“I know, Pop. She loved you, too.”
“Then listen to me when I say this, Jordan.” He sets his book on the table beside him and leans forward. “If you love Jay the way I love your mother, don’t take her light away.”
I’m confused and open my mouth to speak, but he stops me again.
“Jay has a light inside her, just like Mom did. A light so bright you can’t help but be drawn to it. It will consume every part of you it touches and make you feel warmth like you can’t imagine. But if you stand over her and smother it, it will go out.”
He gives me a hard look, and I feel a pain in my chest.
“You’ve both been through something traumatic, but life doesn’t stop. You can’t predict the future, and you can’t change the past.” I see tears form in his eyes. “I would trade everything I have for one more day with your mother, but living in fear that the same might happen to you doesn’t honor her memory.”
“I know. She would want you to be happy,” I admit.
“She would want me to live,” he says. “I worried about you every time you got in a car after the accident. Every time I saw the scar on your face, it was a reminder of what we both lost. But I couldn’t keep you from getting in cars. I couldn’t stop you from going out into the world. It wouldn’t have been fair to your spirit. And it’s not fair to Jay’s.”
He’s right. I drop my head in my hands and take a deep breath.
“It’s been a week, but I see how you’ve isolated her. Don’t let it continue, Jordan. Let her light be the thing that guides you, not what terrifies you.”
“I love her so much.” There’s pain in my voice when I look at my father. Pain that comes from the fear that I can’t protect her, the way he couldn’t protect his wife, the way I couldn’t protect my mother.
“Then love her how she deserves to be loved.” He opens the drawer beside him and pulls out a small box. “The woman who wore this before her shone brighter than the sun. Let the next woman who wears it do the same.”
I take the ring box in my hand carefully. I nod and look up to see Pop giving me a soft smile.
“It was only a matter of time after you met Jay that you’d come to get the ring. I’ve been waiting, and after all you’ve been through, I think you’re finally ready.”
“I don’t want my fear to push her away,” I admit. It’s been the thing that keeps me up at night since the kidnapping. “I have to have her, and I have to keep her safe.”
“You’re a smart boy. You take after me.” He winks at me, and it makes me smile. “You’ll figure it out. You love her, and I know you’ll do the right thing.”
I hold the ring box tighter and nod. “Thank you.”
“Your mother would have adored her. She always wanted a daughter.”
I smile, remembering Mom saying she wished there had been another female in the house to be on her side. “She would have,” I agree.
“Honor your mother and her memory by treating Jay with the same respect and kindness. If you can do that, there’s no greater love.”
I stand up and go over to Pop, kissing him on the cheek. “Go to bed, old man,” I tease and walk toward the front door.
“Go make me some grandbabies,” he says from behind me as I close the door.
I shake my head as I walk to the end of the block and wave down a taxi. I feel better leaving than I did when I got here. I know I’m on my way back to Jay, but my dad is right. I can’t control everything, and I have to stop trying. The reason I fell for her was because of her strong personality and independence. That, and she’s insanely hot. But if I try to change her life and keep her locked up in my building, it changes what I love about her.
I know that she’s my forever, and we need to be able to grow together as we grow older. But I don’t want to change things about her in order to make that happen. I will be by her side no matter what the future holds. Pop is right, just like always. I can’t smother her light.
Leaning back in the cab, I open the ring box. The large diamond was an extravagant gift from my father, but I remember him telling me that my mother deserved to have a piece of jewelry almost as beautiful as her. Seeing the stone sparkle in the night on the plain gold band makes me anxious to get it on Jay’s finger.