If I Had You, page 13
Usually, she questions a lot of things, so it was a relief when she accepted my explanation before asking when she would get to meet him. And nothing makes me happier than how accepting she is, as she immediately began making plans for how she and her brother will spend their time together.
The park today was her idea, for example.
I hated giving Darcy such short notice but she took it in stride and now here we are. We introduced the kids, and it had been amusing the way they both began trying to talk each other’s ear off as they played. It hadn’t taken long for the whole situation to ease into them alternating between doing their own thing and having fun together.
Darcy, on the other hand, hasn’t looked my way much and I’m positive her refusal to do so is my fault even though I don’t know what I did.
After the first visit, things became awkward between us, and I haven’t known what to say to make it better. She wanders off with Landon after I arrive and reappears when it is time for me to leave, Landon perched on her hip, and gives short, clipped responses to my texts, not talking to me much beyond when discussing Wyatt.
It has gone on long enough that I want an answer and now is as good a time as any.
“Why don’t you tell me what I did,” I say while scooting a bit closer to her, until our knees touch, “so this awkwardness between us will go away.”
Her gaze remains on Landon as she says, “You didn’t do anything.”
“I did something, Darcy. You won’t even look at me. Not just today, but since my first visit to see Wyatt.”
“You didn’t do anything,” she repeats with a shrug. “Things are better this way.”
“Our focus needs to be on Wyatt and doing what’s best for him. At my place, you’re there to spend time with him. I have nothing to do with it.”
Wrong. “How things are between us is important, which means you’ve got everything to do with it, sweetheart.”
She stiffens and shoots me a glare, then quickly realizes what she’s doing and jerks her gaze away. “Don’t call me that.”
Nothing like seeing a spark in her eyes to thrill me. She’s hard to read sometimes, but something is really bothering her, and I won’t let it go until she gives in. “Come on. Tell me what’s wrong.”
I fear she won’t answer me until she huffs, her voice overflowing with emotion as she says, “One of the things I worried about when thinking how to tell you about Wyatt was the impact it would have on my life. We ended anything between us years ago, and now I would have to see you and have you in my life, whether I wanted it or not. And after everything? I don’t, not in the slightest.”
Not surprised, although her words sting. “Darcy—”
She holds up a hand and finally turns to face me, her eyes glistening with tears. “My life has been turned upside down enough with Oliver dying and the truth about our…our son. Right now, I am doing the best I can, and this is all I can give you. You’re invading my life as it is and I don’t need you or my parents getting any ideas.”
A little guilt creeps in because I do have hopes of things turning romantic between us again, but I can’t resist chuckling at the end of her statement. “Your parents?”
She isn’t amused and glares at me again. “Yes. They think since you obviously got close enough to get me pregnant five years ago that something more now might be possible. I assured them it isn’t.”
Damn. Her parents are on the same side as me. Hell has definitely frozen over. “Perhaps speaking in absolutes is something we should avoid. Moments before you spotted me in the bookstore, I have no doubt we were both positive seeing each other again would never happen for the rest of our lives.”
Her gaze dances away as she bites her lip, the action making me want to put my mouth on hers, and after she peeks a glimpse of all the kids, she looks at me again while shaking her head. “Doesn’t matter. Things were different then.”
“Of course they are. Things change. Saying with absolute certainty that nothing will happen between us is foolish, however.”
Oh, she doesn’t like that. The glower is back. “Zach—”
“Darcy.” I cover her hand with mine and enjoy the hitch of her breath, giving away how she really feels even as her words say something entirely different. “All my focus has been on Rose since my divorce, as yours has been since Oliver died. You’re doing a great job with the boys, and I know he would be proud of how you’re handling everything considering. Anybody would be.”
She smiles through her tears. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Wrapping my fingers around her hand, I lift it up to my mouth and kiss the back, enjoying the sharp inhale of her breath as her eyes flutter closed. “I don’t want to play games, sweetheart. You should know I haven’t been with another woman since the time we spent together.”
Her eyes fly open at that, her lips parting in surprise, and if I weren’t so intent on making her understand where things stand between us, I would laugh.
“I convinced myself that taking care of Rose is why I haven’t dated, but that’s not entirely accurate. I walked out of that hospital room wishing things had gone differently between us and over the years, accepted I lost you because I couldn’t see beyond the pent up anger when you came to my place.”
“Zach.” A tear slips down her cheek as her lower lip wobbles. “I can’t—”
“Despite what you think, I don’t want to push anything to happen between us. I merely want for us to at least become friends again and have the door left open for other, even more, amazing possibilities.”
She stares at me, using her free hand to swipe at her tears, before tugging the other I’m holding away with an uncertain smile. “I’ll think about it.”
I let out the breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “A maybe is always better than a no.”
“Yeah, well, you’ve always been pretty persuasive.” She turns away, taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly before laughing at the kids, who are now all playing quietly in the sandbox. “Landon is covered.”
