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Forgive me callaway book.., p.3

Forgive Me (Callaway Book 2), page 3


Forgive Me (Callaway Book 2)

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  The anger boiling inside of him snapped, and he pushed his brother back with a force that surprised both of them. He loved his brother, but he couldn't believe the man who practically raised him would think so little of him. Cole had been there after Amanda left. He saw firsthand how devastated Drew had been, and hearing him talk about Amanda like she was nothing more than a quick fuck pissed him off.

  "You know what? Fuck you, man! You have no fucking idea what that girl is to me, and it's none of your business anyway. I know exactly what you think I am, but you know what? That girl is my everything, so don't you fucking tell me how I feel. Look around you, Cole. You have everything—a beautiful woman, a baby on the way. Can't you see I want that for me? Amanda is it for me, and I won't stand here and let you tell me any different. We stood by you with Jamie—hell, we fucking gave you mom's ring—so the least you could fucking do is the same. She fucking killed me when she left for the city, and I'm not letting her go, not this time."

  Drew shoved his brother back with all the force he could muster. He ignored Jamie calling out his name; he needed to get the hell of the house. He grabbed his keys and stormed outside, fighting the urge to punch the wall on his way out.

  Amanda couldn't get the picture of a half-naked, sweaty Drew out of her head. No matter what she did, all she saw was that body of his covered in sweat, looking like something out of the movies. Drew had been good-looking in high school, but he was the most gorgeous specimen of man she'd ever seen. Her hormones had taken notice.

  She knew she was going to have to ask for his help the second she saw Cole's reaction to the house. Cole was handy, but Drew was the one with the ability to fix or build anything. It was one of the things he'd inherited from his dad. It had taken everything she had to drive up to the Callaway ranch and ask Drew for help. He was the last person she wanted to have around, and she felt guilty knowing the amount of work he had to do for the ranch. But she had no one else to count on.

  Seeing him working on that fence, on his family's land, she had since realized how selfish she had been five years before, when she asked Drew to move to South Carolina with her. This was where he belonged and she should've seen that back then, but she had been so hell-bent on getting out of Montana that she had missed how much of this town was in Drew.

  "Hey, Amanda, I just finished putting in the orders for tomorrow, so I thought I would head home, if that's all right with you?" Amanda looked up at her new employee and smiled at her. Abby had walked into the diner two weeks back, and Amanda offered her a job immediately. It was obvious the girl was running from something, and she knew what that was like, what you had to give up to run from your demons.

  "Go home, Abby. Is John taking you?" She smiled at how Abby blushed at the mention of John's name, and Amanda understood completely. The Callaway men were all gorgeous, but John had that mysterious and serious vibe. She remembered how devoted he had become to making sure the ranch survived after their father died. It had become his whole life.

  "Not tonight. He's been real busy with the ranch lately, and with the wedding and everything else, I don't want to add to his load." Abby blushed as she talked, making Amanda grin.

  "Do you need a ride home?" she asked Abby.

  "Oh, no, that's okay. Hey, Amanda, are you okay? I mean, I saw what happened with Drew Callaway a couple of days ago, and I know you guys had something back in the day," Abby babbled nervously. Amanda was used to people tip-toeing around her when it came to Drew, but she knew she couldn't avoid the questions forever.

  Amanda took a deep breath, focusing on keeping the wave of emotions erupting inside her under control "We were high-school sweethearts. He was my first love. I thought I was going to marry him."

  "What happened?" Wasn't that the million-dollar question? That was the one downside to living in a small town—every single person in town wanted to know every detail about everyone's life.

  "Life." She paused as if reflecting, then continued, "All right, I'm fine, Abby. Go home and get some rest." She was thankful when Abby didn't argue with her, because all she wanted was to be alone and get a handle on the overwhelming playback scenes of her and Drew on display in her head. Her brain was flooded with pictures of them at the lake, driving around in Drew's truck, sitting on the tailgate watching the stars, or sneaking out of her dad's house for a midnight kiss. She used her fingers to wipe away one tear that had fallen down her cheek and forced herself to focus on work. Work was something she could control, unlike her relationship with Drew. Right then, she needed to focus on something she had power over.

