Whisper Of Love (Whisper Lake #1)

By: Melanie Shawn

“No!” She lifted her hand, halting his explanation. “Stop. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter where you were. Want to know why? Because you weren’t here. You didn’t call. You didn’t—”

“I’m sorry, Ali,” he said lamely.

It wasn’t enough. He knew it wasn’t even in the parking lot of the ballpark of being enough, but it was true.

“For what exactly? You’re going to have to be a little bit more specific. Are you sorry for showing up at Patrick’s funeral shitfaced with a—and I mean this with the utmost respect for prostitutes—whore?”

He thought about pointing out that while Sabrina’s occupation was an escort, she had actually been his girlfriend at the time and she wasn’t accompanying him in a professional capacity, but he didn’t figure that would make any difference.

“Or are you apologizing for getting into a fight with the caterer at the reception?”

That asshole had it coming. Kade overheard him talking to his friend about how funerals were the best place to pick up women and how he was planning on, “banging the dead dude’s hot sister in the—” Kade’s fist made contact with that douchebag’s face before he could finish his thought.

“Or does this bout of contrition have something to do with you taking off after hearing that you—,” she poked him in his chest, her voice lowered to a barely audible level as she stepped closer to him, “—are just as responsible for the boys as I am? Which one of those specifically are you apologizing for? Or is it just your blatant disregard for people? Narcissistic self-centeredness? Pathetic immaturity? Lack of any consideration for anyone but yourself? Or just generally for being an asshole?”

It was all of that, but as Kade looked into Ali’s amber gaze he knew what he was the most sorry about. “I’m sorry I hurt you. You and the boys are the last people in this world that I would ever want to—”

“Stop.” She shook her head as if she didn’t believe him. He could see that her entire body was shaking. She took a step back and her heel hit the cabinet door that was open. “I don’t want to hear it. I can’t hear it. I can’t do this. I can’t…”

His heart broke as her words trailed off and when he saw the bottom of her lids fill with unshed tears something snapped in him and overrode any common sense or self-protective impulses he had. Lifting his arms slowly, he started to approach her with the same caution he would a trapped animal.

“I know I’m putting my life in great risk by doing this, but, I’m going to hug you right now.”

With that, he moved slowly toward her. She didn’t yell or move away or even try to land a punch. She allowed him to close the distance between them and did the only thing that he’d wanted to do for the last year and a half. He pulled her into his arms and held her.

At first it was like hugging a mannequin. Stiff and uncomfortable. But then something happened. With an exhale her body relaxed and she molded against him. He closed his eyes and for the first time in what felt like forever, he could breathe. He felt his shirt dampen with her tears as she silently cried in his arms.

“Ali,” he spoke her name with raspy desperation.

He closed his eyes and tightened his grip, wanting to show her that he was here now. That she wasn’t alone. That he was sorry. She might not want to hear him say any of those things but he could show her.

Unfortunately, the sound of elephants stampeding caused her to push out of his embrace before he could communicate any of those unspoken sentiments.

One second she was in his arms and the next she’d grabbed an onion out of the fridge and began cutting it. The entire thing happened so fast he wasn’t sure what was going on until KJ flew around the corner exclaiming, “You got us Assassin’s Creed! That’s so dope!”

KJ froze when he saw them. His eyes bounced between them. Ali stood at the counter with her back to the doorway and she took in a shaky breath.

“Aunt Ali?” Concern dripped from KJ’s voice as he stepped into the kitchen, with Ricky close behind him.

“Hey bud,” she glanced over her shoulder as she lifted it and wiped her damp cheek on her gray T-shirt.

KJ’s eyes cut to Kade and he saw a fierce protection in them. It was just a flash before he turned his attention back to his aunt.

“Are you okay?”

Ali lifted the onion that she was cutting over her head.

“Oh.” He sighed and Kade could feel his palpable relief as he turned back to him. “She always cries when she cuts onions.”

Kade nodded in understanding.

The exchange brought up so many questions and emotions. How many times had she been crying and had to use the “onion” excuse? That was a well-executed plan. There was no way that she just came up with that on the fly.

It was clear that she didn’t want the boys to see her upset, but had she had anyone’s shoulder to cry on? While he was doing what he needed to do, he’d convinced himself that the town would rally behind Ali during this difficult time, but had they?