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Authors: Ariadne Wayne

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BOOK: Loving Rowan
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Chapter Forty-Five

Three years later

dinner was so much easier when I didn’t have a toddler running circles around me. Literally. There was nowhere I could move where Mia wasn’t under my feet as she tried to play.

“How do you still have energy?” I asked, picking her up as she giggled, covering her mouth with her hand. We shared a lot of mannerisms, but she was a lot more outgoing than I had ever been, and was one of the popular kids at her day-care.

I’d gone back to work when she was one year old, part-time at first, and then full-time when Ross retired. Kyle’s father had gradually given me more and more to do as his faith in Ross diminished. Realising his time was up, and with no chance of pushing me out of the way, he moved along. Now, I was the IT Manager, with an assistant of my own, and complete control of everything.

I worked the hours I wanted, which suited me down to the ground. Leaving mid-afternoon every day meant I could pick up Mia and spend time with her before Kyle came home. Other than Kyle, she was my world, so much like me and yet enough of her father that she wouldn’t have to deal with the same taunts I did when I had been growing up.

“Daddy,” she squealed in my ear, spotting Kyle before I did. She wriggled in my arms, and I dropped her to the floor so she could go running to him.

“Hey, princess,” he said, opening his arms for her to jump into. He stroked her hair as she hugged him tight, and she let go just enough for him to give her a kiss.

“Hi, princess,” he said again, coming to my side. I grinned as his lips lingered on mine, Mia giggling at the sight of us kissing.

Mia fell asleep at the dinner table, and Kyle tucked her into bed before joining me in the kitchen where I stood, loading the dishwasher. He patted me on the butt as I placed the dishes in the tray, and I stood up to kiss him. Pressing me against the bench, his tongue pushed at mine and he ran his hands down my back. All this time and we were still like newlyweds.

“Want to go to bed early?” I asked, when he finally let me go.

“We need to talk first.” He looked serious, and I stroked his cheek with my palm, trying to get him to meet my eye.

“Kyle? What is it?”

He took my hand, leading me into the living room, and we sat on the couch hand in hand as he tried to come out with whatever it was he had to tell me. My stomach churned at the thought of what it could be. We were so blissfully happy, I couldn’t think of anything.

“Andrew wants to see you.”

I could feel the colour draining from my face as his words sunk in. That was one possibility I’d never considered.

“How do you know?”

“He called me. He knows he can’t make contact with you, Rowan. That would get him into far too much trouble. Hell, I nearly hung up on him, but I wanted to make sure there was no more bullshit going on. I think he wants to apologise.”

Kyle looked up at me, his blue eyes filled with concern. “Look, Rowan, whatever you decide I’ll back you. I’m not letting you be alone with him, but if you want to give him the opportunity to say he’s sorry, I’m not going to stand in the way.”

For the first time in a long time, I just didn’t know what to do. Part of me wanted to see him, hear what he had to say for himself and then send him on his way. But another part of me felt I’d turned my back on that part of my life, so immersed in my new life as I was.

“Let him say his piece,” I croaked, “but I want you with me the whole time.”

He nodded. “Okay, I’ll call him tomorrow and give him your rules. He was very humble on the phone. I’m the last person to stick up for him, but we talked enough that I think he just wants to say he’s sorry. I guess Charlie’s death was a few years ago now; maybe he’s put to rest some of the things that haunted him.”

Kyle wrapped his harms around me, kissing my cheek. “Either way, I’m happy for you to make the decision to see him or not. Any time you want to change your mind, just let me know. You don’t have to go through with this.”

“I know. But I think it’s best to get this over with, and then we can get on with our lives.”

He ran his finger down my chest, between my breasts, and lingered at the top of my stomach. “I think we can make a start on that now. Let’s go to bed and worry about it in the morning.”

I grinned. “That sounds like the best offer I’ve had all day.”

ndrew sat
on the park bench, throwing bread at the ducks. This was the same place Kyle had told him to leave me alone, as I discovered after the fact. If only he’d listened, maybe we would have been able to salvage some kind of friendship. Now, that was impossible.

Kyle grabbed my arm as we approached. “Remember, Rowan. He’s not supposed to get within a hundred metres of you. You don’t have to be here.”

I took a deep breath. “I know. I want to do this.”

“I’ll be right here watching. You just have to wave if you need help.”

Wrapping my arms around his waist, I hugged him tightly. “I love you.”

He kissed the top of my head, and I closed my eyes, just breathing him in. I let go, and looked at him. “I won’t be long.”

Andrew didn’t even look up when I approached, and I sat just watching him throwing bread for a moment. He looked up when he ran out of bread, smiling, his eyes filled with sadness.

