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  • Alexis Winter

**SNEAK PEEK** Always Be My Forever




PROLOGUE — REMI

Summer Before College • 15 Years Ago . . .


“Tell me something I don’t know about you.”

“Something you don’t know about me?” I can hear the smile forming on her lips even though I can’t see her face.

“Yes, YOU. You’re the only other human out here for miles.” I reach down and smack her thigh that’s next to mine. Her feet are by my head and mine are by hers as we lie in the bed of my Chevy Silverado and stare up at the stars. This place is our hideout. It’s a small overlook about 15 minutes outside town. It’s the place we always run to when we just want to get away or sneak some of our parents’ booze. We’ve been coming to this spot since I got my license almost three years ago.

“You already know everything about me,” she says, exhaling a small puff of air through her nose.

“I know most things about you, but there’s gotta be something you haven’t told me. Come on, think . . . this is one of our last nights together before you ditch me for college.”

I try not to sound salty. I’m so happy for August—that she got into the marketing program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. It’s the top in the nation and she worked her ass off through high school. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad or maybe worried. August has been my best friend for the last 10 years—my ride or die—and now I’m about to lose her. I’ll just be that guy she grew up with back in her small hometown. The guy she sees as her brother. I swallow down the word as if it’s left a bitter taste in my mouth. I want so much more than to just be August Belmore’s best friend, but I’ve always been too chickenshit to tell her how I really feel. But all that changes tonight.

“Oh! So—” her response interrupts my thoughts and brings me back to the reality of what we were talking about. I sit as she props herself up on her elbows and stares down at me with a big grin on her face. “My mom almost named me Abilene.”

“What?” I’m actually surprised she was able to come up with a fact I didn’t know about her. “And how’d they end up with August instead?”

“So my mom is originally from Texas, ya know. She was born in Abilene, hence the name, and then they moved to Colorado when she was nine. She always had fond memories of her time in Texas, but my dad hated the name or something. So they both ended up agreeing on August since I was born in August. Real original, I know.” She lies back down and places her hands behind her head.

I take the moment to watch the moonlight bounce across her alabaster skin. She looks like an angel. I may only be 18, but I’ve known that August was my forever since we were in seventh grade. I want to talk to her—to tell her what she means to me and how I feel. I want to hear her say she feels the same way about me: that all these years, we’ve both been secretly pining for each other.

“Still better than Remington,” I say instead, breaking the spell for fear that she might tell me I’m crazy and run away.

“Your parents ever come to an agreement on if it’s after the ammunition company or the Pierce Brosnan character?” she asks, pulling herself up to face me.

“Nah, that’ll be one of those ongoing family fights that they take to the grave.” She giggles, pulling her knees into her chest as she reaches for another Mike’s Hard Lemonade that I stole from my dad’s beer fridge.

We’ve both had a few and I can feel the buzz settling in nicely. The air mattress in the bed of my truck feels soft and comforting, and even though the sun set hours ago, there’s still a nice warmth to the summer breeze.

“So you ready to move away? Be a college woman and all that?” I know I sound like I’m trying to avoid asking her what I actually want to ask her and she can see right through it. I take a long pull on my now-warm lemonade, finishing it off and tossing the bottle back into the cooler.

“Hey,” she says, reaching forward and grabbing both of my hands in hers. She scoots closer so our knees are touching. “I’m not going to forget about you if that’s what you’re worried about. You’re always going to be my best friend.”

Her green eyes are big, sincere. They’re locked on mine, but then they drop briefly to my lips before moving back up. I think I see a small bit of blush appear on her cheeks when she realizes I noticed. This is the moment; it’s now or never. I release one of my hands from hers while I use the other to pull her toward me as I snake my free hand around her neck.

Our lips touch and it’s like time stands still for just a second. I press my lips softly against hers, waiting and praying she doesn’t push me away. I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until I finally move my lips against hers. I feel like I’m drowning and paralyzed at the same time while fireworks explode behind my eyelids, which are squeezed shut. I angle my head to deepen the kiss as my other hand twists into her long, silky, dirty-blonde hair. I’m waiting for the realization to hit her that it’s me kissing her before she slaps me, but it never comes.

