Della

Braden had needed to go to a meeting at her school. She hadn’t mentioned it until after lunch. She ran out of here pretty quickly after she got the call reminding her. I considered taking a nap or at least trying to. I wasn’t sure I would sleep well tonight either. I hated thinking I might wake up Braden and Kent with my screaming. I glanced at the clock. It had been almost twenty-four hours since I’d arrived back here. No call from Woods. He was a smart man and if he’d wanted to check and see if I was here, he would have had by now.

It hurt. I wanted him to care. I wanted him to love me enough.

The doorbell rang and I stood frozen in the kitchen. I wasn’t sure if I should answer the door. They hadn’t discussed that with me. Besides, it was the middle of the day and normally Braden and Kent were at work. Some days Kent worked from home like he had yesterday when I’d arrived but he wasn’t here today. There wasn’t even a car outside.

The doorbell rang again. Whoever it was wasn’t giving up. I walked out into the hall and then into the foyer. I would be able to see who it was through the windows on each side of the door. I walked to the door quietly and peeked out.

Woods stood staring anxiously at the door with his hands tucked into his pockets. He was here. How was he here?

“Come on Della, I know you’re in there. Please answer the door, baby,” he begged and followed it by a knock.

He was here for me. I stood up and grabbed the doorknob. He was here. He wanted to see me. He hadn’t called he had just come after me. I started to open the door and Woods pushed it the rest of the way as he came rushing into the house. His eyes locked on me and he grabbed me pulling me into his arms.

“I’ve been going crazy,” he murmured into my hair. “I couldn’t sleep I couldn’t eat. I am so sorry. I’m so sorry. I swear to you I’ll never forgive him. Ever.” He continued to hold me and promise me things. I slipped my arms around his middle and laid my head on his chest. He was here. That was all that mattered to me.

“I love you, Della. I can’t lose you. Just you Della. That’s all I need. Just you. We’re gonna find a life together. A new one. Our life. One we get to create.”

He was giving up his family and the club. Could I let him do that?

“I don’t want you to give up everything you worked for,” I said against his chest.

“I wasted my time. I can’t live a life where another man controls my every move. He hurt you Della. He scared you baby and I can’t forget that. I can’t ever get over it. He’s dead to me. That life is dead to me. I just need you.”

I wanted Woods.

I reached up and ran my hand through his hair and over the stubble on his face. “I missed you.”

“I’ve been in hell since I walked into that kitchen and they told me you were gone. Never again. I swear it.”

He needed to hear it all. He had come here ready to leave his life behind and start a new one with me. He needed to know what it was he was getting. I hadn’t been completely honest with him. He should know about my mother and how I found her. And know about my grandmother and the fact I could possibly have inherited crazy from my mother.

“You should hear everything first. About how my mom died. And the fact I could end up crazy too. I can’t let you make this decision without knowing everything there is to know about me. All those things I kept close and wouldn’t share I need to share with you now. Then you can decide if I’m worth it.”

Woods lowered his mouth to mine and brushed his lips over mine several times. “Baby, I’m so far gone you could tell me anything and I’d be okay with it. But if it makes you feel better then tell me. I want to know everything. I want you to be able to tell me everything and have faith that I’m not going anywhere.”

If I was going to make this work then I had to believe him. This was a part of me he needed to know. It was time I talked about it.

“There was a party. One that the kids at the high school were having. Braden had been planning for a week to sneak me there with her. I was going to be her cousin from Mississippi. She had it all figured out. I was excited. I’d never been around other people,” I closed my eyes tightly because I knew that telling him could very likely send me into an attack. I wanted to be strong enough to tell this story, at least to Woods.

“Take your time,” Woods said, holding me close to him.

“I was nervous. Mom had caught me sneaking in a lot over the past few months. Each time it ended badly. Most of the time she would spank me with a leather belt. It terrified her for me to leave. And she’d been talking to my brother more. Saying he missed her and wanted her to come to him. That scared me. I knew the only way she could go to him would be to… die.” I stopped a moment and took a deep breath.

“We snuck out that night without a problem. I went to my first party. I was introduced to my first encounter with sex. Not me but another couple. They were going at it in the bathroom when I went to find a toilet to use. I’d been mesmerized. They had been clinging to each other so tightly and I’d wanted that. I wanted to be that close to someone. Sex and the idea of it intrigued me after that.” That was the easy part to remember. It had been the one bright spot in the evening. I hated thinking about this last part.

“We had headed back home late. It was around three in the morning. I’d been on a happy high. Some guy had kissed me and I had loved it. This had been real. I had lived…. But then we got home. Braden never went inside with me. She always waited outside until I was safely indoors. Lights were on all over the house. We could see the one in my bedroom from the front yard. That was our first sign that something was wrong.

My mother normally stood in the dark waiting on me with a belt when she caught me outside the house.” I felt my body tremble. My breathing was getting tighter and more difficult. I wasn’t going to let my terror win. I was going to beat this. I gathered all the strength I could and looked up at Woods.

“Braden didn’t leave when I opened the door. She followed me inside the front door and stood there. We both knew. The silence was so telling. I didn’t get far. The house was small and I walked from the living room into the hallway. The blood… her blood.” I took a deep breath. “It was seeping out onto the carpet from the bathroom door. I saw it and I knew. It was only a few steps but it felt like a mile from that spot in the hallway to the bathroom door. She was lying there so still on the tile floor. Both her wrists were slit and in the pool of blood around her was a razor. I lost myself in that moment. I began to scream and hold her hand. I was trying to bring her back. But the truth was she’d wanted to go to my brother and... she had.”

