I swallowed past the lump in my throat several times. I had to forget the look on his face as I had lied to him. In order to speak, I had to push that away. The lump was massive, and I didn’t expect it to leave anytime soon.

As I reached the tent, the bride was smiling up at the groom while the photographer took photos. The Sutton boys were all talking and laughing. All except Bray. He was missing. Dallas was grinning from ear to ear at Brent when his gaze shifted to me. His smile changed. He was studying me, trying to decide what had happened between me and Bray. I’m sure he was wondering if he had made a mistake urging me to come.

“Scarlet!” Dixie’s voice snapped my attention back to her. She was standing there one moment, picking up her dress and running toward me the next. Tears were back. This time they were bittersweet. I didn’t want her running in that dress, so I made my way toward her at the same speed. Her face was filled with joy. I felt guiltier for not being a part of her special day and not being by her side while she planned the wedding.

The moment we were close enough, she wrapped her arms around me. “You’re here!” she said joyfully. I blinked, and my tears escaped.

“It’s my best friend’s wedding day,” I reminded her.

She squeezed me tighter as I hugged her back. “I haven’t heard from you. I didn’t know. But you came. Thank you.” She sounded as if she were getting close to tears now too. She didn’t need to mess up her makeup. She had more pictures to take.

“I’m sorry, Dixie. I just didn’t want to ruin your big day by causing drama by my presence. In the end . . . Dallas convinced me you’d want me here.”

Dixie finally pulled back and looked at me. She saw my tear streaked face and concern clouded her eyes. “It took Dallas to convince you that I would want you here? Scar, what happened wasn’t just your fault. It was equal. Bray stood up there beside his brother. You had as much right to be here or up there beside me. Brent wasn’t your brother. In my opinion Bray’s actions were worse.”

I shook my head. I wasn’t letting her do that. Not for me. I knew the truth. I did everything I could to get Bray’s attention. “No. It’s my fault. But that’s not what today is about. It’s about how beautiful you are, how perfect your wedding is, and how happy I am for you. That’s why I’m here. And to tell you I’m sorry. I should have kept in touch. Answered all your calls. I just couldn’t. I needed to alienate myself to deal. It doesn’t excuse me but it’s why I’ve been out of reach.”

Dixie’s hands took mine and she held them firmly. “It’s okay. I was upset at first. Hurt. But I get it. I had to think it through. Put myself there. And I get it. I wanted to run too. When I was standing between two brothers, I wanted to run. What I did was as bad as what you did. But my brush with death made us all see a little clearer and I realized what is important in this world. Accept Asher and me, it doesn’t make what I did okay.”

I glanced over her shoulder and saw Asher talking to Brent who looked tense. Dallas was watching us and talking to Steel at the same time. Bray was still missing.

“I don’t think they see it that way,” I told her. She glanced back at them.

“They can get over it. This is my wedding day and I didn’t have my best friend up there beside me. You’re staying. I want you here. Please. Don’t go.”

Brent said something and scowled. Asher stepped toward him as if he was warning him. “Dix, that doesn’t look good,” I told her.

She let go of my right hand but kept my left one in hers, tugging me with her toward the boys. I tried to protest but the determined look on her face was startling. Dixie wasn’t so fierce normally.

“Brent Sutton shut up and listen to me. This is MY wedding day. And this is MY best friend. I do not care about the past. You should be past it too. Sadie stood up here with me today. You have told her you love her. That being the case, you have moved on from Scarlet. I will not have her leave here because you want to have a little fit like a freaking baby!”

Dallas chuckled but I didn’t look his way.

“Guess I should have let her handle it to begin with,” Asher said with an amused tone.

Brent glared at me, but his expression softened on Dixie. “She’s why Bray has gone missing.”

Dixie shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t care. Let him run. He can be an ass if he wants to. But I want to dance and enjoy my reception with my best friend there too. You and Bray got to stand by your brother. I didn’t have Scarlet beside me.”

Brent thought about that a minute. Then he shrugged. “Fine. You’re right. It’s over. Who cares if Bray is here or not,” Brent said, the tension leaving his stance. He didn’t look my way again.

Asher stepped in front of me. “Thanks for coming, Scarlet.”

“Thanks for letting me stay,” I replied.

“One question though. Did Bray see you?”

I nodded. “Yes. We have spoken and gotten our closure.”

Asher didn’t look convinced. “Good.”

Dixie squeezed my hand. “It’s going to be okay.”

It never would be. Not for me.


THE WALK FROM Dixie’s house to mine didn’t give me the time I needed to get over that shit. The party was starting up in my front yard. A band was already playing and the tent in our yard was filling up. I’d stood there and had to endure the entire thing while watching Scarlet. That’s all I could manage for Asher.

Instead of going toward the house I tuned toward my barn. Dallas’s punching bag no longer seemed stupid. I needed to hit something. The frustration was turning into rage the further I got away from Scarlet.

I hadn’t expected her to run back into my arms but damned if I expected that cold shut down. The regret in her eyes fucking killed me. That’s not how I felt. I thought she felt the same as I did. Hell, I had thought she felt more than I did. Apparently eight months was enough time to forget and move on for her.

“Bray Sutton!” Momma’s stern voice called out loudly over the yard before I reached the barn. For one second, I considered ignoring her. But that was only for a brief second. I wasn’t insane. Close but not entirely. “You keep walking boy and you’ll wish you hadn’t!” she warned.

“Shit,” I muttered before stopping and turning toward my angry mother. “What?” I replied, unable to keep my own emotions in check.

“Don’t even think about taking yourself in that barn. I told you at the wedding the girl was here and for you to keep your head about you. There’s pictures going on up there,” she pointed at Dixie’s. That’s where you belong.”

When I had walked down the aisle, Momma had whispered. “She’s here. Don’t you dare ruin your brother’s wedding. Keep your head.”

I wasn’t a kid who needed warning. But then again, I was doing exactly what she said not to do. This keeping my head for Asher’s sake was getting old.

“You’re asking too much of me,” I told her.

She closed the distance between us and shoved her finger into my chest as she looked up at me. “No! I am not. You did this boy. You made this bed and now lying in it ain’t no fun. What good did you ever think would come of it? Sleeping with your brother’s girlfriend? I ain’t saying it was all you. She did it too. But you were his brother. His twin. Taking what ain’t yours was wrong. Now, today is about Asher and Dixie and you will not make it about you. You’ll march yourself right into that reception, smile, and be a good brother.”

Tags: Abbi Glines South of the Mason Dixon Romance
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