Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2) (2 page)

BOOK: Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2)
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Chapter Two

Oliver was back in Chandlerville.

Through Tuesday morning shadows, Selena Rosenthal locked gazes with the one who’d gotten away. Next door, a ruggedly handsome man stared at her from the front steps of Joe and Marsha Dixon’s sprawling house—a yard, a hedge, and another yard away. Dark hair. Dramatic green eyes. Oliver had the face of an angel and a mouth that could tempt a woman into just about any sin on the books. She’d have known him anywhere.

Years had passed. Seven of them, filled with her wanting to go back and fix the mistakes that had led to her and Oliver’s last disastrous argument. She’d been too busy to miss him since she’d returned to town. At least she’d refused to dwell on how much she missed him—every time she saw someone from before or stumbled into a familiar place. And instead of reveling in the poignant memories, she’d felt like half a person, because Oliver wasn’t there to share the moment with her.

Then he’d stepped out of a shiny red truck in his foster parents’ drive just now, dressed in a wrinkled white T-shirt, jeans, and ratty running shoes.

Her mother’s screened front door whooshed shut behind her, smacking Selena in the butt. She waited for Oliver to respond, to move, to do anything except stare back. She couldn’t stop her smile, or the pathetic half wave that followed it. While his non-response dripped with
you’re dead to me
, until she forced herself to look away.

Oh. My. God.

Oliver.

She tried to breathe, to play it cool. And then the head of the precocious bundle of energy and hair bows bobbing in her arms smacked Selena in the chin. She gasped so quickly, she hiccupped.

“We have to water Grammy’s flowers, Mommy.” Camille struggled to get down. Her first mission each morning was to make certain she and Selena cared for the abundance of buds and bushes her grammy obsessed about. “I left my watering can out back.”

“Go find it.” Selena set her daughter on her feet. “Hurry, or we’ll be late for school.”

Two months ago Belinda Rosenthal had welcomed Selena and Camille into her home after a lifetime of estrangement—Camille’s lifetime. Selena had reached out to her mother over the phone as soon as she’d had her own child and begun to understand just how complicated mothering could be: on holidays and birthdays and Mother’s Day. But for Selena, coming back had never been an option. Until it had become the
only
option.

With a new appreciation for Belinda’s hands-off, distant way of caring, Selena was trying to mend fences with her mom despite their differences. Including helping care for Belinda’s obsession with all things botanical. Camille’s watering pot was a prop. It kept her busy with the flowers that grew in a wild tangle under her bedroom window, while Selena did the heavy lifting of hoisting
hoses and sprinklers from beneath the azaleas flanking the front porch.

Most mornings the process resembled a grudge match: her dragging and untangling everything, so the SweeTart-colored blooms of the monstrous hydrangeas that sprawled near the Dixons’ front yard could have their morning soaking. Daily watering was a must according to Selena’s mother, who’d mastered the art of nurturing delicate buds and blooms to thrive under adversity. While the rest of the country slept off the lingering chill of winter, late spring graced Chandlerville with unseasonable heat. Until September the afternoon sun would revel in its power to wilt even the hardiest of indigenous species.

A rattle from the Dixons’ place, the sound of keys jingling, recaptured Selena’s attention. She braved another peek. The neighboring yard was empty, almost convincing her she hadn’t just ogled a full-grown, ruggedly attractive version of her teenage obsession. But of course she had. Her body knew she had. She was tingling, head to toe, same as always when Oliver was near.

He’d gone inside was all.
Sprinted
was more like it, away from how she’d embarrassed herself.

He’d made her feel safe once upon a time. She’d been special, because he’d wanted her. From the moment they’d met she’d been at the center of someone’s world again. He’d tried to protect her. He’d tried to help her, when he hadn’t yet known how to help himself.

Her phone blared its
Mission: Impossible
ringtone. She dragged it out of her tote and stabbed the Talk button with her thumb.

“We’re already running late, Mom.” Selena’s little girl returned with her watering can, squeezing through the screen door. “We’re taking care of the yard.”

“Remember,” Belinda said, “we’re helping Camille pick out summer shoes after school. We’ll have to meet at the store after we’re both off work.”

If Selena’s mother stopped reminding Selena about every single detail of the life she was rebuilding, someone would have to check Belinda for a pulse.

“I’ll be there,” Selena said, tamping down her frustration. Subtlety might not be her mother’s gift. But Belinda was making the best of whatever time Selena remained in Chandlerville while she got back on her feet financially. At the very least, Selena owed her mother the same in return.

“Lock up when you leave.” The line went dead, presumably so Belinda could micromanage her Chandlerville post office coworkers into a fugue state.

Selena wouldn’t hear from her again until her mother’s midday check-in call. During which Belinda would couch her concern for the deplorable state of her daughter’s life in even more reminders about nonsense things that couldn’t possibly matter.

As a child, Selena had resented her single mom being too busy to offer soft gestures like comforting hugs and encouraging pep talks. Her relationship with her mother would never be the exuberant kind of love Selena had craved since her father walked out when she was five. But Belinda had worked her fingers to the bone for her daughter—the same as Selena was now doing for Camille.

