Home > Tight End

Tight End
Author: Lisa Suzanne

 

CHAPTER 1: KAYLEE

 

“What do you mean he isn’t here?” I ask, trying unsuccessfully to hide the trembling in my voice.

“He isn’t here,” Jack says, enunciating his words. “His suit is still hanging in his bedroom. The Scout isn’t in the garage.”

“Where did he go?” I ask stupidly, as if Jack would know.

Jack shakes his head. “I’m not sure. I tried calling. Luke tried. Jeb tried. He won’t answer any of us, but maybe he’ll answer if you try.”

I shouldn’t have to chase him down. This was his idea, for fuck’s sake.

But if he got scared, maybe he needs someone to tell him it’s going to be okay. Maybe he needs me to tell him it’s going to be okay.

We don’t have to do this right now. Everything seemed to be plugging along just fine. We don’t need to throw this marriage complication into the mix if he isn’t ready.

Maybe I’m not ready, either.

My stomach twists, and I feel like I’m going to be sick.

Again.

I’m not handling my emotions well lately.

I draw in a deep breath as I try to ward off the nausea, but it doesn’t really help. “I need to sit.” I nearly collapse on the bottom step where I’m still standing. Jack’s arms steady me, and my mom moves beside me while Jack kneels in front of me, his concerned gaze on me.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

I shake my head. “I’ve been feeling sick a lot lately and Ben thinks maybe I have, uh…what’s it called? The thing where you have concussion symptoms a few weeks after you hit your head.”

“Post-Concussion Syndrome?” Jack supplies, and I nod.

“Yeah. That.”

My mom glances at Jack over my head. “We need to get you checked out.”

I shake my head. “I said I’d make an appointment after the wedding if I wasn’t feeling better next week.”

My mom and Jack exchange a glance.

“How long ago was the concussion?” Jack asks.

“Six weeks tomorrow.”

Jack’s brows furrow in concern. “Let’s go to the hospital.”

“Stop it.” I shake my head. “I’m fine. Just a little overwhelmed by the fact that my fiancé decided to ditch our wedding day.” I take another deep breath. “Can you get me some water?”

Jack nods and rushes to the kitchen while my mom slings her arm around me. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” I repeat, my voice flat and devoid of emotion as the threat of tears pinches behind my eyes again. I’m not fine, but I will fake it right now for their benefit.

I will fake it for Ben’s benefit, because my only thought now is that something must’ve happened to pull him away from me.

We were both so sure that this was right, so for him not to show up today…

I’m worried. I’m anxious. I’m scared.

And even when I chug the glass of water Jack hands over, I’m still nauseous.

At least the only people who knew about this event are those I’m closest to. At least I don’t have to face this humiliation in front of an audience.

Although Ellie already snapped photos of me that I can use on Instagram as I got ready for the day. I can tag all the vendors to give them a little push, and I even have a few who’ve sponsored different parts of the day today—which, I suppose, means the audience is slightly larger than the people here in attendance.

That thought just pushes my nausea up a notch.

I finish the water and ask for more.

Where the hell could he be?

Why would he run without telling me?

In the last five minutes, I’ve run the gamut of every emotion—from hope and happiness as I descended the stairs to fury as Jack confessed Ben was gone to concern and anxiety and now, some strange land of utter numbness. The only feeling inside is the twisting and turning of my stomach.

“My phone is on my dresser,” I say to Jack. “Can you go get it?”

He nods and rushes up the stairs. He returns a few seconds later and hands it to me.

It’s blank.

No messages since the last time I checked it.

Nothing from Ben. No texts. No missed calls.

I draft a text to him and click send.

Me: Where are you?

I wait with my phone in my hand, but no reply comes.

I need to talk to him. I need to know what’s going on. But I can’t do it in front of Jack and my mother.

Oh, God. The one thing Jack said was that if he hurt me, he didn’t know how they’d be able to play together again.

This is so much bigger than just Ben and me.

“Excuse me.” I stand and pull the dress up with me. “I just need to be alone right now.” I head up to my bedroom and shut the door for privacy.

I dial his number, but he doesn’t answer.

My throat clogs with emotion.

What the hell is going on?

“You’ve reached Ben,” his familiar voice says on the outgoing recording. “Leave a message.” The sound of his voice causes a pulse of pain to stab against my ribs.

I miss him already.

I don’t know where he is or what happened, but an icy fear that this is the end grips my heart.

“Where are you?” I ask, my voice trembling. “I know you’re scared. I am, too. We don’t have to do this. We don’t have to get married. But you can’t just leave and shut me out. You can’t just run away after everything we’ve been through—after the secrets we’ve shared, after how close we’ve become, after you made me fall for you and promised you were different. We can figure this out, Ben. We can figure anything out together. I don’t even know who I am anymore without you. Please call me back. Please.” My last few words come out on a whisper because I can’t seem to make my voice work.

I hang up the phone and toss it on the dresser, and then I head to the bathroom where I throw up.

After ten minutes of pacing the room in front of my phone, I still haven’t heard from him.

Like an idiot, I’m still in my wedding gown.

The perfect dress.

All the perfect details.

None of it matters without the groom.

A knock at my door forces me to stop pacing.

I open it to Ellie and Kate, who both look worried as they stand there in their bridesmaid gowns. I went with yellow—a sunshiney, bright look for this summer wedding on the eve of Independence Day.

Independence day. Who knew how much meaning that might hold for Ben when we planned this thing? I don’t want my independence. I just want Ben.

“How are you holding up?” Ellie asks first.

“Fine,” I mutter. I’m not fine. Where is he?

“I’m so, so sorry, Kay,” Kate says.

“Don’t be.” My tone is sullen as numbness settles over me like a blanket that isn’t quite warm enough.

I have the urge to call him again—just to hear his voice on that outgoing message, not even to try to get him to answer or to leave another message.

I don’t. Not yet, anyway. Not with Kate and Ellie studying me with those looks of pity that are making my stomach turn over again.

“Maybe he’s just running late,” Ellie suggests. “Maybe we’re all blowing this way out of proportion. It hasn’t even been an hour yet.”

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