Read If You Still Want Me Online

Authors: CE Kilgore

Tags: #romance, #texas, #lgbt, #bdsm, #dallas, #polyamory, #polyamorous, #lgbt romance

If You Still Want Me (8 page)

BOOK: If You Still Want Me
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Son of a -
that old
codger is playing games with me, trying to force my hand. As I pass
the potatoes, I wonder if I should call his bluff and ask Samson
out to a movie. I smile sweetly across the table at Samson with a
wink, he smiles back, and Daddy chokes a bit on his
lemonade.

Dinner is filled with discussions about what
I've missed, how the community continues to change and grow, and
plans for the Spring. Samson, it turns out, it there mostly to
discuss a field trip for the choir to go sing and raise funds in
Lafayette. Ruth, one of the best sopranos in the choir, is excited
about the idea, and keeps dropping hints at me that the choir could
use a strong alto.

It's been so long, I don't think I could carry a
tune, much less make a joyful noise with clapping and praising the
Lord like they do. Samson also seems keen on the idea and keeps
asking when I'm moving down here to live closer to the family. I
have to kick Joseph under the table a couple times to stop him from
grinning like a damn fool.

Samson leaves with a promise to stop by before I
leave, perhaps even to see about a lunch date, and I kindly smile
before glaring at Daddy's chuckling as the poor man drives away.
"Daddy-"

"Don't give me no grief, princess," he says as
he settles down into his old, orange-plaid Lazy-boy. "You earned
that one for missing Christmas, and if he comes callin', you'll
take him to lunch. Good man, Samson - just lonely since his Erma
rejoined God's country last year."

"He's
old
," I huff as I flop down into the couch
next to him.

"I aint sayin' marry the man," Daddy chuckles.
"He needs company and someone to talk to, more than anything. A
friend. You can be a friend, can't you, girl?"

I know arguing is a mute point. He's got me
right where he wants me - squirming and backed into a corner. "Yes,
sir."

Michael ushers Ruth through the living room, a
tired toddler in his arms. "We best get on home 'fore Jonah wakes
up."

"Lord, please let him sleep a whole night
through," Ruth mutters. "Happy New Year," she yawns. I don't think
any of us are going to be staying up until midnight. "See y'all
Sunday."

After they leave, Daddy calls towards the
kitchen. "Tabitha! You leave them dishes for Joseph so he can learn
not to be late to supper."

"Yes, sir," Tabitha calls back, but the sounds
of clinking dishes and running water continues for a few moments
longer before being replaced by her voice giving Joseph
instructions on proper scrubbing methods.

After Tabi and Jerry leave,
I'm alone with Daddy as Joey starts in on the remaining dishes.
Daddy pulls out his '
sinful temptation'
, his tobacco pipe, and lights it. The familiar
vanilla-tinged aroma takes me back to days past, filling my heart
with comforting warmth. It feels like this could be the opportunity
I've needed to muster my courage and have an honest conversation
with him.

As I open my mouth, my phone vibrates against my
hip. It's Saul, begging me to call him when I can. My gut tells me
to call him sooner than later. Maybe before I talk to my dad about
my relationships, I should figure out just where those
relationships stand.

Tucking my phone away, I let the silence settle
in. I need this peace, this moment of reflection before I jump off
the point of no return. I need to be back where it's just me and my
daddy, and there aint nothing that can come between us.

But I can't ignore the reality of my life
forever. I love my daddy, but I can't forsake Saul and Austin for
the sake of his approval. Although I'm soothed to be back in his
presence, it truly hits home how much I miss my boys.

I wish I could share them with my family. I wish
I could share my family with them. I wish...

'Nothing ever comes from just wishing, princess.
Wish upon that star, but get up and reach for it, too.'

My daddy's words whisper like light through
darkness.

When did I stop reaching?

Austin

 

I'm hauling my beat-up suitcase out from the
back of my closet as Brandon enters the bedroom without knocking.
It reminds me that it's not my closet, but his, just like this room
I've been staying in for two years. Flinging the suitcase onto the
bed, I unzip it, barely acknowledging Brandon's presence through
the tears in my eyes.

