“What did he say?”
“She said, ‘Take a long, hard look at your life. You can either become your father, or you can do better. It’s up to you.’ ” Ty’s gaze finds mine. “I chose to be better.”
“And your mom?”
He shakes his head and sighs. “She was with him until the day he died five years ago. There was nothing anyone could do to make her see that she could leave him. But I took Jill out of there. She lived with Cara and her family until she graduated from high school.”
I just sit and watch him, so unbelievably proud.
“You’re not saying anything. Rethinking this whole being-with-a-guy-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks thing?”
“Don’t piss me off when I’m sitting here thinking how proud of you I am.”
He smiles halfheartedly, and I come around the desk to sit in his lap again. Cupping his face in my hands, I kiss him softly and deeply. “I think you’re pretty cool.”
He chuckles and pulls his knuckles down my cheek. “I’m nothing special, Lo.” His eyes turn sad as he watches me. “I couldn’t even save my mom from the bastard who beat her.”
“That wasn’t your job,” I insist. “Ty, I know I was lucky to have parents who loved each other and were respectful of each other, but I was married to a man who loved nothing more than making me miserable.” I shake my head and try to come up with the words to help him understand. “He didn’t hit me, not until the very end. But taking verbal jabs at me, beating down my self-esteem, made him very happy. And I knew that what he was doing was abusive, and I didn’t leave.”
“You didn’t—” he begins with a shake of his head, but I interrupt.
“I did have my parents and friends that I could have turned to, but I didn’t leave, Ty. You need to understand, when a woman is being abused, no one can save her but herself. She has to be the one to decide that she won’t live that way anymore. It was shitty of your mom to choose to stay with your dad rather than take you and Jill out of there. But it was her choice.”
He exhales deeply and closes his eyes, then leans his forehead against mine. “Thank you for that,” he whispers.
“I can’t bear the thought of you blaming yourself for something that isn’t your fault.”
“I always felt like protecting Mom and Jilly was my job. I know my dad was a pitiful excuse for a man, but Jill and I spent more time at Zack and Josh’s house than we did at home. Jeff King showed me what it was to be a real man, and he never would have stood for anyone treating his wife like that.”
“I’m glad you had a place to go.”
“I remember one time, Zack told his mom to shut up, and Jeff had Z up against the wall by his collar so fast, he didn’t see what was coming.”
“Good for him.” I grin.
“Yeah, he never made that mistake again.” Ty sighs again. “That’s why it was so hard for me to watch my dad with Mom. I’d tell her over and over again to leave the bastard, and she would just shake her head and walk on eggshells around the bastard.”
“It’s not your fault.” I hold his face in my palms, making him look at me. “You got Jill away from there and you did the best you could.”
“It’s always been in my mind, you know? What if I’m more like him than I think I am?”
“You are nothing like that, Ty.”
“I take care of the women in my life, and I know I’m sometimes overprotective, but I just need to know that they’re safe. And now that I have you, that includes you. No one will ever touch you in anger again, Lauren. Never.” His arms tighten around me, pulling me into the safety of his embrace, and I know that no matter what kind of shit Jack throws my way, I can stand up to him. Ty will be right there by my side.
And for the first time since my parents died, I feel . . . safe.
I bury my face in his neck and pull in a deep breath. God, he smells so good.
Finally, I check the time and sigh in resignation. “My hour is up.” I clean up our mess and walk to the door.
Ty is right behind me. “Wait.” He stops me before I open his door and instead of kissing me like I expect, he drops a soft kiss on my forehead. “Thank you, sweetness.”
“I’ll see you tonight.”
“Have a good day, dear.” I wave and wink, then saunter out of his office to the sound of his laughter.
“I’m way behind deadline,” I moan into the phone. “I have to have this draft to the editor by next week.”
“Okay,” Emily replies. “What’s the problem?”
“I’ve been a little distracted,” I reply dryly. “Between sexy lawyers and psychotic ex-husbands, I’ve been a tad busy.”
“Well, you’re not busy right now and you’re talking to me rather than writing.”
“You’re not helping!” I laugh and twirl in my office chair. “Seriously, I’m worried.”
“Ask for an extension.”
I wrinkle my nose and shake my head. “I can’t.”
“Because you’re the only author in the history of the world to ask for a deadline extension.”
“Shut up,” I grumble. “I seriously can’t ask for the extension. The publishing date on this book has been moved up because of the movie release, so I don’t have any wriggle room.”
“Okay, do you need any help?”
“Yes. Why are my characters determined to fight in almost every chapter? They are supposed to be falling in love and having lots of sex, and instead they fight like cats and dogs.”
“Makeup sex?” Em asks with a smile in her voice.
“Oh, there’s been plenty of that.” I worry my lip between my teeth and rock back and forth in my chair. “Maybe they should go on vacation and loosen up a bit.”
“I know! Send them to Tahiti! Lots of sun and water sex and they’re not required to wear much clothing, so your heroine can ogle the guy’s hot body a lot.”
“You might be onto something.” I nod and smile. “Maybe he has a private jet.”
“Plane sex!” Emily laughs, and I can hear her clapping. “I bet he has his own jet. He’s rich as fuck.”
“Yeah.” The idea is taking shape in my head and I grin. “I like it. I like it a lot.”
“Okay, you go write the fun plane sex. I have to write a murder scene.”