At eleven years old, Macie James was certain she saw her prince standing in her kitchen with his rosy cheeks and cute smile. She was going to marry that boy, she had no doubt about it. As she became a teenager, it was that boy who taught her how to become a confident and sure woman. As the years went by and they grew up, he taught her how to love and to be loved.
Greyden Michaels was surprised when he fell for his best friend’s little sister. He wasn’t opposed to it and, even more surprising, neither was his best friend. When he was in college and her just in high school, he realized they were too young to be committed, he opted for friendship with her and together they decided their love was for the future.
When you hesitate, life happens. When life happens, your plans change. Macie wanted her fairy tale and Greyden was prepared to give it to her when unfortunate events changed his whole life, including his future with the UFC and, most devastatingly, with her. Macie made the decision to live her life, to move on without Greyden, especially once she met the man who wanted to marry her and give her the life he couldn’t.
The problem with that was that Greyden had always seen her as his. Could he give her up completely for her supposed happiness or could he somehow manage to get his life in order to try and win her back, heart and soul?
December 28th was my engagement party. Seventeen short days after he slipped his grandmother’s ring on my finger, his mother converted their annual New Year’s party to our engagement party. She did ask for my guest list this time, which was awfully kind.
The evening was beautiful and I had a great evening with my friends, but Mitch was hardly around. It had been a while since I spent an evening out with my girlfriends or the guys, so to have them all in one place was amazing and made the night perfect. I excused myself to the ladies’ room after dinner, wandering down a long corridor that shared the entrance to the lobby in search of it. Just as I was on my way back, I ran into Greyden and his date.
She was stunning.
She was a redhead, of all things; I had never seen him with a redhead before and it took me by surprise. She had on a navy blue, floor-length silk gown with silver patent peep toe shoes. I always thought redheads wore emerald, wasn’t it their “thing” or something? That was my second thought after seeing her and noting that she was stunning. She had her arm looped through Grey’s, who wore a black tuxedo and looked absolutely delicious. They had their heads turned in to one another; she spoke and he listened. I stood there like a statue with mixed feelings. I was devastated earlier because he hadn’t shown up, then convinced myself it was for the best that he hadn’t come after all. Then there he was.
When he lifted his head and made eye contact, his step faltered just a bit and I continued to stand there. When he reached me, with his date sizing me up, I finally snapped out of it and plastered on my “I’m greeting all of my guests even if I don’t know or like them” smile. “Grey! It’s so nice of you to finally join us.” I shouldn’t have said that and I knew it before the words came out, but I couldn’t help myself. Besides being the love of my life, he had been my best friend for so long and he couldn’t even be bothered to show up on time?
The redhead leaned in on Grey a little more before speaking directly to me in a tone I would never be able to master. It was all sex and seductress laced with a little cotton candy for added sweetness. “Sorry about that, darling, Grey here needed a blowie. It was going to be quick, but then he wanted to return the favor and who the hell am I to deny the man such a thing? Then one thing led to another and I needed to get ready all over again so I didn’t show up here looking a disaster. I do hope you understand.”
I’m certain my face was as white as snow. The only thing I focused on was keeping my jaw from slamming down to the ground, which I achieved. Once she was finished blowing my mind, Greyden chuckled a deep sexy chuckle, blowing my mind even further. I had no idea what was going on. My Greyden would never let anyone speak to me like that, not ever, under any circumstance, broken up or not.
Her name was Claudia, and he suggested she go freshen up while he caught up with me before we all went in to the ballroom.
“You haven’t made a big fan out of Claudia,” he teased. “She’s my assistant, Mace, and that was just a bunch a shit she made up right now.”
“You have an assistant now?” That threw me.
He nodded his head and his face went serious. “Yeah, I’ve got a lot going on and it’s not going anywhere. I’m never going to be able to have a life outside work if I don’t get a handle on it. Claudia was the receptionist for my dad’s office and I just promoted her. She kicks ass. She’s done so much for me already—it’s unbelievable. Tonight, we actually had a business meeting that I cut out early on to get here in time. I’m sorry I’m late, I just had to show up there. It was pretty important.”
“That’s okay. I’m happy you came.” And right then I really was happy that he had come and probably because she wasn’t Allison and she didn’t seem to be salivating over him, I was happy he had Claudia. He needed a friend to confide in and it sounded like he had that with her. Even if he did make me sound like a total bitch to her. “So she hates me?”
Giving me a guilty smile, he said, “Hate’s a strong word. Plus, she’s only heard my side of the story.”
“And that’s the only side she’ll get, so I’ll have to live with that. I hope she’s good for you, Grey, you need that in your life. No more drama, you just need…happy.”
Greyden laughed, then hugged me quickly before backing away again and shoving his hands in his pants pockets, causing his jacket to separate beneath the button, showing off his white shirt tucked into his pants. I don’t know why but that has always been so sexy to me.
“Don’t go getting all romantic on me, Mace. She’s a friend, yes, but she’s my assistant. There’s nothing more there, no crazy ideas.”
“Grey, how’d she know who I was?”
He rubbed his fingers across his lips as he thought about it, his gaze unwavering. “We still not lying to each other?”
I shook my head and whispered, “Never. Honesty is always best.”
“I still have pictures of us up in my office. She’s seen them and asked who you were. She sees them every day, so she recognized you right away.”
He didn’t have an actual office when we were together, that came after we broke up or stopped seeing each other or whatever last year. I tried to make sense of that and everything else he had me thinking about, like what exactly he had told Claudia for her to dislike me so much, when he spoke up again.
“You look breathtaking, Butterfly. There aren’t words, really.”
He took my breath away with his words; I couldn’t even thank him.
His face lit up like he just saw something funny. “You’re wearing my ring.”
It was true. I happened to be wearing it the day Mitch proposed and I couldn’t bring myself to take it off. I debated long and hard whether or not to remove it for the engagement party—the ring won. Mitch didn’t know the history of it and never bothered to ask. Of course, my family knew, and I had received a few questioning looks when they noticed it, but I just shrugged them off. I wasn’t going to delve into it with him, either.
“Do you hate me, Greyden?” I had to ask. I needed to know. He must have a pretty strong opinion if his assistant feels so strongly towards me.
His eyebrows lowered so deeply that it caused his eyes to almost close. He smirked, his mouth quirking up on one side. “Never.”
“Are you happy for me?”
He blew air out, making his cheeks puff, shooting his eyebrows in the opposite direction. “If I thought you were actually getting the life you always wanted, then yeah, I would be happy for you, but I still don’t believe that’s the case. I think you’re making a huge fucking mistake and you’re making it fast, which only proves my point further.”
That wasn’t where I wanted the conversation to go, so I changed it. Although what I changed it to wasn’t at all what I had intended on, the words fell out of my mouth without consulting my brain. “I always imagined you by my side at this party. It’s pretty surreal to be the lady of the evening without you as the man.”
Greyden stepped forward and rubbed his hand on my bare shoulder, letting his thumb make little trails of heat on my skin. “Whenever I’ve thought of marriage, it has only been you walking towards me in that white gown, Mace. Watching you walk past me to go to him just might kill me, but I won’t miss it. I’m here for you, always.” His eyes were so sincere, his voice low and just above a whisper. He looked so deep into my eyes I swear he was uncovering everything I was keeping hidden.
I struggled to keep the tears at bay as I stood there, trying to remind myself that I was making the right decision. Just before he let go, I wrapped my arms around him, squeezing. I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing. We heard the click of Claudia’s heels against the tiled floor and turned. Mitch had chosen that moment to realize I hadn’t been around and came looking for me as well.
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