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Because of Low (Chapter Nineteen)

Marcus

I couldn't swallow. There was cotton in my throat and a pretty thick coating of it on my tongue too. Smacking my mouth I started to move and my head screeched in rebel ion. Falling back on the soft bed underneath me, I moaned. What was wrong with me? Slowly I peeled my eyelids up and the sun peeked through the blinds on my window. Confused, I glanced down at myself. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I was in my bed. Something was wrong.

Pressing my head between my palms I forced myself to sit up. The room started spinning and I closed my eyes. I knew this feeling. It had been awhile since I'd had it but I knew what it was. Massive hangover. Noise on the other side of the door helped me focus. I was in my room. Why was I in my room? How did I get to my room?

Will ow. Standing up I forced my feet to move until I opened the door to my room then I leaned against it and groaned at the dizzy spell caused by the pain in my head.

"You look like shit."

Opening my eyes I found Cage walking into the living room with a cup of coffee in his hands. Swinging my attention to the couch I noticed it was empty. Will ow. Where was Will ow?

"You're also a really bad drunk."

Shit. What had I done?

"Low," I managed to say through the worst case of dry mouth I'd ever had.

Cage sat down on the couch and smirked at me. What was so damn funny?

"Low's in my bed."

What? Why? She wouldn't do that? She knows I don't want her in there. Pushing off from the door I started for Cage's bedroom.

"Leave her alone. She needs sleep. Last night wasn't exactly easy on her."

I stopped and turned to look back at him.

"What happened?"

Cage raised his eyebrows at me and the smirk on his face had vanished and he looked pissed.

"You want a complete recap? Okay," Cage leaned forward resting his elbows on his knees and he glared at me.

"Low came to get your drunk ass from the bar last night.

When she got there you were all but screwing Jess on the dance floor. Hands all over her. Low went and snatched Jess off you and then when Jess proceeded to threaten her Low basically called her bullshit and sent her packing. From what I hear it was damn hot. Anyway, she then hauled your drunk ass home. You passed out in your truck. She had to get me to help her get you up the stairs and into bed. Then she proceeded to break down on me and cry. I cuddled her up in my arms like I always do when she's hurting and carried her to my bed where she told me all of this and then promptly fell asleep. Preston called and gave me the whole story as well."

I was going to be sick. What had I done? My chest ached, my stomach rolled and my head pounded. I'd sent her running into Cage's arms for comfort, again. I'd been the reason Jess threatened her. I'd put her in danger and she'd taken care of me.

DAMMIT

Dropping into the chair nearest to me I cradled my spinning head in my hands and fought the urge to cry like a damn baby.

"I thought I'd kill you when you hurt her, you know. But damned if I'm not just relieved that it's over. I don't even want to hurt you. I'm just so happy to have her back." That was all it took. I ran for the toilet and lost everything in my stomach. Several times. Then I slid down the wall and cried silently. It all came back to my father. He was the reason I got drunk. If I lost Will ow over this I'd kill him. I couldn't lose her. The idea hurt so bad it made breathing impossible.

The bathroom door opened slowly and I turned to look up at a very solemn Will ow. I soaked in the sight of her as she stepped inside and closed the door behind her. She handed me a cold wash cloth. "Here."

I took it unable to take my eyes off her as I washed the cold sweat from my face. Then she handed me the glass in her hands.

"Drink this. It'll help."

Taking it I took several small sips and watched her afraid she'd turn and leave. But she didn't. Instead she slid down the wall and sat down beside me.

"I'm sorry. I'm so so damn sorry, " I choked out.

She didn't respond. Instead she sat there staring down at her hands clasp tightly in her lap. I wanted to pull her in my arms and hold her. Keep her from leaving me. But I could smell the whiskey and smoke on my clothes. I stunk.

"You hurt me," she finally replied in a small voice. What little part of my heart was still in one piece shattered at her words. The lump in my throat constricted my airways.

"God, Low I'm so sorry." I wanted to profess my love but right now that sounded unbelievable. I didn't want those words to be tainted by this.

"I understand that you had a fight with your father. Preston explained that. But Marcus, what I don't understand is why you'd go drink so much that you were dancing and touching another woman. My sister and I fight all the time. I don't have a mom and sister like you do that love me. I have no family. The only family I have hates me. Larissa doesn't count because she's a baby. I know family problems suck Marcus. I have major problems. Things you don't know about. Issues that are eating me up inside. But none of that is an excuse for me to run off and get trashed and rub all over another guy."

I was a selfish, spoiled brat. She was right. If the roles had been reversed I'd have been a madman. I wouldn't be sitting beside her talking calmly the next morning. She was too good for me. I'd already figured this out, but now I knew how undeserving I was.

"You're right. I don't deserve you."

Will ow's hand reached out and covered mine and my body trembled from her touch. Shit I was going to cry right in front of her. Fighting the burn of tears in my eyes I couldn't look at her. Slowly I moved my thumb and hooked it through hers. I wasn't brave enough to completely take her hand. I couldn't handle it if she jerked it away.

"Don't ever do that to me again."

Her words sank in slowly and I turned my head to meet her gaze, no longer caring that my eyes were watery from unshed tears.

"Again? You mean you forgive me. It's not over?" I asked in disbelief.

