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Southern Sunrise (Southern #4)
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Buried secrets never stay hidden in the South.
He left me without a second glance. I was just an afterthought.
It’s time I get my happily ever after, even if part of me wishes he was still mine.
The pain I felt blinded me, making it impossible to hear what anyone said.
Five years later, I’m back, only to find the woman I still love has another man’s ring on her finger.
She’s going to marry my best friend unless I stop her. And this time, I only have until sunrise to change her mind.
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“Class dismissed,” the teacher says, and I’m the first one out of my seat and out the door. The bright sunshine causes me to squint as I jog down the steps of the campus building. I’m on the way to my truck when the phone rings in my pocket.
Taking it out, I smile when I see it’s Emily. “Hello, Sunrise.” I greet her with the nickname I gave her when she was fourteen, and we stayed out all night. Her parents didn’t know and neither did mine. We watched the stars all night long, and when the sunrise finally came, she looked at me with sleepy eyes, and said, “Hello, Sunrise.” It was the day she turned fifteen, and I finally kissed her. We’ve been together for almost five years. We grew together in a small town, and she is two years younger than me, which is why I waited until she was fifteen to kiss her. But the minute I kissed her, I knew she was the one.
I want to say that it started gradually with the two of us hanging out together, but no one knew we spent every single day together by the creek. One day, I saw her sitting in the middle of a rock at the creek, just watching the water. We got to talking, and well, the rest is history. It started with us meeting “by accident” in town at the diner, and then it got to be where there was no Ethan without Emily by his side. It’s why I chose to go to college only an hour and a half away. I couldn’t leave her, and it’s why I go back to see her four times a week.
“Hey there, Birthday Boy!” she squeals. “Happy Birthday! Am I the first one?”
“Considering where I was with you at midnight”—I laugh—“you were the first one.”
She laughs. “Oh, good. What time are you coming into town?”
“My last class just finished, and at this time of day, it takes about two hours to get back to town.” I look around at all the people on the campus lawn. It’s usually crowded on bright, sunny days because people want to get out.
“Okay, perfect,” she says. “Are we going straight to your mom’s place?”
“Yeah,” I say, stopping in the middle of the huge lawn when I feel as though I’m being followed. I turn around, looking to see if someone is watching me, but no one stands out. “I also figured tonight would be a good time to tell them the big news.”
“But it’s your birthday,” she says. “I don’t want to take the spotlight off you.” And this is another reason I love her. She is selfless in every sense of the word and puts everyone else’s needs in front of hers.
“Trust me, my mother is going to be over the moon with the news that we are getting married,” I say, smiling as I think of her wearing my ring. “Just don’t forget to wear the ring.”
“I told you I don’t wear it in case someone sees me,” she huffs out. “Anyway, I have to go. Class is starting, so I’ll meet you at your mom’s place. Love you,” she says, hanging up, and my chest feels full when she says this. I look down at the screen saver of the two of us, taken after I asked her to marry me. Her face was still stained with tears while I kissed her.
“Excuse me?” I turn around when a man’s voice interrupts my memories. “Are you Ethan McIntyre?”
“I am,” I say to the man, looking him up and down. He doesn’t look like he fits here, that’s for sure. His beard is almost white, and his three-piece suit clearly tailored. “How can I help you?”
He shakes his head, and it’s then I realize he’s holding a manila envelope. “You can’t help me with anything.” He looks down at his hands and then looks back up at me. “But I can help you.” He extends his hand to me. “This is for you.”
My hand moves to grab it before my brain registers. “What is this?”
“Your truth,” he says, and just like that, he turns and walks away. Leaving me confused, I call out to him again, but he doesn’t turn around. When I look down at the envelope in my hand, I see my name written on the front. When I look back up, he’s already disappeared in the crowd.
Opening the envelope, I pull out the papers and start reading. The letter is addressed with just my name. As my eyes scan the papers, I feel like my head is spinning around in a circle. It’s almost as if my life is spiraling out of control, and all I can do is watch. My heart speeds up so fast in my chest that I hear the thumping in my ears. I flip the pages over and then come back and read it again. This can’t be happening; this is not happening. My legs give out on me, and I sit on the grass. If anyone walks past me, it just looks like I’m sitting down reading papers when, in reality, my life and the foundation I grew up on is crumbling to the ground. I read the paper maybe seven times before I have the energy to get up.