“One of these days you're going to fall in love, son. Don't settle for just anyone. Choose the girl that doesn't come easy; the one you have to fight for, and then never stop fighting. Never”
“There's a girl, Dad."
He smiled a bit. "A girl."
"She kinda hates me, and I kinda..."
"I don't know. I don't think so. I mean...how do you know?"
His smile grew wider. "When you're talking about her with your old dad because you don't know what else to do.”
“I decided a long time ago I would feed on the vultures until a dove came along. A pigeon. The kind of soul that didn't impede on anyone; just walked around worrying about its own business, trying to get through life without pulling everyone else down. With its own needs and selfish habits. Brave. A communicator. Intelligent. Beautiful. Soft-spoken. A creature that mates for life. Unattainable until she has a reason to trust you.”
“Abby touched her palm to my cheek. "You know what, Mr. Maddox?"
Her expression turned serious.
"In another life, I could love you."
I watched her for a moment, staring into her glassed over eyes. She was drunk, but just for a moment it didn't seem wrong to pretend that she meant it.
"I might love you in this one.”
“Shepley jogged around the front of the Charger, and then slid into the driver’s seat. “I’m still taking the official position that this is a bad idea.”
“The jewelry store?”
“Why, Travis?” Shepley said, his voice more stern than before.
He shook his head. “Are you trying to run her off?”
“It’s going to happen, Shep. I just want to have it. For when the time is right.”
“No time any time soon is right. I am so in love with America that it drives me crazy sometimes, but we’re not old enough for that shit, yet, Travis. And … what if she says no?”
My teeth clenched at the thought. “I won’t ask her until I know she’s ready.”
Shepley’s mouth pulled to the side. “Just when I think you can’t get any more insane, you do something else to remind me that you are far beyond bat shit crazy.”
“Wait until you see the rock I’m getting.”
Shepley craned his neck slowly in my direction. “You’ve already been over there shopping, haven’t you?”
“I kissed her again, tenderly touching my lips to hers. “Now what?”
“Kiss the kids, and then you and I can celebrate eleven years of in-your-face-we-made-it. How about that?”
“So you like her and you're scared. Now what?"
"Nothing. It just sucks that I finally found the girl worth having and she's too good for me.”
“Shepley walked out of his bedroom pulling a T-shirt over his head. His eyebrows pushed together. “Did they just leave?”
“Yeah,” I said absently, rinsing my cereal bowl and dumping Abby’s leftover oatmeal in the sink. She’d barely touched it.
“Well, what the hell? Mare didn’t even say goodbye.”
“You knew she was going to class. Quit being a cry baby.”
Shepley pointed to his chest. “I’m the cry baby? Do you remember last night?”
“That’s what I thought.” He sat on the couch and slipped on his sneakers. “Did you ask Abby about her birthday?”
“She didn’t say much, except that she’s not into birthdays.”
“So what are we doing?”
“Throwing her a party.” Shepley nodded, waiting for me to explain. “I thought we’d surprise her. Invite some of our friends over and have America take her out for a while.”
Shepley put on his white ball cap, pulling it down so low over his brows I couldn’t see his eyes. “She can manage that. Anything else?”
“How do you feel about a puppy?”
Shepley laughed once. “It’s not my birthday, bro.”
I walked around the breakfast bar and leaned my hip against the stool. “I know, but she lives in the dorms. She can’t have a puppy.”
“Keep it here? Seriously? What are we going to do with a dog?”
“I found a Cairn Terrier online. It’s perfect.”
“Pidge is from Kansas. It’s the same kind of dog Dorothy had in the Wizard of Oz.”
Shepley’s face was blank. “The Wizard of Oz.”
“What? I liked the scarecrow when I was a little kid, shut the fuck up.”
“It’s going to crap every where, Travis. It’ll bark and whine and … I don’t know.”
“So does America … minus the crapping.”
Shepley wasn’t amused.
“I’ll take it out and clean up after it. I’ll keep it in my room. You won’t even know it’s here.”
“You can’t keep it from barking.”
“Think about it. You gotta admit it’ll win her over.”
Shepley smiled. “Is that what this is all about? You’re trying to win over Abby?”
My brows pulled together. “Quit it.”
His smile widened. “You can get the damn dog…”
I grinned with victory.
“…if you admit you have feelings for Abby.”
I frowned in defeat. “C’mon, man!”
“Admit it,” Shepley said, crossing his arms. What a tool. He was actually going to make me say it.
I looked to the floor, and everywhere else except Shepley’s smug ass smile. I fought it for a while, but the puppy was fucking brilliant. Abby would flip out (in a good way for once), and I could keep it at the apartment. She’d want to be there every day.
“I like her,” I said through my teeth.
Shepley held his hand to his ear. “What? I couldn’t quite hear you.”
“You’re an asshole! Did you hear that?”
Shepley crossed his arms. “Say it.”
“I like her, okay?”
“Not good enough.”
“I have feelings for her. I care about her. A lot. I can’t stand it when she’s not around. Happy?”
“For now,” he said, grabbing his backpack off the floor.”
“Did women deserve to be treated like sluts? No. Did sluts deserve to be treated like sluts? Yes.”
“I was just as in love with her in our eleventh year as I was in the first. Every anniversary was a victory, a middle finger to everyone who thought we wouldn't last. Abby tamed me, marriage settled me down, and when I became a father, my entire outlook changed.”
“The way I feel about you . . . it’s crazy.”
“You got the crazy part right,” she snapped, pulling away from me.
“I practiced this in my head the whole time we were on the bike, so just hear me out.”
