The Best Is Yet to Come (Summer Lake 1) - Page 19

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"Don't you think I know that?" Her eyes widened at his words, at the touch of his hand on her chin as he tilted her head back up to his and forced her to meet his eyes, to see the truth of his feelings for her on his face. He knew he should have stopped when he'd felt her vulnerability in the way her lips trembled beneath his. When he damn well couldn't afford to lose his heart to her again knowing that she was going to be leaving the lake soon. "But do you really think either one of us can stop it?"

CHAPTER TWELVE

How could she have done that? How could she have so recklessly--so stupidly--kissed him?

And how could it have felt even more perfect now than it had ten years ago?

Sarah hadn't been able to help herself, had been utterly incapable of being so close to Calvin without wanting to get closer. He was laughter, warmth, and oh-so-sweet pleasure.

But none of those things had made their relationship work in the past. Didn't she know better than to think that laughter and heat--or incredible kisses--would make things work out for them now?

Facts were facts. They were two very different people with very different goals. Just like her mother and father had been. And Sarah definitely didn't want to repeat her parents' marriage--one person staying, one person

going, even as they both professed to love each other.

"It was just supposed to be one kiss." She took a shaky breath. "We've got to stop this." Even if their connection--and their attraction--felt like a runaway train. To the point where she hadn't even been able to make herself step out of his arms yet. "I can't feel this way about you again."

"Trust me," he said as he abruptly stepped back, "I don't want to feel this way any more than you do."

She swore she hadn't been lashing out when she'd said she couldn't feel this way about him again. She truly hadn't meant for her words to wound him. She'd just been trying to remind herself--to remind both of them--that they were careening in a terrifying direction.

But now that he'd hit her back with such anger as he'd all but shoved her out of his arms, where she'd been so warm against his hard muscles, she felt cold all over. Iced over enough to say, "Go ahead." Her words weren't loud, but they were sharp. "I want to hear you say it, want to finally hear the truth of what you really think of me. Of what I did. Of who I am."

"Don't push me. Not here. Not now." His expression was hard, but even with everything spiraling completely out of control between them, she could see him trying to hold his true feelings at bay. To push everything back down that had risen so quickly tonight. "We both need to calm down."

"I'm sick and tired of being calm, of trying to pretend there isn't a huge abyss between us, that it isn't overflowing with all the things we still aren't saying to each other. It's time for both of us to come clean. Here. Now. We don't leave until this is over." She opened up her arms, uncovering her chest, leaving her heart completely unprotected. Because she knew he would get through anyway, no matter how strong, how thick, her armor. "Go ahead, hit me with your best shot."

"You want my best shot? How about the fact that you betrayed me? You were the one person I knew I could count on. When everything went to hell, I knew, I knew that you were going to be there for me. You always said we could survive anything. But when anything came, when life wasn't just a big garden of roses, you were out of there so fast it made my head spin." He didn't yell the words at her, but they were almost more powerful for their lack of volume.

"I left because you sent me away. You told me I was in the way, that you needed to focus on your sister and not a long-distance relationship. How can you blame me for going when you were the one who didn't want me there?"

"I was losing it. My dad had just shot himself in the head. I was still grieving over my mom. I didn't know how the hell I was going to be able to take care of Jordan, or if they were even going to let me keep her. You should have known all that. You should have known I didn't mean it when I told you to go. You should have known I was scared--that I needed you. But you didn't. You were the only person I had left who loved me, and you walked away."

Reeling from the weight of his enormous expectations, Sarah shot back, "I was eighteen years old! What did you expect from me? I loved you, and I was hurting for you so bad that it felt like my pain too. Of course I wanted to help you. Of course I wanted to be there for you. But did you really think I was going to drop all of my dreams, that I was going to give up my entire life before it even began?"

Calvin looked flat-out disgusted with her. "No. You're right. None of it is your fault. It's mine. You were never going to sink so low as to actually end up with the trailer trash you said you loved, were you? Not when you had such big plans, not when you had so many big dreams to achieve."

There was so much that hurt in what he'd just said, so much that didn't seem fair. But all she could manage in response was, "I never thought you were trailer trash."

"You sure about that, sweetheart?"

"Don't call me that." Not when he had once used the endearment with such love and now it was underwritten with sarcasm. And she couldn't let him rewrite history either. "We were going to achieve our dreams together. You were saving money to come out to be with me in the city. You were taking classes at night. I never planned to do it without you, you knew that."

"You spent one month at that fancy college and you started changing. Not just your clothes, not just your friends, not just the way you talked or the things you talked about. You saw bigger things, the things your father had always taught you to want, things you were already chasing. Fact is, you've never been able to stop and enjoy what you already have because you're always looking ahead for the next bigger and better prize."

Calvin could say whatever he wanted to about her--even if every harsh word sent a new, stronger throb of pain straight through her--but bringing her father into it was stepping over the line. "Don't you dare talk about my father like that! Don't you dare try to bring him into our mess just because you were intimidated by my goals and dreams."

