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10 Years Ago
Summer was quickly approaching, and I’d spent every single day working in my father’s gun and hunting supplies shop. As a retired military sergeant, he had naturally held on to his love of firepower—something he passed down to my brother Chance and me—and it was all too easy to keep my job once I’d graduated high school. Sure, I’d wanted to go to college, but I’d wanted to stick close to Mackenzie more. A year wouldn’t matter in the long run.
The money I made working my ass off would set us up with a sweet little place to live once she finished her senior year. Which was rapidly approaching.
The blood in my veins turned hot just thinking about living with her. After years of loving her, she and I would finally get to start our lives together. One where I would wake up to her gorgeous gray-blue eyes every morning. One where I could make her those insanely sugary pancakes she loved so much. And one where we wouldn’t have to cover each other’s mouths as we made love, worrying over which set of parents might hear.
Getting my own apartment once I’d graduated last year had been incredibly tempting, but after a ton of thought and even more willpower, Mackenzie and I decided that staying with my folks while I worked over sixty hours a week would be a down payment on the life we’d always dreamed of. Well, I’d decided that. Mackenzie supported it, but she’d always told me I worked too much.
She was beyond worth it.
I’d fallen for that girl when I was eleven years old.
She’d gotten lost in the woods near our house and had been missing long enough for the police to put a search and rescue team together. Being the best trackers this side of Georgia—thanks to my father—my brother and I were enlisted to help. The whole community went looking for her, but Chance and I found her first.
And I was the one she wrapped her arms around, crying out in relief.
From that moment, I’d been a goner.
It took me another four years to work up to courage to tell her I loved her, and lucky bastard that I was, she happened to love me back.
Now, all these years later, we were on the cusp of achieving everything we used to wish for when we stayed up too late on the phone at night.
A home of our own, and then someday babies.
A few weeks and we’d be able to practice making babies any time we wanted.
Could. Not. Wait.
The velvet box I’d carried around for a week burned in my pocket. Sure, we were young. Sure, everyone—including my family—had told me I was insane for even considering proposing, but I loved her.
Loved the way her mind worked, all technical and problem crunching. Loved the way she hummed to herself when she concentrated. Loved the way she tried to cover her heart-shaped birthmark that rested high up on her inner thigh, but not as much as I loved kissing her hand away so I could admire it.
She’d been my best friend since that day in the woods. There was no person I’d rather spend the rest of my life with.
Timing was everything, and I carried the ring with me in case the perfect moment presented itself. She’d already been excited to move in together; becoming my wife wouldn’t be that far of a stretch. But I wanted my proposal to be flawless, so I had the ring on me at all times despite assuming I’d end up asking her right after she received her diploma and became mine for good.
Six hours and four more sold guns later, I locked up the shop and headed to my motorcycle in the parking lot. My sweet little Harley was the only other female I adored as much as Mackenzie. I’d worked an entire summer to buy her when I was sixteen, and the reward had never been as sweet.
The lot was empty except for one small blue car parked next to my bike.
“Babe,” I said when I rounded the corner. Mackenzie straddled my bike in a relaxed position. Her toned, tanned legs went on for miles, the black silk shorts she wore hiking up from her position on the bike. A smooth white T-shirt covered what I knew were the most perfect breasts of all time, and her long blonde hair blew back slightly in the breeze.
And I was hard.
Damn, this girl. She didn’t even have to say a word and I was ready to pounce.
“Hey,” she said, her tone weighted. That sent all my get-her-naked thoughts to the back burner.
I furrowed my brow, laying my jacket across the back of the bike and cupping her cheek. “What’s wrong?”
A stuttered sigh escaped her lips like she’d been trying to hold it in. “How did you know?”
I cocked an eyebrow at her. “I always know.”
She unhooked one leg from the bike, swinging around to stand. Her 5’6” frame fit perfectly against my 6’2”, and she wrapped her arms around my waist, resting her head on my chest. The tension coiling her muscles settled in my bones, and it put me on edge for reasons I couldn’t understand.
“Your parents giving you shit about not choosing a college yet?” I asked.
