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He still hadn't cried. No emotion at all. I hated that. I wanted him to grieve. He needed to let it out instead of bottling his emotions because of me. The idea that he was hardened toward his pain because he was protecting me twisted my gut. His father had betrayed him by sending me away. But I had seen the look in Woods's eyes as he looked at his father, seeking approval. He had loved his father. He needed to mourn his loss.
"Della?" I turned to see Woods walk into the living room. His eyes scanned the room before they found me standing outside on the balcony. He immediately headed for the door. There was a determination in his eyes that worried me. He opened the door and stepped outside.
"Hey, did things go okay?" I asked before he pulled me into his arms and held me tightly against him. He had done this a lot over the past week.
"She's grieving. We will talk again once she's had time to process everything," he said into my hair. "I missed you."
I smiled sadly and pulled back so I could look up at him. "You were gone for about an hour. Not much time to miss me."
Woods ran his hand through my hair, brushing it out of the way, and then cupped my face. "I missed you the second I walked out that door. I want you with me all the time."
Smiling, I turned my head and kissed his hand. "I can't always be with you."
Woods's eyes darkened with something I recognized well. "But I want you with me." He slipped one of his hands around my waist, tugging me up against him. "I can't concentrate when I'm not close enough to touch you."
I grinned as I pressed a kiss to the inside of his wrist. "When you touch me we tend to get carried away."
Woods's hand slipped under my shirt and I shivered as he moved it closer to my chest. "Right now I want to get carried away."
I wanted that too. I always wanted that, but he needed to talk. He needed to say something.
His phone rang, interrupting both of us.
His face tensed and he let his hand slide out from underneath my shirt reluctantly before reaching into his pocket to pull out his phone.
"Hello," he said in his business tone. He looked at me apologetically. "Yeah, I'll be there in five minutes. Tell him to meet me in my dad's . . . in my office."
He was having a hard time calling his dad's office "his." That was only another glimpse into the pain he was ignoring.
"That was Vince. There are several board members in town and they want to meet with me in an hour. Gary, my dad's adviser and best friend, wants to brief me first. I'm sorry," he said, reaching out to take my hand and pull me against him.
"Don't be sorry. There is nothing to be sorry about. If there's anything I can do to help you, then I will. Just tell me."
Woods chuckled. "If I could get away with keeping you in my office all day with me, then I would."
"Hmmm . . . I don't think you'd get a lot of work done."
"I know I wouldn't," he replied.
"Go, show that board that you're ready for this."
Woods pressed a kiss to my head. "What are you going to do?"
I wanted to work again. I missed seeing everyone and having something to do. Lying on the beach every day wasn't really me. "Could I have my job back?" I asked.
A frown wrinkled Woods's brow. "No. I don't want you working in the dining room."
I had been prepared for this. "Okay. Then I'm going to go find a job somewhere else. I need something to do. Especially with you being so busy."
"What if you need me? Where would you want to work? What if I can't get to you? That won't work, Della. I can't protect you if you aren't near me." I was only adding more stress for him. He needed more time to adjust. I would give him that. He needed to heal. I would have to find a way to spend my days.
"Okay. We'll wait a couple weeks and talk about it again," I said with a smile, hoping to reassure him.
He looked relieved. That was what I had wanted. "I'll call you once this meeting is over. We'll have dinner together. I won't leave you here alone long. I swear."
I just nodded.
Woods pulled me to him and kissed me. It was a possessive kiss. Right now he needed me to be there for him. For now, that is what I would do. Be there for him.
"I love you," he whispered against my lips, and then pressed one last kiss to them.
"I love you too," I replied.
Woods left and I stayed outside on the balcony looking out at the gulf. I had missed out on life for so long and now I was learning that life was about sacrifice. Especially when you loved someone.
My phone rang this time and I picked it up from the table I'd left it on earlier. It was an unknown number. That meant one thing: it was Tripp.
"Hey," I said, sitting down on the lounge chair beside me.
"How are things?"
"Okay. Woods is adjusting," I replied.
Tripp let out a weary sigh. "I should've come home for the funeral. I just . . . I couldn't."
I didn't know what it was in Rosemary that haunted Tripp. But I knew that something did. Since he'd left he had called me twice. Both times it had been from an unknown number and both times he had seemed off. Almost depressed.
"Jace said he tried to get in contact with you and couldn't. You've changed your number."
"Yeah. I did. I needed some space."
"Jace misses you. He worries about you."
Tripp didn't respond and I didn't feel like I was the person who should push him to respond.
"I'll call him. Let him know there's no reason to worry. I shouldn't have stayed in Rosemary so long. It messes with my head. I can't go back there. There're things . . . stuff I don't like to face."
I already knew this. I had no idea what those things were but I knew that they haunted him.
"Are you working again?" he asked.
"No. Woods doesn't want me working right now. He needs me to be available for him. I'm his only source of support. His mother . . . well . . . you know how she is."
Tripp paused a moment and I wondered what he was thinking about. I really didn't want him to say something negative about Woods. "Right now he needs you. I get it. But, Della, you started this journey to live life. Don't forget that. You left one prison; don't find yourself in another."
His words sliced through me painfully. Woods was nothing like my mother. He needed me right now because he had lost his father and been thrown into a position he wasn't prepared for overnight. He wasn't trying to control me. "This is different. I'm choosing to stand beside Woods. I love him and I will be here for whatever he needs. Once he's better he'll be fine with me getting a job again."
Tripp didn't respond and we sat there for a few minutes in silence. I wondered if he disagreed or if he wasn't sure what to say to that.
"The next time I call I won't block my number. I want you to have it if you need it."
I wouldn't need his number.
"Just . . . don't give it to Jace or anyone. Please."
"Good-bye, Tripp," I replied before ending the call. I didn't want to hear his doubt and concern. He was wrong. Everything was going to be fine with Woods and me. He was very wrong.
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