Where We Meet Again (Arrow Creek 1)

Page 22

“I was lost.” The dryness of my throat and the regret obstructs my ability to speak. “I felt unwanted and lonely. I know how this makes me sound. If it were my daughter, I’d be so sad and ashamed of her behavior, but I just wanted to feel something other than hurt and unwanted all the time.”
His head snaps back up. “Yeah? Did you find what you were looking for?” His anger stokes my fire. The tears in my eyes evaporate.
“Yeah, actually, I did. Obviously, not from you. Not from him either! I found my love in Evelyn, and as much as this all sucks, I wouldn’t trade her for anything.”
“Typical words of a parent. Must be nice to have shit on everyone around you and still come out on top.”
His words slap me in the face. “What is that supposed to mean?” I throw up my hands and slosh coffee over the side of my mug. The fiery liquid runs down my hand, soiling my bandage, and drips to the floor.
His torso lurches toward me. “What it means is you’ve got a fancy house, nice clothes, obviously a good job. You got someone to love you. Looks to me like everything worked out for poor, sad Cami.”
“How dare you?” I seethe. “You don’t know the first thing about me, or what I’ve been through.”
Law doesn’t bother with an answer. He dumps the rest of his coffee down the sink drain and slams the mug beside it. His hands clutch the edge as if trying to regain some control.
Watching him fascinates me. The setting sun from the window transforms his broad back into a silhouette and outlines the tension in his shoulders, once again defining how much stronger he is than the boy I used to know.
All signs of rage vanish when he turns, replaced by a haggard sadness that doesn’t come from a minor disappointment. For the first time since he returned to my life, I see the toll of my choices and mistakes.
I was right before with what I said to Kiersten; I was the catalyst for all of this. Not Law.
“You don’t either,” he starts cryptically, and I redirect my attention so I don’t miss what he imparts.
“Because you didn’t wait around to find out. It took me less than a month to realize what a stupid mistake I’d made. You didn’t take me back, because you were already knocked up. It’s all coming together now. You let somebody fuck you so you could feel an ounce of love? Well, I did it too.
“The difference between us is that you were already gone in a way I knew I’d never have you again. So, I settled for the closest thing.” His eyes glint when he sees the shock on my face. “I got back with Steph. She became what I needed when I was wrecked from you. And after my dad got that call that you moved to Main
e, I went from wrecked to pissed. I needed somebody to wash away the taste of you, and that somebody was Steph.”
Oh, God. My stomach cramps from his words. The parts of my heart that remained beating wither with every word out of his mouth.
Swiping his palm over his face, he drops his hand limply to his side and continues. “I let her consume me and that made me stupid. A month before graduation, I got her pregnant. The day after we graduated, we got married at the courthouse. Two weeks after that, I took a job as an apprentice laborer at a construction company to support my new family.”
“Please, you don’t need to tell me this,” I beg as old wounds bleed fresh again. So lost in his memories, he doesn’t even hear my plea.
“The work was shit. We built houses from sunup until sundown, six days a week. My new wife reaped the benefits of my paycheck, while I worked myself to the bone. I hardly ever saw her. Which is why when I got hurt on the job one day and came home early, she was shocked as shit to see me. As was I to find her naked in our bed with my best friend.”
An appropriate response escapes me, so I remain quiet. I fear that if I open my mouth, I’ll either cry, yell, or vomit. The guilt for my own choices eats at me like an acid as I listen to the domino effect my decisions had in Law’s life.
“She begged for a second chance. I was too young and proud to file for a divorce so soon after we got married. I was holding out for my baby. I thought once we were a real family, the marriage would fix itself.”
He pauses as if lost. The story seems over. Is he still married to her now? With a child, maybe several, waiting at home for him to get done working? I force myself not to search his hand for a ring. I don’t have the right to care, even though I do.
He finds himself then, continuing to tear open old wounds.
“The same day I found out I was having a son, I learned that instead of a baptism, we’d be holding a funeral.”
The breath catches somewhere between my nose and my lungs, and a sob forces its way out. A shaky hand compresses my mouth. “Law.”
“Doctor saw some terminal abnormality on the scan. Nothing could be done. After that, Steph and I fell apart. Took me six years to get rid of her. We both grieved hard, and I wasn’t a big enough asshole to leave her like that. After a couple of years, we tried again but nothing stuck. She had five miscarriages before we both agreed enough was enough. We weren’t in love. We were both just trying to fill voids in our lives with each other.”
I open my mouth to speak, but he’s not finished eviscerating me.
He shoves off the sink. “I thought I could do this with you, patch old hurts and move on. I can’t. I’ve got six little angels that never got to take that first breath and an ex-wife in a wake that was left behind because of you. Because. Of. You. And you’ve got everything. One beautiful baby girl who loves you and is your entire world. I’d be foolish to give you the chance to steal it all out from under me again.”
A jumble of defenses and apologies swell in my throat, but they all stick on my tongue. Nothing I claim in this moment will relieve any of the pain he’s resurfaced. As he grabs his bag and walks himself out, it cuts me deep, but I stand back and let him.
There isn’t anything else for me to do.