She nodded against my chest as I ran my fingers through her hair.
“Don’t worry about them. You’ll decide when you’re ready.” She had a hard time choosing since her parents had made her apply to nearly every top college in the country. With her grades and record of volunteering at the school, she’d been accepted everywhere. The endless sea of options made it beyond overwhelming for her to choose.
I had applied to a few but wasn’t exactly the scholarly type. Sure, I did my work, but I was more of a tactical training type of guy and had resolved to hit up a tech school near any college she chose. Doing what, I wasn’t certain yet, but then again, neither was she.
She groaned and pushed away from me, pacing the length of my bike. I leaned against it, knowing she was about to rant and my place was to listen.
“They’re unbelievable,” she said, her hair whooshing back with every quick turn she made. “They expect me to become a brain surgeon or rocket scientist or some crap.”
“Those assholes,” I smirked when her fiery eyes met mine.
“Ugh.” She upped her speed, furiously carving a line in the pavement. The panicked look in her eyes made me stand a little straighter. “I don’t want to be any of those things.”
“What do you want?” I asked, just as I had asked her several times throughout her senior year. She’d never been able to answer me.
Her blue-gray eyes cut to me and she froze, her shoulders dropping like she’d just botched a game-winning play.
An unexplainable lump formed in my throat, and I swallowed around it. A sheen of tears covered her eyes, and I moved toward her, reached for her, but she was already there, slamming into me like we were full-force magnets that had to stick together to survive. She hopped up and locked her ankles around my waist, knowing I would catch her.
I always caught her.
She crushed her lips on mine, gripping the base of my neck. I fingered the long strands of her hair, tilting her head to get a better angle to stroke her mouth. Her thighs tightened around my waist, squeezing me as if she couldn’t get close enough. The passion in her movements was more frantic than usual, but I met her inch for inch, touch for touch. Whatever she needed from me, I gave, and if she needed me to take something away? Fuck, I’d do that, too. I’d do anything for this girl, and I hated the stress that drove her this crazy.
She moaned as I cupped her ass, holding her up effortlessly as I claimed her mouth.
“Wade,” she sighed between my lips, but the tone was off. It wasn’t the normal way she said my name, which was breathy and needy and hot as hell. No. This one was timid and almost sad.
I pulled back enough to meet her eyes, our noses still practically touching. “Mackenzie?” I didn’t need to form an entire question for her to know what I was asking. We had our own way of communicating, perfected over years of loving each other. Sometimes words weren’t even needed, but in this moment with her, I was lost. And it scared the shit out of me.
“I know what I want,” she whispered, her sweet breath hitting my cheeks.
I grinned. “That’s good. That should be a relief.” Finally, she’d chosen a college and we could move on to the more fun things, like picking out our first king-size bed together.
She licked her slightly swollen lips, never breaking my gaze as those damned tears wet them again. “I love you,” she said, and though she’d said it hundreds of times before, something about this one was different, too. A weight to it. Finality.
“I’ve always loved you,” I answered as if she had asked a question.
A single tear rolled down her cheek, and I freed one hand to swipe it away. I pressed my forehead to hers, feeling her tension more than understanding it. “Baby, what is it?”
She clenched her eyes shut. “I enlisted.”
A stun-gun would’ve been less shocking. Luckily, I didn’t drop my hold on her. Instead, I stood as still as a statue, like she’d frozen me with her words.
“Same branch as Chance. Air Force.” Her words were barely whispers.
I gently set her on her feet and took a few steps away, my body shaking with adrenaline as if I hung from a hundred-foot drop. I opened my mouth four times before I managed to squeeze any words out.
“A week ago.” Her eyes found the pavement, but I couldn’t tear mine away from her.
“Why?” I wasn’t capable of saying more. My world was crumbling around me faster than I could draw breath.
My brother, Chance, had been in the Air Force for two years working on explosive disposal. Mackenzie had been his friend growing up, too, but I never thought he’d have this kind of influence on her, unless… “Fucking hell,” I snapped before she could even answer me. “Are you and Chance—?”
