She hadn’t left me anything but a note. She’d taken all her things. I held the pillow she’d slept on last night and pressed my face to it. It smelled like her. The sexy sweet scent that was Della.
How was I supposed to let her go? She didn’t want me to find her . . . she wanted to live. This wasn’t living for her. She had started out on a journey to see the world and she’d met me. Now she wanted more.
I’d hovered over her. I had tried to keep her safe and not let her do things she wanted. I’d controlled her job and what she did. She wanted to spread her wings and I’d clipped them. So she’d found another way to fly.
My chest was so tight that each breath I took was painful. I hadn’t called anyone. I hadn’t left my house for hours. I held the pillow closer and glanced over at the clock. It was after nine. I’d been home for five hours. How long had she been gone? Had she known last night that she was leaving me?
The look in her eyes as she’d made love to me had been different. There had been something in them that bothered me. But she had been so passionate and needy that I’d forgotten about everything other than the pleasure. If I had just looked deeper and talked to her . . . Instead, it had been about sex. When she had fallen to her knees in the kitchen, I was lost to whatever she wanted.
If I’d only looked deeper.
How had she left me?
Slowly, a realization came to me and I stood up, still holding her pillow. The phone call from Tripp. He hadn’t made sense but he’d been trying to tell me. Motherfucker! She’d left with Tripp. She had called him and he had come for her.
The pain slowly started heating up as anger—no, fury—consumed me. She had left with Tripp. He had taken her from me. His call wouldn’t have made sense to anyone. It had been his way of being able to say he had warned me when he knew I wouldn’t understand him.
I reached for the lamp on the bedside table and threw it against the wall. Then I threw the sheets and shoved over the nightstand. I grabbed the mirror off the wall and smashed it, but the anger was still there. I punched the wall until my fist went through the Sheetrock and my voice seemed so far away, even though I was yelling. I had stepped outside of myself as my body went mad. Then I threw the pillow in my hand and everything stopped. That was all I had. Her pillow. I walked over to the pile of broken glass and furniture and picked the pillow back up. I held it reverently to my chest.
Her scent filled my senses and for a moment the fury eased. For a moment I wasn’t a hysterical madman bent on demolishing everything in my house. I had her. I could hold this. I had her.
“Holy shit.” Jace’s voice came from the doorway. I snapped my head up to see him looking into my room. The horrified look on his face as he lifted his eyes to me only made me angry again.
“Dude,” he said, holding up both his hands. “You gotta calm down.”
He didn’t understand. He hadn’t just lost his reason for fucking living. She hadn’t just walked away from him. Left him nothing but a note and a pillow. The note . . . shit.
I stalked to the door and shoved past Jace. I had to get the note. I had the note, too. It was something of hers. I had that. I wanted it. Even if the words in it tore me wide open, I wanted it.
The torn paper lay on the floor and I scrambled to pick it up. I couldn’t read the words again. Not right now. I folded it carefully and tucked it into my pocket. I’d keep it on me. This was her handwriting. Her words.
“You’re scaring me, man.” Jace had followed me to the kitchen.
“I need to be alone,” I said without turning to look at him.
“I don’t think you need to be alone.”
“Leave my motherfucking house,” I snarled.
“I’ve called Rush and Thad. They’re on their way. I’m not leaving you alone.”
I didn’t want them here. I wanted to yell and break things. I wanted to find a way to ease the pain. “No! Why are you even here?”
“Tripp called me,” he said slowly. Just hearing his name and knowing that he was the one who had Della made the monster inside of me snap. I reached for the glass in the sink and threw it across the room, shattering a picture.
“He took her!” I roared as I grabbed a plate and hurled it across the room. “He fucking took her from me!”
“She called him. She wanted to go with him, Woods. You gotta calm down. She left of her own free will.” I could hear the fear in Jace’s voice but I didn’t care. I grabbed a bar stool and began smashing it against the counter until the wood shattered into pieces in a heap on the floor.
“Holy hell.” Rush’s voice registered in my brain but I couldn’t think. I didn’t want them there.
“Dude! Stop him. He’s gone fucking mad,” Thad said.
Arms wrapped around me from behind and I fought against them, but they held me tighter. “Chill the fuck out. Breathe, man. Fucking take a breath. She isn’t dead. She left. She’s out there and it ain’t over. So calm the fuck down,” Rush said in a stern, loud voice as he held my arms back.
I took several deep breaths. He was right. She was alive. She had just left. She had left. “She left me,” I said, and my voice broke.
“Yeah, she did. But you can’t beat the hell out of your house. It won’t bring her back and you’re getting out of control. Get it together. I know what this feels like. I’ve been there. Losing your shit doesn’t make her come back to you.”
Rush had been here. He knew. Blaire had left him once. But she’d been betrayed. She’d had a reason to. I hadn’t hurt Della. I had only loved her.
“I didn’t let her live,” I said, lifting my eyes to look straight ahead at Jace and Thad, who were keeping their distance from me.
“She needs some space. Let her have it,” Rush said.
“How do I keep going? With her gone? What do I do?”
Rush let out a sigh and slowly let his hold on me go. “You wake up each morning and you go to work. You smile when you think you’re supposed to. You spend your free time thinking about her. Thinking about what you’ll say when you see her again. Then you go to bed and hope you get some sleep. Then you wake up and do that same shit over again.”
I leaned against the wall and hung my head. “What if she never comes back?” He didn’t say anything at first. We stood there in silence among the destruction.
“Then you find a way to keep living,” Rush finally said, and I realized that was my biggest fear. That I’d be left needing to find a way, because Della might never come back.
“She was my go-all-in,” I said as I stared down at the smashed-up bar stool.
“Your what?” Jace asked.
“Della was my go-all-in. She was my winning hand. You can’t play when you go all in and lose. I’m out.”
“No, you’re not. This hand ain’t over yet,” Rush said.
I hoped he was right.