Only Ever You
By CD Reiss
From New York Times bestselling author CD Reiss comes a story of friendship, romance, and growing into a love that was always there.
Rachel knew exactly what turning thirty would be like. She had a plan, after all. First college, then a climb up the professional ladder. Love, marriage, children. All of it was on the schedule.
The cheap Hollywood apartment wasn’t on the list. Neither was the string of heartbreaks. Or the effect her mother’s cancer had on her career.
It’s hard to stay practical and on point when everything takes a left turn.
Enter Sebastian, the nerd across the street. The boy she defended when he couldn’t defend himself. The best friend she promised she’d marry if life didn’t go according to plan.
Not only is he successful, confident, and gorgeous, but he also still has their handwritten marriage contract.
No one goes through with childhood wedding pacts.
But their families might just be crazy enough to rent a hall and set a date. All Rachel and Sebastian have to do is fall in love.
After I left her and CJ with Lucinda, I spent the weekly staff meeting wondering if Rachel was the same warrior I’d loved or if she was more the woman who’d held her laptop to her chest as if she needed protection.
I was obsessed.
I had to know.
Her text came in as I was leaving the meeting.
I need to check that we’re kidding
Before I could finish typing a response, I caught her coming out of the bathroom with her laptop under her arm.
Alone. Me and her. Nothing between us but the question of who we were and how we fit.
She didn’t have a chance to finish. I crowded her back into the bathroom and locked the door behind us.
“Kidding about what?” I said.
“About getting married.”
“Why would that even be a question?”
“Our parents have been in negotiations about it.”
My mother couldn’t keep herself from talking if she tried, and I was her favorite subject.
“It might be a little soon for marriage, but—”
“Soon? I don’t like you seeing what I do for a living while you’re in a glass-walled office overlooking the ocean. I mean, I’m not marriage material, and the odds are that’s never going to change.”
“I don’t see why a date’s off the table.”
“Do you know what’s going to happen if we date?”
The list of possibilities was as long as my arm. I could have counted them off, from “We decide we hate each other” to “We end up in bed.” But I didn’t, because I was still trying to figure her out.
What did she want to hear?
With her wide eyes and parted lips, what did she want? Did she have a fondest wish where I was concerned? Was she leaning forward? Was her expression soft and yielding?
My mind spent too long deciding what to say, so my body spoke for me.
I kissed her hard and was met with teeth and stiff resistance. It was a kiss I’d wanted since I’d had hairless armpits and a voice somewhere in the low soprano range. I’d dreamed about it. Fantasized about it. Thought about it so hard in the middle of the night I could practically feel it.
But never, ever in my fantasies did she push me away so hard I fell back against a towel dispenser, watching her face twist into surprised rage as the machine spit out a ragged rectangle of brown paper.
“Messed up. I know.”
“Then why? What is wrong with you?”
She was livid, just like she would have been. Just like she should have been.
The tiger within Rachel was in there, and my attempt to tease her out had probably alienated her. She’d be right to never speak to me again.
“I’m sorry,” I said with my hand on the door lock. “I misread you. It won’t happen again.”
I started to open the door, but she held it closed.
“If we date, my mother’s going to get her hopes up that I’m going to settle down. And I’m sorry, Seb, but if we break up while she’s in chemo, it’s going to crush her.”
“You don’t even know if she’s sick again.”
“You’re right.” She pointed a rigid finger at me as if I were her mother. “I’m going to make her tell me.”
“You’re really beautiful when you’re telling it like it is.”
She slid her hand off the door. Having been called out, the warrior was sent into hiding.
No. I wouldn’t accept that. I wouldn’t allow it.
“Let’s just go out and catch up,” I said. “Saturday.”
“Can’t. Saturday’s the soonest I can talk to Mom.”
I unlocked the door. “I’m sorry about . . . the thing.”
“No, wasting paper towels. Of course kissing you.”
“Next time, give a girl a little warning.”
Next time? Her eyes darted to the door. Was she calculating the distance to her getaway? Or making sure it was closed?
“How about now?” I asked.
“Fair warning. Now.”
I stepped a little closer and put my hands on her arms. Not right away. I let them hover an inch away before touching her to give her the chance to move away. A chance I was sure she’d take.
But she didn’t move away.
Not this time. When I laid my hands on her biceps, she leaned in to me just a little. I smelled the floral lotion on her skin and a hint of cool water on her breath.
“Really.” I slid the laptop from her arms and placed it on the counter. “This is your warning.”
You’re doing this. I cannot believe you’re doing this.
“It doesn’t feel like a warning,” she said, and again—I noted—she didn’t move away.
“Flashing red lights.” My lips brushed her cheek, heading for her mouth. She felt better than I ever imagined. “A buzzer, maybe.”
“Just a kiss?” she asked, her lips moving against mine.
Before I could consummate what she was agreeing to, I was smacked by a swinging door.
“Oh!” CJ said. “I’m sorry! I was looking for you.”
Rachel snatched up her laptop and walked out. CJ raised an eyebrow with good reason, since I was in the ladies’ room. I left, and we all gathered in the hall.
“Well,” Rachel said. “Thanks for showing us your tedious financial-sector company.”
“Thank you for coming,” I said and let them walk away. I could have done or said much more, but not without getting her into trouble. She glanced back at me when they turned the corner, as if she wanted to make sure I was still there.
Only Ever You by CD Reiss is a delightful romance. Rather than having a complex plot or dark subject matter, this book was pure romance. Friends to lovers, popular girl falls for nerd, triumph over bullies, and crazy family meddling is the theme for Only Ever You.
Two kids make a contract to marry each other if they are still single when they turn thirty. What seemed like a joke actually turned into a real contract once the “families” got involved and the thirtieth birthdays have arrived. Rachel thought she would have taken the Hollywood scene by storm. She thought she would be a successful screen writer with Oscars/Emmy’s under her belt. Instead she is a writer’s assistant for a cheesy romantic network. She lives in a crappy apartment and still does her laundry at home to save money.
When she goes home for Christmas, she’s in for quite a surprise. Her family and their neighbors always celebrate Christmas Eve together. Sebastian has come home for Christmas after missing many years of the celebration. He’s no longer the skinny, nerdy boy she used to protect from the bullies in school. He’s a gorgeous, successful man who wears grandpa’s cardigan like a movie star. She’s thrilled to see her old friend.
Connecting with Sebastian is great but when the families bring out the old marriage contract it’s a different story. The odds seem higher now because it isn’t about them but making their families happy because Rachel’s mom’s cancer may be back.
As they plan their wedding it becomes more than simple childish contract. They both want the real deal but don’t really know one another anymore. Getting married is complicated enough. Falling in love is wonderful except it should happen before the wedding.
I am sending all readers an invitation to Rachel and Sebastian’s love story. It is imperfectly the best wedding romance this summer. CD Reiss made me smile and gave me all the goosies I always want when I read a romance novel.
I highly recommend Only Ever You by CD Reiss.
About the Author
CD Reiss is a New York Times bestseller. She still has to chop wood and carry water, which was buried in the fine print. Her lawyer is working it out with God but in the meantime, if you call and she doesn’t pick up she’s at the well hauling buckets.
Born in New York City, she moved to Hollywood, California to get her master’s degree in screenwriting from USC. In case you want to know, that went nowhere but it did give her a big enough ego to write novels.
She’s frequently referred to as the Shakespeare of Smut which is flattering but hasn’t ever gotten her out of chopping that cord of wood.
If you meet her in person, you should call her Christine.
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