Worth fighting for, p.29
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       Worth Fighting For, p.29

         Part #2 of Fighting to Be Free series by Kirsty Moseley
 
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  I shrugged and wrapped my arm around her waist, pulling her to me. “Might be a permanent thing, you know. Your mom was pretty adamant that she didn’t want to come back here.” I watched her carefully.

  She nodded, chewing on her lip. “Yeah, I know. Guess that means we’ll have a bit of driving to see each other.” She reached up, tracing her finger across the collar of my T-shirt, making my skin prickle.

  “I’d drive to the ends of the earth every day to see you,” I replied. True, there would be a fair bit of commuting each day to see her in the Poconos, but she was worth every second of it.

  The corners of her mouth quirked up in a smile. “Corny.”

  “You love it.” I bent my head and captured her lips in a soft kiss that quickly deepened and turned into something more. Everything always morphed into something more with her; it was like my body couldn’t get enough of hers and was making up for the lost three years.

  I groaned against her mouth as her hands gripped the back of my hair. Lust sparked inside me, and my hands slid down to her ass as I walked her back a step and crushed her against the side of the car, pressing my body against hers. A soft groan from her throat drove me wild, and I forgot where I was, forgot everything as our bodies rubbed together in ways that made me long to rip her clothes off and have her writhing underneath me.

  My hand slid up her shirt, tracing the soft skin of her stomach, heading higher, my arousal spiking with every inch gained.

  A loud throat-clearing made us both jump and I whipped my head around to see Ellie’s grandmother standing there with one eyebrow raised and her arms folded. I smiled sheepishly and shifted on my feet, caught in the act. “Didn’t you two get enough of each other last night, for goodness’ sake?” she asked, pursing her lips playfully.

  Ellie gasped and then laughed as I grinned and stepped away from her, being careful not to turn so her grandmother wouldn’t see just how excited Ellie made me with a simple kiss.

  Her nana winked playfully, laughing as she rolled her eyes. “Are we almost ready to go? I told Ruth we’d be there at three.”

  I nodded as Ellie straightened her shirt and tucked her hair behind her ears, her face full of embarrassment. “We’re ready,” she agreed. “Is Kels packed?”

  “Yes!” Kelsey called, coming out of the house with a rucksack on her back. “Kels is packed and ready. Let’s go get Mom.”

  While Kelsey stuffed her pack in the nonexistent space in the trunk and then struggled to close it, her nana climbed in the passenger side, setting her purse at her feet.

  “Right, time for me to go,” Stacey said, stepping forward, arms outstretched. Ellie smiled and the two girls hugged fiercely. “Call me when you get there, and I’ll see you next weekend. Remember to snag me the biggest bedroom to sleep in and one on the other side of the house from you two raging nymphomaniacs so I can’t hear you guys making up for lost time all night.”

  I laughed, kicking my toe into the grass, letting them say their good-byes. It wasn’t really a good-bye, though, just a see you soon. Those two would never lose touch—they were way too close.

  “Talk later. And thanks for helping me pack,” Ellie said, hugging her again.

  “Anytime. Say hi to your mom for me,” Stacey replied, planting a deliberately noisy kiss on Ellie’s cheek before bending and waving to Kelsey and Ellie’s grandmother inside the car. Stacey smiled at me awkwardly, probably because she still disliked me for hurting her friend. I didn’t mind; I was confident I’d win her over eventually, too. “Take care of them, Jamie.”

  “Will do,” I promised, watching as she headed to her own car, shouting a final “See ya” before pulling away, waving enthusiastically out of her window.

  Ellie sighed and then headed to the house, stepping inside the front door and checking that the lights were off before just stopping and standing there, her eyes taking in the empty living room.

  I walked to her side, placing my hand on the small of her back. “All right?” I asked.

  She nodded. “Yeah, it’s just weird seeing the house with all the photos and stuff taken down,” she replied.