No, instead she’s kissing me back with little moans escaping her lips as she starts to crawl into my lap. I can’t tell if I’ve fallen asleep in the truck—if perhaps this is all just a dream, but I don’t want to wake up and find out.

We make out for what feels like hours, our tongues exploring each other’s mouths, and our lips not getting enough of one another. I slowly release my hand from her hair before resting it on her thigh, the heat of her skin burning through her jeans. I want to explore her—to touch every inch of her—but I don’t want to scare her away. I’m debating whether I should drag my hand up her thigh and beneath her skirt when she reaches down and pulls off my sweatshirt and T-shirt in one quick move.

Our kiss is broken and she’s straddling me, staring down at me. Her eyes are glistening with something . . . lust? Desire?

“Are you sure?” I choke out as she drags her nails down my bare chest before settling her fingers on my belt. She doesn’t speak, just nods her head slowly as she bites down on her bottom lip.

Fuck me, I’m done for.

“Wait, I need—” I’m trying to get the words out, but it’s so hard when she’s reaching beneath the waistband of my jeans and palming my cock. I feel like I’m about two seconds from exploding in my jeans, and that’s the last fucking way I want to remember this night.

“Protection,” I say as I quickly stop her from going further. I jump down out of the truck bed and fling the passenger side door open. I open the glove box and pray that I still have a few condoms left. I see two and grab them both before jumping back into the bed where August is pulling her shirt off over her head.

I stop dead, completely mesmerized by her beautiful tits encased in a hot pink bra with black and white leopard-print straps. Out of nowhere, a pit forms in my belly at the thought of Matty Edwards getting to see her like this.

Fucking Matt Fucking Edwards. He was her boyfriend for all of junior and most of senior year. A walking sack of testosterone with shit for brains. Yeah, I didn’t like him because August was dating him, but he was also a complete tool. The type that would brag about the other girls he’d banged or how hot his ex was or all the numbers he got over the weekend. I tried telling her about him, but the conversations always ended in a fight—that is, until she actually caught him with his head between Natalie Burrows’ tits in the front seat of his car.

“Wait, I want to do that,” I say as I stop her from unclasping the bra. I want to savor this moment—to remember every little thing about her tonight—because I don’t know if I’ll ever get to experience this again. She doesn’t say a word as I release the clasp and her bra falls down her goosebump-covered arms.

“Are you cold?” I whisper against her neck.

“No,” she whispers back before tilting my head and kissing me again.

I wish I could say the night lasted hours, but I couldn’t make myself go slowly after that moment. It was a tangle of hands rushing to get jeans off, lips crashing against each other, and moans and grunts mixed with the sound of slapping skin and panting. It was all over too soon, but it was the most magical night of my life, and it’s so easy to transport myself back to those moments . . .

I hold August’s naked body against mine as she curls into my side. We don’t say another word as I cover both of us with the blanket I brought and we both fall asleep.

***

“Shit, Remi, wake up! The sun is up and I can’t find my bra!”

I groan and rub my eyes before cracking one open. The sun is blinding and I pull the blanket further up my body, over my head.

“Hey, I’m serious! My mom is going to kill me!” she says, ripping the blanket off my naked body.

“Hey!” I instinctively place my hands over my junk, not wanting to expose myself in the very bright early morning sun. I sit up, registering where I am, and all the memories of last night come flooding back to me. I feel something under my ass cheek and reach down, pulling up August’s bright pink bra.

“Found it,” I say as she reaches over and snatches it out of my hand. She turns her back to me, putting the bra on beneath her T-shirt like some magic trick.

We finish getting dressed, climb into the cab of the truck, and fly down the mountain back to town. We’re a few minutes from pulling into her driveway and I don’t know how to talk about last night.

