Read My Unexpected Forever Online

Authors: Heidi McLaughlin

Tags: #Romance, #Music, #Contemporary, #Young Adult, #Adult

My Unexpected Forever (2 page)

BOOK: My Unexpected Forever
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I
pick up a sleeping Quinn from Liam’s guest bedroom. I left him here early this morning after we finished loading the tour bus. It didn’t make much sense to wake him just to bring him back a few hours later. He’s used to this life, the constant touring, late nights and hotel food. He’s had a nanny before, but she traveled with us. I didn’t want to be away from him for more than a day.

Katelyn offered to stay home, but Liam was adamant that she comes with us. Said she needed to learn the ropes. She balked, but when he tossed out words like family vacation and Disney World, she agreed. Now I can’t get the vision of Katelyn in a bikini out of my mind.

I have a hard enough time, literally, when she’s dressed in her work clothes. Always a skirt, the length changes, but one only notices that if they are paying attention, and I am. All the time. My imagination is running wild and I have to fight every urge I have to reach out and touch her. To feel just the smallest amount of her skin against mine. The casual brushes of my hand against hers; or when I lean in and her hair tickles my chin. Any moment I can steal to tide me over until the next time.

The only problem is there aren’t enough moments. She avoids me whenever possible. Even when I catch her looking, she averts her eyes the moment they meet mine. Why does she do that? I get that she’s still hurting over her husband. I’m not a complete ass to think she’s over him, but I see the way she looks at me. The way she fumbles over the smallest things when I’m near her. If she doesn’t like me, I shouldn’t affect her in this way.

Quinn wakes as soon as I set him in his bunk. He smiles before rolling over. I suppose he’s too big for me to carry, but in my eyes he’s still my baby. He’s on the bottom, with Noah taking the top bunk. Noah’s excited to be going on tour, and I can’t really blame him. He spent all of last night asking Quinn questions about the different hotels, the concerts and what he does when I’m not on stage. Quinn was a sport and filled him in, even telling him which foods to avoid when on the road. I know this tour is going to be different from before. For one thing, we all have families, aside from JD and Tyler. I can see most of our free time will be spent sitting poolside while the women shop.

I step off the bus just as Katelyn pulls into the driveway. I don’t hesitate. I jog to her car just as she opens the backseat to pull out one of the twins. The only way I can tell them apart is by the way they are dressed. I go around to the other side and open the back door. Peyton is out cold in her booster seat, her football tucked underneath her arm. I’m not sure how sleeping with a football can be comfortable, but it was her dad’s so I understand.

I look over at Katelyn who stops unbuckling Elle when I reach for Peyton’s buckle. I smile at her because frankly, I don’t know what else to do when it comes to her. She doesn’t smile or show any type of recognition whatsoever. To say I’m confused is an understatement. If I was Liam, she would’ve smiled, winked and probably blew him a damn kiss as a thank you.

But not me, I get nothing but a blank stare. And that is something I want to change.

I maneuver the seatbelt around Peyton’s head and let her fall into my arms. She doesn’t wake when I pick her up and I’m careful to make sure she doesn’t drop her football. I remember what it was like when Quinn was little and he’d lose his blanket. I’ve been on the receiving end of night terrors and endless tears and Peyton doesn’t need that right now, and neither does Katelyn.

With Peyton in my arms, I wait for Katelyn to pick up Elle. I can hear Katelyn grunt as she lifts her and I wish I would’ve taken Peyton to the bus and come back for Elle, but I have a feeling Katelyn is used to doing things on her own now. It can’t be easy being a single mom of twins, especially when they still need you so much.

As soon as she has Elle in her arms, I lead us to the bus. It’s dark, but I know my way around. The door to the girls’ bunkroom is open. I set Peyton down on the bottom, putting her at one end of the bed and stepping aside to let Katelyn bring Elle in. The space is small on the bus and I use this to my advantage. When Katelyn brushes against me, I have to fight every urge to take Elle out of her hands and show Katelyn what my room looks like.

But I don’t get that opportunity because she steps away. Her head drops, turning slightly as she looks at me. I pull my arm back, away from hers and step out of the room. I need to get off this bus. Instead, I sit and lean my head back, closing my eyes. I don’t know how I’m going to be next to her for such a long time. We are going to be in the same space, day after day and night after night, never apart unless we have different errands to run. Our friends are together, keeping us together. Sometimes I wonder why I moved to Beaumont. Was it because of the instant connection I felt with her on the first night we met? I tell myself it wasn’t. That moving here was for Quinn and the band and to have an easier life. That having her here is just an added bonus.

