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Bonus Scene: “Secrets and Souls,” a new addition for Farewells and Forever

The following is a new scene that would take place in Chapter Twenty of Farewells and Forever.   If you haven’t read Farewells and Forever, this scene will clearly contain spoilers for the book.

Rules and Roses is Book 1 in the Untouchable series. To read more, Changes and Chocolates is Book 2.

Note: This scene is brought to you because of a Review Challenge. What is that? And also, please be aware that spoilers may lie ahead.

“Secrets and Souls”


Life was weird. It could go from being ridiculously busy to almost too routine. Other times, it could be so full it was overwhelming and still leave you aching as you missed the people who weren’t there. Then there were days like this—when your best friend helped you with a secret plan with no questions asked.

“How are you doing?” Rachel asked. “We can take a break.”

“Oh don’t you start,” I scolded, despite my amusement at the question and dropping a hand to rest on my hip. “We’ve been doing this for twenty minutes. I’m hardly going to wilt like some delicate fucking flower.” As it was, we’d barely even started taking pictures.

“I will if I want to,” Rachel countered, mutiny filtering into her expression. “You were tired when you got here.”

That was an accusation.

“Yes, because it was a long drive and I still have to pee every thirty seconds.” I wouldn’t deny it. “That does not make me hapless or on the verge of collapse.” Archie had wanted to drive me in and he’d only stopped fussing when Jeremy took over the driving duties. 

“No, but you are very pregnant. I mean—” She straightened and swept a hand in my direction. “Girl, there is robust and full of life and then there’s you.”

“Thanks.” I wasn’t sure if it was my baleful expression or my tone, but Rachel cracked up. Warmth flooded her eyes and her smile expanded. Both managed to puncture my irritation with her. “Seriously, thanks.”

“You are welcome. It doesn’t hurt that you’re fucking beautiful,” Rachel said with a wink. “It also lets me indulge you when you decide to get cranky.”

“You’re lucky I love you,” I teased her and she grinned without even an element of irony.

“Oh, I’m very well aware of how lucky I am—I almost wish I could work so that I could be a fly on the wall when you show them these pictures.” She hid her face on the last, snapping another picture as I tilted my head. Almost eight months pregnant. If you’d told me I would go out of my way to document this moment, I’d have laughed.

Everything was swollen, from my feet to my hands. It was hard to sit to lay down to stand—pretty much anything. And I constantly had to pee. At the same time, there was a thrill involved in every step of the way. The guys were…

“Perfect,” Rachel murmured as the snap of her camera brought me back. We were in the city. It was a surprise gift for the guys—all these photos—and Rachel had helped me with the secret keeping, going so far as to arrange a private shoot at the studio. She’d also done my hair and make-up with the help of her girlfriend. It had been my first chance to really sit and talk to her. I liked her.

A lot.

Still, the fewer who had to keep our secret, the less chance it had of getting out. Her girlfriend slipped off and left the two of us to do this and Rachel had a dozen different ideas from the sweet to the sexy. Since I trusted her, I let her set the tone.

“What’s perfect?” I asked, turning to face her. The baby shifted and I dropped my hand onto my stomach to soothe him or her. We’d voted three to two to wait and see. The guys argued constantly about the idea of a boy or a girl. They were in love with the idea of a girl. Right up until they remembered that boys like girls and then they’d all get growly and scowly.

It was adorable.

A laugh escaped me and Rachel grinned as she snapped another photo. “Your expression was perfect and now it is again—want to share what dirty thoughts are going through your head?”

“They are not dirty thoughts,” I said with a sniff but it did little to diminish her smile. “I’m just happy.” I really was. As uncomfortable as being pregnant was, I liked looking forward. I liked anticipating… I liked how the guys were alternating between excitement and irritation with each other and the process.

The prospective grandparents weren’t much better and Rachel—for all she gave me hell—she’d been thrilled for me from the moment I told her I was excited. Thrilled and supportive.

I wouldn’t trade a single moment of it. Not even…

All at once the whole bubble seemed to tremble and Rachel lowered the camera. “Frankie?” Concern reflected in her eyes and her tone.

“Do you think, if Maddy had this kind of support I do now when she was having me…”

“No,” Rachel said abruptly and I blinked. “Your mother could have had all the support in the world, she chose to walk away from all of it. She made it about her, not about you, not about the future. She made selfish choices.”

I swallowed, rubbing my hand against my abdomen. “I wish…” I did and I didn’t. I had Kelly. She wasn’t my mother, but she was a mom and she showered me with affection whenever I let her. I had Sara, Ian’s mom. I had Carly and Alicia—and even Klara. I had a lot of maternal figures who wanted to be there, but none of them tried to be Maddy.

None tried to take her “place.”

“I wish…” Closing my eyes, I had to fight back the sudden surge of tears. Most of the out of control emotions had eased in the last couple of months. But there were still momentary crying jags and wild laughter. “I shouldn’t—” I couldn’t complete the thoughts.

They were selfish.

One more snap of a camera and then Rachel caught my hand and tugged me over to the windows. The city sprawled out beyond. I swallowed around the lump in my throat.

“There is no should and, of course, you wish,” Rachel said in a tone that brooked no arguments. In fact, it was so absolutely reasonable and no nonsense, it demanded I focus on her. “You miss your mom. You wish you could connect with her right now. That’s okay and you have every right to feel that way—”

Tears burned in my eyes. “Sometimes it feels so stupid and others…”

“I know,” Rachel said with a sigh then she wrapped an arm around me and leaned her head against mine. Closing my eyes, I rested on the strength she offered. “I wish she’d been a way better mom to you so she could be here right now. I wish you could have every goddamn thing you’ve ever wanted.”

I sniffled, then summoned a smile. “My life’s not so shabby…”

“No,” Rachel said, agreeing with me. “It’s not.” She didn’t have to say anything else. As much as it irked me to miss Maddy, I did—but it wasn’t Maddy I missed so much as who Maddy could or maybe should have been.

“Love you, Rach.”

“Love you too,” she whispered.

We stood there for a few more minutes while I got my wild emotions back under control. The tears evaporated, slowly, and the ache in my soul eased.

Finally, Rachel blew out a breath as she moved away and I didn’t miss how she dabbed at her own eyes. Right, time to get a grip for both of us.

“What’s next?”

“Topless photos. I want to enjoy what pregnancy has done to your breasts and we can take pictures that will make those idiots you married drool.”

I laughed. This was what inspired the photo shoot in the first place. I’d seen photos of Demi Moore years earlier and the imagery had always stuck with me.

“Fair warning,” I said as I dried my own tears. “Big boobs hurt.”

“Beauty is pain,” she deadpanned.

We locked eyes for a long moment before we both cracked up. Yep, life could be painful too but it was also full of moments like this.

Moments I wouldn’t trade for anything.

©2023 Heather Long

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