Caleb’s Story: Ultimatums

The door to the study banged open and Jack ran in, laughing. Caleb took a deep breath and exhaled, letting go of the memories and snapping back to the present. He smiled as the boy rushed towards him.

“Caleb, you’re home! Where’ve you been?” Jack was fourteen now and rambunctious. He was loud and rowdy and spoke too fast and Caleb loved him. Jack sat on the sofa and leaned over to hug him.

“I had to visit a friend,” Caleb said, hugging the teen tight. “I heard you went to visit grandma and grandpa, how are they doing?”

Jack sat back and shrugged, “They’re okay. Grandma made me play the piano all day on Friday, it was kinda boring.”

Caleb laughed, “You’ll thank her one day. Where’s your mom?”

“She’s still sleeping, she’s not feeling well. She told me to come bother you instead.”

Caleb frowned and stood up. “We can go to the park in a few minutes, after I check on your mom.”

“Yes! I’m going to get ready.” Jack bounced off the couch and hurried toward the door.

“Eat breakfast first,” Caleb said absently as he made his way towards the staircase. Calli was sick, she never got sick. He had a feeling this had more to do with the last time he saw her than with any real illness.

She’d cornered him in the study, demanding to know what was going on with him and Rae. He’d been ready to brush it off as idle gossip, but it was Calli and she seemed genuinely upset. He’d explained about the boy, about how important it was that he come live with them – him and his mother. She’d accused him of becoming distant, of drinking too much. That he’d brush off. He was a little more stressed lately, but he didn’t have a drinking problem. She’d told him he couldn’t have it both ways, either he chose Rae and her son or her and Jack.

He’d been so angry, so confused, that he’d told her he’d choose saving a life before anything else. Calli just didn’t understand how important this was to him. For all his faults, Dillon had helped him in the beginning. When he tried to tell her that, she’d walked away from him.

Reaching the second floor landing he turned towards her bedroom. She’d moved to that side of the house a couple of years ago, saying she wanted to be closer to the music room for when inspiration hit. She was full of all kinds of bull these days. But he couldn’t blame her for wanting to put distance between them.

He knocked then let himself in, only to pause at the threshold when he saw Kaylynn asleep on her bed. She was so beautiful, a hand under her cheek as she lay on her side. He wanted to wake her up and tell her he would choose her and Jack each and every time. But he had a responsibility to his nephew.

Walking closer, he noticed the tissue papers strewn across the covers and on the side table. He sat down on the far edge and waited. She’d become a very light sleeper and would wake up at the slightest disturbance to her environment. He used to find her in the living room, curled up on the sofa in the middle of the night. Bad dreams, she would say when he asked her what was wrong. Now she slept through the night in her own bed, but those early years, they’d had a lot of sleepless nights. He’d invested in a day bed so they could at least be comfortable.

Kaylynn’s eyes snapped open and she blinked a few times before she focused and saw him. She closed her eyes without acknowledging his presence and turned away.

“Jack said you were sick?” He hated this, the silent treatment. If she was just going to ignore him, why’d she come back?

“I’m just tired,” she murmured.

He should have left it at that; should have walked out of her room and left her alone. But he couldn’t, not after the other night; not after her ultimatum: her and her son, or me and mine.

Kaylynn hated this. She hated having to pretend she was okay and that she didn’t care what he did or who he did it with. And she hated the woman he’d fallen in love with. But she’d known that was coming. After fourteen years of sacrificing his happiness for her and Jack, it was selfish of her to want more from him. But she did and that was the crux of the problem. Demanding that he choose between them was wrong and it was physically making her sick.

But what else could she do? He’d become a different person in the last four years. He was drinking more; he would leave on trips for weeks at a time and not bother to tell her when he’d be back. He was edgier, meaner; he was becoming Dillon. When she found out the reason, she’d been heartbroken. Sure, she knew there had been other women and back then, she hadn’t cared. Dating Caleb, being with anyone at all, wasn’t something she was interested in at the time. He didn’t love her the way she loved him, she’d accepted that – or thought she had. Now it was time for damage control.

