The Other Side of Love (Forever Love #3) by J.S. Cooper

Prologue

The first time I fully realized that I had made a decision that was going to change my life forever was when I saw Skylar. There was something so innocent and haunting about the look in her eyes; they told me that she knew secrets of the world that I could only guess at. She watched me keenly and openly as I walked around the room, and I was worried that she wasn’t going to like me. I felt tense as I waited for her to assess me. I thought I just wanted her to get to know me and to like me. I knew that it would make everything easier. I’d never counted on us having the bond that we did. I’d never counted on my heart belonging to her. I’d never felt a love like this before.

There are some people who live their lives with courage and determination. And then there are some who succumb to their emotions and crumble when they come across an obstacle. I’ve always tried to live my life the first way—it’s the only way I know how to live. Or, rather, it was. Now I’m not so sure. Walking away without saying goodbye was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. And it was the weakest. Growing up, everyone thought that my brother, Zane, was the strong one; he was the oldest and the protector, but they didn’t see the pain in his eyes that I did. They didn’t know the rejection that he felt when our mother left, the rejection that created a wall around his heart thicker than the chests in Fort Knox.

Leaving him had been devastating, especially because I knew he had to think I was dead. I thought that nothing would ever be able to beat my feelings of guilt and anger the day I died. But I was wrong. Leaving her had turned out to be even more devastating. And the fact that I hadn’t been able to say goodbye still tore at my heart. But I knew it was for the best.

Chapter 1

“Noah, are you hungry?” Lucky’s voice was soft as she knocked on my bedroom door, interrupting my thoughts. She sounded motherly and I laughed to myself at the irony of her looking after Zane and myself.

“A little bit.” I said and then walked over to the door to open it. “Morning.” I smiled down at her glowing face, and she beamed up at me. Her cheeks were rosy red and her brown eyes sparkled though her dark lashes. Her long dark hair was up in a ponytail and she looked fresh and beautiful.

“You look too beautiful for first thing in the morning.” I teased her. I pulled her hair and she giggled.

“You certainly know how to make a girl happy first thing in the morning. I’ll make us breakfast if you want.”

“Is Zane here?” I asked casually, not wanting to answer her question until I had an answer.

“No,” she shook her head and bit her lip. “He had to go out.”

“I see.” I tried to stifle a sigh. “So what’s for breakfast, then?”

“He’ll come around.” She grabbed ahold of my hand and squeezed it, while her big brown eyes looked at me compassionately. “He’s still hurt. But he’ll get over it.”

“Yeah, eventually he’ll get over it and forgive me.” I nodded. I knew that in my heart he would we would eventually be okay and that gave me a certain amount of hope. But she wouldn’t. I knew that for certain. She would always hate me for what I had done—or what I hadn’t done.

“What do you want to do today?” Lucky looked at me hopefully. “I thought we could go out and—”

“I’m sorry, but I have to go and talk to Special Agent Waldron.” I lied with a straight face. It came so easily to me now; my heart rate didn’t even beat faster, and the feelings of guilt were minimal.

“Oh?” She wrinkled her nose. “I thought that stuff was all taken care of now?”

“It is.” I looked away. “I just need to take care of some things.”

“Oh, okay.” She paused. “Maybe when you get back, we can go over the documentary stuff. I’m sure Sidney must be wondering where we are.”

“Maybe tomorrow?” I responded and then smiled at her. “I’m not sure how long I’ll be out today.”

“Oh, okay.” She frowned and looked as though she wanted to ask me something else.

“So, let’s go get breakfast. I’m feeling quite starved now.” I ran down the stairs ahead of her, not wanting her to ask me any more questions. I liked Lucky a lot, and I didn’t want to lie to her more than I had to. I watched her as she walked into the kitchen behind me. She really was a beautiful girl, and the pregnancy seemed to make her glow. With her big warm brown eyes and her long brown hair, she had already worked her way into my heart, both because she was a good person and because she loved my brother and made him happy. I had been shocked when Zane had told me he was in a relationship. In fact, I could honestly say that I was more shocked to find out that Zane had a girlfriend than he was to find out I was still alive. Okay, maybe not more shocked, but I was pretty shocked. But Lucky was great; she was perfect for my brother. There was something so warm and caring about her, and I loved her no-nonsense attitude. She obviously adored Zane, but she didn’t put up with his crap either. She reminded me a bit of Skylar. I froze as her name crossed my mind. Forget her, Noah. It’s over. You have no chance of making that right. I repeated my daily mantra to myself in my head as Lucky started to prepare breakfast.

