If You Ever Change Your Mind, page 1
If You Ever Change Your Mind
B. Love Publications
About the Author
Also by B. Love
Lucas and Hali weren’t supposed to have their own story, but by the time I was done with Jaxon and Luana’s story they were speaking to my soul. Their story was truly a labor of love. Written in one week and edited during one six-hour road trip. So, if you find any errors charge it to my mind being distracted with the sights and sounds we all encounter on the road, lol. I wanted to write about a man and his love story… for himself. As you read ‘If You Ever Change Your Mind’ I hope you enjoy the growth of Lucas and his blossoming love with his woman.
Also, just wanted to let you know that I started a love and relationships podcast called ‘This Thing Called Love’ and the first episode is now available for listening! New episodes will be published every Tuesday night at 7pm CST, and once a month I’ll be going live! When I do, you’ll be able to chat with me as I record!
To listen to my podcast, you can go to the Spreaker website and search for B. Love, or you can click here.
Thanks for your continued support!
No one else sensed it, but Luana was able to quickly pick up on her brother’s nervous energy. He was minutes away from marrying Shanice, the mother of his firstborn son – Luca Antony Berry. It was immediately after Lucas cut the umbilical cord that he asked Shanice to marry him, but now that they were minutes away from that actually happening… Lucas wasn’t so sure anymore. Dre, Lucas’ cousin, handed him the small, sample sized bottle of Hennessy that he’d carried in his pocket for this very moment.
“You ready, cuz?” Dre asked, squeezing Lucas’ shoulder, “It’s about that time.”
Lucas nodded, meeting Luana’s eyes. She wasn’t just his best friend and sister; she was also his best woman. Taking all three of her roles seriously, Luana whispered something into her husband’s ear and they both began to respectfully and quickly clear the room until only Lucas and Mayor Jaxon Jeffries remained.
Lucas admittedly wasn’t the biggest fan of Jaxon when he first heard of him, but as time progressed and he got to know him and witness the love he had for his sister unfold, both men learned to respect each other. That, and the fact that Jaxon spared Lucas and allowed him to keep his freedom when most others would’ve taken that or his life.
“Luana figured you needed some time to get your mind right,” Jaxon informed him, “Do you need anything before I head out?”
Lucas grabbed the box that held Shanice’s ring and opened it. He had yet to give it to Luana for the ceremony. Did his hesitation mean something that his mind wasn’t allowing him to register? No. That couldn’t have been the case. He was just… waiting.
“I need you to tell me that I’m making the right decision,” Lucas smiled softly and shook his head. He snapped the box shut and placed it back on the table, “That I’m not setting myself up to experience the same tortured life my parents led.”
Jaxon leaned against the table as he sighed heavily. He ran his hand against his freshly shaved head as it shook.
“That’s one thing I can’t tell you,” Jaxon confessed, placing his hands in his pockets, “I don’t want to be responsible for such a huge decision, and that’s something that really only you can answer. What’s causing your doubts?”
Lucas looked around the room that had suit jackets tossed over anything that would hold them. This wasn’t how he thought he would feel minutes before his wedding. Actually, he never thought he would have a wedding. Him or Luana. But love found her and a baby found him. Now Luana was happily married to the man who Lucas undeniably believed complemented her perfectly, while Lucas was about to be married to the first woman to ever snatch his seed.
“I don’t love her,” Lucas confessed as normally as he would tell someone the weather for the day, “I barely like her. We have our good days, but most of what we had was built on lustful nights. I just… don’t want to risk marrying her and not having the strength or courage to leave if things go south.”
“Then why are you marrying her?”
“For my son. I want him to have the life I didn’t. On one hand, I can look at it logically and say I’m making the right decision because I can grow in my feelings for Shanice with time. With me choosing to make this decision instead of it being forced upon me, I feel like I have a power that my parents didn’t have. That alone makes me feel like I won’t be as angry and resentful as they were.”
“And on the other hand?”
Lucas stood and walked over to his bag. He pulled a thick manila folder out and handed it to Jaxon. As Jaxon opened it and looked over its contents Lucas explained what was inside.
“With me getting the angel investor and getting my product line off the ground I immediately started putting things into play for Luca. One of the things I did was start a few different life insurance policies, college funds and shit like that. I started an account for Shanice and opened a box at the bank for her. When I went to put a copy of the policies in the box I found that envelope inside.”
Inside of the box were pictures of Lucas that were taken before he even approached Shanice. She had done a search on him that included all of his social media sites, jail records and net worth.
“She basically finessed my ass, Jax. Preyed on me and presented herself in the package of what I lusted after. Instead of her trying to snatch a man that was already on the financial level she wanted, she found one that had potential and trapped him. Made sure she’d be able to cash out when my business was up and running, and did it so cleverly that had I not found that I would’ve never guessed she was playing me from the jump.”
