They had barely made it out of Massachusetts when Henry and Molly had fallen asleep. There is something about the motion of the car that immediately put children to sleep. Honestly, Mallory was pretty sure she would have fallen asleep as well if it weren’t for the ache between her legs. She had to stay awake because she did not trust herself if she were to doze off and start to dream. She was afraid her dream would be vivid, and that could be quite awkward with her son in the car.
Instead, she tried to focus on the book she had in her bag; the one she had brought to read in her downtime on this trip. What downtime? Of course, she had not planned for this trip to be full of drama with Chris and Josh. She had just read the first page for the third time when her phone chimed to indicate that she had received a text message.
Hey beautiful, you are all I can think about so I can’t get anything done today. Do you miss me?
She had to smile, such an adorable text but of course, he needed the affirmation that she missed him.
I was missing you before we were even out of the driveway
The distance, the physical distance, between them was going to be their biggest challenge. The best way to describe what she felt for him was a need, she needed him and not just in a sexual way. When she was away from him for all of those years, it was easier to ignore it. It was almost as if she craved him, but that sounded so dirty.
Mallory turned to look at Henry, who was sleeping in the third-row seat. He had his head against the window and was out like a light. She quickly snapped a photo and sent it to Chris with a note.
Thought you might like a picture of your son, he really is an angel when he is asleep
Chris stared at the photo for a long time; taking in the words she had typed along with it, ‘your son.’ He knew that he would end up showing the picture to his mom. It would be her first opportunity to see him and his first chance to show off his son’s photo.
He is every bit as beautiful as his mother. I miss you both terribly, and I am tempted to catch a flight to Atlanta and meet you when you get home.
Mallory was tempted to text back and tell him to do it. She knew it would be the wrong thing to do but she was weak, and she knew it. She even typed out that she wanted him to do it but quickly erased it. She could not appear desperate.
As much as I hate to say it, maybe we need to use this time to make sure we aren’t moving too fast. But God knows I love you and want you with me right this minute
Chris knew she was right. They said they would take it slow and they had done the complete opposite. He was struggling with what he should text back as a reply. He didn’t want to come off too strong, but he didn’t want to continue teasing her when he knew that would only be torture for them both. Finally, he figured he would just say what he wanted.
I understand, while we both feel this is right, we need to be careful, for Henry’s sake. I won’t torture you while you are driving home just know I miss you. Please let me know when you are home, I want to know you are both safe. Love you, C
Her response was immediate, almost as if she had her response waiting and ready for him.
I promise to let you know the minute we are home. I miss you and love you, M
Mallory put her phone down in her purse and attempted to put Chris out of her mind. She engaged in conversation with John and Darby and even offered to go ahead and do her portion of the driving. It was a sixteen-hour drive back to Atlanta, and with three adults in the car, they were going to trade off the driving duties so they could get the drive done in one day.
The time seemed to pass quickly when she was driving, and before realizing it, they had crossed into North Carolina. Mallory had started driving in Connecticut, meaning she had handled the bulk of the trip. She was getting tired and was only too eager to hand the driving duties off to Darby or John. They decided to switch places in the parking lot of a gas station during a stop to top off the fuel tank. As she settled back into the back seat, Mallory checked her phone to see if Chris had texted her and was disappointed to see there were no messages.
John pulled the van into the driveway at 11 pm, it has been an exhausting drive and the saving grace was that Henry slept for most of the trip. He would be fine to go to school tomorrow and since she had planned ahead, she would be taking off from work tomorrow and could go back to bed after getting him out the door. She took the bags out of the back of the van and made her way up to the front of the house. Henry had run ahead and opened the door and turned on all of the lights so that her path would be illuminated. After she had dropped the bags in the front hall, she went back outside and hugged John and Darby, thanking them for everything over the last week. It had been exhausting, but she was appreciative of their love and friendship.
Mallory went back into the house and tucked Henry into bed and then settled into her bed and texted Chris.
I’m home, and we made it safe. Henry is in bed and so am I. Exhausted from the trip, can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Talk to you soon.
She was so tired she could not even keep her eyes open long enough to wait for his response. It was a good thing because Chris was out for the evening and he was not worried about his cell phone or returning any text messages.
~ * ~
Chris put the phone down after texting Mallory and tried to find something to keep his mind distracted. He settled on calling Josh; thinking it might be a good idea to clear the air and patch things up. He dialed the phone and waited for Josh to pick up.
“Hi Chris, how are you?”
“Hi Josh, hey look, I was hoping maybe we could get together and talk. Maybe grab lunch and hash out a few things, if you’re willing.”
