Woods

Della had talked to Braden and reassured her it wasn’t her fault then gone to lie down and take a nap. She seemed off. Something wasn’t right. I’d never known her to take a nap during the day. And when she’d told me about her episode she hadn’t told me everything. I could see something in her eyes. A hesitation.

I stood at the door to the bedroom and watched her sleep. She was curled up in a ball, which she did often.

Seeing her on the ground when I’d walked in had been like a kick to the stomach. I’d feared driving home that this was what had happened. I hadn’t been sure until I’d seen her there struggling to get up. I hated the idea of it. I hated that she even had the damn things. I was getting her help. Immediately.

My father had also been conveniently missing today. I hadn’t been able to track him down and deal with him. It wasn’t fair that I had needed to leave Della here alone when she could have been at the club with me. I wasn’t doing this to her anymore. That was probably why she’d had the damn attack anyway. She’d been thinking about me hiding her from my dad and thinking she was a problem. I should have thought of that.

A knock on the door broke into my thoughts and I closed the bedroom door so whoever it was didn’t wake up Della before I went to answer it.

Tripp stood on the other side of the door with his hands tucked into the front of his jeans. I opened the door and stepped back to let him in.

“Tripp,” I said in greeting.

“Came to say goodbye. It’s time I left this place and found somewhere new. My dad came to see me yesterday and it didn’t go well,” he explained.

I understood that. Maybe leaving was my only answer. It was his.

“Where you headed?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Don’t know yet. I’ll know it when I find it.”

I nodded and glanced down the hallway. “I’d invite you in for a drink but Della is asleep. She had a bad morning and I don’t want to disturb her.”

“I understand. I wanted to tell her bye too but I don’t have to. Just tell her for me.”

I didn’t like him thinking he needed to tell her anything but I nodded. I didn’t need to be an ass about it. “I will.”

“She sticking around then, I guess?”

“Yeah.”

“And your dad is okay with this? I heard that Angelina knows now. Word kind of got out.”

Shit.

“Haven’t talked to my dad.”

“You need to. Before he gets to her first.”

He was right, of course. I needed to make sure my dad stayed the hell away from Della.

“I will.”

“Is she forever for you then? She’s worth throwing it all away?”

I knew he was asking as a friend who had made a similar choice but with a different outcome. “She’s it. No one else. She’s all I’m ever gonna want.”Tripp grinned. “Can’t believe Woods Kerrington actually fell in love.”The word love surprised me but only because I hadn’t said it yet. It was foreign to me. I hadn’t thought to use that word but he was right. I was in love. I looked back at the door to the bedroom and thought about Della sleeping peacefully in there on my bed. I loved her. I loved knowing she was in there. That she was mine. That I could take care of her.“I do love her,” I said simply.Tripp slapped me on the back. “Good. She needs it.”Then he opened the door and stepped outside. I didn’t look back to see him leave or wave goodbye. I went to the door and stood there on the other side of it. I put my hands on each side of the doorframe and rested my head against the door. I loved her. I loved her with a something so fierce I couldn’t even name it. Whatever I needed to do to help her I would. She’d be happy. I would spend every second of my life making her smile. I needed to find her a doctor. That was the first step, getting her help.The doorknob turned and the door slowly opened. I dropped my hands to my sides as Della’s eyes locked with mine. Her hair was mussed from sleep and she still looked tired.“You love me?”Hearing her say it made my heart soar. She knew.“Yes. More than life.”Instead of throwing herself into my arms and telling me she loved me too she dropped her face into her hands and sobbed. I watched for a moment confused and completely mystified by her reaction. This wasn’t what I had expected.“Della?” I asked as panic started to take its place in my chest this time.“You can’t love me. You deserve better. Not me,” she cried looking up at me. Her eyes were full of tears as several trickled down her face.“There is no one better than you, Della.”She shook her head. “No, no, no. Don’t you see? I’m not stable. Long term… later… in life I could become like my mother. You can’t love me.”Her mother? She wasn’t going to become her mother? Why would she even think that?“You’re it for me, baby. Just you. You’re not going to be your mother. You’re special and unique and we’re going to get you help. But I will be right by your side the entire time. I’ll never leave you. I swear it.”Della’s tear streaked face stared up at me. I reached over to wipe the tears from her cheeks and pulled her closer so I could kiss her.“I don’t want to destroy you,” she whispered.“Losing you would be the only thing that could destroy me.”She closed her eyes tightly. “But what if I lose my mind?”I had to get her to see that I wasn’t going to let that happen. She wasn’t her mother, dammit.“You won’t. I won’t let you.”Della sniffled and shook her head. “You can’t control it.”Yes, I could. I would find a fucking way to control it.“You are mine. Do you hear me? You are mine, Della Sloane. I will take care of you. Nothing is taking you away from me. Nothing.”