Worth fighting for, p.23
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       Worth Fighting For, p.23
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         Part #2 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley

  Mom looked up and gave me a half smile. “Afternoon, Ellison.”

  I walked over and kissed the side of her head. “How are you today?” I asked, perching on the edge of her bed and watching her worriedly. Her eyes were red rimmed, her cheeks a little blotchy, like she’d been crying recently.

  She reached up a shaky hand and brushed her hair away from her face. “I’m better. They gave me some different pain meds today; they’ve made me feel a little woozy, but the pain in my hip and leg isn’t as bad as it was.”

  I nodded. “That’s good. Well, not about being woozy, but about less pain.”

  “Yes,” she replied, eyeing me curiously. “Are you all right?”

  “Sure I am,” I answered robotically, reaching out and opening the bag of grapes, helping myself to a few. I glanced up at the TV. “Whatcha watching?”

  She sighed deeply. “Some terrible soap opera. I forgot how much I dislike daytime TV.”

  I smiled, staring at the screen, my mind wandering to Jamie again without my permission. Mom reached out and touched my arm softly, catching my attention, and I realized she must have been talking to me and I’d been off in my own little world.

  “Ellison, is something wrong? You seem a little distracted.”

  I shrugged one shoulder, reaching out and plucking another grape from the bunch. “Nothing’s wrong. Sorry, what were you saying?”

  She sighed, her eyes concerned as she watched me. “I said, when are you leaving to go back to London?”

  I shook my head slowly. “I’m not. I’ve decided that I want to stay here. My home is here with you guys.”

  She recoiled, her mouth dropping open in shock. “You’re staying here?”

  I nodded, popping the grape in my mouth. “Yeah. I spoke to Toby about it last night, it’s all decided.”

  “But what’s going to happen between you two?” she pressed, her eyes boring into mine.

  “We broke up,” I replied. “It was amicable. There’s not much else to do, really. I want to stay here, and he can’t move because of his kids.”

  She paused before she spoke, as if she couldn’t quite find the words. “Ellison, don’t think I’m not thrilled to hear you’re staying here, because I am. I missed you so much while you were gone, it felt like a piece of me was taken away with you. But if this is about me and the accident, I’ll be home soon and can look after Kels. You don’t need to do this. I just want you to be happy, I don’t want you to put your life on hold.”

  I sighed, fingering the edge of her bedsheet. I hadn’t spoken to anyone else about this; I hadn’t even really fully accepted it myself. “Thing is, Mom, I’m not sure if that was meant to be my life. I’m wondering if maybe I was just running away from things and settled there because it was easier than coming back and facing everything.”

  “What do you mean?”

  I gulped, Jamie’s smile immediately flickering into my mind. How could I ever have thought that my life was supposed to be with Toby when I still had this space in my heart that was reserved only for Jamie? I frowned, voicing the question I’d asked myself over and over this morning. “Mom, do you ever get over your first love?”

  “Is this about Miles?” she asked.

  I snorted a laugh and shook my head. “No.”

  Her lips pursed. “Jamie?”

  I nodded. He had been my first love and, I had come to realize, my only love. “Yeah. I saw him the other day and we talked. It brought back all the feelings from years ago. We spoke about what happened and why we broke up. He told me some stuff that made me see the situation a little differently.”

  She settled back against her pillows, watching me like a hawk. “Like what?”

  I frowned down at the bedsheet. I couldn’t tell her what he’d said. She didn’t know anything about his past. I had always kept his secret because he didn’t want anyone else to know. I couldn’t admit to her now that he’d been arrested that night. Chewing on the inside of my cheek, I wondered what I could say to explain without having to actually tell the truth. “He said that he’d made a huge mistake breaking up with me and that he had actually wanted to come traveling with me, but he was...” I tried to think of a word to fit that wasn’t arrested. “Scared,” I finally settled on. “We were moving so fast that he got a little scared and that’s why we broke up. He regretted it, but by then it was too late to take it back because I’d already gone, and I didn’t come back, so...”