  It was close to 6 p.m. when she made it home, and she couldn't remember the last time she'd been so nervous. She grabbed her apron just as Tango barked, making her jump. "I know, Tango, and this is crazy. It's just Drew. I shouldn't be this nervous." She turned her radio on and did the only thing that could calm her: she cooked.

  Amanda was in the middle of rolling dough when she heard the knock on the front door telling her Drew was there. "Come in, I'm in the kitchen." She laughed as Tango ran toward the front door when Drew walked in.

  "What smells so good in here?" She looked up from her dough, his voice bringing every cell in her body to life, and when she saw him, she forgot to breathe. If she thought this afternoon's look had been enough to send her up in flames, seeing him in a tight-fitting pair of dark blue jeans and a black T-shirt that clung to every one of his muscles was doing things to her she hadn't felt in a long time.

  Tango's bark reminded her Drew had asked her a question, and she hadn't answered him yet. She wiped her hands on her apron and walked around the counter to the fridge. "Oh, I made lasagna and some stuffed chicken. Oh, it could be the cookies or the pie, too." She grabbed two beers out of the fridge and handed one to him.

  "Are you nervous, Amanda?" She swore his voice was huskier somehow. God, her hormones were all over the place. She was nervous all right—not about him being there, but about her jumping him.

  "No, no…. Why would you say that?" she asked, hoping her voice wasn't betraying her. When she saw the glint of humor in his eyes, she knew she hadn't managed to fool him.

  He circled his hand to the copious amount of food placed on her kitchen counter. "You always used to cook when you were nervous."

  Of course he would remember that about her. As if having him in her home didn't make her edgy enough, he had to remind her just how well he knew her. "Right, I forget you know everything about me." Most people would argue that she was exaggerating with that statement, but she wasn't. Drew really did know everything about her, which made letting go of him all but impossible because she knew everything about him, too. That type of connection didn't just fade away, no matter how hard she tried.

  "Are you going to eat all of this?" he asked with a smirk, making her giggle like a school girl.

  She glanced at him and smiled. "Oh, no, I'll probably end up freezing some of it. Are you hungry? There's more than enough if you want something to eat. It's the least I can do."

  He looked surprised by her question, and that hurt her more than she cared to admit. "That lasagna looks really good."

  Feed him she could do, and hopefully, she could manage not to sound stupid doing it. She grabbed a plate as she spoke to him. "Sit down, I'll heat you a plate."

  "You don't have to do that, Mandy." She respected that about him. He didn't expect her to serve him or to be at his beck and call. If she let him, she knew he would feed himself, clean up after himself and he would make sure she wouldn't have to lift a finger to clean after him. But she loved taking care of people, especially with food.

  "I know, but I want to. Like I said, it's the least I can do." Serving people her food was the one thing she could never give up; it was why she had become a chef. There was just something about knowing people enjoyed treats she'd made herself. There was nothing like being able to bring someone a moment of bliss with food, or remind them of a memory with a recipe.

  "The house looks worse than I expected. I'm sur
prised you haven't set it on fire yet."

  She laughed, honestly laughed, because with everything else that had happened, she wouldn't be surprised if the house did burn down. "Give it time. I've already taken more cold showers than I care to think about, had power interruptions, and I'm pretty sure the roof is leaking. Here you go." She placed the plate in front of him.

  "Thanks, sweetheart. I got to say, I never thought I'd see you in this house again. It suits you, though. Once it's all fixed up, it'll feel like home again." There was something in the way he said it that made her heart ache. When she looked at him, she saw a glimmer of sadness in his eyes, the same one she sometimes saw when she looked in the mirror—an emptiness that couldn't be filled.

  "Yeah, well, me neither, but it is what it is. It's not half as bad as I thought it would be." That was the truth. If her dad hadn't died, she wouldn't have come back and sure as hell wouldn't be serving lasagna to Drew Callaway. But as much as she wanted to deny that she was feeling like herself for the first time in months, she couldn't.