When I hear her shut the girls’ door, I pull my beanie down. I know she’s standing next to me. I’m sulking like a child, a habit I’ve picked up from Quinn. He loves to sit in our recliner and pull his hat over his eyes, ignoring me until I give in. I always give in. I don’t want her to see the confusion in my eyes. The desperation I hold for her. I don’t want her to know she has me by the balls and can string me along like a puppet.

I want to move my hat, but she’ll move as soon as I do, so I stay still and pretend to sleep just so she’ll stand there longer. I feel the chair move as if she’s leaning over it, trying to figure out if I’m truly asleep or not. Her breathing is normal, in and out. Her perfume is strong. I know she put it on before she came here. If I was standing behind her, I’d breathe in deeply just so I can smell her coconut and lime shampoo, a scent that I now love because it reminds me of her.

“What are you doing?” It’s Josie. I know I should show them I’m awake, but I’m curious about what they are going to say. I’ve officially become the lowest form of a man. I should be ashamed of myself. I’m not. I’m evil and desperate for a sign on how to get through to her.

“I was just putting the girls in their bunk.”

“And now?”

“Now… I’m… I don’t…” I’m trying to slow down my breathing, but the fact that Katelyn is stumbling over her words excites me. Do I do this to her?

“You know it’s okay to date. Mason would want you to move on.”

I want to jump up and kiss Josie right now, I do. Even if it means Liam would kick my ass, it’d be worth it.

“It’s too early.”

“It’s been a year.”

“No it hasn’t. It’s been ten months. That’s two months shy of a year. Besides, you waited for three when Liam left you.”

Josie sets something down and moves closer. At least I think she does.

“Liam left me, Katelyn, he didn’t die. I waited because I prayed he was coming back. There’s a difference.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Silence follows. Now would be a good time to let them know I’m awake, but I’m far too chicken to do that. I’m curious if they are having a staring contest like kids do in elementary school. You know the type that if you smile first you lose. I never lost. Probably because I was never invited to play, but I watched from a distance and wondered how people, especially kids, could hold a straight face for so long.

“Hey, the bus doesn’t pack itself.”

Oh thank god Liam is here. He’ll get the ladies moving and out of the way so I can wake-up.

“Sorry, we were just talking.” I hear lips smacking against each other and cringe internally. Liam is a lucky ass bastard.

“I just need to grab our luggage and we’ll be ready to go.” God damn it. I forgot about her luggage. Instead of helping her, I’m sitting in his chair feeling sorry for my rejected ass. What the hell is wrong with me?

“You can wake-up now, they’re outside.”

Busted. I lift my beanie and look at Liam. He’s shaking his head with a smirk plastered to his face. He forgets that I’m older than him.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asks in a hushed tone.

“Clearly feeling sorry for myself,” I say, rubbing my hands over my face. I readjust my beanie and stand.

“She’ll come around.”

I shake my head. “I honestly don’t think she will. I’m not her type.”

“I’ve seen the way she looks at you and she talks to Josie about you. If you weren’t getting under her skin, she wouldn’t freak out every time I tell her she needs to work with you.”

“You do that shit on purpose?”

“Of course I do. You’re both my best friends and I want to see you happy. I think you’ll make her extremely happy. She just needs to open her eyes.”

Liam slaps me on the back and heads off the bus. I follow and see Katelyn at her car, her arms full. I walk back over, my hands in my pockets, stopping in front of her.

“Can I help?”

She looks at me, her lips turn upward slightly, but it’s enough for me. I reach for her bags, loading them onto my arms and take her stuff to the bus. I’m going to be a gentleman this time, though. I leave her bag on the chair and quietly put the girls’ bags on their top bunk.

When I close their door she’s standing there, close enough to touch. She looks up at me. Her eyes move over my face, down my arms and back again. I can’t tell if she’s happy or not.

She raises her hand. I hold my breath, anxious for what she’s about to do. Her eyes move back and forth over mine, questioningly. I want to nod or tell her yes that she can touch me, but I’m afraid to speak. She drops her hand all too soon for my liking.

“Thank you, Harrison.”

I swallow hard at the way my name rolls off her tongue. “You’re welcome, Katelyn.”