He watches in silence while my tantrum
continues. I'm glad he aint trying to talk me outta this. I need to
do this right now, before these emotions have time to settle. With
a harder than necessary yank, I begin opening drawers and gathering
my things.

I don't got much, thank goodness. I aint never
been much of a shopper, and a pair of blue jeans can get me through
Hell and back. They have, actually. Several times. Now, looks like
me and these jeans and these boots are walking right back in.

Four pairs of jeans, five casual shirts and two
dress shirts later, and I'm filling the rest of the suitcase with
socks, my one tie, a couple framed photographs and the tablet
computer they got me for Christmas. The last photo I pick up is of
me and Saul, and it stops me dead in my tracks. Like a runaway
freight train, it hits my chest dead center, knocking the wind from
me and dragging me down.

Brandon is there without a
single word, holding me up as I fall apart. "I told him," I cry,
because it fucking hurts. "I told him
everything
, and there aint no going back,
boss. I took the best friendship I ever had and ruined
it."

He guides me to the bed, and I sit there with my
head in my hands, staring down at the picture on my lap. I hear the
door open again, causing Brandon to leave my side. It's Emma, and
he shares words with her before she leaves. God, I don't want her
to see me like this.

"I'm so sorry, boss."

"You haven't done anything wrong. Neither has
Saul. This had to happen eventually, just like Saul learning about
Kyle and Sarah. There's been too many damn secrets around here, and
I'm glad we're airing this shit out."

His no-bullshit tone helps me suck back my
hiccuping sobs. He's right. This had to happen eventually, and
although I feel like complete shit right now, I actually feel
better than I have in months while walking around Saul like a damn
grenade was about to go off.

Grabbing a tissue from the nightstand, I dry my
eyes, wipe my nose and pull myself back together. The look on
Emma's face as she walks back in nearly blows me back apart. I know
her strong empathy makes her feel things she can't help. It aint
fair - me putting this sadness into her life.

Without words, since Emma don't often have words
for anyone but Brandon or Charlie, she hands Brandon a brown
envelope then crawls into my lap. Without hesitation, I take this
profound gesture she's offering and wrap my arms around her. It's
rare for her to let anyone touch her, and the comforting beauty of
this gift makes me smile.

"Thank you," I whisper softly into her
curls.

She nods then moves back to Brandon's side,
where I know she feels most comfortable. Their unique relationship,
based around Emma's Autism and Brandon's controlling but
compassionately patient nature, gives me hope that imperfect people
can have happiness. They share a smile, with love in their eyes,
and I can't help but feel guilty for my jealousy of it.

Brandon holds the envelope out to me. "This was
gonna be your New Year's present anyway, so best just to give it to
you now, if you're really set on leaving."

With trepidation, I take it. What could he have
possibly gotten me that he hasn't already given? I don't deserve
what's in this envelope, whatever it is.

Folding back the flap, I lift out the small
document stack so I can read the first sheet. Two sentences in, and
the tears are threatening to make a comeback. This little brown
envelope contains a gift more valuable to me than all the diamonds
in the world. It's an early probation release, signed and sealed by
Judge Bruce Montgomery, or Bull as he's known at the club.

Inside this envelope is my freedom. "Boss, I...
I can't thank you enough."

"Bruce was thinking about doing it for
Christmas," he explains, "but then everything with Forester
exploded on our heads. He knows you've earned it. We all know
it."

"But you should stay," Emma's tiny, quiet voice
speaks. "I don't want to miss you."

"I know, baby girl," my heart
aches at her words. "I don't
want
to go, but staying hurts people. It's no good for Saul or
Victoria. Understand?"

"It's no good for
you
, you mean." This time, her words make
my heart stop. "Leave, if you must, but be honest with yourself
about your reason for doing so."

After that smack-down of truth, she kisses
Brandon's cheek then kisses my forehead and leaves the room. Emma
always sees right through people. She also likes to bring attention
to the obvious things that no one else seems to want to see or
admit. I sometimes wonder how different the world might be if
everyone saw it the way she does.

