#1 Maybe I’m the problem
What if love isn’t enough? Tobias and Aimee fall for each other, hard, but their visions for the future are too different. They try, and they try again, and then they try some more, but they just can’t seem to make things work. He wants an open relationship, adventure, and unpredictability. Aimee wants monogamy, stability, and unconditional love. They might very well be the least compatible couple ever. That doesn’t stop them from trying, though.
How do they move on from the intense love they shared? Is it even possible to move on? Can they possibly love another person the same way they loved each other, or does choosing their ideal future mean settling for someone who’s more compatible, but who lacks the fireworks they have together? Are they moving onto bigger and better things, or are they settling?
And the biggest question of all… Will they find their way back to each other and realize that love is enough after all? Or will their relationship turn into a story about someone they used to love?
This book is written as a stand-alone, but it’s best read as a part of the Sweet Caroline series. In the timeline, this book starts during the epilogues of Guarded Marcus, and it will show scenes from Thompson Twins as well. The first book in the series is Sweet Caroline. Look for the guide to my books on my profile if you want to learn more. Feel free to start reading this book separate from the other books, you totally can. But you won’t get the little easter eggs and will miss some snippets of the backstory of the side characters, just so you know.
We first meet Tobias Bakirtzis in the book Guarded Marcus, as Marcus and Gracie’s sex-obsessed, cocky, funny, kind-hearted co-worker. Aimee Carson was first introduced in Needy Nia as Nia's best friend, and Nia, Aimee, Gracie and Rose started all hanging out together in the books Needy Nia and Guarded Marcus.
Tobias and Aimee meet at Marcus and Gracie’s wedding, since he’s a groomsman and she’s a bridesmaid. Aimee broke up with her cheating boyfriend the day before the wedding, and Tobias is more than happy to take her mind off Trystan. Aimee and Tobias are side characters in Thompson Twins as well, where we learned more about their complicated relationship and watched them break up for good – or not? Is it really for good? Or is there still a chance things will work out? Is love enough?
This book will be from both Aimee’s and Tobias’s POV. It’ll start at Marcus’ and Gracie’s wedding, when they meet. Since they’re on-again off-again in many books, we’ll do plenty of time jumps to get a good feel for how their relationship progresses through the years, why they love each other so much, and why they eventually decided to call things quits. Eventually we will get to the point where we stopped following their story in Thompson Twins, and we’ll finally find out if they end up together or not!
You don’t need to remember all the scenes Aimee and Tobias were in, not at all. I’ll give you all the information you need in this book, but I bet that my most loyal readers will recognize plenty of characters and scenes from other books. And if not, you should still be able to enjoy this story.
A little about the timeline… (SPOILER ALERT >> if this is your first book from me, then please skip this paragraph!)
This story will have many time jumps and will take place over the course of many years. It all starts at Gracie and Marcus’ wedding, which is set in ‘year 18’. I started counting the years at the start of Sweet Caroline, so that was year 1. That means that at the start of this book, in year 18, Caroline is 41. Rose is 24 and Ryker isn’t in her life yet (Jagger is about to meet him two months after Gracie and Marcus’ wedding). Pierre is still with Valentina, Jagger only JUST finished his education and became a teacher, Lennox is still a baby, Aliyah is 16 years old and Nia is 26.
Okay, that’s enough timeline stuff. I just wanted to give you guys an idea of where everyone is at. Of course I’ll put plenty of explanations in the chapters themselves and make sure to put everyone’s ages in there now and then.
Welcome to yet another wild ride I’ve got planned for you guys!
Trigger warnings for this story: Erm… I don’t think there are any? Well, mature content and foul language, of course, but no sexual abuse or any of that stuff. There will be cheating in this book, so that might be a trigger, but I don’t romanticize it at all. If that changes while I write, I will post a trigger warning at the top of the chapter and go back to add it here too, but for now I am not planning on including huge triggers.
#1 Maybe I’m the problem
This can’t be happening. I’m willing to forget about everything I ever wanted – marriage, having kids young – and he is fucking other people? Is he for real right now?
“You slept with someone?” I ask, my voice hoarse as I pull away from Trystan. “Why… How…?”
“I’m so sorry.” He looks utterly distraught. “I didn’t have sex with her, it was just a kiss, that’s all. I thought you should know, because these things have a way of getting out. It meant nothing. I was drunk.”
“Just a kiss?” I repeat. “And you’re only telling me so I won’t find out from anyone else?”
He shakes his head. “No, no, because you deserve to know. It was only a kiss. It meant nothing.”