“Damn,” Jaxon mumbled, handing Lucas the envelope back with a shake of his head, “That was always my biggest fear – not being able to trust if a woman was with me for me or my money and status. I told your sister that had I known I would reach the level that I did I probably would’ve gotten married right out of college to avoid this, of course I wouldn’t have had her so it worked out, but you’re telling me that females are so scandalous these days that they’re banking on potential just as quickly as they are funds that are already secured? Damn.”
Lucas chuckled as he returned to his seat.
“Yep. I never thought I’d have to worry about this type of shit, but women are coming at me left and right that have never paid me any attention before. At least with Shanice I’m fully aware of what she wanted with me; I’m not sure I want to start all over again. Fall for someone that I think is genuine and find out they’re after the same thing.”
“So you’re willing to be with a woman that only wanted you for your money to avoid falling for the same type of woman all over again?”
Lucas shrugged as he palmed his face.
“I guess so. This one has my firstborn. I can’t walk away from him like that. Besides, with time, Shanice developed genuine feelings for me. I feel like she’s my safest option at this point.”
“It seems like you have your mind made up,” Jaxon said as Luana tapped on the door softly and told them it was time, “So what’s the problem, Lucas?”
“Even with me knowing the type of woman she is… she was… and that I don’t love her… I’m still willing to marry her. But there’s something in the pit of my stomach telling me that things are going to get crazy when I walk out of this room. That all the peace I’ve conjured up over the past few months is about to leave me. Not necessarily because of the vows I’m making to Shanice…”
“But because of the vows you aren’t making to someone else,” Jaxon mumbled with an understanding nod, “This is about Hali… isn’t it?”
The only woman Lucas ever saw himself loving.
But there was only one other person he’d ever loved before Luca and that was Luana. When he began his therapy with Luana and her therapist, he realized just how unworthy of love and attention his parents made him feel. It was easier for him to disconnect from his feelings than Luana, so that was how he ended up treating his women – as options that he could do with or without.
Lucas sought his father figure in the streets, and although they taught him the game and how to come up on illegal money, they couldn’t teach him how to love and respect women. How to be a present father. How to become a self-made mogul the legal way.
With Hali, he showed her love in the only way he knew how – as his sister. It was easy for him to love her and care for her as he would Luana, but when he allowed his feelings to come into play… things got a little blurry. Deciding she was much too good of a woman to deal with his inability to give her the love she deserved and needed, Lucas gave her a place in his heart right next to Luana.
“It’s time, Luke,” Luana reminded him, knocking on the door a little harder.
He tried to walk over to answer it but Jaxon stepped in front of him.
“If Hali is the woman you really want, you need to see to that desire before you make this commitment, Lucas.”
“She’s the woman I want, but she’s the woman I can’t have. It’s best if I just… tie myself to Shanice. Hali deserves better than I can give her; especially now with Luca and my business doing so well and requiring so much of my time. It’s better this way.”
Without waiting for Jaxon to try to sway his decision, Lucas walked over to the door and opened it. Repeating that it was better this way the entire time. Lucas expected to find Luana on the other side with the rest of his cousins and friends, but she was nowhere in sight.
“Where’s Ana?” Lucas asked Dre as the men filed back into the room to grab their belongings.
“Down there with Hali. Baby girl is a mess.”
Concern filled Lucas immediately, causing him to take a few steps down the hall until Dre stopped him.
“Let Luana handle it,” Dre almost pleaded, tugging at Lucas’ arm.
“I have to see what’s wrong with her.”
“You’re what’s wrong with her!” Dre yelled, punching his shoulder soft enough to not cause any damage, but with enough force to make Lucas have to stiffen to keep from stumbling back, “The girl has wanted you since we were kids and you’ve never so much as acknowledged the way you feel about her. Of course she’s upset. You sent her an invitation to watch you marry someone else.”
“It’s not that deep,” Lucas justified, trying to convince himself more so than Dre.
“Whatever you say, Luke. If you care about that girl at all do not go down there and make this even harder for her.”
Unable to resist, Lucas made his way down the hall in search of Luana and Hali. He found them in the corner by the water fountain. Luana’s face was twisted with emotion as she fought with her tears at the sound of Hali’s. She rocked Hali back and forth as Hali sobbed, repeatedly asking her what it was about her that he couldn’t see. Didn’t want. Didn’t need.
Tears welled up in Lucas’ eyes, but he wouldn’t let them fall. The last thing he ever wanted to do was hurt Hali or make her question her worth. As far as he was concerned, he was saving her from him. He was giving her the chance to be loved by a man who was worthy of her. Why couldn’t she understand that? With heavy limbs, Lucas walked over to them.
