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Until I Met You
  • Текст добавлен: 4 октября 2016, 23:16

Текст книги "Until I Met You"


Автор книги: S. L. Scott






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Текущая страница: 18 (всего у книги 19 страниц)

She was swooped into his arms and covered in kisses. Her laughter rang out, filling the courtroom. “Free,” she said. Finally. She was free from evil, free to live, free to love.

When Taylor set Jude’s feet on the ground again, Caleb hugged her. He wasn’t a hugger but this was a wrong that had been righted and his emotions seemed to get the better of him. A loud commotion caused Caleb to release her and step out from behind the table. Taylor took Jude by the waist and moved her safely behind him.

Brewster Boehler stood in rage and yelled at his legal team. “She’s crazy! She’ll try to kill herself again. Her death rests on your shoulders.” When Leslie touched his back, shock firmly implanted like Botox in her face, he knocked her hand away. “Get away from me.”

Jude watched in horror as the dramatics played out. Had she never meant anything to him? He had raised her half her life. He had claimed this all started like most crimes—opportunity presenting itself. But watching him now, she knew there was never love in his heart for her. Like a burden that had weighed her down, knowing how he truly felt freed her from the guilt she felt for not loving him.

Slowly, a smile appeared. She couldn’t stop it though she thought it was probably inappropriate. It grew even bigger with that thought until she laughed out loud, unable to hide her joy.

Hazel and Caleb looked at her, and like Hazel and Jude’s determination to be together, her happiness was contagious.

Two light laughs were heard behind her and she turned to see smiles on Isla’s and her mother’s faces, along with tears in their eyes.

Isla’s words were rushed as if she was racing the onslaught of tears before they fell. “I’m sorry, Judith. I had no idea, and then when I did, I didn’t know how to deal with it.” Some heavy emotion struck her suddenly and she grabbed her stomach as if she was going to be ill. “What my father did to you… I blamed you, but I should have blamed him. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

When her heart hurdled over the betrayal and she left the deceit in the past, Jude’s heart grew, as did the family she could rely on. With a small, sympathetic smile, Jude replied, “Let’s move forward. The past is too ugly to dwell on.” The cousins, who were divided by deaths and lies, were reunited in truth and hope. They embraced.

When they parted, Jude’s mother was waiting patiently. Their eyes connected and both women became teary. She didn’t want to play any more emotional games with anyone. She was too tired and was ready to be happy, so she just hugged her.

Her mother was behind her when it counted and that was all Jude needed to know to forgive what her mother considered the unforgiveable. The two women agreed they would rebuild their relationship at Jude’s pace. But Jude never did anything slow, there was too much life to live for that. “Maybe the four of us can have dinner this week?”

Isla agreed and Jude’s mother said, “We have a lot to celebrate.”

Hazel’s hand tightened around Jude’s side, and he whispered, “It’s time to go.”

When they reached the aisle, Jude cut across the front of three chairs and hugged her mother once more. Her mother started crying and said, “I’m sorry.”

“I am too,” Jude replied. I am too.

Outside the courthouse, Caleb stood before the couple. “This might be the sweetest victory I’ve ever had.”

Hazel smiled, but Jude spoke. “It might even be sweeter than ice cream.”

“Or jellybeans,” added Hazel.

She laughed. “No, love, nothing is sweeter than jellybeans. Now as for those popcorn ones, which are savory… well that’s a whole other conversation.”

“Indeed, a discussion for another day.”

Caleb said, “And you have plenty of days ahead.” He shook Taylor’s hand and then took Jude’s between both of his. “You’re a strong woman. Always remember that.”

She reached up and hugged him. “Thank you for everything.”

“Thank you. Now go live your happiness.”

Leaning against Hazel, she replied, “I already am.”

THE TWO LOVEBIRDS, once married, then denied their love, then once again recognized as married, walked down the street holding hands a month after living in splendid freedom. They didn’t speak, but their feet led them both to the same place. Like their hearts, they were in sync. Taylor sat on the bench and pulled his pretty little double dipper onto his lap, and asked, “Did you ever decide what kind of ice cream I was?”

“Of course. I knew the first day I met you.”

“Was this before I ordered pistachio or after?”

With a wry smile engaged on her lips and her arms around his neck, she gazed into his eyes. “After, but the fact you ordered pistachio was wrong in the first place.”

“Why are you so harsh on pistachio?” he teased.

“Pistachio is fine… but it’s just not your flavor,” she said with absolute confidence.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose against hers, then kissed the end of it. “What flavor am I, Jude?”

