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Lightning can strike the same place more than once.
The first time, it robbed me of my high school sweetheart.
Shattering our forever into a million pieces.
I was just sixteen.
Too young to understand the medical terms, that meant she was gone.
Too naïve to see that forever was nothing but a lie.

Now, years later, I met Ameline.
I tried not to fall in love, but it was impossible.
She gathered all my broken pieces and put me back together.
I had promised myself never to love again.
To avoid this agony.

And I fell for the illusion of forever once more.
At least until I lost her.
Now I’m left questioning everything.

What does forever mean when it’s built on a foundation of pain and loss?
How do you move on when lightning keeps targeting your heart?
Why do people believe in forever when it’s just a lie?


EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: The Lies About Forever

Claudia Burgoa

AVAILABLE NOW

Claudia Burgoa is kicking off a gut-wrenching new romance duet this week, part of her larger Decker Family series, and I have the prologue and the whole first chapter for you from the first instalment in the duet.

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Prologue

Gabriel

They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, but that’s a myth. In fact, there’s proof that lightning can strike the same place more than once. For instance, the Empire State Building in New York City is hit by lightning about twenty-three times a year. There are also numerous documented cases of individuals or objects being struck by lightning multiple times.

I should be considered one of those individuals. Even when this lightning is from an emotional storm, each strike has scorched a part of my soul.

When my high school girlfriend died while vacationing on Bantayan, it felt like the first bolt had struck. It hit as her father said, “Cardiogenic shock secondary to myocardial infarction,” when he called my parents to deliver the news.

At sixteen, I couldn’t grasp the medical terms. All I knew was that the girl I loved, the one I had given a promise ring and planned on spending my forever with, was gone.

Gone.

And now, years later . . . Well, I’m starting to believe forever is a fucking lie.

It’s a word people love to romanticize—a cruel joke used to dress up hopes and dreams. It’s just threads of lies and deception.

Loving someone with your whole heart only to lose them? It’s like getting hit with 100 million volts of electricity at once—your world upended in an instant.

When it happened the first time, I was gutted, left wandering through the smoking remains of the life we’d planned together.

This time . . . This time is so much worse. I can’t breathe, can’t even feel my heart beating in my chest. My lungs constrict as if two giant hands squeeze the air from them.

The pain is paralyzing in its intensity. As I watch the flatline on the monitor, I collapse onto the floor, doubling over with the force of the pain. It’s too much. I can’t bear to think of this life without her.

What happened to fucking forever?

What happened to all our promises?

What happened to . . .?

Nothing, of course, because forever is just a fucking fantasy.

Forever is just a seven-letter word for a pain that never fully heals. The kind that lurks under the surface, ready to ambush you when you least expect it. I wandered for years in the wasteland she left behind, unwilling to risk that devastation again.

I promised myself I would never love again, but I fell for the fantasy of forever one more time, and now how am I supposed to survive?


Chapter One

Ameline

There’s a part of me that wants to yell into the phone, “I hate you.” But I’m not a ten-year-old anymore, and Dad is halfway across the world in Thailand. The thought of something happening to him on his journey back, leaving those angry words as our last exchange, just because he vetoed my weekend plans at Tasmin’s, makes me shudder.

I could lash out about his new wife, tell him she’s unbearable. I might even suggest that, next time, he should consider just moving in with his flavor of the month, instead of rushing into marriage. This is, after all, Mrs. Lewis number five since the divorce from Mom. By this point, most people would have sworn off marriage, but not my father.

But this isn’t me being a brat, or playing the resentful daughter card, upset because Dad doesn’t shower me with attention. That ship sailed years ago. For the past couple of years my therapist and I have had countless sessions where we discussed my father’s failed relationships.

All we’ve come up with is that I need to accept Dad as he is, even if he is a serial monogamist who can’t be alone for more than a month. As long as I learn to live with it, I might have a chance at a somewhat healthy future. Let’s be honest, most children from divorced marriages are pretty screwed up.

It’s not about changing him, it’s about not letting his choices disrupt who I want to become.

Grandma always says I have an old soul, which she believes explains my composure, a trait she thinks is innate rather than nurtured by therapy sessions. She sees me as someone who possesses a deeper understanding and maturity beyond my years. She’s wrong about me, but I’ll never correct her. I love the cool way she describes me to the rest of the family.

But, in reality, my life is a balancing act. I constantly find myself doing whatever Dad wants so he’s happy with me, making sure my older sister Isadora doesn’t forget I exist, and occasionally reminding Cedric, even if he just thinks I’m his annoying little sister, that I’m still around and need my big brother’s help.

