Promise to Keep(Promises, #2)

By: Jessica Wood

PROLOGUE

CHLOE

Jackson Pierce. The man I loved. The man I betrayed. The man who hated me.

But he had every right to hate me as much as he did. The secret I’d kept from him was unforgivable, and the untimely way he’d discovered that secret had only strengthened the seed of that hatred, allowing that emotion to deeply root itself inside of him.

But no matter how much he hated me, there would always be someone else who hated me even more. Myself.

For as long as I could remember, my life hadn’t been a perfect one. It’d been the opposite of perfect. Things were never black and white, but more gradients of gray—and many ugly fucking grays. When I’d met Jackson, he had become the one part of my life that had been different—the one part of my life that’d been perfect and uncomplicated. The one part of my life that’d made me happy.

But I hadn’t expected to ever meet someone like Jackson. I’d grown up thinking that I didn’t deserve much happiness—I had no idea what happiness really felt like. So I hadn’t allowed myself to believe I deserved a person like him to care for me. I hadn’t dared to wish for anything as good as him to happen in my life. Subconsciously, I’d always kept him in the friend-zone, kept him at a safe distance for fear that if I gave in to my feelings for him, I’d somehow inevitably lose him.

In a way, that was exactly what had happened in college. I’d started to imagine the possibilities of something beyond our friendship. And it was then that I’d lost him.

A series of events had led me down a dark path, and I ended up doing something unforgivable. I’d tried to convince myself that it’d only been sex, but I knew deep down that it’d felt wrong, almost forbidden. I’d wanted to tell Jackson everything as soon as it’d happened, but fate had other plans in mind and intervened. And then somehow along the way, I’d somehow convinced myself that he didn’t need to know—that he didn’t deserve to know. And over time, as it’d become harder and harder to get up the courage to tell him about that part of my life, it’d become easier and easier to compartmentalize my two separate lives. And for over a year, I’d been both the girl Jackson knew as his best friend and the escort he was a stranger to.

It was the one big secret I’d ever kept from Jackson. But like many big secrets, they always had a way of revealing themselves.

And this one had. In possibly the worst way imaginable. My big secret ended up being the thing that tore us apart and ended our friendship.

But how had I fallen down that rabbit hole? And how had I not realized that my actions would inevitably hurt the one person who’d been there for me all these years?

I could try to blame fate or life, but the truth was no one forced me into these choices. I was a flawed person, broken in many ways. It had been my decision and I chose to go down that path.

But I also hadn’t sought out the choices I’d made. I hadn’t wanted to be an escort. It was one of the hardest decisions I’d ever had to make. And there was a reason for this decision—maybe not a perfect one, in hindsight, but during that moment in time, when push came to shove, when the lives of the people I cared about the most were on the line, and when time was running out, that was when my decision to be an escort seemed like the only option.

But was it worth the betrayal, the disgust, and the hurt that filled Jackson’s eyes that day when he’d discovered my secret in the way he did?

No.

No matter how much time had distanced me from that moment—the lowest of my lows—the look on his face when I’d removed my blindfold and saw that it was him had been forever etched into my memory. And every time that memory flashed in my mind, I found it hard to breathe as I felt all the regret and anguish flood back to me, taking me back to that moment.

Maybe I deserved losing Jackson for what I’d done. I had thought that myself many times over. I never even thought I’d deserved him in my life to begin with. But as unrealistic as it was for me to think he’d ever forgive me, a part of me wasn’t able to let go of the desperate hope that somehow, by some miracle, he would. And I knew deep down that as long as my heart continued to beat, it couldn’t escape the hold he had on me, it couldn’t escape the truth I’d tried to ignore. Jackson was a part of me, forever and always.

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