Three Empty Words

By: Gen Ryan
Prologue




I dabbed my eyes as Max and Jason exchanged their vows. My date, Paul, smiled over at me and took my hand in his. He was a nice guy, don’t get me wrong. He treated me well enough, but something just wasn’t right. There weren’t butterflies and fireworks when he touched me. I didn’t expect the world to shake, but there was never any passion. Since Jason and Max had met, I’d known there was something between them. Something more than Max and I ever had.

Max had been in the closet, I assumed most of his life. I couldn’t imagine that, stifling who I was for fear of what other people would think. Max and I had a connection, but now that I looked back on it, there was nothing more than a solid friendship. Had it hurt when he told me he didn’t love me like I so desperately wanted? Absolutely. But when I saw him and Jason together, everything made sense. That was love in its purest form, the kind that people spent their entire lives searching for.

Once the ceremony ended, everyone made their way into the reception area. People mingled and waited for the party to start, the celebration of Max and Jason’s love that had finally taken shape. I sat down at my table where Brad, my best friend, and Paul sat on either side of me.

“I’m going to grab a drink, want anything?” Paul asked Brad and me. I shook my head while Brad ordered a beer.

“You doing okay? Is it hard to watch them so happy?” Brad asked, his voice only audible to me.

“No. It’s not that. I’m glad they’re happy. I guess it made me realize that Paul isn’t it for me. I wanted him to be it so much, I looked beyond the lack of passion.” Brad gave me a small smile.

“Of course he’s not. I could have told you that,” he said in his best friend I-knew-what-you-needed-before-you-even-did way.

“What should I do?” I looked over at the bar where Paul stood and gave me a wave.

“Cut him loose. Don’t string him along. You know how that feels,” Brad said. Despite all that happened between Max and me, we were all this weird family, Max, Jason, Brad, and I. The events that should have torn us apart, brought us closer together. That was family. Through everything, they stuck together.

“Okay. I will. Tonight. No sense in ruining the wedding.” I slouched back in the chair. “Guess I’ll be single again.”

“Hey, we still have each other. I’ll always be here for you, Melanie.” Brad patted my leg. We’d been together, partners in crime, for what’s felt like forever. I couldn’t picture my life without him. It was true; at least we had each other, our friendship, our movie binge sessions. Brad was my constant, my anchor.

I rested my head on his shoulder. “You’re the only man I’ll ever need.”

“I hope someday that isn’t true.” He caressed my hair.

I didn’t have a response. There was comfort in knowing that Brad would be there whenever I needed him. I didn’t want to think that it would be any other way, because the thought of not seeing him every day was worse than the thought that I’d never find love.





Chapter One




Melanie

Two Years Later

Breathe in and out. In and out.

My best friend, Brad, stood in front of me talking fast, gesturing excitedly. Colton, his boyfriend of two years, had finally proposed. I should have been happy for him. Wait, I was happy for him. I smile when he smiles, I cry when he cries. But I was crying for myself. My loss. Because he was going to leave Rhode Island. Run after his forever and leave me behind. Call me selfish. Call me immature.

I’d been dealt shit cards when it came to love. I was bitter. Broken. Because those three empty words, I love you, meant jack shit to me anymore.

My last serious boyfriend, Max, turned out to be gay. My life could have been some sort of sitcom. The funny part of it was, we were still friends. Once lovers turned best friends that then transformed into family. I worked at his shop, Craver Automotives, and went to weekly dinners at his house with his husband of the past two years, Jason. Maybe I was a glutton for punishment to watch them be so in love. Knowing he was in love with someone else hurt me, not because I was so deeply in love with him, but because I was in love with the idea of him. What little girl didn’t dream of her knight in shining armor? A man who swept her off her feet and made her feel like the only woman in the world. I’d so badly wanted to see that in Max, for him to be my knight in shining armor. Instead, he’d found his own knight, and that was Jason.

I truly did want Max to be happy. Everyone deserved that forever kind of love. It just seemed that I was destined to be alone. I’d had Brad for the past few years to keep me company in my loneliness. Now, he’d fallen in love. Which left me riding the single train to Thirty-town. I had a plan to be married and have at least one kid by now. So far, I was zero for two with no prospects in sight.

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