She dropped her cell into the tote bag her mother had lent her. Selena’s anemic budget had produced only a secondhand backpack. Before leaving Manhattan, she’d given up her designer purses and most of her Upper East Side wardrobe and jewelry—including her wedding and engagement rings—to a resale shop.

Camille held up her watering can like a prize. “I found it by the begonias,” she chirped.

Selena secured the front door and then the screen. She hugged her child, enchanted with the way Camille still embraced each new adventure. She’d fallen in love with her grandmother’s blooming world. The outrageous names of flowering plants rolled off her tongue the way other children chattered nursery rhymes.

“Pamper your forget-me-nots.” Selena steered Camille toward the perky blue flowers that bloomed beneath her bedroom window. “I’ll give Grammy’s hedge its morning drink while there’s still shade.”

And while Selena pulled herself together enough to drive them to Chandler Elementary School.

She peeled off her linen jacket and draped it and her tote over the porch rail. She gave the long skirt of her deep-brown sundress a hike and grabbed both sets of hoses. She dragged the lot across the freshly mown lawn, the ancient sprinkler attachments thumping behind her. As she approached the Dixon property she couldn’t help but peek, hoping to catch another glimpse of Oliver.

When word reached Selena yesterday that an ambulance had whisked Joe Dixon to the hospital, she should have realized that some of Marsha and Joe’s grown foster children might turn up in town. Even Oliver. Especially Oliver.

After how badly things had ended, most everyone on the other side of Chandlerville from places like winding, affluent Mimosa Lane had assumed Oliver would never come back. But he’d loved his foster parents. He’d lost so much when he’d left. Selena would never forgive herself for her role in hurting him and Marsha and Joe and so many others.

She positioned the sprinklers, focusing on not completely soaking herself with the dribbles of trapped water leaking every which way now that the hoses were fully extended.

“Catch, Mommy,” Camille said.

The neon-pink Hello Kitty Frisbee that had been lurking somewhere in the front yard sailed over Selena’s head . . .

And landed at Oliver’s feet.

Selena was really there.

What the hell was she doing there, so beautiful that she made Oliver ache?

Only a few feet away, she was a paragon of motherhood, while a flood of messed-up and surprisingly sweet memories taunted him. Them as best friends from the moment they’d met. As a teenage couple who’d never let each other go. As a cautionary tale of how much true love could destroy, when you let it slip away.

She’d been the one who’d torched what was left of their relationship. Breaking up with him after high school graduation, telling him he was to blame, and then sleeping with his best friend to rub a little extra salt into the wound. But he’d let her down first. And he’d accepted his share of the blame long ago. Which was why he should have stayed inside his folks’ place just now until she was gone. He should go
back
inside and wait for his brother to meet up with him, the way Travis had said he would.

But Oliver couldn’t move.

He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. Dark hair cascaded halfway to the waist of her gauzy dress. Tall, willowy, fragile, Selena still exuded the vulnerability that had devastated him when they’d first met, first kissed, and eventually became each other’s first lover. As if the forever place they thought they’d made in each other’s hearts was there for him to claim.

When he was placed with Marsha and Joe at thirteen—after his single mother had been robbed and killed at her night job as
a convenience store clerk—he’d discovered Selena living next door. She’d seemed as lost as he’d felt, still dealing with her dad walking out on her and Belinda. One look into her impossibly brown eyes and Oliver had begun to believe that someone else could understand the loneliness sucking him under. She hadn’t seemed to belong on quaint, picturesque Bellevue Lane either.

Together, they’d learned how to love and dream and believe again—at least in each other. Then their senior year in high school, they’d let it all slip away, drinking and raging and trying to burn through the kind of loss no one else could possibly fathom. He’d seen the end coming and tried to pull them both out of the spiral. He’d been too late.

More than once over the years, he’d dreamed of stepping around the flowering bushes that separated their front yards and finding a grown Selena waiting for him like this. But whatever she was doing in town after all this time, it had nothing to do with him. Mentally kicking himself, he watched an adorable child—her daughter?—run up to the woman who’d said she never wanted to see Oliver again.

“Hey, mister.” The kid’s soft lisp was even cuter than her off-centered ponytails. She pointed to the Frisbee at his feet. “Throw it back.”

He bent and grabbed the toy. When he stood, an insomnia hangover dug claws into his skull. After hauling ass around the clock for weeks on end, he’d spent the night checking in with Travis hourly about Joe’s condition—and wrestling with the pros and cons of driving the half hour between Atlanta and Chandlerville. By sunup Oliver had accepted that he had to get himself home, if only to spend a few hours with his parents before heading back out of town. At this point he was practically seeing double.

BOOK: Let Me Love You Again (An Echoes of the Heart Novel Book 2)
13.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Dragon Round by Stephen S. Power
The Hollows by Kim Harrison
And Everything Nice by Kim Moritsugu
Bloodchild by Kallysten
Room for a Stranger by Ann Turnbull
Kidnap by Tommy Donbavand
The Spare by Carolyn Jewel
White Mare's Daughter by Judith Tarr