No Turning Back (Breaking the Rules #4) - A.M. Madden

Prologue

Her

It felt like a bad dream. There had been only one time in my life when profound sadness squeezed my insides to the point of nausea, and that was when my mother died years ago. Ironically, this felt no different from a death.

I was losing him.

After three years together, three amazing years, it was over. And not because we’d grown apart, or fallen out of love, or even something as dramatic as infidelity. His new life was in California, and mine remained in New Jersey. It was as unimaginative as that.

There wasn’t a part of me that resented him for accepting the transfer. It would open so many opportunities in his career. Being a sports agent meant you followed the demand. I understood the need for him to go. What I couldn’t wrap my head around was the fact he didn’t ask me to join him.

Knowing him, he wanted to spare me any other turmoil in my life. I’d had a rough go of things, stemming back to birth. Although many would consider it an exciting life, it wasn’t easy growing up as an army brat. It wasn’t any easier for my mother—still, she’d supported my dad wherever he was stationed.

But once I turned twelve, my welfare became her priority. That was the magical age when I grew to hate the constant moves and starting over each time we did. I was no longer the happy-go-lucky kid they were used to having… albeit hormones probably had a lot to do with my change in attitude. Regardless, my mother put me first above all else.

So, when Dad was transferred to Germany that summer, Mom settled us where she had grown up in New Jersey. Small-town America, where I could have an ordinary life as a teenage girl.

The strain of their separation caused an inevitable divorce. Mom always said it was for the best, especially after he moved on and remarried a few years later. I’ve never met my stepmother, mainly because Dad’s guilt had erected a brick wall between us. For a while he sent the obligatory birthday or Christmas check and called me a few times a year. Even those infrequent, impersonal attempts faded with time.

I loved the life my mom gave me, but as an adult I carried plenty of guilt because my mom’s decision to keep me in the States ultimately led to my parents’ divorce. The man I loved, whom I thought I would spend the rest of my life with, knew that. I had no doubt that had influenced his decision to not ask me to move. Still, he should’ve left it up to me to make that decision… unless he didn’t want me to be with him.

We had every conversation that needed to be had—trying a long-distance romance, considering it a brief hiatus. They were temporary solutions to a much bigger problem. Our relationship was at a crossroads, and he was about to take a sharp left without me.

The idling sedan behind him served as a timer ticking down to our goodbye. While engaged in a desperate clutch, neither of us wanted to let go. Even though I promised myself that I wouldn’t make it harder on him, This is stupid and You are my world sat on the tip of my tongue. I didn’t voice the words; instead, I suppressed them, so they would probably fester like a virus within me.

When he pulled away and cupped my face, it was time… the moment I had dreaded for weeks had come.

I tried to prepare myself for the lump in my throat, which felt like barbed wire. For the weight on my chest that became heavier with each breath I took. Or for the tears that felt like acid on my skin. Worst of all, nothing could’ve prepared me for the crippling pain that consumed every part of me from head to toe.

I sucked in a jagged breath when his large palms drew me closer for a soft kiss before he pulled away to stare into my eyes. His own eyes shimmered with emotion in the cruel, revealing sunlight, bright and glaring while exposing every vulnerability.

“I have to go.” A shaky nod was all I could muster as a reply. “I love you. I always will.”

Forcing myself to swallow past the pain, I whispered, “I love you too.”

With that, he kissed me once more before slipping into the back seat. I didn’t know if it was on his command or because the driver had lost patience, but

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