Sometimes getting lost is the only way to be found.
Annaliesa James and Kenslie Walker have been planning the European trip of a lifetime since their freshman year of college. Now, with graduation behind them, they're ready to set sail. One last hoorah before they move away to conquer their own dreams.
They're a few days from leaving when Kenslie's boyfriend, Everett, throws a wrench in everything, sending her to Europe with a broken heart.
The ever-meticulous Annaliesa has the trip planned to a tee until a twist of fate leaves her stranded alone with a mysterious stranger who becomes an unlikely friend. Ryker helps Anna let her hair down and learn to live in the moment.
Kens is shocked when Everett suddenly appears, causing her to make a rash decision, which results in her being separated from Anna.
As Kens and Anna search for each other they find more than they ever expected, but is it enough to mend a broken heart and open another to love?
Content Warning: contains sexual content and strong language
It takes just a minute for Everett to close the distance between us, and I can feel his mood change. His arms encompass my body, cradling me while I cry. I tuck my head into that familiar spot on his chest, desperate to burn it into my memories, because soon that's all Everett will be. The memory of the first boy I ever really loved.
"Kenzie. Hush, baby. It's going to be okay." His strong hands smooth my hair, comforting me. "I love you. I don't want to fight. Now isn't the right time to talk about this, you're right."
I can hear the desperation in his voice. He knows just as well as I do where this is going, and I love him for wanting to spare my pain for as long as possible.
Pulling back out of his arms, I wipe my eyes on my sleeves and blow out a brave breath.
"It seems love isn't enough for us, not right now at least. I can't give up my dreams to stay here, and you feel the same way about not leaving. If one of us gives in, we'll just end up resenting each other in the end. I love you too much to ever want to hate you."
I pause, steadying my voice, as I look up at Everett, only to look quickly away. The foreign tears hiding in the corners of his eyes are going to have me a complete, utter wreck any moment now.
"I'll have most of my stuff out by tomorrow night. I'm sure Anna will let me keep it at her place. You can have all the furniture."
"You're the one leaving me, for the record," Everett says sorely.
"For the record?" I roll my eyes. "Yeah, well, for the record, I'm the one who's a crying mess, I'm the one who's said I love you a dozen times, I'm the one who thought about marriage and our big picture, not you."
"I don't want this. I love you too. Tell me what I can do to make you stay?"
I can hear the desperation in his voice as he takes a hesitant step toward me, and it makes me want to rethink my decision. Maybe I can find a hospital locally, even though I was turned down for my top choice local jobs I'd applied for months ago. I'd have to start small and work my way up, but I could do it, I tell myself hopefully. But a voice in the back of my head tells me that I deserve more. That I've worked hard for more.
"You can't," I finally say.
"Then what good would chasing after you do?" Everett says with a scoff. Turning, he slams his hands on the table, and the loud thud bounces off the happy memories and pictures hanging on the walls.
"Thank you." I pause, trying to stay collected. "Now we've both broken my heart."
* * * *
"Sit, I won't bite," he says as I walk by him again in hopes of finding a place to sit.
"I don't want to interrupt your peace."
"You're annoying other people by walking up and down the aisle, looking for a spot."
"That wasn't my intention. I just wanted to find a spot big enough so I could try to sleep," I say as I sit down, but as I scoot around him to get to the seat by the window my bag knocks him in the head.
"Damn, what's in that bag?"
"Oh shit, I'm sorry," I say. Crap, I should've taken my backpack off before trying to sit. "Are you okay?"
"I'll be fine, but I may have a broken nose and a couple of black eyes," he mumbles through his hands. "I hope you like raccoons."
"What?" I ask, confused about why he's talking about raccoons. "You're not okay. Maybe you have a concussion. You need to go to the hospital. You're bleeding," I say, trying to get out of my seat to stop the train.
"Sit down. I don't have a broken nose or a concussion, and if I did, they wouldn't stop the train. They can't. But I may have two black eyes tomorrow."
Duh. That's why he was asking me about the raccoons. I don't believe I didn't catch that at first. Normally, I'm not that slow, but I was too preoccupied with the thought of him needing medical care. Plus, the stress of being split from Kens isn't helping.
What a craptastic day this has turned into.
"Are you sure your nose isn't broken? It's bleeding," I say again.
"It's fine." He pulls a shirt out of his bag and wipes his nose. "It was an accident, unless you're just trying to show me you can defend yourself," he says with a laugh, showing me his shirt to prove he wasn't bleeding that bad. "Really, I'm good. Sit down and relax. Maybe I can help you come up with a plan to find your friend."
I really shouldn't get close to him, but he seems nice, and I could use some support right now. Maybe he can calm me down a little, so I don't feel like murdering Everett the next time I see him.
Sitting down, I set my backpack under my seat and take a couple of calming breaths. "Thank you," I say, even though I'm not really sure why. "Before you ask, I don't know what I'm thanking you for."
"You're welcome. Maybe it's my good looks," he smirks at me.
"Har har har. There are a lot of good-looking men on this train, and I'm not sitting next to them thanking them."
"Fine, it's because I'm the only one who'd let you sit with me. Or maybe it's because I offered to keep you company while you're separated from your friend. The one who should never have gotten off the train like that. Or could it be that you want to have a whirlwind romance in Europe?"