Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(59) by Susan Mallery
He shrugged. “It wasn’t that big a deal.”
“I hadn’t realized they wouldn’t accept my statement that we were friends. My father admitted he grilled you.”
“It’s a guy thing.”
It was a waste of time. She wasn’t looking and he wasn’t interested. She got that. Well, part of her did. Her body continued to ignore the message.
“Thanks for talking to Zoe,” she said. “I don’t know why I thought I could reconcile with my family and not fight with my mother. It’s scary the way we’ve picked up right where we left off. Shouldn’t the eight years apart have made a difference?”
“It will. Give it time.”
She motioned to the sofa. “Want to sit down?”
She thought he might refuse, but then he surprised her by taking a seat. She sat across from him in the club chair.
“She won’t believe anything good,” Elissa told him. “I explained that while I was with a rock band and even sleeping with a member of the band, I didn’t get into drugs. She’ll accept that I slept around and didn’t mean to get pregnant, but she won’t believe me about the drugs. She kept asking if I was still using and did I want Zoe exposed to that. I hated it.”
“Maybe she’s trying to help.”
“Could she do it in a less annoying way?”
“Maybe she doesn’t know how.”
“I hate it when you’re reasonable.” But this wasn’t what she wanted to talk about. “Why did you do it?”
He drew in a deep breath. “Can’t you accept it and let it go?”
“Not really.” She opened her mouth, then closed it. “I don’t know what to think. We’re neighbors and you’ve been great. You’ve helped me and Mrs. Ford, and Zoe likes you. I know you’re worried about getting too close to her and I appreciate that. You’ve made it clear you’re not interested in anything with me and I have a plan to avoid men for another thirteen years, so I’m okay with that. But something has happened here and not talking about it isn’t going to make it go away.”
“Are you angry? Do you want me to apologize?”
“No to both. I just want to know why.”
He was quiet for so long, she began to think he wouldn’t answer. She had the feeling he was going to simply walk out and she would never see him again.
But finally he said, “I didn’t plan on leaving the Marines when I did. I was going to stay in until they kicked me out because I was too old. But one day I woke up and I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t kill, I couldn’t send men off to die. There was already too much blood. So I left and I came home. Only there isn’t a home anymore. I have my brothers and Dani, I have money, but there’s nothing else. Nothing permanent.”
His emptiness burned her with an aching cold.
“I do it on purpose,” he continued. “I stay away, disconnected. It’s my choice. But sometimes there are temptations I can’t resist. Like you.”
Elissa thought of herself as many things, but never a temptation. “Me?” she squeaked.
He shrugged. “The way you move, the way you smell, how you never give up. I knew better but I wasn’t willing to act on that. I made love to you because I needed to, Elissa. I needed to kiss you and touch you. I wanted to know what you felt like. How you tasted.”
She felt herself blushing and getting aroused. His words were as powerful as his touch had been.
“Then why did you stop there?” she asked.
“Have you ever been in love?”
The question came out of nowhere. “I…No. I thought I loved Neil, but I loved what I wanted him to be.”
“I have. Once.”
Unexpected pain cut through her. Something dark tightened her chest. “Who is she?”
“Her name was Charlotte and she was my high school girlfriend. I took one look at her and knew I was going to spend the rest of my life with her.”
Elissa got a bad feeling inside. She wanted to stop him talking, but at the same time she was desperate to know what had happened between them.
“She transferred in my junior year of high school,” he continued. “She was beautiful. Tall with red hair and the biggest green eyes I’d ever seen. I introduced myself and I guess she felt it, too, because we were together every minute after that.”
“Sounds nice,” Elissa managed through a very dry throat.
“It was. I knew she was the woman I was supposed to marry. We decided to go to college in California together and then get married after graduation. I never had to propose, we both just knew. We were each other’s first time, the night she turned seventeen.”
Elissa had to force herself to sit still. She wanted to curl up in a ball and press her hands to her ears. She wanted to order him out of her apartment and demand he never return.
Instead she listened.
“One afternoon when we were making love, I felt something in her breast. It hadn’t been there before. I told her and she told her mom and she went to the doctor. It was cancer. Breast cancer.”
Elissa blinked. “But she was too young.”
“That’s what we all thought. But there are about five hundred cases every year in women under twenty. Charlotte was one of them.” He shifted so he sat on the edge of the sofa and rested his elbows on his knees.
“She had a lumpectomy. Because she was so young, the doctors didn’t want to take her breast. No one knew, except me. I remember walking next to her in the hallways, careful to keep on the side where she’d had her surgery so no one would bump her. I remember how she cried the first time we made love afterward, how she was afraid I wouldn’t still love her and how long it took for her to believe that I would never stop.”
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