“What if it doesn’t work?”
“It will,” he insisted.
“You can’t know that.”
“All I know is that I love you, Maya. That needs to be enough.”
“Stop,” I begged. Everything he said ripped open another wound, exposed some raw feeling that I’d buried long ago. But I clung to my anger. I didn’t want him to be sorry. I wanted him to be terrible and smug so I could go on hating him, hiding my heart away in the safe place I’d always kept it.
“I meant it when I said it. And I know you still love me too.” He tightened his hold, gravel in his voice betraying the heart in his words. “You don’t have to say it, but I see it in your eyes. In fleeting moments before you try to pretend you don’t feel it, I see it.”
Small sobs escaped me, and I didn’t care who saw me now, breaking down like the kind of girl I never thought I’d be again on a busy New York City sidewalk. What the hell was this man doing to me?
He hushed me, kissing me sweetly. I weakened at the contact, breathless as I kissed him back.
“It’s going to be okay, I promise.”
I grasped at his coat, pulling him impossibly closer. Relief and embracing the love I felt for Cameron was on the other side of this. Deep down, I knew it. The person I wanted desperately to run from was the only one who could put me back together.
CAMERON. “It’s starting to look good around here. Maybe you should keep Liv around after all.”
Darren walked around the room casually, his hands in his pockets, as he perused the day’s progress. Olivia shot him an annoyed look, pushing back the dark hair that fell from her ponytail before she rolled more paint onto the wall.
I hid my grin. Ribbing her never got old. “Yeah. It’s starting to feel like a real place now. End is finally in sight.”
The past few weeks I’d made real progress on the remodel. Olivia was good motivation, buzzing around, micromanaging, nagging, and ultimately helping with the finer details that pushed a lot of my good intentions into actual moving projects. Floors, windows, molding, getting the second floor kitchen finished up, and now we were finally getting around to paint and the final touches.
“We’re hitting the third floor next week, and then we should have everything perfect by Christmas,” Olivia said.
Darren nodded. “Yeah, are we having Christmas morning here or what? I haven’t been very good. I don’t think Santa’s going to bring me anything.”
Olivia didn’t answer, rolling the last section of the wall in silence.
“Liv, did you have plans?” I asked.
“Actually, I think Mom and Dad might be coming down. Might be nice for them to see the place fixed up.”
Darren and I exchanged a look that was full of f*****g great.
He let out a short laugh, but I could tell he wasn’t too amused. “Smooth, Liv. Way to drop that one. How long has that been in the works?”
“You realize that’s this weekend, right?” My voice betrayed my growing irritation at the thought of their visit.
“We’ll be done by then.” She plastered on a cheerful look and walked over to where we both stood with our arms crossed. “We just need to get some new furniture and spruce it up a little bit. I know Mom’s a stickler for details, but I’m sure she’ll be impressed.”
I held up a hand to silence her. “I don’t give two shits about the state of this place and who it impresses. I want to know why you thought you could invite them here without talking to me about it? This is my house, you know.”
“So you keep reminding me.” Her sharpened tone matched my own. “I know you have your issues, but they are still our parents. We can’t cut them out of our lives.”
I laughed. “Are you kidding me? You’re the one who couldn’t get away from them fast enough. It’s been weeks, and you’re missing them so much you need to invite them here?”
“I didn’t invite them, okay?”
I paused, trying to imagine any other scenario. “Well, I certainly didn’t. They know where I stand.”
She looked down at her bare feet and bit her lip. “I may have let it slip that you were seeing Maya again, and Mom might be a little concerned.”
I let the words sink in along with the sheer disbelief of what I’d heard. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
She looked back up, her eyes wide and innocent. “She thought it would be a good idea to come down here and see all of us anyway. Once she’d decided, I couldn’t talk her out of it. Believe me, I tried. But they’ve made plans, so we might as well get used to the idea and make the most of it.”