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(If you missed yesterday’s post, you can find it here.)
Chapter Two … continued (day 7)
“We can always give Elizabeth a call for her new address,” Damien says dismissively, as if we call my mother all the time. “To be honest, we came mostly for the house. I’ve never seen Nikki’s childhood home,” he adds, and I’m absurdly grateful that he didn’t tell these women the truth: that it’s me, not him, who’s driving this train. That I want—no, need—to see the inside of the house I grew up in. A house that was never a home. And maybe, just maybe, if I walk through it one last time, I can finally, truly leave it behind.
Damien flashes Misty the kind of smile that always makes me go weak in the knees. “Since we’re here, I wonder if we could go inside?” When she hesitates, he nods toward the Phantom. “While we’re in there, feel free to let that little guy check out the Rolls.”
“Oh!” Her eyes go wide, then she smiles and looks down at the child, who’s plunked himself on the grass and is poking at the ground with a stick.
Damien squats down so that he’s almost eye-level with the boy. “What do you say, Andy? Want to go take a look inside the big car?”
His eyes go wide as he looks up at his mother and then to Damien. Then he nods slowly, apparently afraid that if he shows too much enthusiasm, we’ll all laugh and tell him we were just kidding.
“He’s adorable,” I say, then grin as Damien stands up again beside me. “And he looks like a handful.”
Misty laughs. “You have no idea. Or maybe you do?” she looks between the two of us curiously. “Any kids?”
“Not yet.” I flash my Social Nikki smile. “But we have a niece about his age and a nephew who’s coming up on two.”
Caroline rests a hand on her hip. “Well, I think you need to get busy,“ she says. “I’d love to be Auntie Caroline. Goodness knows Ollie’s isn’t making any progress toward giving me grandchildren.”
“Someday we will,” Damien says as he slides his arm around my waist.
“I certainly hope so.” Caroline smiles fondly at both of us. “You two would make beautiful babies.”
“I can’t argue with that,” Damien adds, as he pulls me closer and presses a kiss to my temple. “Nikki’s going to make an incredible mom.”
I tense, my demeanor shifting from socially friendly to icily polite. This isn’t a conversation I want to have right now. Not with a stranger. Not with Caroline. Not even with Damien, and I’m frustrated that he so seamlessly slid into the role of eager father. We’ve talked about this over and over, and I’d thought we were on the same page. Someday, yes, I want to hold our child in my arms. But neither of us are ready for kids yet. There are too many barriers, too many challenges. And the fact that he’s now speaking so cavalierly about something so important makes my insides twist up. Especially since I can hardly call him out while we’re standing on a lawn in Dallas and I’m so goddamn vulnerable already.
I pull out of his embrace, and when I do, Damien catches my eyes. I see the apology on his face, but I’m not in the mood. I’m too off-kilter as it is, and so I just shove my hands in the pockets of my summer skirt. For a moment, I think he’s going to say something else, but then he turns his attention back to Misty and tells her that the car is unlocked.
As they speak, I head toward the house with Caroline beside me. With each step, my feet feel heavier and my pulse quicker. It’s silly, I know—it’s not as if I’ll find my mother lying in wait—but I haven’t been back in this house in years, and now that I’m about to walk inside, I’m positively crackling with nerves. I want Damien beside me. I want his hand in mine. And I’m angry and hurt and pissed that just a few little words have dropped a wall between us. Angry at him. And, yes, angry at myself, too.
Update: Read the next installment here!
Want more? Be sure to pop back tomorrow for more of Anchor Me, available April 11. Grab your copy now!
And if you’re just now meeting Nikki & Damien, why not grab of copy of Release Me, the book that started it all!