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Authors: Colleen Hoover

Reminders of Him (18 page)

BOOK: Reminders of Him
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My face is on fire when I back away from the door.

I heard every word Ledger said to Roman. I even heard some of the words he didn’t say.

I walk to the storage room and grab my bag as soon as I hear him walking up the back steps. When he opens the door, I can’t help but wonder what thoughts are going through his head when his eyes land on me.

Since the moment he offered me this job, I’ve been convinced it’s because he hates me and wants me to leave town, but Roman is right. He could pay me off and send me on my way if that’s really what he wanted.

I still here?

And why is he warning Roman about me, like my intentions aren’t good? I didn’t ask for this job. He
it to me. That he would think I’d use Roman to get to my daughter feels like a slap in the face, if that’s even what he was insinuating. I’m not sure what he was insinuating, or if he was just being oddly territorial over me.

“You ready?” Ledger asks. He flips off the lights and holds open the back door for me. As I pass him, there’s a different kind of tension between us. It isn’t a tension necessarily related to Diem anymore. It’s a tension that seems to exist simply because we’re in each other’s presence.

As we head to my apartment, I feel short of air. I want to roll down the window, but if I do, I’m worried he’ll know it’s because I can’t seem to breathe properly in his presence.

I glance at him a couple of times, attempting to be discreet, but there’s a new tightness to his jaw that isn’t usually there. Is he thinking about everything Roman said to him? Is he upset because he agrees, or upset because Roman was completely off the mark?

“Did you get served with the restraining order this week?” he asks.

I clear my throat to make room for the tiny
I speak out loud. “I googled it on my phone and read that it can take about one to two weeks for a restraining order request to process.”

I’m looking out my window when Ledger says, “You got a phone?”

“Yeah. A few days ago.”

He grabs his own phone and hands it to me. “Put in your info.”

I don’t like how bossy that seems. I don’t grab his phone. Instead, I look at it, and then at him. “What if I don’t want you to have my number?”

He pegs me with his stare. “I’m your boss. I need a way to contact my employees.”

I huff because I hate that he makes a valid point. I grab his phone and text myself so I’ll have his number, too, but when I save my information, I list myself as Nicole rather than Kenna. I don’t know who has access to his phone. Better safe than sorry.

I set his phone back in his phone holder as he pulls into my parking lot.

He swings open his door as soon as he kills his truck. He grabs the table, and I try to help him, but he says, “I’ve got it. Where do you want it?”

“Do you mind taking it upstairs?”

He heads that way, and I grab a couple of chairs. By the time I make it to my stairwell, he’s already heading back down to grab the rest of the chairs. He steps to the side, pressing his back against the railing to make room for me, but when I pass him, I can smell him. He smells like limes and bad decisions.

The table is propped up next to my apartment door. I unlock my door and then set the chairs next to the wall. I look out the window, and Ledger is grabbing the rest of the chairs from his truck, so I glance around my apartment to see if anything needs rectifying before he comes back up. There’s a bra on the couch, so I cover it up with a pillow.

Ivy is at my feet meowing, and I notice her food and water bowls are empty. I’m refilling them as Ledger taps on the door and then opens it. He brings the chairs and then the table inside.

“Anything else?” he asks.

I set Ivy’s water bowl down in the bathroom, and she goes straight for it. I close the door and shut her in the bathroom so she doesn’t try to escape through the open front door. “No. Thanks for the help.” I walk to the door so I can lock it after Ledger leaves, but he just stands by it, gripping the door handle.

“What time do you get off work at the grocery store tomorrow?”


“Our T-ball game should end around then. I can give you a ride, but I might be a little late.”

“It’s okay. I can walk. The weather is supposed to be nice.”

He says, “Okay,” but he lingers in the doorway for an uncomfortable beat.

Should I tell him I overheard him?

I probably should. If there’s one thing spending five years without a life taught me, it’s that I don’t want to waste a single second of the life I have left being scared of confrontation. My cowardice is a big part of why my life has turned out the way it has.