She stood up. “C’mon, let’s go get ice cream and I’ll let you decide if I’m right.”

They walked to the nearest location of her favorite ice cream chain and holding two fingers up, she ordered, “Two mocha chocolate-chip ice creams on sugar cones, please.”

He asked, “Mocha chocolate-chip, huh?”

“Just wait.”

When they walked out onto the sidewalk, they stopped and both took a lick, but Taylor took an additional bite as well. “So?” she asked.

“You used to be rocky road. What happened?”

“I found it too precarious. I thought mocha chocolate-chip suited me better.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re mocha chocolate-chip.”

He grabbed her in a bear hug and brought her closer to kiss the back of her head as she giggled. “You know what?”

“What?”

“I’m okay with this answer. Now let’s get going. I want to show you something.”

She eyed him suspiciously. “Is this a penis joke?”

Taylor did a double take in surprise. “Wow, freedom suits you. You’re just gonna let it all hang out.”

She laughed and it was hearty, then she took another lick of her ice cream. “There’s no stopping me now.”

As they walked, he said, “And by the way, it’s no joke when it comes to my penis.”

“You’re telling me!” She quirked a smile and kept walking, leaving him entertained, and entirely enchanted by her.

They had covered three blocks when she asked, “Can we make a pit stop before home?”

When he agreed he didn’t realize her “pit stop” meant twelve Manhattan blocks and to the stoop of her past. “Why are we here?” he asked, keeping her two doors down from her family’s brownstone.

“I need to say goodbye—”

“To what? A room where you were held prisoner for years? A family that tormented you and stole your life? What Jude? What do you have to say goodbye to?” He didn’t understand any of this and his anxiety of being here made his temper flair.

“I need to say goodbye to Roman.”

Taylor’s anger sank into remorse. He grabbed her and held her to him. “I’m sorry.”

She wrapped her arms around him knowing he needed the hug more than she did. “No need to be. I understand your fear. I should have explained.”

When they parted, they moved to the side so other people could pass. “I don’t want you knocking on that door. I want you to stay here. I’ll go.”

She agreed and he left her waiting on the steps of another stoop. She watched as Roman answered and polite words were exchanged between them. Roman stepped out, looked past Hazel, right at her, and then came without being asked.

Remaining one step up kept her eye level with him. He smiled and said, “You look ravishing, Hummingbird.”

She almost twirled in her happiness but didn’t, knowing she didn’t have much time. “Thank you. Life has a funny way of expressing itself through our hearts. My heart is so full and so happy.”

“And you deserve it all.”

Hazel came back, but kept a few feet back, giving them this time alone. She looked at him, but then to Roman, she asked, “How long are you going to stay?”

“I can leave now that I know you’re safe.”

“You know, I’m not very good at maintaining the house, but I try my best. I try to make you proud. Even so, I’d like you to be a part of my life.”

“I’d be happy to help.”

“Not to help me with my apartment, but as my friend.”

He smiled even wider. “It would be an honor.”

“Actually, it’d be mine.”

They exchanged numbers and Taylor came forward. “Thank you for being there for her when she had no one.”

“It was my pleasure, Mr. Barrett.”

They shook hands and Taylor corrected him, “Please call me Taylor.”

Jude and Roman hugged, two battle weary soldiers fighting on the same side of a righteous war. “Take care of my Hummingbird, Taylor.”

“I will. I promise.”

Roman nodded and stepped back toward the brownstone. Jude could tell he felt lighter than she’d ever seen him. He chuckled. “Guess I can give notice.”

“Good luck,” she called out.

“Good luck to you, too.”

Back home, the air felt different to Jude and Taylor. Before it was stilted, now it was alive. A window in the living room was left open that morning and a cool fall breeze blew in, greeting them. When he shut the front door, the papers on his drafting table flew, filling the air like snowflakes. They both leapt into action, collecting the sketches and drawings, the blueprints, and the renderings.

As Jude caught one, the miniature blueprint drew her eye. Papers rained down around her, softly falling to the floor like feathers. She looked at the one that most interested her. “What is this?”

Taylor was on his knees sweeping the papers into a pile with his hands, but he stopped and looked up to see what she was referring to. When he saw what it was, he sat back with his hands casually on his legs. “It’s our house.”

“When did you finish it?”

“Last night, after you fell asleep.”

She walked over to him and sat down on the sturdy coffee table. “Will you take me through it?”

He took the papers from the floor and stood up with a grin. “Yeah. I’d like your thoughts and suggestions.” They walked to the drafting table and he set the other drawings aside, then centered the blueprint he took from her hands. “I have a bigger one.” He eyed her suddenly feeling a bit shy on the subject.

