Frayed Page 78

When he asks, ’’Was your brother unable to take you home because he was with Dahlia?’’ I pick myself up immediately. There\s the elephant in the room that we\ve only briefly touched on. I swat my tears away and stare in disbelief at him. The anger that rears this time is real, genuine, and I don\ have to fake it.

’’Never mind, it\s not important. What happened after that?’’ he asks, but it\s too late. My wall is already back up.

I purse my lips at him. ’’Did you even show up that night? Did you go to my apartment like you said you would?’’

He sits up and wipes his palms on his jeans. His eyes cut over to the book on my coffee table. The book he gave me because it\s his favorite. The book he remembered he was reading the first time we met.

I take his lack of response to mean no, he didn\ show up. ’’What would you have done had I told you?’’

He swallows, working his throat.

My phone rings, interrupting this painful admission of guilt, and I seize the opportunity to put an end to the conversation when I see Tate\s name flash across the screen. I reach to answer it, but he grabs my wrist.

’’You\ e going to answer that in the middle of this?’’

I take a deep breath, then another one. My pulse is racing. ’’It might be important.’’

’’This is important!’’ he seethes, letting go of my wrist.

I let it ring.

Suddenly his eyes grow dark and his gaze sharp. ’’You\ e f**king him, aren\ you?’’

His question temporarily stuns me, but I quickly scramble to my feet, needing more distance from him. But even the distance can\ contain my hurt. He thinks I\m the one screwing someone? Well, let him. That will work. I know how it feels. With my eyes narrowing at him I yell, ’’Why do you care!’’ and a rage flames inside me as I consciously decide to keep silent.

He too rises and moves closer to me. His fingers curl around my upper arms and I blink rapidly, standing frozen in place love, lust, want, need, and even fear make my stomach tighten and my chest constrict.

His body stiffens and his grip tightens. ’’You know why I care.’’

’’No! No, I don\ ! What I know is that you will always do what\s best for you!’’

He drops his hold on me as he stares in stunned silence.

But I said what I believe to be true. I finally admitted it out loud. It\s why I kept my distance for as long as I did. He\s proven to me time and time again that he makes the decisions that are best for him and him alone. He could have tried to find me after that first night we spent together but he didn\ because he had a girlfriend. When he saw me at River\s house that first time he could have come after me, but he went after Dahlia because that was what was best for him. Then this past summer when I realized he messed around with someone it wasn\ morals that drove my anger but rather the lack of persistence to prove he was interested in me. And just last week when I told him I gave our baby up he left me at the restaurant because it was best for him.

I look away from his powerful stare, afraid of what I might see if I look any longer. ’’Do you have anything else you want to know? Because if not I think we\ e done.’’

I dare to look up when he fails to answer, and the stricken look on his face is enough to make me avert my gaze again.

’’Was the baby a boy or a girl?’’ he asks softly.

I cross my arms over my chest in a hopeless effort to protect my heart. ’’I don\ know,’’ I whisper.

My phone rings again and this time I scurry toward it. To put an end to both our pain I answer, ’’Hello.’’

My eyes searching the floor, I spot his boots turn and I watch him go. He stops for a moment at the door.

’’I\m here,’’ I say into the phone.

The door slams and I jump. And as I strain to hear him pound down the concrete stairs, I feel my heart shrink just a little bit more as tears scald first my cheeks, then my neck, and finally my chest.

CHAPTER 25

Losing Sleep

Ben

Waking up on Thanksgiving morning to the smell of pumpkin bread baking in the oven reminds me so much of my mother. An aromatic wake-up call, the scent is enough to lure me from my old bedroom and out to the kitchen. I pad across the room and pour a cup of coffee that smells recently brewed. Standing at the large picture window in the kitchen, I stare out at the waves crashing against the rocks. Weeks have passed since I\ve seen S\elle, but I can\ stop considering how different things might have been if Dahlia had stayed at the bar that night. And truth be told, I think that had I known about the baby I would never have let her give it up for adoption. But our issues run deeper than just our painful past she proved that.

’’You\ e awake,’’ Serena says, entering the room.

’’How could I not be?’’ I grin over at her.

She pulls the loaves of bread from the oven. ’’Did the wafting smell of cinnamon wake you up?’’

’’I hope you added extra cinnamon.’’

’’Of course. Just like Mom.’’ She grins.

’’It\s strange, being here on Thanksgiving without her.’’

’’Yeah, it is. I really miss her.’’

I turn back toward the window and sip from my cup. ’’So do I.’’

Serena and Jason both sold their own places and decided to make Mom\s house their new home. Trent was home from college and Caleb was supposed to arrive in town last night but had a flight delay. My sister had insisted I spend the night with them since today was a holiday. Trent arrived home last Sunday and has alternated staying with me and staying here.


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