“So, about last night—”

“Yeah?” she asks. I was hoping she’d offer her thoughts on the subject, but she just looks at me.

“Well, I know you leave for college in less than two days, bu—”

“Let’s just say this was the best sendoff gift? The perfect way to say goodbye as we both start this new chapter of our lives,” she interrupts me and it wasn’t the response I was hoping for or expecting. She gives my knee a squeeze. I glance over at her as I pull into her driveway, and for a moment it looks like her eyes are sad—like if she blinked too hard, a tear would fall.

“Oh—okay, yeah.” Fuck! This is not how this was supposed to go. I was supposed to tell her that she’s my soulmate and best friend and that I’ve been in love with her for a decade—that even with time and distance, we could make it work because we’re meant to be together.

“Well, I guess I’ll see you tomorrow night at your going away party?”

“For sure. And don’t forget to tell Landon. I want to see both him and Willow, and I know he can’t keep track of time to save his life.” She opens the truck and hops out of the cab, but then turns to face me one more time. “And thanks for last night Remi. I—I didn’t know you could kiss like that.” She slams the door and runs up the sidewalk to her front porch, where her mom is standing with a scowl on her face and her arms crossed tightly across her chest.

***

Five Years Ago…

“I can’t believe it’s been six years since graduation,” August says between bites of popcorn shrimp. Her once-dirty-blonde hair is a gorgeous chocolate with professional highlights throughout. It’s the same long, thick silky strands as before and I’d give anything to run my hands through it again.

“Yeah, it’s crazy.” I nod. It feels like it was just yesterday we were teenagers in the back of my pickup, just before she headed off to college, and then I blinked and we were adults living life like nothing had ever changed between us.

The reality back then was we both acted fine after the night we hooked up. She made it clear it meant nothing to her, so I acted like it meant nothing to me. But somewhere along the way, we both became so obsessed with pretending that nothing happened that night that we drifted apart. She went off to college in Michigan like she’d always planned, and I started my apprenticeship at my dad’s electrical contracting business.

All those promises of staying in touch and me coming out to Michigan went by the wayside. Truth is, I couldn’t bring myself to go to Michigan—to see her living her best life without me like I didn’t even exist. I see now that it was childish and selfish, but at the time, it ate me alive and destroyed our relationship for a solid two years until we finally found our way back to each other. I lied to her though, and told her the reason things went downhill was because of my life back here—a failed serious relationship and the stress of building my career.

“You really sure about settling back here in Grand Lake? I mean, you’ve got that fancy degree and there’s a big world out there, August.” I’ve mentioned this to her a few times and can see she’s starting to get slightly annoyed at my push for her to get the hell out of here.

“Why would I want to live anywhere else? It’s gorgeous here, my family’s here . . . you’re here.” She mindlessly runs her fingertip around the rim of her glass. “It’s home.”

“Yeah, I get it. Just don’t want you shorting yourself.”

“So how are things going with Ti—Trista? Tiara? Sorry, I seriously cannot remember which one you’re dating,” she says, referring to the Mason twins.

“Trista,” I reply, “and it’s not going. Called it off a few weeks ago.” I poke a fry in my mouth, not wanting to have to explain to August why it didn’t work out. Pretty sure all my old excuses of she just wasn’t my type are starting to wear thin. Can’t exactly come out and say she’s not you and I’m in love with you and always have been, so I’m a hopeless fucking mess . . . please save me.

“Aw, that sucks. I’m sorry.” I can see the look of pity on her face and I know she’s about to ask what happened, so I stop it by changing the subject.

“You know, we never talked about our hookup after high school graduation. Who knows? Maybe we were supposed to pursue that.” I make eye contact with her as I pop a fry in my mouth. Fuck it, I don’t care if I scare her off at this point.

She looks shocked for a moment before letting her head fall back and giving me a taste of her signature bellowing laugh. Great, now she thinks it’s just a joke.

“Oh my God, can you imagine?” She fans her face as she laughs.

Okay, it wasn’t that funny. Jesus.

