The ringing was in the distance. I heard it but I couldn’t find it. Everything was dark. My eyes snapped open and the ringing started again. Shit! It was my phone. I sat up and grabbed it. It was after three in the morning and Braden was calling me. Della. God, please let her be okay.
“Is she okay?” I asked the moment I answered the phone.
“Yes and no.”
“What does that mean?” I asked, standing up and looking for my jeans. If I needed to go to her that night I would.
“She had a dream about her mother. She didn’t wake up screaming. She just woke up.”
I stopped searching for my jeans. “What?”
“She had one of her dreams but she didn’t have a night terror. She didn’t get lost in her fears. She just woke up. She’s already getting better.”
“I’m coming there. I’ve had enough with waiting. I’m on my way. Tonight.”
“No! You’re not. You have to give her time. She’s meeting with her birth father next. She met with her birth mother and then had dinner with her family all on her own. She needs to do all this alone. She’s realizing she can do this. She’s also finding out that she was crippled by her fears. She’s overcoming that. Don’t come here and confuse her. She has to come to you this time, Woods. She thinks you don’t want her. She needs to face that fear on her own, too.”
Fuck no! “You can’t expect me to stay here and let her think I don’t want her. That’s not okay, Braden. It’s not fucking okay. She shouldn’t have to overcome a fear that’s pointless. How can she think I don’t love her? That she isn’t my heart, my soul, my future? That’s the one thing she should never doubt. That, she needs to know.”
“Listen. I know this is hard and you’ve been great so far but give her just a couple more days. Please. She needs this. Remember this is about what she needs, not what you want.”
I started to hit the wall again and stopped myself at the last minute. That wasn’t going to help anything. I had to calm down. “When she left here she took my soul with her. I will always belong to her. I don’t want her to ever think differently.”
“Trust me, I know this. But she doesn’t. She thinks you haven’t tried to contact me or Tripp and you don’t care that she’s gone. That you’re relieved she left. Before you run out to your truck, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’ll get to correct her belief in a few days. Just give her a few more days. She doesn’t need you here messing with her emotions while she’s facing her demons and figuring out that she’s going to be okay. When she sees you again she needs to feel like she can be what you need.”
“Two days. That’s it. She comes to me in two days or I’m coming there. I can’t do this anymore. It isn’t for me that I want to come. It’s because I can’t let the woman I love believe I don’t want her. I’ve done this for as long as I can stand it. Two days is all I’m promising,” I told her.
“Fine, two days.”
I dropped the phone to the bed and sat down beside it. Della had overcome her night terrors. She was getting better. She was going to be whole. If I could make it just two more days.
My mother had called and woken me up that morning. I told her I’d be at her house in an hour to talk. She was furious and I had been avoiding her calls. It was time I talked to her. She would know soon who the new board members were when I held a party at the club to celebrate their new positions. Everyone would know and she wasn’t going to be happy about it. Dean Finlay might send her into a rage. She should be prepared.
When I arrived at her house, Harry, the chauffeur I’d hired for Mother after I fired Leo when I returned to Rosemary, was loading my mother’s bags into her Benz. She was going somewhere, obviously. Good. That was probably best.
I nodded as I passed Harry. He was my employee. Leo had been my father’s. Leo had also left Della in handcuffs for five hours in the back of a car and hadn’t let her use the restroom. I’d fired him before I could get my hands on him.
“She’s leaving, I see.”
Harry nodded. “Yes, sir. I’m taking her to the airport at nine,” he replied.
I headed to the door and didn’t knock. It was standing open. The house cleaner, Martha, was standing there, wringing her hands nervously. I was sure she’d seen and heard my mother’s anger. I smiled at her reassuringly. Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, I called out, “Mother. I’m here.”
Then I turned to look back at Martha. “It’s okay. You can finish doing what you were doing. She won’t kill me. Even if she’s threatened to.”
Martha didn’t look too sure but she nodded and scurried off.
Mother came to the top of the stairs with her purse over her arm. “I’m leaving,” she stated, as if I hadn’t figured that out already.
“I see that,” I replied.
She walked down the staircase and I waited for more of an explanation.
“You have chosen to defy your father’s memory. You have taken everything he set into place and thrown it away. Those men you let go were a part of the Kerrington Club for over thirty years. They are trusted confidantes. You thumb your nose at that. You’re a foolish child. I don’t want to stay here and watch you destroy this legacy. Your grandfather was a silly man. He shouldn’t have left anything to you. A twenty-five-year-old boy isn’t old enough to run a business like this one. You know nothing.”
I let her angry words seethe from her mouth. She needed to get this out and it was time I let her. When her furious gaze leveled on me and stayed there I decided it was my turn to speak.
“Those men were my father’s confidantes. Not mine. I put in place those who are close to me. It’s time for a change. The club will be run differently now. I’m not Father. But I strive every day to be like the man who built this club. I admire my grandfather and hope to be worthy of his legacy one day. I hope you travel safely and will check in with me so that I know you’re doing well. I love you, Mother. You may not believe me or even care, but I do. You’re my mom. That will never change.”
She opened her mouth, then snapped it closed again. I believed, deep down, that she loved me, too. But right now her pride was too big to accept that emotion where I was concerned. She pulled her purse up to her shoulder and looked at the door. “I’m going to our apartment in Manhattan. I have friends there, and I prefer to live there now. Rosemary has changed.”
Yes, it had. And I hoped it would keep changing. “I wish you happiness,” I replied.
She didn’t look back at me. I watched as she walked out the front door with the click of her heels echoing through the house. She would come back one day. She would love me one day. But for now, she had to go. She had to be mad. And letting her go was something I could do.