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Today was the tenth anniversary of Brady’s death, and Jesska had been inconsolable most of the day, as she was every anniversary. Her friends and family knew to leave her alone… except for Amanda, who inserted herself whenever possible.

Jesska huffed. “Fine. Okay. I’d hoped to be by myself, but if you insist on joining my pity party, you better get comfortable. You’re just lucky you brought the wine—you’d never have gotten in without it.”

Amanda handed her the bottle. “It’s Bachelor night. We can watch it together in real time.”

“I was thinking I might just watch it, drink some wine, and take a bath.”

“Yeah, your obsession with tubby time’s a little weird.”

“You’re just jealous.”

Amanda sighed. “You’re right. I never have time to relax like that anymore. Plus, I don’t have a kickass claw-foot tub at my disposal.”

Jesska laughed. “Is it weird I chose my house based on the tub?”

“Oh, babe, you surpassed weird about a lot of different things a while ago.” Amanda grinned, flopped onto the couch. “Come on. Which lady will it be this week, hmm? Enquiring minds want to know.”

“I think ‘lady’ is generous. Especially when talking about that Rosa chick.”

“Yes, probably.” Amanda giggled. “Got ice cream?”

“Do I have ice cream?” Jesska snorted. “This ain’t my first rodeo.”

Amanda cued up The Bachelor while Jesska prepared bowls of ice cream and poured wine. Manuel Garcia was the new bachelor and the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome. He was the Latino dream, with his chiseled body and beautiful face, complete with dimples that Amanda and Jesska were convinced he used as weapons. Manny was the most popular bachelor in six seasons, and the women were horrible. All but a couple of them, anyway.

By the time the show ended, and Jesska and Amanda had discussed Manny’s date with Alana, one of the ladies both Jesska and Amanda liked, they’d gone through an entire carton of ice cream and a bottle and a half of wine. Jesska had even broken down and grabbed a box of tissues.

“I should have had that,” Jesska complained.

“The chance to vie for a guy’s love and devotion against twenty-four other psycho women?”

“I’m not psycho.”

“Oh, right, sorry. Twenty-four psycho women and you.”

Jesska snorted. “Do not tell me you didn’t think Alana’s date was über romantic. Manny was adorable. And Brady did stuff like that all the time. I should have had that.”

“I know, buddy,” Amanda agreed. “But maybe there’s someone else out there for you. Maybe God has a bigger plan.”

Jesska bit back an insult. It wasn’t Amanda’s fault she still believed in some old man in the sky who liked to devastate young women by killing off the people they loved. It also didn’t matter that even though Amanda had graduated with a degree in rocket science and had just quit her job at NASA, Jesska always thought she was very, very pretty, but lacked a little in the brains department. She was far too loving and trusting to be a genius. But outside of Amanda’s paltry street smarts and her religious views, Jesska adored her.

“I see you’re trying to reconcile my looks with my brains again.”

“Don’t talk to me like you know me,” Jesska retorted.

Amanda laughed as she checked her phone. “Marc’s wondering what time I’m going to be home.”

Jesska smiled. “How much have you had to drink? I’m not sure you should drive.”

“I had two glasses, lady. You drank the rest.”

“Shut up.”

“Serious.” Amanda rose to her feet and stretched.

“So you’re okay to drive?”

“I’m great to drive. My directive has been achieved.”

“Which was?”

“Keeping you distracted for a few hours.”

Jesska sighed, realizing she felt quite a bit better after girl time and a good cry. “Again, Winky, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk to me like you know me.”

Amanda laughed. “Too late. Will you go straight to bed, or do you need me to stay and sing you a wuwwaby until you fall asweep?”

“Suck it, Winky,” Jesska joked as she rose to her feet. “I wish I could say you’re annoyingly mommy-ish now that you’re actually a mom, but that trait started long ago.”

“Guilty.” Amanda grabbed her purse and coat. “Oh, would you be able to watch Kiana on Wednesday night?”

“Totally. It’s my turn to drive for the carpool, so I can pick her up after I drop off Kim, if you like.”

“You’re a life saver!” Amanda exclaimed. “Marc and I need a date night and he has tickets to a movie preview.”

“Ooh, fun. Which one?”

“Okay, don’t laugh.”

Jesska laughed.

Amanda raised an eyebrow. “I said don’t laugh.”

“Which makes me want to do it all the more.”

“That’s true. My bad,” Amanda conceded. “Anyway, his high school buddy did this documentary on Portland and its history, and he’s premiering it for family and a couple of close friends. Marc was invited.”

“That’s actually really cool,” Jesska said.

“I hope so. If it sucks, Marc and I’ll just make out in the back row.” Amanda grinned. “Anyway, thanks again. I’ll text you when I get home.”

“Sounds good. Hey, thanks, Winky. Seriously.”

“Love you.”

“Love you too.” Jesska hugged Amanda and watched her walk to her car before closing and locking the door. She was exceedingly grateful to her best friend as she fell asleep relatively quickly.

Bound By Tears - Chapter One

Present Day

JESSKA HEARD THE doorbell peal through her little duplex and, after checking the peephole, pulled open the door. “Well, hi there, Winky.”
Amanda giggled. “You can’t call me that anymore, you know.”

“You might have married Marc Miller, but you’ll always be my Winky.” Jesska grinned. “Come in. Where’s Kiana?”

Amanda’s four-year-old was the cutest, and busiest, little girl on the planet.

“She’s with Marc. Daddy-daughter bonding time,” Amanda said, and took off her coat before holding up a bottle of Jesska’s favorite wine. “I thought you and I could drink a little and find out who Manny sends home this week.”

“You know I love it when you just pop over,” Jesska droned.

“No, I know you hate it, but since you’ve been dodging my phone calls for almost a week now, I figured desperate measures and all that.”

“I haven’t been dodging you.”

Amanda pointed at her. “So, you have no idea what today is.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re wearing his sweatshirt, babe.”

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