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Authors: Abbey Lincoln

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BOOK: Forbidden
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He laughs,
then holds his hands up in front of him, surrender style. “All right,” he says.  “I got my GED while I was in Juvee” –the sound of that word rolling off his tongue causes me to cringe- “and then once I got out, I stayed with my Aunt until I got back on my feet.”

occurs to me that Ryan wasn’t completely left alone as I once thought and relief washes over me. I’d forgotten about his mother’s sister.  Though she lived clear across the country in Arizona, she’d apparently stepped up to the plate when he needed someone.

Your Aunt Lou?”

He nods.
“She came to visit me once and gave me her address. Told me to write to her.  Then we started to talk on the phone. Turns out she never liked my dad in the first place.”  He shrugs. “Anyway, when I found out I was getting out, I wrote to tell her and she sent me a plane ticket. Once I was released, I went to stay with her.  I only got back here six months ago.”

He turns ba
ck to the omelet and flips it. “She was great to me. Let me stay with her while I figured out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.” He glances at me over his shoulder and grins. “As it turns out, I’m really good with my hands.”

I can’t help but blush, thinking of
how skilled he is with his hands. “So, what did you do while you stayed with her?”

“I starte
d working for a friend of her. A guy who owned a contracting business. He’d build houses, decks, pretty much anything and he needed someone to do the grunt work – lugging bricks, cement, tools, whatever. So I did that for a bit, watched a lot, then he let me do some small stuff.  I’d shingle a roof, cut some boards after he’d marked them, install a floor…eventually, I started to get good at it and he gave me more and more work. Pretty soon, I was taking on jobs by myself and the business started to grow.”

He adds cheese to the omelet and folds
it in half.  “It’s too bad he didn’t have any sons.  When I left, business was booming.”

“Why didn’t you stay there with him?  Do you think he might have wanted you to take over the business?  Eventually, I mean.”

Ryan was poking the omelet with a spatula. “He did want me to take over the business.  We talked about it but I just couldn’t do it. My home is here, Becs. With you.”  He steals a glance at me and smiles tenderly. 


“So, like I said, I just moved back a few months ago. I’m trying to get my own business off the ground.  I figure I’m far enough out of town for people to not instantly remember the kid who shot his father eight years ago. And those that do?  Well, I’m hoping they’ll either forgive or be so desperate for a quality carpenter that they’ll hire me.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed but we’ve got some sorry-ass houses around here, this one included.”

slides the omelet onto a plate and places it in front of me. It smells delicious. I take a large bite and nearly groan with pleasure. I hadn’t realized I was so hungry.  “So,” I say as I chew. “Are you going to talk to the owner about fixing this house up?”

“No need to.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because I’m the owner.”

“You are?  Really?”  I grin. Ryan keeps his back to me while he whips up another two eggs, then pours them into the now empty pan. Once he adds the mushrooms to his omelet, he turns to me. 

“Really,” he replie
s. “I own pretty much everything you see. It’s about fifteen acres.”

“But how did you…I mean….”

He laughs.  “When I stayed with Lou, she didn’t let me pay her a dime. I took every cent I made working for Dale – that’s the contractor – and stashed it away. I always knew I’d come back here.”  He shruggs.  “I guess I came back at the right time because this piece of property had just gone on the market.  The man who lived here had died and his kids wanted to sell it fast.  I made an offer and they accepted.”

“Wow,” I reply, l
ooking around. “I just can’t believe it.  I mean, I can…it’s just…”

He smiles
. “I know.  It’s a lot to take in.” He slides his omelet onto a plate and sits down at the table with me. 

He takes
several large bites of his omelet and I take his silence as an opportunity to look out the window into the back yard.  “What’s that?” I ask, pointing to a dilapidated red barn about two hundred feet in back of the house.

just an old barn.  It looks like crap but it’s pretty stable.  I figure I can fix it up a bit and use it for the business.”

“And this is all yours,” I reply
, scanning the property. 

I hear
a chair scrape against the wood floor and then feel his warmth behind me.  His arms wrap around my waist and he puts his chin on my shoulder.  “Ours, Becs. It’s ours.”

Ryan’s arms around me, I feel as though I’ve come home. I want to stay – I want that more than anything.  But there was one thing I needed to take care of before we could begin our forever. Steven. I needed to tell him. Needed to make him understand that I’d chosen Ryan before we’d ever met. Steven – or any man, for that matter - never stood a chance. 

Slowly, I turn to face Ryan.
I bury my face in his neck and wrap my arms around him. 

“I want that,” I whisper
. “So badly. But I’ve got to tell Steven.”

wraps his arms tighter around me and I feel his nod. “I know you do. Just hurry back to me.”

I nod
. We finish the rest of our omelets in silence, then put the dishes in the sink. Ryan keeps close to me as I gather my clothing and get dressed. I find my flip-flops in the living room and slide my feet into them. Standing up, I look at him, knowing it’s time for me to go but not wanting to say so.  I take a deep breath and exhaled slowly, then take a few slow steps to the front door. 

“I’ll be back as soon as
I can,” I say, opening the door. 

Becs?” He says. 

I turn back to him. 

“I love you. You know that, right?”

“I do.”  I can’t bring myself to tell him the same. I love him, of course I do. He is my everything.  It’s just that it doesn’t feel right when I have this…attachment to someone else. I want…I need to be free to be with him and only him before I can say those words. It’s almost as if saying them while I’m still semi-attached to Steven would tarnish them in some way, and I couldn’t bear to do that.  I give him one last smile, then turn and leave the house. My feet are heavy, leadened, and my legs feel as though they are dragging bricks behind them.  I dread this. Steven doesn’t deserve this. None of this. He deserves so much more. He deserves a woman who will love him for him, and not continue to search in his eyes, hoping to see someone else. 

I can’t give him what he needs, so it’s only right to release him,
even though it will hurt him. But it’s the right thing to do.

Ryan is standing in the
door frame looking out at me. He watches, still, as I open the car door, slide into the driver’s seat and turn the ignition. The engine comes to life immediately, almost as if it’s anxious to drive me to Steven and get this over with. Ryan lifts a hand slowly to wave at me. I wave back, then begin the short drive home, already feeling a tightening in my chest because I will be away from him. 

s I drive through the town I now consider home and head back to the town I grew up in and my father’s house, I realize that I have more than one thing to take care of. Yes, I will have to talk to Steven. Unfortunately, I will have to break his heart so that my own can be whole and this thought nearly causes me to double over in pain. Though I know it has to be done, I can’t bear the thought of hurting the man who has been nothing but kind and gentle with me. He has been everything a woman could want; only I want someone else – always have – and nothing he could have ever done would have changed that. 

But before I see Steven, there something else I n
eed to take care of…my father. It is now that I realize that all of this pain – mine, Ryan’s, and of course, Steven’s – could have been avoided if only my father would have not barred Ryan from finding me all those years ago. He was the barrier between us, even after Ryan had been released from juvee. I smirk, realizing that even my own father could not keep us apart – it just took us a few years longer to come together. 

Anger wells up inside of me and it occurs to me that my own father is the reason for all this pain. 

We will have a nice little chat, I think. Then, and only then, I will return to the love of my life.



BOOK: Forbidden
3.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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