I turn and walk into my small room and throw myself onto the bed and will the instant hard on away.

This is going to be long-ass tour.

"M
ason,
how did you get here?”

“What do you mean? I walked.”

“Is it a long walk?”

“What are you talking about? I walk from school to home all the time.”

“But you’re...”

“I’m what? What’s going on Katelyn, why are you moving away from me?”

I look at the distance between the both of us and move closer. He extends his arm, his hand reaching for mine. My reaction is automatic, like I’ve done this a million times. I have. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been holding his hand. My palm slips into his, he holds my hand tightly. I look down at them, our wedding rings shine as they reflect off the sun.

Sun? I thought we were inside.

I look around. Flowers and wheat surround us. We weren’t here before.

Mason wraps his arm around me, pressing his lips to my ear. I hold him there, afraid to let go.

“It’s time, Katelyn.”

I’m afraid to know the answer, so I don’t ask. “Stay.”

Mason pulls back and smiles. I’ve missed him so much. The girls will be so happy to know he’s back. That he’s come back to us and everything has just been a nightmare.

He pulls my hand to his mouth and kisses my wedding band and engagement ring.

“I’ll love you no matter what.”

He’s gone just like that.

“Mason, come back.”

“Please. I can’t do this without you.”

I run, looking for wherever he went. I look down. Everything is black. I’m barefoot and bleeding.

“Katelyn?”

I jump when he shakes my arm. I know who it is by his voice. I sit up, adjusting the book I was reading in my lap. I move my matted hair away from my face. I can’t believe he’s standing next to me, staring. I’m a mess.

He hands me a tissue. I look at him questioningly.

“You were crying.”

I take the tissue from his hand and wipe my eyes. I haven’t dreamt of Mason in months and never like this. They’ve always been about the accident and how it plays out in my mind. This dream… it means something else, but what?

“Thank you,” I say, clearing my throat. He stands and nods, heading back to the chair he was sitting in until he woke me. I look out of the window, the passing fields flying by as we travel down the highway. I don’t know where we are, but all I can see is a random farmhouse every now and again.

Harrison clears his throat loudly. My kneejerk reaction is to look over. He rubs his hand over his black beanie. It slides back and forth slightly. I watch intently, waiting for the tiniest hint of his hair. I wish he’d take the hat off, but he never does. If I had any nerve, I’d rip the sucker from his head and run. Burn the thing when he’s not looking.

The beanie moves only inches, nothing telling. He glances over, catching me staring. I can’t look away, even though I should. I look over my shoulder for anyone to rescue me. There’s no one. I’m alone with him.

I’ve known this man for months. We’ve had dinner. Work together almost daily. When we aren’t working, we are around each other, so why for the love of God can I not sit in the same general vicinity without needing someone else in the room? I’m a professional. He’s a professional. We can be adults.

Right?

I turn back, catching his eye. He shakes his head, turns and looks out the window. I open my mouth to say something… anything, but nothing comes out. I don’t understand why I can’t talk to him. It makes no sense, this way I’m acting toward him. I’m sure he’s a decent human being, regardless of the tattoos on his arms. It’s not just his arms though, his leg too. He has something on his calf, but unless I bend down to look or ask him, I’ll never know what it is.

I could drop a pen the next time I’m standing near him and get a good look. How long does it take to pick-up a pen and mentally take a picture? Longer than I have, because he’s always aware of me. It’s like he’s a magnet and I’m the piece of metal he wants to attach to, which is just silly because magnets are attracted to other magnets and I’m not a magnet.

When he gets up I jump, dropping the book I have resting in my lap. My gaze follows him down the aisle. He enters the girls’ room, and before I can get up and find out what the hell he’s doing in there, he’s out and holding Elle in his hands. She’s clinging to him, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck. Her face squished into the front of his shirt.

He stops in front of me. “She was crying.”

I look from him to my daughter and down the aisle. He heard her crying, but I didn’t? What does that make me?

I reach for her, but she clings to him. She whimpers lightly, which breaks my heart. She’s upset and would rather be comforted by him than me. I don’t get it.

“I can hold her for a while until she’s asleep again,” he offers. His voice is incredibly soft and caring. I nod, even though it pains me to do so. She needs her mother, not him. I’m the one who takes care of the girls. Me. Yet, it looks like Harrison has been holding her from the day she was born.

