By Dylan Quinn

Who says happily ever afters only exist in fairytales and romance novels? 

Had you asked me that question five years ago, my answer would have been me but the universe blessed us three years ago, and our lives have never been the same.

My co-writer, Daniel Cade Quinn, is more than just my partner in crime. He’s also the love of my life. And like the characters in our stories, we had to fight like hell to get our HEA wo while I could go on for hours telling you why, instead, I’m going to tell you a love story…

Ours.

Whenever people hear that I co-write with Daniel, they tell me I need to write my own story, since we’re literally living our own ‘second chance romance’ as the trope is called in Romancelandia. So here it is – our love story. And it starts like every other — with once upon a time.

More than thirty years ago in an era when big hair and rolled up jeans were in style, and girls like me listened to boy bands like Duran Duran, I was forced to leave the suburbs of Chicago to live in a rural town in the middle of nowhere – a place I still call Misery. The longer I stayed, the more I grew to hate it. Until I got to high school and met my first love… 

No, my husband was not that person. He was, however, in my first boyfriend’s friend circle. Sort of. They were all ‘band geeks’ and spent most of their free time together. My boyfriend lived with his mother, who was a paramedic that happened to work with my mother at the local ambulance district. They were always gone at night, which made it convenient for me to hang at my boyfriend’s house, unattended by adults. Needless to say, we had a lot of unsupervised parties. 

That’s when I became friends with Daniel. We’d bump into each other at my boyfriend’s parties, school events, that sort of thing. I mean, the town had less than 2000 people, so it was hard not to bump into everybody at one point or another. That year was a lot of fun until the summer of 1988 when my boyfriend’s mother got into some legal trouble and they had to move. 

We broke up then, not because we wanted to, but because it didn’t make sense not to. I mean, he was moving four hours from me. Back then, cell phones and internet skyping didn’t exist. I had no job (I was barely 16), no money, and after spending every waking minute with him (who happened to be two years older than me), I’d pretty much alienated all the friends my own age. So when he left, that 16-yo drama queen thought her life was over until graduation.

Eventually, I managed to get myself out of bed and date a guy or two. My life was a disaster, filled with common takes of teenage horror stories that I won’t bother haunting you with today.

Sometime later, I bumped into Daniel, and we started hanging out. His version goes he broke up with me after deciding to date someone else. My version, however, is that we were never dating to begin with. Of course, that’s because I came from Chicago where dating meant something very different than those in the country who thought cruising around Sonic and the square meant two people were practically engaged. So when he told me he was going to date other people, I was like… okay?! Because I never thought we were dating in the first place.

Not long afterwards, both our lives took two very different paths when two of our friends were out drinking at a party – because in a town so small, there wasn’t much else for teenagers to do – then got into a car and were never seen alive again. The boy was a close friend of Daniel’s, and his death affected him so much, that Daniel enlisted in the Army and never looked back. Daniel and I weren’t close then, so him leaving wasn’t really on my radar. I was dealing with my own nightmares. 

1990 was an eventful year for both of us.

In August, Daniel was sent to Iraq. I remember an assembly at school when they named him as one of the graduates who was part of the Desert Shield/Storm ordeal. As a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne division, he was one of the unlucky soldiers sent in. So while Daniel was off fighting for our freedom, I was still in that town I hated, fighting my own demons until December, when I graduated high school early and went off to college in hopes of finding a reason to keep breathing.

In 1994, I did… I became a mother.

That role inspired the theme of my Eternal Sacrifice Saga, as well as its first story, Gemini, which I’ve included in the Darkness Rising anthology.

The next 24 years were good and bad for both of us.

For Daniel, it consisted of marriage, divorce, and a few kids. He was long gone from our state of Misery by then, having moved around a lot after returning from Iraq. When we finally reconnected in 2014, he was living in Pennsylvania and working as a prototyping machinist for a multinational corporation. 

My life was nothing as I’d pictured it would be either. After graduating high school early, I’d spent a year in college as a vocal music performance major until I became a single mother of a little boy who saved my life. 

I’d worked a hundred different jobs in a hundred different fields, which fortunately, made me very well rounded. I eventually married (although the wrong man), moved to St. Louis, and then had three more kids before earning both my undergrad degree in journalism and a Master’s in English education. 

When Daniel and I reconnected, I had just finished writing Gemini, my first book. When we started talking again, I had recently left my husband, returned from St. Louis and was living in my mother’s old house in Misery. I later divorced him in March of 2016, then published my Gemini in June. As a prolific reader, Daniel wanted to read it, so I sent him an ARC copy. His review is still there on the print version I can’t get Amazon to take down.

On August 13, Daniel came through Misery for the first time since 1989. We spent a few hours chatting in my living room, catching up. It was a strangely emotional day for me. I seemed to have unloaded every piece of baggage onto him, and something just clicked. I was dressed up for a date I had that night, but after Daniel left, I had no interest in going on that date… or any other date after that.

Daniel left town the next day, drove back to Pennsylvania, but even a day later, both our lives had changed forever. By November, he came home to me and we got married 4 months later.

Fast forward three years, and I’m the happiest, luckiest woman alive. And the best part is my kids love Daniel as much as I do. Our family wasn’t complete until he became part of it. We co-write amazing stories, we laugh together, we love fiercely, and we know without a doubt, that soulmates are a thing. 

We are the real deal.

Daniel and I are Caia and Cade from Gemini.

When Daniel read Gemini, he connected with the story in the same way that I did when I wrote it… we saw us. Maybe it was a premonition, or a dream, or maybe even a memory from another lifetime together? Neither of us knows exactly what it is that we connect with, but we both agree, it’s our love story.

My whole life, I’ve waited for him. For the person who would complete me. My twin soul. My Gemini. Every day, I thank the goddess or the universe or whoever is out there for reuniting us, and we both know when this life is over, we’ll find each other in the next. 

Because soul mates are a thing. We exist.

Curious about Gemini? Be sure to read my story in Darkness Rising, so you can meet Zoe and Cade, read the love story that started it all… the real Caia and Cade. Then maybe you too will believe in fairytales, soulmates, and happily ever afters. 

Because only love can truly save the world.

Until next time…

Dylan & Daniel