  My mother had fallen silent. I looked up at her now, expecting her to be angry about it, but instead she looked deep in thought. “I always thought it was weird. That boy was so in love with you, even I could see it. I never saw anything like that coming. I thought you two were solid. Your father even said that he thought you two would be married within a year or two. I always wondered what prompted the breakup, and you would never tell us the entire story,” she said thoughtfully. “Do you still love him?”

  I gulped. “I’ll always love him, that’s the hard part,” I admitted.

  She nodded. “What about Toby?”

  “We had a different kind of relationship. I love him, I do, but...it was different. I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I latched onto him just because he treated me nicely and because he was the first one I felt close to after Jamie,” I said. “I don’t think I ever really got over Jamie.” There was no real confusion about it for me; I hadn’t gotten over it and probably never would.

  My mom cleared her throat awkwardly. “Does Jamie feel the same?”

  I shrugged in answer. “I don’t know. I think so, maybe, yeah.”

  He hadn’t said he still wanted to be with me, but some of the things he’d said had led me to believe we had a chance as a couple.

  Mom sighed deeply, pulling the sheet up higher around her as her eyes became a little dreamy. “Ellison, did I ever tell you about when I met your father?”

  A corner of my mouth twitched up as I shook my head. “I know you met him in college, but that’s about it.”

  She smiled sadly, her eyes glazed over with tears. “When I met Michael, I never would have imagined that just a couple of years later I would marry him. He was everything I never wanted in a man, everything I always thought I hated and would never settle for,” she started.

  I sat enraptured, listening to her every word because I’d never heard her speak of my dad this way.

  She smiled. “As you can probably imagine, I was very prim and proper, my clothes pressed and hair perfectly styled. Your father, he was grungy, there’s no other word for it. He played guitar in a band that was simply terrible. He would wear the same raggedy Star Wars T-shirt for three or four days in a row without washing it, he barely styled his hair, and he liked going to festivals and camping in tents, for goodness’ sake.”

  She laughed and shook her head. “I guess before that I’d been a little sheltered. The boys I knew from high school were nothing like your father. They were snobby, self-righteous trust fund babies who thought the world owed them a living because of their family name. Your father opened my eyes to possibilities I’d never considered, made me see the lighter side of life that I’d never appreciated. I’d never met anyone like him before. Within a few weeks, I fell so deeply in love with him that I basically gave up everything to be with him. My parents never approved of Michael. They never saw what I saw in him, but that didn’t stop me. You can’t help who you fall in love with. When you find the one you’re supposed to be with, everything else just clicks into place and you’d do anything for them.”

  Her sad smile made my heart ache. I always suspected there was something off between her and her parents; there was always an unease and an awkward atmosphere when we would visit them—which wasn’t very often. Now I knew why. My heart swelled with love for my mother because she’d loved my father so much she’d basically turned her back on the life and society she was expected to go into. This new information also went a little way toward explaining why my grandparents hadn’t come to visit their daughter who was cri
tically ill in the hospital, or made it to their son-in-law’s funeral—they’d blamed poor health, but if they really wanted to, wouldn’t they have moved heaven and earth to be there for her, poor health or not? Maybe the old resentment was still there, just not admitted. It was their loss, not ours.

  Mom reached up and swiped a tear away as it slid down her face. “I guess what I’m trying to say here, Ellison, is I know I never gave you and Jamie an easy time of it, and I apologize for that. I guess I kind of forgot what it felt like to fall in love but have expectations on you from your parents. I’m sorry I put such pressure on you to be someone who you didn’t want to be. I never should have done that. I should have trusted your judgment and treated you with more respect than my parents afforded me. You’re a good girl, Ellison, and all I want for you is to be happy.”

  “Thanks, Mom,” I croaked, tearing up myself now, too.

  She smiled and reached for my hand, holding it tightly as she looked directly into my eyes. “If you love someone, don’t ever be afraid to show it. Shout it to the world if that’s what you want to do. Life is fleeting, Ellison. True love is rare, so if you find it, you hold on to it so tightly and never let anything or anyone get in the way.”

