The Best Is Yet to Come (Summer Lake 1) - Page 43

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All these years, the horrible memories of his father's suicide had darkened Calvin's dreams, along with that vision of Sarah walking away from him. He'd had to fight like hell not to guard his sister like a crazed man, not to imprison her with his fears. But he'd made sure to imprison his own heart, to keep what was left of it safe.

Until these past two weeks. Until Sarah returned to him...and he'd let himself love her again.

Only now, all of his fears were nailing him right in the middle of his heart, tearing out chunks, piece by piece, until he wasn't sure how there could be anything left beating in his chest anymore.

"I always believed in you," he said in a raw voice. "I know all those years came between us, but we were both just kids then, immature and full of pride. And now that we're not those kids anymore, I had faith that you'd choose me this time. That you'd choose us."

"Then give me another chance." She wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. "Because nothing has ever hurt more than this--than knowing I had a second chance at love and I blew it. Please, believe in me one more time. Just one more time."

God, it was all he wanted. To hold her in his arms and kiss away her tears. But he couldn't keep pretending that would be enough. Because it wouldn't be. He knew that now.

"I figured something out tonight. Something I didn't want to see." His throat felt like he'd swallowed fire. "It doesn't matter what I believe. You've got to believe it too. And I don't know how to make that happen." She looked at him with those big blue eyes, tears falling one after the other as the words he had to say gutted him, body and soul. Gutted them both. "I thought it was about you admitting your love for me. I thought once you did that, everything would be okay, that you'd be able to be happy. I thought we could finally be happy together. But now I can see it's not about me at all. It never was. You always loved me the best you thought you could. You still do." And it wasn't enough. "You said what you said tonight to drive me away." He made himself hold her gaze, even though just looking at her hurt. "Congratulations. It finally worked."

He made himself walk to the door, not stopping even when she said, "I thought you were going to love me forever. I thought you said you'd love me no matter what this time."

Loving his mother hadn't stopped her from dying too young. Loving his father hadn't stopped him from killing himself. Loving Sarah hadn't stopped her from leaving at eighteen. And it wouldn't stop her from leaving now. He thought he'd broken through the final shred of fear in his soul. But now he knew that he couldn't survive being left again by someone he loved.

Looking at her over his shoulder, he said, "I meant it, Sarah. I will always love you."

And he would. Forever.

Even though he had to be the one who left this time.

*

Sarah needed to get out of the barn, out of the place where she'd made the biggest mistake of her life. She ran down Main Street, the wind whipping through the trees, her hair flying, goose bumps running up and down her limbs. It wasn't until she was past all of the stores and restaurants that she realized it was raining.

The storm had come. And she'd been right to be afraid.

She ran until she was out of breath. Until she couldn't run anymore. And that was when she looked up and realized she was standing in the cemetery. She hadn't planned to run here, to run straight to her father, but she had nowhere else to go for answers. Tears and rain made it hard for her to find his gravestone. Finally, she saw the contours of her father's name etched so carefully into the granite.

"I've missed you." She dropped to her knees in the wet grass. "So much you wouldn't believe it."

She knew he wasn't actually there in front of her, but she felt that he was listening all the same. And that was why she had to be honest. More honest than she'd ever let herself be.

"I tried to grab the brass ring. I gave it everything." She bowed down over his grave, her sobs heaving in her chest, her entire body. "But I couldn't do it."

She'd never wanted to have to admit to anyone that the reason she'd always worked so hard was not because there was something vitally important that she needed to achieve...but simply because she was terrified of failing.

"Do you know that I never really felt like I fit in? I was so busy chasing after you, after your approval, that I never really let myself focus on the people who were here all along."

She'd always felt like an outsider looking in. Searching for her place. Last night in Calvin's arms, when she'd finally confessed her love, she'd wanted to believe that she'd found her place. But she hadn't.

"Now that I've come back, I don't want to be an outsider anymore. But I am. And it's all my own fault. Especially with Calvin. I'm still in love with him. He was in love with me too, and he gave me a second chance." The magnitude of everything she had just lost sent shooting pains through her. "But I ruined that. I threw his love away. For a job."

Oh God, how could she not have realized until now--until it was too late--that losing her job was absolutely nothing compared to losing Calvin?

"I know you loved me. I know you raised me to be strong. And I tried. I did just what you said and gave it everything I could. But I don't think I have anything left to give this time."

Nothing but losing Calvin ten years ago had ever hurt this bad. Not even, she now realized, her father's death.

She felt her phone ring in the pocket of her suit jacket. Please, let it be Calvin.

But it was her boss, Craig

.

*

Calvin could hear laughter coming from inside Betsy's house when he knocked on her front door.

"Oh, Calvin, hi!" She had on a sparkly hat. Behind her the house looked warm. Happy.

"Thanks for having Jordan over for dinner while I was at the town hall meeting. I appreciate it." He tried to smile, but he couldn't. "I can take her home now."

"Calvin?" Betsy moved closer to him, pulling the door partway closed behind her. "Is everything okay?"

Uncomplicated was all he could think as he looked at the woman standing in front of him. Being with Betsy would have been so uncomplicated.

"It's been a long night."

Her eyes were full of concern. "You look like you need a drink. I've got an open bottle of wine that I'd be happy to share with you." Betsy wasn't the kind of woman who would break his heart. She would always be there, waiting for him with a smile, with open arms. "You're getting wet. Come inside."

And for the first time ever, he followed her in.

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

Sarah knew her mother would be waiting for her when she got home. She found her elbow-deep in flour and chocolate chips. Her mother had always baked when she was upset, had once said that the process of watching separate ingredients come together into a cohesive whole always gave her hope that things would make sense in the end.

She stopped mixing the batter the minute Sarah walked into the kitchen. "Sarah, I've been worried sick about you." She was across the room in a heartbeat, her sticky hands reaching around Sarah's shoulders. But even her mother's warm arms couldn't erase her deep chill. "You need to take off those wet clothes and dry off."

"It doesn't matter, Mom. I'm fine like this." Sarah didn't think she would ever feel warm again. Not even after she'd changed into dry clothes. Because the chill wasn't skin-deep.

She'd yanked out her own heart tonight and replaced it with a block of ice.

"What happened?"

Sarah had just come from telling her father everything. But she'd never known how to confide in her mother like that. She still didn't.

"I can't stand to know that you're in pain," her mom said. "I know I haven't been the best mother to you, and that I'll never be able to replace your father, but if you'll just give me another chance--"


Tags: Bella Andre Summer Lake Romance
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