Long Way Home (Chapter Four, page 1 of 3)

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Alexis couldn't sleep...again. She rolled as much as the twin bed allowed, narrowly avoiding a tumble onto the floor. Spending the evening with Ty triggered memories from high school, of loneliness on the island and feeling apart from everyone else. She'd eventually moved to London thinking that a large, international city would offer the opportunity to find her place, her people. Instead, she'd found herself experiencing the same sense of isolation that she had growing up. Although she'd felt accepted in her law firm, it never felt quite right.

She stared at the magnolia ceiling, willing herself to sleep. As much as she tried to pretend otherwise, Ty Barnes unnerved her more than she cared to admit. She did her best to block out images of his strong jaw and the slight dimple in his right cheek. And those eyes. She didn't want to notice those things about him. And there had been definite flirting. It felt wrong. Alexis was disgusted with herself.

She threw back the covers and slid to the floor. Slowly, she opened the bottom drawer of the dresser and pulled out the velvet box. She held the box tenderly for a moment before slowly opening it. A wedding ring sparkled inside. Fighting back tears, she slid the ring onto her finger, remembering how lovely it looked there.

Her wedding day seemed like only yesterday. Six and a half years ago Alexis had walked down the proverbial aisle as her husband-to-be awaited her, his trademark grin plastered across his face. Mark had looked unassumingly handsome in his classic tux. She'd worn a simple, elegant white dress with capped sleeves and a floral headpiece. No veil. About thirty people had attended, including Mark's parents, Donald and Moira

Steamer. They were older than her parents by about five years. She'd had no desire to include her own family. At that point, she'd had very little contact with them and she knew they wouldn't travel all the way to England for a wedding. After all, they hadn't come to New York to visit her in college, or even when she graduated from law school and she'd still been in contact with them then. Granted, it had been sporadic and awkward contact, but contact all the same. They'd missed her college graduation because it was the same day as Betsy's wedding and no one seemed to feel that Alexis's presence was required so she, the first person in her family to attend college, gained a Bachelor's degree while Betsy gained a husband and a new last name.

For Alexis, the fact that her family was absent from her own wedding was a nonissue because they'd already been missing from her life for so long. It was difficult to explain to Mark's family; they expected a full-scale falling out that divided an otherwise close-knit family rather than a tale of gradual silence that began with weeks, grew into months, and eventually stretched into years.

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