Changing Everything by Molly McAdams by Molly McAdams - Read Online

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Changing Everything - Molly McAdams

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Dedication

To you, you know who you are. I will always remember you fondly as my best friend and will cherish the many fun memories with you.

Contents

Dedication

Prologue

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Epilogue

An Excerpt from Trusting Liam

Prologue

Chapter One

World of Molly McAdams

About the Author

Also by Molly McAdams

An Excerpt from When Good Earls Go Bad by Megan Frampton

An Excerpt from The Wedding Band by Cara Connelly

An Excerpt from Riot by Jamie Shaw

An Excerpt from Only In My Dreams by Darcy Burke

An Excerpt from Sinful Rewards 1 by Cynthia Sax

An Excerpt from Tempt the Night by Dixie Lee Brown

Copyright

About the Publisher

Prologue

August 30, 2013

Paisley

I FIDGETED WITH my coffee cup as I tried to find the courage to say what I’d held back for so long. Twelve years. Twelve years of waiting, hoping, and aching were about to come to an end. With a deep breath in, I looked up into the blue eyes of my best friend, Eli, and tensed my body as I began.

"This guy I met, Brett, he’s—­well, he’s different. Like, he’s a game changer for me. I look at him, and I have no doubt of that. I have no doubt that I could spend the rest of my life with him. I laughed uneasily and shrugged. And I know that sounds crazy after only a few weeks, but, honestly, I knew it the first day I met him. I don’t know how to explain it. It wasn’t like the world stopped turning or anything, there was just a feeling I had. Swallowing past the tightness in my throat, I glanced away for a moment as I strained to hold on to the courage I’d been building up all week. But there’s this other guy, and I swear this guy owns my soul."

Eli crossed his arms and his eyebrows rose, but I didn’t allow myself to decipher what his expression could mean at that moment. If I tried to understand him—­like I always did—­then I would quickly talk myself out of saying the words I’d been thinking for far too long.

Eli, I whispered so low the word was almost lost in the chatter from the other ­people in the coffee shop. I have been in love with you since I was thirteen years old, I confessed, and held my breath as I waited for any kind of response from him.

Nothing about him changed for a few seconds until suddenly his face lost all emotion. But it was there in his eyes, like it always was: denial, confusion, shock.

I wanted to run, but I forced myself to blurt out the rest. I’ve kept quiet for twelve years, and I would’ve continued to if I hadn’t met Brett. These last few weeks have been casual, but I know he wants it to be more. But if there is a chance of an us, then there would be absolutely no thoughts of anything else with him.

Eli just continued to stare at me like I’d blown his mind, and my body began shaking as I silently begged him to say something—­anything.

After twelve years of being his best friend, of being used by him as a shield from other women, of being tortured by his pretending touches and kisses . . . I was slowly giving up on us. I couldn’t handle the heartache anymore. I couldn’t stand being unknowingly rejected again and again. I couldn’t continue being his favorite person in the world for an entirely different reason than he was mine. I couldn’t keep waiting around for Eli Jenkins.

This was it for me.

Eli, I need to know. I exhaled softly and tried to steady my shaking as I asked, "Is there any possibility of there being an us?"

Chapter One

Two months earlier . . . July 5, 2013

Paisley

YOU LOOK LIKE someone just ran over your cat, wrapped it in Christmas paper, and delivered it to you for your birthday while saying, ‘Trick or treat.’

I blinked quickly as the bar where we spent most of our Friday nights, O’Malley’s, came back into focus. I shot my friend Kristen a look, and stammered, I don’t have a ca—­ My birthday is in September . . . Wait, none of that made sense.

She jerked her head in the direction I’d been staring blindly at. Exactly, and if he’d taken one look in this direction, he would’ve dropped that girl like she was on fire and come running over here to see what was wrong with you.

That obvious? Kristen nodded, and I groaned. The only good thing about Eli being in Texas last weekend was I didn’t have to watch him doing this.

Looking over to where my best friend was currently pulling close some girl he’d just met as he leaned down to kiss her, I swallowed past the lump in my throat and looked away as I tried to ignore the way it felt like I was five seconds from throwing up.

Five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . .

Pay!

Oh no, I breathed, and looked at Kristen to act like I hadn’t heard Eli. "If he makes me play pool with him while he makes out with another girl again, I will lose it!"

He’s smiling, at least he didn’t see you moping—­and he’s walking over here. With her. Right now. He’s—­

Pay, we’re gonna head out, were you ready to leave?

