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Chloe Walker did everything right. She went to college, got a good job, dated the right men—everything. Peering at forty from a bit too close, she realizes she can be miserable that she didn’t end up happily married to the handsome prince…or she can count her lucky stars. She tries to go with stars, but the universe seems to have other plans.
Jack Leonard has loved Chloe since they were kids. He’s stood by her through all life’s little messes, been her shoulder to cry on, and figured one day they’d wind up together. He figures he’s just waiting her out. When her life goes swirly, he’s got to convince her that some men are worth risking it all for.
Can Jack make Chloe rethink her birthday wish or will she get just what she asked for when she blows out Forty Candles?
Nothing. She had great big handfuls of unfulfilled hopes and dreams and sprouting gray hairs. Her life wasn’t supposed to be like that. She really thought she’d accomplish more.
“Are you going to blow out the candles, dork, or stare at them all day?” Her best friend, Harper, gave her a nudge after asking the question, snapping her out of her reverie.
Chloe obeyed, blowing out the conflagration of thirty-nine candles decorating the decadent looking chocolate cake.
Cake. Yet another area where she’d gone about things entirely wrong. She always liked cake, dammit. Instead of enjoying it, when the occasion arose which involved cake, she’d always watched her weight, keeping her figure trim and athletic with the intention of living longer, stronger, healthier. In retrospect, it just ended up being another regret. How many pieces of cake had she turned down? How many times did she have the salad when she wanted a damned French fry?
And for what?
Snagging the knife, she whacked into the cake enthusiastically, cutting a giant piece. When Jack, her best male friend, leaned close to help her balance the piece onto a plate, she acknowledged his assistance with a half nod. Good guy, Jack, always there for her…
While she risked exactly nothing and accomplished even less.
“Are you okay, Chloe?” he asked near her ear.
She rammed the fork into the cake and then shoveled a too-big hunk into her mouth. Chewing like a chipmunk, she reveled in the bliss of chocolate and creamy sugar exploding on her tongue. Dear God, it was like a chocolate orgasm. A face-gasm, even. “I’m great,” she lied before scooping up another mouthful.
“I think you’re lying.” But she decided to ignore his knowing look.
She turned thirty-nine years old, which meant she still had a year left until she hit the dreaded four-oh. If she were the kind of woman who believed in wishes, would she wish for some magical spell to give her the time back so she could redo all the bits she’d gotten wrong? Would she want another shot at the house, two-point-five kids and the picket fence, or would she be happier throwing what society said she should want out the window to pursue her actual dreams?
Besides, she’d tried marriage once…and proved she just wasn’t good at that sort of thing.
“Jack.” Touching his arm, she snared his attention. “Did you ever wonder if you’d be happier doing something else with your life? Or if you should just settle for what is and be happy with it?”
He shrugged. “I’m a simple man, Chloe.” One wave of his arm encompassed all of their friends, scattered throughout the kitchen of Harper’s perfect little house, before his gaze landed back on Chloe. “I’ve always been happy with what is.”
Biting her lip, she closed her eyes. “I am going to change my life, Jack. I’m going to live a life worth remembering. No more regrets. I’ve been lucky all these years and never even realized it.”
Silently, she wished as hard as she could. I wish I could be more impulsive. I wish I had no regrets. I wish that when my next birthday rolls around, I can look at my life and be content with what I have and am.
Opening her eyes back up, nothing had changed. Not really. Same world, same life, same friends. That was okay, though.
She didn’t want to change the world, just how she looked at it. And to start with? She’d eat cake until she made herself sick with it.