Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(49) by Susan Mallery
“That’s different. I chose them.”
As he walked around to his side of the SUV, she wondered if she’d chosen Walker or if he’d chosen her, and if, in the end, it would matter.
WALKER MOVED THROUGH the large space. He wasn’t sure where he was—maybe a ballroom in a hotel. There were so many lights everywhere—lights and noise and the sound of women’s laughter.
He circled the crowd, aware of being out of place. He was thirsty and while there was a glass in his hand, he couldn’t lift it to his mouth and drink. Was it too heavy? No, it was his arm. He couldn’t move his arm.
The lights faded, then blurred. He couldn’t see the edges of the room, only the women. All of them suddenly facing him, staring, pointing. They were angry—he knew that much—but he couldn’t say why.
“I don’t know Ben,” one of them said, and he recognized her from one of his many “Ashley” visits.
“I don’t know Ben,” another said. He remembered her, as well.
Then he realized he knew all of them. He’d spoken to them and they hadn’t been able to help him.
“I don’t know Ben.”
They repeated the words over and over until he thought his head would explode.
“I don’t know Ben. He has no one. No one, not even you. You let him die. It should have been you. It should have been you.”
The voices got louder and louder. He tried to answer, to tell them he already knew it should have been him, but he couldn’t speak. He lashed out, but the women only came closer and closer. Finally he took a step back and then he was falling and falling only to wake up on the hard floor, his heart racing, his body aching and his soul dark and battered from the truth.
It should have been him.
ELISSA PARKED across the street from the familiar house and looked at the rambling two story where she’d grown up.
There were changes. The once-green siding was now beige. The pine trees flanking the west side of the property had grown even taller and the small Lexus parked in the driveway was nothing like the old Taurus station wagon she remembered.
Maybe she should have called, she thought as she turned off the engine. Maybe it would have been better to give her parents a little warning. The problem was, she hadn’t been able to figure out what to say. Just showing up would be shocking, but it would force a conversation.
She’d called Bobby earlier that morning and he’d told her both her parents planned to be home most of the day. So that was something. She wouldn’t be left standing alone on the front porch.
Knowing she was only wasting time, she pocketed her keys and walked to the front door where she rang the bell. She heard a faint “I’ll get it,” then the door opened and, for the first time in eight years, her mother stood in front of her.
Leslie Towers was just shy of fifty, with highlights in her brown hair and hazel eyes that Bobby had inherited. Elissa noticed a few more lines, but otherwise her mother looked exactly as she remembered her. Only more surprised.
“Hi, Mom,” Elissa said, wishing she hadn’t left her purse locked in her car. Holding it now would give her something to do with her hands. As it was she shoved them in her jeans’ pockets and tried to figure out what she should do next.
Tears filled her mother’s eyes and her mouth trembled. “Elissa?” she asked, her voice wavering. “Elissa, is that really you?”
“Leslie, who is it?” her father asked as he walked through the living room. “I’m not buying any more magazines. We already get too many as it—”
He stopped next to his wife and stared. “Elissa?”
She nodded. “It’s me. A little older—and hopefully wiser.”
Her father, a tall man who wore glasses, reached toward her. “Elissa?” he repeated.
“Oh, Kevin,” her mother breathed. “She’s back.”
Suddenly Elissa found herself pulled into the house and into their embrace. She was hugged and squeezed until she couldn’t breathe, but breath didn’t seem important just then. She closed her eyes and felt as if she’d finally, finally come home.
There were tears all around. Elissa hadn’t expected to cry, but there she was. Bobby appeared and joined the group hug, then they separated and there was a moment of awkwardness.
“I don’t know what to say,” her mother admitted, staring at her. “I can’t believe you’re here.”
“In the flesh,” Elissa said with a small shrug.
Her parents exchanged a glance as if not sure what to do next. They seemed happy, yet wary, which made Elissa wonder again if she should have phoned ahead and warned them she was coming.
“Let’s go in the kitchen,” her father said.
Her mother nodded, then led the way.
“Sit, sit,” her mother told everyone as she pushed Elissa into a chair at a glass-topped table. “I’m sorry. I’m in shock, I think. I can’t seem to figure out what to do next. Are you all right? Are you hungry?”
“I’m fine,” Elissa said, glancing around. Gone were the tile countertops and the harvest-gold appliances. Now the kitchen counters were dark granite and the ovens and cooktop a gleaming stainless steel. “You remodeled the kitchen.”
“About four years ago. I couldn’t stand scrubbing that awful grout or dealing with the stove anymore.” As she spoke, she pulled out a pitcher of iced tea and several glasses.
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