That started a discussion that eventually led down the path to Elena. As we spent precious moments reconnecting, he wanted to know about her. It was clear he credits her with my transformation.

And while we still had repairing to do, I didn’t mind sharing her with him.

Metaphorically, of course.

I admitted it had started out just as sex, but it had absolutely progressed to something else. Something more. Something I couldn’t quite define yet, but I knew was transformative.

This pleased Brandon a lot. He’s a happily married man, and he wants me to be happy as well. He equates happiness to a secure relationship. While I’ve experienced that before, and I agree with it, that’s still a little more than I was willing to consider at this point.

But there’s a reason he’s my best friend, and he proved it by narrowing in on something that must have been causing me some internal strife.

“April would want you to move on,” he’d said to me with certainty. “You know that, right?”

I just stared at him, for the first time considering what April would think. How had I not done so before? Is it because I’d so lost my belief in God and Heaven I didn’t even think April existed anymore?

But if she did… what would she want?

“She’d want you to have another shot at happiness,” Brandon had said quietly. “A shot at love. Kids. Everything. In fact, she’d be disappointed if you stopped living your best life.”

He was right.

He is right.

I know it with certainty. While we never discussed dying and what would happen after, I know April loved me and to love me would mean my happiness was paramount to her.

Just as I know had I predeceased her, I’d have wanted her to fall in love again. Make more babies. Grow old with someone devoted to her.

“I like you too,” is all I can manage to say to Elena. Words can barely express what I do feel for her, but they’re simple and truthful. They don’t compare with what she’s said to me and the way she’s validated me.

But I’ll try to get better at it.

All part of my journey to rediscover my life.

Smiling, she crooks her finger. “Why don’t you come over here and rub some oil on my back?”

Her tone is husky, inviting, and I know she wants me to rub other places as well.

That is something I can totally get on board with.

CHAPTER 26

Elena

When I glance at my watch, I’m satisfied I’m running a bit ahead of schedule. I took the afternoon off from work to go to a doctor’s appointment with my mom. She’s been suffering with some knee pain that’s gotten progressively worse, and they’re attempting an injection on her today.

Normally, my father would go with her, but he’s in Los Angeles on a business trip. None of my brothers can be counted on to step in, so I gladly volunteered.

I love my brothers, I really do. Five strong, smart, and capable men who don’t have a freaking clue on how to help with our parents as they get older. Granted, my mom has always been a bit of an enabler, rushing in to do everything for her boys.

Maybe I inherited a bit of that from her. Maybe I tend to do too much for the men in my life, and that turns them codependent on me. Maybe that makes me a magnet for a certain type of man.

But no… Benjamin isn’t like that at all. Despite the traumas he’s suffered, he’s yet to try to latch on to me as the fixer of his woes. I’ve learned he has a deep well of quiet strength he has been pulling from to drag himself out of the darkness. He is truly the strongest person I know. It makes him even more attractive to me, despite some of the fears that still hold him back just a tiny bit.

Yes, things are now moving a bit faster, yet I’m not scared by it. Benjamin is just so different—not just from any man I’ve known, but from any person. He’s the most self-aware person I’ve ever met. He knows his weaknesses and what draws out his worst, and, when asked, he’s utterly transparent about those things. He is never afraid to admit his failures or flaws.

At any rate, I completed my mission to take Mom to the doctor. Helped her home, put her leg up, and made her a late lunch. Left the remote control and a cup of tea near her, then jetted back out. I have to pick up a new prescription the orthopedic prescribed, then I’m off for a quick shopping trip for a new dress because tonight, things are advancing just a bit more between Benjamin and me.

We’ve been invited to dinner at Brandon and Colleen’s house. This is significantly important for a few reasons. First and foremost, Benjamin has repaired his relationship with his best friend. Maybe not fully, but for the most part. I know this because he not only told me about the conversation where he apologized, but also because each night we’re together, over dinner or a drink or while watching TV, he’ll tell me a funny or interesting story about Brandon that had happened.

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