Her face reddened with embarrassment, maybe anger. “Stop it, Liz. I cannot believe you would say that to me, on today of all days.”

“It’s just…this is all so sudden.”

“I know.”

“And I know the man has a lot of money. Look at this wedding.”

“The money has nothing to do with it,” she disagreed. I cocked an eyebrow. “Really, it doesn’t.”

“Then what is it? Give me a reason you would rush into this crazy situation if it isn’t for the money. What are you getting out of this?”

“Love,” she whispered, her lips curving up. “I’m getting love.”

For some strange reason, those words stung me. My heart was pained as she confessed to the idea of loving another man who wasn’t Dad. “How could you?” I said, my eyes watering over. “How could you just throw the letters away like that?”


“Dad’s letters. I found them in the garbage bin before Emma and I moved away. How could you?”

She sighed heavily, folding her hands together. “Liz, I didn’t just throw them away. I read each and every one of those letters every evening for sixteen years straight. Each night. Hundreds of letters. And then one day I woke up and realized that the security blanket I was wearing was really nothing but a crutch keeping me crippled from living my own life. Your father was a wonderful man. He taught me how to love fully. He taught me how to give into passion. And then I forgot. I forgot everything he taught me the day he left. I lost myself. I had to step away from the crutch of those letters in order to heal. You are so much stronger than me.”

“I still feel weak. Almost every day, I feel weak.”

She took my face in her hands and placed her forehead to mine. “That’s the thing, though. You’re feeling. I was numb. I didn’t feel anything. But you’re feeling. One must know what it feels like to be weak in order to really find their own strength.”

“Mike…he really makes you happy?” I asked.

Her face glowed.

She really did love him.

I hadn’t known we were truly allowed to love again.

“Tristan,” she said. “He makes you happy?”

I nodded slowly.

“And that scares you?”

I nodded once more.

She grinned. “Ah, then that means you’re doing it right.”

“Doing what right?”

“Falling in love.”

“It’s too soon…” I said, my voice shaky.

“Says who?”

“I don’t know. Society? What’s the amount of time you’re supposed to have before starting to fall in love again?”

“People say a lot of things and give you all kinds of unwanted advice and tips on how to mourn. They tell you not to date for years, to let time pass, but that’s the thing with love—time doesn’t exist with it. The only thing love counts is the heartbeats. If you love him, don’t get in your own way. Just allow yourself to feel again.”

“There’s something that I have to tell him. Something terrible, and I think I’ll lose him.”

She frowned. “Whatever it is, he’ll understand if he cares for you the way you care for him.”

“Mama.” Tears fell from my eyes, and I stared into the eyes that mirrored mine. “I thought I lost you forever.”

“I’m sorry I left, baby.”

I pulled her into a hug. “It doesn’t matter. You came back.”

Tristan drove us home from the wedding after I had one too many glasses of wine, and Emma passed out in her car seat as soon as we left. We didn’t speak to one another, but so much was said when my hand, which had been alone for so long, tangled with Tristan’s fingers.

My eyes couldn’t move away from staring at our touch. I lifted our hold up and lightly placed my lips against his hand. How could I tell him about Steven and the accident?

How do I begin to say goodbye?

He glanced over to me and gave me his half smile. “You’re drunk?”

“A little.”

“You’re happy?” he asked.

“A lot.”

“Thank you for inviting me. I think my feet are a bit bruised from Emma stepping on my feet so much, but I loved it.”

“She’s crazy about you,” I said, staring at his lips.

His eyes studied the darkened road as he replied, “I adore her.”

Oh my heart. It stopped. Or sped up. Maybe both all at once.

I kissed his hand once more. My fingers traced every line that wound across his palm.

When we pulled up in front of my house, Tristan lifted Emma from her car seat and carried her to her bedroom. As he laid her down, I stood in the doorway watching. He took off her shoes and placed them at the foot of her bed.

“I should probably head home,” he said, walking toward me.

“Yeah, probably.”

He smiled. “Thanks again for tonight. It was great.” He placed a small kiss on my forehead and stepped past me to leave. “Goodnight, Lizzie.”


“Don’t what?”

“Don’t go. Stay tonight.”


“Stay with me.”

He lowered his eyebrows. “You’re drunk.”

“A little.”

“But you want me to stay?”

“A lot.”

His fingers wrapped around my lower back, and he pulled me closer to his body. “If I stayed, I would want to hold you until the morning, and I know that scares you.”