And just like that, the subject is put to rest, for now. For her, because I’ve got nothing except time to wait. “You’re going to have a hell of a time getting the sand out of his hair.”
“He has a lot,” she agrees with another snicker. “Just like Oliver…”
Her voice cracks as she trails off and this time when I cover her hand with mine in a show of comfort, she doesn’t pull away.
We sit like that, watching our children play together as if they’re best friends until the time to leave arrives, and when we part this time, Darcy hugs me first.
“I like Wyatt,” Rose declares from the back seat on the drive home, her expression happy and excited. “He’s nice.”
“I’m glad, sweetheart.”
“He doesn’t like the swings as much as I do, but that’s okay. I told him it’s because he’s not big like me and the swing will be more fun when he gets bigger.”
I laugh. “Rose, he may not enjoy them when he gets older, either. Not everyone likes the same things, remember?”
“He’s my brother,” she replies with wide eyes as she meets my gaze in the rearview mirror. “I will help him so he will like swinging with me.”
Like her father and mother, this one. Tenacious as hell when she wants to be. I’m going to have my hands full when she’s a teenager. “Sure, sweetheart. Maybe he will like swings one day if you show him how fun they can be.”
“I will.” She nods, determined, and quickly switch topics with an impish smile as I focus my attention back on the road. “I like his mommy, too. Do you like her, Daddy?”
“She’s nice. You need a nice friend.” She pauses for a second and then observes, “I saw her crying. Did you make her cry, Daddy?”
The question makes me wince. “Not on purpose.” When she continues to wait in silence for an explanation, I consider how to explain Darcy’s distress without oversharing, or try
“Oh.” She frowns and a quick glimpse shows she’s crossed her arms over her chest, now staring out the window. “That’s sad.”
“It is. However, I think they had a lot of fun at the park today because of you. Maybe we’ll go again next weekend.”
I hear rather than see the gleeful clap of her hands. “Yes! I want to go next weekend!”
Me, too. Any chance to see Darcy and be there for her in whatever way she’ll let me.
“All right,” is what I say out loud to Rose. “I’ll call and ask her later.”
She’s quiet for the rest of the ride home, giving me plenty of time to go over the conversation with Darcy in my head and mull over what the hell will happen if she ignores what’s between us and decides giving a relationship between us another shot is out of the question.
I told Zachary I would think about what he said and for the last week, it’s among one of the few things I can’t get out of my head.
His revelations weren’t surprising. The attraction between us is strong as ever, and I don’t believe that will ever change.
But telling me he hasn’t been with anyone else since the incredibly hot sex we had against the door? I hadn’t known what to say to that and still don’t know what to think about it.
Or the warmth and tenderness in his eyes when he basically offered himself on a platter, declaring he doesn’t want to push, but he’ll be there, hoping for more.
Mostly because he saw through my line about the way things are being better for us, that I don’t want him in my life. He knows I’m protecting my heart…or what functions as my heart at this point, which is still heavily damaged from the grief of losing Oliver.
If I’m completely, one-hundred-percent honest with myself, I don’t know how long I can hold out. Emotionally and physically, I want and perhaps even need what he’s offering me. When he touches me, even innocently, I want to lean into the caress and beg for more.
And each time these thoughts enter my mind, the guilt creeps in because it hasn’t even been a year since Oliver died.
Yeah, everything I read says everybody grieves differently, and there isn’t a timeline for when a person may move on from the death of a loved one, yet…damn.
The wrongness has settled in my chest because the more I want it, the more I tell myself it’s too soon. That I should focus on my sons and keep Zach at arms’ length because nothing good will come of us getting involved with each other again.
How can it, after everything?
Mostly, I’m sick of going over and over it in my head. Of being unable to get rid of the feel of his arms around me or dismiss the kiss, he placed on the top of my head.
I keep shoving it aside, trying to think about other things and focus on what I can control in my life, yet he keeps invading my thoughts and my dreams.
For the first time since before Oliver’s death, I woke up this morning with the desire to have sex, already aroused from the dream I couldn’t remember much of even as my hand rested between my legs.
I tried to keep going and bring myself to climax while conjuring my lovemaking with Oliver in my mind, but it hadn’t worked. Frustrated, and wanting the relaxation getting off would give me, I gave in and thought of Zach. Heard his voice in my mind as I touched myself, imagining him giving me instructions and talking dirty to me, and it wasn’t long before my body shook from the pleasure I wrung from it.
Only after, I cried because that’s when I realized the sound of Oliver’s voice is no longer something I can bring to mind by simply thinking of him. I’m slowly losing pieces of him, and he’s being replaced by Zach — my first love and the father of one of my sons — whether my heart is ready for it or not.
And the tricky part is not knowing what to do because the longer I can’t give a definitive answer about what step we take next, leaving him with the hope something else may happen, the harder it will be for all of us if the final answer is the last thing he wants to hear.
