If Forever Comes (The Regret Series) Online - A. L. Jackson

Present Day, Late September

I once made a promise that no matter what life brought our way, I would never walk away.

I’d meant it. Every fucking word of it.

But life had taken Elizabeth and me down a path neither of us knew how to navigate. One neither of us could bear. Life sometimes puts so much weight on our shoulders we crumble, bends us so far we break.

It’d broken Elizabeth. Cruelly. Savagely.

In turn, she’d shattered me.

I lifted the glass to my lips. The golden liquid burned a path down my throat and settled as a pathetic excuse for comfort in the pit of my stomach.

Lifting the glass again, I bled it dry. Ice clanked around in the bottom when I slammed it to the bar. I raked my hand through my hair and palmed the tense muscles in my neck.

Kurt inclined his head toward my glass. “You need another?”

I shrugged and pushed the empty toward him. “Guess so.”

He laughed with a mild shake of his head and began to pour me a fresh drink. “You playing coy tonight? I’ve watched you stumble your sorry ass out of here at closing damn near every night for the last three months. Planning on cutting yourself off early or something?” Sarcasm rolled from the question, and he cocked a disparaging brow.

An incredulous snort shot from my nose. He had me pegged. The only plan I had was drinking myself into a stupor and praying when I woke in the morning, I’d wake from this fucking nightmare and be in Elizabeth’s bed.

“Just keep them coming.”

He set the tumbler in front of me. “That’s what I figured.”

The little bar was quiet tonight. I only had to walk two short blocks inland from my condo to seek its seclusion. I’d passed it what seemed a million times when I’d travel to and from Elizabeth’s house, and now it’d become some kind of fucked-up refuge that fed the destruction, something to knock me down a little further. Yeah, I knew exactly how to get here, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t lost.

That’s what we were. Both of us. Completely, unbearably lost.

Slumping forward, I propped myself up on my elbow, head supported by my hand. I took a deep swill of my drink, wishing that missing her didn’t hurt so bad. It was excruciating.

But I knew in my burning gut that she was hurting worse than I was, more than I could imagine, and that was what was absolutely killing me.

I jumped when a stool skidded against the floor beside me. I cut my eye to whoever thought it necessary to take a seat right beside me in a bar that was nearly deserted.

Matthew.

Of course.

He plopped down onto the stool with a heavy sigh and leaned forward on his elbows.

Kurt approached. “What can I get you, man?”

“Bud Light.”

The two of us said nothing while Kurt twisted the cap and slid the beer toward him.

“Thanks,” Matthew mumbled.

“Sure thing.”

Matthew drew the beer to his mouth, looked ahead without a word as he swallowed hard.

Tension flared between us, this dense weight that thickened the air. On edge, I sipped at my drink and tapped my fingers on the bar, my defenses all wound up and on alert.

“You’re a hard man to find,” he finally said.

“That’s because I don’t want to be found.”

So obviously that was a lie. All I wanted was for Elizabeth to somehow find her way back to me. What I didn’t want was to sit here and listen to Matthew feed me bullshit about how everything was going to be all right. To give it time.

It was always more fucking time. But time only turned around and heaped more sorrow on top of us. And Matthew hadn’t suffered through what we had. He hadn’t watched the light dim in Elizabeth’s eyes. Not the way I had. I wasn’t sure any amount of time could rekindle it.

“So is this what you do with yourself night after night when you don’t have Lizzie?”

I lifted a noncommittal shoulder. “What? You think I should sit alone in my condo instead?” I released a resentful snort. “Fuck that.”

Anger pinged around in my chest. My condo had finally gone under contract too, while Elizabeth and I had searched for the perfect home to raise our family in. But I had to back out of the sale at the last minute so I’d at least have someplace to sleep while the rest of my world fell apart.

Matthew pinned me with a look of disbelief. “So this is