“Well, I have to admit I wasn’t sure if I’d hear from you after the other day. But yeah, I can meet you for lunch; when and where?”
The two finalized their plans, and Chris started to get ready. He knew he needed to apologize to Josh for their fight and needed to clear the air. He also needed to let Josh know of his intentions with Mallory. If there was any chance that Josh had an interest in her, he needed to know now, before it was too late.
As he came down the stairs, he noticed his mom sitting in her office. He gently knocked on the door, “Hey, sorry to bother you but do you have a minute?”
Lisa Evans looked up from her computer and over the top of her glasses to see her eldest son standing in the door, “Sure, what can I do for you, Christopher?”
“I texted with Mallory earlier, she wasn’t driving so it was safe. But she sent me a picture of Henry sleeping in the backseat, and I thought you might want to see it.”
Lisa’s face lit up, and she quickly removed her glasses and shut her laptop. She reached out her hand, “Please, I definitely want to see him.” Chris gave her the phone, and she stared at it for a few minutes before speaking, “Oh my Chris, he does look exactly like you when you were his age. The only difference is the fact that his hair is lighter. Oh he is beautiful,” her voice cracked, and he could see the tears in her eyes.
“Don’t cry, mom!” His Boston accent was a little more pronounced, “I think he looks a lot like Mallory, too.”
“I see now why you made a comment about me not getting a good look at him. You’re right if I’d been closer there is no way I’d have said he was Josh’s son. He is a lovely little boy, and I can’t wait to meet him. Can you get me a picture that I can frame?”
Chris started to laugh, “Yeah, right after I get one for me. This is my first official picture of him,” Chris reached over and took his phone back from his mom. “I’m going to leave and have lunch with Josh, and I’m not sure when I’ll be back. I need to go and do something to keep me from thinking about how I wish Mallory were still here.”
Lisa put her glasses back on and opened her laptop, “Okay, be careful, and I will talk to you later.” She began typing on her computer and then remembered something, “Chris, have you spoken to your father yet?”
He poked his head back into her office, “No, not yet. I promise I’ll give him a call, though. Before I end up telling everyone else about Henry, I’ll talk to him first.”
He grabbed his jacket and his keys and set out for Josh’s. As he pulled into the apartment complex, his pulse began to quicken. He was suddenly nervous, especially when he remembered that the last time he was here he punched his best friend and had his world changed forever.
He knocked on the door and stood back, wanting to provide space in case Josh came out swinging. Instead, the door opened slowly, and he noticed that Josh was standing back a bit as well. The bruises on his face were quite evident, and Chris felt his stomach lurch. He felt horrible for what he had done and hung his head.
“Man, I am really sorry. I feel awful about it.”
“Come on in, Chris. Look, I get it, you were upset, and you lashed out. We can get past it, I am not mad at you, at least not anymore.”
Chris was shocked by his admission. He cautiously walked into the apartment, still not convinced that Josh might not retaliate. “So, look, Josh, I thought you should know that I’ve talked to Mallory.”
“Yeah, she told me you stopped by after you left here the other night.”
“Well, yeah, I did that but I mean we’ve talked after that. I took her to dinner, and we’re trying to work a few things out.”
This was obviously news to Josh, “I didn’t realize that. I had lunch with her the other day; she stopped in after the reading of the will, and we talked about you and Henry, but she didn’t tell me you were working things out.”
“No, we discussed it later that night. Up to that point, we had just argued over the fact that she kept him from me and her friendship with you a secret.” He had paced around the living room for a few minutes before he continued, “Josh, I have to admit that I was hurt when I realized that you had been talking to her and I never knew. I guess I felt betrayed; you’re one of my best friends and you have always known how I felt about her and it was like you wanted to keep us apart.”
Josh just stared at Chris for a minute, he had to select his words wisely. He knew that Chris was trying to smooth things over and maybe it wasn’t the best idea to be blunt. But then again, Chris had already punched him, so he knew what to expect if it came to blows again. “I wasn’t trying to keep you apart, but I wasn’t attempting to put you together either. If this ruins our friendship, then so be it, but you were all over the place with dating. If that is what you call it.”
Anger flashed in Chris’ eyes, and Josh knew he was playing with fire, but he was determined to continue.
“I wasn’t sure if you were really ready to get back with her. You kept saying you missed her and thought about her but I didn’t believe that you really meant it. You would go out and party and let’s just say your reputation speaks for itself, Chris. Henry needs a dad, and Mallory deserves a man who will love her and respect her. I wasn’t sure you were really ready to be that man.”
“Let me guess, you think you are that man, though? Is that it, Josh. You were hoping you could keep me out of the picture so that you could be her white knight and she would fall for you?”