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Before Jace Bennett met his late wife, there had been another girl he’d loved. She was his light in the dark. She was his mentor. His confidant. She was many things, but she was never his. Now things are about to change.
F*cking Chicago traffic.
I really hated it.
Finally, I moved past the jam, and when I did, I floored the gas.
Joining Ethan and Fiona for those three months had satisfied a basic sexual need, but at the same time, the situation made me feel even emptier.
I knew it was wrong.
I would never have allowed another man to touch my wife. Shit, I really had changed. Don’t get me wrong, I got why Ethan had done it, still it had to be hard.
And I hated that.
Even though Fiona and I never fucked, we did everything else, and this time I made certain Ethan was always with us. We shared her, gave her everything she wanted, made her feel like a queen.
Eventually I couldn’t do it anymore. Things had to end. And then the perfect out came along. I let Fiona think she was setting me up with a teacher from The Preston School, and the threesome ended.
The truth was, I wanted it to end. The whole thing made me feel more alone than I actually was when I was alone. And as for the teacher, I took her out once and brought her back to her house, where I explained to her that I was not ready to move on. I never called her again.
Fiona and I acted like everything was the way it had been before, and I think in her mind it was. For me though, I felt like the more I leaned on her, the more I shouldn’t.
I still had no idea why.
Then again my psyche had been fucked up since I was ten.
I passed the exit for Washington Boulevard, the one I would have taken if I were going home, and continued north to confront the parent or maybe parents of the child who had made my daughter cry.
The closer I got, the more I started to second-guess my decision. Maybe I should take it up with the school, or the teacher first? Maybe I should go through the email process like Fiona would tell me to do?
What if Scarlett came home tomorrow crying again, then I’d want to punch myself in the face for not addressing the issue head on. She’d already lost so much in her life, I couldn’t bear for her to hurt over anything, especially when it was something I could control.
That was when I turned up the music and turned off my thoughts.
Ten minutes later I was pulling up in front of a rather large yellow two-story house with a front porch and stone pillars. It had a charm about it I couldn’t shake. It was also in desperate need of some yard maintenance. The grass was about four inches too high and the bushes completely overgrown. The driveway led to a standalone garage in the back, and it too had weeds growing from the cracks of the concrete.
The SOLD sign told the story.
I didn’t know or care what that story was.
On the front porch were a number of kids’ toys. A bicycle, a Nerf football, and a pair of roller skates that looked well used. Jonah’s I assumed. The kid suddenly became real, and I considered driving right past the house.
He was only a kid.
Yeah, a kid who made my daughter cry.
I didn’t leave.
Instead, I parked my BMW on the street and opened the car door. With each step I took toward the newly painted porch stairs, I inhaled a deep breath. I could be reasonable and respectful. I wouldn’t accuse, I’d simply inform. The parent or parents could then address the issue with the child.
That sounded like the most mature approach. I felt a little proud of myself that I had calmed down and wasn’t gunning for the jugular.
The bottom line was, I’d want to know if my daughter had made someone cry on his or her first day of school.
When I reached the front door, it was open, and the only barrier was the flimsy screen door that if I had to guess, wasn’t locked. I could hear the Clash playing from inside, and I had to force myself not to smile. Another punk rock enthusiast. Interesting. I didn’t come across them very often.
Standing there, I glanced inside. There were boxes everywhere. Moving in or out, I hadn’t a clue. Didn’t really care.
Ringing the doorbell, I waited patiently and didn’t pound on door the way I had envisioned myself doing.
The sun was shining in the direction of the door, and it was hard to see, but I could make out the shape of a woman as she came into view through the mesh. She had a large book in her hands and her face was down as if in deep concentration.
Everything started to change the closer she got to me. First there was the unmistakable smell of lavender, a scent that made my nostrils flare in excitement, and then I saw the familiar shape of her eyes, her lips, her nose, and even the slender curve of her shoulders.
What happened next was like one of those slow motion movies.
I stumbled back with a jolt and thought…no way.
The woman with blonde hair that hung straight at least halfway down her back struggled to open the door, and only once she did, did she raise her gaze. “Can I help—?”
Out of nowhere, pure adrenaline raced through my veins. A thrill. An excitement I hadn’t felt in a very long time. I opened my mouth to speak, but shut it.
She didn’t finish her sentence either. Instead, she set the book down on the table beside the door. The haphazard way she released it caused it to fall and land on the floor with a clang. The spine read, “Web Design.”
That wasn’t what drew my attention, though. Rather, I found myself staring at the unusual pale blue color of her eyes. The color of a hot summer’s day and cool spring night. A color I’d only ever seen once before. But no, it couldn’t be—could it?
The silence drew out. I was dimly aware of her wiping one of her hands on her jeans, but nothing else. There was a reason I was there. A wrong to right. But unable to look away from her wide, startled eyes and her half-open mouth, I couldn’t seem to recall what exactly it was.
I took off my sunglasses to get a closer look. From the angle she was standing at, I could see the curve of her ass, the shape of her tits, the plane of her stomach, and I knew, I knew for certain that this was her.
This was Hannah.
H. Crestfall was Hannah Michaels.
The first girl I ever loved… and the one who broke me even more than I already had been before I met her.
“Hannah,” I said at the same time she said, “Jace.”
“What are you doing here?” she asked in a voice that trembled.
I was there for a reason, and it wasn’t to go down fucking memory lane, and it certainly wasn’t to relive the pain she caused me.
Still trying to brush off the shock, I stuffed my hands in my pockets. “Do you have a son named Jonah?” I asked, my voice slightly uneven.
She nodded and pushed her silky blonde hair behind her ear. It was a nervous twitch I knew so well.
“Does he attend The Preston School?” I asked to be one hundred percent certain.
Her eyes narrowed. “Yes, he does. Why are you asking?”
There was no invite inside, and it was for the best. I’d regained my balance by now and went for the jugular. “He’s in my daughter’s class, and today he said something to her that made her cry.” This time I kept my voice even, calm.
Her narrowed gaze raked over me in an accessing manner that told me she didn’t appreciate me being at her front door. “What is it you think he said to her?”
I ignored the sarcasm that dripped from her voice, and remained calm. “He told her that her hair looked like she’d plugged herself into a light socket, or something along those lines. I thought you might want to know that he was bullying someone.”
“Jonah has the sweetest disposition, and I doubt he would ever say anything like that.”
“Are you calling my daughter a liar?” I asked.
The physical trembling was hard to ignore, but I found it even harder not to notice the step she took closer to me. “Are you calling my son a bully?”
That wasn’t my intention, but she was pushing my buttons. Without realizing it, I puffed my chest out. “I’m just calling it like I see it.”
Her eyes, those blue eyes, blazed, and she put her hands on her hips. “Still the same old big shot, huh, Jace. Think the world revolves around you.”
A white-hot fury rose up from somewhere deep within me from a place I had buried it long ago. Once it did, I couldn’t stop it, or my reaction to her words. “Screw you, Hannah,” I bit out, and turned to stomp down the stairs.
“Jace,” she yelled.
Every hurt I ever felt from that day so long ago came back to me, and I had to ignore her. Unable to fight my emotions, I tuned out whatever else she was trying to say to me. I didn’t want to hear it. I knew I had come here about our kids. I also knew this wasn’t about us. But as soon as she called me a big shot—that’s what it became.
I tried to take a deep breath as I stormed toward my car with my words echoing in my head.
Two words I had wanted to say to her all those years ago and never did.
It wasn’t the right time, or the right context. Hell, I wasn’t even sure I really felt that animosity any longer.
But I didn’t give a fuck.
She had it coming.
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