Irresistible(Buchanans, Book 2)(85) by Susan Mallery
“Never,” her mother said, rubbing her back as she guided them into the kitchen. “You’re my daughter, my firstborn child, Elissa. I love you. I’ll always love you. There’s nothing you could ever do to change that.” She sighed. “I’m sorry I got sick. I’m sorry we stopped looking.”
Elissa sank into a kitchen chair and looked at her. “That’s not your fault. I’m sorry I ran away, Mom. I’m the reason you got sick.”
Her mother sat next to her and reached for her hand. “You were a kid. I wish I’d been stronger. If we’d just kept looking a little longer, we would have found you.” Tears filled her mother’s eyes. “You could have come home.”
Home. That sounded nice. Except this wasn’t her home anymore. She had her own family and her own life.
“I really blew it,” Elissa said and wiped her face with her free hand. “Really bad.” She swallowed. “I don’t know how to tell you, even.”
“Just start at the beginning and go until you’re done.”
Which sounded so easy. She drew in a deep breath. “Zoe’s father isn’t dead. He’s alive and currently here, in Seattle. His name is Neil.”
She explained the ugly truth about him, about their relationship and how stupid she’d been. She detailed the drug use, the blackmail and how he’d found her at the craft fair.
“I know he’s going to keep coming after me for money,” she said. “I went to a lawyer and she was pretty useless. Basically she tried to convince me there was nothing wrong with Neil wanting to see Zoe. Only I won’t let that happen. I can’t. Do you know what he’d do to her? What he’d expose her to?”
“Of course you’re not going to let him see her,” her mother said firmly. “My God, that woman was an idiot. Neil isn’t interested in his parental rights. No one has the right to use a child like that. You need a different lawyer.”
“That’s what Walker said,” Elissa admitted. “He’s going to help me find someone who can take on Neil and win.” Walker. She didn’t want to think about him now, but how could she not.
“He’s been so good to me,” she murmured. “So there. No guy’s ever been there like him. He’s strong and caring and really amazing.” The tears started up again. “And that sounds really perfect, doesn’t it? But it’s not perfect. Because finally, after all the losers I got involved with and promising myself I’d never fall for anyone again, I did. I fell for him. I love him and he doesn’t love me.”
She hiccuped and brushed away her tears again. “I know he likes me, but that’s not love. He won’t let himself love. He feels guilty about some stuff that happened a long time ago and while I understand that, I don’t think I can get him to realize it’s time to let the past go. He thinks he’s not good enough or worthy or something. But I think he’s worthy. I get that what he did happened a long time ago. He was really young and he needs to give himself a break. And maybe he would, except there’s Naomi who’s so tall and beautiful and about as far from average as anyone could get. How am I supposed to compete against that?”
Fresh sobs broke free. Her mother moved closer and hugged her tight.
“You have a lot on your plate.”
“I guess,” Elissa said, fighting back tears. How long could one breakdown take?
But her mother didn’t pressure her to stop or straighten up or be strong. Instead she held her, rocking back and forth.
When Elissa finally felt able to get a little control, she straightened. “So, Mom, how are you?”
The two women laughed.
“The way I see it,” her mother said a few minutes later over coffee and cookies, “you need to prioritize. Neil has to be dealt with first. Walker’s right. You do need a good lawyer. One who’ll kick Neil’s ass.”
Elissa raised her eyebrows. “I don’t remember you ever saying ‘ass’ before.”
“I kept that sort of thing from my children,” her mother said primly. “But you’re an adult now. I also say ‘damn,’ but that’s about all. Your father uses the really dirty words.”
Information she did not need, Elissa thought wryly.
“Anyway,” her mother said. “Back to the lawyer. We can help with the money.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“I want to and your father will, as well. Besides, the money’s actually yours. Your college fund,” she said, then shrugged. “It’s just been sitting there compounding. We always wanted you to come home and learn you had a nest egg waiting. I was thinking you’d use it for a down payment on a house, but this is more important. Let’s skin the weasel.”
Despite everything, Elissa laughed. “Go, Mom!”
“I can be tough,” her mother said.
“I know you can.” She hesitated. “I’m sorry I got weird before…about you seeing Zoe. I was upset and confused. I want you to be a part of her life. I want her to know how amazing you and Dad are.”
“I know, honey. You shouldn’t worry about that. We have a lot to deal with and a lot of catching up to do. That’s going to take time and cause a little stress, but we’ll get through it. I’ve been thinking about that lately—all you did. How you made it on your own with a baby. You had no job skills, no education, nothing but determination. I’m not sure I would have been so successful.”
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