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Authors: Keary Taylor

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #keary taylor, #New Adult

Ever After Drake (18 page)

BOOK: Ever After Drake
10.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Just then a waitress shows up to take
our orders. We rattle them off and she disappears once

So,” he says after a few
moments of awkward silence. “About that picture you

The reason we’re here,” I
say uncomfortably. My pulse picks up and maybe it’s my blood
pressure or the stress or maybe I’m just going crazy, but suddenly
all my senses seem dull and I feel like I’m in slow

I was a freshman at
Seattle Com then,” Donny starts. His fingers wrap around his water
glass and he spins it slowly, leaving a ring of condensation on the
table. “Like I said, I grew up in Sedro Wolley, which isn’t far
from Burlington, where that party was, as you know. We heard about
this big costume shindig that was going on, so we decided to go
home for the weekend. It was Halloween.”

I stare at Donny, who’s looking right
at that water glass like it’s a movie screen and he can see history
playing before him.

I went as a rock star. It
was a lame costume but I didn’t have much to work with,” he
chuckles. “There were seven of us from our high school that went.
Like an impromptu reunion. We went to the party and it was pretty

He looks up at me finally and my heart
jumps into my throat.

Josh always had a way
with the ladies,” he finally says. The rock drops from my throat
and I suddenly feel light. Light enough to float away. A name.
Josh. “He spotted this pretty young girl at the party. Dressed like
a bumblebee, of all things.” He smiles at the

My mom,” I say quietly.
“Her name is Karen.”

Donny nods. “Josh the pirate spent the
whole night talking to that bumblebee. They laughed and danced. And
then after about an hour they disappeared.”

I know what the next part of the story
is. I know what horny teenagers do when they’re having fun and with
a willing member of the opposite sex.

He came back about an
hour later and then the night was over,” Donny says, his voice
quiet and slow. He looks up at me. “Josh wanted to call that girl
from the party back, but he couldn’t find her number. We had school
to get back to and time eventually makes you forget

He never had any clue
about me,” I say. There’s no anger behind it, no malice or sadness.
It’s just a fact, one I’ve had my entire life to deal

Donny shakes his head. “But there’s no
doubt in my mind you’re his daughter. Same blond hair. Same cheeks,
same eyes.”

This brings a smile to my face.
Something in my heart lifts.

What’s his last name?” I

And at this Donny’s expression
falters. “It was Anderson,” he says. His eyes are heavy and he
doesn’t look at me.

Was?” I ask, sounding

He nods. “Josh died a few years back.
Six, if I recall right. He was always a bit of a wild spirit and he
loved his adventures. He was out mountain climbing with some other
friends and there was an accident. He was killed

I don’t say anything for a long while
and it takes me a bit to realize that I should. “Oh,” is all I

I’m sorry,” he says, his
voice quiet. “I know how disappointing this must be.”

My eyes fall to the table and I shrug
my shoulders. “I don’t know, I guess. I mean, I haven’t really had
any real expectations about this situation, you know? I don’t know
that I was really looking to form a relationship or

That’s gotta be though,”
he says. He reaches across the table and places his hand over mine.
“Growing up without a father. I can’t imagine my boys going
throughout their lives without one.”

I think I turned out okay
enough,” I say with a little chuckle as I meet his eyes

Yeah,” he replies with a
smile. “You seem like a good person. I mean, you’ve got a career.
You seem healthy and put together.”

A small smile pulls at my lips. I’m
not really sure how I feel right now. Not really put together, but
not exactly a mess either.

Josh would have loved to
meet you,” Donny says. “Like I said, he was a wild spirit and he
loved to play, but if he’d known about you, he would have made a
great father.”

Yeah?” I ask.

Yeah,” Donny says. He
rubs his thumb over my hand before pulling back. “I’m sorry you
never got to meet him.”

Me too.”




The campus and staff at the private
school in Olympia blow me away. Everything is beautiful and
functional and incredible. The staff is highly educated and so
professional and so brilliant. It makes me feel out of place;
surely I’m far too young and too minimally educated to land this
job. But I’m still honored to even get the interview.

And the interview goes fantastic. They
mostly ask questions about my views on education, which I answer as
honestly as possible. If I were more qualified for this position
I’m sure they’d actually be impressed with how I did.

I climb into my car when we’re done
and smile to myself. I find myself daydreaming again for the first
time in a long, long while.

Great new school. Living just minutes
away from my best friend. Brand spanking new start.

The drive home, which seemed so long
when I drove down, goes by quickly. I park along the curb outside
my apartment and head upstairs.

There is still the slight smell of
smoke in my apartment. I’ve spent every free moment washing
everything possible. My clothes, my bedding. I’ve scrubbed my
floors and counters and wiped down all my bookshelves and dressers.
It’s just going to take time for the smell to fade.

At least I’ll have that as an excuse
if I have to break my contract and move down to Olympia.

My cell starts vibrating in my purse
and I grab it and check the ID. Mom.

Hi,” I say. I open my
fridge to look for something to make for a late dinner.

Hey sweetie,” she says.
There’s always that hesitance in her voice lately whenever I talk
to her, like she’s waiting for me to attack her. But I don’t really
feel sorry about it, and that’s unusual for me. “How are you

Good,” I say, pulling out
the tortillas, cheese and some leftover shredded chicken.

