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Authors: Heidi McLaughlin

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

My Unexpected Forever (9 page)

BOOK: My Unexpected Forever
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W
alking
into the greenroom, which ironically is not green, Harrison is asleep on the couch. Since being on tour, I’ve learned that he doesn’t sleep much on the bus. How he functions on very little sleep is beyond me. Although, after being on the bus and in different hotels, not only does my back hurt, but the bags under my eyes are getting harder to cover. I long for a solid night’s sleep in my own bed.

I contemplate waking him, but this is giving me an opportunity to really digest what I see. I’ve told myself over and over again that it’s the tattoos that are turning me off, but what if that’s not the case? The art on his arms is so intricate, not pieced together like Liam’s, who has what I’d call sporadic tattoos, Harrison’s tell a story. I just don’t know what that story is and as much as I want to ask, I’m afraid that he’ll take it as a sign that I’m interested.

I want a moment where I can trace the ink, discover the hidden secrets and figure out if this is what’s keeping me away, or if I’m not ready to move on, and do all this without him knowing. I don’t want to give him hope if that’s what he’s looking for. I also don’t want to be just another conquest. I’m not like the woman he picked up in the bar. If he’s looking for someone just to bed, I’m not it. I can’t be. Those days where I could be carefree ended when I committed myself to Mason at the age of fifteen. Never have I thought about being with another man until the other night, when Harrison kissed me. Never have I felt such power from another person.

I move closer, the carpet quieting my steps. His body is splayed out with his t-shirt lifted so I can see more ink on his side. As luck would have it, a skullcap covers his head similar to what Mason would wear when he’d go to the gym. I’m starting to think that he owns stock in a hat company or that something is wrong with his head and he’s hiding it. Yet, I know that’s not the case because he let that woman touch him, remove his hoodie without any reservation. When I tried, he shied away, saying he wanted me to know him.

What does that even mean?

My shins collide against the couch. I hold my breath, waiting for him to move, waiting for his eyes to open and find me staring at him like a stalker. My eyes appraise him. His dark stubble from a few days’ growth mocks me, as if it knows that this is one of my favorite things about a man. I allow myself to take in his form. His stomach shows the dark swath of hair, leading to a place I should never think about because he’s not my husband, but I can’t help it. He intrigues me, even though I’m not willing to admit these feelings out loud. Can I go the rest of my life being this way, not willing to let another man in? Is this what Mason would want for me? Josie and Liam are insistent that Mason would be okay with Harrison, but how do they do know? Is this something Liam and Mason discussed before he was taken from our lives? Mason and I never discussed whether we should find happiness with someone else if one of us was to die early. What if it was me, would Mason move on a year after I left this world?

I’d want him to. My girls need a mom, so why is it okay for me to accept that Mason would move on, but not myself?

Harrison shifts slightly and before I can move, his hip bumps my leg. His eyes open cautiously, probably wondering what he just hit. I take a step back and start to stumble. He reaches out and grabs my arm to steady me, keeping me from falling on my ass. His hand slides down my arm until his fingers are linked with mine. He pulls me forward until my knees hit the couch, but that’s not close enough for him or for me.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel out of control, as if someone else is making my body move. I lean forward and trail my fingers down his arm, over the ink. It’s the first time I’ve touched a tattoo and I expected his skin to be raised, not smooth. Harrison watches my every move without saying a word. His skin pebbles as I move up and down his arm, as does mine. He’s not even touching me and I feel excitement. When I look at him, his eyes are steady on mine. A smile plays at my lips and I hate it. I hate that he can do this to me when it shouldn’t be like this.

He sits up, his hand cupping my face. I lean in as if it’s automatic for me to do something like this. His thumb glides gently over my cheekbone, his fingers threading into my hair. I look at him and know what’s coming next and I’m so powerless to stop it, because as much as my heart doesn’t want to kiss him, my body wants him.

He bites my bottom lip, bringing me to his mouth. I sigh, urging him on. My hand cups his cheek, my fingers pushing under the hat he’s wearing, feeling his short hair against the pads of my fingertips. He pulls me closer, our chests touching. Everything in my heart is telling me to stop, that this isn’t right, but my body is telling him yes, I want this.

Harrison wraps his arm around my waist, leaving no space between our bodies. He moves me so I’m sitting on his lap. My hand roams down his chest, my fingers finding their way under his shirt. His breathing hitches when I touch him. He places kisses along my jaw, nibbling my neck as my hand explores his chest. The soft kisses and dangerous bites he’s giving me drive me crazy. This shouldn’t be happening. I shouldn’t feel like this in another man’s arms.

