Excerpt from You're the One That I Want

Book #4 of the Miracle Falls Series


Ten years ago

     It was almost dawn when Dahlia Dehl floated through the door the morning of her seventeenth birthday. To her surprise, both her sisters were waiting for her in the living room. “What are you two doing up so early?” she asked. Though by the fatigue etching their faces, they’d never gone to bed.
     Starr, a year older than she was, crossed her arms, and Sunshine, a year older than Starr, gave Dahlia the stink eye. “Where have you been?” Sunshine demanded.
     They’d mothered Dahlia for as long as she could remember, even before their mom had tragically passed away from a brain aneurism at the age of twenty-eight on this very night, the same day Dahlia turned six. You’d think once they’d moved in with their mom’s best friend, Mama J, they’d go back to being kids and quit micromanaging her. Mama J, aka Mama, didn’t have children and was real good at loving and mothering them as her own. But no. Since high school, her sisters’ mothering had turned into smothering. A real pain.
     Especially this week, when Mama was at a convention for medical records health information managers, and the sisters had the house to themselves.
     “You know where I’ve been—with Jake. In a few hours, he leaves for summer football practice.” His college football scholarship required him to spend six weeks training before the start of school with other high school draftees.
     “We wanted to spend as much of our last night together as possible,” she added. They’d hiked through the woods near Tumbling Rock River and laid out a tarp and blanket near the river bank, where they could be alone.
     Starr’s lips got real tight. “You spent the whole night together, and you couldn’t call and tell us you were okay or at least answer your phone?”
     “We turned our phones off. We wanted this night to be just us.” Dahlia was going to miss him something fierce. A part of her wanted to curl up in a ball and cry, but at the moment she was too happy. “Look what he gave me.” She held out her left hand, proudly showing off the small band made of opal and tungsten carbide.
     Starr seemed unimpressed. “Is that supposed to be an engagement ring?”
     “No, it’s a promise ring. The band is stronger than steel, made to last forever.” Like their love. “He gave it to me at the Falls!”
     Everyone knew that when a boy took his girlfriend to Miracle Falls, the town’s namesake, and kissed her there, things were serious. Jake had done that and slid the promise ring on her finger.
     Her sisters exchanged knowing looks. “I hope he didn’t give you anything else,” Starr said, her sarcastic tone cutting into Dahlia’s wonderful mood.
     Her face got hot and she knew she was blushing eight ways to Sunday. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
     “Right, and I’m a famous costume designer. Admit it, you had sex with him.”
     Dahlia considered lying, but she’d never been able to fool either of her sisters. They knew her too well. She raised her chin and fingered her silver thumb ring, a gift from Mama J. One for each sister. Three identical rings exactly like the one their mother had been buried wearing. The single open knot symbolized an eternal bond between them.
     “We don’t want you to get pregnant,” Sunshine added in a far gentler tone. “Tell me he wore a condom.”
     May as well get what’d happened over with. “Yes, we had sex, and yes, he wore a condom.” She crossed her own arms. “We’ve been together three whole years, and this was the first time. We wanted our last night to be special.”
     And it had been. They’d been faithful to each other since they’d met when she was fourteen and Jake a year older. They’d both been virgins. Being each other’s first lovers had made for an unforgettable night of tenderness, even if it had been over fast. She certainly hadn’t been driven to the heights of ecstasy reached by the women she read about in the romance novels, but it didn’t matter. She was so in love, so filled with joy.
     “What’s the promise ring for?” Starr asked.
     Easy question, as she and Jake had their future all mapped out. “It’s our promise to each other that as soon as he graduates from Ohio State and I earn my college degree here, we’ll get married—before he starts with whatever football team drafts him.”
     In the silence that followed, Dahlia added, “He’ll be drafted for sure—everyone knows that.” Neither sister argued about that. They exchanged another look. “Now what?” she grumbled.
     “It’s good that you were smart and used protection,” Sunshine said.
     Starr nodded but looked skeptical. “I hope he doesn’t break your heart.”
     Dahlia knew in her bones he wouldn’t, that theirs was a true love and would never die.
     All they had to do was survive the next four years apart.

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