I'm beyond excited to announce that Not Until Forever has an official cover. Thanks to everyone who participated in my cover poll. So many people said that this cover made them think of forever, which made my heart happy because that's exactly the feeling I hoped it would convey.
Watch for the book by late January/early February. And if you can't wait that long, you'll find a sneak peek of the Prologue below the cover!
Five Years Earlier
Spencer paced behind the park bench, tipping his head toward the gray clouds swirling above him. His nerves swirled faster. He patted at the pocket of his hoodie for the eighth time, letting the solidity of the little box there reassure him. Even if some parts of his life were falling apart right now, this was the one thing he was sure of.
He squinted toward the parking lot, watching for the flash of Sophie’s bright red Camaro. But the lot was empty, aside from his battered pickup truck, already packed with the few things he needed from his apartment. It was hard to believe he was going to walk away without his degree with less than a semester to go. But this is what he had to do. His family needed him.
He scrubbed a hand over his face and made himself sit down. He should be on his way already. But he couldn’t leave without doing this. Without telling Sophie what he wanted for the future. Their future.
Finally, the rumble of the Camaro’s engine caught his ears. Spencer fumbled at his pocket again as Sophie whipped into the parking lot. The wind unfurled her golden hair behind her as she stepped out of the car. Spencer shoved a hand roughly through his own hair and swallowed hard. What had he been thinking, doing this here?
He should have picked somewhere more romantic. More elegant. More Sophie. But this park had been their place since their first date three years ago. It was where they came to talk, to laugh, to share everything. Doing this here, now, felt right. Spencer forced himself to take a slow breath as Sophie hurried toward him, her strides long and sure in her heels and slim black skirt.
Just the sight of her lightened his heart. He had no idea what a woman like her saw in a man like him, but he’d learned not to question it. For whatever reason, they worked. And for that, he thanked God.
Spencer sank his face into her hair as his arms tugged her closer. This was what he’d needed. Whatever he was facing, holding Sophie made everything right in the world.
She pulled back a few inches and slid her fingers over his unshaven cheek. “You look tired. You sure you want to make the drive back to Hope Springs yet tonight?”
Not now that he was with her, he didn’t. But he nodded. “I have to, Soph.”
He’d only been home a couple of days—just long enough to sit with Mom through the worst of the waiting at the hospital. Through the hours of not knowing if Dad would make it.
Sophie looked away, but not before he caught the flash of disappointment in her eyes. “How’s your dad?”
Spencer disentangled from her embrace and grabbed her hand, leading her around the muddy patches toward their favorite spot at the edge of the park’s little pond. A family of ducks quacked at them and shuffled out of the way.
“He’s stable. Should be out of the hospital soon, but he’s not going to be back in the orchard anytime soon.” He couldn’t push away the image of Dad’s gray face. His slow movements. How could a heart attack have transformed his powerhouse of a dad so drastically?
Sophie bit her lip in that way that made it almost impossible to resist kissing her. “It’s just so close to graduation. It seems like a waste to throw away everything you’ve worked for.”
Spencer sighed. He’d had this argument with himself all the way here. But he couldn’t see any way around it.
“The work won’t wait, Soph. The seasons keep changing, no matter what’s going on in our lives.” He squeezed her hand. “Anyway, it’s not like if I don’t finish my degree now I can’t ever do it. I have my whole life.” Our whole life. But he was getting ahead of himself.
“I know.” Sophie offered a half-hearted smile. “I just hate the idea of saying goodbye sooner than we planned.”
He pulled her to a stop next to the bench they’d spent so many hours on. “Me too. That’s actually why I asked you to come here.”
He gestured for her to sit, and she did, giving him a curious look as he remained on his feet.
He drew in a shaky breath. He’d been so busy thinking about everything else that he hadn’t prepared what to say.
“There’s something I have to ask you.”
A wind gust blew her hair in front of her face, and she swept it behind her ear as he dropped to one knee. Hands shaking, he pulled the ring box from his pocket, opened it, and held the small diamond solitaire toward her.
Sophie gasped, lifting a hand to her mouth. “Spencer, don’t—”
“Sophie, will you—” Spencer stopped as her words slammed into him. “What?”
Sophie sprang to her feet and practically leaped over the bench, as if trying to construct a physical barrier between them. “You’re emotional right now, you’re not thinking clearly.”
Spencer pushed slowly to his feet and moved closer to the bench, reaching for Sophie’s hand across its back. “I’m not doing this because I’m emotional. I already had the ring. I was planning to wait until graduation, but with everything going on, I wanted you to know that I want a future with you.”
He squeezed her hand and tried to pull her around the bench so he could try again and this time do it properly. Leave it to him to screw up the proposal the first time.
But Sophie pulled out of his grasp and looked past him, toward the pond.
Spencer’s heart crumbled. She didn’t want to marry him.
“I’m leaving for Chicago in two months, Spencer. And then who knows what after that.”
He wanted to tell her it didn’t matter. That he’d go with her. Or he’d wait for her. Anything.
But admitting his need would only lead to more hurt. Would only remind him that he’d never be worthy of her.
“I’m sorry,” Sophie whispered.
And then she turned and walked away.
And he let her.