“No!” she yelled. “Oh my God, Wade. How could you even think something like that?”
The waves in my stomach didn’t stop crashing at her quick refusal of my accusation, but I managed to take a breath. I raised my hands in the air before letting them smack against my thighs. “I don’t know, Mackenzie. We’ve been planning this for years. Moving in together. Starting our lives. Never once have you mentioned wanting to go off and join the military!”
She flinched at the tone of my voice, more tears spilling over her eyelashes. “I’ve always told you how much I admire your family. How much their stories interested me—”
“You never once said you wanted it to be you telling those stories. Living them.” I raked my fingers through my hair, spinning around so I wasn’t watching her cry. Fuck, I wanted to hold her and tell her that it would all be okay, but I didn’t know if it would be.
Chance had followed in our father’s footsteps, but I refused. I didn’t want that life—never having a choice in where you lived, when you deployed, who you answered to. Hell no. Didn’t suit me. And if I had a clearer head, it might have registered that kind of life suited Mackenzie perfectly, but I couldn’t think straight.
“Talking to Chance, listening to him speak about his job…I don’t know. Something clicked. That’s what I want to do.”
I slowly turned around and sank to my knees, gaping up at her. “I worry about Chance dying out there on a daily basis. He’s my brother. But you? You want me to be okay with you going halfway across the world to dig up bombs?”
Her forehead puckered, and she cupped my face between her hands. “Yes,” she said. “When I think about it, about the problem solving and the technical details that go into that career…I just know. It’s what I’m supposed to do.”
I shook my head, resting it on her soft stomach. “Chance made you watch Hurt Locker too many times.”
She choked out a tear-filled laugh and I forced myself to look up at her. “This is what you really want?”
“And where do I fit into this plan?” I swallowed hard. “For an entire year I’ve been killing myself, working to make sure we have a great place to live. And now?” I shook my head. “What will we be?”
“Wade,” she said, her voice cracking.
Could I do this? Wait for her day in and day out, wondering if she was alive? I did it with Chance, but he was my blood, not my heart. Could I live without being able to touch her, kiss her, tell her I loved her whenever I wanted?
You know you could handle long distance. Anything is worth loving her.
Noticing the crushed look in her eyes, I realized it may not even be up to me.
“You don’t want me,” I said, pushing off the ground to stand.
She shook her head back and forth quickly. “Of course I do. I love—”
“Then tell me,” I cut her off. “Tell me what to do here. Because from where I stand, it looks like you’ve made a future without even factoring me into it.”
“It’s not like that!” she yelled through her tears. “I just don’t want to put you through it.”
I huffed, anger bubbling in my chest. “You already have. How could you for one second think I wouldn’t support you? Since the day I found you lost in the woods, I have supported you, loved you. I’ve been yours. And you’ve been mine.”
She sniffed and swiped under her eyes. “I know.” She clutched her chest. “And because I love you, I want you to leave me.”
A knife hit me dead center in the chest with her words.
“What?” The word was barely a whisper.
“I can’t ask you to wait for me, Wade. I can’t ask you to wait while I’m deployed or training or doing who knows what. I can’t force you into this life.”
“You wouldn’t. You aren’t.” The box in my pocket screamed the proof at me, but I couldn’t fucking move. “I will always choose you.”
“Not this time.” Her words were final, if not soaked in tears.
“Mackenzie,” I said, hissing as I felt my heart ripping to shreds. I stepped toward her, gently grabbed her wrist, and pulled her toward me. “Don’t do this,” I said before slanting my mouth on hers. I couldn’t find the words, so I’d show her how much she meant to me.
Once again she opened up for me, bending her body around mine like it was meant to be there. Traced the edges of my teeth with her tongue, knowing how much it turned me on. Gripped the back of my shirt, fisting it in an attempt to get me closer.
She was my match, setting me on fire with each swipe of her tongue. I was the gasoline consumed in her frenzy.
Pushing her back toward my bike, I clutched her hips and sat her on the seat, pushing myself between her knees. She hugged my body close, grinding against the hardness of my dick.
