Keith found her in what used to be Ted’s room. It had been transformed into an office of some sort, full of fabrics, beads, and more accessories than Keith had ever seen. Andrea was sitting on an overstuffed chair under the window looking out onto the darkening back yard.
“Is that why you never visited?” Andrea whispered, her voice barely reaching Keith’s ears.
“Yes,” Keith declared, confirming her suspicions.
“Why are you telling me now?”
Keith took a deep breath, equally not ready and needing to expose the depths of his carefully guarded heart to the only woman who’s ever owned him. His ex-wife made it clear what she thought of him being in love with someone else. “I haven’t been able to forget you.”
She whirled in her seat, fiery anger flashing in her eyes. “Oh, so that’s what this is about? Come back and screw the widow so you can forget about me? Move on with your life? Well screw you.”
Keith stumbled backward as though she’d slapped him. If she had it would have hurt less than her assumption that he was only there for himself. “That’s not why I’m here, dammit,” he said, his own anger seeping into his words. “I moved back here for you. I’m not running anymore. I’m here to convince you that you belong with me.”
She scoffed. “Belong to you, more like it. I know about men like you. You’re not looking for a partner, you’re looking for someone you can control.”
“And what the fuck makes you think I could ever control you.”
“You can’t. I don’t belong to you, or anyone else.” Tears filled her eyes with her words, the pain of the day and the conversation stabbing a hot poker through her heart.
His expression immediately softened and he crossed the room to her. He crouched before her, looking up into her swimming brown eyes. She squeezed them tight and tears leaked out, making a run for it down her cheeks to her jaw and neck.
Andrea felt him shift, the slightest of movements, but her eyes stayed closed tight. When his big, rough palm touched her cheek she leaned into it, greedy for the attention, the affection. His thumb brushed the tears off one cheek and his tongue grazed the skin on the other, drawing a gasp from her lips.
“That’s the sound you made when I slid into you,” he said against her skin, his voice thick with emotion. “God, I’ve missed that sound.”
He continued to wipe and kiss away her tears, healing her heart in a way she never imagined it could be.
“Possessions can be lost. I don’t want to own you. I want you with me because you want to be. Because you need me as much as I need you.”
His words lit something inside her, finally releasing Andrea of the pain she’d carried like a cross for four years. She knew she’d always love Ted, that wasn’t ever a question, but she also accepted that Keith was someone she’d missed every day for 12 years. She didn’t want to miss him, or her life, another second.
Andrea turned her head to meet Keith’s lips. Their breath rushed out as they each poured everything they had into the kiss. Tongues caressed, teeth clashed, hands searched. When Keith lifted her from the chair and settled in it himself, bringing her down onto his lap, she couldn’t deny how much he felt like home.
“How is this possible?” Andrea mumbled, breaking their kiss to gasp for breath. “We don’t even know each other.”
“Yes, we do,” Keith insisted, dragging his large hand through her hair. “You wouldn’t have invited me to stay here if you didn’t trust me, didn’t know me on some level. We both listened to Ted talk about each other for years.”
Andrea cringed, almost imperceptibly, but Keith felt it.
“I know you still love him. You always will, I have no doubt about that. Us, this, isn’t going to be simple. If I could bring him back, I would.”
“Even if it meant we’d never be together?” Andrea asked, disbelief tinging her voice.
“In a heartbeat. He was my best friend. I stayed away when you were together because I wasn’t sure how he would take it if he knew you were the one I’d followed like a puppy on spring break.”
“But I didn’t even remember you. At least, not what you looked like.”
Keith nodded and scrubbed a hand over his jaw. “That’s the other reason. I knew it would kill me if you didn’t remember me. Either way, I was screwed.”
“You didn’t want to break us up,” Andrea said softly.
“No. I didn’t. I wanted you, but he had you. I’d never destroy what you two had. We had one night and it didn’t give me any right to you, no matter how badly I wanted to have rights to you.”
Andrea drew her hand over his face, the stubble on his jaw prickling her fingers. She leaned down to kiss him softly, their lips meeting in a tender kiss that said more than words ever could.
“You’re a better man than he ever said you were, and he was definitely your biggest fan. I’m sorry it was my fault you lost your best friend.”
“It wasn’t your fault. It was mine.”
“Why did you go to the cemetery today?”
Keith looked into her eyes, needing to see the trust she held there. She looked back, desperate to understand the man she was thinking of sharing her bed with. And her heart.
“I went to ask him if I could tell you. To get his permission and support.”
“Did you?” Andrea asked, her lips turning up slightly in the corners.
Keith shrugged. “I don’t think I really got an answer.”
Andrea grinned and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I’m pretty sure you got an answer. I was talking to him today about where I should go. I’ve been considering leaving town, but it feels like home here. I wanted to feel connected again. I asked him to help me figure out if I should stay here. I think you’re my answer.”
Keith’s eyes narrowed and he caressed her face, drawing her closer. “You think he brought us together.”
Andrea shrugged. “Why not? He loved us both. He’d want us to be happy. That’s what my therapist told me for years. That he would want me happy.”
“He would. He does. And it sounds like he wants us happy together.”
“I think we could work on that.”
Keith nodded and pulled her close, his lips closing over hers to seal their deal.