“We would constantly fight over the TV since you always pick the most shoot-‘em-up-style movies or pure gore on our movie nights, plus you usually eat half my popcorn.” She continues on with a list of reasons why we would never work, and with each joke and comment, I can feel my blood pressure rising.

I can’t stand being constantly reminded of why we aren’t meant to be together. I wish she could see those are all superficial and ridiculous reasons not to try with someone.

“But mostly, there’s no way in hell I’d ever want to mess up our friendship. I feel like it’s more than friendship with us, it’s like . . . I don’t know, maybe we knew each other in a different life?” She leans forward as she says this last part, and I feel instant guilt for being petty.

Of course she’s right. What we have is a bond that isn’t worth ruining. Even if love is the one thing that that’s missing between us. Even if it means I have to swallow down my feelings forever, I won’t lose her. I saw what it did to Willow when Landon disappeared, and I can’t imagine going through life without August.

“So tell me about this dick Brad or Derek or whatever the hell jock name this one has,” I say only half-jokingly as she playfully slaps me. Do I want to hear about the guys she’s dating? Abso-fucking-lutely not, but I’m her friend and I want to be part of her life in whatever capacity I can, so I’ll suck it up and listen to her talk about how amazing this douche is until he breaks her heart and I’m left picking up the pieces while she cries on my shoulder.


CHAPTER 1 — AUGUST

Present Day


“Sometimes I still can’t believe Landon and Willow are actually getting married—like for real getting married. Just crazy, ya know? I’m so happy for them.” I steady myself on my barstool as I gesture a little too wildly with my glass, the beer sloshing a bit over the side and getting on the bar.

“Right? I’m so happy for them. It’s about damn time after this 15-year-long saga between them,” Jade says, clinking her glass to mine.

“Are we carpooling to the bachelorette party in a few weeks? We should just all drive in Celeste’s giant-ass SUV. Have a girls’ road trip!” We both say the last part in unison and grasp each other’s hands like we just came up with the cure for period cravings.

“You ladies doing okay? Maybe a glass of water . . . or four?” Memphis, Jade’s husband, asks as he drapes his arms around our shoulders.

“Like you’re in any better shape,” I smirk, smelling the tequila shots on his breath. He gives me his cheesiest grin before planting a loud, wet kiss on Jade’s mouth, causing her to squeal.

It draws a little attention from the rest of our friends currently playing pool in the far corner of The Lariat bar where we like to hang out. I spot Remi sitting on a stool in the corner, waiting his turn. He’s holding a beer in one hand, his pool stick propped against his thigh as he chats with some random blonde with a teeny waist and giant tits. I roll my eyes at the cliché: of course she’s the one he’s talking to. He’s got a type.

I can’t help but look down at my own boobs. They’re a full C, perky, and pretty damn amazing if I say so myself, but they’re not pornstar boobs.

I watch as Remi laughs—a real genuine laugh—and it makes a little knot form in my stomach. I push it down, like I always do. There’s zero reason to get jealous over Remi. I’ve told myself a million times not to let my mind wander down that road, because it’d only end in destruction.

“Caught ya lookin’,” Jade nudges my elbow, snapping my attention back to her.

“Huh? Oh please, I was just laughing to myself at the pathetic little scene playing out over there. I mean how has he not run out of big-boobed blondes to bang in this town?”

“It’s a tourist town, sweetie. They’re always passing through. Maybe that’s a role-play you guys could do. You show up to his house with a blonde wig and one of those Victoria’s Secret bombshell bras that adds, like, two cup sizes.” She barely gets through her comment before she’s laughing herself right off her stool and onto the floor.

“Serves you right!” I say as she continues laughing in a crumpled pile on the floor.

I know she’s only joking and doesn’t think for a minute I’d actually do it, but hey, that might not be a bad idea. Could really take away from the awkwardness of showing up to his house for a booty call. Ever since our one night 15 years ago, I’ve wanted more. I’ve always wanted more with Remi. I want it all.

