Easing my Audi A8 off of the main road and down the private driveway leading to Sienna’s place, I drop my gaze to the dash.
I’ve got about three minutes until the video starts, and four minutes and 39 seconds after that until I know whether or not there’s a future for the two of us. The clock moves to 8:58, and I feel the same way I did the first time I stepped on stage: Like a complete f**king mess.
It’s just about dark outside, but someone—I’m betting Sienna’s grandmother—has installed two rows of the solar lights Home Depot sells down the length of the path, all the way up to the front steps. I start to drive forward, let the slight glow from the garden lights draw me in to Sienna, but then I think better of it.
I need her to be surprised.
I park the car and kill the ignition. When I get out, quietly shutting the door so Sienna won’t hear me, I realize that I’m closer to the road than to the cabin. A little ironic considering that at one time, this entire damn property belonged to me. Five months ago, I had wagered it to get Sienna close to me by offering her a chance to earn back her grandmother’s foreclosed home in exchange for her working for me for ten days.
In the end, I’d lost both because of fear and stupidity.
“Fucking idiot,” I say aloud.
During my three-hour drive from Gatlinburg—where I just bought another vacation home—I’d thought about stopping for flowers or a gift, but I’d axed that idea quickly. Sienna’s not that type of person. She’ll take my apology, or she’ll tell me to piss off, but she doesn’t want what my money can buy.
She’s not like Samantha, my ex-wife.
Clenching my fists, I go up the front steps to lean against the door. Out here, I can hear the sound of my own music—my first solo project, my first real attempt to fix something I’ve screwed up to pieces since what I dub “The Sam Days”. As I wait for the song to stop, my chest feels like I’ve swallowed a shot glass of acid. I’m not a stranger to pain—it’s all I feel whenever I see my ex, whenever I let her pull my strings, whenever I think of what I did—but I never expected the last five months to be this goddamn bad.
But I never expected to fall so hard for Sienna.
The music finally fades to silence, and I swear I hear her take in a deep breath. I know she’s waiting for more, just like I want her to, and I know that I’ve got to be the one to give her that. Face to face.
I’ve played shows in front of thousands of people, and yet, I’m nervous as hell knocking on the door.
She takes awhile to answer—so long I almost feel like she’s not going to. Sienna’s smart. There’s a good chance she already knows that I’m the one out here waiting for her. She knows that in my eyes, her not opening the door will be a bigger “Screw you” than if she said the words straight to my face.
But at last, the door creaks open a couple inches, then a few more until I can see her face, and adrenaline compels me to finish the song I wrote for her. I’ve purposely left it unfinished just so this one last piece can belong to us.
“Say that what happened isn’t it for us,” I breathe, running my hand along the curve of Sienna’s face.
She shivers, looking just as beautiful as she did when I left her in Atlanta. Instead of a slinky dress that I want to rip apart just to get to the center of her, she’s wearing tiny denim shorts that make her legs look impossibly longer and a white tank top. Her long red hair is pulled into a tight ponytail on the top of her head and not loose, the way I like it.
Her expression is the same. Wide blue eyes, damp cheeks and clenched teeth—she’s afraid, and I feel like a bastard for doing this to her a second time.
She shrugs away from my touch. “What are you doing here, Lucas?”
I’m here to tell you that I’m so sorry. I want to say I love you.
“You’ve got two days left,” I say.
Her mouth drops open and she looks at me like there’s a dick growing out of my forehead. “You dismissed me.”
It’s like she thinks I’ve forgotten. If she only knew that the moment I sent her away from me is one that won’t ever leave my mind, no matter how many years pass or how many people come and go in my life.
That moment had gone on my short list of regrets well before I had let the hotel room door slam behind me.
Sienna takes a step backward into the house, and I know that I’m losing this. Losing her. And that’s something I can’t afford to do because I need her.
“You signed a contract.” It’s a low move on my part, and she shakes her head in disbelief. Softening my tone, I add, “And, I’m a f**king idiot.”
Admitting I’m wrong helps because not only does her wide blue gaze dart up to mine and a choked noise come from the back of her throat, she makes a hesitant move in my direction and then another.
One step backward and two steps forward.
I’m okay with that as long as it means she’ll eventually be close to me.
“I’m not going to give this up.” I yank her to me. She smells good, so goddamn good, like that apple body wash she wore when we first met. “I’m not going to give you up,” I repeat.
Because I’ll always want her.
A broad range of emotions passes over her face. Lust and anger, fear and pain. My chest constricts again because I’m fully aware that I’m responsible for all of those feelings.
She releases a long exhale and then hisses, “What you did hurt, Lucas.” She drops her chin to her chest, and I watch the top of her ponytail as it moves slightly. She’s counting. Once she reaches five she looks up. “You wanted me to give myself to you just so you could tell me to screw off.”