Mended Affections (The Affections Series Book 2)

BOOK: Mended Affections (The Affections Series Book 2)
13.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub










Mended Affections


The Affections Series

Book Two



Elizabeth Wills

Copyright © 2016 Elizabeth Wills

First Edition


All rights reserved.


No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews.


This is a work of fiction. References to real people, places, organizations, events, and products are intended to provide a sense of authenticity and are used fictitiously. All characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and not to be construed as real.


Edited by: Karen Hrdlick

Chapter One




There's a high pitched ring echoing through the room, but no one else seems to notice. I watch everyone stand around, lips moving in conversation, but I can't hear what they're saying, just the ringing. It's so loud. Turning my head to find Striker in the crowd causes the room to sway. I feel the thick, humid air move past my face as I fall, the muscles in my arm ache from the pressure of someone's hand righting my posture.

"Reagan, are you okay?"

Did someone say something? I think they were talking to me. My eyes are heavy; it's taking so much effort to force them into focus. Brown eyes, etched with worry, stare deeply into mine. Brown eyes, but I don't want brown eyes. I need my blue eyes. I need them more than ever before. I can't have them. I'll never have them again. The room spins again, and I feel the burn of bile rising to the back of my throat.

I feel the sting of something hard against my cheek, snapping me out of my haze. Striker is kneeling in front of me.

"Come back to me, Rea," he says.

I'm having trouble finding my voice. My throat feels like I've swallowed shards of glass. Clearing my throat, I try again but I can't form a sound. I hear the wheeze of my own voice as it tries to break free. Maybe if I moisten my lips, I'll feel better. Slowly, I drag my tongue across my bottom lip, but it's just as dry. Why do I feel like this?

Brown eyes speak again, "Come on, you have to find some control. Dig deep, Rea, the boys are here."

Control? What a useless word. I fought for years to find it and to act in it, but I lived in its false reality. This fucked up universe won't allow us to have control or to dictate the outcome of our lives. I tried to anyway though. I tried with everything I had to hold on to him, to not let him go. My grasp was never tight enough and he was ripped away from me. Not only did his soul leave this earth, but it took a piece of mine with it.

The weight is too much to bear. I have to give in. What's the point in fighting anyway? I don't want to be here feeling this crushing pain. I try to take in a deep breath, but the burning in my throat takes over and the room spins again. I don't want this! My vision blurs and I'm falling down a black tunnel. The brown eyes in front of me fade and my whole world rocks on its axis.

I'm weightless, consumed by darkness.

Blanketed in numbness.

No pain.

No sadness.

I'm lost to this emptiness. Please God, keep me here; don't let me go back. The ringing in the room has stopped but there is a distant echo, a voice maybe, however I can't make out the words. I'm not sure I want to. What I want is to stay here in this quiet darkness. The thought of going back, to all those staring eyes and empty apologies, makes me want to climb in the casket with Dalton to be whisked away with him. I know he is already gone and I'm still alive, but I can't help but feel like I died along with him.

How could I not? I've been with him every day since I was eleven, until last year when he left town to seek out his last options through experimental medical trials.  I know why he kept me in the dark. It was his last opportunity to bring Striker back into my life.  I couldn't help but be angry with Dalton. He stole my time with him away from me. I tried to hide it over the last eight months but every day I harbored resentment. 

I'm already being pulled back to the pain. I need to concentrate on the black nothingness, but I can't. The ringing sounds in my ears again, and a light shines through my closed eyelids. The muffled echo of someone's voice breaks through the ringing, but I still don't know what its saying. A sting rips across my cheek again, and my eyes begin to flutter open, against my will. I try to force them shut but the voice, it’s dragging me from my solitude.

I don't have the strength to fight against anything anymore, so I give in and open my eyes to the bright room surrounding me. There is someone standing in front of me, and then I notice the soft, gentle stroke of someone's hand through my hair. It's a comforting, painful gesture. This was Dalton's way of comforting me. I try to accept the peace it brings me, and when I'm finally calm, I focus in on Striker.

We are alone in a small room. I think it's the same place I escaped to earlier, to free myself from the crowd. Looking up at him, I notice the tears streaming down his face.

"Please, Rea, snap out of it for me. I can't do this and worry about you too," he says.

Striker needs me, just like I need him. We are each other's support now. We both lost our best friend. I stare into his eyes and allow myself a moment to get lost in them. His soul still speaks to me. It's like God knew what his heart was missing and placed it in mine. He's the only one able to keep me together through all of this. I should have found him sooner, and I could have avoided this.

His hand brushes loose strands of hair back off my sticky forehead. Leaning forward, he places his head to mine. "Please don't do that to me again. I know this is hard, but you scared the shit out of me with that one."

