When week two since my return came to a close, I didn’t cry in the shower. I watched a movie before bed and ate an entire meal instead of just nibbling. Staring at the ceiling that night I realized my life was going to be okay. Cruz wasn’t coming to see me. But I needed the closure. His actions or non-action told me what I needed to know about us. He was finished. I had a few things to say to him first.
I would get up in the morning, and I’d find Cruz. I would give us the closure I needed. Then I would finally put Cruz Kerrington behind me. I’d move on, and this time I wouldn’t look back.
HAPPIER. LILA KATE was happier. I had watched her. I went to Sea Breeze even after Nate had told me she wasn’t there—I’d found her. She’d been there. She’d been happier. Eli had sat across from her and she was smiling. He’d laughed. They’d been free of guilt, darkness, and pain. Lila Kate belonged with him. Accepting it had been painful. I wanted her to be happy. I had hurt her in a way he never would. I needed her. But she needed him. I loved her more than any man ever would.
That didn’t matter. Seeing her smile. Laugh. It had all been so clear. She needed him. Not me. Fucked up Cruz Kerrington didn’t deserve Lila Kate. She’d have someone new. Someone who wouldn’t break her heart. I wanted her to be happy. Leaving her there with him had been one of the hardest things I’d done. But she’d come home. And now here I was.
I’d watched her for two weeks. She didn’t leave. Worked all day, ordered out food, then went to bed early. More than a dozen times I’d almost got out of this damn work truck I was using from the club’s course maintenance department and walked over there and knocked on the door. But I couldn’t. She hadn’t called. She hadn’t come to find me. Not even a text.
My past was more than she could accept. But what could I have expected? Lila Kate wasn’t tarnished in any way. She’d never messed up. I was her only fucking regret. I took a drink of the coffee I had resorted to drinking because I couldn’t sleep at night and the exhaustion that came with it required caffeine.
My dad didn’t want me at the club. He’d said I had a lot of growing up to do and now that the issue with Kelsey was handled and she was gone, he decided it was best that I had no dealings with the club other than working on the lawn care crew for the golf course.
I was up at four in the morning cutting grass, weed eating, and cleaning up trash seven days a week. Dad said if I didn’t want to do that and work my way up the ladder the hard way, I was welcome to find another future. The club meant too much for him to entrust it to me after exposing my immoral behavior.
I’d forgotten the piece of cake in my hand that I’d gotten from the coffee shop when I saw Lila Kate walk outside for the first time in two weeks. I dropped it on the floorboard and sat my cup down as she made her way to her car. She was going somewhere. Was she going back to him? Leaving this place for Sea Breeze? Panic settled in even when I knew she deserved what Eli Hardy could give her.
Once she pulled out, I followed her. I realized this wasn’t healthy, but I had decided I was fucked in the head like my dad said. I needed therapy or something. I figured this lawn care shit before the sun came up was good therapy.
It didn’t take me long to figure out she was headed to my house, not Sea Breeze. Right before she turned into my driveway she pulled off the road and I slowed the truck down. Her car door swung open and she turned to look at me with her hands on her hips as if she was annoyed.
I pulled over behind her, turned the truck off and climbed out.
“Are you following me around?” she asked. “Do you think sunglasses and a baseball cap is an actual disguise?”
I thought it had hidden me enough. I was driving this dusty old truck too. I was impressed she had paid that close of attention to her surroundings to realize she was being followed. “Yeah.”
“I was worried about you.” And trying to build the nerve to talk to you. But I didn’t say that.
Lila Kate stalked toward me and both her small hands shoved me hard in the chest. “I’ve been back two weeks. That’s all you have to say?” she yelled shoving me back again. “You were worried about me? Why CRUZ? Why were you worried about me? Because your insane married friend showed me fuck videos of the two of you and told me she was pregnant with your kid?” Lila Kate was getting louder, and her eyes were filling with tears. I reached out to touch her arms. To hold her back from pushing me into the road and to try and calm her.
“NO! Don’t touch me. You don’t get to touch me! I loved you! And you wait for two weeks, sitting outside my place and watch me!”
She knew I’d sat outside her place? Damn. She was more perceptive than I gave her credit for.
Tears were flowing freely down her face now. She sobbed and hit me with her fists. Once on the arm and another on the chest. After she pummeled me, she spun around and started to run back to her car.
“You said loved,” I called out. “That’s past tense, Lila Kate. Is it over? Do you love someone else that soon?” Fear was clogging my throat. I’d watched her while holding on to the small shred of hope that she’d forgive me. That she hadn’t moved on so quickly to Eli Hardy. That she still loved me. Not being able to love me after what she saw, what she knew, was worse. How did I fight for her if she didn’t love me?
She stopped. We both stood there. Her back to me. I waited even though I want to run to her. To hold her. To beg her to love me.
“What do you want from me?” she asked turning back to me. Her tear-streaked face was blotchy and red.
“Outside your place. In that damn truck,” I admitted.
“Because I was terrified of this. That I had no chance to make it right. That I’d lost it all. That I’d lost you.”
“So you didn’t come ask me? You let me think it was done?”
I shook my head. “I called and texted you and you never replied. I was waiting. Giving you time. And . . . I saw you with him. I saw you smile. I saw you laugh. You were happy, Lila. I want you to be happy. I didn’t leave you though. I was right outside the whole time. Except when I am cutting grass and weed eating at four in the morning on the golf course.”
“You saw me smiling with who?” she asked confusion on her face.
“I came looking for you. I found you. With him. He made you smile. He’s good. He hasn’t hurt you like I did.”
She didn’t reply at first. She just stood there staring at me letting my confession sink in. She couldn’t deny what I had seen. How Eli had made her forget the pain. He’d given her a reason to smile. He would never hurt her like I had but. We both knew he could never love her like I did. No one could.
“When was the last time you were with her?” she asked me.
“Three months ago. I was hammered. She called me. I went to her. It was a habit. One I will regret for the rest of my life.”
“At first, did you love her?”
“I was a kid, Lila. I loved any female who would let me stick my dick in her vagina. Then she started telling me how mistreated she was and how her husband wouldn’t have sex with her. I felt sorry for her. At one point, I think I thought we were friends but it was always manipulation on her part. I never loved her. I’ve been in love once. I still am. Even when I didn’t realize it, Lila, it was you. Always you. The girl I never felt good enough for. The girl I watched from afar and dreamed about at night. Just you.”