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Chapter 19


I had a baby with Vale.

Vale and I created a life.

Tiny. Perfect.

Not so perfect.


Vale clings on to me tightly, her face now pressed back into my chest. I whisper words of apology and absolution. I try to reiterate to her over and over again that the miscarriage wasn’t her fault. Now is not the time, but when it’s right, I’ll ultimately need to convince her that it wasn’t “our” fault either. She seems to want to put some of the blame on our relationship as a whole, arguing that our utter devotion to and consumption of each other led us to be ignorant of life.

I don’t agree with this.

Not at all.

She finally quiets. My words dry up, but I continue to hold her, one hand trailing up and down her back in soothing strokes. Been so long since I’ve held her like this, and I never thought I’d live to see the day it would happen again. In many ways, this feels like it did years ago. So right, so comfortable. In other ways, it feels awkward, because Vale and I are completely different people than we were then. I wonder, had this one horrific event not occurred, would we have grown together over the years, or apart?

I’d like to think together, because despite the fact we were young and probably clueless as to what real commitment was like, there was something we had that I’ve never found again, and I’m pretty sure Vale hasn’t either.

And that was a tethering of our souls.

I know it sounds hokey, but I felt it. Down in my gut, straight through my core. An intense connection with Vale that I’m not even sure I felt with my parents, as much as I love them.

Sadly, I don’t feel it now, not the way I did before. I feel a fluttering, or perhaps it’s a reawakening, and it makes me wonder where we go from here. At least for the long term.

For the immediate future—as in right now—I know exactly where we’re going.

Releasing her from my embrace, I stoop to grab her hand and turn to lead her toward the bathroom. “Come on. Let’s take a hot bath together. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been run over by a Mack truck.”

Vale halts, pulls her hand against mine. Not enough to dislodge it, but enough to make me turn toward her. “I can’t. I have to get back home to my dad.”

“Yeah, not going to happen,” I say, and turn toward the bathroom again.

This time she jerks her hand from mine. I round on her, expecting a furious tirade over my high-handed ways, but damn…I was always like that with Vale. She should remember that, and as much as she likes to bitch about it, I also know she loved it.

Instead, she chews on her lower lip, absolute indecision causing her brow to furrow deep. “I think it’s best if I just get home. I’m worried about Dad—”

“Cut the shit, Vale,” I tell her with a censuring look but an affable smile. “No more secrets. No more lies. It’s all out on the table now, which means now we deal with it.”

“Deal with it how?” she asks with frustration. “You’ve had seven years of bitterness toward me. Now you’ve got grief and sadness. I’ve got a shit ton of guilt on my shoulders and we haven’t even—”

She stops cold, eyes dropping to the floor.

“Haven’t even what?” I ask her softly as I step up to her. The knuckle on my index finger goes under her chin, lifting her face. She looks at me with a swift smile and shakes her head.

“Nothing,” she says in an accommodating smile. “It’s all out on the table. I’m just…not sure how we process this. What we do.”

“What we do?” I ask her with mock sarcasm, and so she knows I’m teasing I give her an impish smile. “I’ll tell you what we do. We go get in the bathtub and we relax a bit. But because you’ll be naked, and in my arms, I’m going to get horny again, and so we’ll fuck in the tub. Preferably with you riding me.”

Vale cocks a gorgeously arched eyebrow at me and folds her arms over her chest. “So sex will solve all our problems?”

“It damn well won’t make them worse,” I say with a grin.

She rolls her eyes at me, and to my dismay, turns around to grab her jeans off the floor. I’m lunging at her before she can even think to put one foot in them. I grab them from her, toss them across the room, and spin her in my arms. I let my hands frame her face and I bend down to brush my nose against hers. “Listen, I understand now why you did what you did. I hate we lost those years. Hate you’ve been under this guilt. I don’t know exactly where we go from here, but I do know where we don’t go. And that’s backward. We don’t go back to the anger. We don’t go back to the grief. And we sure as shit don’t go back to just being friends.”

Her eyes are filled with indecision, and I see an intense worry lurking deep within. I can almost imagine cogs and wheels rotating in that brain of hers, trying to figure out some way to accept what I’m saying, but perhaps too mired in the thickness of her wounded conscience to see what’s standing just a few feet in front of her.

“Vale,” I say softly to get her attention. To make sure there is no doubt about what I’m getting ready to say. “I understand why you did that to me…cutting me loose. For not letting me be there for you. I get it…I really do. It’s done and we can stop playing the blame game, okay?”

“So we just start over?” she asks hesitantly.

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