However, dealing with my latest stepmother is an entirely different challenge. She’s twenty-six, just a year older than Isadora. And yes, Dad could technically be her father, which, let’s face it, is pretty unsettling. But what bothers me more than their age gap is her obsession with me. Helen Lewis, just nine years my senior, is fixated on becoming the mother she thinks I’ve missed since the age of six.

She’s convinced I’m in dire need of discipline and nurturing, and she’s hell-bent on providing it. But she’s doing a pretty shitty job at that if I say so myself. I’m an introvert and since I like to keep Father happy I never break the rules—so why would I need discipline? Nurturing . . . Well, I’m not sure what that would entail but she’s never tried to give me a hug. Not even on my birthday.

As far as I’m concerned, I don’t need her or whatever she thinks I’m lacking. And, frankly, I question her capabilities. How can someone who struggles to maintain a grocery list or a job for more than a month be expected to properly care for a teenager? She’s a paradox. Some could easily say she’s a contradiction of control and negligence, a combination that baffles me to no end.

I wonder if telling Dad about the state of the fridge would help. It’s practically bare, except for his beer and her shakes, which are off-limits to me and marked with sticky notes that read: Only Helen Can Drink This. It’s a small, yet telling, detail of the strange dynamics between us.

No one wants her freaking shakes. She doesn’t need to mark them but at least try getting a gallon of milk once in a while.

“You’re not even here, Dad,” I retort into the phone, my frustration bubbling.

“Let me remind you that your standardized tests are coming up. Are you even prepared?” he questions sharply; it’s obvious that he has little to no faith in his youngest child. “Your grades aren’t exactly stellar.”

Adults always seem to think that being a teenager is a walk in the park. They don’t understand the daily battles we face: navigating the mood swings of other teenagers like us, dealing with our own emotional roller coasters, and constantly trying to meet their sky-high expectations. It’s exhausting.

Too fucking exhausting.

I wish they could see it from our perspective, just once. Maybe then they’d realize we could use a bit of understanding. Somehow, they could try to give us the benefit and remember what it was like to be a teenager.

“B’s aren’t bad, and I’m always applying myself,” I defend, feeling the need to justify not only my academic performance but . . . well, me.

In our family, where my brother and sister are practically geniuses with their unbroken streak of A’s, my B’s fall short. But it’s not like I’m failing. I do get an A here and there. My grades are decent, at least I think so. Nonetheless, in the eyes of my family, especially Dad, it’s like I’m trailing behind, struggling to keep up with the high bar set by my siblings.

“B’s won’t get you anywhere,” he states matter-of-factly, his voice tinged with a hint of disappointment. “Is Cedric helping you study for the standardized tests?”

The mention of my brother gives me a brilliant idea. “I should remind him to do it this weekend, shouldn’t I?” I suggest, trying to sound casual yet hopeful over the phone.

“Yes. I’ll message him right now to make sure he does,” Dad responds. The resolve in his voice is astounding. It’s like he just figured out a way to help me with my issues and deterred me from wanting to be away from home.

“I’ll probably have to stay with him over the weekend then,” I say, with such an innocent voice anyone would think that I’m just being an obedient child.

“Of course. I’ll let Helen know about the change in plans,” he agrees quickly.

I grin and since there’s an opportunity here, I try to push my luck a little bit further. “Maybe I can stay with Tasmin next weekend?” I ask, though I do a poor job at trying to mask the eagerness in my voice.

“No. I think you and Cedric should spend more time together, at least until you pass your tests,” he replies, his voice firm and unwavering as if his decision is final and non-negotiable.

This practical solution will help me accomplish my goals while he doesn’t have to worry about the nuances of me asking for permission to go to parties or do anything fun. He’s just killing two birds with one stone—more like he’s killing my social life, but I don’t care. Whatever opportunity is presented to me, I will always choose to be away from Helen and her toxicity. At least until Dad is back.

“Okay,” I reply, trying to sound disappointed.

“Be good and apply yourself more, okay?”

“Thank you, Dad. I love you,” I respond before ending the call, though I wish this conversation could have been different. One where he could tell me about his trip and maybe understand me a little more. Ask me how my week has been going and . . . I don’t know. Sometimes I wonder why he’s so clinical and cold with us, whereas my grandparents are loving and warm.

Then, I remind myself that I can’t change him; I can only change the way I react toward his behavior. I shouldn’t take it so personally. I focus on the new possibilities and wonder if I can sway Cedric into letting me visit Tasmin. Maybe not this weekend, but hopefully soon. I can’t imagine he’s looking forward to the prospect of dealing with his little sister every weekend for the foreseeable future. There has to be a way to work around this, a compromise that works for both of us. The challenge now is figuring out what that might be.

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(standalone duets with interconnected characters)

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