  "This is really good. I forgot how amazing your cooking is." He smiled at her, and she grinned back. She felt a bit of the tension leave her body. Food, she understood, unlike all of these feelings that were resurfacing about the man eating her lasagna, and looking sexy as could be doing it. Oh, God, what is wrong with me?

  "Thanks, it's the pasta. I make it myself." She wanted to kick herself. Really, Amanda? Get it together. You would think she was still a love-sick teenager, not a grown woman.

  "This is probably why Cole and Jamie want to hire you to cater their wedding. Although now I'm considering keeping your cooking skills for myself. Damn, this is good."

  "They want to what?" She must have misheard him. There was no way she could cater Cole and Jamie's wedding. They deserved the best, and that wasn't her.

  "You heard me," he stated, like it wasn't a big deal, when they both knew it was.

  "Oh, God, I don't know what to say. Catering a wedding is a big deal, a life-changing event. The food will be linked to a memory forever. Catering Cole's wedding, it worries me. What if I mess it up? I don't know what to say." And that was the truth. Could she really handle cooking for a whole wedding party? Especially for people she knew, people she cared about?

  What am I thinking? She was a damn good chef and people were crazy about her food. Just because she was back in Montana running a small-town diner did not mean she couldn't cater Cole's wedding.

  "Say yes. Plus, I wouldn't want to piss off Jamie. Pregnancy has made her cranky." She knew he was teasing her and couldn't hold back her smile. This was the Drew she remembered, the one person who could make her grin and forget about everything that was going wrong in her life.

  "She wouldn't hurt a fly. I'll call them tomorrow then," she told him, slapping his arm playfully.

  They spent the next hour going through every room and every repair that needed to be done, and with each item they added, Amanda felt her stress levels climb. There was no way she would ever be able to afford all of this; she'd be lucky if she could manage to fix one thing. When they finished touring the outside of the house, she sat down on the front steps and buried her head in her lap. She was so overwhelmed; she didn't know what to make of her emotions.

  "Mandy, it's going to be fine." She heard Drew's voice but it made no difference because no matter how many times he told her that, she knew it wouldn't be.

  "No, it's not, Drew. I can't even afford to do one of the things on that list. I'm so broke it's not even funny."

  He used his hand to tilt her head up, forcing her to look at him, "Look at me, it's going to be fine. You have me and my brothers, and we're going to get this done, Mandy. I'll talk to the Thompsons, and I'm sure they'll want to help out, too." He sounded so sure of everything that she wanted to hang on to his every word.

  "I can't even afford the materials, Drew, that's how broke I am." She knew she sounded defeated, but she didn't care. At that very moment in time, it was exactly how she felt.

  "Let's not worry about that, for now." She should push him about what Cole had up his sleeve, but didn't have it in her.

  The happiness she felt earlier with Drew was gone. All she could think about was how she was going to come up with the money to fix the house. "This is all just one big disaster. First, my dad dies, leaving me with a mountain of bills. Then I have to move back into the home I grew up in, to find it is all but ruined, and then you have to be even hotter than you were five years ago, and it's not fair."

  She felt his hands rubbing circles on her back, and her body and mind calmed down a bit. "Mandy, take a breather. That's it, breathe for me." He didn't acknowledge her comments about him being hotter, but she knew by the amused look on his face that he'd heard every word.

  "Oh, God, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to lose it like that. I'm just tired." How much more embarrassing can this night get?

  "It's okay. You don't have to be strong all the time, you have me."

  Have him. Those two words set her off because she didn't have him. She didn't have anybody but herself. "But I don't have you, Drew. We're not together anymore. Hell, we're not even the same people we were five years ago. Looking at you today, working on that fence, I realized how selfish asking you to come with me was. You belong here but me, I don't even know who I am anymore, Drew. I had a great job in the city but no friends, no one in my life. Hell, I've never even had sex because no one was you."

  "What?" he asked her, shock lacing his voice.