His baby blue eyes catch mine. The bottle blonde has walked away and he’s gripping a pool stick, his tongue darting out to lick beer foam off his lip. I feel a wetness building between my thighs and I clench them together, willing it to stop, but it doesn’t help.

His arm flexes as he tightens his grip on the stick, the tattoo on his right bicep moving ever so slightly beneath the tight sleeve of his black T-shirt. He hasn’t shaved in a few days and the dark blonde stubble on his jaw is begging to scratch my inner thighs.

In moments like this, I’d give anything to know what’s going through his head. Is he just lost in thought? Is he undressing me with his eyes the way I am him? It feels like every time we have these moments, my need for him gets stronger and I’m slowly losing my ability to deny myself. If we were alone right now, I’d rip his shirt off and drag my tongue over his chiseled chest. The most excruciating reality of my situation is that I know what’s underneath those ripped black jeans. I’ve felt his thick, hard cock pulsing inside me. I wish I would’ve taken him in my mouth that night, but we were both so frenzied that we barely got each other’s clothes off before he was inside me.

He breaks our gaze, but only briefly to place his beer on his stool and his stick against the wall before looking back at me and heading for the door of the bar. Without hesitation, I stand and follow him.

I step out into the crisp March air, glancing around, but I don’t see him until I look to my right and he’s sitting on the bed of his truck. He’s pulled the back portion down flat.

“Needed some air?” I ask as I walk over to him, shoving my hands into the pockets of my jeans to seem casual.

“Something like that.” He pats the space next to him and I jump up to take a seat. It’s quiet between us, with just the sounds of a few grasshoppers and crickets singing their evening songs.

I’m about to say something to break the tension when Remi slides off the edge of the truck and turns to face me. He steps between my thighs, spreading them with his body before sliding his arm behind me and pulling me toward him. In one instant, my body is flush against his, and his other hand is gripping the back of my neck and tilting my head back so he can claim my mouth.

It’s quick and heated. The way his tongue presses against my own sends a shot of electricity down my body—right to my core. He doesn’t ask questions. He doesn’t say anything. He just takes my mouth, kissing me like I’ve never been kissed before.

I grab his shirt with both fists, pulling him closer to me even though it’s not possible. I want to feel him. I want him inside me. I can taste the beer on his tongue as it massages against mine. I can feel his manhood throbbing against my own pulsing center and it’s killing me. I’m about to beg him to take me home when the bar door opens, the light and laughter from inside spilling out, causing me to pull back.

As soon as I do, I regret it. His eyes go from heat and passion to regret almost instantly as he steps back and runs both hands through his hair—something he does when he’s frustrated.

I want to reach out and pull him toward me again. I want to tell him that these stolen moments between us are what keep me going. Of course I want him physically, but it’s more than that. It’s deeper. I want to hold his heart, to know that I’m the only woman who holds the key to it. But I don’t know how to express that to him. I don’t know how to open myself and let him in without the fear of ruining it.

I see the way he goes through women. He was never the settle-down-and-have-a-family type. He loves to live life in the fast lane, have fun, and be spontaneous—things I love so much about him, but things I worry make us incompatible. My career in real estate means everything to me, and over the last 10 years I’ve worked my ass off to build my team and grow this business to heights I never imagined. I want the happily ever after with the church wedding, the babies, and the white picket fence.

“I’m sorry, you’re drunk and I—I shouldn’t have done that.” And there it is: the same regret he had 15 years ago when he tried to apologize for having sex with me after graduation. I can’t take the rejection again.

“I’m not that drunk and I willingly went along with it.” I hop down from the truck and start to make my way back inside the bar. “It was just a kiss, Remi. Relax. No harm, no foul.” I say with a finger gun before turning around and pulling open the bar door.

