“Good to see you, Andi.” Ben moves in to give me a hug. “It’s just not the same around the garage without you.”
“Aw, Ben, I’m really feeling the love right now.” I laugh against him, but honestly, I’m fighting tears.
The moment Ben releases me, Uncle John’s lifting me off my feet into a bear hug. “Missed you, kiddo. I just got you back, and you’ve gone and bloody left me again.”
Uncle John rarely shows emotion, but I hear it clear in his voice. And then I see it shining in his eyes when I pull back to look at him.
I give him a sad look, wishing so badly that things were different, that I was different. “Missed you, too, Uncle John.” I press a kiss to his stubbly cheek before he lowers me back to my feet. “But we’re here now, so come on. Let’s get this party started!” I force a big smile and lightness into my voice.
Petra grabs a hold of my hand and leads me over to our table, sitting me next to her. “So, what’s good to drink here?”
“Drink?” Ben chuckles. “Are we not eating?”
“Yes, of course, we’re eating.” She gives him a look. “But the important thing is first—alcohol.” She grins, making me laugh.
God, I’ve missed these guys.
And I try not to focus on the one person I’m missing most.
“I’ll drive you back. It’s on my way.”
“You sure?” Uncle John checks.
“Of course. Seems silly, you all getting a taxi back when I’m passing that way.”
We’ve been at the restaurant for hours, just eating and having a laugh. I haven’t been drinking since I’m driving, but the three of them have put some beer away, and Petra is definitely merry.
We all pile into my car, and in no time, I’m pulling up to the front of their hotel.
I get out of my car, so I can say good-bye to them properly.
I’m just hugging Ben good-bye when I see him. He’s leaving the hotel with his dad.
My heart stops at the sight of him. Everything else around me fades away.
The constant ache that I have learned to live with since leaving him intensifies, leaving me breathless.
I close my eyes on the pain, but I feel it the instant he sees me. Almost like he’s touching my skin with his hands, I feel his eyes touch upon me.
I look straight at him, noting his shock at seeing me.
I move away from Ben, and my eyes follow Carrick as he walks toward me.
My body starts to tremble, my heart beating in double-time.
He stops a few feet away. He’s dressed in jeans and a team T-shirt. He looks beautiful.
Hearing his voice saying my name is like having a glass of water in the arid desert, only to find that it’s not real but a mirage.
“Hi.” My voice is weak with everything.
“We’ll leave you to it.” Uncle John presses a kiss to my temple. “I’ll see you soon, kiddo.”
I don’t watch them leave. I can’t take my eyes off Carrick. We’re both just standing here, staring at one another.
“I’ll go get the car,” Owen says.
Carrick gives a nod of acknowledgement but still doesn’t look away from me.
Being here with him, looking into his eyes, I feel like I’m drowning and coming back to life all at once.
“How…have you been?” He takes another small step closer, but somehow, it’s not close enough.
But then, nothing ever was close enough for me when it came to him.
That’s always been the problem. I feel too much when I’m around Carrick. It’s our greatest thing and my biggest downfall.
“Okay…I think. I mean…I don’t know. You?”
Finally, he looks away, his gaze sweeping the floor. I hear him blow out a breath before he brings his eyes back to mine. “Same…I guess.”
His hand is flexing at his side. He looks like he wants to touch me and run away at the same time.
I know this because I’m feeling exactly the same way.
Nothing has felt more difficult than this moment right now. I thought that the day we broke up was hard…horrific, but this seems worse somehow.
I guess because, back then, even though we were fighting…falling apart, he was still mine in a way. And now…we’re nothing but two people who used to be together.
“I was going to call you.” He clears his rough throat. “We need to talk”—my heart lifts a little—“about your car.” Then, it deflates. “It’s still in my garage, but I thought…I mean, if you’re staying here, then I can have her shipped to you. Or if you are coming back home to England, I could drive it over to your place, or you could pick her up. I mean, whatever you want. Either way…just let me know.”
My dad’s car.
Carrick’s and my car.
I feel a wave of emotions so strong that I don’t know what to do with myself.
That car symbolizes everything that mattered in my life.
It was what finally brought Carrick and me together.
I have to let it go. It’s the right thing to do.
Taking a deep breath, I hold my emotions back. “Thank you…so much. But I can’t keep the car. It doesn’t feel right, not now.”
His brows draw together, and I can see a world of hurt in his eyes. “She’s your car, Andressa. I bought her for you.” His words are spoken softly.
And they punch me straight in the heart.