“Yes, I want to see every detail. Get the big boy out.”

“Are we still talking blueprints?”

She knocked him on the arm. “Silly, horny man.”

While laughing, he pulled out the rolled-up, tube-shaped plans from a holder next to his desk, flattened them and clipped the corners down. “Where do you want to start?”

“At the front door.” Jude settled into his lap and with his arms wrapped around her, he walked her through the entire design. The house included the extra large closet he promised her, the large tub—just for them, and a built-in window seat in the library for her to sit and daydream or curl up with a book.

They sat there for over an hour, the time slipping away, as they planned their future. For dinner, they went out. In a little Italian restaurant a few blocks from the apartment and after a bottle of Chianti, Taylor asked, “Where were you going to live in California?”

Jude was surprised by the question, only having spoken of it one time in what seemed like another life. “Somewhere in Los Angeles, anywhere we could afford, I guess. Since Ryan wanted us out of New York and he couldn’t attend NYU, he wanted to go to USC. But he only got an academic scholarship to cover one year. And it’s not like I could live in his dorm.”

“If you could live anywhere, where would you live?” He picked at the noodles in front of him much more interested in her answer than the pasta.

“Anywhere but here.” Sadness overcame her and he reached across the table to hold her hand. She looked up, her eyes meeting his, and said, “I love what’s us about New York. I hate what’s them, which is a lot. Even if they are locked away in upstate New York for what is considered a white-collar crime, too many reminders remain, my memories threaded together with a past I want to forget.”

“So if you could live anywhere, it would be the opposite of here?”

“I want to live near the ocean. If I could live anywhere, I’d live perched above the water and walk the beach every evening with you.”

Taylor loved that she saw their futures entwined. For him, it was from the moment he met her. “We should move to California.”

Her eyes went wide, this time in a good way. With a gentle smile, she squeezed his hand. “You’re more New York than California, Hazel.”

“I would be California for you.”

It was that moment, that moment right after the other 6,385,629 moments they had shared that defined their future and also defined them.

THE LOS ANGELES Dodgers were down in the third to the New York Mets, but Jude and Hazel were still on cloud nine two years later, still going strong. It was the very beginning of September and they sat at a Dodgers game, their home team now. Lacy and her boyfriend, Troy, sat next to them. It was her second time visiting them in California, the two friends talked daily, but their visits were the best.

But Jude really loved going to baseball games with Hazel. Every time they came out to the ballpark she saw the spark return that New York had dulled. So she bought him tickets to his favorite season of all—baseball.

He turned to Jude, and said, “You never told me about Rayleigh scattering.”

“You just want me to go on about your impossible eyes, don’t you?”

With a smirk, he bumped his shoulder against hers. “Maybe.”

“Before we were married, you weren’t so self-assured. What happened, Mr. Cocky?”

“Before we were married, I was very self-assured. Trust me. All the ladies loved me.”

“How did we get from Rayleigh scattering to ‘all the ladies loving you’?”

“Simple. My impossible eyes.” He was starting to sound a lot like Jude in the way his thoughts circled. That made her smile. He took a sip of his beer that left a little beer-stache above his upper lip. She watched as his tongue dipped out and wiped it away. Her body stirred in reaction.

“And why are they so impossible?”

Jude wrapped her arm through his and leaned her head on his shoulder. With a smile as they watched the Dodgers finally score after two innings, she tilted her head up, and said, “Because I never stood a chance. They were impossible to resist, like you.”

Taylor smiled, enjoying his day out, smiling because the Dodgers, his new favorite team had scored, and loving that his life with his pretty wife felt complete.

Or so he thought…

JUDE’S EYES WERE closed as she lay on the large balcony that overlooked the ocean in the short distance. She loved this time of day—when day was turning to night, when the stars swallowed the sky, and she could hear the waves crashing. This was Heaven. This is what Ryan would have loved. This is what she did love, and Hazel gave her this Heaven on Earth with no strings attached. Well, one string was attached—from her heart to his. It might have been invisible, but it was mighty, and was strong.

Taylor walked outside and leaned his hands on the ledge. “I don’t think I ever appreciated California until I lived here.”

“Laguna is beautiful; more than I could have ever dreamed,” she said, opening her eyes to see her husband haloed in the last of the day’s rays. Her breath stopped in her chest, just short of release upon seeing how stunning he was as if it were the first time she’d ever laid eyes on him. This time, he might not have been wearing a suit. He had changed clothes already, but he was just as handsome as he was standing in the middle of that party on a cold winter’s evening.