“Only a kiss.” I can’t help feeling sick to my stomach over the way he’s saying it. Like I’m not even allowed to be upset, because apparently a kiss isn’t a big deal? I haven’t kissed anyone but him since we got together three and a half years ago. Jesus, it’s been a long time. It doesn’t always feel like we’ve been together that long, mostly because it took us over two years to move in together. Because of him, just to be clear. Not me. I wanted to move in with him after six months, but he wanted to take things slow. So slow we were barely moving for a long time.
I put up with that. With all his fucking shit. Because I loved him. I still love him.
And now he fucking cheats on me and acts like it’s not even a big deal?
“Yeah, only a kiss,” Trystan says. “Like I said, I was drunk. No biggie.”
“You’re kidding, right?” I’m moving past stunned and hurt now, anger overtaking any other emotions I was feeling. “You cheat on me and you’re saying it’s no biggie?”
“A kiss is hardly cheating,” he insists. “It’s bad, I’ll admit that, but I was drunk as hell. We’ve been having issues for so long now that I guess I just…” He shrugs. “She made me feel heard. You never listen to me.”
“Oh, so I’m the one to blame?” This fucking shit again. Every single guy I’ve ever been with has cheated on me and then tried to gaslight me into thinking I caused it. Trystan was supposed to be different. Guess I was wrong. “I’m done.”
“You’re done?” He sounds confused. “Done with this conversation?”
“No, with you.” I get up and walk into our bedroom, knowing damn well I will once again be the one moving out and having to find a new place. I always, always do this. I fall in love, move in with them, and end up alone without a place to live. When will I ever learn? I’m such a hopeless romantic – emphasis on hopeless.
“You’re leaving me?” Trystan sounds upset, but I don’t know if I’m buying it. “Over a kiss?”
“I’m leaving because you cheated on me and you’re acting like I’m stupid for reacting so strongly to it, for not even calling it cheating, and for… Well, like you said, we’ve been having issues for ages. I’m done. This isn’t worth trying to fix it anymore.” I start throwing my stuff into a bag.
“Aimee, can’t we talk about this? Come on, baby, don’t leave like this.”
“Who was it?” I ask, still packing my stuff. “Let me guess… Nicola.” The look on his face says it all. I never trusted that skanky colleague of his. Just friends, my ass.
“Aimee, I love you.” Trystan grabs my bag out of my hands. “Don’t go. We can work this out. I can explain everything.”
“You fell and your tongue slipped into her mouth?” I bite out. “I’m done, Trystan. Just let me go.”
“No. I love you. You can’t leave like this. We’re meant to be together!”
I laugh without humor. “Meant to be? It took us two and a half years to officially move in together, and you don’t believe in marriage. You don’t even want to talk about having kids. You said we would when you’d turn 30, but your birthday has come and gone, and you still don’t want to have a serious discussion about our timeline. I’m done waiting until you grow the fuck up. I want a husband, someone who truly loves me. I want kids, and I want to have them with someone who doesn’t cheat on me!”
“I didn’t cheat on you!”
“KISSING IS CHEATING!” I grab my bag, and he lets go of it, thank God. I make sure to take the dress I’ll be wearing to Gracie’s wedding tomorrow and look for my heels as well. I don’t want a reason to have to come back here. I’ll have to come get my stuff in a week or so, and until then… Fuck, I’ll have to move back in with my mother. Not the end of the world, but I thought I was past all of that. I’m so pathetic.
“Aimee, don’t do this.” He’s begging now. I strangely enjoy it, even though I know I can’t give into him. “I love you. I want to work through this. We don’t have to break up.”
“Maybe we don’t have to, but I want to.” I stride to the front door, pulling it open. “We’re over, Trystan.”
“We can get married,” he says out of the blue.
“You don’t mean that. You’re just scared of losing me.”
“Maybe, but I’d rather marry you than have you walk out right now.”
“Wow,” I sneer. “The perfect romantic proposal. I feel so special.”
“Come on, Aimee, you know I’m not good with big gestures.” He grabs my wrist. “I didn’t mean to kiss someone else. It just happened. I told you, didn’t I? It happened last night, and I’m already coming clean about it, the very next day. I’m not some asshole who is doing shit behind your back.”
“No, you’re an asshole who cheats on me, then makes me feel like it’s my fault, and finally offers marriage just to keep me, when you know as well as I do that I need to leave. We’re not happy, and you’re an asshole. Just because you told me that you kissed Nicola, doesn’t make it okay. You’re still a cheater. Let go of me, Trystan.”