I'm finally able to form a whisper, "Sorry."

"Did someone say something to you? Or is it just being at the viewing?" he says gently.

"There are so many people here, it's overwhelming. I can only handle so many apologies."

"I know what you mean, but you promised to come find me if you had a problem."

"I was trying to, but it hit so fast. I'm sorry. This is so embarrassing. How do I go back out there?" My stomach is queasy at the thought.

"I saw my aunt close by; did she say something to you?" Striker slowly reaches under my shoulders to sit me up.

"Nothing more than her usual." I feel the pain in my chest spread at the thought of my mother-in-law.

"Just because it's her usual, doesn't mean you should have to listen to it. What did she say?" The aggravation he feels for Dalton's mother is evident in his tone.

"I'm not sure I can talk about it right now," I say.

"You can tell me when we get home, so I can take care of it before the funeral tomorrow. She's not going to bully you while you're burying your husband." His hand raises to wipe the tears from my face.

It took Dalton's illness and death for us to put our attraction to one another aside and become friends again. We needed each other's support, and Dalton deserved to be surrounded by love and happiness during his last months on this earth. It's amazing how your circumstance changes the emotions you feel. Once I found out Dalton was sick, I couldn't have mustered a flutter in my stomach for Striker. It was hard in the beginning, but I'm so thankful that Dalton brought him back into my life.

Striker pushes to his feet and reaches out a hand to me. "Come on, Rea, we can do this. I won't leave your side."

After what we went through in the past, I know he won't ever leave again. I place my hand in his and let him steady me on my feet. It's time to face the music. Carefully, I make my way to the door, filling my lungs with deep breaths, slowing my racing heart. I have less than twenty-four hours, and then I won't have to deal with the unfamiliar crowd filling the funeral home. I try to find the little bit of confidence I have left in myself and exit the small room, ready to get this over with and go home to mourn with my family, the ones who truly loved Dalton.

Chapter Two




Seeing Rea pass out only adds to the sorrow I feel. It's bad enough that I had to sit back and watch my best friend suffer and become someone else entirely, before meeting his death. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. I can only imagine how it was for her.

Now I get to do it again, in a different sense. Rea looks terrible. Her skin is pale and her clothes hang from her body. She was already thin, but now she looks unhealthy. Her eyes are gaunt and vacant. I miss the brightness they used to hold; that light used to shine through, even on her worst days. It disappeared the day she found out about Dalton’s prognosis.

Before Dalton died, he and I would talk about how things would be after he passed. I can't fathom the gut-wrenching feeling of leaving your wife and children behind, preparing another man for the job of Dad. How hard would it be, not watching them grow into men? I know they will turn out to be just as amazing as he was. Taking care of them will be easy. Doing it in his honor will be the hard part. I don't want to do it for him. I want him here, not in some box that will soon be buried in the ground.

He deserved better than this, better than the hand he was dealt. How can such a loving, strong, and all around great guy die so young? He just turned thirty-one years old, it's not fucking fair. Now I get to walk around this funeral home, talking to people, who mean nothing to me, about how sorry they are for my loss and asking how Reagan is doing. How would you be? She just lost her husband and best friend. Now she gets to raise their boys without him. She's just fucking peachy. Is that the answer they're looking for? Hopefully the stupid questions and comments about her well-being will stop, now that she almost crashed to the floor. I'm not sure she can survive many more.

My aunt only makes things worse. I've heard her make multiple comments about Dalton's death being Reagan's fault. She has found comfort, in losing her son, by blaming Rea for not taking good enough care of him. The series of examples she uses are so farfetched. Reagan didn't feed him healthy enough. Their laundry detergent was full of chemicals, and that Reagan worked him to the bone, never letting him get the rest he needed to keep his immune system working.

Who knows where she comes up with this shit? My aunt has hated Rea from day one. Her family was poor and her parents divorced. Of course, that meant she wasn't good enough for me, let alone Aunt Becky's baby boy. It never mattered that Reagan was always by our side, loving us in the best way she knew how. She gave us the things money couldn't buy, like a shoulder to cry on, or lending a listening ear when no one else would. My aunt would never see those things in Rea, because she could never see past the exterior to what lies beneath, in her heart.

I follow closely behind Reagan. She's heading in the direction of the boys, which brings me comfort. They hold her together without even trying. Dylan stands, wrapping his arms around her and Colt follows suit.

"You okay, Mom?" Dylan says, looking up at her with concern.

Reagan places her hand on the back of his neck and leans in to place a kiss on his forehead. "I am now. I just had a moment but that's okay. We all might have them, but we'll be here for each other to help one another through."

