In case you missed the USA Today/Happily Ever After exclusive cover reveal here it is in all of its gorgeousness: Forgetting You, Remembering Me by Monica James.
“I’m going to take off the blindfold,” he whispers into my ear. I pause in my tracks, eagerly awaiting the view.
No surprise as Saxon draws out the reveal, torturing me further. I bounce from foot to foot. His husky chuckle tickles me from the inside out. “I thought you didn’t like surprises.”
“I don’t, but maybe you’ll change my mind.”
“Maybe,” he covertly replies before removing the soft fabric over my eyes.
It takes me a moment to adjust to the dim lighting, but after blinking a few times, what I see takes my breath away. “Saxon…oh my god. It’s beautiful.” And it really is.
“You like it?”
“Like it? I love it.” My feet act of their own accord as I float down the steps and spread my arms out wide. My fingertips brush over hundreds of sunflowers arranged in endless tall glass vases as I walk my yard. “When did you do this?”
“Today. You looked like you could do with some color in your day.”
I pause in the middle of my backyard, needing a moment to take it all in. A red and white picnic blanket lays just a few feet away, and to the left is a wicker basket. Bouquets of sunflowers are dotted as far as the eye can see, adding bursts of vibrancy and instantly lightening my mood.
When I turn over my shoulder, the fairy lights fashioned as stars dangle from the porch railings and rafters. They add to this most picturesque scene. However, when I focus on Saxon leaning against a wooden pillar with a lopsided smirk tugging at his full lips, I know he is the picture of perfection.
“I can’t believe you did this. Is this why you’ve been scarce all day? I was starting to think I smelled.”
He laughs, pushing off the post. “You smell amazing. Hungry?” My growling stomach answers for me.
I watch as Saxon saunters down the stairs, takes my hand, and leads us to the blanket. The gentle hue of the lights wraps us in our own private romantic bubble. I fold my legs beneath me as I sit, running my fingers along the sunflower petals next to me. I can’t help but reminisce about the first time I saw these flowers with Saxon—I was on the back of his bike as he saved me from yet another bad day.
Saxon kneels, reaching into the basket. It’s not until now that I realize how hungry I am. Glued to the computer all day, I’ve forgotten to eat or move. This is so thoughtful. So Saxon. “I hope you didn’t go to too much trouble. Well, clearly you did—” I sweep my hand toward the beauty in front of me “—but I hope you weren’t slaving over a hot stove all day.”
He gives me a playful grin, and I discover why when he exposes what’s inside the basket. “Oh my god.” I laugh. “Just when I thought I couldn’t love you any more, you go and do this.” And by this, I mean when he produces an enormous paper bag filled with only the best Mexican in all of Montana. However, the crème de la crème is when he adds a bottle of Dr. Pepper to the mix. “You know the way to my heart.”
“Or stomach,” he quips, passing me the bottle. “Here is your seven-layer burrito, extra onions.” He hands over my mountain of goodness with a grin.
“What did I do to deserve this?” And I’m not only talking about the food.
“Just being you,” he replies, kissing the end of my nose. My heart swells. He spreads his long legs out in front of him, sipping a beer. “How’s work?”
I sigh, unwrapping my burrito. “Not great. I know there will always be conflict in the world, but it just seems that lately no one is getting along.”
Saxon moves his lips from side to side, appearing to be in thought. “I’m glad we are, though.”
Afraid of choking, I chew slowly, needing a minute to process what he just said. “Me too.” Something is bugging him. It’s written all over his face. “About this morning—”
He cuts me off. “It’s okay, Lucy. I just…need to get over this irrational jealousy when it comes to you. I know you love me, but it’s just difficult sometimes.”
“I completely understand.” I reach for his hand, intertwining our fingers. “I’m glad you know that I love you. Because I do. We’re all trying our best to deal with this pretty messed-up situation. Personally, I think we’re doing great.”
He nods, my words appearing to appease him. But something is still stirring behind his eyes. Just when I’m about to ask what’s going on, his phone rings—again. He digs into his pocket, the ‘something’ amplifying tenfold.
“I won’t be a minute.” He stands quickly and walks briskly away, out of earshot.
Sighing, my appetite gets shot to hell, and I place my barely touched burrito back into the paper bag. I watch for any signs of what the secret conversation Saxon is having entails. But he turns his back as if sensing my inquisitive stare.
I hate this unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach. The light at the end of the tunnel with Sam is shining dimly, but it’s suddenly overshadowed with whatever Saxon is hiding. He turns over his shoulder, meeting my eyes, before heading toward the house, which just makes me feel worse.
Unable to sit still, I stand, feeling constraints tug at my heart. Needing to escape, I take flight to the stables. Memories of when I felt similar to how I do now cloud my mind, and I do the only thing that has cleared my head since I learned to ride.
Potter, my horse, neighs when he sees me, sensing my desperation. Without thought, I put on his bridle, then I mount him, bareback, and squeeze my calves around his muscular barrel. I cluck my tongue twice, sending him into a gallop. He knows what I need. We both relish in the need to be free.