"She's right, you know."

I look up at Brandon and can't deny it either.
"I know." And I do. Don't make it any easier to swallow.

"Stay tonight, at least?" Brandon urges. "It's
late and it's New Year's. Hotels will be booked solid, and I don't
think Annabelle will appreciate you dropping in on her and
Cody."

Actually, my sister would probably throw her
shoes at me, since she's hoping Cody might be popping the big
question tonight after a year of dating. Damn. I've got my freedom,
but I got nowhere to go with it.

"Alright. I left Saul in the barn. Can you go
check on him, please?"

"He was my next stop," Brandon smirks then
leaves me alone to really think on Emma's words.

Damn. Truth hurts. It can also give you a nasty
headache. Exhausted beyond argument, I let the truth follow me into
a restless sleep.

 

Seven a.m. comes early thanks to the alarm on my
phone, still wedged in the back pocket of the jeans I fell into bed
with. I'd meant to turn it off, on account of it being New Year's
Day and all, but I suppose horses don't really keep calendars or
care that it's a holiday. Although I let out a tired groan as I
stand up, I'm looking forward to the fresh morning air, hoping
it'll help clear my head a bit.

I'm not sure exactly what time I passed out last
night, but I know it was well before they finished lighting up
Reunion Tower. All the members should be sleeping well into
morning, which will give me time to get the horses settled before
helping Brandon with breakfast. I may even take them to walk the
pasture, if the frost on the ground aint too bad.

First – I need a damn shower.

I reek of yellow. Fuck, I was such a coward last
night – leaving Saul in that barn with that beer so I could go cry
and throw a hissy-fit. My gaze falls to the suitcase that had found
its way to the floor at the foot of the bed next to my boots. I was
gonna up and run without even giving the poor guy a proper chance
to talk. Some best friend I turned out to be.

The pain is a bit less this morning, but it's
still there – a prickling burn in my heart. I feel like I lost my
best friend and my one hope for love at the same time, when I know
damn well I didn't have to. Emma was right. She called my bluff
while I was avoiding my reflection in the mirror.

I wasn't running to save Saul and Victoria
trouble. I was gonna run so I could wallow in self-pity, and
because I'm not brave enough to try and get over the idea that Saul
will never be my lover. I need to get over it, though. I need to
stop making excuses, stop making stupid plans to move to El Paso,
and I need to be the friend Saul deserves.

I just hope it's not too late to fix what I done
fucked over royally.

It's not that I wholly regret what happened last
night and what I said. Brandon was right – there's been too many
damn secrets around here lately. Saul deserved to know the truth
about how I feel. Sleeping with him wouldn't have solved anything.
I probably would've felt worse for it, and Saul would've still been
in the dark about why I've been acting like a shitty friend.

I have no idea how it's gonna be between me and
him today or moving forward, but I'll have to face that music and
see if we can still dance as friends. God, I hope so. I can't
believe I almost abandoned all I have; that I almost took
everything for granted because I'm so damn selfish as to be
unsatisfied with the love he does offer me.

A shower and a shave later, and I feel on the
better side of crap. I eye the fancy new coffee machine as I pass
through the kitchen with a glare. Don't feel like using the old
machine and don't feel like any flavored stuff, either. I think,
since I'm staying, one of the first things I'm gonna do is order
some actual coffee for that k-cup machine.

Stetson on my head, boots on my feet, and my
denim jacket to take the edge off the cold, I head across the
gravel to the horse barn. I can hear that they're awake and making
more noise than normal this morning. There's no frost on the
ground, and I think they know it. I think they're itching for some
freedom in the pasture. Suites me just fine.

Looks like I'm not the only one with the same
idea.

I rub my tired eyes to make sure I'm not seeing
things, but there he is with boots and hat on, too. Saul don't
really wear much 'Western' wear, but when he does - damn, it makes
for a gorgeous picture. Tall and lean as he is, riding jeans follow
every inch, and the light brown cowboy hat up top sets me on
fire.

Fuck. There I go again - checking out my best
friend.

BOOK: If You Still Want Me
8.22Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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