“I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop,” I say, wrapping my arms around myself. “But I heard your conversation with Roman.”

Ledger’s eyes flick away from my face, like that makes him uncomfortable.

“Why did you tell him to be careful around me?”

Ledger presses his lips together in thought. His throat slowly rolls with his swallow, but he still doesn’t say anything. He just looks torn as his face takes on what looks like a world of pain. He leans his head against the doorframe and looks down at his feet. “Was I wrong?” His question is barely above a whisper, but it feels like a scream echoing inside of me. “Would you not do anything for Diem?”

I blow out a frustrated breath. That feels like a trick question. Of course I’d do anything for her, but not at the expense of others.
I don’t think.
“That’s not a fair question.”

He locks eyes with me again, and I can feel my pulse beginning to pound.

“Roman is my best friend,” he says. “No offense, but I barely know you, Kenna.”

He might not know me, but he feels like the

“I still don’t know if what happened between us the first night you showed up at my bar was authentic, or if it was all an act to get to Diem.”

I rest my head against the wall and watch Ledger’s expression. He’s looking at me with patience, and not at all with judgment. It’s like he truly does want to know if the kiss we shared was authentic. It’s almost as if it
something to him.

It was authentic, but it also wasn’t.

“I didn’t know who you were until you said your name,” I admit. “I was literally sitting on your lap when I realized you knew Scotty. Seducing you wasn’t part of some master plan.”

He gives my answer time to sink in, and then he nods gently. “That’s good to know.”

“Is it?” I flatten my back against the wall. “Because it doesn’t feel like it even matters. You still don’t want me to meet my daughter. You’re still hoping I leave town.”
None of it matters.

Ledger dips his head until our eyes meet again. He’s looking at me pointedly when he says, “There is nothing in this world that would make me happier than you getting to meet Diem. If I knew how to change their minds, I would do it in a heartbeat, Kenna.”

My breath shakes upon release. His confession is everything I needed to hear. I close my eyes because I don’t want to cry and I don’t want to watch him leave, but until this moment, I wasn’t sure if he even wanted me in Diem’s life.

I feel the heat of his arm next to my head, and I keep my eyes closed, but I’m sucking in small gasps of air. I can hear his breaths, and then I can feel them on my cheek, and then my neck, as if he’s moving in on me.

I feel surrounded by him in this moment, and I’m scared if I open my eyes, I’ll realize it’s all in my head and that he actually walked out of my open apartment door. But then he exhales, and the warmth rolls down my neck and shoulder. I barely crack open my eyes to find him towering over me, his hands on either side of the wall beside my head.

He’s just hovering, like he can’t decide whether he should leave or reenact our kiss from the night we met. Or maybe he’s just waiting on me to make some kind of move, or decision, or mistake.

I don’t know what compels me to lift my hand and place it on his chest, but when I do, he sighs as if that’s exactly what he wanted me to do. But I don’t know if I’m touching his chest because I want to push him away, or because I want to pull him closer.

Either way, there’s a warmth between us that builds with his sigh, and he rests his forehead lightly against mine.

There have been so many choices and consequences and feelings packed into the space we’ve kept between us since we met, but Ledger pushes through all of it and presses his lips to mine.

Heat pulses through me like a heartbeat, and I sigh into his mouth. His tongue skims my top lip, fogging my thoughts. He cradles my head and deepens our kiss, and it’s intoxicating. His mouth is warmer than I remember it being the first time we kissed. His hands feel more gentle; his tongue feels less daring.

There’s a carefulness in his kiss—one I’m too afraid to dissect because I already feel so much it’s dizzying. The warmth of him envelops me, and just when I start to cling to him, he pulls away.

I suck in air while he studies my face. It’s as if he’s trying to get a read on my expression, scanning me for signs of regret or desire.

I’m sure he can see both. I want his kiss, but the thought of having to say goodbye to more than just the idea of Diem is enough to stop me from allowing this to happen. Because the closer I grow to Ledger, both emotionally and physically, the more I’d be putting his relationship with Diem at risk.

