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If Only..., page 1


If Only...

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If Only...

  If Only . . .

  Copyright © 2015 Beckie Stevenson

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from its publisher, Beckie Stevenson.

  This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser. Under no circumstances may any part of this book be photocopied for resale.

  This is a work of fiction. Any similarity between the characters and situations within its pages and places or persons, living or dead, is unintentional and coincidental.

  Cover design by:

  Perfect Pear Creative Covers

  Cover photography by:

  Editing by:

  S.G Thomas

  Interior design and formatting by:

  Christine Borgford, Perfectly Publishable

  If Only


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53


  Also by Beckie Stevenson


  About the Author

  This one is for the readers. The believers.

  Thank you.

  There is something you must always remember.

  You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem,

  and smarter than you think.

  ~ Winnie the Pooh


  Eight years ago

  Scorching hot tears streak down my freezing cold cheeks and snake into the corner of my mouth as I walk over the sleet-covered field. When my eyes land on our tree, I suck in a big breath and pull it deep into my lungs, hoping it’ll be enough to suffocate the ball of dread that’s swirling around in my chest.

  This used to be a place full of happy memories . . . the place where I played tag with my brother and best friend until long after the sun had set, the place where I grew from a girl into a young woman, and the place that I ran to when I needed to escape. It’s also where I met Cole for our first date. And where I’m standing now is the exact spot where we shared our first kiss.

  But the memories I used to love and cherish are now tainted with anger that boils so fiercely within me that I know I’ll never set foot in this place again after today. It’s something else that he’s ruined for me and something else I hate him for.

  I look up and watch the branches of the oak tree bend and whine in the wind as if crying out for me to not do this. I touch the trunk where our initials are carved into the middle of a heart and cough out another huge sob. Cole and Evie won’t be forever. Not now.

  I tip my head back, letting the ends of my hair tickle the bottom of my spine, and stare at the angry clouds through the bare branches. The icy-cold rain pelts me from every angle, soaking right through my thin coat until it settles deep into my bones. It pours down my face and mingles with my tears as if it’s trying to hide them for me. I want to shout out that it’s useless, that nothing can hide my tears. I should know because I’ve been trying to hide them every single day for the last five weeks.

  I turn when I hear footsteps. The sight of him in a suit momentarily stuns me. It’s far too big for him and looks a little cheap, but he’s still incredibly handsome in it. I’ve never seen him in a suit before, and I can’t get over how much it ages him. For just a few seconds, I let myself imagine my hands pushing the jacket over his shoulders and then unbuttoning his shirt.

  “You came,” he says in a voice that’s so familiar to me, I cling to it like a child clings to a comfort blanket.

  I shake my head to try and dislodge the images that are whirling through my mind. I’m not supposed to be thinking of him like that. “Yes,” I answer.

  “I didn’t think you would.” When he steps closer, I notice that he has tears falling down his cheeks too. “How was the funeral? I wish I had been there. I wanted to be there.”

  “Don’t,” I say. “I don’t want to talk about it with you.”

  He nods, looking sad. “I’ve missed you so much,” he whispers, reaching his hand out for me. “The last five weeks have felt like five years.”

  I take a step back and collide with the trunk of the tree. Hurt flashes across his face.

  “I’m confused and I’m hurting,” I blurt before he takes another step towards me. I want to tell him the truth, but I’m scared. I’m scared he won’t understand.

  “Confused about what, Evie?”

  “I love you,” I breathe, wiping away a fresh set of tears with the back of my hand. “But now I hate you, and I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive you for what you’ve done.” The ball of pain that’s lodged itself in the centre of my chest cracks and starts to bleed down into my stomach, filling it was so much hurt that it makes me feel sick. And then my heart breaks all over again as I see his bottom lip tremble.

  “No, Evie,” he whispers. “Please don’t say that.”

  “I’m so sorry,” I sob. “I’m sorry, Cole.”

  He shakes his head, causing the damp strands to flick across his forehead. “No,” he repeats, “I’m sorry. If only—”

  “That’s it,” I interrupt. “That’s what we’d be saying for the rest of our lives, and I can’t live like that. I won’t live like that.”

  He swears and pushes his fingers through his wet, dark hair. His skin normally looks tanned and clear, but today it’s pale and blotchy. His light brown eyes that usually sparkle and shine at me look dull and lifeless. He looks like crap.

  “I don’t ever want to see you again,” I whisper.

  Anger flashes across his face as he drops his hands from his head and looks down at me. “So this is it?” he snaps. “The last three years have meant nothing to you?”