Did I just do a finger gun? Ugh . . . I bury my face in my hands, wishing I could scream away the frustration. Instead, I grab another beer and plop back down on the stool by Jade, who is being held back by Memphis. She’s pointing a finger at Blake Winthrop, who’s staring at her with a big smirk on his face. Classic Blake: always antagonizing Jade. It’s really not that hard to do, though. She gets fired up at the drop of a hat.

“What’d I miss?” I ask Steph the bartender.

“Blake told Jade he doesn’t think aliens are real,” she says, deadpan. Sounds about right for Jade to go off on one of her conspiracy theories when she’s had a bit too much to drink. I just sit back and watch the hilarity unfold as I push thoughts of Remi and his wicked mouth out of my head.

***

It’s been three days of replaying that kiss over and over in my head. I’ve already gone through a full charge on my vibrator, and at one point I was worried I did actual damage to my clit given how numb it went.

I think about Jade’s comment about dressing up and going to his house, and the more I think about it, the more I’m starting to believe it’s a good idea. That way, I can play it off as a joke if he rejects me, and if we do end up hooking up again, I can just say this is our new thing . . . friends with benefits. People still do that, right?

I roll over in bed and check my toy: not charged yet. Then I grab my phone and check the time: it’s only 9 p.m. and I’ve already showered and had dinner and there’s nothing but shit on TV.

I walk over to my dresser and rummage through my bra drawer, reaching far in the back. Sure enough, I still have one of those ridiculous bombshell bras Jade was talking about.

“Oh. My. God.” I audibly gasp as I look at myself in my full-length mirror. My tits are almost up to my chin and they look like they were paid for. I laugh at how ridiculous I look, but I want to complete the ensemble. I spritz some volumizing spray at my roots, fluff up my hair, add a few coats of mascara, and apply a red gloss to my lips.

I look through my closet, pushing through all of my sensible work attire and pull out the dress: the short, tight dress that I wore back when I was on the prowl. This dress always got the job done. It turned heads—broke necks, really—and had all the boys following me around like little puppy dogs.

“Shit,” I say as I shimmy it up over my ass and thighs. Seems I’ve gained a little weight since the last time I wore it. It’s a black body con dress that comes right to the top my knees with a slit up one thigh. It sits just off the shoulders with a sweetheart neckline, so I have to tuck the bra straps down into the dress, which actually causes my breasts to fall a little, making them look way more natural—just very much on display.

I look at myself in the mirror now that I have the full outfit on. I pair it with some sky-high strappy black stilettos. It’s been years since I’ve seen myself looking like this; I kind of miss wild August. I loved going out and painting the town red in college. We’d get a group of girls to go out dancing, get free drinks from some local hotties, then go back home without them—innocent fun.

Before I can think twice, I grab my phone and pull up my text thread with Remi.

Me: What are you doing?

I toss it back onto the bed like I’m too afraid it will burn me if he responds while I’m holding it. Two seconds later, it pings with his response.

Remi: Sitting on the couch. What are you doing?

I don’t hesitate. I grab my keys and wallet and run outside to my car. Five minutes later, I’m pulling into his driveway and ringing the doorbell. Panic grips me when I hear footsteps coming toward the front door.

What the hell is my plan?

What am I going to say when he sees me dressed like this?

But the moment he opens the door and his blue eyes darken as he rakes me up and down, all my fear disappears. He’s shirtless with pajama bottoms slung so low I can see where the curly trail of hair disappears in the middle of the V at the bottom of his abdomen.

I step forward and wrap my arms around his neck, pressing my tits against his bare chest as I pull his mouth to mine. His lips instinctively react, covering my own as he thrusts his tongue inside my mouth. He pulls back, hesitating for a second before pulling me inside, slamming the door and pressing me against it.

“I want to finish what we started the other night,” I say as I reach for the drawstring on his pants. He growls into my mouth as he pins my hands above my head. I don’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t this. I thought at the very least, he would laugh and tell me I’m being ridiculous, but the look of pure lust in his eyes right now tells me that’s the last thing on his mind. So I summon the courage to say exactly what’s on mine.

“I want you, Remi. I—I want you to fuck me.”



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