I turned to look at them with a smile plastered on my face, but it was entirely possible I looked like I was grimacing. Well . . . I began, but the girl in Eli’s arms held up her hand.

She made a sickened face as her head jerked up to look at Eli, then back at me. Long seconds passed as she looked me up and down with her lips parted in disgust. "Um . . . ew! I’m, like, not really into that whole threesome thing. So gross. Yano?"

I wanted to remind her that you and know were two separate words . . . but with the way she looked, I was surprised she knew that Eli plus her plus me equaled three and not the color burrito, so I kept that to myself.

Eli’s face pinched together like he’d eaten something sour, and before he said something that would inevitably crush me even more tonight, I tried to speak his latest pick’s language. Ohmigod, like, ew, right?

Kristen’s hand flew to her mouth as beer sprayed out, and Eli’s lack-­of-­amused expression let me know that he knew what I was doing.

At least I didn’t feel like I was going to throw up anymore.

Threesomes are so way gross, I continued, not like I’d know. But the girl nodded her head and pursed her lips.

So, like, is she gonna watch? she asked, and it took everything in me not to shoot Eli a look that said: Really? This is what you want?

No, she’s not, and there’s no threesome. This is my best friend, Paisley, I drove her.

The girl laughed awkwardly and ran her hand up Eli’s chest. Well, can’t she get, like, a ride home or something?

Of course I could, and it was something that happened often when Eli decided he wanted to drive me somewhere—­because chances were he was going to end up leaving with someone else, and I always offered to stick around. But I knew right then, as did Kristen, judging by her snort, that I wouldn’t be getting a ride home with anyone other than Eli, and this girl had just made sure her night with Eli was over.

Eli’s eyes widened and he blinked slowly before looking down at the girl. No, she can’t. I just told you, she’s my best friend. She came with me, and she’s going to be leaving with me . . . you won’t.

Are you serious? she scoffed when Eli moved her arm away.

Time to go. Eli’s eyes were hard, and his voice was soft and dark. He was so pissed at me.

I cleared my throat and looked away from him. Uh, I think I’m gonna stay with Kris—­

Truck, Paisley.

Crap. Kristen and I exchanged a glance as I grabbed my purse and avoided looking at the livid girl still standing there. From her speech that showed how much her bleaching had lowered her IQ, I had no doubt she was still trying to figure out what all this meant.

Following Eli out to his truck, I worried my bottom lip the closer we got without him ever saying a word. Usually if a girl suggested he should leave me behind, and we left immediately after, Eli couldn’t shut up about the girl’s boldness. For him to not say a word only solidified the fact that he was mad about the way I’d responded to her.

I don’t know what he expected from me. He chose the most ridiculous girls—­and that had nothing to do with the fact that I wanted him to choose me. Okay, maybe a little, but I’m pretty sure the girl just now used the foundation color burnt orange, and had been dropped on her head way too many times as a baby.

Eli didn’t need to go for the stupid, slutty girls. He was smart, had an incredible job in advertising, wore suits most of the time because of said job, and had women of all ages turning their heads to look at him.

But I knew why he went for them more often than not . . . because the majority of them didn’t expect anything from him after that night.

We were driving out of the parking lot before he said anything. As always, his voice was calm, but his tone let me know he was anything but.

What was that?

What? I countered, and crossed my arms as I stared out the window.

Paisley, he growled in warning.

I huffed and turned so my back was against the door and I was facing him. Come on, Eli, she was awful—­even by your standards. You know there are girls here in Yorba Linda who actually look human.

What is that supposed to mean?

She had white lipstick and orange foundation. She was one bad encounter with green Jell-­O powder away from being an Oompa-­Loompa. Actually, you should be thanking me. If anything, I saved you from catching herpes or something.

Eli’s lips tilted up in the corners, and when he spoke again, I knew his anger was slowly fading. That doesn’t mean you need to make fun of her.

You don’t need to flaunt all of them in front of me either, I thought lamely. I sighed and rested the back of my head against the window. She didn’t notice.

I did.

I stayed silent for a long time after and curled my legs up to my chest, trying to ignore the way I felt hearing his disappointment in me. Looking up when the truck stopped, I dropped my legs and cocked my head.

Uh . . .

He didn’t say anything as he got out and rounded the front to open my door.

Are you not taking me home?

Nope. Pulling me out of the truck, he grabbed on to my wrist and began towing me into his apartment.

Eli, I complained, and tried to pull back. He just grabbed me up in his arms and started jogging—­like I weighed nothing at all. Put me down! I demanded, but I couldn’t stop laughing from the uncomfortable bouncing.