“Wade,” she begged, and though her voice was coated in tears and her mouth tasted like salt, I couldn’t say no to her. “Please.” She pulled back, meeting my eyes. “Love me. Just once more.”
I knew this girl better than I would ever know any other living soul on this planet.
And she was begging me to leave her.
Those blue-gray eyes said it all. Love, lust, and regret.
She didn’t want to leave me—she had to.
I didn’t want to let her go—but she needed me to.
“I’ve loved you since before I knew what that word meant,” I said, claiming her mouth so hard she gasped.
She walked toward her car and turned as she opened the door. The tears were back, but I’d given her something that made her look a little less broken. Lucky for her she couldn’t see what was happening inside my soul.
“I’ll see you,” she said, her voice a combination of breathy and sad.
“See you,” I responded the same way I had every time we’d had to say goodbye over the last seven years.
This time, the words flayed me to the bone. My heart seared until it crumbled and turned to ash in my chest.
I watched her drive away—taking my future and my heart along with her.
NICUnurse’s Review of Edge of Regret:
This book can be read as a standalone book, but you’ll really understand more about the characters if you read the entire Love on the Edge series. And I promise that you won’t be disappointed. I read the first book, Edge of Chaos, a while back, when I first began writing book reviews. But I got distracted by other things. And then I got to meet Molly at RT and she was just so sweet and articulate that I knew I had to re-read it. So I did. And then I binge read the entire rest of the series in 2 days! Yes, it was just THAT good! So I was really, really looking forward to this book.
We first meet Wade Roberts in Edge of Brotherhood. He’s the stuntman for the EDGE crew. He seems a bit rough around the edges and crass at first, but as the story progresses we see there’s a lot more to him and why he attempts to come across as shallow. What he really is, is hiding a truly shattered heart. And then comes Edge of Regret and we get his backstory. Wade is a tough as nails guy who never really got over his first love as a young man. He’s tried. But there was a time he thought she had hooked up with his brother and that’s when he developed his daredevil attitude and actions, trying to convince himself and everyone else he’s not overwhelmed with hurt and anger. Edge of Regret picks up with Wade and Mackenzie meeting on the set of a movie where she’s the military expert helping to make the movie more realistic. It’s apparent almost instantly that neither of them ever got over the other. But now they are older and there is more hurt, more anger, and more adult issues to work through.
This book really spoke to me. Especially the issue of PTSD with our military members. Molly approached this difficult subject in a very matter of fact, non-judgmental way and most importantly, with compassion. Despite his definite alpha tendencies and seemingly flippant view of life (totally hiding the true depths that is this swoon-worthy man!), he is so very compassionate with Mackenzie. They share this love that grew over time despite huge distances, huge misunderstandings, and huge hurts. And I think my favorite part of Mackenzie was that even though she felt she was this broken person, she was still so strong…despite not recognizing that in herself most of the book.
My husband was active duty Air Force until almost 3 years ago but it’s still hard for me to read war accounts… especially ones that are so very real. And this was hard to read at times. But at the same time I think this is a huge compliment to Molly’s talent because, as hard as it was to read emotionally, I didn’t want to STOP reading!
If I say any more there’s going to be too many true spoilers and I hate spoiling great books for potential readers so I’ll stop here. I definitely give this a 5 propeller rating and I’m telling you that you NEED some Wade in your life!
Check out the other books in Molly E. Lee’s Edge of Love series:
About Molly E. Lee
Molly E. Lee is an author best known for her debut novel EDGE OF CHAOS, and as a fourth year mentor at Pitch Wars – a program which connects promising writers to established authors in the community. Molly writes New Adult and Young Adult Contemporary featuring strong female heroines who are unafraid to challenge their male counterparts, yet still vulnerable enough to have love sneak up on them. In addition to being a military spouse and mother of two + one stubborn English Bulldog, Molly loves watching storms from her back porch at her Midwest home, and digging for treasures in antique stores.
Follow Molly on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MollyElizabethLeeAuthor
Or on her website: www.mollyelee.com