“Um, no,” I say, walking in front of the cart and heading to check out. Once there, I notice that I'm at the end and Cash is near the cashier. “Hey, I can pay.” I walk up to the checker and look at Cash. “Those are mine; I'm paying.”
“No, you have done enough. I'm paying.”
“Cash.” I try to give him a warning.
“Lilly.” He puts his hand to the back of my neck, pulling me close.
“I have missed out on this. Don’t argue with me about it, okay?”
“Fine.” I roll my eyes just to say I don’t agree. He kisses me on the forehead, drops his hand, and turns back to the cashier. Once he pays, we head out to his truck. We both get the kids buckled in before getting into the front of the cab. I can’t keep still; my leg keeps bouncing up and down. I am so nervous about meeting his family. I know they probably hate me for keeping Ashlyn from them. I wonder what he has told them. We have spoken a few times over the past week about his marriage and how much his family hates his ex. I don’t want them to hate me. My biggest fear is them thinking that I kept Ashlyn away from Cash out of spite, and not out of my need to protect her. I hate that he was married, and knowing that if I would have swallowed my own pride, he would have been there for Ashlyn. But I have to believe that everything happens the way it should. When I called my mom yesterday, she wasn’t happy about the way things were going between Cash and me. She thought I was letting him off the hook. I know she’s right; I also know that I can’t be that woman who would hold it over his head. Even if we weren’t together, I couldn’t do that. It isn’t in me to act like that. I know if I held onto the pain of our past, it would eat away at me.
“Babe, calm down,” Cash says, bringing me back to the moment.
“Sorry, I’m just nervous.”
“My family will love you.” He grabs my hand, the warmth from his touch settling my nerves.
“I doubt that,” I say quietly, looking into the backseat, noticing the kids are quiet. They both have headphones on and are watching a show on the small screen hanging from the roof of the truck.
“I know they will.” He squeezes my hand.
“Do they hate me?”
“What? No, they don’t hate you.”
“But I—” I start but he interrupts me.
“You did what you thought you had to do.” I look at him when he takes his hand away from mine to hold onto the steering wheel. I watch, as his knuckles turn white with his grip. “I f**king hate this.” His words are so harsh that I can feel pain in them. “I hate that if I had chosen you, I wouldn’t have Jax. I hate what I did, and that I lost you and Ashlyn.”
“Hey,” I say quietly, running my hand down his arm. “Please, don’t do that. We both could have done a lot of things differently.”
“You know, I think I would feel better if you would flip out.”
I start laughing. I can’t help it; he doesn’t know what he’s asking for. “No, you don’t,” I say, looking out the front window of the truck.
“I used to love it when you would get pissed.” I look at him, seeing him smile. “Sometimes I would egg you on just so I would have a reason to settle you down.” I clench my thighs together at the memory his words provoke.
“You used to make me so mad.” I smile.
“I think you liked getting mad at me as much as I liked making you mad.” I laugh at the stupidity of it, even though he is so right. I used to love when he ended a fight between us. “We were good together.” I bite my lip against the pain those words cause. I feel him reach over and grab my knee.
“Give us a chance to get back there.” I want to, more than anything I have ever wanted, but I don’t know if it’s possible. We’re not the same people we were back then. We both have responsibilities that go way beyond just the two of us. I look over at him when I feel his fingers flex around my thigh. “I know that we have a lot to work on, and I know that it’s going to take time for us to rebuild what was broken, but I also know that if we do, we will have something that is beyond anything that either of us thought possible.”
“I just,” I pause, clearing my throat, “I just need time.”
“Time I can give you, as long as I know that when the time’s up, we’re in the same place.” Tears start to fill my eyes.
“I don’t know if I can get lost in you again,” I whisper, looking down at his hand.
“We’re going to be lost together; you won’t be alone.” I look at him; he takes his eyes off the road for a second and all I see is honesty.
“Okay,” I say, and look back out the window. As we turn, there is an old barn and a long dirt road that looks like it leads to nowhere. Then we come over a small hill and the most amazing house appears in front of us. It’s a large log home with a wraparound porch that’s lifted off the ground with cars parked underneath it.
“Wow, this is beautiful.”
“Yeah, Asher built it. We all helped, but most of the interior he did alone.” We park on the side of the driveway. There are two cars, a couple of Jeeps, and a large truck parked there as well. I look around, seeing that everyone is here before us, and just like that, my nerves are back and I feel like I might vomit. I hop out of the truck. Opening the back door, Jax is already out of his seat and is helping Ashlyn with her buckles.
“You ready?” Cash says, opening his arms so he can carry both of them. I reached in, starting to grab bags and everything else. “Baby, don’t worry. I’ll come back out.” When he gives me ‘the look’, I reluctantly set a couple of the bags back down and grab the pie. Before we even make it to the stairs, the front door swings open and a beautiful older woman with chin-length brown hair steps out onto the porch. She is slim and tall, and has on a pair of khaki shorts and a white button up shirt, with simple sandals on her feet.
“You’re here!” she cries, running out to greet us. She doesn’t stop at Cash, who is in front of me; she runs right to me, her hands going to my shoulder. “I’m Susan. Oh my, you’re so pretty, and I love your hair.” She pulls me forward, making me stumble into her. My arms try to go around her, but the bags in my hand, along with the pie I'm trying not to drop to the ground, are making it difficult.
“Ma, you wanna not freak my girl out?” I hear Cash say.