All That Really Matters, стр. 1

© 2021 by Nicole Deese

Published by Bethany House Publishers

11400 Hampshire Avenue South

Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

www.bethanyhouse.com

Bethany House Publishers is a division of

Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

www.bakerpublishinggroup.com

Ebook edition created 2021

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic, photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

ISBN 978-1-4934-2992-9

Scripture quotations are from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Emojis are from the open-source library OpenMoji (https://openmoji.org/) under the Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Cover design by Jennifer Parker

Represented by Kirkland Media Management

For Mandy

Your unapologetic love for all things beautiful

is as inspiring as your unwavering support

for your chosen tribe.

I’m blessed to be counted among them.

I adore you.

Contents

Cover

Half Title Page

Title Page

Copyright Page

Dedication

Epigraph

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

22

23

24

25

26

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34

35

36

37

38

39

40

41

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Back Ads

Back Cover

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

PHILIPPIANS 2:3–4

1

Molly

I used to marvel at the way my Great Mimi’s arthritic fingers would pinch her eyeliner pencil and trace a perfect stroke of midnight black along her upper lash line. The way her tired, nearly translucent skin would transform into a picture of regal elegance with only a few pats and swipes of color. For an eleven-year-old girl whose mother had never owned a single tube of mascara, it was a magical experience.

I’d watch my Mimi’s routine with my elbows propped onto a gold-leaf vanity and eyebrows disappearing behind poorly cut bangs. My mouth would form an opera-worthy O as she became a living, breathing masterpiece, her best features showcased and enhanced, her flaws minimized and concealed.

And in those final few seconds before she closed her makeup drawer and blotted her ruby red lips, she’d hand me her blush brush and say with a wink, “Molly, when you feel good in your own skin, it’s easy to help someone else feel good in theirs.”

I’d tap the remaining rouge onto the apples of my pale cheeks and smile at the stringy-haired girl in the mirror, promising myself that one day I would do just that: I would help someone else feel the way my Mimi had always made me feel. And now, sixteen years and 606,000 Instagram followers later, I’d kept my promise to that often misunderstood little girl, one emboldened cat-eye and sheer lip tutorial at a time.

Beep! Beep! Beep!

I snapped the compact of my recently reviewed translucent face powder closed—four-out-of-five lip smacks, dinged for a shorter wear life than advertised—and primped my hair one last time in the mirror before following the sound of my oven’s cry.

“See, Ethan? I told you I could finish getting ready before the oven preheated. That took what, five minutes? Hey, maybe that could be an idea for a future post series. ‘How to Get Date-Ready in Five Minutes or Less.’ Or wait—‘How to Get Date-Ready in Five Minutes and Five Products or Less’ is even better. Then I can feature that new Hollywood Nights collection that just came in. I’ll have Val add it to the schedule.” I rounded the corner into the kitchen, expecting to see my boyfriend on the recliner in my living room. Only he wasn’t there.

“Ethan?” I slid the glass pan of chicken marsala into the oven and lifted the charcuterie board I’d spent nearly an hour preparing. There was something strangely satisfying about arranging cheeses, meats, nuts, figs, and olives.

“The chicken will take about forty minutes to bake, but our appetizers will go great with that wine you bought last month. I’ve been saving it.” I wove around the island, gathering the glasses and balancing the cheese board on my palm like the trained waitress I was not. If my twin brother were here, this would be his cue to crack a joke about my propensity to drop plates of food, even though that had only happened one time. Granted, it had been on Thanksgiving Day, and granted, I had been carrying our twenty-five-pound stuffed turkey, but still, there should be a statute of limitations on bad family jokes.

I continued my balancing act into the living room. “I’m sure your appetite is still on East Coast time, but—” I stopped abruptly at the sight of my boyfriend stretched out on my sofa, eyes closed.

“Ethan?” I set both the appetizers and stemware on the coffee table and tiptoed over to him—quite a feat in four-inch cork-wedge heels. I approached him as if he were a wind-up toy ready to spring into action at any moment, which was perhaps the most fitting description of Ethan Carrington.

But there was no springing.

Apparently it didn’t matter how much time a woman spent creating the perfect cat-eye if the man she wanted to impress was unconscious. I crouched low and waved a hand over his face before he released a snore that had me cupping a hand over my own mouth to stifle a laugh. This had to be the most anticlimactic start to a date ever.

I covered him with a vegan angora throw from a boutique in Canada I’d promoted last autumn, then decided to capitalize on the rare moment. After all, Ethan’s favorite marketing motto was Never miss an opportunity to relate to your audience.

I whipped out my phone and proceeded to take a ten-second story, featuring my adorable sleeping boyfriend, a tray of untouched appetizers, and one pouty-lipped me. I captioned a

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