“Hey, Rowan. I’m glad you came to talk to me.”

“I’m not here for long, and Kyle is right over there.”

He shook his head. “I’m not going to try anything. We’re way past that. I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I did, and I can’t really believe that I did it.”

“I get that you were a bit crazy over Charlie’s death. I was devastated too, and you knew it. There’s no excuse for what you did, Andrew.”

He looked at the ground. “I know, and I’m so sorry. All I could think about was trying to get you to understand that we needed to be together, and yet, I knew you were far happier with Kyle than you ever would have been with me. The thought of leaving your baby behind just kills me now. You were so right; I didn’t check that Kyle wasn’t more badly injured, and just left without another thought. If anything had happened to her …”

I could see the struggle he fought within himself as he relived those days. It was nothing I hadn’t been through, and maybe I should have felt for him as he realised the extent of what he’d done. But I still felt nothing.

“How is she?” he asked. “How is your little girl?”

“She’s amazing. Looks a lot like me, straight brown hair. No freckles, though. Well, maybe the odd one, but she’s more like Kyle in that way. She’s smart and pretty.”

“Just like her mother.” His blue eyes bored into me, his mouth upturned in a small smile.

“We’ve got another one on the way. Early days, but we’re hopeful everything will go well.” I looked down at the ducks, gradually coming closer and closer for bread. “I wish none of this had happened, Andrew. I could have just pictured yours and Charlie’s children playing with mine. We all could have been happy.”

He sighed. “I lied about what happened on our honeymoon. Charlie did get upset, but it didn’t quite go the way I said. She noticed the way I reacted to Kyle at the wedding, and picked up that I had an issue with him. She loved you so much, she was worried that I might interfere with your relationship, push you further away. That’s what we argued about. It was my problem, not yours. I wanted you to know”

I buried my head in my hands as the tears came, and when I looked up, Kyle was running towards me. I held up my hand to tell him to stop, and saw him come to a halt.

“I loved both of you,” I whispered, “but Kyle’s all mine. I don’t share him with anyone but Mia, and that’s different. Maybe I needed for you two to be together in order to find myself. I’m only sorry Charlie’s not here to share this, for me to tell her just how full my life is now. All it took was for me to get over you.”

I stood. This had been the last goodbye to my old life, and my husband waited for me as we started on the next part of the new.

Andrew looked up at me. He looked the way he did at Charlie’s funeral, full of loss and remorse.

“Get better, Andrew. Find a way to move on and be happy. You deserve that.”

“Love you, Rowan. Always have, always will,” he said softly.

I turned, walking towards Kyle, and then running as the weight of the conversation lifted. Throwing myself at him, I flung my arms around his neck, and he spun me around, laughing before kissing me in that way only he could.

“You okay?” he whispered.

“I’ll be fine. Let’s go and pick up Mia from day-care. I think we all need to spend the rest of the day together.”

He grinned. “Good thinking. You should put your feet up anyway. I’m sure today will be stressful enough without running around after the rest of us.”

Kyle held my hand tight, the cold wind freezing the tears on my cheeks as we walked away without a glance behind.

Home was warm when we got there, though the chill was setting in outside. Mia rode her tricycle around the backyard, pushed across the grass by Kyle as I watched the two of them.

I smiled, looking at the apple tree in the middle of the yard. Blossoms had started to coat the branches, and brought with them the promise of warmer weather. It made me think of home, of the early days, of Andrew, and of Charlie, who didn’t get to see the orchard in all its glory, and who never would.

“Goodbye, Charlie,” I whispered.

Kyle looked up as I shivered, and shook his head at Mia. “We should go inside now, sweetheart. It’s cold out here and not good for you, or your mother.”

“Aww, Daddy,” she whined.

He leaned over, tapping her on the nose. “Tell you what. If you come inside with me now, I’ll make you a nice hot chocolate with marshmallows. I understand your mother is fond of them too.”

Picking her up in one arm, the tricycle in the other, he brought them both to the back door, dropping the trike on the deck as he carried our daughter inside the house with me following behind.

I didn’t need the hot chocolate to warm me. I had the love that I felt for the pair of them, and in the months to come, that love would grow just that little bit more.

Best of all, now and forever, no matter what else happened to us along the way, Kyle was my best friend.

And he always would be.

About the Author

riadne Wayne loves
books and lives in Auckland, New Zealand with her husband and two children. Having always had a prolific imagination she now writes the words down instead of storing them in her head where she can't share them. When she's not writing she works in Telecommunications, frequently banging her head on the desk with the random things that can happen to the ordinary phone line.

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