  Oh, no, she couldn't believe she had just said that to him. She covered her face with her hands, hoping she was dreaming because there was no way she could ever look at him after telling him she was still a virgin. "Oh, God, no, no, no, no, no! You need to leave." She couldn't even look at him after blurting that out.

  "You're a virgin?" he asked, disbelief in every word.

  She jumped to her feet and headed for the door, desperately needing for him to not be there in that moment. "Drew, please, just leave." She wanted to crawl under a rock and never come out.

  "Mandy." She heard her name as she closed the door in his face. Then she headed straight for her bedroom, which she would never leave and quite possibly die of embarrassment in.

  Drew stood on Amanda's front porch for what seemed like hours after watching her run back inside. His mind was still reeling from what she had told him. She was still a virgin. She was still a virgin because she wanted him. He didn't know what to make of that except to be so freaking happy it should be illegal. The only girl he'd ever love was still untouched; she hadn't been claimed by any other man. She wanted him. He looked down at Tango, who sat on all fours beside him. "She's going to be the death of me."

  The dog barked, and Drew laughed. "You're right, I wouldn't have it any other way." The dog barked some more. "She's always going to be mine. It just might take some work to make her see that."

  He drove home, despite his better judgment. After Amanda's confession, the last thing he wanted to do was leave her, but he knew better than to push her.

  Cole was waiting for him on the front porch when he got home and as much as he would die for his brother, he really didn't feel like getting into it with him.

  "I know you don't want to talk to me right now. Hell, I wouldn't want to talk to me either if I were you. I was way out of line earlier, and I'm fucking sorry for what I said. I know how much you gave up when I left, and I want you to know I am fucking proud of the man you've become. Dad would be, too." Drew had seen his brother do many things and apologize more times than he could count, but the emotion in Cole's voice as he spoke to him was something he'd never heard before.

  "Man, Jamie has made you soft," he told him, trying to hide just how much his words meant to him.

  "Shut up." His brother shoved him and they both laughed.

  "Amanda is a sore subject for me, and I know I haven't lived up to how you raised me, to how Dad would have raised me, but I'm trying. I want to be better for me and for this family, but mo
st of all, I want to be better for her."

  "What really happened between you two?" Cole asked.

  Just thinking back to the night where it all went to hell made him uneasy. The memory of her driving away was stamped forever in his head; he would never forget it.

  "She liked it here, you know, but she always talked about moving away. She wanted to go to the city and explore life outside of Montana. I always thought it was all talk, something she just dreamed about. On graduation night, she had her truck all packed up and was leaving town. She asked me to go with her, but I couldn't leave." He felt like he was back in time, his heart breaking all over again as he relived the memory he wished he could forget.

  "Because I was in Afghanistan." The hurt in Cole's voice was palpable. He knew his brother felt responsible, but the truth of the matter was he could never leave the ranch. It was everything to him.

  "You did what you had to do, and I did the same. I couldn't leave, Cole. This place is everything I am. I never wanted to leave. I never wanted anything more. Dad built this place for Mom and for us, and I want my kids to grow up here, to grow up on this land. So she left, and she never came back." He finally understood why she had to leave after talking with her earlier in the evening. He just hoped she had found whatever she went looking for, because he couldn't lose her again.

  "Until now…. What are you going to do?"

  He didn't hesitate to answer. "Make her fall in love with me again."

  Chapter Three

  After a night of tossing and turning, the last thing Drew wanted to do was get out of bed and face the music. He couldn't stop replaying his conversation with Cole from the night before, and as much as he wanted to make Amanda fall back in love with him, he had no clue how to go about it. For a self-advertised ladies' man, he sure as hell wasn't thinking like one when it came to Amanda. She wasn't just some girl he was trying to woo into a one-night stand; she was the one girl he was trying to woo into forever. No matter how hard he tried convincing himself that this wasn't the right thing, that he should let her go, he couldn't do it. After spending time at her place and seeing her, feeling her so close to him, there was no way he could ever let her go. They had something special once, and he would be damned if he would give in without a fight.

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