  “They’ve meant everything to me . . . everything.”

  He takes a deep breath and slams his fist against the trunk, just above my head. “You won’t even visit?”

  I flinch as bits of bark tumble over my shoulders. “I can

  “Can’t or won’t?” he questions, raising his eyebrows at me.

  “It wouldn’t be good for us,” I say. “You must be able to see that.”

  He steps forwards, completely eradicating any distance that I’d created between us, and cups my face in his big, warm hands before I have a chance to protest. “What I see is a girl who is so broken she’s shattering into a thousand pieces right in front of me. She’s so fragile that I daren’t even touch her, but I have to. Because this is my last chance, isn’t it, Evie?”

  He gently skims his thumb across my cheek. I nod and then look away from those desperately sad eyes of his. “Yes.”

  “You know what the worst thing about this is?” he spits.

  I peel my eyes from the ground and blink up at him through the rain. He’s always been handsome, with a face that I could stare at every single second of every day. But right now, when I’m on the brink of never seeing him again, I can barely look at him. “What?”

  “I want to kill the man that did this to you,” he growls.

  I want to kill him too. “You did this,” I whisper.

  “I know.”

  He can’t mean . . .”You’re not going to—”

  He shakes his head. “No, I’m not. There are people that need to see that someone is punished. I know that, understand it, and even respect it,” he says. “They need to see justice has been done, and right now, I think you’re one of those people.”

  I look deep into his eyes, but I don’t answer him. How could I? I’m supposed to love him, no matter what. But he’s right; I need to see him suffer for what he’s done.

  “I deserve it,” he says. “But nothing they do will compare to how much it’s going to fucking hurt to let you go. I’m going to let you go because you deserve better than me. You deserve a life, and more than anything, you deserve to be happy.”

  Before I can say or do anything, Cole buries his hands into my hair and crushes his lips against mine. They’re soft and considerably warmer than my lips, and they’re a mixture of everything I love about him and everything I hate.

  He places the palm of his hand against my back and then slides it down to the bottom of my spine. He pulls, forcing me to press against him where I fit like we’re two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and I wonder if anyone else will ever come close to making me feel so whole.

  He tears his mouth away and then presses his cheek against mine. I feel him shuddering as the sobs vibrate through his whole body. “I’ll always love you,” he whispers into my ear. “It’ll only ever be you, Evie. Please don’t ever forget that.” And then he pushes away from me, turns around, and walks across the grass until he reaches the waiting car. Without looking back, he opens the rear door and climbs in.

  The pain in my chest explodes and my knees buckle as I watch the car disappear around the corner. I crumple to the cold ground, curl into a ball, and let the rain soak me as I scream out his name over and over again.


  Present Day

  “ . . . happy birthday, dear Evie. Happy birthday to you!”

  I feel my cheeks flaming with embarrassment as the whole restaurant watches the waiter lower the cake towards my face.

  “Make a wish!” calls Trent, grinning at me.

  I narrow my eyes at him. He knows I hate being sung to on my birthday.

  I close my eyes, pretending to wish, and blow all twenty-seven candles out with one breath. My friends—and the strangers in the restaurant—clap as the waiter places the cake on the table. I grab one of the menus and fan my hot face as I watch him walking away.

  “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you embarrassed,” Steph says, giggling.

  “I have,” calls Trent. “When she was nosying at that couple arguing on the car park and walked into a lamppost.”

  Everyone bursts out laughing.

  “Oh, yeah,” says Steph. “I remember now. It was one of those slow-motion moves where she literally collided with it and then wrapped herself around the post and clung on for dear life.” She holds onto her stomach and shrieks with laughter at the memory.

  “Oh, shut up,” I say, throwing my napkin at them.

  Out of the seven of my friends that are here tonight, Steph and Trent are my favourites. They’re the friends I’ve had since high school, and Trent has even travelled down from Newcastle to London, just to celebrate my birthday. They’re also the friends that know all of my secrets and have kept them locked in their hearts for just as long as I have. The other five are friends I’ve made since moving down here eight years ago, but I still wouldn’t want to have a birthday without them.

  “Shall we get more wine?” asks Aiden. He looks over at me and winks.

  Aiden and I have a complicated relationship. We’re friends with the others, but there’s also a fizzling bit of chemistry between the two of us. I’ve fancied the pants off him since we first met, and I know he finds me attractive because he’s drunkenly told me so, but we’ve never done anything about it. He likes to flirt and I like to flirt back. That’s it.

  “Hello?” he says, waving his hand in front of my face. “Earth to Evie.”

