Our chance, p.24
Our Chance, page 24
"She doesn't think that. Stop worrying about things that you don't need to worry about."
He was right; I was being a dick about every little thing. "I know, it's just..."
"Hard to chill the fuck out when it's the woman you love?"
I shrugged one shoulder. "That about sums it up."
"Relax, man. Nell's doing alright and if she needs something, she has a lot of people ready to help her out."
I knew everything he was saying was true and I needed to relax but I still wanted to skip to a time where Nell didn't cry every day.
"Chloe was talking about taking her away one weekend, back to that cottage for some hot tub relaxation. Maybe we should do it sooner rather than later, give her something positive to look forward to."
"Yeah, I'm in. I'll see when she wants to go."
Nell and Chloe made their way over and my girl smiled. "Do you think you could take me home now? I know I probably shouldn't leave before everyone else but I'm exhausted."
"Hey," Chloe said, "you do what you need to, no one's judging. We'll stay and clean up afterwards."
Nell teared up. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
They hugged and I put my beer down, after just two sips.
"Call me if you need anything," Chloe said when they stepped back.
"I will. See you tomorrow."
I pulled Nell in close and led her towards the exit. Her mum's friends smiled as we left but didn't say much. Nell kept in close, still feeling bad for needing to leave early. Chloe was right, no one was going to think she was rude for splitting and if they did, I'd punch them in the fucking mouth.
"So yours or mine?"
"I've stayed at yours a lot."
"That's not what I asked," I said, leading her towards my car. It wouldn't bother me if she fucking moved in. I was still ready for more with her and now was not the right time, but I didn't know if, when things were better, she'd go back to wanting nothing.
Her mum's death probably made her more cautious of relationships. Whether she liked it or not she was letting me in. One step at a time.
"I feel like you feel obliged to help me."
I stopped her and spun her around to face me. "I'm here because I want to be here. I don't expect anything in return and I'm not doing it out of guilt. You mean a lot to me and I want to do what I can to get you through this."
She stepped forwards and wrapped her arms around my waist. "Thank you. In that case I'd prefer to go to yours, but can we stop at mine so I can get some clothes?"
"Alright," I replied, hugging her back and kissing her forehead. She smelt like cherry shampoo. Nell was the answer to everything, to every question I'd ever had and the ones I hadn't even thought of. Nothing made more sense than being with her. Things between us were hard, but it was worth it. I wouldn't take the easy way out again.
When we got in Nell changed out of the blue dress and curled up on the sofa in her baggy pyjamas. Her black hair was tied messily on the top of her head. She'd never looked so goddam beautiful before.
"How're you feeling now?"
She shrugged against my side. "I'm okay, I suppose. Everything still feels a bit surreal. I can't believe I'll never see or speak to her again."
"I know. It's not easy. You're going to be okay, though."
"Yeah, I will be eventually. You move on, right."
I frowned. "You move past things, I don't know if you ever really move on."
"Have you ever lost anyone?"
I weaved my fingers through the hair that draped from the ponytail. "No, not in that sense. I'm lucky there."
"I'm glad. Do you think I should speak to my dad?"
"I think that's a decision only you can make. There is no right and wrong answer there, Nell. It's not a black and white case; there are so many grey areas. I don't believe your dad meant for her to die."
"Neither do I, but it happened and I don't know how to face him. What would I say? What would he say? Nothing can take it back so what's the point?"
"Maybe the point is just to understand exactly what happened that night. It'll never make sense but it might give you closure just to know. Don't worry about it yet, you don't have to make a decision now."
"No. I suppose he isn't going anywhere for a while yet."
He'd been refused bail. Well, actually he'd refused it. I don't think those were the actions of a callous, evil man. He cared. In his own fucked up way he loved her. And Nell loved them both.
"I don't know if she'd want me to see him."
"That's not her decision to make. Your parents made you choose for too long, they slagged each other off and put you in the middle. If you want to see your dad then go and see him."
She ran her hand over her face and took a deep breath. "I don't know why I brought all that up today. Can we please talk about absolutely anything else? I need to not think about it all for a while."
"Sure. Hey, do you want to go somewhere tomorrow? A change of scenery and not having to deal for a while might clear your head a little."
"Where would we go?"
"Wherever you like. The coast? You never got to make sandcastles at the beach when you were a kid so let's do that."
She tilted her head up and raised an eyebrow. "You, a grown man, want to go and make sandcastles on the beach?"
I almost got a smile then and I missed that smile so much. "Why not? I'm not afraid to be immature."
"I know. I've seen some of the Kavos pictures."
"Funny. So, are you in? We can invite Chloe and Logan too, if you want?"
"No. I mean yes to being in but I don't feel all that social now. I think I'd prefer if it was just us."
Just us. When she wanted to be a hermit I would've thought it would only be Chloe that she'd want to see. I wasn't quite sure when that person became me, but there was no way I was going to question it.
"Alright, I'll sort it."
"Are you really going to make sandcastles?" I stopped wanting to make them when I was five but Nell had never done it at all. Her parents even fucked that up for her. Every kid should know the simple pleasure of making a house out of sand and destroying it after.