But I do feel like this and I can’t help but want more. Crave more.

“Harrison,” I say, barely above a whisper.

He pulls away, resting his forehead against mine. Our breathing is heavy with anticipation. It could be so easy to fall into his arms and forget the heartache I’ve been dealing with, but I can’t, in good conscience enter into a relationship with him.

“Please don’t tell me to stop, Katelyn. I can’t. I can feel that you want this as much as I do.”

I shake my head without breaking our contact. Why doesn’t he understand that I can’t be anything more to him? I need to remove myself from the situation. Keep things professional between us.

The ringing of his cell phone causes me to pull away. I move, keeping one of the couch cushions between us. He pulls out his cell phone, only breaking eye contact when he looks the screen. He silences it and looks back at me.

“We need to talk.”

“Why?” he asks.

“Because this can’t happen between us.”

Harrison leans his arms on his knees and sighs. “So you’ve said, yet you’re the one in here watching me while I sleep, touching me and encouraging me to pursue this with you. You got jealous when I left the bar the other night with a woman. You acted like we were something at the park. I don’t get you at all.”

His cell phone rings again, before I can respond. He silences it.

“I
want
to get you, Katelyn. I want to understand what goes on in your head and be there when you need someone. I can be that person for you.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I do.” He gets up and starts to pace, only to be stopped by his cell phone again.

“Shouldn’t you answer that, it must be important?”

“No I shouldn’t and it’s not important. You’re important. You’re what matters right now,” he says as he drops to his knees in front of me.

“I can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t.”

“Is there a difference?” I ask.

“Can’t means there’s something physically holding you back from me and I know that’s not true. I can feel it when you kiss me and just now, the way you were touching me, exploring with your hands.

“Won’t means you won’t give in to temptation, but we already know that’s not true. You’ve let me kiss you. You’ve let me hold you against my body. Neither of these are valid reasons.

“I know you’ve lost your husband. I know every day is a battle for you because you miss him. I’m not trying to take his place with you or the twins. I just want to fit into your life.”

“You make everything sound so easy.” Harrison pulls my hand into his.

“It is,” he says with such confidence.

“It’s not.”

“Only because you don’t allow it.”

“Our lifestyles are different. I’m a mom of two who needs to be home at all times. You’re a drummer in a band who leaves all the time and spends months on the road. You have all these women throwing themselves at you, and I wouldn’t be able to trust the situation. I’ve seen it first hand. I don’t know how Josie does it, but I wouldn’t be able to. We’re too different.”

“Different is good.”

“No, different causes problems. There are expectations that have to be followed.”

“Expectations?” he questions, raising his eyebrow.

Harrison stands in front of me making me look up at him. “People have expectations of me,” I say quietly.

He leans over me, one arm resting on the arm of the couch. “You give a shit about what people think?”

My throat constricts because I hate that I do care about what people think. I nod and break eye contact because I don’t think I can take the look he’ll give me.

“That’s such bullshit. You won’t be with me because you’re worried about what people will think? What if they think ‘wow look at Katelyn, she’s found someone to love her and the girls, or is that not good enough for you?”

I look at him when he says love. He’s got to be joking. No one can love a widow with two kids. “Love?” I question, wanting to know his answer.

“Yeah, love. I can see myself falling in love with you and as much as I’m trying not to, it’s not working.” He says quietly. He sits down next to me and leans back into the couch. “I don’t know what else to say. I shouldn’t have to sell myself to you. You either like me or you don’t. Thing is, you can’t lie, I know you feel something, you just have to let yourself believe I’m good enough to be a part of your life.”

His phone rings again. I throw my hands up in the air. “Seriously, answer your damn phone.” He rolls his eyes and picks it up.

“Hello… yeah I remember… how’d you get my number?” Harrison has a confused look on his face. He bites his lip as he listens to his caller. “Okay… please don’t call me again.” He hangs up and puts his phone on his pocket.

“Who was that?” I ask even though it’s none of my business.

He shrugs.

“See this is one of the reasons. I know it was a woman, I could hear her whiney voice. Has she been the one calling you for the last hour?”

“It doesn’t matter who it was. What matters is that you don’t want to be with me, yet you’re still sitting in this room when you should be doing your job and getting things set up for tonight. I was in here because I can’t sleep on the bus. The room is yours now.”