  I looked around too, seeing that they’d packed all the family photos, all the personality that made a house a home, into the backs of the two cars in the driveway. This was merely a shell left behind. “It’s just a house, Ellie.”

  She sighed and turned to me, a smile lingering on her lips. “Home is where the heart is, right?”

  I flashed her a smile. “Right.” My home was her, because that was where my heart lay.

  She took a deep breath and slipped her hand into my good one as we walked out of the house together. After she had locked the front door, we headed to the cars. I could tell it was hard for her, leaving the house she’d grown up in, the house filled with memories of her childhood and father. But that was the exact reason why her mother didn’t want to come back, and everyone respected that.

  I walked Ellie to the car that her nana and Kelsey were already seated in and kissed her softly outside the door. “I’m proud of you, you know,” I whispered.

  And I was. She took everything in stride, handled everything with grace, and came out the other side a stronger person. She smiled gratefully as I planted a kiss on her forehead and pulled away.

  “I’ll see you at the hospital,” I called, walking back to my car.

  As I walked, I noticed a hopeful spring in my step. This was a positive move for all of us; everyone—including me—could actually build a future together rather than just blowing through life on a breeze.

  I watched Ellie start up the car and roll out of the driveway, heading to the hospital. After we picked up her mother, we’d be leaving the city behind us and heading to the Poconos. No one was sure if this was a permanent move or not—only time would tell—but even if it was I didn’t mind one bit. I would follow Ellie anywhere.

  EPILOGUE

  ELLIE

  I CLOSED MY eyes and sighed happily, listening to the Christmas songs playing quietly on the radio. This was definitely my happy place.

  “Ellison, I made you a coffee,” my mom called from the back room.

  “Thanks, Mom,” I acknowledged, opening my eyes and grinning when I saw the snow falling outside the window. The weatherman had predicted snow today, but my mom had been adamant the sky didn’t look right for it. Seemed the weatherman was right, for a change.

  I loved this time of year, I loved the snow, and I loved the cold. Winters in the Poconos were the best, and in a couple of weeks, we would spend our first proper Christmas here.

  It had been almost nine months since we packed up the car and moved in with my nana, and we’d all mutually decided not to go back. Almost nine months of fresh mountain air and time to reflect and rebuild our family without my dad. It had been hard, but things were looking up for all of us: Kelsey loved her new school, my nana loved the company around the house, and my mom, well, she had found her calling late in life—fronting my store and doing the books.

  My store, aptly called Jellie’s Boutique—a name that Jamie had come up with and I had fallen in love with immediately—sold one-of-a-kind items of handmade clothing from a local designer...me! We also sold beautiful costume jewelry that I had commissioned from another local designer and jams that my nana made. The store had been open for six months now and was doing well. We weren’t millionaires by any means, but we were holding our own and making a decent profit.

  I worked long hours, often sketching or stitching late into the night when my creative brain wouldn’t sleep, but it didn’t feel like work. When you find something you love in life, doing it is never a chore. The pride of seeing someone wearing one of my designs was immense. Last week I had just finished an order of five bridesmaids’ dresses for a lady who had driven all the way from Philadelphia to have them commissioned after she’d found me online—on a website my mother had set up all by herself! Who knew she was such a marketing whiz? Knowing that something I created was going to be included in someone
s special day filled me with incredible pride and satisfaction. I was loving life at the moment and wasn’t sure it could ever get better than this.

  The store had all been Jamie’s idea. He’d always loved my designs, and after we had moved here, my creative spark came back with a vengeance, but my newly crafted designs were just wasting away in a sketchbook. Jamie had been the one to convince me to make a few of them and sell them online. They had been a hit and sold like hotcakes. From there, he’d started talking about me opening my own store in town. It was just a pipe dream for me, a nice idea, but something I could never afford—until the day that Jamie handed over the keys to the newly purchased store to me. He’d sold his apartment, his cars, and one of his clubs to pay for it, giving up everything he had in favor of me achieving the dream I once had of owning my own clothing line. The store had taken a lot of work to get up and running, lots of late nights decorating, renovating, and outfitting, but we’d gotten there, and six months later it was thriving.