"You're really having a hard time with that, aren't you?"
"I just can't picture it. You all manly and covered in tattoos sitting in the sand filling up a bucket." She shook her head. "Even my imagination rejects the image."
"Hey, castle making is a very manly exercise."
"Oh, you'll see." Great, now I had to think of ways to not look like a dickhead. "Are you hungry?" I asked.
"I don't think I can eat. I just want to sleep but it's far too early."
"No, it's not. Come here," I said, shuffling so she could lay on me better. "Sleep here for a while."
She fell asleep quickly. Her breathing became heavy against my chest and I wished I'd removed my t-shirt so I could properly feel it. I dozed off now and again, tightening my arms around her whenever I woke and she was still tucked into my side.
Nell was gone when I woke up but I could smell the coffee she was making, travel through the house. I expected her to be sleeping still but it was a good sign that she'd got up early. She was coping well but she'd not spoken about it much.
I got up and walked through to the kitchen. She stood against the worktop, wearing nothing but one of my t-shirts. There would be something under black material no doubt, but I could pretend she was naked.
"Hey," I said when she didn't look up. Her eyes were focused on the black liquid pouring into the pot.
She smiled and glanced up before returning to the task. "Morning."
"You're up early."
"I couldn't sleep any longer. I think I've slept so much over the last few days that I could go a week without. Coffee?"
Nodding, I rounded the island and wrapped my arms around her waist. She settled back against my chest. "I'd love some coffee. Want me to make it?"
"I can do it."
"I know you can but I want to
Tilting her head up, she looked into my eyes. "I know but I'd actually like to do this one tiny thing for you. You've been my human box of tissues most nights since my mum died and you've blown off your friends to stay in with me, I think I can make you a drink."
I hadn't been out, not when I was invited on a lad's night or when my dad and Lance wanted me to go and play poker. Nell needed me and that was the most important thing right now. She was everything and there was nowhere else I wanted to be.
"I don't want or need anything in return, Nell."
Looking back at the coffee machine she replied, "I know you don't."
It seemed like she wanted to say a hell of a lot more but her body tensed and I could feel her pull away though she didn't move an inch.
"How do you feel today?" I asked, laying my head on the top of hers. She looked better, her eyes held less pain and her smile was a fraction wider.
"Actually I'm doing okay. I miss my mum but I know she wouldn't want me to lay in bed and cry all the time. She'd roll me out and tell me to get on with it. Because if there's one thing my mum was good at it was getting on with it."
"How're you planning on getting on with it then?" What I really wanted to know was how long she was staying. I had a feeling if she said seventy years it still wouldn't be enough for me.
"Going back to work and getting out of your hair," she replied, pouring coffee into two mugs.
"You're not in my hair."
"That's sweet of you to say and you know I appreciate it but I feel like I have to go home and get back to normal, you know?"
She didn't want to take advantage even if she knew that wasn't how I felt.
"I get it. As long as you know you're welcome for however long you want."
"I do, thank you."
Letting go of her, I sat on a stool and watched her work. She was okay when she was busy doing something. Nell had an addictive spirit, people loved to be around her. But I'd not seen her lightening smile, been on the end of her teasing, or heard her laugh in too long.
"I'll go home after the beach tomorrow."
Fucking hell, I already missed her. Rubbing my forehead, I sighed. "You feel up to it? Going home again I mean."
"I've been living alone for a couple years now, I'll manage I'm sure."
Right, but the last time she was alone she closed herself off. It had only been a few days and I wasn't sure if she'd be strong enough to carry on as she is now when there was no one there to pull her back.
"Yeah, but I'm worried. Every day I see more of the old you but I worry about when you're on your own."
I expected her to shut me down. Recently she'd opened up about how she was feeling but now she was getting back to normal I assumed everything would go back to how it was.
Standing and waiting for her reaction was nerve-wracking.
Finally she dipped her head in a small nod. "I understand," she said much quieter than usual. "The last week and a half I've made a couple of bad choices and pushed everyone away but I don't want that. For most of my life I've kept myself locked away so I wouldn't get hurt, but I got hurt anyway. I'm tired of half living and not having people close. Me and Chlo are close but I see how she is with Cassie and I want that too. They share real, deep stuff that I would never dream of telling another person."
"What do you want from life, Nell?"
Frowning, she bit her lip. "I want... God, everything's changed and it's a little scary. I'm still trying to get my head around it and I'm trying not to listen to the nagging voice that tells me I'm going to end up like my parents."
I reached across the island where she sat down and took her hand. "You won't and I'm glad you're not letting your doubts control you anymore."
"I'm working on it. I want normal, healthy relationships and the ability to actually tell people the truth about where I'm at and what's going on."
I couldn't believe we were having this conversation. For once Nell was talking about what she wanted and it wasn't just the same old 'lots of great sex' comments. These were real things about her future. That didn't mean she wanted me in the picture when she spoke about her new start, though.
"You'll get there."
