“I never told you to get rid of my child, so don’t even try that shit with me.”
“Oh, yeah, you did, buddy. I even have a print out of the text messages. I kept them as a reminder to myself to never trust a man again.”
“I don’t know what the f**k you’re talking about,” I say, a sinking feeling taking over my body.
“The day I found out I was pregnant, I messaged you telling you we needed to talk. You said we had nothing to talk about. I told you I was having your child, and you told me to get rid of it.”
“Oh, f**k.” I rub my face, knowing this is all Jules. She did this; somehow, she did this. “It wasn’t me.” My voice is gruff to my own ears. For the first time in years, I want to cry like a little bitch. She’s watching me closely, her arms wrapped around her waist, her expression changing from anger to confusion and sadness. “What’s her name?” I ask, looking at my daughter, who is now talking to Jax. He grabs her hands, bouncing with her.
“Ashlyn Alexandra.” This is killing me. She gave her a version of my middle name—Alexander. I swallow the lump that is building in my throat. I look at Lilly.
“I want it back.” I don’t even realize that I say the words out loud. Lilly is my one, and I lost her and I’m going to get her back. I had wanted to search for Lilly a million times. I was so afraid she wouldn’t want me back, accept Jax, or that she’s moved on that I talked myself out of it every time. Now I wish I would have looked for her.
“What?” Her eyebrows draw together in confusion, the same way they used to when we were together, making her look adorable.
“We are going to have to figure out a way for me to be in her life, and for her to know her brother.” I take a step towards Lilly. “Where are you living?”
Her eyes get big, and her breathing picks up. Fuck yeah! I still affect her. “Um, we just moved to Springhill because I got a teaching job,” she says quietly, looking at Ashlyn and then back at me.
“Good, you’re not far from me.” She starts shaking her head. I bring my hand up, cupping her cheek. “We will figure out a time to meet. We have a lot to talk about, but right now, let’s just have a good time. I don’t want the kids to get freaked.”
“Ashlyn is already freaked. She knows who you are.”
“The pictures we took with my cell phone, she has them, and she knows who you are.”
“Jesus.” I rub the back of my head. “Where did you say I was?”
“Yes, well,” she pauses, clearing her throat, “we lived in Alaska near my parents up until a few months ago when I got the teaching job.”
“So you told her I lived in Tennessee?” I look to where Jax and Ashlyn are laughing with their little legs moving rapidly as they bounce in place.
“My dad wanted me to tell her that you were dead, but I couldn’t do it,” she whispers, and my head swings back in her direction.
“Why didn’t you try harder to get ahold of me?” I rip my hand through my hair. This situation is completely f**ked up.
“Why the hell would I do that when you told me to have an abortion?”
“That wasn’t me,” I growl.
“It was your phone.” She shakes her head. “So you never got married?” She rolls her eyes. “Obviously, you had a son.” She points at Jax.
I did not want to answer that question. I knew the minute I told her I had been married that she wouldn’t believe that I never told her to have an abortion. She must have read the look on my face. When she answers, her words are so soft and full of pain that I swear I can feel them cutting into my skin.
“I already know you got married, so even without you answering that question, I still know.” I see pain flash across her face. “I didn’t want to believe that what we had could be so easily replaced. I thought II had done something wrong, and you were upset. I thought you loved me. I was depressed and lonely, so I did a search of your name online, planning to come find you, and came across your wedding announcement.”
“What the f**k?”
“Yeah, that is kinda how I felt.” She gives a slight laugh, the kind that isn’t humorous.
“I am so sorry; you will never be on your own again,” I tell her, taking a step towards her because I want to hold her. She takes a step back, shaking her head.
“We can figure out a way for you to be in Ashlyn’s life, but only if you plan on sticking around. I will not let her become attached to you, only to have you walk away without an explanation.”
“I would never do that.” I narrow my eyes and she raises her eyebrows, crossing her arms over her chest.
“You are the one who taught me the meaning of never say never, remember?” she reminds me. I told her that when we first got together. She told me she wouldn’t sleep with me ever, and I told her never say never. We only slept together one time. That one time had made me fall more in love with her than I already was. The day after, I had to come back home and go to work. I never knew that it would be the last time I would see Lilly. I knew then that she was the one for me, even as young as I was. I knew, and in the end I tossed her away, thinking I was doing the right thing, not knowing how sharp the double-edged sword was that I held in my hand.
We both stand there staring at each other. I don’t know what she’s thinking, but I’m thinking I want to kiss the f**k out of her, hold her, love her, and remind her of how good we were together. She looks away, then waves for Ashlyn to come to her. I watch my daughter bounce all the way over to where we’re standing. She is so beautiful that my chest hurts just looking at her. I have loved every second of raising my son, and I hate that I have missed so much time with her. Jax comes along with Ashlyn. When she reaches where we’re standing, her head goes way back, with her cute little face scrunching up.
“Are you my daddy?”
“No, he’s my daddy.” Jax launches himself at me. Ashlyn looks at Jax, and then me. I drop to my knees in front of her, putting my arm around Jax’s waist. I have no idea how to handle this right now, and my stomach starts to turn as my palms begin to sweat.
“Come here, love bug.” Lilly pulls Ashlyn into her arms.
“Daddy.” Jax puts his palm on my cheek, forcing my head to turn. “Why did that girl ask if you’re her daddy?” Leave it to my kid to get right to the point.