AS SARAH OLIVIA ADLER sat on the front deck of the beach cottage she had been hiding in for the past few weeks, the glow of the setting sun behind her casting beautiful shadows over the ocean, she thought about all the decisions she made that led her to that point in her life. This would be a perfect oyster throwing deck, she thought to herself, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall at the memory of eating oysters with Alexander. She sighed as she grabbed her wine glass and retreated back inside.
As far as rentals went, she had found a pretty good one. The two-story ocean front cottage on the north end of Amelia Island had an old-school beach house vibe to it that made her feel safe. She loved listening to the hardwood floors creak as she walked through her refuge on the coast. The salty air blew in through the large windows that adorned each wall. There was an open and airy quality to her new home that she relished. It was peaceful. No one there knew her name, and she liked it that way.
Olivia had been avoiding all sorts of technology since she arrived in Florida, not wanting to deal with the reality of what she had done. She got scared and she ran. Again. Her shrink was right. At some point, her friends would give up on her, sick of her always leaving and running.
They’d be better off without me in their lives, she thought.
October gave way to November and the weather began to cool off a bit. Olivia spent her days reading on the beach, trying to avoid all romance novels. She kept to herself, content to be a recluse.
She ran a lot. It helped to clear her mind of everything to do with Alexander Burnham. She ate dinner on her deck most nights, watching the waves roll in. She dreaded nighttime. The nightmares always found her. Often, she woke up screaming, clutching her heart, and then began to cry when she realized that Alexander was no longer there to soothe her sobs. His arms were no longer there to calm her breathing. And every night she continued to see his face in her dreams, uttering those five little words that had changed everything… It will destroy me, too.
Olivia loved the mornings as the sun rose over the Atlantic, the sky a soft orange. If a storm was coming in, the street by her house would be lined with cars of surfers hoping to catch a few waves before the rain hit.
“Good morning,” a voice called to her one day, catching her eye as she sat on her deck enjoying her morning coffee. He untied a surfboard from his Wrangler and made his way to the beach.
Olivia took in his appearance, watching as his tall, lean body walked away from her. Her heart stopped a little when he turned around and smiled, his teeth bright against his tan skin and sandy hair. No, Libby. Never again, she reminded herself before getting up from the deck and retreating inside.
Her heart beat madly, all from a simple smile. Maybe a distraction was exactly what she needed to forget about Alexander. But, the problem was, she just couldn’t forget about him. He was permanently ingrained in her mind and heart. She wasn’t sure she would ever get over him. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.
“Come on, Alex. You need to get out of this funk,” Tyler said to his brother as they sat at a dimly lit bar on Boylston Street in Boston. “You need to get your mind off of…”
“STOP!” Alexander roared. “Do not say that name. I can’t bear to even hear it.” He slung back his shot glass and signaled the bartender for another one. His eyes were fuzzy and he wasn’t sure another shot was such a smart idea, but he didn’t care. He needed to numb the pain he felt. He lost her. How could he miss the signs? She had become so aloof that weekend in Newport, but he ignored it and she left. He had searched for any sign of where she might be, but couldn’t find her. Not yet, anyway.
It was as if she simply vanished. He didn’t know what happened that day back in October. He wasn’t thinking. He was so torn about the fact Olivia was gone that he failed to act. By the time he had finally come around and was able to function again, hours had passed. It was all his fault.
“Okay. Okay. I won’t say the name, but you can’t go on like this. You know that, right?” Tyler was worried about him. He had never seen him so upset before. Olivia had been gone for almost a month, and he was still angry and hurt over everything that had happened.
“Whatever,” Alexander replied, downing yet another shot as he attempted to stand up. “I gotta take a leak.” He stumbled away from the bar and in the direction of the restrooms.
“If it isn’t Alexander Burnham,” a soft, sultry voice called out.
Alexander turned a little too fast and had trouble steadying himself. His vision blurry, he squinted, trying to make out who had called his name. She took a step forward and he took in her brilliant auburn hair, long legs, killer rack, and deep brown eyes. Eyes almost as deep and brown as…
“Chelsea Wellington,” Alexander slurred, propping himself up against the wall. “It’s been a while.”
Chelsea smirked, throwing her wavy hair over her shoulder as she sauntered across the dark hallway to stand near him, taking in his tall, muscular frame. “It sure has. I’ve missed you, Alex,” she exhaled, keeping her gaze trained on his green eyes. “I heard you were dating someone, though. I couldn’t believe my ears at first…”
“Well, you heard wrong!” he barked.
Chelsea grinned, crossing her arms over her too tight black dress. “I was hoping the gossip mills were wrong. I mean, Alexander Burnham and girlfriend in the same sentence? There’s something wrong with that statement, if you ask me.”
Alexander stared off into the distance. There was nothing wrong with him having a girlfriend. He missed his girlfriend more than life itself, but she left and the gap in his heart was threatening to kill him. He needed a distraction.
His eyes narrowed in on Chelsea’s chest. “Wanna get out of here?” he asked, his eyebrows raised.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
He led her through the bar and past Tyler who simply gaped, wide-mouthed. He couldn’t believe Alexander was actually resorting back to his old ways.
Martin pulled up outside of the bar and ran around to open the car door for Alexander. “Sir,” he said in greeting, eyeing his boss suspiciously.
“Take us back to my place,” Alexander demanded.
Martin exhaled loudly as he closed the door to the SUV and ran around to get behind the wheel. Out of all the women he used to bring home, Martin couldn’t believe Alexander chose to get back together with Chelsea Wellington. At least it’s not Adele, he thought to himself as he maneuvered the Escalade through the busy Boston streets.