  “Oh,” I say, blinking at him. “I was obviously so taken aback by your sexy wink that all coherent thought slithered out of my head. You should definitely wink more often.”

  “Evie,” he scolds, “we’ve talked about this before.” He nudges Steph out of the way and slides up the booth towards me. “I like your dirty mouth.” He gently taps the tip of his finger against my bottom lip. “I like your flirty mouth, your sexy mouth and I really like your drunk mouth, but I do not like your sarcastic mouth.”

  I roll my eyes at him, and as I try to bring the room back into focus, I realise I’m a little more tipsy than I thought.

  “If you weren’t so old, I’d happily bang the life out of you tonight, Evie Romano. You’re looking extremely sexy in this little black number.” He flicks his finger at the thin strap. “Too bad you’re nearly thirty.”

  “I’m twenty-seven,” I remind him. “I’m nowhere near thirty, and I wouldn’t let you bang me anyway.”

  “Oh, come now,” he says with a confident smirk. “I think we both know you definitely would.”

  I shake my head, but I don’t verbally deny it.

  “Is Clive coming tonight?” asks Steph, peering around Aiden’s shoulder.

  I shrug. “I don’t think so. He said he might catch us if we go up town later.”

  “Pft,” scoffs Aiden. “Clive is boring. Does he even know what clubbing is?”

  “Don’t talk about her boyfriend like that!” says Steph, slapping his arm.

  “He’s not my boyfriend,” I tell them quickly.

  “He’s even got a boring name,” Aiden says with a laugh. “Have you shagged him yet?”

  “That’s none of your business,” I say, folding my arms across my chest.

  “I bet he’s boring at that too,” he says. “When you do it, can you please let me know if he asks for your permission before he comes?”

  “Aiden!” shrieks Steph. She looks at me and then starts to giggle. “What? That was pretty funny.”

  “You’re acting like you’re eighteen again,” I mumble.

  Aiden shoves a big glass of white wine under my nose. “Drink this,” he orders. “You’re becoming just as boring as Clive.”

  I snatch the glass out of his hand and take a huge sip as Aiden leans in towards me and kisses my neck, just underneath my ear. It was so quick that I almost missed it. In fact, if my skin wasn’t burning from where his lips touched, I don’t think I would believe it. My eyes scan over the rest of our friends to see their reactions, but it’s obvious they haven’t noticed anything.

  “I want you,” he whispers. I feel his hand on my thigh as my heart thumps wildly in my chest.

  I want you too. “We can’t,” I tell him.

  “We can,” he says. “It’s just one night, Evie.”

  I look down at his hand that’s sliding up th
e inside of my thigh and then snap my eyes up to his. They’re smoldering and are such a deep-sea blue that I’m sure I could almost drown in them. My breath hitches and expels from me in a quick spurt that washes over his face.

  “Not tonight,” I breathe. His hand disappears from my thigh. “Whatever this thing is between us, I agree that it needs sorting out, but just not tonight.”

  “Okay,” he says, pulling away from me. “But just so you know, this is what we’d look like.” He taps the table.

  When we arrived, there was a pack of wax crayons on the table and the waiter told us to feel free to draw all over the white paper tablecloths. Apparently, Aiden took him up on the offer.

  When I look at where he’s pointing, I see a stick man with a ridiculously large penis and a stick woman with perfectly round, huge breasts. In the next picture, the stick man is on top of the stick woman, but for some strange reason I can still see his penis sticking up in between them. I point to that picture and say, “Does he need me to draw him a picture of where he’s supposed to put it?”

  “No,” Aiden says, drawing another picture of the stick woman with her mouth wide open. “It’s just so big that it’s gone into stick woman and stuck out the back of her.”

  “That’s gross,” I say. “And very childish. And stupid.” I fold my arms across my chest, hating how I now can’t stop thinking about Aiden and his big penis—and what he could do with it.

  Two hours later, I catch the eye of the headwaiter, who not-so-subtly looks at his watch. “I think it’s time to leave,” I announce.

  Trent calls the waiter over and orders eight shots of whiskey with promises that we’ll leave as soon as we’ve drunk them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a waiter return with drinks so quickly.

  Trent grabs his and stands up, raising the glass in his right hand. “To Nico,” he says. “The best footballer the world will ever have.” He raises his glass in the air along with the others and then looks over and smiles encouragingly at me.

  I raise my glass and say, “To Nico. The best twin brother anyone could have ever asked for. Happy birthday!” I raise my glass and then we all down our shots in one go. When I slam mine back down onto the table, I feel tears slipping out of the corners of my eyes.

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