“I know we’re fucked-up, all right? I’m impulsive and hot tempered, and you get under my skin like no one else. You act like you hate me one minute, and then you need me the next. I never get anything right, and I don’t deserve you . . . but I fucking love you, Abby. I love you more than I’ve loved anyone or anything, ever. When you’re around, I don’t need booze or money or the fighting or the one-night stands . . . all I need is you. You’re all I think about. You’re all I dream about. You’re all I want.”
“You riding in the charger?"
"Nah. I'm going to see if I can get Abby on the back of my bike again. It's the closest I can get to the inside of her thighs”
“I looked at Mommy but quickly shook my head. "I don't want to miss her."
Becky put her soft, warm hand on my shoulder, just like Mommy used to when I was upset. "Your mom wants to be here with you. She wants that very much. But Jesus wants her with him right now."
I frowned. "I need her more than Jesus does.”
“Her expression turned serious. "In another life, I could love you."
I watched her for a moment, staring into her glassed-over eyes. She was drunk, but just for a moment it didn't seem wrong to pretend she meant it.
"I might love you in this one.”
“Once she kissed me, my heart slowed, and every muscle in my body relaxed. How much I needed her terrified me. -pg 252/ARC”
“I took a deep breath, and shut the bedroom door behind me. Even though we'd put each other through hell, we'd found heaven. Maybe that was more than a couple of sinners deserved, but I wasn't going to complain.”
“A toast” I yelled, climbing onto a chair. On my way to the top, I stole someone’s beer and held it out in front of me. “To douche bags!” I said gesturing to Brad. “And to girls that break your heart.” I bowed to Abby. My throat tightened. “And to the absolute fucking horror of losing your best friend because you were stupid enough to fall in love with her. ”
“My palms flat against the wall of the tile, I clenched my eyes shut. "Please come back" I said quietly. She couldn't hear me, but it didn't stop me from wishing she would come and save me from the terrible pain I felt without her there.”
“First, it’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to feel things. Remember that. Second, be a kid for as long as you can. Play games, Travis. Be silly”—her eyes glossed over—“and you and your brothers take care of each other, and your father. Even when you grow up and move away, it’s important to come home. Okay?”
My head bobbed up and down, desperate to please her.
“One of these days you’re going to fall in love, son. Don’t settle for just anyone. Choose the girl that doesn’t come easy, the one you have to fight for, and then never stop fighting. Never”—she took a deep breath—“stop fighting for what you want. And never”—her eyebrows pulled in—“forget that Mommy loves you. Even if you can’t see me.” A tear fell down her cheek. “I will always, always love you.”
“I was in love with her; couldn’t imagine my life without her in it; but at the same time, I wanted her to have better.”
“I was now in a situation where I didn't have to prove myself, because the one person that fully accepted me, my best friend, was now a permanent fixture in my life.”
“Maybe it was just me. Maybe it was just me and her. Maybe together we were this volatile entity that would either implode or meld together.-pg 252/ARC”
“She seemed pissed about something, but I ignored it. She probably just wasn’t a morning person. Although with that logic, she wasn’t really an afternoon or night person, either. Come to think of it, she was kind of a cranky bitch . . . and I liked it.”
“Watching Abby own my brothers--hand after hand was turning me on. I'd never seen a woman so sexy in my life, and this one happened to be my girlfriend.-pg 257/ARC”
“The day you appeared on our family tree, I wanted to cut it down.”
“I like her," I said through my teeth.
Shepley held his hand to his ear. "What? I couldn't quite hear you."
"You're an asshole! Did you hear that?"
Shepley crossed his arms. "Say it."
"I like her, okay?"
"Not good enough."
"I have feelings for her. I care about her. A lot. I can't stand it when she's not around. Happy?”
“Even though we’d put each other through hell, we’d found heaven.”
“The first time I bring a girl home, and not only is she the daughter of a famous poker player, but she could easily bankrupt us all in a single hand. For being the family fuckup, I felt like I had finally gained a little respect from my older brothers. And it was all because of Abby.”
“I hope you know Benny, that when I take out your men, I mean no disrespect. But I'm in love with this girl, and I can't let you hurt her”
“It wasn't okay. I didn't want her to leave. I didn't care if Jesus wanted her or not. She was my mommy. He could take an old mommy. One that didn't have little boys to take care of.”
“He'd gone to Louddon's fortress to
take Madelyne captive. His plan was revenge; an eye for an eye. And that had been reason enough.
Until she'd warmed his feet.
Everything had changed at that moment. Duncan had known with a certainty he couldn't deny that they
were henceforth bound together. He could never let her go.”
“Horza recalled that the Culture’s attitude to somebody who believed in an omnipotent God was to pity them, and to take no more notice of the substance of their faith than one would take of the ramblings of somebody claiming to be Emperor of the Universe. The nature of the belief wasn’t totally irrelevant—along with the person’s background and upbringing, it might tell you something about what had gone wrong with them—but you didn’t take their views seriously.”
“The Bible says, ‘If any would not work, neither should he eat.’ Saint Paul wrote that, in Second Thessalonians, chapter three, verse ten,”
“Roarke, one thing." She walked to him, well aware he was all but snarling with temper. "I haven't kissed you good-bye," she murmured and did so with a thoroughness that rocked him
back on his heels. "Thank you." Before he could speak, she kissed him again. "For always knowing what matters to me."
"You're welcome." Possessively, he ran a hand over her tousled hair. "Miss me." "I already am." "Don't take any unnecessary chances." His hands gripped in her hair hard, briefly. "There's
no use asking you not to take the necessary ones."
"Then don't." Her heart stuttered when he kissed her hand. "Safe trip, " she told him when he stepped into the elevator. She was new at it, so waited until the doors were almost shut. "I
love you." The last thing she saw was the flash of his grin.”
“Cupcake , you've been breaking my heart for as long as I've known you”
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