Authors: Brittney Coon
Piecing Together Sydney
A Sydney West Novel, Book 3
By Brittney Coon
Piecing Together Sydney
Copyright © 2016 by Brittney Coon.
All rights reserved.
First Print Edition: August 2016
ISBN-13: 978- 1535590419
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
This is for the dreamers out there.
Never stop dreaming.
Table of Contents
Summer had returned once again. This was my last summer as an undergraduate. Before Jason, I didn’t think too much about where I’d go to graduate school. I was going to dig deeper in my research during my senior year in Arizona and apply to the best three colleges for psychology. Now I had another half, soon-to-be my husband, to think of.
This was also my last summer as a “free” woman. After saying I’d marry Jason at Butterflyland in December, I committed my body, heart, and soul to him. I could never see myself in the arms of another man nor have one in bed beside me again. The old me would’ve flipped at the idea of marriage. I didn’t feel like that anymore, but I’d be a liar if I didn’t say I was scared of becoming Jason’s wife. It was hard to learn how to be a girlfriend, and now we were taking this huge leap of faith. We hadn’t even known each other for a year yet.
California was so close. I could smell the ocean’s breeze. The excitement made my bones ache and caused my eyes to glide to the clock every few minutes. Summer was mine once I finished this final for psychology and law. I bit my lip and pushed my thoughts away. I needed to focus. With a flick of the
paper, I found I was at least twenty minutes from freedom.
That was until I saw the two essay questions on the last page. I cursed under my breath. Finals were the worst torture for the soul, at least for me. Every five to ten minutes, a student rose from their chair and exited the class. I saw Professor Stein come and scoop up their test before anyone got any ideas to turn it over and take a peek.
My stomach churned. My skin wanted to peel away and escape out the door. I dreaded being last during a test. The idea of being alone with the professor always petrified me. It was all in my head, but that didn’t stop the invisible ants from biting me all over my body.
The last question took me a moment. My brain blanked on the details involving the insanity defense. With my eyes closed tight, I imagined my notebook with all the answers. The image was blurry, but slowly words began to reveal themselves, almost magically. Halfway down the page in chapter two was what I was looking for.
The insanity defense is made based off of forensic mental health professionals using the appropriate test for jurisdiction. The defense is rare in Ireland, United Kingdom, and the USA. The defense has increased in the UK though, since the passing of the Criminal Procedure (Insanity and Unfitness to Plead) Act 1991.
After exhaling, I finished writing my answer and turned the page. I rolled my shoulders back as I read over the first essay question.
“You are a lawyer for a mother caught stealing so her child could eat. Defend her and explain why she shouldn’t be charged with the crime.”
That was an easy one. I wrote a quick two paragraph speech that would hold up in court and get the mother a “get out of jail free” card.
The next question was a different story.
“You must explain to a court of jurors why a serial killer mustn’t receive the death penalty for his crimes against humanity.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the Native American girl next to me stand and exit the room. I narrowed my eyes at her back and returned to the mocking essay question. With a quick glance around the room, I counted only five people left, including myself. I thought of something to say and jotted it down. It might not have made sense, but it was better than leaving it blank. After a silent prayer to pass the class, I flipped over my test and was free. It was hard to control my excitement. I forced myself to walk normally to the door and smiled to myself. The semester was finally over.
Glee summed up how I felt. The sky looked bluer and the clouds fluffier. Maybe I had been in that room too long. What did it matter? It was summer vacation, and I was going to the fabulous beach of Malibu in twenty-four hours with my best friend, her boyfriend, and my fiancé.
Wow, my fiancé. We’d been engaged for about five months now, but it was still surprising to see a diamond ring on my left hand. I never wear rings on my left, only my right hand. I didn’t feel the pressure of wedding planning yet. We were saving that until summer since we were going to get married in Malibu. We did book a location for the wedding and a band in advance; those were not something to get last minute. At least that’s what everyone told me, everyone being my mom, Amelia, Kylie, and Ellie.
I sat on the wooden bench outside the psychology building to wait for Jason. He was taking a final in one of his computer classes in the next building. My phone alerted me it was low on life. So much for scrolling through Facespace while passing the time.
I leaned back against the bench and watched people walk by. Some were lost in their music, nodding their heads as they went. Others had this look of pure terror as if they just saw a ghost. They were probably on their way to a final, poor souls. It was easy to see those who already learned they passed their class. It wasn’t hard to know if you always got A’s on everything. Couples strolled by holding hands. I nervously turned my ring around my finger. Next year was my senior year, and I’d be attending classes as a married woman at the age of twenty-two.
God, what did I get myself into? I only wanted to have fun. Now my summer boy will be my husband. How insane is that?
I stared down at my ring, watching it shine in the sun. The diamond captured the light perfectly, turning it into a rainbow of color. For the rest of my life I’d wear a ring on my left hand. Forever Jason was going to own my heart. He was a better keeper than I. My heart surrendered to a cage of ice when it was in my possession. With Jason it was warm and cared for.
Someone cleared their throat a few feet in front of me. I looked up and found Jason giving me one of his signature grins. That smile made my stomach feel like it was filled with butterflies.
“Hey, Syd. Admiring your awesome rock, I see?” He chuckled, sitting down next to me.
A blush burnt my cheeks. “Maybe. My phone’s dead, so I’m bored. How was your test?”
He shook his head. “I told you last night you should plug your phone in, but you never listen.”
I flipped my hair over my shoulder. “Because I would’ve forgotten it on my way out.”