  I never allowed myself to think of the bad things that happened before we left or the fact that I killed a man. I blocked it all out and just got on with my life. Ed and the Salazar people wouldn’t steal any more of my life and happiness—I wouldn’t let them. We moved on, all of us, and we were happier than we thought possible after losing my dad.

  The bell above the door chimed and in stepped the genius who created the beautiful jewelry that I sold here. Simone was a thirtysomething single mom with pink and green in her hair, her style quirky and different. She lived just down the street from my nana’s house and was a lovely woman. “Hi, Ellie.”

  “Hey, Simone.” My eyes zeroed in on the box she was carrying and I squealed. “Is that the new line you were telling me about?” I asked, haphazardly hanging the last couple of dresses on the display rack before rushing to her side excitedly.

  She nodded, lifting off the shoe box lid, exposing her beautiful creations. I gasped and my mother leaned in too, her eyes excited as we all reached into the box and pulled out pieces, setting them on the counter. “Oh, they’re beautiful! I can already see these selling out,” I gushed, picking up a silver bracelet with a bumblebee design intricately engraved on it.

  My mom nodded in agreement, reaching into the drawer and pulling out her camera. “These are going straight on the website and social media pages. Great work, Simone.”

  Simone’s face lit up; everybody liked compliments from my mother and took them to heart. “Thanks, ladies,” she chirped before turning to me. “Hey, I just saw your man getting into his car and driving off. Where’s he going in the middle of the day?”

  “No idea,” I answered, absentmindedly heading to the front window of the store and looking out across the street. When Jamie had sold his apartment, his club, and all of his cars so he could buy my store, he’d also purchased a little something for himself that just so happened to be across the street. A large brick warehouse that he’d opened up the front of and converted into his own workshop and garage. Jamie was living his dream too, fixing up cars instead of stealing them.

  I loved that he was so close because it meant I got to eat lunch with him every day, and if I so desired, at any given point throughout the day, I could look out the window and marvel at the sight of him dressed in his greasy overalls, with his cap on his head, bent over a car with that delectable ass in full view. Every single time it made my heart thunder in my chest and my knees weak.

  Jamie hadn’t moved with us at the start, but after he drove to my nana’s house practically every day for two months, my mom had finally suggested that he just move in too because he was already there so damn much anyway.

  Until I lived with him and woke to him every single day, I hadn’t realized I could love him even more than I had before, but I was wrong, oh so wrong.

  Simone was right, though; he’d closed up shop and his car was gone. I frowned, hoping he drove safely in the snow. More than likely he’d gone to pick up a part for a car. There wasn’t any other real place he would need to go to today, unless...

  I gasped and turned to my mom. “Oh my God, do you think the sale has gone through? Maybe he’s gone to pick up the keys or something?!” I jumped on the spot, my excitement bubbling up inside me like I was a little kid. I couldn’t stand still. “The lawyer said it wouldn’t happen until late in the afternoon, but it could have gotten done early, right?” I prattled.

  Simone cocked her head to the side. “This for the house you two are buying? Is it going through today, sugar?”

  I nodded, reaching up to cup my cheeks as my face flushed with heat and excitement. “Yes!”

  “Calm down, Ellison. He’s most likely gone to collect a part for a job he’s on or something. If it’s not due to go through until tonight, then it’ll most likely be tonight, not lunchtime.” My mom was always the voice of reason. That was my first thought, too.

  My excitement slowly fizzled out. I’d been on tenterhooks all day, waiting for the phone to ring and tell me that Jamie and I were homeowners, but I could wait a few more hours for it. I sighed and nodded, resigned. “Yeah, I guess. Anyway, let’s get these new beauties photographed and on display,” I suggested, trying to keep my mind off our new home as I headed back over to the new array of jewelry we had to sell in the store.

