Friday, January 15, 2016

White Ribbons & Silver Tinsel: Adam and Emmaline


Sorry for the delay of this post. The end of December was hard even though it was joyous to welcome a new year. I was still grieving the loss of a loved one and needed time to let it happen. Then I was in a car accident last and couldn't post this because of injuries from it. But here it is. I hope you enjoy.

~~~

The silence between them was unbearable, but Emmaline refused to speak. Ten years she held her peace. Ten years she kept her anger and hurt bottled up. She said what she'd wait so long to do. The ball was in Adam's court. How he answered, what he said, would determine where they went. The part of her that was struggling to hold onto the past snorted and whispered, If anywhere at all.

She pushed the voice away. No matter what, she told herself firmly, they would go somewhere. Separate. Together. Didn't matter. But this would no longer be between them. This would no longer have a hold on her.

Adam raked a hand through his hair, eyes narrowed, lips pressed into a thin line. After what seemed like forever, he spoke, his voice low and hoarse. "I don't know if you can."

Disappointment welled in her chest, crushed what little hope she had of moving on. Tears filled her eyes. She swallowed the hurt clogging her throat and nodded. God help her, she'd get over him, really truly get over him. Though she had no idea how a forty-two year old woman could ever get over the one man she ever loved. But if this was his answer, who was she to--

"Whatever you're thinking, Emmie, stop." His firm voice cut through her despair and ignited her anger.

She glared at him. "Excuse me?" she seethed. "You're the one who--"

"I know but I wasn't done," he said and sighed. "I don't know if you can because you needed me to stand with you that day, for me to believe you more than her. I didn't. I believed a woman who's vindictive by nature and doesn't care two cents about anyone but herself. I knew that and chose her over you anyway. What kind of man does that to the woman he loves?"

A heartbeat of silence then humorless laughter filled the space between them. He shook his head. "You want to know something? It wasn't the file, the PI's neat little twenty-three page report, or the pictures he managed to find of you that had me turning my back on you. It was a question Katrina asked." His dark gaze, steady and unreadable, pierced her where she stood. "She asked, 'Why else would she insist on not sharing personal information when you first met?'"

The question slammed into her, forcing the breath she held from her lungs as she stumbled back until she hit the counter behind her. She thought back to their first date, to her insistence at not sharing too much about herself with him. It was caution, she told herself then. They didn't know each other beyond the restaurant. Her past was not something she felt comfortable sharing with him at all during their brief affair in the city. That changed when they met again and she introduced him to Brandon.

Their first meeting was filled with tears and barely suppressed rage, followed by an all-night meeting sorting through emotions and explanations before, finally, coming to an agreement that benefited everyone. Watching Adam with their son, listening to him whisper how much he loved that little boy, bolstered her courage to come clean to him. He needed and deserved to know everything about her. It was the only way they could have a future together as a family.

Except Katrina beat her to it. Dreams of forever turned to dust because she was one day too late.

A dizzying wave of emotions crashed through her. Emmaline blinked back the tears blurring her vision. "Adam, I--"

He shook his head again, expression softening. "Don't. You were never at fault."

She swallowed hard. "But she was right. I--"

"Protected yourself like anyone else would have," he cut in. "You were right to keep all of that to yourself. When I found out all of that stuff, I was pissed and hurt. I couldn't understand how or why you hid your past after everything we'd been through up to that point."

Adam sighed and slumped into one of the dining chairs. It groaned under his weight as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees letting his hands dangle between them. He looked up at her, his gaze heavy and pensive.

"But it wasn't about your past that day, Emmie," he said softly. "It was about my lack of trust in you. It took a long time to accept that you had your reasons for hiding your past, and an even longer time for me to admit my behavior that day was inexcusable. A man who says he loves a woman then lets himself be swayed by self-serving bitch isn't worthy of that woman's love."

He stood and strode towards her, stopped an arm's length away. She inhaled sharply when he reached out and traced the curve of her cheek with warm calloused fingers.

"If my faith in you was as steady and strong as I told myself it was, I should have gone to you right away." He inched closer, let his fingers drift to her shoulder where they stayed. He squeezed her shoulder lightly then pulled away. "I didn't because I wasn't thinking about you. I was thinking about me and how much I was hurting. I didn't care that you might be hurting too. For that, and for everything else, I'm sorry."

Tears filled her eyes as warmth flooded her heart. His apology was a start, a place for them to heal. But he wasn't the only one who needed to say those precious words. A tiny part of her brain rebelled, hissed that this mess was entirely his fault. But her heart quickly countered with firm reminders she wasn't completely guiltless. This rift might have begun with Adam, but its endurance was her fault as well as his.

Fingers shaking, Emmaline reached out and gently laced hers with his. Electricity shot up her arm. She looked up and met his wide-eyed, surprise filled gaze. She tugged and bit back a smile when he stumbled and let her hand go to catch himself on the counter behind her. The familiar scent of leather and oak surrounded her as she stood in the cage of his arms.

She whispered, "I'm sorry too."

He opened his mouth, probably to protest, but she pressed a finger to his lips and shook her head.

"You aren't the only one who's wrong. I could have come to you after Brandon turned eighteen so I could explain my parents and my life with my dad." She dropped her hand to her side. "I didn't because I blamed you. And I hated you."

Adam flinched and leaned back. The sudden distance left her feeling strangely empty so she reached for him, curved a hand around his waist, and the feeling disappeared.

"My pride let me hate you, Adam. I wanted you to come to me. I wanted you to beg my forgiveness, for you to feel as low as I did that day." She straightened, using her hold on him to pull away from the counter. "Hating you didn't do anything for me except make me hate you more. But it was all I had, and now I don't have anything to show for it except wasted years."

Emmaline hooked a finger in his belt loop and urged him closer. "I was wrong to hate you for so long, for not being open and honest with you when we met again, and for staying away when I didn't have to. For that, and everything else that has stood between us, I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?"

He stared at her in silence then sighed, mouth curved into a crooked smile. "I already did. And it's me who should be asking you that. Will you forgive me, Emmaline, for being a coward and for hurting you? Will you give me a chance to make it up to you?"

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