“Been there, done that with my mom. Even though I know the drugs are bad for her, part of me always wanted to get her some so she’d stop suffering through withdrawals when she couldn’t find a fix.”
Her understanding and compassion flowed through him as she squeezed his hand.
Hawk squeezed her hand back, glad he had someone he could talk to who understood. “Not long after I left Liberty’s room, the hospital had me stop to talk with one of their counselors. He worked at an inner-city hospital and he’d no doubt seen people like my sister a million times, but he still tried to help me. That guy, I can’t even remember his name, he saved my life that day. Hooked me up with a mentoring system where I met Darryl, who changed my life in ways I never could’ve imagined.”
Sunny turned slightly in her seat and smiled at him. “I love Darryl. He’s amazing. I’m so glad I was able to meet him when he was in town. He is genuinely one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, even if he’s as big as a truck and looks like he eats rocks for breakfast.”
“That he is. As I’m sure you can imagine, the first time I saw him I was scared shitless. I mean, I didn’t think I needed a mentor. I thought I was a grown ass man, and I’ll admit I gave him some attitude. For about five seconds. Here was this six-foot seven, giant black man with crazy eyes, dreads to his waist, and a huge beard staring me down. I was tall for my age at six feet, but this guy towered over me. I was so intimidated; I didn’t even realize who he was at first.”
“Darryl Waxford,” she said with a smile. “One of the greatest linebackers of all time. Owner of six Super Bowl rings and an Emmy for best documentary for Miller’s Concussion.”
“And married to Academy Award winning actress in multiple categories, Olivia Tuza.” The view of the limo faded around him as he got lost in the past, talking about parts of himself that he’d never told anyone else. “It was Olivia who got me into acting. Told me that, since I was such an accomplished bullshitter, I’d be a natural. Plus, even though I was a skinny runt at the time, I was good looking enough to get myself into trouble, so I might as well put my skills to good use.”
Laughing, Sunny rubbed her thumb along the back of his hand then over his turquoise rings. “And look at you now.”
“And look at me now.” He turned slightly as Sunny began to play with his hair, her gentle touches making his whole scalp tingle. “I owe them everything. They gave me hope at a time in my life when I’d forgotten what hope even felt like. I sometimes feel like I don’t deserve this, that it should be someone else living my life, someone else who should have had the chances I had. Someone more deserving.”
She paused in stroking his hair to look up at him. “That might be true, but I doubt it. What I do know is that there is no one I’d rather be with right now than you. Hawk, what Darryl and Olivia did for you, you did for me. Not the whole intro to Hollywood, but the giving of hope. That day at the meeting? I was slowly drowning, but I was so good at hiding my pain that no one seemed to notice. No one except you. When I finally found the courage to cry out for help, it was your hand that reached out to me. It was you that gave me hope. ‘Cause if someone as amazing as Hawk Delray liked me then maybe I wasn’t complete trash. I mean, my own mother didn’t love me enough to choose me over drugs…I felt so worthless.”
Unable to help himself, he cupped her face in his hands, wiping away the tears streaming down her cheeks. “You are not trash, and you’re not worthless. You are everything I love in this world. A treasure.”
“Hawk,” her voice cracked, “I—”
He stopped her with the briefest of kisses, a brushing of his lips over her soft, damp, salty ones. Deep within his spirit, electricity seemed arc and flare, awakening parts of his mind and body he’d been previously unaware of. He swore he could feel her soul in their kiss, a sweet warmth that coated his jagged edges in softness. Her lips slid gently against his own as she kissed him back, as silky and light as a whisper.
For one strong beat of his heart, he let his mouth linger against her own before drawing back and meeting her stunned gaze. “You are everything. In less than a year, I’ll prove it.”