As much as his kiss makes me feel, it’s nothing compared to the heartache that would follow if the Landrys found out he’s seeing me behind their backs. I can’t have that hanging over my head.

He starts to lean in again, making my entire body feel unstable, but I somehow find the strength to shake my head. “Please don’t,” I whisper. “It hurts enough already.”

Ledger pauses right before his mouth connects with mine. He draws back and lifts his hand, gently gliding his fingertips over my jaw. “I know. I’m sorry.”

We both fall quiet. Unmoving. I wish I was processing how to make this work between us, but I’m processing how to not let it hurt, because it

He eventually pushes off the wall, stepping away from me. “I feel so fucking . . .” He runs a hand through his hair as he searches for the right word. “Helpless.
” He walks out the door after settling on both words. “I’m sorry,” I hear him mutter as he walks away.

I close my door, lock it, and then release every breath I’ve held in tonight. My heart is pounding. The apartment seems really warm now.

I turn down the thermostat and let Ivy out of the bathroom. We curl up on the couch together, and I grab my notebook.

Dear Scotty,

Do I owe you an apology for what just happened?

I’m not quite sure what just happened. Ledger and I definitely had a moment, but was it a good one? A bad one? It felt more sad than anything.

What if it happens again? I’m not sure I’m going to be strong enough to ask him not to touch me in all the ways we’d probably be touching each other right now if I didn’t blurt out the words “Please don’t.”

But if we act on anything we’re feeling, he’s eventually going to have to choose. And he won’t choose me. I wouldn’t let him, and I’d think so much less of him if he didn’t choose Diem.

And what’s to come of me when that happens? I’ll not only lose my chance with Diem, but I’ll lose Ledger too.

I’ve already lost you for good. That’s hard enough.

How many losses can one person take before they just throw in the fucking towel, Scotty? Because it sure is starting to feel like I’m all out of wins, here.





Diem’s arms are tight around my neck as I give her a piggyback ride across the parking lot toward Grace’s car. The T-ball game just ended, and Diem is making me carry her because she said her legs were
soaking sore

“I want to go to work with you,” she says.

“You can’t. Kids aren’t allowed in bars.”

“I go to your bar with you sometimes.”

“Yeah, when we’re closed,” I clarify. “That doesn’t count. We’ll be open tonight, and it’s busy and I won’t be able to keep an eye on you.” Not to mention, her mother who she doesn’t even know exists will be there. “You can come work for me when you turn eighteen.”

“That’s a long, long, long time away; you’ll be dead.”

“Hey, now,” Grace says defensively. “I’m a lot older than Ledger, and I don’t plan on being dead when you’re eighteen.”

I get Diem secured into her car seat. “How old will I be when everybody dies?” she asks.

“Nobody knows when anyone will die,” I tell her. “But if we all live until we’re old, we’ll all be old together.”

“How old will I be when you’re two hundred?”

old,” I say.

Her eyes grow wide, and I immediately shake my head. “We’ll
be dead. No one lives to be two hundred.”

“My teacher is two hundred.”

“Mrs. Bradshaw is younger than
,” Grace pipes up from the front seat. “Stop telling lies.”

Diem leans forward and whispers, “Mrs. Bradshaw really is two hundred.”

“I believe you.” I kiss her on top of the head. “Good job today. Love you.”

“I love you, too; I want to go to work with . . .” I close Diem’s door before she finishes her sentence. I don’t normally rush them off this way, but as we were walking through the parking lot, I received a text from Kenna.

All it said was,
Please come get me.

It’s not quite four yet. She said she didn’t need a ride when I asked her yesterday, so my concern was immediately heightened when I got the text.

I’m already to my truck when Grace and Diem drive away. Patrick couldn’t make the game today because he’s working on the jungle gym. I was planning on going home for a couple of hours to see the progress and help before I went to the bar, but now I’m on my way to the grocery store to check on Kenna.

I’ll text Patrick when I get there to let him know I’m not stopping by. We’re almost finished with the jungle gym. Diem’s birthday is coming up, which means today was supposed to be the big day. Leah’s and my wedding. We planned on going to Hawaii just a week after the wedding, and I remember being stressed that we wouldn’t be back for Diem’s birthday party.

