Rival Page 55

Before I know it our breathing is syncing up, and he’s setting the rhythm I follow.

Inhale, exhale.

Inhale, exhale.

Inhale, exhale.

Madoc’s face flashes in my mind, and I tighten my jaw. Memories of my aborted pregnancy crash into his image, and my teeth rub together. My mother’s voice enters my ears, and I suck my tongue dry, taking all of it, all of them, and swallowing the hard lump to the back of my throat, down my pipe, and I feel it all leave my brain.

It’s still inside me. Heavy.

But it’s quiet now, buried in my stomach.

My father releases my head and runs a thumb across my cheek as he holds my chin.

“Now who are you?” he implores.

“Fallon Pierce.”

“And where were you born?”

My voice is calm. “Boston, Massachusetts.”

He takes a step back, giving me room. “And what do you want to do with your life?” he asks.

I finally look at him, whispering. “I want to build things.”

He reaches to my side and picks a towel off the shelf, handing it me. I hold it to my chest, not really feeling the cold anymore. Not really feeling anything.

He leans in and kisses my forehead and then meets my eyes. “‘Nothing that happens on the surface of the sea can alter the calm of its depths.’” He quotes Andrew Harvey. “No one can take away who you are, Fallon. Don’t give anyone that power.”

I hadn’t cried since that day that’s suddenly on my mind. I’d come close, but two whole years and not one tear. My father kept me home for exactly one week to heal the injuries from the shards of glass from the windshield that had cut me up, but then he sent me back to boarding school to get on with my life.

And I had. That’s something everyone needs to learn on their own. Life goes on, smiles will come again, and time heals some wounds and soothes the ones it can’t.

I brought up my grades, made a few friends, and laughed a lot.

I simply couldn’t forgive, though. Betrayal cuts deep, and that’s what brought me back to town last June.

I just didn’t expect Madoc to still affect me.

He wanted me. I knew it. I felt it. But why? What did I really ever do to deserve him?

He’d been faithful to me when we were sixteen. Of that, I was pretty certain. I couldn’t hate him anymore for looking for a good time when he’d thought I’d willingly left him.

There are so many things I should tell him. Things that he had a right to know. And then I felt that I’d told him too much.

Madoc was better off without me. Our relationship started off in the wrong place to begin with. We had nowhere left to grow. He didn’t know me or what interested me. We talked about nothing.

Once he’d had his fill of the sex, he would leave. Not to mention the baby. If he ever found out about the baby, he’d jump ship. No doubt. Madoc wasn’t ready for anything that heavy. I wondered if he’d ever be.

I turned up “Far from Home” by Five Finger Death Punch and swallowed the guilt all the way back to Shelburne Falls as I drove home at my mother’s request. She’d texted this morning to let me know I had stuff at the house. If I didn’t come to collect what I’d left last summer, it was going in the trash.

I shook my head and ran a hand over my weary eyes.

• • •

Punching the gate code in, I inched Tate’s G8 forward as the black iron bars creaked open.

It was Saturday, late morning, and the October sky was lightly sprinkled with clouds. It was chilly out, but I hadn’t brought a jacket, opting for my black-and-gray-striped long-sleeved T-shirt and some jeans. My hair still hung loose from last night, but it’d been fluffed after my shower this morning. For some reason, though, I’d wanted Madoc’s smell to stay in my hair along with the tiny bits of grass I kept finding. My long bangs fanned around my cheekbones, and I picked my glasses off the passenger seat as I parked in front of the Caruthers’s house behind my mother’s BMW.

My glasses had been intended for reading years ago, but I took to wearing them almost all of the time. It felt safe somehow.

Walking into the house, I traipsed through the foyer and down the hall next to the stairs leading to the back of the house where I was sure to find Addie in the kitchen.

The quiet house seemed so different now. Almost hollow as if it weren’t filled with memories, stories, and a family. The bitter chill of the marble floors shot through my sneakers and up my calves, and the high ceilings didn’t magically hold in warmth anymore.

Looking out the glass patio doors, I saw Addie sweeping up around the pool that already had the cover rolled over it for the coming winter. When I looked farther out, though, I noticed that the Jacuzzi was covered as well. When I lived here, that continued to be used throughout the cold months as well as the lawn furniture and barbecue area. Madoc’s dad loved grilled food, and he and Madoc would venture out to throw steaks on the barbecue in the dead of January.

Now the entire patio seemed barren. Dead leaves blew this way and that, and it didn’t look like Addie was making any progress. It didn’t even look like she was trying to.

This house had problems, but it also had a history of laughter and memories. Now everything just looked dead.

I opened the sliding glass door and walked out across the stone tiles.

“Addie?”

She didn’t look at me, and her low, quiet voice wasn’t welcoming like last time. “Fallon.”

I took off my glasses and stuck them in my back pocket. “Addie, I’m so sorry.”

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