nick had been apart.
Kristen blew out a long breath. “Yeah. His is the only story I’m vaguely familiar with.”
Georgie wasn’t surprised to hear that. First of all, Kristen was a lawyer and secondly, her partner, Jason, was best friends with Nick. It was Jason who had been standing beside her ex-fiancé when Nick got the word she’d sprinted away from the church, barefoot in her wedding dress.
“With the other guys, they weren’t exactly church weddings.”
“Ah.” Kristen gave her a sympathetic grin. “Well, who knows? Maybe you’ll actually get to the part where they say ‘Is there anyone here who objects?’ next time.”
Georgie laughed, perfectly aware of where Kristen was going with her joke. “Yeah. I can see it now. I’ll raise my hand, say ‘me!’ and then make the fifty-yard dash to the door.”
They giggled as Kristen grabbed the last bottle of wine on the counter. It was nearly midnight and they’d consumed way too much already. They’d be lucky to finish the last one.
“Laura told me to open this, but my head is spinning a bit,” Kristen confessed.
“Mine too, but we’ve come this far. Can’t leave a man down. It’s a new year and that would be a bad precedent. Open it.”
“I will never get used to your twisted logic.” Kristen picked up the corkscrew and tackled the bottle. Mercifully, her attention was focused on that and not Georgie’s face when she repeated her original question.
“By the way, nice dodge, but I wasn’t born yesterday. Tell me about the reason for this second-chance goal, Georgie. I’m afraid it doesn’t make sense to me.”
Georgie wished there was some way to get out of the room, but the kitchen in the townhouse was tiny and Kristen was still blocking the better half of the doorway.
“Seems pretty self-explanatory to me.”
Actually it didn’t and Georgie knew it. It was an insane goal that made zero sense, but she’d latched onto it because Shelly had really dug deep for her second-chance plan. Shelly wanted to lose weight—reinvent herself—and she’d shared it honestly. Georgie felt guilty she couldn’t do the same. So…she’d offered her friends part of the truth and prayed it would be enough. She’d thrown her goal out quickly, ashamed to admit she was hoping to derail the train. Take some of the seriousness out of the game and make it funny instead.
Her plan had failed as everyone else announced their goals for the New Year. Georgie had listened as they listed the standard fare. Zoey was going to get healthy and Laura wanted to rediscover herself after a bad divorce.
She’d been super impressed with Josie’s plan to fuck her way through every full moon. That one was totally cool. And then the Queen of Singlehood, Kristen, dropped the bomb that she wanted to find a husband. Those last two goals offered some potentially entertaining conversation for their standard Thursday wine nights.
It was Georgie’s plan for a second chance at happiness that seemed less clear, less thought-out. Probably because she’d only given them a small peek at what she truly hoped to accomplish. Initially, she’d felt compelled to give them some lame goal like getting organized or something, but they wouldn’t have been satisfied with that. She had a reputation—well earned—for being outlandish. They never would have accepted that she’d make such a dumb resolution. So she’d said the first thing that popped into her head, just like she always did.
“It’s really not that clear, Georgie. You’ve never struck me as the type to focus on the past. You’re always moving full steam ahead, trying new things, experiencing whatever life throws at you. When you want something, you go for it. This goal…” Kristen’s words faded away. She’d opened the wine and now she was looking straight at Georgie, which meant Georgie had to work overtime to school her features.
“Feels like a big step backward.” Georgie knew that. Yet it was something she needed to do. She’d told her friends her goal was to reconnect with her three ex-fiancés. To make sure she’d made the right decision when she’d sprinted away from them. And while she truly intended to look up the exes, her reason for doing so was different from what she’d said.
“Yeah,” Kristen said. “It does. There were clearly reasons why you walked away. What makes you think those reasons won’t still be there?”
Georgie wasn’t sure how to explain, how to make Kristen understand that her reasons for leaving had less to do with the guys and everything to do with her own hang-ups. She’d never been good with confrontation when it came to matters of the heart. She could tell off strangers on the street for not picking up their dog’s poop or yell at fellow drivers who were texting behind the wheel. Those were battles she didn’t hesitate to fight. But when it came to breaking someone’s heart, she simply couldn’t do it.
So instead she’d run. Three times. That was what she wanted to try to make right.
She’d hurt three men and they deserved to know why. Plus she owed them all apologies. It was probably too late to make amends, but Georgie had to try. She simply couldn’t move forward until she’d done so. For years, she’d tried to avoid what she had done. Told herself she was better off letting bygones be bygones.
Now she knew that decision had less to do with living in the moment and more to do with cowardice. She’d been too afraid to face up to her mistakes. If she had any hope for a happy future, she needed to acknowledge her faults and change her ways. Otherwise, she was destined for a long, lonely, unhappy life.
While the other girls had accepted her goal at face value, she should have known old eagle eyes Kristen would smell a rat.
“You’re right, Kristen. All the reasons why I left might still be there. And if they are, I’ll keep moving on, but I can’t do that until I’m sure.”
“Sure of what?” Kristen asked.
Sure that she didn’t let the love of her life slip away because she’d been too afraid of commitment, of failure, of truly giving her heart to the one man who would have made her life perfect.
Georgie didn’t say any of that. Instead she shrugged and tried to minimize her goal, the purpose of this trip through the past. “I just have to say something to them. And then, it’s upward and onward.”