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Move the Stars (Something in the Way #3)
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The highly anticipated conclusion to the Something in the Way series, a forbidden love saga.
A part of me is still that sixteen-year-old girl squinting up at Manning, but no matter how far I fall or high I soar, I’ll always be a bird without her bear and nothing without him.
I’d walked away like I was supposed to. I’d kept my distance. I’d bent over backward to keep Lake pure, but she’s no longer that girl, and I don’t know if I can stay away anymore. I only know I don’t want to. She’s still everything I want and nothing I should ever have, but if anyone can move the stars, it’s her great bear in the sky.
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By New York standards, there was nothing all that strange about my outfit. This city had no shortage of strange. It might’ve been the fashion capital of the world, but pairing Corbin’s extra-large gray sweats with a party clutch wasn’t worth a second glance. The taxi driver didn’t care about my sloppy bun or muddy sheepskin boots. He’d surely witnessed enough cab rides of shame to assume that at eleven in the morning, that was what this was.
“You can let me out here,” I told him, pointing to a corner so he wouldn’t go around the block. I gathered my handbag and stilettos, then passed over the cash Corbin had insisted on giving me. As I exited, my boot caught under the seat, and I nearly stumbled face first into the snow. Apparently, along with a not-so-fresh-off-the-runway look, I was also sporting a hangover from last night’s holiday party.
It was early December and fucking freezing, but at the same time, the city’s first snow of the season blanketed everything with pure white. Flurries had started the night before and hadn’t stopped yet, which was why Corbin had suggested I not do my usual walk home. Even though the snowflakes were light and airy, almost nothing, the sidewalks had become fluffy. I stomped through the slush toward my building, unconcerned that it wetted the edges of the UGG boots my mom had sent last Christmas.
Strung lights adorned the East Village shops. Their windows displayed black and gold party dresses, velvet platforms so high they’d put the Spice Girls to shame, and vintage fur coats. I caught sight of my reflection and almost laughed at the gray-on-gray explosion of sweats and UGGs. I’d looped my hair on top of my head, and a few escaped pieces hung around my face. Mascara darkened my under-eyes, but I didn’t care. Not even a little. I looked like shit and held my chin high.
Who did I have to impress anyway? Even if I were to encounter the future love of my life today, I wasn’t ready for him. I wouldn’t be for a while. I’d had over four years to mourn losing Manning, and it seemed I needed more, because I didn’t even feel close to ready for anyone else.
The flakes fell a little heavier, like someone had shaken up a snow globe in my little corner. When I saw a very tall dark-haired man across the street, my heart squeezed in my chest. I was used to that, seeing Manning in the crowds of Union Square or leaning on orange traffic cones to peer into a manhole or paging through the Times on a park bench.
Through the snowy haze, this man bore an uncanny resemblance to Manning—except for a tailored coat, dress shoes, and suit and tie. Definitely not Manning. Yet he stared at me the way Manning did. Tightened my stomach the way only Manning could. And as I got closer, it was Manning’s molten brown eyes that stopped me dead in my snow-soaked boots.
I hadn’t seen him in over four years, but of course I’d know him anywhere. Impossible as it was, Manning stood across the street, watching me.
People passed between us, but we might as well have been alone in the city. Everything else fell away. He looked both ways and stepped off the curb. The sleet would ruin his nice shoes. It was all I could think, such a little thing in such a big moment.
One of my strappy, black stilettos slid out of my hand. By the time I’d picked it up and brushed off the ice, he was there, standing in front of my apartment building—and me.
His eyes traveled from the tangled mess on top of my head, down my oversized sweats, to my boots, and back up. It wasn’t my finest moment.
“Lake,” he said.
My name from his mouth took me back four years and four months. One word had the power to reverse all the work I’d done since the night I’d left California. The countless mornings I’d had to force myself out of bed when I’d wanted to cry myself back to sleep. All the times Val had dragged me out to meet people when I would’ve preferred to be alone with my pain. Four years’ worth of holidays I’d spent without my family. One word turned me from an independent college graduate, making her own way, to a stupidly naïve eighteen-year-old girl witnessing the love of her life’s wedding to another woman.
I had to swallow before I could speak, my throat dry from shock and the wintry day. “What are you doing here?”
He squinted over my head, toward the fifth floor, directly at my window. “Technically, I’m here for work.”
“Work?” I glanced at his tie. “What work?”
“It’s been months since anyone’s heard from you.” He sounded strangled as well. Maybe his knot was too tight. “Years since we’ve seen you.”