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Page 17 of A Beautiful Mess (Beautiful Mess 1)

Holy crap! He feels good, Olivia said to herself as she nuzzled her face against Alexander’s broad chest, listening to his heart race. Hers was racing, too. She turned her chin up and stared into his eyes, feeling so small enveloped in his arms. He licked his lips and Olivia was certain he was going to kiss her.

Alexander gazed down at the beautiful woman in his arms. He wanted to kiss her so badly. She was asking for it, pleading for it with her eyes. With her mouth. Should he kiss her, even given his suspicions? What if he was right and it’s her?

After a few intense seconds, he exhaled loudly, shaking his head, and released Olivia from his embrace, grabbing her hand to go back to the table.

Olivia was confused. Maybe he wasn’t as attracted to her as she was to him. He was so sweet and caring one second, and the next she couldn’t read his behavior. He was almost cold and removed.

They sat back down at the table where another round of beer awaited them.

“I ordered another round. I hope you don’t mind.” He glanced at Olivia, but didn’t hold her gaze.

“I’m sorry about that. I mean before, when I, well…”

“When you had a near panic attack?” He raised his eyebrow, taking a sip from his beer.

“I can’t hide anything from you, can I?”

Alexander remained silent, not prodding her, but Olivia knew he wanted an explanation. After a few brief seconds and several gulps of liquid courage, Olivia took a deep breath before telling Alexander about herself. “I don’t really have as many panic attacks as I used to. Talking about my parents usually triggers them.”

“I’m sorry,” he responded. “I didn’t know. I would never have asked you about them if I knew it would harm you in any way. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Olivia.” The soft look was back in his eyes. Mr. Warm, Caring, and Compassionate was back. Olivia wanted him to stay. And she wanted to be the reason he had that sparkle in his eyes.

She continued to share some personal information with him. Information that took her years to share with Kiera and Mo, but something about Alexander seemed so familiar, as if he knew her story. “They were killed when I was six. Car accident. I don’t remember anything. I think what hurts the most is that I can barely remember anything about my life before the accident, and I’ve tried. God damn it, I’ve tried so hard,” she trembled as she took a deep breath. “The one thing I do remember is they never called me Sarah. I have no memory of that ever being my name. But I do remember my dad calling me Livvy.” Tears threatened to spill down her face. “I was in the car when it happened. But I survived somehow.” She thought about telling him about the boy with green eyes she had been seeing in her dreams the past few nights, but she couldn’t be sure that he actually existed. None of it made any sense.

Alexander looked at her, torn about what to say. She just admitted her parents were killed in a car accident. And that her father called her Livvy. He remembered that. He was the only one that called her Livvy. Too many pieces were fitting into place. He could brush off maybe one or two similarities between the woman sitting in front of him and the girl he knew all those years ago. But there were too many coincidences now.

He was smiling on the inside. Is it really her? he thought to himself. But at the same time, if it wasn’t her, this was still a girl who lost her parents so young and that had shaped the woman she had become. And probably the reason she seemed to keep everyone away.

“That must be very hard for you, even after all these years.”

“It is.” Olivia breathed a sigh of relief. It felt good to actually share that with him. “I just wish I could remember them. I feel like I should, but they died when I was so young. I have a few good memories of my mom, but I wish I could remember my dad. I don’t even have that many photos of them. They say that photos can help trigger memories.” She finished her beer and Alexander signaled a server to bring another round.

“I remember spending summers with my uncle, begging him for photos of my parents. And he got so angry with me. I never understood why I couldn’t have any photos of them. And as the years went on, I started to forget what they even looked like. I’ll never forget my sixteenth birthday. My uncle sent me a card and in it was a photo of me and my parents when I was little. He said it was taken just a few months before…”

Reaching across the table, Alexander grasped Olivia’s hand, clutching it. “I won’t pressure you to talk about anything you don’t want to. I understand that, even though this happened years ago, the pain is still with you. And it will probably never leave you. And it shouldn’t. That way your parents will always be alive, here,” he said, dropping her hand and placing his now free hand over his chest where his heart was.

Olivia imitated him, knowing that he was right. She could almost sense that Alexander had been through a terrible loss, too. There was something in his eyes as he spoke to her about her own loss that made it all too clear that he was still dealing with his own issues. “I saw a shrink for years and you’ve made more sense in a few minutes than she made in nearly ten years.” Olivia laughed and he joined.

God, that's a beautiful sound.

Olivia finished her story after a server dropped off another round of beer. “I was sent to a boarding school after my parents died. My uncle kind of took care of me. He wasn’t really my uncle. I mean, I called him Uncle Charles, but he was a close family friend. So the title just kind of stuck. He was originally from Boston, I think, but had some property in Charleston and would come down from time to time, mostly when I was on school break. For whatever reason, he thought it was more important for me to stay in Charleston than to travel up north to him. The older I got, the more time I spent at my school during the breaks for various extracurricular activities, although he did keep a rather watchful eye on what activities I was allowed to be involved in. That infuriated me the older I got.” Olivia took a deep breath.

“When I was applying to colleges, he suggested giving Boston a try, that way he would be nearby. I got into Boston College and he helped me find my own place. We weren’t that close. I think it was painful for him to be around me because I reminded him of my parents, especially my mom.” She paused, remembering him always keeping watch on her, even in college while she was bartending. She recalled leaving the bar many nights to see him sitting in his car. It really put a damper on her ability to take someone home with her for a quick fling.

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