I’m taken by his harsh tone, but this is what I’ve asked for. My lips form a thin line as I fight the urge to say something stupid. I nod and stand up. I look at Harrison, but he’s looking at his phone, ignoring me.

The door swings open and Liam barges in with the biggest pissed off look I’ve ever seen. Jimmy is following behind him. I look from Liam to Harrison, who doesn’t acknowledge the guys being in here.

“What have you done?” Liam asks in an incredulous tone.

“What are you talking about?”

“This.” Liam holds up a piece of paper and shakes it.

I walk over and pull it out of his hands. It’s the contract for the venue. As I read it my stomach drops.

“I… I… don’t –“

“You’re right, you don’t. This is bullshit, Katelyn, aren’t you paying attention?”

“I am,” I say with a shaky voice.

“What is it?” Harrison asks.

“Seems Katelyn has doubled booked us for the rest of the tour. We are supposed to be in Colorado and Seattle tomorrow night.”

“How is that possible?” Harrison stands and walks over to take the paper from Liam. He reads it over, looking at me for answers that I can’t give. I never set any dates in Colorado so I’m not sure how they ended up with a contract.

“Says we lose ten grand if we don’t show.”

“Yep sure does.”

My heart drops and dread takes over my body. An error somehow on my part just cost the guys ten grand.

Harrison looks from Liam to me, and I know this time he’s not coming to my defense. I’ve ruined any chance of having him in my corner when I told him that I couldn’t be with him. He hands me the contract and leaves the room, followed by Jimmy and lastly, Liam. I jump when the door slams shut and don’t even bother stopping the tears when they flow.

I
lie on my bed, with my hands behind my head, replaying the last few days over and over in my head. Now that the tour is over, albeit cut short, reality is jumping up and down, reminding me that school is about to start, that I have to be a responsible parent. My circle of friends, people I’ve depended on for so long, are living their lives in L.A. while Quinn and I live the high life in Beaumont. I shouldn’t have to remind myself that this is what I wanted. I just thought things would be different.

Hell, I don’t know what I thought, but definitely not this. I’m not gonna lie, I want her in my bed at night. I want to wake up and find her cooking breakfast for our kids. I want to come home at night and have everyone gathering around the table for dinner. But that’s not going to happen. She’s made herself very clear and I can’t continue putting myself out there for the rejection. A man can only take so much in his lifetime.

I look at the clock and sigh heavily. This year I’m taking Quinn to buy his school supplies. Usually my mom, or Meghan, his nanny, has done it and now it’s my turn. It’s time for me to grow up, I guess. I get up, get dressed and slip into my boots, looking down at my attire. I know Katelyn snubs her nose at the way I look. I’ve seen her do it and that’s fine. I’m not going to change for her or anyone. I like my t-shirts, khaki shorts, beanie and either my boots or Vans. Hell, I’ve been known to wear Chucks before. Aren’t those supposed to be considered high-class-guy-fashion or something?

I knock on Quinn’s door and open it, sticking my head inside. He’s sitting in his beanbag chair playing in his Xbox.

“Wanna go school shopping?”

“Sure,” he says as he powers down his console. It’s a proud dad moment when he doesn’t argue or roll his eyes. I know those days are coming and honestly, I don’t know what I’ll do the first time he smarts off to me. He walks ahead, his clothes matching mine, everything except for the hat. He likes to keep his hair styled, something I never did at his age.

Quinn is nothing like me. He’s confident and self-assured, making friends easily. I was shy and awkward, always alone, never fitting in. I thank my lucky stars that he’s different from me. I’m not sure how’d I’d handle things if he had a childhood like I did.

We walk to our car; the non-descript family car that I bought when we moved here so we wouldn’t draw unwanted attention with something flashy. I still have my motorcycle in the garage, but haven’t really taken it out much, aside from a few rides with Liam. I’m trying to live a normal life, one away from the balance in my checkbook, and give Quinn a quiet life, which is why I let Meghan go and didn’t ask her to move with us. Quinn has spent far too much time in her care because of my job, and now Liam’s provided me an opportunity to be home more.

Driving into town, I can’t help but look over at him while he watches the scenery pass him by. He’s well adjusted and acts like nothing bothers him and I want to believe that, but sometimes question if he needs something else, mainly a mom. Not that I’m going to run out and get married, but maybe bringing Meghan here is an option.

I pull into the parking lot of the mall and look around at all the other parents taking their kids shopping. Now I know why I never cared when my mom took Quinn shopping. This place is nuts.