“Omelet with peppers, onions and bacon okay?”

“Any cheese?”

“We have cheddar and Swiss.”

“Let’s go with cheddar.” I grinned at her and jumped off of the stool I was sitting on to go over and help her. “I’ll make the toast. White or wheat?”

“Let’s go with sourdough.” She laughed at me as I looked around the kitchen for the bread. “Look in the bread bin.” She pointed at a pinewood object on the counter top.

“I had no idea there was such a thing as a bread bin.” I made a goofy face and pulled out the bread and shook my head. “I guess you can tell I’m not very domesticated.”

“I guess it runs in the Beaumont family.” She laughed and me and handed me a knife, so I could slice the loaf.

“Well, you know. You grow up rich with maids and cooks, and you can’t cook much of anything.”

“I guess you can do toast and cereal.” She cracked some eggs, and giggled. “Lots of yummy cereal.”

“Do I look like I survive on cereal to you?” I winked at her and flexed my muscles. Lucky’s eyes sparkled appreciatively as she stared at my arms and chest.

“No, you’re way too built for that.”

“Trying to steal my fiancée already, Noah?” Zane’s slow drawl was light, but I could hear the warning in his voice. I stifled a laugh at the jealousy in his face. It was hilarious to see that my brother was so whipped.

“Zane.” Lucky ran over to him, and gave him a quick peck on the lips. “You’re back.” She sounded happy and I watched as he kissed her nose before rubbing her belly intimately.

“I couldn’t stand to be away from you,” he purred back at her, and it took everything in me to not demand a DNA test right away. What had happened to my brother? “You’re not feeling cold, bro?” Zane raised an eyebrow at me and gave me a once-over.

“No.” I grinned at him and continued slicing the bread. I suppose it was a bit presumptuous of me to walk around in my boxers and no top, but I really hadn’t thought it was a big deal.

“What are you up to today?”

“I have some stuff to do.” I kept my back to him and cocked my head to look at him. “Want some toast?” I looked into his eyes, and he stared at me for a few moments without speaking. I knew he had questions for me, but I wasn’t ready to answer them yet.

“Yeah, I’ll have two slices.” He continued to stare at me, and I knew he was telling me that he wasn’t going to wait much longer to find out exactly what had gone on. I wasn’t sure how to proceed, though. There was too much I didn’t want him to know.

“So, when is your next doctor’s appointment, Lucky?”

“Not for two weeks.” She chopped the onion up carefully as she spoke. “But everything is going fine so far, so that’s good.”

“I can’t believe I’m going to be an uncle.” I shook my head and then looked at Zane. “And I sure as hell can’t believe that you’re going to be a dad.”

“Well, you’re going to have to watch your language once the babies come.” He gave me a look and then laughed.

“I’m sure I can get away with saying hell for the first few years.” I grinned back at him. “But, I’ll keep my shits and f**ks to a minimum.”

“How sweet of you, bro.” He rolled his eyes at me. “I can already tell you’re going to be the best uncle ever.”

“You know it.”

“My friend Leeza is coming to visit in a few weeks.” Lucky glanced at me, and I could see a blush rising on her face. “I thought maybe you guys could go to lunch one day. Because I was hoping you guys would both be godparents.”

“Oh, no way is Leeza going to be a godparent to my child.” Zane’s voice was loud. “And I’m not having her as a sister-in-law, either.”

“Zane.” Lucky’s face was a deep red now. “Don’t be mean.”

“I’m just being honest.” He shrugged.

“I think Noah might like her.” Lucky pouted at him.