I’m okay,” she says.
“I’ll be getting in tomorrow night.”

Where are you at now?” I
ask. I butter one side of the tortilla and set it into the pan I’ve
heated up. I sprinkle some cheese on it and layer the chicken

Atlanta,” she replies.
“This is my last business trip.”

What?” I ask, my brows
furrowing as I cover it all up with another tortilla. “What do you

I’ve been thinking a lot
about what you’ve said,” she replies, her voice hesitant again.
“About me getting too into my career because I’ve finally figured
out how to be an adult. I didn’t like what you said before, it made
me pretty angry. But you’re right. I’ve checked out on Skyler and
never even realized it until you pointed it out.”

Okay,” I say because I’m
not sure what else to say.

I talked to the company
and told them I need a position where I stay there in Washington,”
she hurries on. “They weren’t very happy about it. But they agreed
to let me stay in the offices full-time in Everett.”

A smile starts spreading on my face
when I imagine how excited Skyler is going to be when he hears the
news. “That’s great, Mom. I’m really proud of you for making this

Thanks,” she says. Her
voice cracks just slightly and it’s pretty obvious she’s crying by
this point. “It was a scary decision, but I’m glad I made

You made the right
choice.” Something tightens in the back of my throat and it’s hard
to swallow. So I just flip my quesadilla instead.

I want to take you and
Skyler out for dinner tomorrow night,” she continues. “I thought I
could come pick you up first after I get in at the airport and then
we could both go surprise Skyler with the news?”

That sounds really
great,” I tell her, a smile forming on my face.

I’ll see you no later
than six.”

See you mom. I love you,
you know that, right?”

She pauses for a moment and I hear her
sniff. “I know sweetie. I love you too. See you


We have a meeting the next
day during lunch. All the teachers are in the library and Principal
Riker drones on and on about
. Emergency drills, budget
woes, parking lot issues, drug problems in the school.

I’m sitting toward the back of
everyone, honestly trying to stay awake and pay attention to what
he’s saying. But it’s so hard. No wonder half of the students look
at me with that glazed over expression. Do I sound like

My eyes keep drifting to Drake though.
He’s seated in the row ahead of me, over two seats. He’s close
enough I keep catching little drifts of that smell of his. That
smells of home and summer and all things peaceful.

But he looks so beaten. He looks sad
and tired. His shoulders slump. There are bags under his eyes. He
blinks slow and heavy.

I pull my phone out and discreetly
start typing.

Are you okay?

I faintly hear Drake’s phone vibrate.
His eyes drop to his pocket and he pulls it out. I see him start to
turn his head my direction, but he seems to think better of it. His
eyes drop to his phone and he starts typing.

A few seconds later my phone vibrates
in my hands.

Not really sure what that
word means any more.

The pain in my chest is sharp and
leaves me breathless. I close my eyes and shake my head. Something
pricks at the back of my eyes.

I shouldn’t have ever texted. What
good was it going to do? The best way to work through this
situation was to just keep our distance and hope that time would
heal all wounds. Because every time we come in contact, the scabs
rip back open.

When I open my eyes, I see Drake
looking at me.

I love this man. I love him with
everything I’ve got.

If I get offered that job down in
Olympia I should take it without looking back.

But that’s the problem. I keep looking
back. And I will always look back and it will kill me to cut off
that ability if I move away.

I always knew I would never take that

Because of a man.

Because of a prince.

Because even though I am not a
princess, maybe I still want to be.

Even though I know I never will be




Saturday is so normal I almost feel as
if I have a life again. A half-empty one, but a life. I go for a
morning run. I clean my apartment. Armando and Anthony come over
and I make them lunch. We laugh and joke and I sometimes manage a
real smile. They’re so adorable together. Holding hands when they
think I’m not looking, stealing little looks at each

When you’re miserable, it’s really
hard to be around people who are happy.

I shower and get ready for dinner with
Mom and Skyler at five. I dry my hair and curl it into soft waves.
I pull on a pair of jeans, don a white long-sleeved tee, and wrap a
dark blue scarf around my neck.

I’ve been thinking about
telling Mom that I learned who my father was. Normally, this would
seem like important information to share.
Hey, mom. Remember that guy who knocked you up? His name was
Josh Anderson.

But I’ve decided to keep it to myself.
Mom made peace with her decision a long time ago. She doesn’t bring
him up and I may as well have been a miraculous pregnancy for all
she seems to have thought about him.

His identity won’t mean anything to
her. Even if it meant finding peace for me.

I decide to wait for Mom at the curb
and head downstairs. I hadn’t realized it had dropped temperatures
so much. It’s well below freezing out here, unseasonably cold. And
it rained earlier today.

For a second I’m tempted to text mom
and tell her to drive careful, but what good will that do if she
checks it while she’s driving?

Six o’clock rolls by. Then it’s ten
after. At six-fifteen, I step inside the doors to the building
because I’m absolutely freezing. I dial Mom’s cell phone, but it
goes straight to her voicemail. At six twenty-five, I call

Hey, has Karen shown up
to pick Skyler up?” I ask when he answers.

Haven’t seen her yet.
Thought she was going to get here about five minutes ago,” he
responds. He sounds slightly irritated. This is classic Mom. Always
showing up late.

BOOK: Ever After Drake
10.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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