Clutching the reins, I lean forward and take a deep breath when he tears out of the stables, nothing but the open vastness greeting us. I work on autopilot as I lead him toward the mountains. We have been here before, and the memories linger on my tongue just as if they were crafted yesterday.
The wind whips through my hair, instantly easing some of the tension within. The terrain is bumpy, but we’ve both learned from experience to navigate this ground with caution. “Easy, boy,” I coo, tugging lightly to slow him down. He does.
I examine my surroundings, the untouched openness giving me the peace I need. We settle to a trot, and although I’ve lived here for years, I still am in awe of how picturesque everything is. But the prettiest thing of all is when my gaze alights on where Saxon and I shared our first kiss. This spot has been imprinted on my mind.
Fingering my lips, I recall the tenderness and uncertainty of his touch. I was so naïve to think that kiss wouldn’t change my life as I knew it. It not only changed my life, but it changed me too. Saxon has shaken up my world, but I would happily dance in the chaos because when I’m with him, I’ve never felt more alive.
Dismounting Potter, I tie him to a tree where he happily munches on the grass. So different from when we were here last. My bare feet sink into the terrain, and I savor the feel of being in touch with mother nature in the purest form.
Wrapping my arms around my middle, I close my eyes and return to the past. I can remember his words as if spoken only yesterday.
“Let’s pretend tomorrow doesn’t exist. Whatever happens now, it’ll just be memories from yesterday.” I could feel the tremble rumble throughout his entire body.
A quiver bubbles to the surface, and I hum. Saxon’s love for me has never wavered. I was just too blind to see. But my eyes, figuratively speaking, are opened now, and I’ll be damned if anything stands in the way of our happily ever after.
“What are you doing out here?” His voice is silk, encasing me in a velvety sphere.
“You kissed me here. Right in this spot. Do you remember?”
“Of course, I do,” he whispers, the nostalgia tethering us together.
With eyes still closed, I tip my face toward the heavens and take a deep breath. “We were fated from that moment forward.”
“We were fated a long time before then.” And he’s right. The first moment we met, touched, my world changed forever. “Is everything all right? You just took off.”
Sighing, I decide no more second-guessing. “Who were you talking to?”
“And don’t tell me just work.”
“You’re not telling me something, and I can’t help but feel you’re not telling me this because your secret will change everything.”
I’m hoping he will brush away my insecurities and tell me I’m overreacting, but when he does neither, a sense of dread settles low within my stomach. Unable to stand this a second longer, I open my eyes and turn to face him. The cloud of guilt hangs over his head as he peers down at his scuffed motorcycle boots.
“Just tell me what it is. This is your free pass. Whatever it is, I will deal with it. But please, don’t lie to me or hide the truth because we’ve had enough deceit to last us a lifetime.”
He mulls over my proposition, which has me wondering what exactly he’s done. A cold sweat suddenly coats my skin, and I swallow. “Oh god, Saxon, what’s going on?”
“Nothing, Lucy, nothing. I promise.” I’m in his arms a moment later as he hugs me with all his might. “Everything is all right. Everything will be fine.” I didn’t realize things weren’t already fine.
Breaking our embrace, I shake my head, adamant to find out the truth. “I don’t believe you.” Nothing but regret rolls off him as his shoulders drop. I can’t stand this. I don’t know why, but my gut tells me this involves Cleo. I knew she was trouble from the first moment we met, but I never thought she’d have the power to drive a wedge between us. “Does this have anything to do with… Cleo?” His jaw clenches.
I’m waiting for him to put my mind at ease, but he doesn’t. He simply stands mute, hands dug deep into his pockets. I feel sick. “Saxon, answer me. What…what did you do?”
He hisses, taking a step back. “I didn’t do anything.”
“Then tell me what the hell is going on.”
“Why would you automatically assume Cleo is involved?”
“Because whoever you’re speaking to, you clearly don’t want me to know who it is. So unless you have another girl on the side…”
“Another girl?” he spits, angered. “I don’t have any girls but you, Lucy.”
“Then tell me what’s going on!”
An exasperated breath leaves him as he begins to pace. This place once filled with happy memories is now tainted with secrets and doubt. I give him the time he clearly needs because he’ll just clam up if I continue to push.
“Yes, I need to tell you something, but…” He comes to a stop, running both hands through his snarled hair. “But I know when I do, you’ll…” The sentence remains unfinished because the ringing of Saxon’s cell cements my fate for good.
Buy FORGETTING YOU, REMEMBERING ME (Book #2) here ( February 28, 2018):
Get to know Monica James:
Monica James spent her youth devouring the works of Anne Rice, William Shakespeare, and Emily Dickinson.
When she is not writing, Monica is busy running her own business, but she always finds a balance between the two. She enjoys writing honest, heartfelt, and turbulent stories, hoping to leave an imprint on her readers. Her inspiration comes from every day life.
She is a bestselling author in the US, Australia, Canada, and the UK.
Monica James resides in Melbourne, Australia, with her wonderful family, and menagerie of animals. She is slightly obsessed with cats, chucks and lip gloss, and secretly wishes she was a ninja on the weekends.
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