Page 73 of For Lila, Forever

Sure, I could’ve cataloged her best features, listed all the things I loved about her, from her contagious laugh to the smell of her peach body lotion to the dimples above her perfect ass. But those were never the things that kept me going.

From the moment I saw her, something called to me.

I believe now that it was her soul calling to mine.

She’s my soulmate.

I love her because there’s no one else on this earth my soul longs to be with.

“I did,” Lila says. “I changed my mind about us. Right after you left, I knew I made a mistake pushing you away like that. But you never brought it up again, so I assumed I missed my chance. I thought it was too late.”

I take her hands in mine, bringing them to my lips. “It will never be too late for us.”

Circling her waist with my hands, I pull her against me.

“I’ve waited so long to hold you again,” I say. Our noses brush and our lips graze, but I want to savor this moment. “I love you, Lila.”

“I love you too.”

I claim her soft mouth with mine, and a moment later we stumble backwards, collapsing onto the sofa. I tug at her shirt, she tugs at my zipper. Her lips are warm against my skin, my hands greedy against her curves.

And just like that she’s mine again, only this time it’s going to be forever.

Chapter 60

Lila

“Hi, Mom.” MJ climbs into the backseat, flinging her backpack to the empty spot beside her before buckling up.

I maneuver out of the school pick up lane, hardly able to contain my excitement as I steal a glance at her in the rearview. “I have a surprise for you, MJ.”

“What kind of surprise?” she asks. “Like ice cream?”

“Better than ice cream.”

“A puppy?” She sits up taller.

“Not a puppy.” I chuckle. She’s been asking for one since first grade, when her friend Lucy got a Boston Terrier from “Santa.”

“What is it?”

“You’ll see in about seven minutes …”

I drive to the north side of town and pull onto Wildflower Lane before parking in our new driveway.

I still can’t believe Thayer pulled this off. I can’t imagine it was easy and I’m sure there were times he wished he would’ve bought a pre-existing structure and saved himself the hassle, but that’s the thing about him—he’s never met a challenge he couldn’t accept.

And there’s nothing he won’t do for the ones he loves.

“What’s this?” MJ asks as she peers out the rear passenger side window. “Is this someone’s house?”

“Yes it is, MJ,” I say. “It’s our house.”

“What? No way!” She unclicks her seatbelt buckle and climbs out before running to the front door. I scramble to chase after her because I want to see the look on her face when she walks in and finds Thayer waiting for her.

I catch up to her just in time, and Thayer rises from a living room chair to greet her.

“You came! You came!” MJ runs to him and he embraces her. With all of their phone calls the last month, they’ve really become close, and I can tell they’re going to have a special bond.

He hugs her tight and she buries her head against his stomach, her arms wrapped around him as far as they’ll go.

“MJ, you want a tour?” I ask.

“Remember what you promised?” she asks Thayer. She’s so caught up in her excitement she doesn’t hear me.

“I do,” he says.

“What did you promise?” I ask.

“Thayer said he’d take me out for ice cream the next time he saw me,” she says. “We both love mint chip, so we’re going to see who can eat the most without getting sick.”

I chuckle. That sounds like something she probably saw on YouTube …

“MJ, don’t you want to see your new room?” I ask.

“I will later, Mom.” She hasn’t taken her eyes off her father once.

Thayer shoots me a look accompanied by a shrug.

“A promise is a promise,” I say. “Go on ahead, you two.”

MJ jumps up and down before grabbing Thayer’s hand. “Bye, Mom!”

Thayer gives me a wave as he lets her yank him out the front door, and I watch them climb into his rental car.

Warmth blankets me and a fullness blooms in my chest as I watch them together, and I quiet the voice inside that tells me the other shoe’s going to drop when I least expect it to.

It won’t drop this time.

I refuse to let it.

I’ll triple knot the laces if I have to.

I’ll quiet all my doubts and fears and I’ll hold onto him with everything I’ve got, forever.

Chapter 61

Thayer

“She’s out cold.” I stand in the doorway of Lila’s room as she unpacks another cardboard box of clothes.

“How was ice cream?” she asks.

It’s the first chance we’ve had to sit together and talk since MJ came home from school. After our ice cream eating competition, we rolled ourselves to a park where we played for a solid hour, and on the way home, she asked if we could stop at the dollar store to grab some new coloring books and see if they had any Chinese checkers games. Five coloring books, a jumbo pack of crayons, a box of markers, and one board game later, we finally made it home, only then MJ decided she’d rather chase me around the back yard.

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