“I don’t want to leave you here alone for Christmas,” she says when I finally compose myself and disentangle myself from her embrace.
I offer her a watery smile. “Conrad’s staying. And Steven invited us over to his parents for Christmas dinner, so I’ll be fine.” Steven has turned out to be a good friend.
The wistful expression on Kelli’s face is clear. “I’m jealous. I wish I was spending Christmas with my boyfriend.”
“I’ll fight off any and all girls who try to make a play for him,” I say solemnly.
She shakes her head. “What, his cousins at the family dinner? If he likes that sort of thing, then they can have him.”
“He likes you,” I tell her. I’m the envious one. Steven is solid. Not afraid of relationships. They’ve wasted no time. Kelli is his girlfriend and he has no qualms calling her that either.
“He really does,” she says softly. “I thought Tristan liked you too.”
“I think he did. But at the first sign of real trouble he cuts and runs. I’m surprised he lasted as long as he did.” Now I’m the one who sounds bitter, but I can’t help it.
If he’d stuck around, if he’d actually listened to me, then maybe I would’ve gotten through to him. But he threw up those walls. Pulled on that mask he’s so adept at wearing. Withdrew into himself and sent me on my way.
Clearly, he’s done. That he can turn it off that fast hurts. Before Marc interrupted us, he was being so sweet and fun. Spinning me out on the dance floor, the heated look in his eyes just for me. I’d felt connected to him, confident in our growing relationship. That he could let me go so easily…
“I’m taking a shower,” I tell Kelli as I gather up my clothes and start for the door. “Give me thirty minutes. Then let’s get out of here.”
Kelli raises a brow. “Starbucks or a bar?”
“A bar,” I tell her, feeling like a lush but I don’t care. I need a stiff drink. “It’s five o’clock somewhere right?”
“Where the hell are you, man?”
Gabe sounds like he’s far away, which he is. “Colorado. Vail.” I’m standing by my bedroom window, looking outside. My parents have a cabin here. Once I moved out, this is how they spend their Christmases now. It’s snowing like crazy and colder than fuck. But the shops in town are lit up like a Christmas village come to life and my mom calls their ten thousand square foot cabin “cozy”.
“You didn’t tell anyone where you were going.” His tone is accusatory and I feel bad. “You just picked up and left without a trace.”
“I’m sorry. I just—I had to get the hell out of there.”
Gabe’s quiet for a moment. “Did you just tell me you’re sorry?”
I roll my eyes. “Yeah, don’t make a big deal about it, okay? Jesus.”
“Your girl is upset.”
I gnash my teeth together. “She’s not my girl.” I’ve done a lot of soul searching these last few days and I’ve come to a realization.
Though Alexandria may have done me wrong, I did wrong by her too. We’ve both fucked up this relationship before it even got a real chance. I don’t know if we can salvage it either.
I don’t know if I’m strong enough to salvage it—or if she wants to fix it with me. She might hate me for all I know. She should. I’ve said it time and again. I don’t deserve her. Even after what she’s done, I know she’s better than me. She’s a good girl trying to make something out of her life. And I’m the bad guy who’s doing his best to burn his down.
“Can I tell you something? Man to man?” Gabe asks, his voice going low. Serious.
I brace myself. “Sure.” What else can I do but agree? He’s going to tell me whether I want to hear it or not.
“Lucy did the same thing to me, you know.” That’s right. I forgot. She did lie to him. From the moment they met she kept up a façade. “Only she told me all sorts of things. Made up an elaborate story that I bought. A story she thought I wanted to hear because she figured I wouldn’t accept her truth.”
“Weren’t you pissed?”
“I was fucking furious. There was so much more involved but…I couldn’t hold what she did to me against her forever. My love for her eventually won out.” Gabe pauses. “Maybe you should let your love for Alex win out.”
“I’m not in love with her,” I immediately start to say but Gabe interrupts me.
“Fine. You don’t love her. But you do care about her. Don’t deny it because we all know it’s true.” Gabe talks right over me when I start to protest. “What do you want more? Utter misery when you’re alone without her? Or having Alex in your life, making your days better? Which one are you going to choose?”
I close my eyes, struggling against his words. I spoke with my mom after I first arrived in Vail about her affair with Douglas McIntosh and she just blew it off like it was nothing, which in turn blew my fucking mind.
What’s done is done, she’d told me. I can’t erase the past but I can move on with my future.
Her words have hung with me ever since.
“People make mistakes,” Gabe continues. “We’re all idiots, just moving through life hoping to survive. But when you meet that idiot who’s your perfect match, don’t you want to go after her? Don’t you want to keep her in your life? Isn’t it better to be two idiots facing the world together than having to face it alone?”
“Did you just call yourself an idiot?” I joke but Gabe doesn’t respond. He’s waiting me out. Blowing out a harsh breath, I relent. “I don’t know what’s wrong or right anymore. Relationships suck.”
“Not if you’re in the right one.”
“How am I supposed to know if what I had with Alexandria was right?”
“If you’re having a hard time breathing, eating, sleeping, and functioning in your daily life, then I’d say those are all pretty strong signs,” Gabe says dryly.
Shit. She’s all I can think about. The sad look on her face when I dropped her off at her house, her eyes full of longing. How angry I’d been when I figured out who her father was. She can’t help who gave birth to her. She isn’t the one responsible for her dad’s actions.
So why did I blame her?
“Since when did you become so knowledgeable about this shit?” I ask him, irritated that he’s actually doling out decent advice. I’m fucking irrational I know, but I can’t help myself.
“I know a kindred spirit when I see one,” he says. “I’ve been in your shoes. And it’s no fun.”
“So what do I do?” I run a hand through my hair and turn away from the window. I don’t care about snow or Christmas or any of that bullshit. I need to talk to Alexandria. I need to make this right.
“Talk to her. Call her. Go to her. Tell her how you feel.”
My automatic reaction is fuck that. I don’t grovel. I don’t apologize. I don’t bother trying to make things right. I never have.
But Gabe’s right. I miss her. I want her in my life. The only one holding me back is—me. If I want her, I have to go after her.