  * * *

  Less than an hour later, Jamie was back. I heard the roar of his car engine as he pulled up outside. I resisted the urge to run to the window and just continued staring at the phone, waiting for the lawyer to call with good news.

  When the bell above the door chimed again, I looked up in time to see the love of my life walk in carrying a bunch of pale pink roses. His smile stretched across his face and my heart skipped a beat. “Hey, little girl,” he called.

  I spun on the stool I was perched on and hopped off, heading around the counter to meet him. “Hey yourself.” I went up on tiptoes, and his mouth came down and connected with mine. His face was chilled from the wind, his hair messy where it had been hidden under a cap all morning, but he had never looked more appealing. Jamie could be covered in mud, and I would still want to jump his bones.

  He pulled back, his eyes sparkling with excitement. I smiled and looked at the flowers. “Those for me?” I inquired, biting my lip.

  He shook his head quickly, reaching in and plucking a single rose from the bunch. “This one is,” he replied, holding it out to me. “But the rest are for...” He looked up and smiled at my mom before walking over and handing them to her. “...You,” he finished.

  My heart melted even more at the sweet gesture. My mom gasped, her eyes widening as she put them to her face and inhaled their sweet aroma. “Aww, Jamie, they’re lovely. Thank you!”

  My boyfriend had completely won my mother over with his charm and sweetness during the last nine months. She’d been hesitant about our relationship at first, but her new philosophy in life, after losing my dad, was that people needed to live life every day and grab happiness wherever they could get it. She just wanted me to be happy and recognized that he was the one who was going to make that happen. Now she treated him like the son she’d never had.

  “What are these for, then?” she asked, inhaling the flowers again, her eyes shining with gratitude.

  Jamie shrugged and turned back to me. “For having such a wonderful daughter and for letting me be part of her life.” He reached into his pocket and brought out a bunch of keys, dangling them from one finger. “And as a going-away present, because we’ll be moving out soon.”

  My mouth popped open. He had gone to get the keys earlier! “What? Are you freaking kidding? Are they seriously the keys to the house?” I bounced on the spot, staring, transfixed, at the keys and our new beginning that was just around the corner.

  “Not kidding. I just went to pick them up.” Jamie grinned. “Want to go check out our new pad?”

  I squealed and nodded, already running to the back to grab my jacket and scarf. When I was all bundled up, I headed back into the shop, seeing Jamie fin
ishing off my hot cocoa that Mom had made ten minutes ago.

  Mom grinned, coming to my side and reaching out to zip up my coat the last couple of inches and fiddle with my scarf. Her eyes were misted with tears as she smiled over at me. “I’m so happy for you two, and I just want you to know that your dad would be incredibly proud of the young lady you’ve grown into.”

  I smiled and reached out, pulling her into a tight hug. “Thank you. I love you.”

  “Love you, too,” she replied. That was another thing she’d changed since the accident—she was now very forthcoming with her affection. It was a little weird to accept at first, but now I reveled in it. We had a superb relationship.

  I pulled away and turned to Jamie, who was holding out a hand to me. “Ready?” he asked.

  I nodded. “Hell yes!” I’d been ready to settle down with him since I was seventeen years old. This day hadn’t come soon enough.

  JAMIE

  As we stepped out of the store and into the chilly wind, a young couple sitting on the wooden fence, kissing, caught my eye. I smiled but then cupped my hands around my mouth and shouted, “Kelsey Pearce, put that boy down!”

  She jerked away, her face flushing pink, just like Ellie’s did when she was embarrassed. “Shut up, Jamie,” Kelsey called back, laughing and reaching up to wipe her mouth with the back of her mitten-covered hand.

  Kelsey had turned fourteen last week, and as far as teenagers went, she was pretty cool and a good sister to Ellie. We actually got along great. She was around the same age my sister would have been now, so I liked to step in and do my big brother part.

  “Just let me know if this gets serious so I know if I have to come kick his ass.” I winked at her as the boy’s body stiffened and his hand dropped from around her shoulders.

 
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