I promised an excerpt from Pieces of Me, so here it is!
“Did you say accounts?” Justin asked, nodding toward where I’d stacked the papers on top of my laptop.
I wasn’t gonna tell him about my money worries, but I didn’t want to hide this from him. Maybe just not the extent of it. It was a fine line. “Yeah. I just have a few things to get done tonight. I’ll need to be working in the shop with the boys this week and not in the office, so if I can keep on top of the paperwork . . .”
“Is that because I’m not there?” he asked. “Do you have to do my job?”
Shit. I withheld the sigh that threatened to escape and put my fork down. “Not exactly. I mean, yes, a little bit. But it’s nothing we can’t handle until you’re ready to come back.”
His brow furrowed and I gave him time to think about what I’d said. He ate some more of his pasta but then pushed what was left around his plate with his fork. “Do Davo and Sparra have to do my work too?”
I didn’t want him to feel bad, but I also wouldn’t lie to him. “The three of us are filling in the gaps. When I was at the hospital every day, Davo and Sparra did everything. They really covered my arse. So now we’re home, I’m trying to do as much as I can to help them out. We have an important contract coming up, one we do every year, and it’s good money. I can’t drop the ball on it.”
“I don’t like letting you down,” he whispered.
I reached over and squeezed his arm. “You’re not. At all. In any way. You’re my priority, first and foremost, Jussy. But my business is important too. Davo and Sparra depend on me for a job and I don’t want to let them down. I just need to get the balance right, that’s all. So if I have to do some work on the computer while we sit on the couch after dinner, then so be it.”
He tried to smile but couldn’t quite manage it. “My accident . . .”
When he said nothing else, I did. “Your accident was not your fault. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. And we’ll get through this, I have no doubt. I just want to try and do the right thing by everyone, that’s all.”
“I want to help. I can do . . .” He frowned again, like he couldn’t find the right word. He shrugged. “I don’t know what I can do.”
“You can get better, and you can rest and recover,” I said. “And you can make an awesome spaghetti.”
That earned me a small smile, but it didn’t last long. “I hate that everything is so hard. I want to do things but I’m tired, and my leg and my arm are stupid, and my head hurts most of the time. And the worst part is that I can’t think properly. Like sometimes it’s clear, and sometimes it’s foggy, sometimes it’s like I’m underwater. I hate that I can’t remember everything, and I hate that I feel so lost.”
He gave a small nod. “I dunno who I am. I mean, I know I’m Justin, and I know where I come from, and all that shit. But I dunno who I was. The last five years were so important and I’ve lost that. I dunno who that Justin is.”
I pulled my chair around so I faced him, and I took his hand. “Baby, I wish I could fix that. I wish I knew how to get everything back. I hate that you feel that way, but I completely understand why you do. I’m sure I’d feel the same if it were me in that van that day.”
“I just feel . . . lost. And sad.” He shrugged. “I guess today’s just a bad day, but I . . .” His chin wobbled and his eyes became glassy. “I dunno.”
“Oh, baby,” I whispered. “You’re allowed to have bad days.” To be honest, I was surprised he hadn’t had more bad days before now. “Do you want a hug?”
He nodded quickly, and I stood up and helped him to his feet. I pulled him against me and he snuggled in, fitting the side of his head against my neck. I rubbed his back and held him tight, and for the longest moment, we never moved.
“Thank you,” he mumbled.
“What are you thanking me for?”
“For everything. For knowing what I need when I don’t.”
He made no attempt to move and I certainly wasn’t going to. “I need your hugs too.”
“I mean it. When I’m all fuzzy and . . . not together . . . I can’t think of the word. Anyway, when I’m like that, you hug me and it fixes me.”
“Well, you’re welcome. You can have a hug any time.”
He was quiet again for a bit and he leaned heavily against me as though he were falling asleep. “Thank you for staying.”
“Staying where?” In this hug?
“With me. For not leaving me. You could have, but you didn’t.”
I pulled back then so he could see the seriousness in my eyes. “Justin, baby. I love you. I’ve loved you for years. You are loved. And I know that’s probably weird for you, but I need you to know this: I’m not leaving you. Not then, not now, not ever.”
His face softened and he almost smiled. “It’s not weird. Well, maybe a little bit but not really. We’ve been on like, one date.”
I laughed. “Does tonight not count? You cooked me dinner. It could be our second date.”
“Nope. I forgot the candles.”
I chuckled and pulled him back in for a hug. His left arm went around me and held me just as tight as I held him. He was warm and smelled like home. “Candles make it a date,” I said quietly. “Got it.”
He was quiet again and heavy against me. “I like hearing you say it,” he mumbled. “That you love me. I know you do. You look after me, and you care.”
He liked knowing he was loved, and I couldn’t blame him. It was an amazing feeling, comforting like a soft bed and warm blankets on a cold night. I knew he loved me too. I knew he did. It was just trapped, hidden under the surface. He’d already remembered slivers of me from our life before the accident. He said my wing tattoos felt safe, like home. And he trusted me, and for a guy who was surrounded by strangers, that was a helluva statement.
His heart knew me, even if his head didn’t.
And I clung to that with everything I had.
I hope you all enjoy the second installment of the Missing Pieces Series. I can’t wait for you all to read it.
In other WIP news, I’ve started my next book but it’s going incredibly slow. I usually aim to write 10K words per week, but last week managed barely 2K words. Ugh. It’s frustrating and I’m considering shelving this book for now and starting something else. I’ll give it another day or two. Hopefully this week will be better.
Next week I’ll have the pre-order link for Pieces of Me. Yes, I’m doing a pre-order! LOL (you guys know I’m not a fan, right?) but Amazon is a mess right now so I’ll be doing a pre-order so fingers crossed they don’t hold up my release date…