Embrace: Evolve Series, Book Two(3)

By: S.E. Hall



“You still mad at me, baby?” I reach for her hand and feel a twinge of pain when she flinches at my touch.

“No, I said I forgive you, and I do.” She sighs heavily. “I just feel bad, going out and having fun, when I know he’s hurting.”

I knew from day one that Evan was important to her, so I’d be a fool to think she’d just turn it off like that, but it was much easier to accept when he was hours away. Now he’s here and I don’t know what the hell to do—do I talk about it? Ignore it? Whisk her away on a relaxing trip in hopes she’ll suddenly tell me what she’s really thinking? I lift her hand to my lips, kissing it softly, choosing my next words carefully. I hadn’t handled Evan at my door with class, she was right, and disappointing her cut deep. Usually when she looks at me, I see love and acceptance; when she’d walked away, her eyes had been full of disgust. I don’t want to ever see that look from her again, so I’m walking a tightrope, trying to balance her peace of mind and our future simultaneously.

“Give it some time, Laney. Let him calm down, then maybe you two can talk.”

It takes everything in me not to snarl my teeth at the thought of them together, talking, but she’s my one true love, my air, and I hate the idea of her being unhappy more. Getting to know her and letting her get to know me has been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I love to make her laugh, the sound is my Zen, and she’s the funniest person I’ve ever met. I’ve numbly gone through the motions of life for years, and now that I’ve found a reason to smile, anticipate, imagine… I have to make sure I do everything I can to make her feel the same, even if that means giving her some room with Evan. She needs to find the place with him where she can forgive herself, but nothing more—the only way I’ll be without Laney is if I die in the fight.

Her eyes are watery, the tip of her nose pinking with the threat of tears. “Do you really think so? That he’ll actually forgive me?”

I can’t stand to see her like this. I can’t park the car quickly enough, and within moments I’m pulling her into my arms, rubbing her back. “Yes, Laney. I think one day you’ll be friends again, and eventually, he’ll see that you’re happy.”

She smiles at me, reaching up to cup my cheek in her hand. “I am very happy,” she says. Her voice is sincere but her eyes betray her guilt. “I love you, Dane. You make me more than happy. I just hate that I had to hurt him to love you. But that’s not your fault.” She presses her soft lips to mine and when she looks back up at me, her eyes are dry and her smile is bigger. She’s put on a mask, hiding her sadness to ensure my happiness. “Let’s go inside and have fun, okay?”

“Are you sure? We can go home right now.” I rub a finger along her lips, wanting to feel them against mine again.

She kisses my finger, sending a longing through me, and giggles at the loud breath I suck in. “We’re already here. Come on.”

“For you,” I concede, lacing my fingers through hers.



***

She looks amazing. My jaw clenches and temper flares with every devouring look I see cast her way, but Laney doesn’t even notice. That’s one of my favorite things about her—she has no idea her effect on any man with a heartbeat. She’s wrapped up in conversation with Kirby, but her sweet little hand never leaves my thigh. I try my best to stay engaged with Zach, who’s talking to me from across the table, but one eye never leaves Laney.

When Zach leads Kirby to the dance floor, my love bends to grumble lowly in my ear, “freakin’ Sawyer! We owe Tate twenty bucks!”

Tate, Bennett, Laney and I had all laid secret bets with one another in the beginning of the confusing, yet very intriguing, ménage á quatre between Sawyer, Zach and the Andrews twins. It seems now that Sawyer has dropped totally out the race, costing Laney and I each twenty dollars. I thought we’d break even if Zach ended up with Avery, but since he’s currently tangled up with Kirby on the dance floor, it looks like we’re gonna owe double.

I chuckle, relieved that her mood has lifted and she seems more her spunky self, and kiss her sweet lips. “I’ll pay your debt, baby,” I assure her.

She shakes her head, rolling her eyes. “Sawyer isn’t allowed to work his way through my softball team, Dane. I will have his ass.”

“I’ll tell him,” I laugh again, loving how cute she looks with her little brow scrunched in anger, “or feel free to line him out yourself.” I wink at her and raise my arm to get Sawyer’s attention. He’s working tonight, but knows his priorities; come out from behind that bar and help with my plan. He comes over to our table and, of course, scoops my woman up in a big hug. I’m glad they seem to be good buddies again. She’d been furious at Sawyer when he showed up at my door, unannounced, with Evan, but he had told me and I’d foolishly chosen not to relay that information, which was my bad—not his. I made sure she forgave Sawyer of any fault while groveling for my own forgiveness.

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