That was another point of contention between Leah and me. She didn’t like that Diem’s fifth birthday was almost as big a deal to me as our honeymoon.

I’m sure Patrick and Grace would have been willing to move the birthday party, but Leah acted like Diem’s fifth birthday was a major conflict with our honeymoon before she even inquired about them moving the party, and that ended up becoming one of the first of many red flags.

I gave Leah the trip to Hawaii after our breakup. I had already paid for it, but I’m not sure if she’s still going. Hopefully she is, but it’s been three months since we’ve even spoken. I feel like I have no clue what’s going on in her life now. Not that I
to know. It’s strange, being involved in every facet of another human being, and then suddenly not knowing anything.

It’s also strange thinking you know someone but then later realizing maybe you didn’t know them at all. I feel that with Leah, and I’m starting to feel that about Kenna, but in the opposite way. With Kenna, I feel like I judged her too poorly in the beginning. With Leah, I feel like I judged her too favorably.

I probably should have texted Kenna to let her know I was on my way, because I spot her walking alone on the side of the road about a quarter of a mile away from the store. Her head is down, and she’s got both hands gripping the strap of her tote bag on her shoulder. I pull over on the opposite side of the road, but she doesn’t even notice my truck, so I tap on the horn. It gets her attention. She looks both ways and then crosses the road and climbs into my truck.

A heavy sigh emanates from her when she closes her door. She smells like apples, just like she smelled last night in the doorway of her apartment.

I could fucking punch myself for last night.

She drops her bag between us and pulls an envelope out of it. She shoves it at me. “I got it. The restraining order. I was served as I was walking out of the store to put groceries into someone’s car. It was mortifying, Ledger.”

I read over the forms, and I’m confused about how a judge even granted it, but when I see Grady’s name, it all makes sense. He probably vouched for Patrick and Grace and might have even embellished the truth a little bit. He’s that type. I bet his wife is loving this. I’m surprised she didn’t bring it up at the ball field today.

I fold it back up and stick it in her purse. “It doesn’t mean anything,” I say, attempting to comfort her with my lie.

“It means everything. It’s a message. They want me to know they aren’t changing their minds.” She pulls on her seat belt. Her eyes and cheeks are red, but she isn’t crying. It looks like she’s probably cried it out already, and I got to her in the aftermath.

I pull back onto the road feeling heavy. What I said last night about feeling useless—it’s the most accurate term for what I am right now. I can’t help Kenna, other than how I’m already helping her.

Patrick and Grace aren’t changing their minds, and any time I try to approach the subject with them, they’re immediately defensive. It’s difficult, because I agree with why they don’t want Kenna around, but I also vehemently disagree.

They would cut me out of Diem’s life before they would agree to add Kenna into it. That’s what scares me the most. If I push the subject too much, or if they find out I’m even remotely on Kenna’s side, I’m afraid they’ll start viewing me as a threat, the same way they view Kenna.

The worst part is, I don’t blame them for how they feel about Kenna. The impact of her choices has been detrimental to their lives. But the impact of
choices is becoming detrimental to

There’s no good answer. I’ve somehow immersed myself in the depths of an impossible situation. One that doesn’t leave a single solution that won’t lead to at least one person suffering.

“Do you want to take the night off work?” I completely understand if she doesn’t feel up to it, but she shakes her head.

“I need the hours. I’ll be fine. It was just embarrassing, even though I knew it was coming.”

“Yeah, but I figured Grady would have the decency to serve you at home. It’s not like your home address isn’t at the top of the order.” I turn right at the next light to get to the bar, but something tells me Kenna might need an hour or so before she moves from one shift to the next. “You want a snow cone?”

I’m not sure if that’s a stupid resolution to an issue this serious, but snow cones are always the answer for me and Diem.

Kenna nods, and I think I might even see a hint of a smile. “Yeah. A snow cone sounds perfect.”

BOOK: Reminders of Him
7.87Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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