Forever Now(10)

By: Ruth Cardello

This was always the problem—Kade does love me, just not the way I want him to.

No. Wanted. Wanted him to. We’ve barely spoken since he left. My fault. It’s too hard to hear about his new life—his girlfriends.

I will not go back to imagining him waking up and realizing I’m everything he’s always wanted. I’m too old for that foolishness.

I won’t ask myself if he’s never married because he’s never found anyone he cares for as much as me. Only an absolute fool would think like that after all these years.

I’m not a fool.

I refuse to be.

Chapter Four

Annie always did have a spectacular ass. Kade tried to look away from it when he stepped out onto the veranda to make sure she was okay. Bent over as she was, her blue cotton shorts rode high on legs long and lean enough to scramble any man’s brain. Stop. This is Annie. Kade said her name and was relieved when she immediately straightened and turned to face him.

Annie would always be one of the most beautiful women he’d ever known, but he would never act upon it. Women came and went. He couldn’t remember the names of most of the women he’d dated, even fucked, over the years. He was a healthy male. He liked women, and they’d always seemed to like him. It was blissfully uncomplicated because he kept it that way. Annie, though, had a special place in his heart. Fucking her, no matter how she sometimes sent his heart racing, would never be worth the risk of losing her. A friend like Annie was a treasure. He’d lost sight of that while away from her, but it was clear to him now.

His half-cocked dick would have to find relief elsewhere.

He leaned against the railing beside her. “Everything okay?”

She folded her arms beneath her breasts then dropped them to her sides. “It just gets warm in my parents’ house. The older they get the less they like it cool.”

Kade studied her expression. She looked like she was holding something back, or it could be his imagination. “You don’t have to come with me tomorrow if you’re not comfortable going. I honestly have no idea what it will be like or how I’ll feel when I meet them.”

“I want to go, Kade.” She pursed her lips and sat on the railing. “I’m actually impressed with how well you’re handling this.”

“How well?” he scoffed. “I’m freaking the fuck out on the inside.”

She chuckled. “You’re doing a good job of hiding it, anyway.” Her expression turned more serious. “Of course you’re freaking out, Kade. Everything you thought you knew about your life is now up in the air. I don’t know what I would do if I were in your place.”

“I do. You’d go tomorrow, just like I will. You’d smile. Somehow, you’d leave everyone feeling better than you found them, because that’s what you do.”

“I think you remember me being better than I am.”

He edged closer until their shoulders touched. “No, I don’t think so. You were always a good friend.”

She folded her arms across herself again. “So good you forgot about me when you left.”

He took her by the shoulders and turned her toward him. “Never. It wasn’t like that.” She tipped her face back to meet his gaze and desire cut through him, surprising him enough that he released her and stepped back. Kissing her would have been easy, but also selfish. She would not be the distraction he used to make himself feel better that night. His shoulders slumped as he replayed her words in his head. “I didn’t forget you, Annie, but I did take our friendship for granted. I thought it would always be here—waiting for me. I poured myself into building my tour company. A month became a year. One year became five. I should have called. I should have made an effort to stay part of your life, but that doesn’t mean I stopped caring about you.” He ran his hand through his hair. “You and your family are the only things I’m sure of right now. I’m sorry if I didn’t give you enough over the years for you to feel that way about me. I won’t make that mistake again.”

She covered her face with her hands. “Stop, Kade. Just stop, okay?”