“Did you need something,” she asked, hoping he’d say no and leave and dreading it at the same time. Fourteen years dancing the same dance and pretending not to care too much; not to love him; not to be hurt that he didn’t love her back. So she’d told him to choose because she couldn’t live the way they were anymore but she didn’t want to be the one to decide to end their time together. It was the coward’s way out, yes, but she’d never claimed to be brave.

She felt the bed shift as he got up and she closed her eyes, waiting to hear the door snick shut behind him. Instead she heard boots come around the bed and felt gentle fingers stroke the hair from her face. She opened her eyes to see Caleb crouched by the bed, a frown on his face.

“Are you okay? And I want a real answer this time.” His voice had gone down an octave, like it usually did when he was concerned about her or upset about something. She used to be so good at reading him, but now he felt like a stranger.

She nodded, dislodging his hand in her hair. “I told you, I’m just tired. This last tour took a lot out of me.” She wasn’t precisely lying. The tour had taken a lot more energy, but she’d loved every minute of it. It was coming home to an empty house that had her feeling weary. He was never home anymore. And it was because of her – Rae London. She was living just a few miles away now and Kaylynn felt sick just thinking about it.

She shook her head to remove that thought from her brain. She’d done nothing but think about that woman and her child for the last year. She needed to stop. She’s spent all last night crying and thinking of reasons why her decision was for the best. And not being here for when that woman moved in with Caleb was number one on the list.

“Maybe you should consider taking a break from all the touring.” When she frowned, he held up his hands. “I’m not saying you have to, I’m just saying maybe it could be an option. I rarely see you these days.” He smiled a little. “I’ve missed you.”

Kaylynn sat up and swung her legs over the side of the bed, getting up and forcing Caleb to stand and back up. “I’m feeling better already though, so I’m going to shower and maybe take Jack to the park or the pool. The weather is finally nice enough.”

His smile slipped from his face and he watched her with his golden eyes, assessing her movements, making sure she was telling the truth. He used to be good at reading her too.

“I already told him I’d take him to the park.” Caleb watched as she grabbed a t-shirt and jeans from a drawer. She was lying to him and it was pissing him off. He rubbed his hand over his face and sighed. “Calli…”

“Don’t, please. Not today, Jack and I just got back and I want just one day of normalcy. One day where we can go to the park and be a family and pretend we’re happy. Okay?”

Caleb sighed again, “We are a family Calli, that’s never going to change.”

Her eyes flashed and she turned toward him. “Are you saying you’re choosing me and Jack? That this Rae person won’t be living here, after all? Because we haven’t been a family for a while now.”

“No, you’re right. Today isn’t the day for this.” He turned to walk towards the door. He was not ready to have this conversation. Not ready to see the pain and hurt on her face again. It had never occurred to him that she would be opposed to having Rae and Andrei in their home. But now the decision was made and he felt guilty for not giving her a say, a little bit of control in the matter.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. When it comes down to it, you run away. Whatever Caleb!”

He stopped and turned back toward her slowly. “You’ve got to be kidding me. When have I ever run away? From a problem and especially from you? All I keep doing is fixing things! I’ve spent the last fourteen years of my life doing all I could for you and Jack; for Sean and Marjorie and Amber. What more do you want from me, Kaylynn!”

A tear slid down her cheek and he felt like the biggest ass on the planet. She was crying, he’d come up here to make sure she was okay, and he’d made her cry instead. Why were women so difficult?

Brushing the tear away, she said, “You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking. You’ve sacrificed enough for me and my son. And I’m grateful, really I am, but I think it’s time I stood on my own two feet.”

“Calli, that’s not what I meant and you know it.” She raised a hand and cut him off.

“No. It’s the truth. You’ve done so much for me and I forgot for a while that this was never your plan for your life. Jack and I shouldn’t be your responsibility. I’ve been thinking about this for a while actually and meant to tell you last night when we got in…”

Caleb could see her mouth moving, but he’d stopped hearing the words. He knew what was coming, known for weeks now, really. Ever since she told him to choose. Her and her son or me and mine. Now that the time was finally here, it felt like a crushing weight, threatening to push him down to his knees.

