Prologue

I’m in love with two men.

But I can only marry one.

It should have been simple to choose one over the other. To make my life with only one of them in it. But it isn’t. And it never has been.
Not when fate spun us together. An infinite wheel that none of us could ever escape. Just kept spinning and spinning. One of us took a left turn instead of a right. We stepped off for a cycle as if that would let us leave. Let us continue on into a normal, ordinary life. Whatever normal and ordinary could possibly mean.

But then the next rotation would come around, as it always inevitably did, and then we stepped back on. The three of us. In perpetuity.

I tried my turn at the wheel. Tried to pull free from fate’s death grip on my life. It was barely a moment. It was an eternity. For that time, I should have been happier. Without them. Without the drama and the heartache and the constant way my life went up in flames and reduced me to cinders.

I wasn’t a phoenix; I didn’t rise from the ashes.

Still, I wasn’t happier.

The shattered bits of my heart sliced through me at every turn that I avoided them. That I tried to move on.

And when the wheel tugged me back into its trappings, I let it. I hung there, suspended, caught in a spiderweb, thick and viscous and unrelenting. I made my choice. Stay on the wheel. Embrace that this was where I always belonged. And slowly, the million pieces of me were put back together, one by one.

Not all of them, of course. Not without them both.

But I can only have one.

I’ve always known it and tried to accept it. It’s still hard to believe that it’s happening though.
Me and Cole and Ash.

A trio that never was.

Because I’m in love with two men.

I can only marry one.

And today is my wedding day.

 

Chapter 1

Every girl dreamed about her perfect wedding.

But I hadn’t dreamed of white dresses or bouquets or I dos. And when it came right down to it, I’d never imagined my future husband. What he’d look like or what he’d wear or how he’d smile when he saw me that first time.

Because for so long, there hadn’t been just one face in my life … but two.

Two faces. Two outfits. Two smiles.

Two men.

Cole and Ash.

Ash and Cole.

It felt surreal that today of all days, I was going to marry one and not the other. But it was here, and there was no looking back. I’d made my decision. In the end, we’d all made this decision. With our actions and our broken promises. We’d walked right up to today and let it happen.

I wasn’t the typical blushing bride. There would always be a part of me wondering if I’d done the right thing, chosen the right guy. If all the hell that we’d gone through together to get here had been worth it.

But I didn’t have cold feet. I was ready for this.

Except now, my bridesmaids were missing.

I stuck my head out of the bridal suite. My three sisters sat at a table in varying shades of red. Two in floor-length gowns and one in a red suit jacket. They were all matrons of honor for this affair, but they wouldn’t be standing at the altar with me. They’d be seated in the first row.

“Have you seen Josie and Marley?” I asked my sisters about my two best friends.

We’d known each other nearly our entire lives. Been through thick and thin. It wasn’t like them to disappear on my big day.

“They said they had an errand,” Eve said as she poured champagne into flutes.

Elle nodded. “They’ll be right back.”

Steph jumped from her spot and made me twirl in a circle. “You look gorgeous. I wasn’t sure on the bust, but that dress is stunning.”

I beamed at my sisters.

We’d all gone dress shopping multiple times. I’d thought I’d be one of those lucky ones who picked out the very first dress I tried on. But it hadn’t been the case; it might as well have been the last dress I tried on. The thousandth dress I tried on. The dress was a full tulle skirt with a lacy balconette top and thin spaghetti straps.

Josie had told me it was likely bad luck that I was that indecisive. Marley had rolled her eyes and insisted it meant nothing. Two sides of the same coin, those two.

I drank champagne with my sisters and stared down at the massive ring on my finger as I waited for my best friends to return.

“Don’t drink too much,” Eve warned. “You’ll want to remember tonight.”

Elle burst into laughter, and Steph joined her.

“Oh, I’ll remember tonight,” I assured them.

I couldn’t imagine forgetting my wedding night even if I had one too many glasses of champagne. I checked my phone again. Seriously, where the hell were they?

“Maybe we should go look for them.”

“You can’t,” Elle said. “You don’t want the groom to see you before it’s time.”

Tradition.

It was pretty ridiculous, considering how long we’d been sleeping together. But it was ceremonial, and we’d agreed. It would make tonight even more special.

I was about to send out a search party when Marley and Josie rushed back into the room, looking frazzled.

“Everything all right?”

Marley and Josie exchanged a look.

“What is it?”

“Nothing,” they said together.

Josie continued, “Don’t worry about it.”

“Is it nothing, or should I not worry about it?”

“Both,” Marley said.

I narrowed my eyes. That certainly didn’t sound like nothing.

“It’s this.” Josie came to my side and pulled out a black case. “I know that I’ve always had my differences with my mom, but she’d want you to wear these today.”

My hand went to my throat as I opened the black case to reveal the white pearls that I’d always coveted. “Josie! I can’t wear these.”

“Something borrowed,” she insisted. “You’ve always wanted them.”

“I have,” I said softly.

Josie took them out of the box and strung them around my neck. They were dainty and just brushed my collarbone. They looked perfect with the white lace of my dress and my blonde hair pulled up in an intricate updo.

“Thank you,” I told her, drawing her in for a hug.

“Okay, ladies, it’s time!” the wedding planner, Courtney, said as she strode into the room.

She was the best of the best. She handled everything for the day of. I didn’t know how I would have survived the last six months without her expertise.

Everyone moved into place. The string quartet began to play. My sisters went in first. Marley and Josie both pulled me in for a quick hug before stepping out into the chapel and proceeding down the aisle. I was last.

I touched the pearls Josie had given me for luck. Then I took a deep breath and walked into the chapel, alone.

The crowd had risen to their feet. But I only had eyes for one person in that room—my groom.

My stomach flipped at the sight of him in a tuxedo at the other end of the aisle. His smile was magnetic, and I couldn’t help but return it. My mother wiped her eyes as I passed her in the front row with my sisters. Her last baby, finally getting hitched.

And then I was there. I took the final two steps up to the altar, passed my bouquet to Marley, and faced my groom.

“I’ve waited for this day our entire lives,” he whispered.

“Me too.”

A hush fell over the church as the service began. I heard little of it. The minutes passed in a blur. All I saw was the bright blue eyes looking back at me and the smile that said I was his world.

There was a pause in the ceremony. Just a moment. Barely a breath.

And everything collapsed.

The doors at the back of the church burst open. Everyone faced the figure who stepped into the sanctuary. The wedding planner trailed him. Whatever she was saying was lost in the drone of voices.

But I knew exactly why he was here.

I’d been a fool to think that he would let me go.

“I object!” he yelled into the church. “Lila, you can’t marry him!”

And there I stood, on a precipice, ready to fall back onto that wheel that had always dragged us together. I couldn’t have both.

So today, I had to choose: my groom or the man objecting.

Hold the Forevers
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