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Authors: Rebecca Yarros

Ignite (Legacy) (10 page)

BOOK: Ignite (Legacy)
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“There’s no chance to take! This is a certainty.”

“You have no idea what could happen over the winter. None. You’re letting him manipulate you, as usual. As your best friend, I stood by and watched you put yourself last over and over. But as the man who loves you, openly and out loud, I can’t stand to watch you do this to yourself.”

“I’m telling you not to watch. I’m telling you to go.”

“It’s bullshit that you think you get to make that choice for me!”

“You’re like this kid in a car, speeding toward the cliff, knowing that it’s coming but refusing to turn, or just
stop.

“And you’re too scared of the cliff to find another way,” I threw back.

“Do you realize what happens when you jump off a damn cliff? You fall. You die. The ground crushes you.”

“Or maybe you fly. Damn it, Avery, why do you make it so hard to love you? Why can’t you just let me love you?”

She looked like I’d slapped her, those eyes huge and pooling with tears as we stood facing each other, the only sound in the room the pounding of my heart, the rush of blood through my ears.

“I never wanted it to end this way,” she whispered.

“Yeah, well, I never wanted it to end.”

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

“That makes two of us.”

She nodded and walked to the door, pausing at the frame to look back. “Goodbye, River.”

I fought against every one of my instincts that demanded I go after her and kiss some sense into her, force her into seeing that we could make it. No matter how imperfect our circumstances, we were perfect for each other. But I was done forcing her to see the possibilities. This was her choice.

Every muscle in my body locked as I spoke the words she wanted.

“Bye, Avery.”

The sound of the door closing reverberated though every cell of my body. Only then did I say the word I needed.

“I love you.”

The future I’d planned, dreamed of, yearned for disintegrated in front of me. My heart shattered with the glass I threw against the wall, water dripping down the wall and soaking into the paint.

12
Avery


I
’m
the one in the hospital, but you’re the one who looks like shit,” Dad said as I walked into his room.

“Get off her case, Jim,” Aunt Dawn said from the chair next to his bed. “Honey, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I replied, giving the same answer I had for the last three days since I’d left River.

I said it to everyone at work when they asked about how red my eyes were. I said it to Addy when she caught me staring off into space, thinking about him. I said it to myself every time I felt my walls crumble and the
not-fine
emotions surface.

“Fine or not, you look like crap,” Dad repeated, sitting up in bed with a wince. “I wish they hadn’t lowered my meds.”

“You have to be able to function,” I said. “Besides, with the new physical therapy, maybe we can wean you off them.”

“I’m not seeing a physical therapist,” he grumbled.

“Yeah, why bother with something that might help you?” I snapped. “Why not just up the pain meds until we’re here again?”

“Watch your tone!” He seethed. “Your mother would be ashamed!”

My mouth snapped shut, heat flushing my face. She had handled him with more grace than I ever would manage…and she had died for it.

“Jim,” Aunt Dawn warned. “Avery didn’t put you in this hospital. You did that yourself.”

Before he could snap back at her, the doctor came in to discharge Dad. I stared out the window in the direction of River’s house, wondering what he was doing, how mad at me he still was.

Did I make a mistake?
I shut that line of thinking down before it could destroy me. There hadn’t been a choice to make. I had to set him free before we destroyed each other.

Too late.

I listened as the doctor gave the discharge instructions to my aunt. The pain meds he was allowed, the therapist he needed to see. It should have been me the doctor gave the instructions to. After all, I was the one who was responsible for Dad. But this doc wouldn’t know that. In appearances, it made sense that the fifty-ish woman was caring for the fifty-ish man.

Not the twenty-five year old.

A little over an hour later, we had Dad settled back on the living room couch. “Give me the remote,” he demanded when Aunt Dawn went to grab his bag from the car.

I handed it over without a word, too tired to fight with him over manners.

“Give me one of those white pills.”

“No, it’s not time yet,” I told him, removing the medication.

“You’re not the adult here!” he screamed.

“Of course I am!” I fired back. “That’s what you made me! You want to be the grown-up then you have to act like it.”