After placing a quick kiss on Luana’s temple, he removed her arms from around Hali and pulled her into his chest. Either she recognized his cologne or embrace because even with her eyes closed Hali’s sobs grew even harder when he took her into his arms.
“Why are you doing this?” she whispered, voice trembling because of her tears, “You know I love you,” she confessed for the first time, “Why don’t you love me back?”
Lucas’ arms moved up from her waist to around her neck. He held her as close as he could… brushing his nose across her hair. With what little control he had left, Lucas placed a gentle, tender kiss on top of her head that had Hali holding him tighter.
“I’m doing this… because I love you,” Hali looked at him with puffy and red eyes. Eyes that told him that this wasn’t the first time and place she’d cried over him, “As my friend and my…”
Before he could even get it out, Hali was trying to pull herself out of his grip, but Lucas kept her against him.
“I’m tired of hearing that, Lucas. Miss me with the bullshit, okay? Just say it. Just tell me that you’re not attracted to me. That you’ve known how I felt for you all this time and you don’t feel the same. But don’t patronize me by telling me you love me as your sister. I’m not Luana, and I’ve never wanted to be.”
“I can’t tell you that because it’s not the truth,” Lucas released her just to take her hands into his and look into her eyes, “Yes, I’m attracted to you. Yes, I know that you’ve had feelings for me. I’ve had feelings for you too. But I’m not capable of giving you what you want and need, Hali.”
“You didn’t even try,” she whined, tears pouring all over again, “What is it about her that made her better for you than me, Luke?”
The need in her eyes was almost enough to make the tears in his fall, but he closed them and took in a few deep breaths. When he was sure his eyes were dry enough for him to answer her, Lucas returned them to hers.
“It’s not a matter of her being better for me. I didn’t want to risk hurting you, Hali. You deserve better than I can give you. I can’t love you like a normal man can. I refuse to hurt you, angel. I’m doing this for you.”
Hali chuckled as she pulled her hands from his. She used them to wipe her face as she took a step back from him. Her exhale came out hard when she closed her eyes and softly shook her head. When she opened her eyes, she smiled with half of her mouth.
“I thought I could come down here and confess my love for you and open your eyes to what you could’ve had with me, but you’ve known all along. You just chose not to take advantage of it,” Hali closed the space between them and cupped one of his cheeks in her hand while kissing the other, “Congratulations, Lucas. I…” she shrugged and ran her fingers through her hair, “I wish you and your wife nothing but peace, love and happiness.”
Lucas was speechless but it returned when she turned to walk away. For some reason… it felt like his already fragile and damaged heart was breaking at the sight. He reached out and grabbed her hand.
“I feel like you’re saying goodbye to me,” Lucas used her hand to coax her back to her place in front of him, “Please don’t tell me you’re walking out of my life completely.”
Hali’s face covered with anger and amusement at the same time. Her mouth dropped then curved into a smile as her eyebrows wrinkled and eyes watered all over again.
“You can’t possibly think I’m going to watch you give another woman the life I’ve always wanted to have with you? It was hard enough watching her give you Luca. I can’t take anymore.”
His grip on her hand tightened, then released.
“I don’t want to accept that, but I guess I have no choice,” she started walking away again, and all of those broken pieces of his heart fo
Her shoulders caved as her steps led her closer to the door and further away from him. Lucas leaned against the wall, feeling his entire body weaken without his heart. Without his Hali. How was he going to survive?
Ten months later
She stood at the edge of her bed… thoughts just as messy and jumbled up as her sheets. Although they were white in color, her late-night rendezvous with Levandis had her eyes seeing dirt and red. Too ashamed to ask for the only blood that could cleanse her soul and make it just as white as her sheets, Hali inhaled deeply and pulled the comforter and top sheet off her bed. At the sight of the soiled condom, she sat on the edge of the bed and tried to compose her rattled feelings.
This was not how her life was supposed to be.
How she planned on bringing in her birthday.
Every year she spent it with her family, Luana and Lucas. This year she spent it alone. Well, Levandis was there physically but that was it. It was hard maintaining her friendship with Luana when being around her reminded Hali of Lucas. It wasn’t her intention to push Luana away during her process of getting over Lucas, but that was in fact what happened. And it was times and days like this when Hali felt the absence of her best friend the most.
The sound of the water cutting off had Hali jumping up from the bed and discarding of the condom so she could pull her sheets. If Levandis sensed something was wrong he would offer to talk about it, and talking had never been what they were about. Hali had always been the type of woman to either want nothing or everything from a man. If she didn’t see any potential in him and their future she wouldn’t commit to him. She casually dated and kept herself from catching feelings.
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