Page 149 of The Dancer

“What the fuck?”

“What happened?”

“Morrison, somebody fucked him up.” We looked at each other in the rearview mirror. “It says he was found in the meat packing district with his arms and legs broken. He’s still in the hospital with a concussion. Cox?”

“Who else? Serves his ass right, at least he’s still alive.”

“That’s some weird timing. I didn’t tell Cox I was leaving the city. Tony.” When he didn’t say anything my suspicions grew.

“I told you to stay out of that shit. Now you don’t have to worry about him.”

“You’re not tied up in this are you? Nothing’s gonna come back on you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Now get out.” Asshole, I didn’t even realize we were pulling up to my place. “Take your ass home and stay out of shit. I find out you got tangled up with Cox it’s going to be your ass brother.”

Fuck, now I owe that asshole a solid. It would’ve been easier if I’d dumped Morrison’s carcass in the fucking Hudson myself. Shit, I hope he doesn’t think we’re friends now or some shit.

I forgot all about Morrison when I got out and headed inside. All I wanted was to see her face. If I’d known what was waiting for me I would’ve turned right the fuck around and headed back where the hell I came from.

Chapter 38

I was so excited about him coming home I hardly slept a wink. I got up with the birds and was in the kitchen having coffee even before his mom woke up. I couldn’t sit still even though it was going to be a while before his plane landed.

These few days without him have been eye opening. I missed him so much it was like a physical ache. But I made a breakthrough those two nights I spent in our bed alone.

I’ve finally let go of my fear enough to let myself truly feel and trust in his feelings for me. Everything he does, everything he says, makes me feel like this is the real thing, that I’ve been lucky enough to find that one in a million. He’s nothing like my dad, who I now know is weak.

Seeing him with his new wife, the way he acted, has opened my eyes to who he really is, and I can’t imagine Max being that kind of man. It’s an entirely different thing seeing your dad as a man and not the father figure he’s always been.

I feel sure that I can one day get over the hurt he caused me and because of that I can now see Max for the man that he is. His strength instead of making me wary, only enhances mine. And the fact that my life has changed so much for the better since knowing him doesn’t hurt.

Because of him my life no longer sucks and my future doesn’t look so grim. And he did it all without asking anything in return. I feel safe in accepting him as he is. To not look behind every word he says for a different meaning.

I still have moments of panic when I think that I’m not deserving and it will all come crashing down when I least expect it. But those times he’s always there to bring me out of my funk.

He’s attentive, loving, kind and so much more than I ever thought he could be, being the man he once was. And above all my heart loves him and that’s enough for me.

My phone pinged with an incoming message. I snatched it up thinking it was him calling to tell me he was on his way, but it wasn’t his special ring.

I didn’t recognize the caller and thought it was a wrong number until I read the words. I sat frozen for a few seconds not believing what I was looking at.

My mind went to some surreal place where it refused to accept. It was too much of a coincidence that I was just this minute thinking about how good my life was now, for this to be real.

I heard footsteps enter the room behind me, but didn’t look up. I wouldn’t have been able to see through the tears anyway. How could life change so drastically from one minute to the next?

“Annabelle, what’s the matter honey?” I passed the phone to his mother as my gorge rose. How stupid can I be? How could I let myself fall for this? My heart hurt so much it was hard to breathe.

“Sweetie, there must be an explanation, don’t jump to conclusions. Let’s call Max and ask him about this.” I wanted to yell at her that he was her son so of course she’d say that, but the words got lodged in my throat.

My limbs felt heavy and my body hurt like I’d been punched in the chest. I felt even more bereft now than I had when my life fell apart the first time. Because this time all my hopes had been dashed.