His fingers fall away from my wrist and he takes a step back. “Maybe we do need a break. Some space from each other. We can think things over and talk again in a few days.”
“The only thing we need to talk about after today is when I will pick up the rest of my stuff,” I counter. I’m going to start crying soon, and I don’t want him to see it. When I break down, I might allow him to comfort me, and that might end with us kissing or even fucking, and he doesn’t deserve my body. Not anymore. I need to get the fuck out of here, lick my wounds, and start all over again.
Like I’ve been doing for years now, after every shitty relationship I’ve ever had.
Maybe I’m the problem. Maybe it’s not on the guys, maybe it’s all on me. After all, I’m the common denominator in all these relationships. Is there something about me that makes men feel like it’s okay to cheat on me? Not to commit to me fully? To gaslight me and blow up my life?
What kind of energy am I putting into the world to attract men like Trystan?
What the fuck is wrong with me?
The last thing I’m in the mood for is a wedding, but I can’t not go. It’s Gracie’s wedding, and she’s been a great friend to me these past years. She’s about to marry my best friend Nia’s brother, which is how I met Gracie. The three of us and Gracie’s best friend Rose hang out and drink cocktails all the time, so obviously I’m in the wedding. I’m a bridesmaid, as is Nia, and Rose is the maid of honor.
Obviously, I have to tell them what happened, and it sucks. They’re angry on my behalf, they are sad for me, and they offer me a place to stay in Gracie’s guesthouse. It’s really sweet, but I hate that I always end up like this. The girl everyone pities, because all guys ever do is cheat on me. I swear there must be something seriously wrong with me.
Trystan texted me this morning to tell me he’s going to come to the ceremony, but he will leave right after so I can party without him bringing me down. He is still calling our breakup us taking a break, which is not what we are doing. At all. I am done with him. He’s never going to marry me, have kids with me, give me the life I want. I was willing to accept never getting married, I really was, but why would I compromise for a goddamn cheater? One who thinks kissing isn’t really cheating. Asshole.
“Hey, it’ll be okay,” Nia tells me softly when we’re heading toward the church with all the bridesmaids and bridesmen. The groomsmen are waiting for us with the wedding planner, who is running around frantically.
“I know,” I lie with a fake smile.
Nia hugs me tightly. “It’s his loss, Aimee. He’s an idiot. You deserve someone who is all in for you.”
I used to think that too, but maybe I should just settle or stay single or something. It’s never going to happen for me. Not the way I imagined.
The wedding planner ushers us into a line up. Marcus is already inside with his oldest brother and his wife. Since Marcus’ parents died in a car accident many years ago, Dshawn and Shaughna are walking him down the aisle instead. The first to walk in is Marcus’ best man Aston, after which the brothers Jagger and Yoah walk down the church aisle. Jagger is a groomsman, and Yoah is one of Gracie’s bridesmen. Up next are Khiêm and Nia, my favorite couple ever. My best friend married the kindest, sweetest, more pure soul. If I could get a man like that, I’d finally be happy. Jealous much, Aimee? The next couple is Creed and Tommy, then Zeke and Manny, followed by Pierre and Aliyah. I’m up next with a guy I don’t know, Toby or something, and then Pooja and some other guy I don’t know – Olly? – will end the long line of bridesmaids, bridesmen and groomsmen.
While all of us wait outside the church for the ceremony to begin, the guy I’m paired up with nudges me. I hadn’t really looked at him before, but now that I do, I realize he might just be one of the most stunning men I’ve ever seen. He’s drool-worthy in his gray tux, and his eyes twinkle with mischief.
“Hey, I’m Tobias,” he says with a wink. “You must be Aimee. A little birdie told me that you’ve just been dumped.”
Kill me now.
“Why the hell would you introduce yourself to me like that?” I mutter, looking away from him. “Also, I dumped him, not the other way around.”
“Good on you. He’s here, right?” Tobias asks. “I thought that maybe you’d want to make him jealous?”
Now that’s a very interesting proposal. “Maybe,” I muse. “What do you have in mind?”
“Well, you have a very fine ass, so I wouldn’t mind grabbing it.” He winks at me. “Are you by any chance looking for a rebound? Because the pickings are very slim when it comes to the bridesmaids. When you’re a groomsman, you’re pretty much obliged to sleep with one of the bridesmaids, right? It’s the biggest reason why I said yes when Marcus asked me, but then Gracie chose three bridesmen. She’s such a bitch. That leaves me with…” He nods to the people in front of us. “Nia, who is married and also Marcus’ sister, so that is a no-go for two very important reasons. Also, she’s not my type.”
