Back to You
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“She can’t stand to be around truly angry people. Her mother, well, you’ve met her.”
Rebecca was unpredictable. Kelly’d built her entire life around keeping her mother on the other side of the country. Or, if they had to be in the same place, managing her to keep Rebecca from making a scene.
Her mother had an impressive variety of ways to create drama. Vaughan had been in the woman’s presence just three times and each time it had been a master class on how to wreak the most destruction.
Just three times and that was his impression. Vaughan really couldn’t imagine what it had been like for Kelly to have grown up with a raging inferno of a stage mother who was the most narcissistic human being he’d ever dealt with.
Vaughan blew out a breath. “Understandably, she isn’t prone to showing that sort of extreme emotion.” He pinched his bottom lip as he thought about how to explain it all. “I can’t lie to you, Ez. For years I thought it was a simple case of a bad breakup.” And it had been. He’d delayed things without ever coming out and saying he wanted her to stay. And then he’d told so many pretty lies to himself he didn’t know what was true anymore.
In retrospect, those things brought him shame. He’d been young and selfish and shitty. He’d wanted her to break and tell him she wanted him back. Because he was too weak to say it first.
“I hurt her. Made her sad. Broke her heart. I did those things. But today when she got really angry it was like a big giant buzzer sounded. She peeled all that calm back and showed me stuff I’ve never seen from her. Until she walked away from me, fuming like some gorgeous creature of vengeance, I thought she was totally done.”
Vaughan paced as the noises of a rock-and-roll concert getting ready to start sounded all around them. Strange as it was, he found the hum and chaos of it to be soothing.
“I made so many mistakes. I didn’t apologize right. Not eight years ago and not today. She called me out and I deserved it.”
“You’re not that guy anymore, Vaughan,” Ezra said. “You were a spoiled kid when you two got married. Still a spoiled kid when you got divorced. You’re a man now. They’re your family. Don’t let fear keep you from doing the right thing because Ross won’t.”
It had been Vaughan who hadn’t wanted to be married, not Kelly. She’d served him the papers first, but he’d been the one to toss a divorce at her to make her leave a subject alone.
He’d thought—at the time—that she’d cool off and back down. He meant to make it up to her once he’d gotten off tour. But he never got the chance. He’d said it one too many times and much to his surprise, she’d taken him at his word and filed for divorce.
Then pride had taken over. If she wanted to end their marriage, fine. He’d still have a great life. He’d told himself that for years as he’d driven the road from Hood River to Gresham where Kelly had offered to settle so he could be close to the girls.
He’d told himself being single was better anyway. That his life was too fucking fabulously full of women to bang for him to go tying himself down forever.
And every time she opened her door he knew everything he said had been a lie. But pride was a fucking killer and he’d let himself hide behind it for way too long.
This engagement had tripped him up. For the past three months it had rattled around in his head. Kelly being someone else’s wife. Kelly sleeping next to another man. His kids waking up to another dad on Christmas morning. And Ross didn’t like him. While he’d never done or said anything in front of their daughters, Vaughan couldn’t help but wonder if and when that might change.
“I’m scared I can’t do it. That I don’t have what she needs. For me, there’s no one else. It’s just her. But she’s got a software engineer with a big house in the burbs already. This guy wants to marry her and erase me from her life. I can feel it. He wants to take my place.”
“I have to be honest and say I think you’re right. Ross hates your guts. He hates the way you look at Kelly. Hates the way she looks at you. Bummer. But if it’s you or him, make it you. This is love.”
It was long past time to finally just admit that he was thirty-four years old and in all his adult life there had been one woman he’d loved and it was Kelly. He’d already found the right woman to settle down with and, whether Ross liked it or not, Vaughan planned to do everything he could to get Kelly to give him a second chance.
“She’s not going to let you get away with avoiding responsibility, though. If you can’t own your shit and say exactly what you’re sorry for and how you plan to make it up to her, why should she let you? Comfort is great and all. Reality isn’t nearly as fun when things are hard. You can be comfortable and alone, or banging chicks you barely know and don’t care about. Or you can do some hard, painful work and have a family with the woman you love. I know what I’d choose.”
He missed how it felt to have Kelly belong to him.
He needed to be a real, daily part of Maddie and Kensey’s life. He’d base himself in Portland and then come back and forth as he needed to. He’d be away from the ranch awhile, which was also necessary, as well.
The gong sounded, indicating it was time to head toward the stage. Vaughan tipped his chin at Ezra. “Thanks. Tell me what’s going on with Tuesday.”