Melissa gasped. Not a face she was expecting to see in Lowell, Michigan at her store. “Andy? What are you doing here?”
He was still as hauntingly handsome as he’d been the day she gave him back the enormous engagement ring he’d purchased with his daddy’s money. His clean-cut missionary haircut paired well with his smooth, chiseled jaw, Polo shirt and khakis. “Your mom called.”
That traitor! “What did she say to you?” Melissa demanded.
“She told me you were having a hard time and could really use a friend,” Andy said, his humble smile sincere. “I felt terrible that I wasn’t here for you, so I hopped on the next available flight to Grand Rapids.”
“You shouldn’t have come here.” Melissa shook her head in disbelief, keenly aware that they had an audience of store customers, most of whom probably knew that she and Troy had parted ways the previous week.
After driving home from Saginaw in near silence, Troy had dropped Melissa off at her cousin’s house and disappeared down the road. She hadn’t heard from him since. She cried every night and had bags under her eyes from lack of sleep. She didn’t need Andy showing up to make her feel better. She needed Troy.
Melissa glanced over at the little café in the corner where younger men had returned in recent days to drink burnt coffee and eat complimentary donuts. Likely they all hoped she would get over her infatuation with Troy and notice one of them. “Come on, let’s go to my office where we can talk in private.” She turned and strode to the back of the store, knowing Andy would follow her.
Melissa propped open the door to her office so Andy wouldn’t get the idea that she wanted that much privacy with him. “Have a seat.” She pointed to the chair opposite her desk.
“Can I have a hug first?” Andy asked, holding open his arms and offering subtly pouting lips. How many times had she kissed those lips? Too many.
“I think we’ve given each other all the hugs we’re ever going to give.”
“I have a hard time accepting that.” Andy reached for her hand and gently pulled her closer. “I still don’t understand what I did that made you want to take a break.”
“I never said I wanted to take a break,” Melissa told him, ignoring the betrayal she was feeling in her heart at wishing Troy was the man holding her hand. “I said I wanted to break up. There’s a difference.”
“When two people love each other enough to promise each other forever, that kind of love doesn’t just go away. At least it hasn’t for me.” Andy pulled Melissa just a little closer and rested his hands on her hips. The way he held her felt so natural, so comfortable, so benign. He still didn’t elicit any fire from her middle, any racing heart, any accelerated breathing.
They’d been engaged for six months. They’d dated for five months prior to that. Yes, she’d loved him. She probably still did love him. He apparently still loved her. He loved her enough to drop everything and come to Michigan to comfort her.
Andy always treated her with respect. They never disagreed about anything. Andy could give her every imaginable luxury in the world. His family loved her, and her family loved him.
On paper, Andy was everything Melissa wanted and needed. They read and interpreted the scriptures the same way. Andy held the priesthood. He served as a missionary. He had a college education. They’d attended the same college.
They knew each other’s secrets. Andy knew what kind of chocolate she wanted on the day before her period. He could go to the grocery store and pick out exactly what kind of pads and tampons she wanted.
He knew her birthday. He knew her parents’ birthdays. He was there the day her grandma died. He had loved her for longer than she knew he existed.
Their babies would be beautiful. Their babies would be raised in the church. They would never have to compromise their values or doctrinal beliefs to be together.
If Melissa married Andy, they could be sealed in the temple for time and all eternity in the new and everlasting covenant of marriage.
The only excuse Melissa could give as to why she couldn’t marry Andy was because he said that she was beautiful. No, he said she was eye candy.
Was that such a bad thing?
Melissa had never come right out and told Andy that she’d overheard his conversation with his buddy. He was probably justified in his confusion.
“You called me eye candy,” Melissa whispered, lowering her gaze. She was eye level with his strong chest muscles, so well-proportioned inside his stylish shirt. The muscles of his arms had just the right amount of breadth. He was the perfect size. Everything about Andy was perfect.
“What? When?” Andy lifted her chin with his finger and Melissa raised her gaze to meet his.
“You were talking to your friend, John, and you didn’t know I overheard you. I could barely stand to be around you after that. I was so hurt.” Tears fell from each of her eyes.
“Sweetheart, I don’t remember saying that, but if I did, I’m sorry. It’s true that you’re beautiful. Any man who can’t see that is blind.”
“You sound like my mother,” Melissa said through her tears.
“Your mother’s a smart woman.” Andy pulled Melissa closer, and she finally submitted to his embrace, allowing her head to rest on his shoulder.
There was still no spark between her and Andy even as she wrapped her arms around his waist and held him close. She wished there could be. She knew what passion felt like now and nothing could compare. She just couldn’t love Andy as more than a friend, maybe a sister.
That’s probably not how things looked when Troy came racing around the corner and slid to a stop near the door to her office.
Book Club Discussion Questions: Why do you think Troy is there and what is he thinking?