“She loves you, Ian. There’s something keeping her from being able to show you that love. I know it. So please, fight for her. Push her. Poke her. Make her open up to you. I have the feeling she needs you the same way you need her. She’s scared of something, so make sure she knows she doesn’t have to be scared alone. Do you think your grandfather and I made it this far without being afraid? Of course not. I’ve been so scared that I’ve pushed him away, and he’s been too stubborn to allow me to do it. You know what I’ve learned over time?”
“The most important things in life are worth fighting for. No matter what fear says.”
She set my sandwich in front of me and sat on the barstool beside me. I thanked her for the sandwich but didn’t pick it up.
“Is everything good here? Are you and Big Paw doing okay? I’m sorry I dropped the ball on calling weekly.”
“Oh, sweetheart, it’s okay. I know you’re busy.”
“No. I’m just selfish. I should’ve called more. But you two are okay?”
She gave me a tight smile and placed her hand on mine and patted it. “No matter what happens, everything is going to be okay.”
What the hell was that supposed to mean?
“Grams,” I said, gripping her hands in mine. My eyes narrowed and I tilted my head. “What’s going on?”
Later that night, I glanced out of my front window and saw somebody standing at the end of the driveway, staring up at the sky in the pouring rain. As I opened the door, I noticed it was Ian. His back was to me, but I knew him well enough to know who it was.
“Ian?” I called out.
He turned to face me. His white T-shirt clung to his chest from the pouring rain, and the water from his eyes wasn’t due to the raindrops. He looked as if every ounce of happiness had been stripped away from his soul.
“Ian, what is it?” I asked. Alarm shot through my gut as I stepped onto the porch.
“She’s sick,” he choked out as his body shook from the cold and his nerves. His head lowered as he slid his hands into his pockets. “Grams is sick, Haze.”
The moment the words left his mouth, I stepped down into the rainfall, headed toward him, and wrapped my arms around him. He melted into me as if our bodies were always meant to be one, and he proceeded to fall apart as I tried my best to catch his broken pieces.
The rain hammered against our bodies as Ian’s sadness hammered against my heart.
I brought him inside once he was able to collect his emotions.
“Here’s some towels to dry off, and of course, you still have some of your clothes in your bedroom, if you want to change.”
“Thanks,” he murmured as he stared down at his clenched hands.
“Where’s your mind?” I asked.
“Lost.” He raked his hands through his hair. “It’s ironic, you know? Grams has the biggest heart in this world. She gives herself to anyone and everyone in need. She holds no grudges, no judgments, and no resentment. Yet somehow she ends up with a broken heart. How does that even happen? How does the kindest woman on this earth end up with a heart that doesn’t work correctly?”
“Life’s not fair.”
“Maybe she loved too much.”
“That’s an impossible thing to do. The world should fight to love the way Holly Parker loves. We need more humans like her.”
“We need her.” He sighed. He pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”
“Luckily, she’s still here. As long as she’s here, we should stay thankful.”
“Did you know? Did you know she was sick?”
I looked toward him, and guilt hit me. “Yes.”
“And you didn’t think to tell me?”
“I wanted to, Ian. Really, I did, but your grandparents made me promise not to tell you until they were ready. They didn’t want to put guilt on you or make you feel as if you needed to come home to care for them.”
“I would’ve come home,” he muttered, wrapping the towel around himself. He then placed his hands against his face and sighed. “I haven’t even been calling to check in on them enough.”
“They don’t blame you. They know you were busy.”
“Busy being a little shit.”
“Ian, they love you so much, and they don’t hold anything against you. Trust me; they love you. They just didn’t want to ruin your career right as it was taking off.”
“Seems that everyone thinks I care more about this shit career than the actual people in my life,” he huffed. “Isn’t that why you broke up with me, after all? Because of my job?”
I hesitated to answer. I saw the pained expression in his eyes and the way he was dealing with so many unanswered questions. I wanted to pour out the truth. I wanted to tell him about Charlie and the threats he’d made against me. I wanted to tell him about the struggles I’d been going through with not being able to be with him. I wanted to tell him that I loved him, that I missed him, that I’d worried about him every single day since we’d gone our separate ways.
But nothing had changed. Charlie was still a threat to me, to Rosie, and to Ian’s family’s ranch, and I couldn’t imagine putting more pressure and pain onto Grams and Big Paw, seeing as how they were going through so much already. The last thing they needed was Charlie coming around and destroying everything they’d spent their whole lives building.