I put the meds in the small breadbox on top of the refrigerator, gripped the counter, and leaned over, trying to get a breath. Everything suddenly felt stifling, as if the walls of my life were suddenly moving closer—like I was stuck in that trash compactor on Star Wars.

But I’d let my Han Solo walk away.

Gasping for air, I stumbled to the front door, grabbing my car keys on the way out. I needed to see him. Even if it was only for a second. Even if he told me to go the hell away, I needed him.

“Avery?” Aunt Dawn bumped into me on the bottom steps. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” I replied automatically, sucking in the clean, sweet air. “I just need to run an errand. Do you think you could stay with him?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you,” I said, nearly running to my car.

“Honey,” she called out. “You don’t have to do this—take care of him on your own. I didn’t know how bad it was, you were that good at caring for him. But I’m here now. I’m not leaving you to do this on your own, do you understand?”

“He’s my father,” I said with a shrug.

“He’s my little brother. He was my responsibility long before he was yours. Don’t you let your father’s actions stop you from living your life. Do you understand me? I won’t stand for it, and neither would your mother.”

I nodded, unable to think of anything to say, then slid behind the wheel. She waved before disappearing into the house, and I backed out of our driveway, more than desperate to get to River.

Maybe River was right. Maybe if I had Aunt Dawn to push Dad, he’d get better—at least well enough to move to Colorado. Maybe all he needed was the winter.

Maybe there was something at the cliff’s edge.

I sped across the back roads toward River’s house. I’d never gone this long without talking to him unless he was on a fire, and we’d never been in a fight this severe, but I knew it could be fixed.

He was River. I was Avery. It was as simple as that.

I pulled into his driveway and killed the ignition, running for the house before I heard the car door fully shut behind me. Zeus wasn’t barking, so maybe they were out for a run.

I fumbled with my keys, pulling out the small bronze one he’d given me years ago, and opened the door.

“River? I used my—” The air rushed from my lungs as I looked into his perfectly clean, perfectly empty house. “Key.”

Everything was gone. The furniture. The dishes. Zeus’s bowls. The house I loved had been transformed into an empty shell. Somehow I got my feet to move, to carry me to the kitchen counter where there was a stack of papers. There was a listing agreement and a note to Mindy Ruiz, a local realtor.

H
ey
, Mindy,

Here’s the listing agreement. Sorry I had to leave so fast. It just made sense to send all my stuff with Bishop’s. You’ll find his listing agreement under mine. If you need anything else, I’ll forward my new number from Colorado. All the keys are here except one. Avery Claire has it. Let her keep it. I’ll pay to have the locks redone when you find new buyers.

Thanks,

River Maldonado

H
e was gone
. Really and truly gone.
Because I told him to go.

My back hit the cabinet and I fell to the ground. Hugging my knees to my chest, I finally succumbed to my emotions, letting them out of the cage I’d locked them in.

I loved him. I’d always thought if I didn’t acknowledge that fact, it wouldn’t have the power to hurt me, but I was pulverized all the same. Whether or not I’d told him, or even myself, didn’t matter. The love was still there, and the ache was pure agony.

I’d had him. Touched him. Loved him. I’d held his heart in my hands and then thrown it back at him.

My sobs echoed through the empty house until my body ran out of tears. By the time I left, it was dark—and I was broken.

* * *

“I want to move to Colorado,” Adeline said as she helped me load the dishwasher.


T
hey have
some really great colleges there. Why don’t we do some research? It’s only five years away.” I slipped another glass into the top rack.

“Because I want to go
now.

My stomach tightened. “Yeah, well, we can’t. Look what happened when I left last time.” It had been three weeks since he’d overdosed. Two since River moved to Colorado.

One since he posted a photo of his new house on Instagram with the caption that he was home in Legacy for good.

“Where’s that beer?” Dad called out from the living room.

“That was his choice,” Addy whispered.

I grabbed a clean glass from the cabinet, filled it with ice and water, and walked out of the kitchen without replying. How could she understand? She was only thirteen. I’d been two years older when Mom died, and even then I hadn’t fully understood.

