Series: The Hennington Brothers #3
I spent twenty years waiting for Trent Hennington to open his eyes and see me. But it was all for nothing. He chose to keep himself guarded and let me walk away, proving that my time and efforts were wasted.
I’m done being invisible.
It’s time to move on.
A single dance sets my new reality into motion, and I welcome it. After all, Cooper Townsend is perfect. He’s kind, sexy, and attentive—everything a girl could want.
I thought I got it right this time.
That my heart could mend, and I would be happy.
Apparently, some things really are just too hard to walk away from.
“Mama?” I push her.
“Your father has lost his damn mind!” She stands and throws her hands in the air. “I’ve had it with that man. If I didn’t think he’d starve to death, I would’ve thrown his sorry behind out of my house a long time ago.” Daddy is always on her list, but he must’ve really upset her this time. “He told me that if I wanted to lose weight, I should stop eatin’ pie. Can you believe that? Maybe he’d look like he did when I married him if he stopped eatin’ everything in my house.”
Maybe my father has become suicidal, because no man should ever say something like that. Especially, when my father could be Santa’s less gray haired brother. His belly is filled with more jelly than a donut.
“I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that.”
“Always takin’ his side.” Her eyes narrow on me. “By the way, what is this I hear about you and Cooper? There’s a rumor goin’ around that you’re going out with him soon?”
That’s my cue to get the hell out of here. “Emily should be at the house in a few. I need to get back, we’ll talk more later.”
“Avoidin’ it now doesn’t mean it won’t come up later!” she yells as I move to the back of the store.
“Okay,” I reply and get to work putting different things in my basket. I need to be out of here in two minutes if I want a chance of not having to talk about this.
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
A jar of Nutella.
I know I’m missing a lot more. I plan for her to have to roll me to bed. I have a lot of feelings that need to be eaten, but when I reach the spot where my go-to snack is usually stocked, I find bags of dried fruit. Grimacing as I put the offensively healthy food back on the shelf, I turn and yell over my shoulder. “Ma! Where are the—”
“You lookin’ for these?” A deep voice vibrates from behind me as my favorite candy appears before my eyes.
The hair on the back of my neck raises and my pulse quickens. I haven’t seen him in weeks. I’ve done well at avoiding him, and four words was all it took for my body to respond.
“Thanks.” I take the bag of black licorice from him, keeping my back turned. “I couldn’t find them.”
“Emily’s in town, I saw her car and figured what you might be up to,” he explains.
“Yeah?” I don’t want to look at him. I don’t need to because I see him perfectly in my head. My unwillingness to face Trent doesn’t stop him from moving closer to me, and I know that if I lean back a little . . . just a smidge, I would feel all of him. But we’re done, and that would be irresponsible. My hand clutches the wooden shelf in front of me, and I tighten my grip. I need to hold on to something that isn’t Trent.
“I know you can’t be without your licorice.” His lips graze my ear when he speaks, and my grip tightens.
“I’m surprised you remember.”
Trent laughs and the sound travels through me. “I know everything about you, sweetheart.”
My eyes close and I force my knees not to give out. I’ve missed him. I hate that I’ve missed him.
He makes me weak.
He makes me stupid.
He makes me love him.
I turn slowly to see Trent looking at me with an unreadable expression. “You know my favorite candy; I’m not sure that counts as everything.”
Trent’s hand rises as he pushes the hair off my forehead before moving to cup my cheek. “I know much more than that, Gracie.”
“Like what?” Part of me wants to challenge him because he doesn’t know me. Or if he does, he doesn’t care about me.
“I know that you love me.”
“Wrong. Try again.”
He gives me that crooked grin I love so much. It’s a little cocky and a lot of sexy. It makes me do dumb things like think about his lips on mine, which would be really bad.
“I know that you hate the word marshmallow,” Trent says, making me shudder. I really hate that word. “I know that you do that each time someone says it. I know you talk in your sleep, you hate spiders, and you write in your journal but pretend you don’t. I know you claim you didn’t keep your Miss Bedford County tiara and yet it’s on the top shelf of your closet. I know that you wear it when you feel like you’ve eaten too much food, but I don’t know why. One day you’ll tell me, though.”
“I know that when you’re tired or feel like punching me in the face you bite your lip.” His thumb pulls on my bottom lip. “I know when you’re nervous, you do this.” He brings my hand between us. “You dig your thumb nail into your palm.”
I tear my hand away and try not to let his touch affect me. My skin burns where we had contact, and I crave more. “You forgot the part about where I want to be someone’s world.”
His eyes soften, and his hand moves down to hold my neck. I feel his thumb on my jaw, the way the callous rubs back and forth causes the pit in my stomach to grow. His body closes in, but he doesn’t look away. “You forgot the part where you already are.”
I shake my head, trying to make this stop. “Not yours.”
Tears burn in the backs of my eyes. This is what I can’t do anymore. He does this, comes to me and makes me think I’m crazy and it’s all in my head. He touches me as if he’s the only person that should. Trent gives me a sliver of hope that I’m what he wants. I hate him for it.
“You know that isn’t true,” he whispers, moving closer to me.
He’s going to kiss me, and I’m going to love every damn second. But when he walks away, I know exactly what will happen.
He’ll break my heart.
“Don’t do this,” I beg. It’s my last effort to hold strong.
“I’ve missed you, Gracie.”
“You only miss me because you don’t have me,” I somehow manage to say.
He lets out a low chuckle before his mouth brushes against mine. “I miss you because I hate bein’ away from you.”
I lock my body so that I don’t push forward and kiss him, which is exactly what I want to do.
“I wouldn’t have left if you didn’t push me.”
Trent pulls back a little and his eyes stay glued on mine. “Give me another chance, darlin’. You need me as much as I need you. Stop pushin’ me away and come back where you belong.”
That does it. Something inside me snaps. I turn my head quickly, and his mouth touches my cheek. I shove him off me and try to get a hold of my breathing. When I finally feel in control, I stand strong.
He doesn’t see what he’s done to me, and him thinking I need him is half the problem. I need a fresh start. Someone who doesn’t think they can play games with my heart. Cooper may not be that guy, but he could be. He doesn’t want to prove a point, he genuinely likes me—or so he says.
And I’m not pushing Trent away. He’s the one who let me walk.
I owe it to myself not to fall backward. It’s time to move forward. And Trent Hennington is now in my rearview mirror—where he belongs.
“I don’t need you. I don’t need this. I’m movin’ on, and you should, too. You had all the time in the world to make me yours. You pushed me away like you always do, and givin’ you another chance won’t change who you are, Trent. It won’t make this work, because if we haven’t been able to fix it by now, we never will.”
Trent’s eyes fill with hurt and then it shifts to resolve. “You love me. I see it. I feel it.”
“I do love you. But I love myself more. I’ll see you around.”
Death (not of any main character)