“But I think this is the best thing for all of us.” She stopped and looked at him then, waiting for a response probably, but he had nothing to say, so she turned around and walked out of the room with her bundle of clothes clenched in her hands.

She was leaving him. She was going to take his son and walk away. It suddenly became more difficult to drag in a breath. Was this what his father felt when Dillon took him away? Did Dillon go through this when Tom moved with his family? He sat on the edge of Kaylynn’s bed and rested his elbows on his thighs. He couldn’t lose his family, but he couldn’t force Calli to stay. She was right, she and Jack deserved better than what he had to offer right now. He was distracted with this Andrei thing, but dammit he only needed a few more weeks! Then the boy would be here, with or without his mother and life would settle down again. Why couldn’t she just wait a few more weeks?

A week. Kaylynn must have been planning this for a while because it only took her a week to get all her stuff together and leave. With Jack. The house felt so damn empty without them. Caleb sat in his study, swirling a glass of whiskey. He should go after them, find some way to make her see reason and come back home, instead of sitting here, drinking.

He was on his third drink when he felt her. Without turning around, he said, “You’ve come just in time to watch me drown myself in booze.”

Rebecca glided over to the couch he was on and sat down next to him. “It’s hard losing your family. I know you’re hurting, but Kaylynn just doesn’t understand. Andrei needs you. You’re the only one who knows what it’s like to go through the Change. You have the most experience out of everyone. Imagine what it would have been like for Jack and Amber if you hadn’t been there. Now imagine that for little Andrei, he’s not even a year old yet!”

Caleb nodded. Rebecca was right; he had to do this for Andrei. Even if Rae decided to stay with her husband and other two children, Andrei should come to him. He nodded again, “Yes. I am doing the right thing. But Calli, how can I do it without her?”

“You have me, you don’t need anyone else. I’ll never leave you, wasn’t I there for you after you killed Dillon? I helped you with Sean and Marjorie and little Amber. I’m the one who told you about Rae. Have a little faith Caleb.” She sounded angry but when he looked at her, she seemed serene, calm.

Rebecca had shown up at the house only hours after Dillon died. At first he hadn’t understood, but she explained their familial link and he’d been grateful that there was someone who knew about werewolves giving birth. She’d been invaluable help and when she’d told him about Andrei, asking for his help and explaining what it would take to get Rae to agree, he’d felt he had to help her. It was the right thing to do; the only solution there was to the problem.

He finished the drink in his hand and put the glass down. She was right. He would raise Andrei, like Dillon raised him, only he’d be better. He would get Calli back too because no matter what Rebecca said, he couldn’t – wouldn’t do this without her. He’d meant it when he told Rae that a child needed a mother. He’d made a promise that he would always be there for Calli and he always kept his promises. He loved her too much to do anything else.

“There, that’s the last of it.” Kaylynn placed the box on Jack’s floor and smiled at him. He was sitting on his bed, looking forlorn. She hated what this move was doing to him. She went to sit by him on his bed and he laid his head on her lap. Soon his little shoulders started to shake and she realized he was crying.

“Oh baby, don’t cry.” She started to stroke his hair, her heart breaking with each of his sobs.

She remembered the last time he cried like this. He’d come home from school and it had taken her twenty minutes before she could get anything coherent out of him. Someone at his school had told him Caleb wasn’t his real daddy and that he should stop calling him that. She’d had to tell him the truth then and he had stopped calling Caleb dad but their relationship hadn’t changed. She’d explained that just because Caleb wasn’t his birth father didn’t mean he wasn’t his dad. He’d been there from day one, had seen him being born, had soothed and played with him; he’d taught Jack how to walk and play football. Caleb was more of a dad than some little boys ever got. He’d wanted to know who his real father was and she was glad she could tell him that Dillon was dead.

Watching him cry now she knew that she was the reason for his grief; that it could have been avoided if she’d been stronger, but she couldn’t keep up the lie anymore. She wanted more than Caleb was ready to give, more than he might ever be ready to give and she deserved to give herself a chance at being happy. Didn’t she?