I look over to Max, who is taking his father's death the hardest. He's sitting quietly, staring at the floor. When Dalton was in his last days, Max never left his side. He slept on the floor next to the bed that hospice provided. He hasn't spoken to any of us in four days now. Kiley is the only person who is able to get through to him.

"Hey, Max, do you want to walk with me to the vending machine? I could use a snack, how 'bout you?" I ask.

He shakes his head no, not even lifting his eyes from the floor. I look over to Rea; she meets my eyes with a sad smile. I hate to watch them like this, and I can't make it better. Dalton told me that Max would take things the hardest out of the boys. It amazes me that he predicted each of their responses to his death and was spot on.

All four of them look exactly how I feel: lost and broken. How do we do this, when moving on seems impossible at this point? Dalton meant something different to all of us, but each relationship was just as strong. He was someone to look up to, and now that he's gone, we don't know who to turn to.

"Striker, go ahead. We'll be okay. I won't leave this seat until your back," Reagan says.

I'm torn. After what happened a few minutes ago, I want to glue myself to her. Never let her go. Ever since Dalton became sick, I get a knot in the pit of my stomach at the thought of leaving her.

"I'll be quick. Please don't move. Make sure you're feeling completely recovered from earlier."

Reagan's head moves in a subtle nod, almost imperceptible. I look up, scanning the room, trying to see which direction my aunt headed. I need to speak with her on my way back to Rea. I won't tolerate the comments she's making toward her. The least she can do is show some respect, considering Rea's the mother of her grandchildren.


I turn to see Riley standing there, holding Kiley's hand. "Hey, Ri, thanks for coming."

"Pfffft. Of course I'd be here."

"I know. I guess it's become a habit to say already." I shift my gaze past her and notice my aunt sitting on a couch alone, staring down at a picture in her hand. "Excuse me, I need to talk to someone. Could you go sit with Rea? She passed out a few minutes ago and I'm worried."

"Shit, did she? We'll go sit with them," she says and walks in Rea's direction.

I just need to take a few more steps, and I will be standing in front of my aunt, but I find myself stalling. This is the woman who took me in and cared for me after my parent's death. She was my savior back then. Now I can't see her for more than being evil and vindictive. She had so many years to reach out and mend things with Dalton and Reagan, but it was more important to her to hate Rea than be involved with her son. 

I steel myself, inhaling a deep breath, and take the few steps, until I'm face to face with the woman who ripped my life away.

She looks up to me with tears on the brim of her eyes. "Oh, hey, Striker. I was just looking at this picture of you and Dalton. It's from when you first moved in. Even though it was a hard time, he was so happy to have you living with us."

Dalton was my savior after my parents died. He was the only good in my life until Rea came along. "Yeah, he was always good at being there for me. I wonder where he got that trait."

Her expression flattens. "What?"

I take a seat next to her. "Why do you do it?"

"Do what, Striker?" she asks.

"Treat people the way you do."

"This isn't the place for a conversation like this. Mind your manners, before you cause a scene in front of all these people." She goes to stand, but I catch her arm, pulling her back down on the couch.

I try to keep my voice low and smooth. "Stop speaking to Rea, in any way: good, bad, or about the kids. You're not to talk to her at all. Better yet, don't even look in her direction."

"She took my son away from me. Do you know what that's like? She deserves to feel the pain of losing Dalton. Everything that has happened between us is her fault." Her eyes narrow and disgust covers her aging face.

Little does she know; I know all too well what it's like for Reagan to keep my son away from me. I'm not sure when the truth will come out or if we'll keep things to ourselves. The whole family feud thing makes it very easy to keep secrets.

"I won't say it again. Keep your distance." I go to stand but her words stop me.

"You don't know everything. I was only trying to protect the two of you, but you were never good at knowing what was in your best interest. At least I saved you. The best thing I ever did was talk you into joining the military.

Finally I push to my feet, creating some distance between us. "No, it was the worst thing. You have no idea what problems you caused."

"I was only trying to protect our family. There are things from the past I kept to myself, but our families were never supposed to become one. Your uncle is at fault for causing such a big rift; maybe you should go blame him for my bitterness. You don't know what it's like to walk in my shoes. I won't speak to Rea again, if that makes you happy. I just wonder when anyone will care about my happiness."

Aunt Becky pushes past me and exits the room, leaving me confused. What could Uncle Neil have done to cause her to hate Rea? It doesn't make any sense. He wasn't even around that often when we were kids, because of the number of hours he worked. I hate the fact that Aunt Becky is putting the blame on someone else, but right now I'll focus on the fact that she isn't going to bother Rea again. Now let's see if she sticks with it. One more day and we can get back to keeping our distance from her.

BOOK: Mended Affections (The Affections Series Book 2)
13.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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