Open. Dropping the keys on my stomach, he quickly moved his arm back to continue holding me.

I fumbled for the keys and had to steady my breathing and focus on each key as I tried to find the correct one. It’s not like I hadn’t opened this door thousands of times, but he was breathing heavy and holding me in his arms, and about to walk me into his apartment—­and I was turning into the girl he’d been with at the bar. I wasn’t sure I knew how to count to unicorn.

As soon as I had the door unlocked and opened, Eli walked us inside and kicked the door shut.

You can put me down now, I whispered, and he snorted.

You changed my plans for the night, Pay, so now you have to celebrate with me. Setting me down on the kitchen counter, he turned and grabbed a box of cupcakes and pulled two out. Gently tearing the tops off both, he handed me the tops and began unwrapping the bottoms. And now I don’t have anyone to eat these with, so you’re up. Get ready for a sugar coma.

My mouth had been tilting up into a smile as I’d watched him get my favorite parts of the cupcakes for me . . . but his words had just clicked, and my smile fell. Looking at the two frosted tops in my hands, I asked, So, you’d been planning to eat these with her?

He nodded and winked as he bit into one of the bottoms. More or less.

Got it. I nodded with him and bit down on my lip.

Part of me wanted to smash the frosting and cake into his face for not seeing what he was doing to me, for how much he was killing me . . . but the rest felt too sick to do anything. My arms dropped to my lap, and I set the tops onto the counter before sliding off it.

Are you not going to eat them?

Turning to look up at him, I swallowed roughly. No, I don’t feel that great. I’m just gonna call a cab and go home. I need to get my purse out of your truck though.

His brow furrowed. One, when have I ever let you call a cab? Two, if you don’t feel well, I’m not letting you leave. Three . . . no.

Eli, it’s not a big deal. It’s not late, why don’t you go back out so you can have fun instead of spending the night with me while I’m being all lame? Find another Oompa-­Loompa to bring back and share the rest of your cupcakes with, or something.

Brushing the cake off his hands, he hooked an arm around my neck and started walking out of his kitchen. You’re the only one who eats all the frosting for me, I’m not leaving you alone if you’re sick—­

Eli—­

—­and you’re Oompa-­Loompa enough.

My shoulder’s sagged. "I am not orange."

You’re short, you’re halfway there. With a sly grin, he pushed me toward his room. Change, I’ll go get your purse and be right back.

I sighed and stared at the closed bedroom door for a few seconds after I heard his footsteps retreat down the hall. This wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted to go home and take a long bath as I tried to forget the pain of being invisible to the man I loved. Not curl up on his bed with him like we’d done hundreds of nights since we were in college. Because all that would do would make me believe I could have the life with him that I was craving.

And that just wasn’t happening.

With one hard knock before the door opened, Eli poked his head in before walking all the way inside his bedroom. His lips tilted up on one side as he walked past me to change. You always look like such a lost little girl when you’re in my clothes.

Crossing my arms under my chest, I dropped my head to stare down at the floor and tried to ignore the tightening in my throat. He’s not trying to hurt you. He’s not trying to hurt you . . . My stomach clenched and my chest ached from his millionth reminder that he saw me as nothing more than his best friend.

Hey, he crooned, and tilted my head back. Fuck, you don’t look good at all.

Language.

Eli’s expression fell. Do you want me to get you something before we go to bed?

I shook my head, and my lips thinned into a hard line. I would rather go home.

His blue eyes ran over my face, the worry in them was clear. Not happening. Get in bed.

Not giving me an option—­and not like I thought I would get my way anyway—­he flipped off the lights, pulled me over to his bed, and propped up all the pillows the way I liked and knew he hated. Crawling onto the bed, I waited until he was on the bed with me and sitting up against the pillows with his arm stretched out for me, before curling into his side as he pulled the comforter over us.

You’re not going to be able to fall asleep like this, I stated dully.

He turned on the TV, leaving the volume down low, and tightened his arm around me. I’m not tired. Just feel better, Pay . . . let me know if you need anything.

I wanted to tell him medicine wouldn’t help me, but that would just move into a conversation I didn’t have the guts to have with him. Not when I was constantly being reminded that he didn’t share my feelings.

Within three minutes, Eli’s head had tilted back and lips parted as he fell asleep. His hand flexed against my arm, and I smiled as I allowed myself this time with him. This time when I didn’t have to worry about whether or not he would