“Grandma sent me a list of things she usually buys you. She didn’t tell me the mall would be like this, though.”

Quinn starts to laugh as he gets out of the car. I follow, locking it behind us. “It’s not so bad. Grandma always bought me ice cream though.” He looks up at me and bats his eyes.

I shake my head. “Of course she did,” I say as I throw my arm around him. We walk toward the lion’s den, the James men, brave… and incredibly stupid.

Quinn walks from store to store with me following behind, carrying his bags. I never knew my son was such a shopper; that definitely has to be Yvie rubbing off on him. I can’t remember a time when I’d step foot in a shopping center. They scare me. People just stare at me. We manage to get everything on my mom’s list and then some.

“Hey, Dad?”

“What’s up, bud?”

“Are you and Katelyn going to be boyfriend and girlfriend?”

I put the boots back on the shelf and try to compose my thoughts. This is exactly why I’ve never brought anyone home. I don’t want Quinn getting attached to anyone. Katelyn’s around because she works for the band and because of Liam and Josie, but he knows I like her.

“Nah, I don’t think so.”

I watch as his face drops.

“Come on, let’s go get some lunch and we’ll talk about it.” I put my hand on his shoulder and guide us out of the store. I nod at the cashier when we pass and turn toward the food court. We order from the staple of every mall food court, McDonald’s, and find a place to sit that can accommodate our bags. I’m thankful that no one is paying enough attention to notice me. I’m not in the mood to sign autographs today.

“Do you ever talk to Elle or Peyton?”

Quinn shrugs. “Not really. Peyton is always with Noah, but she doesn’t talk much.”

“You know that their dad died last year, right?”

He nods as he sticks a french fry in his mouth. “Yeah, Noah talks about Mason all the time. It’s sad that they lost their dad.”

“It is, I agree, and sometimes it’s hard for people to move on after they’ve lost someone they love so much.”

“Is that why Peyton is always upset?”

I nod. “I think so. From what Liam has told me, Peyton and her dad were very close and she’s having trouble adjusting.”

Quinn watches some of the people around us. He picks at his lunch, not really engaging in eating it.

“You okay?”

He shrugs. “I kinda thought Katelyn was going to be my mom. I saw you guys together and know you like her. I don’t know. Noah is always talking about great it is to have two parents and I know you like her and I think she likes you. I just thought…” His voice carries off while he plays with the wrapper from his straw. He doesn’t look me in the eyes, but down at his hands.

“What if he’s not mine?” I continue to pace. I was counting my steps, but lost count after five thousand.

“Of course he’s yours, Harrison, he looks just like you.”

I roll my eyes and pull on my lip ring. “He looks like the old man next door, doesn’t make him mine.”

My mom stands, setting Quinn – that’s the name I gave him – on her shoulder. She rubs his back, soothing him, not that’s he’s crying but he likes that.

“What if she comes back and takes him away?”

“Harrison,” mom steps closer and puts her hand on my arm. “I remember a day, a few months back, when you wouldn’t even look inside his car seat and now you’re worried she’s going to come back?”

I shrug. “He’s my life, I love him.”

Tears glisten in her eyes. I have to look away. I hate when she cries. It only took a day, which in my opinion was far too long, before I picked him up. I didn’t know what I was doing. He was crying and rocking him wasn’t working so I took a chance and the moment he nuzzled into my neck, I was a goner.

“He’s yours, sweetie.”

I don’t believe her. Nothing good can come of my lawyer calling me and telling me I need to come down. It’s been six-weeks since we took the test. The longest weeks of my life wondering if he’s mine and watching out the window to see if she’d be back.

“Mr. James,” I turn when my name is called. My body turns cold. I take a deep breath and stare down the hall that leads to my lawyer. To a man who holds my future in his hands. My mom pushes me forward. My steps are tentative as I drag my feet and follow behind her. Quinn, still on her shoulder, looks at me. His toothless smile making my steps just a bit faster. For months I’ve held him in my arms, waiting for this moment. Praying that a simple piece of paper will confirm what my heart feels, that he’s mine.

My mom sits. I choose to stand behind her, near the door for a quick escape. My palms sweat and my heart races. I think I’d rather listen to him cry for hours than sit in here and wait for a short man with beady eyes tells me my fate. My mom looks over her shoulder and reaches for my hand, holding it for reassurance.

