Pulled (Page 67)

Author: A.L. Jackson

I felt courageous as I spoke, “You know nothing about me, know nothing about Daniel.” I reached for him, drawing strength. “Know nothing about us or what we’ve been through. Now I believe Daniel asked you to leave.” I didn’t back down as she looked between us, her eyes imploring as they raked over Daniel, probing for any uncertainty.

I could almost feel her blood run cold when she found none. Her face grew pal id as her resolve faded; her body slumped in defeat when she realized she’d lost the game she’d been playing. I couldn’t take my eyes from her as she walked away, taking with her every last trace of insecurity I’d ever felt. My heart nearly stopped when I saw Daniel’s face. He looked at me as if he had just found the treasure he’d spent his life searching for, his mouth reverent as his lips traveled over the back of my hand. He was proud of me.

“Come on, I have something to show you.”

“What?” I grinned.

I followed him into his office, and he grabbed his keys and jacket, took me by the hand, and led me back down the hallway.

“It’s a surprise.” His eyes gleamed.

I snuggled into his side, relaxing as I looked forward to time with Daniel. As long as I was with him, I didn’t care what it was. It could only be good. Wrapping his arm around my shoulder, he drew me closer. I glanced up just in time to anticipate his kiss, his smile wide when he pulled away.

Daniel introduced me to Lisa, his office manager.

Honestly, I was a bit mortified to meet her after the behavior she’d witnessed the last time I was here. But her welcome was genuine, and I couldn’t help but return her warm smile.

Daniel quickly gave her a few instructions for the rest of the afternoon before taking my hand and pulling me out the door.

I relaxed against the warmth of the heated seats, relishing the soothing pulse of our energy as Daniel and I traveled. He kept stealing glances at me, timidly smiling.

We rode in an easy silence with only the sound of soft, muted music and the purr of the engine as we sped down the open road.

“That’s my parents’ exit.” He lifted his hand from my leg, pointing to the road we passed. I peered out the window, imagining what it would be like to see them again.

Reuniting with Erin the other night had been healing. Losing her had been devastating, only eclipsed by the hole Daniel’s absence had left. It was as if when each of them came back into my life, a piece was put back into place, fil ing me, making me whole. I couldn’t wait to fil the spot forever reserved for Patrick and Julia.

“You miss them?” His voice was soft, concerned, his soul attentive to the ache coming from my heart.

“Very much.” I didn’t realize I was getting emotional until I heard my choppy voice.

“Melanie, sweetheart, I don’t want to pressure you.

Say no if you’re not ready for this yet. But they really want to see you.”

“They know?”

“Yeah,” he nodded, watching me apprehensively.

Daniel told me of how Patrick had seen me the day I had come to the office, and the conversation they had afterward. Of course, now that Erin knew, Julia knew.

“I initially thought it would be better to wait…” The sudden break in his sentence all owed me to fil in what was left unsaid. “Untillyou’re not married anymore.” Raking his hand through his hair, the very thought of it seemed to cause him distress.

“But I just can’t see keeping you from them. Erin is coming back this weekend, and she’s kind of made…plans.” He looked across at me, both hopeful and scared of my reaction. “Dinner at my parents’ house?” I guess I had thought it was better to wait too, but really, it just didn’t make sense anymore. Everyone knew about Nicholas. Did I wish I were coming back into this relationship under difference circumstances? Absolutely.

But they loved me, and I loved them, and a legal document couldn’t change that, not any more than it could change what Daniel and I had. In my heart, he’d always been my husband and they’d always been my family. My marriage was nothing more than a sham, a cover for an indentured servant.

“I’d like that.”

He sighed, washed in relief, and squeezed my leg in a silent thank you.

I looked back at the road when I felt him slowing for the next exit. I felt a vague sense of déjà vu as we pulled in front of a smal , white house framed by tall , expansive trees. Cold weather had left the branches void of leaves, and they scraped across the pitched roof of the house. The porch jutted out into the yard in greeting—welcoming.

Everything about the house was simple, plain, unassuming.

Home. It was wonderful, and perfect, and heartbreaking, because I knew what Daniel felt when he saw that house, what it reminded him of. I had told him he needed to get a new house for his son, but he hadn’t. Instead, he found a new house for me.

A black-haired woman in her mid-forties and dressed in a business suit stepped from a silver luxury SUV

parked in the driveway. She shielded her eyes with her hand, squinting as she looked at Daniel’s car and waited for us to get out.

“It’s okay if you don’t want it, Melanie.” Daniels voice was soft, uncertain, and I turned to him. His hazel eyes burned into mine, searching my soul, finding my heart laid bare. As I all owed the emotion to come, tears streamed freely down my face. I looked back at the house, drawn to it and terrified all at the same time. I forced myself to just get out.

The realtor introduced herself before seeing my tears. I clearly made her uncomfortable, and she seemed relieved to switch her focus to Daniel as he shook her hand.

We followed her silently up the walkway. I braced myself as she slid the key into the lock and turned the knob. My breath escaped me when the door slowly drifted open. It was not the same, not at all , but it felt the same. And it would have hurt if it hadn’t felt so right.

I stood in the middle of the living room. Silent tears ran down my face as I felt the pul bounding around the room, insisting I stay. I knew I looked as if I was breaking down, fal ing apart, but it was completely the opposite. I was coming together. It was as if I had ended up in the same spot I’d been torn from long ago. At the same time, everything was so messed up, it made my head spin.

Daniel wrapped his strong arms around my shoulders from behind and pulled me against his chest, his heart pounding into my back as he rocked us. His mouth sounded remorseful against my ear. “Baby, I’m so sorry. It was stupid. I should have thought. I should have known. It just felt…right.”