THE SHOE DIARIES
by Darby Baham
Harlequin Special Edition
It’s never too late to put your best foot forward. From the outside, Reagan “Rae” Doucet has it all: a coveted career in Washington, DC, a tight circle of friends and a shoe closet to die for. When one of her crew falls ill, however, Rae is done playing it safe. The talented but unfulfilled writer makes a “risk list” to revamp her life. But forgiving her ex, Jake Saunders, might be one risk too many.
He was inches away from me when I fell into his arms and began crying. All the anger I’d felt toward him, the hurt he caused me, the stupid ways he’d played me…they all meant nothing in this moment. He was here when I needed him the most. And I could no longer hold my tears back as he stood without a word and let me soak his shirt with sobs for minutes, only occasionally rubbing my hair to bring me comfort.
“Maybe we should go for a walk,” he finally said.
“A walk sounds good.”
“Wait, what are you doing here?” I asked once I had a moment to calm down. We’d walked to Jake’s car to get some privacy while I tried drying up my tears, but the peace and quiet away from the hospital walls also brought me back to reality. It certainly didn’t help that Jake had the kind of car a man gets when he has no intention of having obligations any time soon: a two-seater, silver Jaguar F-TYPE. It was gorgeous on the outside, intimate inside and was also a stark reminder of the reason we broke up in the first place.
“Christine’s mom called me. I assume she was just going through the numbers she had of her friends, and I was still on the list.”
I guess I’d forgotten that Mama Vasquez had Jake’s number from when we were in college. And that we hadn’t exactly updated her to let her know he shouldn’t still be on the call list of people to inform if something went wrong.
“And so you came all the way from New York?”
“Actually, no. I was in town already for work. It’s why I called you the other night as well. Was hoping we could talk after all these years. But then when Chrissy’s mom called, I just figured it was fate I was here, and so I should come.”
“You definitely came around that corner just as I needed you to,” I admitted with a sigh. “I’m sorry about that, by the way. I just… I couldn’t cry in there and then I saw you and—”
“Hey, you don’t have to apologize for that. I’m—I don’t want to say glad but—grateful I was there when you needed someone.”
“Thank you. I don’t want to make this about me, though. She’s the one in there fighting for her life. I was simply trying to encourage her to keep doing so because… I’m… I’m just not ready to lose my friend.” I held back more tears that were aching to flow down my cheeks.
“And it’s okay to feel that,” he said, lifting my head so we were eye to eye. “It’s okay to not be everyone’s strength all the time. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Yeah, I hear you.”
“I don’t think you do, but that’s okay, too. Just know you don’t have to be strong with me. I can take your tears and your questions.”