"Damn straight. I'm trying not to rush myself. Right now I still revert back to relationships equal carnage. But it's a start that I know I want to change, right?"
I ran my thumb over her knuckles. "It's a great start. I'm so happy to hear you say that, all I want is for you to be happy."
"What about you?"
"Yeah. These last few weeks have all been about me and while I appreciate you being there I would really like to not talk about my life for a little while. What do you want? You know, besides cars, mansions and pools."
"I just want to be happy, wherever that is. Maybe it's because I'm growing up, I don't know, but I want to share my life with someone. I want to be as happy as Lance and Ivory and Chloe and Logan. I used to pity people in relationships, having to consider someone else all the time but when I see them together, I see the work is worth it. I want to be solid with someone."
I want to be solid with you.
She smiled and her face softened and eyes brightened. "Sounds nice, huh."
"It does. One day."
The air between us thickened and she seemed to breathe a little shallower. Silence stretched in front of us and even though we didn't talk, a thousand words were spoken. We'd made progress. We may not be jumping into anything major but we were committed to sticking together and seeing if we could make a relationship work, however long it took.
Damon drove us to the coast. I was very ready to get away for the day. He was right; a change of scenery was exactly what I needed for a while. He'd chosen a beach that wasn't popular with tourists and there was even a picnic in the back. Everything had been thought through.
We parked on the seafront and Damon grabbed the picnic basket and blanket. He then got two hot pink buckets and spades out of the boot. For the first time in what felt like years, I laughed.
"When did you get those?" I asked.
"About ten minutes ago in the garage we stopped at for petrol."
Why hadn't I immediately seen that and taken the piss?
"Well, the colour suits you," I teased.
He grinned. "I know."
Taking my hand, we walked down the footpath towards the sandy beach. Seeing such a masculine man with a fully toned body and inked arms and back holding a picnic basket, red blankets and pink buckets gave me the lift I so desperately needed right now.
"Where do you want to sit?" I asked as he walked us in a zig zag along the sand.
"Not sure yet. A little further up away from the carpark."
The beach was relatively clear with only a few people milling around and the odd kid running along the edge of the sea. Damon finally found his perfect space and laid the blanket out. He held his hand out, gesturing for me to sit down and followed me, sitting opposite.
No one had ever looked more out of place than he did in such a...normal and romantic picture. "You want to eat before we built a manly castle?"
I tilted my head. "How exactly is it going to be manly?"
His eyes lit up with humour. "I'll build a big moat around it."
"Oh, of course. A moat cancels out you making tiny castles with sand in bright pink buckets." I narrowed my eyes. "You're doing this because you secretly want to do this, aren't you?"
He cocked his eyebrow and pointed at me. His gaze turned intense. "I'm doing this for that reason."
Reaching across he brushed his thumb along my bottom lip. "For that smile."
He dropped his arm and flipped the lid open on the basket. Inside was a bucket of chicken from KFC, chocolate, crisps and coke.
"Wow, that's some picnic, Damon."
"I don't bake or shit. This is about as good as it's going to get."
"That's what I think," he said, taking a bite of a wing.
I ate quickly, too eager to get to the part where he's collecting damp sand in a pink bucket to make his manly castle.
"Have you thought any more about visiting your dad?" He asked.
I shook my head. "Well, I have but I can't do it yet. I feel bad because I know he wouldn't have wanted her to die. The guilt he must be feeling... But I'm not ready to face him yet. Is that selfish?"
"Nell, I think after what they put you through, they have no right to ask anything of you. They've been selfish your whole life."
That did make sense but it was difficult when I felt like I should go to him. I had two conflicting emotions and right now I wasn't thinking clear enough to choose between them. So I'd do what Damon said - for once - and give myself time. My dad owed me time.
"Yeah, thanks. Now," I said, handing him the bucket, "fill this up and let me laugh at you."
He looked at me sternly. "No pictures of this are to be taken."
Saluting, I grabbed my own and stood up. For the next few hours I wasn't going to think of everything I'd lost or still needed to do. I was going to have some immature fun until we went home and got back to reality.
Right on time, Logan knocked on my door. Chloe had mentioned that he might pop by on his way home from work. By that she meant he most definitely would because she'd instructed him to.
"Hey," I said, opening the door and standing aside so he could come in.
"Hey, you okay?"
"I'm fine, Logan, you don't have to check in on me."
"Yes, I do."
"You don't, I'm doing fine."
He nodded and walked to the living room area. "I know and that's exactly what I said to Chloe but she threatened me with a sexless month and there's no fucking way I'm doing that, so I'll put the kettle on and you can tell me all about what's happening with Damon."
I groaned and followed as he turned, walking through to the kitchen. "Did she also tell you to ask about that?"
"Nope," he replied over his shoulder.
"So why do you want to talk about it?"
"I like you and I like Damon and think you two could be happy if you let yourselves."
I rolled my eyes. "You're being one of those annoying in-a-relationship people."
"Because I want you to be happy?"
"Yes. I think I prefer bitter singles. Or bitter people in relationships."
by Natasha Preston / Romance / Thriller have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes