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|Melody of the Heart(Runaway Train #4) by Katie Ashley|
Her brows lined in confusion. “Even after all this time?”
“A lifetime couldn’t erase my feelings for you.”
The sound of voices behind us made Lily tense in my arms. “There she is. Lily, honey, why don’t you come over here and speak with some of these people?” a woman said. I thought I recognized her as one of Lily’s aunts. Maybe her dad’s sister.
Lily’s anguished eyes met mine. “Take me away from here, Brayden. Please.”
Without another word, I wrapped my arm around her shoulder, pulling her tight to me. Then we bypassed the waiting people on the porch and headed down the steps. “Lily? Lily, where are you going?” the woman questioned.
But Lily didn’t reply. Instead, she kept her head down as I steered her around the back of the house. When we started for the woods, she glanced up at me. “You’re taking me to the treehouse?”
“Is there somewhere else you wanted to go?”
Tears pooled in her eyes. “No,” she whispered.
“Look, if it’s going to upset you, I’ll take you somewhere else.”
“Some of the happiest memories I have of you are at the treehouse.”
Her words felt like a dagger tearing through my chest. I had just been trying to get her away as fast as I could from well-meaning but irritating family members and mourners. I didn’t stop to think that the treehouse probably wasn’t a trip down memory lane that we should be taking.
The sounds of bird calls and squirrels scurrying around filled the silence between us as we tromped through the overgrown brush. When I saw the treehouse in the clearing, I exhaled a relieved breath. I had feared it might be gone by now.
“Wait here and let me check it out,” I instructed. Lily nodded as I started gingerly up the ladder. The wooden rungs appeared pretty sturdy. When I got to the top, I pushed on the trapdoor. I did a few steps along the floor to test it out. I walked back over to the hole. “It looks fine. Come on up.”
Lily came up the ladder, and then I helped pulled her inside. Wrapping her arms around herself, she gazed around the room. “I can’t believe how nothing has changed.” My gaze fell on the table with the melted candle stubs and lantern. We had them lit each and every time we came here to make love. The air mattress had long since deflated, but blankets still covered it. I spread one out and motioned for her to have a seat.
Once she sat down, her hands ran along the grooves in the floorboard—the grooves I had made with a pocket knife where I etched the date of all the times we had snuck away to have sex. Two teenagers so desperately in love. It seemed like another lifetime.
“What are you thinking about?” she whispered.
“What we used to do here,” I answered honestly.
“So was I.” With a sad smile, she said, “I’m sure this looks like a real dump to you now.”
I shook my head. “I could never think that.”
“But you’re a millionaire now. You have all the finest things in life. Surely it would be an embarrassment if anyone knew you were hanging out here in some piece of shit treehouse with your inadequate ex-fiancée.”
“I sure as hell never said you were inadequate.”
“You didn’t have to verbalize it. There at the end, I felt it whenever I was with you and from your label’s minions.” A mirthless laugh came from her lips. “I can only imagine how thrilled they were when we broke up. I bet you’re dating some supermodel now, aren’t you?”
“I guess I deserve that considering the way I treated you.”
“Yeah, you do,” she replied bitterly.
“Words are cheap, Lils. You know that better than anybody. I think I could tell you how sorry I am from dusk until dawn, but it wouldn’t be enough. You should have actions like me groveling on my knees, begging and pleading for forgiveness, sending you flowers every day. Anything to show you the depth of my regret.”
She cocked her brows at me. “You really feel that way?”
“When did you come to this epiphany?”
“Not soon enough.”
“Exactly when?” she pressed.
“When I heard about Paul.”
She sucked in a breath. “So twenty-four hours ago you could have cared less about how you treated me, but then just like that, everything changed?”
“No, it’s not like that at all. It wasn’t like the day you left I just stopped feeling for you. I was in a fucked up place then. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t the responsible one. I was being young and rebellious. Everything was within my reach from money to cars to alcohol. That lifestyle—it fucks with your head. After going through what I did with Tom and Raul, I thought I was stronger than succumbing to temptation of booze.”
“I could have helped you be strong, but you pushed me away.”
“I know I did. And I’m so fucking sorry I did that.” Bringing my hands over my face, I then shook my head. “The truth is that I missed you each and every day we were apart. Most of the time, I would push the thoughts of you away, but sometimes they were harder to do than I thought.”
“Every day I kept hoping that you would wake up and realize what you had done. I even had fantasies of you showing up in different places, begging me to come back. But they never came true.”
“But I’m here now.”
“And what if my father hadn’t died? Where would you be?”