“I was an orphan,” she tells me with her voice cracking and I’m taken aback.
“I had no idea.”
“I don’t look like an orphan?” she raises her brow and jokes, but the accompanying small laugh is sad. “I don’t talk much about it, you know?” I nod as she talks and try to imagine what that was like.
“Anyway, I moved between a few different families and the one here was okay; it wasn’t any better than the others in a lot of ways. They didn’t care about me, they just got paid to keep me alive, you know?” Addison chews on her bottom lip for a moment and I can’t help but wonder why she’s telling me all this. She takes in a heavy breath and looks me dead in the eye. “I stayed because of Tyler.”
“Tyler?” A freezing sensation sweeps across my skin at hearing his name. It feels as if I know the Cross brother who died. I’ve dreamed of him, and the words he gave Addison in her dream haven’t left me.
“All of us grew up poor, and so he didn’t judge me, not like the other kids at school. His father was an alcoholic, and his brothers were… well, they did what they had to in order to survive. And it scared me sometimes. But he loved me, and I loved him in a lot of ways. I also realized I loved his brother—I loved Daniel more, even if we were nothing back then. I hardly spoke to Daniel at the time.” Tears cloud her vision and she brushes them away. “The Cross boys, they protected me, they looked out for me in a way no one had. Including Carter.” She lets the tears fall and sniffles before telling me, “I swear to you, there’s so much good in there.”
She licks her lower lip, gathering the tear that lingers there and it’s then I realize she thinks I’m not okay because I want to leave. Because I don’t love Carter.
“I know there is,” I tell her and she waits for more. For the “but” that isn’t going to come from me. “I love him and I love this family.” Emotions spill from me, emotions I wish I could bury deep down inside until I can’t feel them anymore. “I want to be a part of this family more than you could ever know.”
She tilts her head and gives me a look, and I actually crack a smile. “Well, maybe you do know.” I sniff and look at the ceiling to keep from tearing up at the thought of being a part of this family, a family who has protected me and has loved me. Even if they are … the men they are.
“So you do love him?” she asks and reaches out to me, laying a hand on my knee. “You forgive him?”
I nod my head, knowing it’s true. Both statements are so true.
“He doesn’t forgive me.” I tell her the truth that burns a hole in my chest. I have to reach into the pocket of the sleepshirt so I can pull out a few of the loose pearls from the necklace I used to wear. The beads click together softly in my hand as I tell her, “He doesn’t trust me and he’s not going to show any mercy, not to me or to anyone.”
“I wanted to come in here and tell you something. Something that’s scaring me, Aria.” Addison’s voice drops and her eyes darken with an intensity I haven’t seen from her before.
“Go ahead,” I tell her in a whisper, feeling the temperature of my blood drop. She rubs her palms on her jeans as she breathes out slowly.
“I went to Tyler’s grave.” Tears gather in her eyes the same way clouds do as a storm threatens, slowly and with an impending necessity. “There were so many forget-me-nots.” She looks past me, to the window that’s covered in beautiful linens, yet locked and will never open. I doubt she knows that little fact though. Her gaze stays there as she tells me, “I brought two packets of seeds with me before I left, and I scattered them all around his grave.” Her eyes drift to mine. “It’s nothing but a field of blue and white now,” she tells me and a chill flows down my spine. An odd sense of déjà vu pricks its way deeper into my bones.
She lets out a steadying breath and shakes her head gently. “I’ve been dreaming of him since we came back. It’s the same dream, Aria.”
I remember a dream that’s come and gone since I first got here. Since the first week I was locked in the cell in this place, but it’s not what she describes.
“Tyler keeps telling me to remind you. Hold him tight. Don’t let go… or else he’ll die.”