Lila Kate was out there and I had no idea where or how to find her or where to even look. I’d called Nate but he swore she hadn’t come to Sea Breeze. She needed to hear my side of this story. I had to explain it to her. Maybe she’d understand after I had a chance to explain how it all got started and how until I ran after her when she left town I had seen no issue with what I’d done. I did now. If I could just be the man she wanted me to be and erase all the past shit I’d done. I was a fuckup. Now I would pay for it.
“She needs her space. You can’t find her anyway. You don’t know where she went,” my mother’s voice was calm and understanding.
“I did this. I hurt her.” My voice cracked with emotion as I said it.
My mom nodded. “Yes. And you’ll be the only one who can fix it. But for now, you have something else to fix.”
“Goddamn right he does,” Dad’s tone was angry and annoyed.
“Woods, calm down. I know you’re angry. But this started when he was a kid. She took advantage of him. Remember that.”
Dad threw up his hands in frustration. “She is married, Della. Married. I’d like to think my son has more morals than that.”
Mom nodded. “Me too. But what is done is done. We thought his wild streak was just that and he’d outgrow it. We should have been paying closer attention.”
Dad pointed at me. “He should have used his damn brain and not his dick!”
He shook his head. “This is just. Fuck it. I wasn’t perfect at his age but I didn’t do this. I didn’t put the club into legal question. And I didn’t screw around with married employees.”
“When do we leave for the club?” I asked.
“We should leave now. I need to make sure the room is ready. And our lawyers need to go over some things with you. What you can and can’t say.”
“No,” Dad and I said at the same time.
I looked at Dad, and he sighed. “Because Della, I’m afraid we will be dealing with more legal issues when you see Kelsey. The videos will be discussed and I don’t trust you not to attack the woman.”
He had a better reason than I did. I’d just been worried it would upset her.
“She’s pregnant. It may not be Cruz’s child but I’d never hurt a pregnant woman,” Mom argued.
Dad raised his eyebrow. “You haven’t seen the videos.”
Mom let out a deep sigh then nodded. “Perhaps you’re right.”
Dad walked over to my mom, pulled her into his arms then kissed her head. “I’ll keep you posted.”
She nodded against his chest. They’d always been like this. Close. One unit. Dad worshiped her, and she adored him. I hadn’t wanted that. I always thought it made them vulnerable. I didn’t trust that. It was a gamble to love like that. I’d heard how awful most marriages were from Kelsey for years. I believed her.
But watching them I realized I wanted that too. I’d had a taste with Lila Kate. A brief time where I knew she was all I would ever want. Now it was gone too soon. What my parents had wasn’t unique to them. It was simply that they loved each other.
Kelsey didn’t love. There was the difference.
My parents weren’t made vulnerable by their love. They were stronger because of it. My lies and secrets had to come out for me to see and understand that kind of love. Why did that have to be the case? Why couldn’t I have realized this years ago and saved so many people the pain?
I wouldn’t lose Lila Kate without a fight. I’d heal everything I’d broken the best way I could. I would learn and move on. Then I would find some way for her to forgive me. Even if it took the rest of our lives. I’d wait for her. For us.
WATCHING LILA WALK toward me with the sun-kissed highlights in her hair and perfect features marked with pain, I realized something. She had felt “more.” She had experienced that “more” that we all hope for. That intensity that grabs you and holds you so tightly you can’t do anything but enjoy the ride and hope for the best.
I wasn’t the ride for her. The night I met her she’d already been grabbed by it. Hell, she was already on the ride and didn’t want to be. Cruz had snagged her heart a long time ago. But I was thankful her journey had brought her to me. Without her, without my feelings developing for her I would have never believed I could love someone like I loved Bliss. I knew now that I was wrong. Bliss was my best friend, she was my childhood. We were grown now and our ride was over.
Lila stopped at the table I had found us outside the bakery in Sea Breeze. One I’d eaten at many times before. She’d called me two days after Nate came by to see me asking if I had heard from her. I hadn’t at the time. But he told me some bad shit went down concerning Cruz and Lila had run.
I had asked her where she was when she had called and she’d told me in Nashville. I thought about going to her. But I didn’t. She wasn’t mine. She never would be. But this morning I’d gotten a text. She was in Sea Breeze. She wanted to see me.
The dark circles under her lovely eyes and the sadness obvious in her expression pained me. I hated to see her like this. I knew what heartbreak felt like. It was never easy. It destroyed you. Pulling yourself together afterward took strength. And I knew Lila had that strength.
“I ordered your coffee the way you like it,” I told her as she sat down across from me.
She attempted a smile. It was weak and didn’t meet her eyes. “Thank you.”
I watched her take a small sip and then lift her gaze to look at me. “Thanks for meeting me here.”
I shrugged. “Had nothing better to do. Sea Breeze has grown boring.”
Lila didn’t laugh at my attempt to lighten the mood. Instead, I could see her eyes go somewhere else. Her thoughts lost in another moment. I let her go there alone while I drank some of my tea. She was more broken than I’d ever seen a female. Nate had told me the story. What Cruz had done. Why Lila had left and how she’d found out. It was a messy clusterfuck. But after meeting Cruz it didn’t surprise me. Nate said he’d known Cruz was fucking that married woman back when they were teens. He hadn’t really thought more about it over the years.
“Have you slept any?” I asked bringing her back to the here and now. Not the demons in her head taunting her.
She focused on me again then started to nod and stopped. “No, not really. When I close my eyes . . . I’m there in that room. She’s showing me the video . . . I hear them.” She stopped and shook her head. “And I know it was before me. I know he was with many, many females before me.” She closed her eyes as if she had to say something she didn’t want to say. That she couldn’t bear to look at me as she said it. “That woman took advantage of him. I don’t even blame him completely for the affair. She was the adult for the majority of their . . . relationship.” She slowly opened her eyes and met my gaze. “It’s the video. The things he said to her,” her voice was a whisper. “If that’s what he wants. He never said things like that to me. Our sex . . . had to have bored him.”
As completely curious as I was to know what he had said during sex that had her so concerned, I asked the obvious question instead. “You’re not worried about her being pregnant?”