Eventually, Jack fell asleep and after tucking him in, she went downstairs to make herself some tea. Her mother was already there, fixing a cup for herself and was more than happy to make one for Kaylynn.

“He’s having a rough time adjusting?” Patricia smiled knowingly and Kaylynn remembered her own grief at having to move away from Caleb.

“Caleb does seem to have that effect on people. I’ll probably do my own bit of crying later on.” She laughed a little, but she knew it was true. So did her mother by the look of sympathy in her eyes.

“I’ll be honest; he wasn’t my most favorite person for you to be around. He was too edgy, too reckless with himself. But when it came to you, he was fiercely protective, still is and I can’t fault him for that, now can I?”

Kaylynn shrugged. Protective was fine, but she wanted more. “Growing up, I thought he hung the moon. And that edginess, that’s what was so attractive. But he saw me as a little sister. I thought with us living as a parental unit, with Jack around, it might become more, deeper. We have this connection mom, it’s intense sometimes but can also be soothing, comforting. But he fights it. I’m getting tired of fighting back.”

Patricia glanced at her tea cup and asked, “Have you two ever talked about your feelings for each other? Have you ever acted on them?”

Kaylynn raised an eyebrow. “Talk, about feelings? Caleb Romajin? Please, you can’t fix feelings so he doesn’t have time for them. As for the other, he hasn’t so much as kissed me. Unless you count brushing his lips against my cheek or my forehead – he does that all the time.”

“Honey, maybe that’s all he thinks you’ll allow. If you’ve never told him how you feel…” Patricia left it at that and took a sip of her tea.

Kaylynn looked at her mother. She was right; with everything that’s happened maybe he just didn’t know she was open to the possibilities of them having a future together. But Caleb hadn’t been waiting on her; he’d dated other women in the last fourteen years. He’d never ever brought anyone home, but there had been women. She wasn’t naïve or stupid. Caleb was an attractive man and Bethany Moore seemed to take inordinate pleasure in making sure Kaylynn knew all the gossip. That’s how she’d found out about Rae.

As if reading her mind her mother said, “Just because he’s dated a few women doesn’t mean he’s not interested in you. Fourteen years ago, he was very interested, enough to uproot his entire life for you. That’s got to count for something.”

“Now you sound like him. Yes, he made sacrifices for me. I get it, I owe him. But there’s someone else now. I think he might even love her.” She felt the tears she’d been trying so hard to keep at bay start to slide down her cheeks. “He’s making plans to have her and her son move in with him.”

“First off, he didn’t make sacrifices for you. He made a decision to be there for you and to raise your son as his own. He is not suffering because of that decision; in fact he got a pretty sweet deal, in my opinion. Second, this woman he wants to move in, have you spoken to him about his reasoning? Caleb doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who would turn someone away if they needed help. Sean and Marj are a perfect example. Look at all he’s done for them and their daughter. Amber walks around calling him Uncle. Are you sure that’s not what’s going on here?”

Maybe. She would allow a maybe. “I think he loves her, mom.”

“Impossible. That boy is head over heels in love with you. There’s no room for anyone else in his heart.”

“He may have loved me years ago, but time can wear a person down.”

Patricia gave her stern look. “Has it worn your love for him down?”

Kaylynn shrugged. “Not even a little bit. I think I love him more now.”

“Well then,” was all her mother would say after that.

Well then, indeed. Kaylynn paid the cab driver and took the carry-on while Jack ran up to the front door. Her little talk with her mother had convinced her to plan a visit a week later so Jack could see Caleb. The boy had been inconsolable and she’d eventually caved.

She took out her keys and opened the front door. Setting down the suitcase she felt goosebumps prickle the back of her neck. She really hated this house but Marjorie had been too pregnant to deal with a move and by the time the baby had come it had just seemed too selfish to ask them to uproot themselves just for her. But, God how she hated this house!