  True love. That was what I always felt Jamie and I had. “So you think I should talk to him about it?” I asked, unsure how this conversation even got started, it had escalated so quickly.

  She nodded. “I followed my heart and I never regretted it, not for one single day. That’s all I want for you, too. I just want you to find someone who makes you feel that kind of heart-stopping, epic love, even when he hasn’t shaved or leaves the toilet seat up or can’t manage to put the milk carton away after using it. All of those things, they don’t even matter, because once you’ve fallen for someone, you love the person within unconditionally. Flaws and all.”

  She was right, I knew she was right. Jamie was the other piece of my puzzle, just as my dad had been hers. “But what if he doesn’t feel the same? What if he hurts me again?” I said the words before I’d thought them through.

  Mom smiled sadly and patted the back of my hand. “That could happen, but if you don’t try you’ll never know what you could be missing out on. If you love him, Ellison, you need to be brave enough to give him that chance.”

  Again, I knew she was right. She’d spoken nothing but the truth, and it echoed my feelings of the last day or so, too. The trouble was, this situation was more complicated than I could ever explain to her. Jamie’s flaws I could live with, but his new-found career as some sort of local gangster was a different story. I wasn’t sure I could be with him, always wondering if he was going to be taken away from me because of his job. I didn’t want to forever have that fear hanging over my head. It would eventually drive me crazy, I knew it would. It would be something we would need to talk about before we could even think about moving forward—if he even wanted to move forward from here, that was. He’d been willing and eager to get out of that lifestyle once; maybe he would want to again. Like my mother said, I just needed to be brave enough to open up the conversation and see where it led.

  I sighed. “You’re right. I need to talk to him,” I agreed. “When did you get so wise?”

  “Must have been the bump to the head,” she joked, reaching up and touching the healing scar above her right ear. “Whatever you choose, I’ll always support you. I’m just sorry it’s taken me all this time to see things clearly.”

  I leaned in and wrapped my arms around her, hugging her tightly, some of the tension leaving my shoulders. I hadn’t realized what a weight I’d been carrying around with me, and how much I had desperately needed to talk it through with someone. She was right, I owed it to our memory to be brave enough to give him that chance.

  Mom hugged me back, her arms tight around me as her breath fanned down my neck and I felt her tears wet my shoulder. “Seriously, though, talk to him soon. Don’t waste a single moment. Enjoy every precious second of your life and make it count, because you never know when it could all be ripped away from you.”

  I pulled back and planted a kiss on her cheek as a rush of adoration for her washed over me. I’d never had this kind of conversation with her before, and her baring her soul about my father made me see a completely different side of her than I’d seen growing up. “I love you,” I said softly, meaning every word. It was probably the first time I’d outright said that to my mother, but somehow it just felt right confessing it now.

  Her lips pulled up into a grin as she reached out and stroked the side of my face. “I love you too, and I’m sorry I never told you enough. From now on, that’ll change. I’ll change. And I’ll always support you in everything you do. I’m so proud of you, Ellison, and the beautiful young lady you’ve become. You remind me of your father in so many ways.” She sniffed and her smile grew. “And I’m secretly over the moon that you’re staying.”

  “Me, too,” I admitted, hugging her again.

  CHAPTER 24

  JAMIE

  WHEN I PULLED up outside Ellie’s house on Saturday, it was almost midnight. Someone was still up, though. I could see the hazy glow of the TV flickering through the drapes. I wondered if it was Ellie who was awake and what she might be watching.

  I hadn’t seen her for a couple of days, not since I’d told her the truth about what happened on that day we broke up. I’d been trying to keep my distance, give her some space. I figured she’d need it after I dropped that bomb on her. I’d been hoping she’d call, but nothing so far.

  The car in front of me started up, and Spencer, the one I’d had guarding her for me this evening, waved his hand in acknowledgment and then took off down the street, leaving me to take the next watch. He’d been doing a lot of the shifts for me; he was one of my most reliable workers and I knew he would take the job seriously. Between him, Ed, Enzo, Dodger, and me we managed around-the-clock surveillance on her. Not that she ever really went anywhere other than the hospital, the grocery store, or Stacey’s apartment. The last two days I’d left her safety in the hands of the other three while I’d occupied my time with trying to find Mateo. So far, my search had been futile. He was nowhere to be seen; he’d vanished into the night like a ghost.

