There was no mistaking the disdain or judgment on his boss’s face when he saw the easy affection that existed between the two of us and his hostile words were as true as they were painful to hear. I wasn’t suitable or proper to the lifestyle Quaid lived and I wouldn’t ever fit in with the kinds of people he worked with and longed to impress.
I’d finally felt the level of pain and agony that I had been hunting since the night everything went wrong. My heart felt like it wouldn’t ever work right again and everything on the inside of me ached and throbbed like it had taken the worse beating imaginable. I would never feel like I had paid my dues to Autumn, and I would always carry around blame and responsibility for what happened to her, but Quaid had helped me to see that we were all responsible for our own actions and the only thing we could control was ourselves and the person that our choices molded us into. Making bad choices, repeatedly, hadn’t made me into a bad person, but the way I handled those bad choices and let them twist into something worse had made me into a person that was desperately out of control and in need of guidance.
Walking away from Quaid and the goodness he offered didn’t necessarily feel like the right choice, but I knew I was making the decision for all the right reasons and that was leaps and bounds ahead of where I had been before meeting him. I finally met the right guy; it was a shame I would always be the wrong girl for him.
My dad was more direct than my mother. He always had been. He waited until Mom went to bed one night and then sat down with me on the couch when I was deep into an Archer marathon, wishing I could be as kickass and as strong as Lana was. It was a pretty sad state of affairs and a pretty clear indication that my heart was hurting that the hilarious superspy hadn’t managed to make me laugh once in the two hours I’d been zoned out in front of the TV. It wasn’t my heart that was broken in this fall; it was all of me.
My dad threw a beefy arm around my shoulders and pulled me into his side so that my head was resting on his chest. I let out a quivering sigh and let my eyes drift closed so that the tears that had been threatening to fall since I walked out of Quaid’s office once again gathered behind my eyelids.
“You want to tell me what happened?” My dad’s voice rumbled deep and soothing over my head as I breathed in his comforting Dad scent. “Despite his terrible taste in motorcycles, I liked the guy. I liked him for you and we both know that never happens.”
I laughed a little and sniffed as it tried to turn into a sob. “Right guy, wrong place and wrong time. Not to mention, I don’t think I was ever really his type.”
My dad harrumphed and I felt the hair on the top of my head move with the disgruntled sound. “He tell you that?”
He sounded offended on my behalf, so I lifted my head so I could look him in the eyes to make sure he knew that I was the one that had walked away, not Quaid. “No, Dad, he never said anything like that but I knew the end was coming before things even really got started. We don’t live in the same kind of world.” I laughed bitterly and laid my head back down. “One of his suits cost as much as my entire wardrobe.”
My dad made another noise in his throat and curled his fingers around my shoulder so he could give me a squeeze. “You know better than to judge a man based on what he puts on his back. All that matters is that it’s a strong back, one that can carry whatever load is stacked on top of it. I know I taught you better than that.”
“It’s not the clothes, it’s everything. Where he lives. Where he works. Where his future is headed. We have common ground but we only seem to find it when we’re naked.”
His big body stiffened under me. “Don’t want to hear about my baby girl being naked with anyone, ever.”
I chuckled a little. “Sorry, Dad.” It was rare he was uncomfortable about anything, but I guess the thought of his only child being anywhere near any kind of sex still had the power to make him squirm.
“Avett, I don’t know much about your legal eagle, but he helped you out time and time again and refused to let you go about all that Law & Order business alone. He stepped in when he thought you were in danger and he showed up when you needed him when the house burned. That’s some pretty solid evidence that the man is the right one in your old man’s opinion. Those are the kinds of traits a father appreciates in the man his baby girl has her eyes on.”
I snuggled in closer to him and muttered quietly, “I can’t believe you’re trying to convince me to keep a boy around. You never do that. You’re always shoving them out the door and telling me to do better.”
I felt his beard move against the top of my head as he sighed. “That’s because Quaid isn’t one of your boys, Avett. He’s a man with his own life and a whole history that he had before you came along. It sounds to me like he’s willing to share both of those things with you, and instead of taking him up on his offer you ran away. The boys were throwaway—this man’s one you might want to consider holding on to, Sprite. Not sure anyone will ever be good enough for my little girl but this man comes pretty close.”
I frowned at the TV and pushed off my dad so that I could sit up and cross my arms over my chest. “I didn’t run away. I left because one of us was going to have to leave eventually.”
My dad’s bushy eyebrows lifted up and I saw his teeth flash within the forest of his beard. “Why? Why would one of you have to leave eventually?”
I opened my mouth to tell him that we didn’t fit, that we didn’t work, and that Quaid needed someone more elegant and refined that would suit his polished and pristine life. I wanted to argue that our backgrounds were too different, that what we valued and held dear were on opposing pages, in completely different books, on opposite sides of the library. I couldn’t get the words out because they weren’t really true. I’d spent my time trying so hard to feel as badly as I possibly could while Quaid spent his trying to feel as good and as successful as possible. Neither one of us had obtained our goal until each other. Right at this moment, I knew I felt as bad as I ever would and I had seen it in Quaid’s eyes when we made love on his mountain that he had never felt that good and that worthy.
Like recognized like. And while we had both been lost and floundering on our own, when we were together it felt like we were exactly where we were supposed to be.
I heaved a sigh of defeat and slumped back into the couch. “I was at his office and his boss came in and made a bunch of shitty comments about me. He accused Quaid of only taking my case because he wanted in my pants and then told him he needed to find someone acceptable to bring with him to some office function. Quaid was pissed but all I could see was him trying to take me with him to something like that and it going horribly wrong. He’s done so much for me in such a short time. I don’t want him in hot water at work or at odds with his boss. He wants to make partner and I doubt if we stay together that will happen. I don’t want him to sacrifice his plans or his dreams because of me.”