He offered her a hand up and she happily accepted, landing firmly in his arms. He asked, “I missed you today. How are you?”

“Gloriously happy.”

“Are we allowed that much happiness in one lifetime?”

“I sure hope so or I’m going to burn through it fast.”

He chuckled, understanding exactly what gloriously happy felt like, and kissed her head. Taylor’s hands trembled less on the West Coast though he still aged. Maybe it was the weather or the laid-back lifestyle they chose to live. He had very strong suspicions it was the little brunette that gave him something to hold on to, something worth fighting for. He shared his bed, his house, and his life with her and it all became…

Their bed.

Their house.

Their life together.

And they cherished every minute.

She led him by the hand inside the house; the house he’d designed and had built for her. One hundred percent of the guilt money had been given away to various domestic abuse and child abuse charities, but the money received from her family for her “troubles” more than paid for the beautiful home. It felt like salvation—all light and sunshine, clean lines like he liked, bright colors like she loved, except for pink. She hated pink bedrooms. This house was Hazel and Jude inside and out. “My mother arrives tomorrow afternoon.”

“I’ve hired a car to pick her up. She’ll meet us there. Be prepared. She sounds excited.”

“Beats the alternative,” she joked, and walked into the kitchen ready to bake him something. “Are you hungry?”

“No, I’m still stuffed from the pancakes and bacon.” Jude grinned, comforted by his satisfied smile when he added, “You’re going to make me fat.”

“Then we’ll be even,” she replied, rubbing her very round belly.

He came around and couldn’t resist, like any other time he was with her. He rubbed the baby bump and kissed his wife. “I still can’t believe we’re having a baby. I can’t believe you’d want to have a baby with me.”

“The whole of you isn’t Parkinson’s, Hazel.”

“When I die—”

If you leave me, leave this earth—”

“It would never be by choice or without a fight. You know I’ll fight, right?”

“I know you will, with all you have. I know you will.”

They walked to the couch and sat down to watch the sun dip below the horizon. She was curled into his side and he had his arm wrapped around her. They didn’t often talk about his disease, but they didn’t deny it either. It was just a part of him. “If you should go,” she started again, “this baby will always keep you close to me, a gift I couldn’t have had without you. One of the many gifts I didn’t experience until I met you.”

“Like the disease, your stepfather, your aunt, and Bleekman’s tried to destroy what was good. But once you were freed from them, you grew. You shone. You became the person you were always meant to be.”

“After all we’ve been through, it only took a whole new life to create one.”

He smiled, liking her perspective on things. “Yep, a whole new life.”

She yawned and stretched her legs out. Taylor sat up, and said, “You should get some rest. We have to leave early in the morning.”

“What time?”

“Six to make it to the hospital on time. You’re supposed to be induced at eight.”

Taylor couldn’t pinpoint the exact moment. There were so many great ones they had shared throughout the last three years. But he had a feeling it was the night his parents threw that party one January, when he’d watched Jude twirl away from him while he’d stood there waiting for her to return. As he’d watched the petite little brunette in the chartreuse dress, deep down he’d felt… no, he’d known he’d follow her anywhere.

Tonight, it would be to their bedroom so he could love on her and she could make him feel invincible.

Tomorrow, it would be to the hospital to meet the child he never thought he’d meet.

But the day after that, he’d go buy the love of his life—whether it be a long or short life—mocha chocolate-chip ice cream, just because she likes it and he wants to see her smile.

Hazel, with the remote in hand, switched on the music. Through the speakers, Otis Redding began crooning, “Try A Little Tenderness,” and Hazel took her hand, pulling her to her feet. He started walking away from the couch, but Jude stopped him and smiled with the most mischievous glint in her blue-green eyes. Taking both of his hands in hers, she asked, “Wanna dance with me?” She wiggled her hips back and forth to the beat, pursing her lips and hoping to entice.

Taylor laughed, loving this life too much to leave it anytime soon. He spun his sundress-wearing beauty out and then delicately whipped her back in, bringing their bodies together, their breath quickening and seduction growing. He dipped her and she squealed in pure delight. But with a solid hold on her, he kept her there, his eyes roaming over her body.

Jude found his gaze unhurried and comforting. When his lips were joined to hers, one breath shared between them, he said, “Let’s go.”

Quirking an eyebrow, she hoped they were heading into the bedroom, but asked just in case, “Are we going anywhere in particular?”

With the smile that always melted her heart—and her panties—he kissed her, and then replied, “The world is our rainbow, Jude.”


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