“Mr. James,” he says as he shuffles paper back and forth on his desk. Shouldn’t he be ready? He called me and asked me to come in. You’d think everything would be in an orderly fashion. “I trust your day is going well.”

“It’s fine,” I reply.

“Okay, well I have the results here and also another matter we need to discuss.”

I roll my neck, trying to loosen up my nerves. He picks up the stack of papers and taps them against his oversized desk. He knows I’m paying him by the hour, that’s why he’s stalling.

He leans back in his chair, holding a single sheet of paper in the right light so I can see print, but I’m unable to make out the words.

“In my hand, Mr. James, are the paternity results that you requested.”

“Okay,” I say, trying to control my shaking leg. I want to reach across the desk and rip that paper out of his hand and read it. Quinn squeals, catching my attention. I rub my hand on top of his head, his baby fine hair standing on end. He puts his chubby hand in his mouth and start sucking.

“The child known as Quinn James is yours. You’re ninety-nine point nine percent his father.”

I bend over and let out the breath I had been holding. My mom rubs my back as I fight back the sob that is threatening to take over. Five months ago when he showed up, I didn’t want him, but now I’d never let him go. He’s my son.

“I have more news,” my lawyer says. I stand up and give him a slight headshake for him to continue. “Miss Tucker has been located,” he says as he turns back to his desk. I freeze at the one name that can change anything. He sets his hands in front of him, his fingers forming a tent much like my guidance counselor at school when he’d speak to my mom about me not being social enough for his liking.

My lawyer may be pissing me off, but he’s been very upfront with my rights. Alicia can come back and take Quinn from me. All she has to do is claim some type of depression shit and I’d lose my son. He says the courts side with the mothers first and listen to the father’s later. I don’t want that.

“And?” I encourage him to continue. I need to know. I need to hear the words out of his mouth.

He extends his hand, holding a piece of paper.

“What’s this?” I ask.

“Miss Tucker has signed away her parental rights. Quinn is yours and available for adoption by your wife when you choose to marry.”

“I’m never getting married,” I mumble as I read over the document saying she’s relinquishing all her parental rights. “He’s mine?”

“He’s yours, honey,” my mom says. She’s crying into my shoulder, but I know they’re happy tears because I’m shedding them as well.

“He’s mine.”

“Do you miss Meghan? If you do, I can call her and see if she’ll move here.” Maybe moving away from all the women in his life wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I didn’t think he would need them. Maybe I don’t know what an eight-year-old needs.

“No, it’s okay. I just…” he shrugs again. I reach forward and still his hand with mine. He looks up. I raise my eyebrow, waiting for him to answer me. “I like Katelyn. She’s nice to me.”

I sit back and study my son… the matchmaker, who knew? I like… no I fucking love that she’s nice to him and nothing would make me happier than for her give us a chance. I look out into the courtyard and watch a few people while I compose my thoughts. Dads and moms with their kids all getting ready for school, and here I am living the single life because I’m afraid to love anyone, except her. There’s something about her and I don’t know if I can say it’s just one thing. I love her hair, her eyes, or maybe it’s the way her lip curls when she’s really happy. She doesn’t know that I watch her like I do. That I take in her presence every chance I get.

I don’t know how to answer my son. For the first time ever, I’m going to clam up and keep my thoughts to myself for fear of what I might say. “Come on, let’s go to Noah’s. You can play and I can work for a bit.”

Quinn cleans up and carries the tray to the garbage can. He walks a bit slower. He’s either tired or thinks he’s done something to upset me. I bump him lightly, earning a grin, one that hasn’t changed from when he was a baby.

I
can’t get Quinn’s comments out of my head. Pounding on the drums doesn’t do anything to alleviate my stress either. Every time I close my eyes I see her beneath me and hate that it’s all in my imagination. I need to get over her, to move on and get her out of my system.

The song that I had been working on during the tour is on replay in my mind. I pull the lyrics out of my pocket and pick up a pen. I know Liam has written songs about Josie and continues to do so. He says it’s one of the best things about them. He writes and sings to her and she’s instantly dropping her panties for him. Not that I want Katelyn to do that… right away, but it would be nice for the hot and cold to stop. I feel her heart race when we’re together, I know she wants it, but refuses to see that we can be anything more than what we are. Maybe if she doesn’t want to see how I feel, my words can convince. Maybe if she hears words from my heart about how I feel, those are from me and meant for her, she’ll stop and think about what we could be together.

BOOK: My Unexpected Forever
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