“You should go dancing,” my mother says as we eat breakfast, my father already gone since early this morning to run some errands.
A sharp pain burst in my chest at that because she’s suggesting I do something on my own that was mine and Oliver’s thing.
“I’m good,” I mumble after taking a drink of orange juice. “Not in the mood to dance.”
“Darling.” She gives me the ‘I’m your mother, and I know what’s best for you’ look and smiles. “When your father and I came to visit you for the holidays, you would dance around the house and hum. You were happy, and I would love to see you happy again, even if only for the joy of dancing and the way it makes you feel.”
“I don’t want to dance with anyone else.”
Irrational, yet true. I learned with Oliver and neither of us ever danced with anyone else.
My mother lifts a skeptical brow and laughs softly. “So you’ll never dance again for the rest of your life? That would be a waste of all the time you spent learning, and I’m sure Oliver wouldn’t want you to stop.”
No, he wouldn’t. The issue is bigger than that, however. “Mother…”
I explain with a sigh. “I finally stopped crying every time I think about him. I don’t want to break down while dancing or…or…”
She says what I can’t. “You aren’t replacing him, darling. Nothing you do will ever take his place in your heart or your life. Dancing…dating…” She smiles at my scowl, rising from her seat with plate and glass in hand. “Yes, I’ve seen the way you look at Zach and who can blame you? He is one gorgeous man.”
“What? I’m hardly in the same room with him more than two minutes when he comes to visit.”
“Oh, honey.” She takes the dishes to the sink and sets them inside before walking toward me. “You’ve never believed this, but your emotions are all that beautiful face of yours and shine from your eyes. Even when you thought you were successfully lying to your father and me, we always knew you weren’t telling the truth. And right now, darling, the only person believing any lies is you.”
My mouth drops open.
She grins at having shocked me into silence and pats my shoulder before giving it an affectionate squeeze. “Go dancing. Even for an hour or so. I’ll watch the boys.”
She’s trying to help.
I recognize this. However, even after all these years, sometimes it’s difficult to refrain from telling her to back off. Then I’ll think back to the dream that felt so real as well as recall all those years we wasted not speaking, and the feeling usually goes away because some things just aren’t worth fighting about. Nor are they worth fracturing our relationship once again.
In truth, nothing is wrong with her suggestion and what will it hurt by going to the dancing studio? I don’t have to dance, but I can watch. Or I’ll find something else to do for that hour if going there isn’t something I can handle in the end.
Either way, getting out for a little while on my own isn’t a bad idea.
“Okay,” I finally respond, smiling up at her as her hand slips off my shoulder. “I will. Thanks.”
“My pleasure, darling. Have a good time.”
As she walks away, I call out, “Oh, and Mother? Please don’t put any ideas into Zach’s head just because I’m not here to stop you.”
Her only response to that as she walks out of the kitchen is laughter.
I leave a little before Zach is supposed to arrive for his visit with Wyatt.
I don’t send him a message telling him I won’t be there before driving toward the dance studio. I try not to talk to him unless it’s about Wyatt — which I know he dislikes — and honestly, I’m glad my mother made her suggestion.
Mostly because I’m not ready to face him or make a decision, but also because of the what
All these years, after everything we’ve both been through, and now we’ll be together? Perhaps I shouldn’t question if we should become romantically involved considering the way Wyatt turned out to be his son. A part of me thinks I’m being silly; another wonders if I’m not skeptical enough.
More than half my adulthood had been based on the decision I made when I was a teenager. That’s changed. We both have, yet my main worry is really about our history. It’s the past, but it’s never forgotten, and it will always be a part of our story.
So, now what? Do we get a second chance as adults who have grown into better versions of ourselves and share a child? Maybe. And there’s no point in denying wanting him or that I’m attracted to him as he is to me; not when even my mother sees it.
On the other hand, I’m scared of any attempt at a relationship burning us both and jeopardizing our co-parenting of Wyatt. That’s a major cause of my hesitation, and I know Zach understands, which is why he said he'd be patient.
Even so, I’m sick of feeling this way — desiring Zach and wanting everything that comes with that while still missing Oliver so much that my heart aches when thinking of him.
Sighing, I pull into the parking lot of the studio, park close to the doors, and sit there watching people head inside for a few minutes while trying to talk myself into getting out of the car and going in.
The decision is made for me when my instructor, Louis, spots me sitting in the car and jogs in my direction.
I open the door and step out before he reaches me, his smile warm and welcoming as always while his eyes are soft with compassion because he hasn’t seen me in nearly a year now. Of course, he knows what happens; everyone does.
“What a pleasure to see you, Darcy!” He steps forward and embraces me briefly before retreating with a sheepish smile at the shock on my face. “Sorry, guess I should’ve asked first.”
VIOLET HAZE SERIES:
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