“You’re what?”

I balled my fists and said the first thing that came to my mind. “Pissed!”

This time it was Rip’s eyes that widened in shock. “You’re pissed? Oh Jesus Christ, this is classic.”

Rip shook his head and walked away. I heard him heading down the wooden steps, and it took me all of five seconds to go after him.

“Rip! Wait!” I called out as I rushed down the steps.

Rip

CHLOE REACHED FOR my arm and pulled me to a stop.

“Rip, please wait.”

I looked down at her. Those beautiful blue eyes looked so confused.

Well, she isn’t the only one.

“I can’t do this, Chloe. I keep trying to do the things I think will make you happy and all I’m doing is pissing you off. I don’t know how to make you less angry with me. I know, I messed up, and there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t wish I could go back in time. But I can’t. No matter how hard I pray, I can’t.”

I let out a frustrated sigh. “If you think for one minute I didn’t want all those things, too… The kiss, the date, the first time I was with a woman. If you don’t think I wanted you to be that woman, then I don’t know what else I can do. It was all I ever dreamed of. Hell, the first girl I had sex with I fucking called her Chloe. I don’t think I have to tell you how that turned out.”

Chloe looked down at the floor.

“I know I’m confusing you because I bought this house when you were engaged to another man, but I knew deep down in my heart, I knew it would always be you and me. You’re the only woman I’ve ever loved. I bought this house for you because I love you more than I love the fucking air I need to breathe.”

Her head popped up, and I nearly fell to my knees when I saw her tears.

“Goddamn it. All I can seem to do is make you cry.”

Chloe shook her head and wiped her tears away before speaking. “Do you want to know the moment when I finally realized I couldn’t marry Easton?”

I didn’t answer because I didn’t want to think about her saying yes to that asshole in the first place.

“I was standing in front of some mirrors looking at myself in a wedding dress.”

My eyes stung with the threat of tears. I blinked rapidly to keep them at bay.

She saw the hurt in my eyes and paused for the briefest of moments before continuing. “And a memory hit me.”

With a cracking voice, I asked, “Wh-what memory?”

More tears rolled down her cheeks as she placed her hand on the side of my face. In a reversal of our roles, her thumb wiped a tear from my cheek.

“Me sitting up on the swing under our tree. You were eating that stupid apple,” she said with a half chuckle, half sob.

Smiling, I stepped closer and wiped the tears that kept falling down her cheeks.

“I’m…I’m going to m-marry you someday, Rip.”

I closed my eyes as the familiar memory replayed in my head. When I looked down at her, her chin trembled as she tried desperately to stop crying.

Running my fingers through her hair, then down her neck to her jaw, I slowly rubbed my thumb over her soft lips and whispered, “Okay, but we have to get married here. At our tree.”

Chloe fell into me and buried her face in my chest as she cried. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tightly.

“I love you, Chloe. God, I love you so much, and I swear to you I’ll make up for all of it. I swear it. Just give me that chance.”

She grabbed my t-shirt and cried harder as I held her against my body.

I had no idea how long we stood there. I’d have stayed in that house all night holding her, if she needed me to. When her body finally stopped shaking, she pulled back slightly, her gaze meeting mine.

Her lips pressed tightly before she spoke. “I love you, too. I wouldn’t have done it.” She was fighting hard not to cry, but her voice shook with each word. “I wouldn’t have…m-married him. I need you… I need you to know that. It’s always been you. It will always be you, Rip.”

Cupping her face with my hands, I leaned down and kissed her. Chloe instantly wrapped her arms around my neck as we deepened the kiss. My entire body felt like it was floating above me. It felt like heaven and hell were mixing together. Heaven, because I was finally kissing her. Finally hearing her say the words I longed to hear. And hell because I hadn’t done this four years earlier.

I’d never experienced a kiss like this with anyone before. I couldn’t tell where I ended and Chloe began.

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