It's never easy to go back. That's something chef, Bradley Rae is sweating bullets about as the date of his kayaking team’s reunion draws near. When his old school friend and teammate, Elliot Roberts, convinces him to go, he thinks he'll be fine going back there. After all, chances are, she won't be there at all. It’s been almost ten years. Maybe she she’s moved away. Maybe he won’t see her at all...
Dakota Morgan is a girl with many regrets, and Bradley Rae is on top of that list. You see, she did something - she didn't wait five minutes, and that tiny amount of impatience changed the course of her life forever.
When her father sets up a fundraising reunion for their family owned kayaking club, her heart beats out of control when she sees Brad's name on that list. Part of her wants to refuse to go so she doesn't have to face him. But a larger part of her needs to see him, even if it's just a window into what might have been...
When Brad and Dakota meet again, will sparks fly, or will the past remain firmly in the past? And what about secrets? Can they survive the reality of what that one split decision, made all those years ago, has done? Or will they let it all go again?
The Beautiful Series are standalone romances, each with their own HEA. They can be read in order or on their own.
New Adult romance, for 18+ only due to sexual content and adult themes
“Cody?” I turn to the sound of a male voice, and when I turn, it takes me a moment to recognise him.
“Elliot?” I confirm, as I take in his cropped hair, his broad shoulders, and his massive height. I’m smiling because while I know it’s him – he still has those iridescent blue eyes - but, I can hardly believe it at the same time. He’s about twice the size I remember him, although it’s all muscle. He looks amazing.
He smiles and gives me a friendly hug. “It’s been a long time. This is my wife, Paige.”
The obviously pregnant woman at his side gives me a beautiful smile and holds her hand out to shake mine. She’s a little taller than I am at five foot, eight, and she has beautiful brown curly hair and interesting amber coloured eyes which gives her an otherworldly quality. They’re a stunning couple and I feel as though I’m staring, but I can’t stop.
“It’s lovely to meet you. Elliot’s been telling me all about his time here. Sounds like you all had a lot of fun,” Paige says when she withdraws her hand from mine.
“We did,” I confirm then have a brief conversation with them to catch up on the last seven years of Elliot’s life. “Sounds like you’ve been really busy. Have you kept in contact with anyone else from your squad?” I try to slip the question in there naturally.
He smiles knowingly. “I still talk to Brad. He should be here soon. He just had a few things to do at work before he could come.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean…” He pats me on the shoulder.
“He wants to see you too.”
The blush creeps up my cheeks before I can stop it.
“Elliot!” Paige reprimands. “You’ve gone and embarrassed the girl.”
I shake my head. “It’s fine, really. And he’s right. I am asking about Brad. I don’t know how much you know, but it’s been a long time and things didn’t exactly end well. I’ve been worried he might still be angry and wouldn’t want to speak to me.”
“It was a long time ago,” Elliot says, kindly. Then another male voice speaks up from behind me.
“It feels like yesterday being back here though.”
I freeze at the sound of his voice and stay that way as he greets Elliot and Paige before turning to me. He smiles. I can’t breathe. He still looks the same but the lip and brow rings are both gone. There’s a small scar in his right eyebrow where the ring was torn out.
That scar is my fault I think, as my eyes graze over it, noticing all of the tattoos covering his forearms. One side is new. He didn’t have both sides done before. The realisation of missing out on so much of his life hits me in the chest and twists like a knife. I wish things were different, I really do…
“Dakota,” he says, and my name rolls off his lips like a fine piece of music. I long for him to call me Cody like he did back then.
“It’s so good to see you. How have you been?” I ask breathlessly. My heart beats in my ears, and I feel incredibly warm and a little shaky.
He drops his gaze to the floor for a moment and slides his hands into his pockets. “I don’t want to do small talk with you, Dakota.”
I’m a little taken aback. “You don’t?”
He shakes his head. “No. Will you walk with me?”
I have to force myself to swallow as a fear grips my heart. If I tell him now, he’ll go away forever. I just got him back. I want to keep him for a moment…just a moment. Then I’ll let him go.
“But…but there’s dinner… and… and…”
He holds out his hand. “I don’t want to wait any longer than I already have.”
Apprehensively, I slide my hand in his, knowing that mine will feel warm and clammy to him. How is he acting so calm?
As his hand closes around mine, I close my eyes, taking a brief moment to acknowledge that it feels like home. It feels right. It feels the same.
He escorts me out to the balcony then down the stairs that lead to the pontoon. He releases my hand at the bottom and slips his hands back in his pockets again. Before I was feeling warm–now I’m suddenly cold.
“I guess you brought me out here for some sort of an explanation,” I state, as we walk along in silence for a few moments.
“Well, it is the great mystery of my life. It’s supposed to be the guy who ditches and runs, not the girl.”
It’s his attempt at a joke, but neither one of us laughs. I think we’re both caught in the same memory. The last time we were together before he asked me to wait for him and I didn’t…
“Are you OK?” he asked, lying beside me, as he held a warm compress between my thighs.
I nodded and lightly ran my hand down the side of his face, my finger touching the ring in his brow and ending at the ring in his lip. He was so beautiful. He was everything I had wanted or even hoped for. He turned slightly and kissed my fingertips.
“I’m perfect,” I whispered.
He smiled, leaning down to lightly kiss my lips. “Yes. You are.”
“I love you,” I told him.
“I love you,” he whispered in return, taking my mouth in his…
“I don’t know what to tell you,” I say, trying to blink away the tears that sting my eyes when I remember what we lost.
“How about you just tell me what happened?”
I take a deep breath, thinking back to that day, and wanting to tell him–even if I just tell him that I didn’t leave him. I was forced away…
I look at him, my mouth opens to speak but all I manage is “I…I…”
“You what?” he presses, and I clamp my mouth shut before shaking my head.
“Cody,” Stacey interrupts, holding out my phone. “It's Riley. He's saying he needs you to go home.” I wince because Brad doesn't know about Riley. She glances over at Brad. “Oh, uh…hi, Brad, I didn't know you were here.”
He looks from me to her, and there's a ticking in the side of his jaw. “Actually, I was just leaving.”
About the Author:
Bestselling Author of the Drawn Series, the Beautiful Series, and the Confidante Trilogy, Lilliana has always loved to read and write, considering it the best form of escapism that the world has to offer. Australian born and bred, she writes New Adult Romance revolving around her authentically Aussie characters as well as a biographical trilogy based on an ex-Sydney sex worker, named Angelien.
Lilliana feels that the world should see Australia for more than just it’s outback and tries to show characters in more of a city setting. When she isn’t writing, she wears the hat of ‘wife and mother’ to her husband and four children. Before Lilliana turned to writing, she worked in a variety of industries and studied humanities and communications before transferring to commerce/law at university.
Originally from Sydney’s Western suburbs, she currently lives a fairly quiet life in suburban Melbourne.
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