“Here we go,” I said to Dad as I put the glass within his reach on the coffee table.

“What is that bullshit?” he spat.

“That is water. Doc said no booze, remember?” I counted to ten in my head, reminding myself that he was an addict.

“I don’t give a fuck what that doctor said. Get me a beer before your aunt Dawn gets back from the store.”

“No,” I said with a shake of my head.

“Girl!” he yelled, and I heard Adeline go silent in the kitchen. The water was running, but no dishes clanked.

“I didn’t give up everything good in my life just so you could sit there and drink yourself to death,” I said calmly.

“Get me the goddamned beer! Gave up everything good? What would you know? Because you broke up with a boy who you dated for all of five seconds? I lost your mother!”

“I did, too!” I yelled. “You aren’t the only one who lost her!”

Something went sailing past my head and smashed against the wall. I spun to see water running down the wall into a puddle of ice and smashed glass.

“Clean that up!” he yelled.

“Clean it up yourself,” I snapped and walked away.

My chest heaved as I ran outside, gasping for the clean air as I sat on the front steps, my head in my hands. He’d fucking thrown a glass at me. What was next? Would he hit me? Would he hit Addy?

The doc had warned us that he would get worse before he got better. That weaning him down from the pain meds wasn’t going to be pleasant, but this was horrid. Maybe I needed to send Addy to a friend’s house for the next month or so.

The door opened and shut behind me and Adeline joined me on the step. “I want to move
now
.”

“I know,” I said, putting my arm around her. “But we can’t just leave him.”

“We wouldn’t be. Aunt Dawn is here. She’s already offered to take care of him, and let’s face it—she’s the only one he’s remotely scared of.”

“That’s true, but he’s our dad.”

“He’s never going to forgive us for Mom dying,” she whispered.

I wanted to tell her that wasn’t true, but I’d made a promise to never lie to her, so I stayed silent.

“Avery?”

“Yeah?”

“I did something.”

My stomach clenched. “Okay. What did you do?”

“You know my savings?”

“I do.” She hated that I made her save half of every birthday gift from our extended family.

“I spent it yesterday.”

Before I could flip out on her that she’d need that when she went to college, she unfolded a paper from her back pocket and handed it to me.

Doing my best to keep my hands from trembling, I opened it up. Then my jaw dropped. “You want me to be your legal guardian?”

She nodded. “There’s nothing left for us here, Avery. You’re already more of a parent than he is. This would just make it possible…”

“For us to move to Colorado without him,” I whispered.

“For us to be free.”

I hugged her to me, and for the first time in my life, I considered leaving him behind.

* * *


Y
ou’re
sure you’re okay to get him to his appointment?” I asked Aunt Dawn.

“Yes, Avery. You go to work. Maybe stay out late? Go see a movie?”

It had been a month since River left, and I still hadn’t ventured out for more than work, groceries, or getting Adeline to school. Just like River’s house had become nothing more than a shell when he left, I was hollowing out on the inside without him.

I stalked his Instagram like a mad woman, savoring the pictures he took of Legacy, of the views from his run, or the deck.
Where he told me that he loved me.

As much as those pictures hurt, it was nothing compared to the pain that ripped me in two when his house here sold.

As I reached for a pre-work snack, I saw a pamphlet on the counter. “LaVerna Lodge. What’s this?”

“That’s an extended rehab center,” Aunt Dawn said slowly. “I wanted to talk to you about it later. He’s not getting any better with how we’re doing things, and I thought maybe he needed a little more structure. A firmer hand.”

He hadn’t had another violent outburst, but he hadn’t cleaned up the glass he’d broken, either. He’d been careful with his words, especially when Aunt Dawn was around. Maybe Addy was right and I wasn’t what he needed to get healthy. “You think this is what he needs?”

She covered my hand with hers. “I do. I have the money, you don’t have to worry about that. But I think you both need to go. Him to the recovery center and you to that man you love so desperately.”

A lump formed in my throat. “That ship sailed.”

BOOK: Ignite (Legacy)
13.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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