Woods pressed me up against his chest and held me tightly. “Oh, sweetheart. I’m so sorry. For everything. I’m so damn sorry.”

I wasn’t finished. I wanted to be but I wasn’t. I’d made it this far and I had to keep going. “Braden heard my screams and she came in there to me. I looked up at her and I told her my momma was gone. That’s when I checked out. I don’t remember he calling nine-one-one or the paramedics arriving. I was lost in a world where my mother was alive and I couldn’t reach her. Finally when I came around Braden was beside me, cleaning me. Wiping the blood from my hands. Then she’d changed me into clean clothes and stood holding my hand while I answered questions. There were so many questions. Braden had refused to leave my side. When it was over I’d moved next door to live with her and her parents the next couple of years. She was determined I would live with them. I could tell they were worried about it. She had kept me a secret from them all those years and they were scared of me. I didn’t blame them. They never warmed up to me. I can see it in their eyes. They’re waiting on me to crack. Sometimes I understand them because I’m doing the same thing. Waiting…”“Don’t you say it. Do you hear me? Don’t you dare say it. You’re not gonna crack. You’re the strongest person I’ve ever met. I am in awe at the things you’ve been put through and the fact you can still light up a room when you walk in. When I look at you I see life. I see joy. I see my future.”I was his future. He was mine. If I had a life with Woods to look forward to I knew I could fight whatever darkness that tried to take me. Before Woods I didn’t know what I was living for. In my search to find myself, I’d found so much more. I knew now why I wanted to live. I understood love. I had found it.Woods had turned down Braden’s offer for us to stay. She hadn’t fought him on it and I was surprised. Woods had made me bring both my suitcases. We hadn’t gone far because I wasn’t ready to leave Braden just yet. Woods had found a five star hotel in Atlanta and checked us in. The moment the door closed behind him he dropped the suitcase I’d brought in with me on the floor and stalked over and picked me up. He carried me to the king size bed that sat in the center of the room.“I need you to do something,” Woods said as he pulled his shirt off and tossed it on the ground then started unfastening his jeans.“Okay,” I replied, watching his hands instead of his face. I loved watching him lower his jeans and seeing him spring free.“When I’m buried deep inside you I need you to tell me you love me.”The vulnerable request made me realize I’d never told him. I sat up and put both my hands on his chest as he lowered himself over me.“You know that I lo—”“Not yet. When I’m in you. Tell me then,” he said with his finger over my lips to keep me from saying it.I pulled my shirt off and he made quick work of everything else. His hand grabbed my knee and pushed my legs apart so that he had me open to him. “I need to kiss it. I think it’s missed me,” he whispered and lowered his head until he was settled between my legs.I bucked underneath him and grabbed handfuls of his hair crying out his name as his tongue slid up my center and then began to run circles around my swollen clit.“See she missed me,” he whispered grinning up at me before slipping two fingers inside then taking laps of my juices that were freely flowing from the intense pleasure his mouth was causing.“Yes, very much,” I agreed and held his head still when he pulled my clit into his mouth and began to suck. I was so close to an orgasm but I wanted him inside me. “I need you inside me,” I panted pulling at him to come back up my body and fill me.Woods slowly kissed a trail up my stomach, chest, and neck until his lips were hovering over mine. He dropped several chaste kisses on my mouth. I opened my legs so that he could fit between them. The head of his erection was brushing my heat and driving me mad.Woods held himself over me and lowered his hips until he slowly sank inside of me. The feeling of completion overwhelmed me. Woods made me whole. He healed everything that was wrong with me. Having him this close to me was all I would ever need.He began to move his hips in and out as his arms flexed on either side of me. I ran my hands up his arms and held onto each thick bicep so I could feel it move under my touch. Looking up, my eyes locked with his.“I love you,” I said without reservation because no truer words had ever been spoken. Woods paused and his throat worked as he swallowed hard. I reached up and ran my nails gently over his neck. Every part of him fascinated me.“I love you. I’ll never leave you and I swear to you sweetheart that you will never be alone.” His words were laced with emotion. I lifted my eyes from my focus on his neck to see unshed tears glistening in his eyes.I pulled my legs up over his hips and wrapped them firmly around his body then slipped my arms around his neck and brought him down closer to me. I didn’t have to explain to him what I needed. He knew. I was positive at this moment he needed it too. Our bodies moved against each other. It was as if we’d truly become one. This was a deeper connection than I’d ever known.“Is this making love?” I asked him as my orgasm began to build.“Every time I’m inside of you is making love, baby. Every damn time.”Smiling I kissed his shoulder and held on tight as the waves of pleasure began exploding in my body.Woods’ body tensed then shook before he let out a groan and filled me with his release. When his body relaxed He rolled over and pulled me with him. He stared down at me with such devotion that it clogged my throat.I didn’t want to leave this moment. Ever. If I could always be this close to him my life would be complete. Woods started to kiss me again when his phone rang. He frowned and glanced over at it beside us on the bed. I could see Jace’s name on the screen. “It’s Jace.”I looked at the time on the phone. It was one in the morning. “Why is he calling so late? Answer it.”Woods reached over me and picked it up then pressed the button on the phone. “Hello?”I watched as all emotion left his face. He didn’t say anything. Jace was obviously talking because Woods was listening but he wasn’t responding. I couldn’t tell what it was about from the look on his face.“I’m still here,” Woods assured Jace but that was all he said. Nothing more.Then he hung up the phone a few seconds later. He sat there staring at the phone in his hand. I couldn’t read his face. Something was wrong though. He was acting strange.“What did he want?” I asked.Woods shook his head. “Nothing. He didn’t want anything. He just needed to tell me that my dad dropped dead of a heart attack thirty minutes ago.”