“I think not.” Zane gave her a look. “I’m not having that crazy ho around my brother.”

“Zane!” Lucky poked him in the chest.

“I’m still here, guys.” I raised a hand. “No need to talk about me like I’m not.”

“Well, you never know,” Zane drawled, and I ignored him. “One day you’re here and the next you’re gone.”

“I’d be happy to meet your friend, Lucky, but I’m not on the dating market right now. My heart isn’t really open to loving anyone else at this moment in time.” A dart of pain ripped through my heart and I held on to the counter tightly.

“You okay?” Lucky looked at me in concern.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks.” I turned away from her and nodded. I had to be fine. There was nothing else I could do. Skylar was gone from my life forever. I’d made that decision two months ago when I had walked away. And now—now I was out of that life, and there was no going back. Even though that life had felt more real than anything I’d ever felt before. She had wormed her way in and had never left.

“He most probably had a premonition of what life would be like if he dated Leeza.” Zane patted me on the shoulder and gave me his ‘we need to talk soon’ look.

“Zane, you’re horrible. She’s not that bad.”

“She’s not that bad?” His voice was incredulous. “She’s a snake, and I’m sure she would have bedded me if she could have.”

“She wouldn’t do that to me.”

“Lucky, she would have done me in a heartbeat. She was all over me. I mean, come on, how could she resist?”

“Idiot.” She slapped him on the shoulder and laughed. “I know she hasn’t been the best friend, but I want to give her another chance.”

“Eh.”

“I mean if it wasn’t for her getting me to the party, we might not be together now.”

“I would have thought of something.” Zane stood behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “There was no way I was going to let you out of my life.” He bent his head and nuzzled on her neck, and I watched as Lucky squirmed in his arms.

“Not now.” She squealed as he squeezed her behind and I took that as a signal to leave the room.

“Hey, guys, call me when it’s ready.” I laughed and Lucky blushed as I walked out of the kitchen and back up the stairs. I smiled as I walked up the stairs. Lucky wasn’t the sort of girl that I thought Zane would end up with, and I was glad. I had long worried that he’d end up with some ice queen who looked stunning but had poison running through her veins. Thank God, he and I had both escaped from Angelique’s clutches. I ran into my room as I heard my phone ringing and grabbed it quickly.

“Hello.”

“Noah?”

“Sidney?”

“Yes. It’s me.” He paused, and I could hear Betty whispering in the background. “Zane told me you were back, but I wasn’t sure. Sorry about the background noise. Betty wanted to know if you were okay.”

“No worries.” I smiled into the phone while listening to my old friend’s voice. “Tell her I’m well.”

“I hope you’ll be telling her in person soon.” Sidney chuckled. “She can’t barely believe you came back from the dead.”

“You didn’t tell Betty?” I was shocked.

“You told me not to tell anyone.”

“But I assumed you would tell Betty.”

“I wanted to, but Betty likes to talk. You know women, I didn’t want to ruin anything.”

“Oh, Sidney,” I sat on my bed, and closed my eyes. “Thank you.”

“I’m glad you’re safe. I’ve missed you.”

“I’ve missed you, too.” I felt emotional. Sidney Johnson had become like a father to me. He was the only person who knew most of my secrets. There was no one who knew all of them but he was the closest.

“I’ve still got your papers.” He spoke in a low voice. “Are you going to tell Zane?”

“He doesn’t need to know.” I lowered my voice as well.

“He went to France.”

“I heard.”

“She turned him away.”

“She shouldn’t have done that.” I was angry. “I’ll have to call her.”

“You sure you want to do that?”

“No, not really.” I lay back and rubbed my temples. I was starting to get a headache. “But I need to know what she said to him.”

“You should tell him.”

“No.” I shook my head vehemently. “He’s in a good place now. I don’t want to disturb that.”

“Noah, I know you think you’re protecting him, but he has a right to know. And honestly, I don’t think he’s going to just let it go. He has a right to know the truth about his past.”

“I’ll tell him something.” I cleared my throat. “Anyways, how have you been? I heard Lucky has been working on the documentary with you.”