She smiled and turned her hand over and threaded her fingers through mine holding it tightly.

"I forgive you," she said then reached out with her other hand and wiped the moisture in my eyelashes away. "How do I stay mad at this? Hmmm? You sitting here on the bathroom floor fighting back tears and looking completely defeated." She shifted closer and laid her head on my shoulder. "I love you, Marcus. Of course,I forgive you." Setting the glass in my hand down on the edge of the tub, I reached for her and pulled her into my arms. I needed to hold her. I'd almost lost her and I needed her close. She curled up against me and tears of relief rolled freely down my face.

"I love you too. So much Low. So very much. I promise you Low, I'll never hurt you again."

Willow

Over the next week Marcus went out of his way to do sweet romantic things for me. I came home from work one night to a candle lit bubble bath waiting on me. He left sweet little notes all over the place for me. A customer had even delivered one to me during work one night. I'd awakened twice to find a vintage Aerosmith concert t-shirt beside my pillow. One was a 1984 California and the other a 1986

Aero Force.

I was ready to take the next step but I was waiting on him.

He needed to reassure himself that I wasn't leaving him.

That he'd won my forgiveness. He had, of course. We'd led two very different lives. It wasn't fair of me to expect him to handle bad situations the same way I did. He'd grown up protected from bad situations. He didn't know how to roll with the punches. I'd been so eaten up with jealousy I'd wanted to punish him. I didn't want there to be a reason for him to behave the way he did. You can't expect a sheltered person to react to disappointment the way someone who'd only known disappointment reacted.

Stepping outside into the sunshine after being shut up in a classroom all day I lifted my face to the sunshine and inhaled the salty breeze. Summer would be here soon and I couldn't wait to spend it with Marcus. Cage was planning a two week road trip with some of his friends. He wanted me to come too but I was looking forward to those two weeks alone with Marcus. This would be the first time Cage and I had been apart for that long. It worried me some but the fear of being left alone was beginning to wane. Since the morning I'd seen the tears in Marcus's eyes when he thought he'd lost me I'd felt more secure in our relationship.

He loved me just as fiercely as I loved him. I no longer doubted that. Calling Cage when I needed someone never even crossed my mind anymore. The first person I wanted was Marcus. Besides Marcus bought my Jarritos now. He never let them get low enough for Cage to notice. He kept me so well stocked it was comical. Cage had grumbled about it at first but he'd gotten over it.

My happy thoughts were interrupted when my eyes landed on my sister standing against a new Mercedes SUV

smiling like the cat who caught the canary. Or more like the cat who caught the rich old dude. Walking toward her I frowned taking in her new wheels. I wondered if it had been purchased from one of Marcus's dad's lots.

"Tawny," I said stopping in front of her.

"Like the car?" Tawny all but purred from pleasure. No. I didn't like the way she'd gotten it. But I did like the fact Larissa would no longer be hauled around in that death trap of my sister's.

"You got it by spreading your legs, sis. I'm not a fan of home-wreckers."

She rolled her eyes and gave me a disgusted look. As if I was the gross one. hello Miss Screwing-someone-twice-your-age.

"Whatever. I wanted to let you know I was moving and I'm selling the house. Jefferson feels like it's best. Letting you have it is pointless. You don't live there. It's mine anyway.

Mom left it to me."

This information stung but I expected it. She'd never given me anything. Why start now?

"Where are you moving to?" It had better not be far. I couldn't care less about Tawny but Larissa was my niece. I wanted to be able to see her.

Tawny smirked and tilted her head so that her copper curls draped over her bare arm. "Jefferson is moving us to Mobile. He has a nice big house bought for us and he is moving in with us as soon as the ink is dry on his divorce papers."

An hour away. Not bad, but still further than I liked. At least Tawny would have no need to work. She would be home with Larissa and maybe this lifestyle would ignite the mother in her. Maybe she and Larissa could bond. I swallowed the bitter taste in my mouth. Tawny was really breaking up a marriage. But Larissa would have a daddy. I was so torn. Knowing Larissa wouldn't have to live the life I had was such a relief. But knowing a marriage had been destroyed, another family was losing their father, it broke my heart. God, could this be any more screwed up.

"Here," Tawny handed me an envelope. I reached out to take it. It had my name written on the outside in Tawny's swirly handwriting and it was sealed.

"It's some money. For all the times you kept Larissa and so you can get a place of your own and move out of Cage York's bed. I also put our new address in there. Larissa will want to see you." I stared at my sister dumbfounded. Who was this and what had she done with Tawny?

"You're giving me money?" I asked incredulously.

She straightened her shoulders and I could see the mask of indifference take its place on her face. Tawny didn't do emotion.

"I always pay my debts, Low." She flashed me her beauty queen smile and flipped her hair over her shoulders. "Well, I have to go meet my fiance and pick Larissa up from the sitter." She turned to saunter off then stopped and glanced back over her shoulder.

"You're smart, Low. Do something with that." I just stood there as she climbed into her new fancy SUV

and drove off. What had just happened? Had that been her way of saying she was sorry? Looking down at the envelope in my hands I opened it carefully. Pulling out a check for ten thousand dollars I stared at it in shock. Then my eyes focused on the endorser:

Jefferson M Hardy I

Mercedes Benz of the Gulf Coast

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