Watching him sit down with her, he moves with such care and ease. He reclines his chair, nestling Elle across his chest. I get up and cover them both with my blanket. He smiles so softly, as if this gesture was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for him. He closes his eyes, his arms wrapped tightly around my baby. I wonder if he knows that he’s holding half my life in his hands.

I pull her hair away from her face and feel her forehead, testing for a fever. Maybe the driving is getting to her, making her sick. This is their first road trip, unlike Quinn who has done this many times. The girls have never gone anywhere.

“She feels fine, must’ve been a bad dream,” Harrison says this without opening his eyes. I hate to admit it, but he’s a natural. All I can do is step away and watch him keep the demons at bay.

"D
o
you think we should wake them?”

The sound of young voices, those of the other children, ring in my ear. I open my eyes slowly. Six pairs of eyes stare back at me. One set, in particular, has her arms crossed over her chest. She’s without her football and I wonder, if for one moment, she realizes she’s not holding it. I refuse to call attention to that fact. Maybe she needed this trip more than the rest of us.

I stretch and quickly surmise that sleeping in a chair is painful. I remember why I was sleeping here and look over to see Harrison and Elle still covered and sound asleep. She looks like she hasn’t moved an inch and by the looks of his arms, he has a death grip on her.

“Do you know if we are stopping soon?” Quinn asks. I haven’t seen much of him since we took off. He and Noah have spent a majority of their time in Liam and Josie’s room playing video games.

“I’m…” I sound as if I have a frog in my throat, which makes them all laugh. “I don’t know, but I’ll find out. I’m sure you guys are hungry. Just think, after the first stop, we’ll be staying in hotels most of the time.”

“Yes!” Quinn fists pumps. “You guys, the hotels are so awesome and they bring you all the food you want. My dad doesn’t care if I jump on the bed either.”

“Yes I do, I just never catch you doing it.”

Quinn’s head whips around. I’m not sure if he’s in trouble or not. Harrison winks at him, causing Quinn to smile so wide he shows his missing teeth.

“How do you wake her up?”

“Like this.” Before I can say anything, Peyton slaps Elle so hard that she starts crying. Harrison stands and moves Elle away from Peyton’s fury. I pull Peyton aside.

“What is wrong with you?” I’m trying to look at Peyton, but can’t take my eyes off of Harrison and Elle. He’s holding her, rubbing her back where her sister hit her.

She crosses her arms and looks away.

“What’s going on out here? You’d think we were travelling with a zoo?” Liam says.

He and Josie join our early morning circus. Josie takes Elle from Harrison, who doesn’t look happy. Liam ruffles Noah and Quinn’s hair all while Peyton glares at me. I take her hand in mine and walk her down the aisle to my small bunkroom. Whoever said travelling by tour bus was easy is so mistaken. Our rooms are barely wide enough to fit a twin bed and one of our bunks has two grown men in it.

“What’s going on, Peyton? Why did you hit your sister?”

“I felt like it.”

“That’s not a good enough answer and you know it’s not okay to hit.”

“Elle hits me.”

“Peyton-”

“NO! You always take her side. She hits me all the time and you never do anything about it because she’s your favorite and I was daddy’s favorite and he’s gone so I have no one.” She yells at the top of her lungs, loud enough that everyone on the bus hears her. She has tears running down her face. I reach for her, but she hits my hand. She doesn’t want me to touch her.

The door opens. Liam is standing there. He looks at me and then to Peyton. He picks her up and holds her in his arms. A moment later, his door shuts. I step out and try to listen, but he’s whispering to her. I can hear her crying and I can’t do anything about it. I can’t comfort either of my children.

Josie wraps her arms around me, holding me close. “We’re stopping soon. Everyone is just cramped and not used to being cooped up for so long. She’ll be fine.”

“What if she’s not?”

“Then we’ll figure it and go from there. Maybe the girls need to see a therapist or something when we get back. They might want to talk to someone who isn’t their mom.”

“Elle had a nightmare last night. I didn’t even hear her crying, Harrison did. He went and got her and when I tried to take her, she wouldn’t let go of him. He fell asleep in the chair with my baby wrapped in his arms and all I could do was sit there and watch another man hold Mason’s daughter.”

Josie pulls back and looks at me, her hands resting gently on my cheeks. “Mason would approve of Harrison, Katelyn. You should give him a chance.”

She walks away, not waiting for answer, but I give her one anyway. “I can’t.”

BOOK: My Unexpected Forever
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