“Caleb?” She called out. She walked into his study and found him, nursing a glass and staring at the flames in the fireplace. The room was overheated and she wondered how he could stand it. Before she could grab his attention, Jack ran in and rushed over to hug him. Startled, the glass in Caleb’s hand slipped and the brown liquid fell all over his shirt.

She watched as his face became a mask of fury. She took a step forward to snatch Jack away, but before she could get far, he said, “Sorry dad.”

All anger drained from Caleb’s face and he blinked before looking down at the empty glass on the rug. He rubbed at his eyes and said, “It’s okay kiddo. Just be a bit more careful.”

His voice sound hoarse, as if it hadn’t been used in a while and he looked slightly unkempt. How long had he been sitting there, drinking? He looked up and saw her then. “Calli? I thought you left?”

“We came back for a visit. Jack missed you.” Jack nodded, bouncing off the couch and talking a mile a minute. But Caleb was still staring at her. When the boy saw he was being ignored, he huffed and giving Caleb another quick hug ran out of the room.

“What are you doing here Calli,” Caleb asked softly. “It’s only been a couple of weeks.”

She stiffened. “I told you we’d be back before I left for my East Coast tour. I don’t know when you’ll see Jack again since he’s staying with Mom and Dad this time and I wanted to give him a chance to visit before then. Is this a bad time?”

“Don’t do that. Don’t say things like. He’s my son; it’s never a bad time. I just wasn’t expecting you to be here, that’s all.” He finally looked away, picking up the fallen glass and placing it on a side table.

“You look horrible.” She ignored his comment, knowing she was being unreasonable, but he didn’t seem happy to see her. He just looked tired.

“You look great.” He laughed a little and as if he just noticed his wet shirt, pulled it off. “I guess I need to shower anyway. What time is it?”

“Hmmm?” Caleb was a very attractive man and Kaylynn had no business staring at him like this! When he stumbled a bit, she frowned. “When did you start drinking today?”

“I don’t think I’ve stopped since you left me.” He looked completely sober to her and if it hadn’t been that stumble she would have never known.

She was horrified. “Caleb, you can’t do this. You need to stop the drinking or I can’t have Jack near you, you know how I feel about alcohol.”

“I’m sorry, Calli. No more drinking, I swear it. I just – since you left, it’s like…” He didn’t finish the sentence, instead he started to rub his chest as if in pain.

She sighed; there was no point in talking to him now, not when he was like this. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.” He reached for her and slung his arm around her shoulders. She poked him in the ribs.

“Ouch.”

“I thought I told you not to rest your massive weight on me?” She teased, trying to lighten the mood.

Caleb laughed again, “If I don’t, I might fall flat on my ass before we get to my room.”

“Good point.”

They made it upstairs fairly painlessly, although she did accidentally bang his arm against a doorjamb. This was so not the way she saw this visit going. She’d finally decided to come tell Caleb how she felt and here she was, taking care of him because he was too drunk to find his own bed. At least she was getting the chance to do something for him for once.

When she let him go next to his bed, he tottered for a moment before she gently pushed him down. At the last minute he grabbed her and brought her down with him. When she tried to disentangle herself, he wrapped his arm around her waist and said, “No, stay with me. Just this once stay and keep me company because you want to and not because something scared you.”

Kaylynn blinked up at him and thought, well then…

Caleb’s eyes opened up to see his bedroom ceiling. He had a slight headache and his mouth was dry, but he felt good. Better than he had in days. Shifting to stretch, he realized he wasn’t alone in his bed. He lay very still and tried to remember what he’d done the night before. How long had he been asleep? He did a quick check of his body. He wasn’t wearing a shirt but he had his jeans on, socks but no shoes. Okay, that was good news.

Turning his head very slowly, he caught sight of black hair with purple highlights. He closed his eyes and tried furiously to remember how Calli had gotten into his bed. Nothing. He glanced over at Kaylynn and saw she too was fully clothed, including a light purple top. Her cheek was resting on his shoulder and her hair covered most of her face. He reached over and moved the hair out of the way. It took her a few minutes, but she soon opened her eyes. She was a very light sleeper.

