Amelia C. Adams has lived many lifetimes, and is currently enjoying this stretch as the author of sweet and clean Western romance. She is the author of the Kansas Crossroads series, the Nurses of New York series, and contributed two books to the American Mail-Order Brides series - with ideas for many more. You can learn more about her and her books on her website.
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The summer Meredith turned eighteen was filled with romance and laughter - two young men sought her hand, and she chose the one she thought would make her the happiest. He certainly was the most handsome, and the wealthiest, and could offer her the most pleasant life. But that turned out to be a mistake . . . one she would regret for a very long time.
In a strange twist of fate, now she's being given a chance to set things right. Will she be able to live down her past, or will her foolishness keep coming back to haunt her and keep her from ever being happy with the man she loves?
Luke ate a hearty meal, but Meredith only picked at hers. The butterflies in her stomach had turned into lead weights. She could hardly wait until she could excuse herself from the table. As soon as the dishes were stacked and the water to wash them was on to boil, she grabbed Luke’s hand and dragged him outside.
“What’s all the rush?” he asked with a chuckle as soon as they were out of earshot of the house.
“Don’t you have any idea how badly I’ve needed to talk to you? You’re my best friend—I need your advice.”
He leaned on the fence that surrounded the property and rested his foot on the bottom rail. “What’s going on?”
Now that the moment had come, Meredith wasn’t entirely sure where to start. “Well, you remember Mr. Bingham.”
“Of course. He’s a hard one to forget. A fancy suit and a lot of bravado.”
“He’s more than that,” Meredith protested. “He’s smart and attentive, and he’s . . . well, he’s interested in me.”
Luke turned to face her. “What do you mean, he’s interested in you?”
Meredith felt heat coming to her cheeks. “When we were outside on the porch last night, he said . . . he said he’d like to get to know me better. As in, to get ready for courtship.”
“But . . .” Luke shook his head. “I’m not quite sure what to say to that, Meredith. I always thought . . .”
When he didn’t go on, Meredith prompted him. “What?”
“I just always thought that you and I would get married someday.”
Meredith couldn’t possibly have been more surprised. His words hit her chest like she’d been kicked by the cow. “Us? Luke, are you crazy?”
“Apparently I am.” The muscles in his jaw worked, and she could tell that he was struggling not to say even more.
“I don’t mean to be harsh. I just never thought of us that way. You’re my best friend, a brother, someone I can always talk to. I assumed you felt the same way.”
Luke shook his head again. “Funny how two people can see the same thing in such different ways. I’m in love with you, Meredith. I have been pretty much since the first day we met. There was something about you that just spoke to something in me, and I thought that someday, it would all come together. Maybe I should have talked to you about it, huh? Made sure we were on the same page?”
Meredith leaned on the fence and buried her face in her folded arms. This was horrible. This was absolutely horrible. How much time had Luke wasted on her when he could have been out with other girls, girls who could return his feelings? She felt sick inside knowing that she could never give him what he wanted. All they could ever be was friends, and this conversation might change that too. Everything would be awkward between them now.
“I’m sorry, Meredith. Maybe I should have held my tongue.” He touched her back, much the same as he had so often over the years, but now it held more meaning. “I’m happy for you—I really am. If Mr. Bingham is the right man for you, I’ll wish you well.”
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