“Not if I unplugged it and put it in your bag before I left for class.” He grabbed my left hand, running his thumb over my ring. “I’m good at taking care of you, Syd.”
A shy smile tugged my lips upward. “Yeah, I know.” I leaned forward and kissed him. He tasted like mint and coffee. I wanted to drink him in and let everything else go. His teeth grazed my bottom lip, sending a coil of need through my core.
“I’d love to go back to the dorm, but it’s all packed up.”
Jason stood and took my hand, pulling me to his side. “We’ll have enough time for that in California.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “And our honeymoon is going to be incredible…” He put his lips to my ear. “I’m going to make you unable to walk.”
I dragged my finger down the side of his face. “We’ll see who tames who, but until then, have you heard from Amelia or Hunter? We need to hit the road.”
“Hunter is turning in his textbooks at the bookstore. I think he said Amelia left to get coffee.”
We walked down the sidewalk together, bumping shoulders. “She does love her coffee.”
Jason enlaced his fingers with mine. “This semester went by fast. I can’t believe the next time we’re on this campus we’re going to be Mr. and Mrs.”
Three sorority girls ran by, squirting each other with water guns. They were carefree and probably all going to Mexico or another party place to get wasted and get laid. I was never like them. I didn’t have “sisters” to do bad things with. I did naughty all on my own. My name was on every list at nightclubs in LA. My nights were filled with parties and my days were wasted lying in bed, sleeping off God knew what.
I glanced at Jason and saw my future. It would be steady and happy and consist of watching movies under the blanket together and sex whenever we wanted. Jason was going to be there for me so I’d never fall into that black pit of despair again. When a guy transfers colleges for you, that’s a clear sign he’s the one. Or possibly a stalker, but in Jason’s case he’s the love of my life.
“I love you.” I kissed his cheek and rested my head on his shoulder as we walked past the Student Union.
He snaked his arm around my hips. We stood by a stone wall out of the path of people flying by on bikes and skateboards. “You’re beautiful.” His hand went up my spine.
My heart hammered in my chest. I wanted to fuck Jason right there or drag him into the library and find a place no one was studying. Too bad you need at least three people to check out a study room.
I batted my lashes. “What do you love most about me?”
“Hmm.” He kissed my forehead. “Your smile.” His lips moved down my jaw. “The way you stand up for yourself and those you love.” He brushed his hand across my left breast, making it pound for attention. “The way you look when I’m inside you and—”
Someone sighed to my right. I looked over Jason’s shoulder and saw Amelia holding a coffee cup. “Hey!” I tried to sound happy to see her, but it fell flat.
She gave me a long look. “You are obsessed with each other and you try to say I’m crazy for Hunter. At least I don’t try to mount him in public.”
I broke away from Jason and gave my best friend a hug. “Whatever you say, but remember I don’t make playlists about—”
“Hunter loves my playlists.” She huffed. Amelia was funny when angry, like a puffed up cat.
“Relax. This time tomorrow we’re going to be in a beach house and breathing in ocean air again.”
Amelia jumped up and down. “I can’t wait!”
I took a step back, staring at her coffee cup in alarm. “Calm yourself before you spill.”
She laughed, lifting the cup up. “It only has a sip or two left in it.”
Jason came to my side like a magnet. “That’s a relief.”
Amelia downed the last of her coffee and tossed it into a trashcan nearby. “Hunter!” She took off running like fan girls do after their favorite singer.
He picked her up and swung her around in a circle. It was like watching a take from a cheesy romance movie. They kissed, and her leg popped up, not kidding. The part of me that didn’t like seeing that kind of affection made a gagging noise.
Jason elbowed me in the side. “Syd, we’re not far off from them.”
I hugged myself. “Yeah, but it’s different watching them. You’d think they’d be the ones getting hitched.”
He held me close to his side. I placed my arm across his strong shoulder blades, feeling every breath he took. “I can’t wait until July. We’ll have an excuse to make out anywhere.”
I gave a nervous laugh. “Totally.” We’d be newlyweds, and everyone would ask about how we met. Would we tell them the truth or just mess with some of the facts? What would we tell our future kids?
Who would think I’d worry about future kids?
Amelia and Hunter finally stopped making out in the grass and came to join Jason and me.
Hunter and Jason fist bumped. “Ready to hit the road and prepare to get hitched?”
Jason nodded, holding me tighter. “Of course.”
Amelia gave me a panicked look. “What about the stuff in the dorm? I don’t—”
I waved her off. “No worries. For an early present, my mom is taking care of the dorm for me and having the movers take the stuff to her house for safe keeping so we can go to California and get settled.”
Amelia let out a sigh of relief. “Yay! Your mom is awesome.”
I smiled. “Yeah, she is. So, shall we? My Charger is waiting.”
“I can’t wait to find your dress.” Amelia was standing to the left of me, scrolling through her phone. “You should get a dress like this.” She showed me a picture of a white gown with a corset and a long skirt with lace.
Jason craned his neck to see. Amelia hid the screen on her chest. “Not for the groom’s eyes!”
“Sorry.” He gave her a small smile and she shot him a mean look to prove she was serious.
Jason turned his head and talked to Hunter about surfing.
Amelia kept showing me dresses and flower arrangement ideas. My head pounded with all the images.
Holy shit. I am getting married in two months!
I swallowed my nerves and acted like I was in one piece when deep down I was having a panic attack and about to break down from the stress.