Catching Her Heart

By: Marquita Valentine

Prologue


Ashley




My foot taps anxiously as I wait for my dad to join me in the bridal room. I’m alone, my bridesmaids lined up with the groomsmen at the door to the sanctuary, and my momma sitting on the front pew with my grandmother.

The door opens and I smile, stepping closer to take my daddy’s arm. Only the person walking inside is my freaking groom.

“Cover your eyes,” I all but shout at him, frantically searching for the robe I wore earlier to cover up with. “It’s bad luck to see me before the wedding.”

“I think you’ll survive,” Dean says, in a voice so flat that I stop looking for the robe and stare at him. “We need to talk, Ash.”

I shake my head, my heart sinking and my stomach roiling. “Nope. We do not need to talk.” I paste on a bright smile and playfully push Dean toward the door. “Go on. Shoo. We can talk all you want at the reception.”

Unfortunately, Dean is a lot bigger than me and he doesn’t even budge from his spot. “I’m serious. I... we can’t go through with this.”

My lips quiver and tears pool at the bottoms of my eyes even as shock blasts through me, my brain unable to fully comprehend this moment. “What do you mean?”

“I mean that I accepted the offer to go to Arizona. I’m going to play for the Heat.”

Air whooshes out of me, and I stumble back a few steps, not completely unaware that Dean makes no move to help me. “Is that all?”

“Pretty sure that’s big damn deal.” Dean runs a hand through his golden hair, his brown eyes earnest. His lips are set in a line and his normally laughing face is drawn tight. “I know what you want from me and from our relationship. I can’t give that to you, honey, and it’s best if we part ways now instead of divorcing later. You’re not cut out to be the wife of a football player like me.”

“What?”

“Don’t play dumb, Ashley. You heard what I said.” He shakes his head. “You should be happy that I’m doing you a favor. We both know you’d be miserable with all the parties and moving, and meeting new people.”

Anger replaces shock and sadness, heating the blood in my veins. “You’re doing me a favor? Wow. I didn’t realize that not marrying me today was something I should be thankful for. Stupid me.”

Dean smiles. “I’m so glad you’re cool with this because I thought for sure you’d lose your shit and act all girl crazy. My teammates were rooting for you to knee me in the nuts though.”

I laugh bitterly. “Oh Dean, you are a moron to think that I’m okay with you breaking up with me on our wedding day.”

His smile fades. “There’s no need to get personal and call me names.”

“You better be glad that I don’t do more.” Clenching my fists, I march up to him. “How could you do this to me? I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you, and if that included moving every year or two because you were traded or wanted to play for another team, then so be it.”

“I wasn’t traded. I asked to play for them. I’m tired of living in Raleigh and coming in second to Dallas Drake.”

My mouth opens and closes in shock. “Why didn’t you talk to me?”

He shrugs. “I didn’t think I had to.”

“We’re engaged, Dean. That’s what engaged people do.”

“Look, you’re making this a bigger deal that what it is. I want out. I tried to break up with you earlier but you never had time for me,” he says, as if that makes everything my fault.

“I’m sorry. I was busy planning our wedding,” I snap.

“Look. I’m not ready to settle down. I’m not ready for kids and I’m not ready for all the things you have to have in life.”

I throw my hands in the air. “Things you could have told me before now!”

“Hey. Hey.” Dean holds up his hands. “Don’t get violent on me.”

“When have I ever been violent with you or anyone else?” I stare at him in utter bewilderment. Who is this man I’m talking to? Sure, I knew he wasn’t the best decision maker, but in the past, he’d always included me in his—our future. “I can’t believe you would do this to me.”

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