“She’s gorgeous. How could she possibly not be your type?”
Tobias grins. “Tiny tits. I like them a little bigger. Your size, ideally. Two nice handfuls.”
My cheeks flush, but I pretend I am not affected. He’s such an asshole, but I’m not gonna lie, after what Trystan did to me it’s nice to know that other guys still notice me. At least I don’t have to stay celibate forever.
“Then there is Aliyah,” Tobias goes on. “Also Marcus’ sister, and I’m pretty sure she’s underage. That’s not just illegal, but also just plain wrong and gross. I am not attracted to her in the slightest. I’d rather kill myself. Also, she’s not my type.”
“She’s got bigger breasts than Nia does.”
“True, but she also has a huge ass, and I like yours better. Nice curves, but still tight and not too big.” He looks at my ass quite obnoxiously. “Very nice ass, Aimee. Very nice indeed. Aside from Nia and Aliyah, there are three dudes and I don’t do dudes, and then there’s the lesbian behind us, who also isn’t my type.”
“Small tits,” I say before he can.
“Exactly. So I told the wedding planner to pair me with you, so I could offer to make your ex jealous, hoping that our arrangement will end with me fucking your brains out.” He holds out his arm for me to take. “What do you say, Aimee?”
I don’t know why, but he’s cheering me up for sure. “No thanks.”
“Are you sure? I’m willing to just do the jealousy thing. You know I’m not trying to trick you into anything or sexually harass you, right? I’m merely hitting on you and trying to distract you from that asshole you were with before. You’re under no obligation to sleep with me. I swear I’m less gross than I sound.” He winks. “I do like your tits and ass though.”
“Thanks.” I link my arm with his. “I think the line is moving, we need to walk down the aisle soon.”
“So what is the verdict? Ass grab in the church, where your ex will see it?”
Damn, that is tempting. I want to hurt Trystan like he hurt me, and Tobias is giving me the perfect way to do so. He seems like a creep, but I know he’s really good friends with both Marcus and Gracie, so he can’t be too bad, right?
“Okay,” I agree. “Just the ass, though. Don’t get any ideas about grabbing a boob in church.”
“Outside the church then?” He makes a grabby motion with his hand, obviously joking. “Gimme those tits, Aimee.”
Laughing, I swat at his arm. “Stop it.”
“Ass grab it is.” He holds out his hand behind me. “Practice run?”
Immediately, he grabs my ass. He squeezes, a low grunt escaping him. “That is a high quality ass,” he tells me, his hand still on my left cheek. “Jesus. You work out, don’t you? I can feel the squats.” He rubs my ass before squeezing it again, moving on to the right cheek, his fingers digging in hard. “Okay, fuck, now I have to walk into church with a hardon. I’ll probably burst into flames.”
I’m having trouble focusing with his hand on my ass. “Are you gonna keep your hand there?”
“Yes,” he replies, moving in closer. “If that’s okay with you?”
“Yes,” I breathe, telling myself I’m only agreeing to make Trystan jealous. No other reason. This guy is an even bigger asshole than Trystan and all my other exes. He’s not even good enough to be a rebound. Such a horndog.
A beautiful, sexy, hot-as-sin horndog who has his hand on my ass.
I’m sure now that something is fundamentally wrong with me. If I get hot for a guy like this, there is no hope for me, is there? I’m only attracted to men who are bad for me. Fuck my life.
“Think about your grandmother,” Tobias mutters next to me. “Car crashes. Marcus’ bare ass.”
“What?” I ask, confused.
“Talking to myself.” He squeezes my ass again. “Need to talk down this boner, babe. Never mind, it’s not happening. Not with my hand on your ass. Oh well, it won’t be the first time I’ve been hard in church and it probably won’t be the last time either.”
“And proud of it, Aimee.” He winks at me. “Time to walk down the aisle, sugar plum.”
I cringe at the nickname. “Sugar plum?”
“No? What about… sweetie pie? Angel face? Hot buns?”
“Just stick to Aimee.”
“Sure thing, sweet pea.” He nudges me forward, still touching my ass. “Start walking, butter cup.”
“I thought you were sticking to Aimee?”
“Where’s the fun in that, baby doll?”
It’s not until we’re halfway down the aisle that I realize Trystan can see us. I find his eyes when I take my place on the bride’s side, between Aliyah and Pooja, and he looks pissed at hell.
Fuck. Maybe this wasn’t the best plan after all. Then I look over at Tobias, who makes a grabby motion with his hand and winks at me.
What the hell am I doing?
Nothing that will end well, that’s for sure.