  While I was watching the house, I noticed a twitch to the drapes, light beaming out for a split second as someone looked out, and then it was gone. Reaching into my glove box, I pulled out my iPod, just about to stuff one of the earbuds into my ear when the front door opened. Ellie stepped out and turned to quietly close the door behind her.

  I frowned, tossing my iPod to the seat and climbing out of the car, wondering if something was wrong for her to suddenly appear like this. As she made her way across the yard in a tight pink tank top that showed off all her delicious curves and a pair of short shorts emblazoned with Miss Piggy that ended just barely an inch below her bottom, I couldn’t stop my eyes from roaming her body. My teeth sank into my lip as my gaze trailed over her breasts and thighs, imagining how her smooth skin would feel under my fingertips. She was amazing, even with her hair whipping across her face from the breeze.

  Her eyes dropped to the ground as a small smile twitched at the corners of her lips. Maybe she liked the fact that she still drove me wild. Maybe she came out here wearing that tiny, sexy outfit just to show me what I was missing. As quickly as the thought came I dismissed it. She hadn’t known I was coming here tonight. These were simply her pajamas, which just happened to be the hottest things I had seen in a long damn time.

  “Hey,” she muttered, wrapping her arms around her body and rubbing herself for warmth.

  I cleared my throat, hoping my voice wouldn’t betray my desire as I immediately unzipped my jacket, shrugging it off. “Hey, you shouldn’t come out here with no jacket. You’ll catch pneumonia or something,” I scolded, reaching out and draping my jacket around her shoulders.

  She smiled gratefully and pulled it closed around her, hunching her shoulders inside it. “Thanks.” She nodded back toward the house. “I j
ust wanted to see if you wanted to come in and have a drink or something. I can make you some food if you’re hungry.”

  “Um...yeah, sure,” I replied, unsure what this was really about. As soon as I answered, she turned and marched off toward the house, and my eyes instinctively dropped to her legs peeking out the bottom of my jacket. I’d never be able to wear it again without thinking of them, I was sure of it.

  I followed, pressing the button to lock my car as I stepped into the house behind her. I stopped, a blast of memories hitting me at once. I hadn’t been here for a long time, but the place looked just like I remembered. Ellie kicked off her shoes and I did the same, watching as she hung my jacket up on one of the coat hooks mounted on the wall.

  My eyes landed on the family photo that sat on the sideboard, and a pang of sorrow hit me when I looked at her smiling father. “This place hasn’t changed,” I commented, unsure what else to say as I followed her through the living room. My eyes landed on the couch and I stopped, setting a hand on the back of it. Just the feel of it under my palm made my pulse quicken. I raised one eyebrow and smirked at her. “I definitely remember this couch.” The suggestion in my voice was evident. We’d had many a cuddle session that turned into a lot more on that sofa on a Saturday morning when everyone else went to visit her nana.

  Her cheeks turned pink as her teeth nibbled on her bottom lip. “Yeah, it’s a very good couch.”

  I couldn’t contain my smug grin. Her eyes bored into mine as memories of dirty things I’d done to her on this couch surfaced in my mind. I wanted her so much, the intense desire was almost painful. She gulped and then shook her head a little as if to clear it.

  “Do you want coffee or a soda or something else?” she offered. Her voice betrayed a slight tremor, so I knew she was probably having the same filthy flashbacks as I was.

  I grinned. “Coffee is good, thanks.”

  She nodded, immediately turning for the kitchen, her ass wiggling in such a delectable way that it made my dick twitch. I bit back a moan.

  “Is your mom still doing okay?” I asked, wanting to change the subject and clear my lust-filled mind as I trailed behind her into the kitchen and sank into one of the dining chairs.

  She went straight for the kettle, boiling water. “She’s good, getting better every day.”

  “I’m glad. I can’t imagine how stressful that was for you, waiting for her to wake up.”

 
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