The Second Love of My Life@Victoria Walters

Prologue

Four years earlier

‘Goodnight, future Mrs Wood.’

I wave to my soon-to-be to be mother- and father-in-law, Gloria and Graham, who follow the last of our friends as they weave down our path somewhat drunkenly into the night. I close the door and look down at the sparkling solitaire diamond ring now adorning my left hand. As someone who has never worn much jewellery, it’s going to take some getting used to.

‘I’m not sure I like the sound of that,’ Lucas says into my ear, wrapping his arms around my waist.

I raise an eyebrow. ‘Changed your mind already?’

‘Never.’ My new fiancé twists me around so I can see him. His familiar tousled fair hair, tanned skin and wide, bright blue eyes greet me. He gestures to the painting hanging in our hallway of the beach just a stone’s throw away from our house. He lingers on the signature in the corner. My signature. ‘You might be a rich and famous artist one day; you can’t change the name on your work.’

I chuckle, leaning into his chest. ‘I don’t think we need to worry about that.’

‘You never know.’

‘Are you serious? You want me to keep my name when we get married?’

‘As long as we’re married it doesn’t really matter, does it?’

Lucas has always been the biggest fan of my art. Probably because we met in art class at school, all those years ago. My mum used to say Lucas was a keeper when we were just teenagers; she was always right. I reach for his lips, unable not to kiss him again. He feels like home to me when our lips meet. He has always felt like home.

I can’t pretend that his proposal took me completely by surprise tonight. I’ve felt certain we would end up together for a long time now, but we’re still young, and I wasn’t sure it would happen this soon. He kisses me back enthusiastically and pulls me by the hand back into our small living room, which just minutes ago was crowded with all of our favourite people. Lucas had wanted them here to be part of our special moment. He loves that our family and friends have always been part of our relationship; we live in the small town we grew up in and everyone is so excited that we’re getting married. But even though I love Talting as much he does, I’m pleased we now have the rest of the night to ourselves. The two of us alone together in our house is always my favourite time of the day.

We curl up on the leather sofa in our usual position, Lucas sitting up and me leaning against his chest, my legs curled up beside me. Lucas brushes back a stray hair from my cheek and looks at the mantelpiece in front of us lined with photographs from our life together. ‘I wish I could have asked her.’

‘Asked who?’

‘Your mum. I always thought I’d ask her permission – well, her blessing, because I wouldn’t have taken no for an answer. I wish she was here,’ he says, murmuring his words into my hair. I look at the photographs, moving past the one of us on a beach in the Caribbean to one with his parents when we were younger, then the one with Emma and John, our best friends, and last of all the one of me with my mum in the house I grew up in. ‘I wish she was too. But you know she would have been so happy for us, I think she loved you even more than I do.’

‘She just knew I’d always look after you.’

I feel in danger of crying so I look away from the picture and into Lucas’s eyes. He always steadies me. ‘Did you choose the ring by yourself?’ I ask him.

He chuckles, his chest moving under me. ‘It’s quite annoying that you know me so well. Emma actually demanded to come with me and she dragged John along too. We went into Plymouth a few weeks ago. Seriously, we were there hours; she dragged me to every jeweller’s. She told me you’d be wearing this forever so it had to be perfect. I kind of thought all diamond rings were the same . . . I’ll never say that again,’ he says, shaking his head at the memory. I can imagine Emma making a very impassioned speech as to why that was definitely not the case. Secretly, I agree with Lucas, but I’d never have the guts to