"Not intimidated, Sarah. Just not interested."

"Don't lie to me. You were going to play college football in Syracuse until your mother died, and you put it off temporarily to help your father with the baby. Until it was all ripped away from you. Don't you know how much I wanted your chances back for you? Don't you know how much I wanted you to have the same opportunities that I did?"

As she spoke, Sarah waited for Calvin's expression to change, for him to bend a little bit, but clearly she was going to have to keep waiting.

"You haven't changed at all, have you?" Each word from his lips was harder than the one before. "You still think you know what's best for everyone else, still think you know what everyone else should do. It was your plan. Always your plan. I figured I could bend for you, figured I'd find a way to make my dreams work around yours, figured eventually you'd bend for me too, because you knew I wanted to live at the lake, not in a big city. But you were never going to bend, were you?"

"You never gave me a chance to. You never gave me a chance to even try to be there for you. Yes, you're right, I didn't insist on staying when you told me to leave. But you didn't come after me either. You didn't come tell me all those things you just said about being tired and scared." That was when the truth of it all finally hit her. "I wasn't the only one who wanted to be free, was I? You wanted to be free too, because we wanted different things. Different lives. That's why you pushed me away. That's why you didn't want to work things out."

"Ah," he said quietly, more regret than she could have thought possible lying beneath that one short syllable. "So now the truth comes out. We never should have been a couple in the first place, let alone try to do it again now."

"I never thought that," she insisted, "never wished for that."

"It doesn't matter anymore whether you did or didn't," he said, his words softer now, as if she'd managed to wring all the anger out of him. "All that matters is that it was for the best. You got to go back to bright lights, big city without a small-town boyfriend attached to your ankle, weighing you down. And I was able to settle completely into the town I love, a place where I can breathe clean air and listen to the birds in the trees when I wake up in the morning, the call of the loons when I'm watching the stars." He looked away from her, looked out the boathouse's small window toward the lights of the town. "Which is why I still think Summer Lake is different. Special. That it's going to mean something years from now that there were never condos on the waterfront. Even if it ends up being a little harder in the present."

God, the last thing she cared about right now was the condos. But even if she told him that, she knew he wouldn't believe her. Just as he didn't seem to believe she'd loved him when they were kids. Truly loved him the best way she knew how, even if she hadn't moved back to the lake.

Not knowing what else to say to him, her heart feeling as raw and chafed as it ever had, her soul feeling drained and empty, they walked out of the boathouse in silence, their plans for the rest of the evening clearly over now.

One night had been a mistake. A mistake she'd been unable to keep herself from making, a mistake she'd justified by saying it was business, that she had to spend the evening with Calvin at Loon Lake for the sake of her project.

Bu

t one kiss had been far more than a mistake, much more than a heady reminder of the innocence and excitement of young love.

One kiss had destroyed them completely.

*

This time, when Sarah saw the light in her mother's living room, she was tempted to slip in the back door. One look at her was all her mother would need to see what a huge wreck the night had been.

Last night, spending time in the kitchen together had been warm and comfortable. Tonight, Sarah knew that same comfort, that warmth, would be the final straw in breaking the tenuous hold she had on herself.

Sarah poked her head into the room, planning to let her mother know she was heading straight up to bed. But the promise of comfort that had been lacking in her life for so long, too long, was so irresistible she actually found herself moving into the room instead.

"Mom, I--" she began, knowing she was on the verge of spilling it all out, when Denise looked up as if Sarah had startled her.

"Oh, Sarah, there you are." Her mother looked sad and a little nervous. "Could you give me your opinion on something?"

"Sure."

"I wanted something special for your father's commemoration on Sunday. I thought I could make us scarves in his favorite color." Her hands were shaking slightly as she held up the beautiful autumn-red yarn. "Do you think that's silly?"

Guilt ripped through Sarah as she sat on the edge of the couch facing her mother. Here she'd been all twisted up over Calvin, feeling sorry for herself, sure that no one had ever been in this much pain. But one look at her mother's face told her just how wrong she was.

"No. It's not silly. I think he'd love it."

Finally, her mother smiled. It wasn't a big smile, but at least she seemed to have turned the corner away from sorrow for now. "I'm not quite done with this one if you'd like to put in some stitches."

Sarah shook her head quickly. "I'd probably just mess it up." She stood. "I think I'm going to get these damp clothes off and take a shower before bed."

"Why are your clothes wet?"

"I took Calvin to Loon Lake to show him a few things." Her chest squeezed tight, and her eyes burned with unshed tears. Somehow, she managed to get out the words, "But it rained," without falling apart. Knowing she wasn't going to be able to hold out on those tears for much longer, she pressed a kiss to her mother's cheek. "Good night."


Tags: Bella Andre Summer Lake Romance
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