“It’s not that easy, Ian,” I said.
He walked over to the couch and sat down. “It seemed that easy when you pushed me away.”
“I know.” I dropped my head and sat next to him. “I know it doesn’t make any sense, seeing as how everything seemed good between us. I know I probably confused you and the breakup came out of left field. I wish I could explain it to you.”
He tilted his head in my direction with the most sincere look. “Explain it, then.”
I parted my lips, but my throat dried up. I didn’t know what to say, what to do, or how to react. He must’ve been able to tell, because he took my hands into his and slightly squeezed. “Do you still love me?” he whispered like a gentle breeze passing across my heart.
“Yes,” I said, knowing I was completely unable to lie to him about that one thing.
“Then why aren’t we together?”
“Because we can’t be.”
“And why’s that?”
I swallowed hard and looked down at our hands, linked ever so perfectly. “Because I’ll hurt you.”
“Nothing you could do could ever hurt me to the point of no return, Haze.”
I nodded. “Yes, but it wouldn’t just hurt you; it would hurt your family and mine. It . . .” I shut my eyes and took a deep inhale.
He pulled me into him and placed his lips near my ear and spoke softly. “What are you so afraid of?”
“I’ve been there. I know that fear. I’m living it right now, and that’s why I can’t lose you too, Hazel. My whole life has been about building a wall to keep people away. I worked hard to keep people at a distance, and you had the nerve to break me down. To teach me what love is. So please,” he begged, his breaths hot against my skin, sending a wave of energy to the pit of my stomach. “Stay with me.”
I felt his tears falling against my skin, and I was certain he felt mine against his. I began crying harder as I held on to his shirt. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I kept repeating.
“What’s hurting you, Haze?” he asked so softly. “What’s doing this to you?” He wrapped his grip around me and pulled me in tighter. “It’s okay. I got you. I got you.”
I hated that I’d begun falling apart when he was the one who should’ve been broken after finding out the news about Holly. Yet there I was, holding on to him and crying as if he were nothing more than a dream and if I let him go, he’d slip away.
He held on to me as long as he could, until reality set in that I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t hold him close to me. If Charlie found out . . .
I pulled away. I sniffled and brushed my hands against my eyes. “I should really go check on Rosie.”
He looked so perplexed by me pulling away, but he stood to his feet and gave me a nod. “Of course.”
“I am really sorry, Ian . . . about Holly.”
He gave me a broken smile. “She’s still here. So I’m going to stay thankful for that.”
“Okay, well, good night. Let me know if you need anything.”
“You,” he replied so quickly I was almost unsure he’d said that word.
“I need you,” he swore. He stuffed his hands into his wet slacks and cleared his throat. “I get it. Something happened, and you’re scared. You’re afraid to share whatever happened to you, and I get that, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want or need you, Hazel. I think you need me too. You know how Grams made you promise not to tell me about what was going on?” he asked.
“Well, she had me make her a promise too. She made me promise to fight for what I love—so no matter what, I’m fighting for you. I’m not running away, Hazel. I’m not building my wall back up. I’m staying in town, and not only am I going to work on myself, but I’m going to work on us. Even if that means just being too damn much in your business. I’m fighting for you whether you like it or not, Hazel Stone. Our love song isn’t over. We’re just getting to the chorus, and I’m going to sing for you, for us, until forever.”
Ian wasn’t kidding—he stayed in town and stayed very much in my business.
He and the band didn’t get on an airplane to head back to Los Angeles to record their rushed album. Instead, they went back to the basics of recording their own tracks in the barn house as they made a plan to tackle their record label.
I hadn’t a clue how they were going to pump out a complete album in such a short period of time, but I also knew if anyone could do it, it was the Wreckage. They were determined to prove to Max Fucking Dickhead that he couldn’t control them.
When Ian wasn’t with his grandparents or recording with the band, he was on the ranch, giving me a run for my money.
Big Paw put me in charge of giving Ian his tasks, and it was as if we’d come full circle.
As he was cleaning out the pigpens, I stopped in to check if he was getting the work done. Also, I simply liked checking in on him, because I couldn’t help but want to be around him.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
“Oddly enough, it’s not too bad. I missed this literal shit storm,” he said, putting his pitchfork down. “I’m a bit slower than I used to be.”