“Hey. How are you feeling?” She smiled up at him and that helped relieve a bit of his stress, even if he was still a little worried. She never came to him when she had bad dreams. Usually, he would find her in the living room, and even that had stopped after a few years. So her in his bed, seemingly of her own free will, was mind boggling.

He frowned, she shouldn’t even be here. “Hey. You’re back.”

She pushed up so she was leaning over him on her elbow. “Yeah, since this morning. Don’t you remember?”

He smiled sheepishly and shrugged. He didn’t remember a damn thing.

Kaylynn laughed and sat up, combing her fingers through her hair. He lay there and watched her, she didn’t seem upset, so why was she here?

She stopped moving and sighed, looking back at him. “You asked me to stay with you.”

Impossible. “Did I?” He asked guardedly.

She nodded and gave him a small smile. “Here I thought you were this strong macho man, but you’re just a big ol’ cuddler.”

She was teasing him. Whatever had happened between when she left and this evening, she wasn’t angry anymore. He smiled back at her, “Yeah, all these years I’ve been pining away for your attention.”

She snorted. “You could have requested some TLC at any time. I don’t bite, Caleb.” She flashed her pretty little teeth at him.

“Ah, but I do, sweetheart.” She laughed and his heart melted. Maybe he would ask her to nap with him more often. This carefree, relaxed woman was the Calli he’d known years ago. He’d seen snippets of her here and there – when she spoke to Sean and Marj or played with Amber or talked to Jack. But he’d rarely seen it when it was just the two of them. He’d missed this woman, longed for this woman.

“I’m going to shower and then put on some steaks, all this talk about biting is making me hungry. Jack is with you?” He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed, letting the sudden dizziness subside before standing.

Silence. He turned to look at her and caught her staring at him. He felt his spine straighten and he narrowed his eyes. Emotions flickered rapidly in her eyes before she met his gaze and blushed a little. His Calli was blushing at being caught staring at his body. Would wonders never cease?

“Do you like what you see?” He practically purred the words.

Her eyes grew wide as saucers and she said, “Can I ask you a question?”

His fingers twitched, immediately wanting to grab onto her and hold her. She looked so vulnerable, sitting on the edge of his bed – she was in his bed! – hair tousled from sleep, a slight blush still on her cheeks. She looked…he wouldn’t even finish that thought. This was Calli! “Of course.”

“Do you love her?” She spoke so softly he had to strain to catch the words. When he did, he frowned. He knew exactly whom she was referring to and that was the last thing he wanted to discuss. Not with her sitting on his bed. Dammit!

“Do you love her?” She repeated, taking a deep breath before looking him straight in the eyes. “If you do, then I’ll go back to Brideport and we’ll work on being friends. We’ll discuss visitation for Jack. Just tell me you love her.”

“Why is this so important to you?” He didn’t understand what was happening right now. In the time that he’d known her, Calli had been on one date and that was before Dillon hurt her. She’d never even hinted that she wanted more from him. He knew she’d had a crush on him when she was younger and for a while, he’d been ready to pursue that – once she was older, once she had enough experience and he could be sure it wouldn’t ruin their friendship. A part of him had known that time might never come, either her infatuation would fade or she’d get tired of waiting and find someone else. But then Dillon happened.

“Because I think you’re using her as an excuse. You’re afraid of admitting you have feelings for me. That we can potentially be more than two people raising a child together.”

He didn’t know where this was coming from, but she was dangerously close to the truth. He was using Rae, but Rebecca wanted her in Andrei’s life and so did he. For once, he wanted the outcast to win. He wanted Rae to choose Andrei, like his mother never chose him. He wanted that little boy’s story to be different from his. No, he didn’t love Rae, but if loving her was what was needed to save that kid’s life, he’d do it. Why couldn’t Calli understand that?

He was prepared to try to explain that to her, instead he heard himself say, “No. I don’t love her.” She smiled a little at him, her eyes telling him more than he was ready to hear. He desperately wanted to tell her to stop pushing, to stop asking for more than he could give.

She took a deep breath and he knew whatever she was about to say would change their relationship forever. She would change him forever. “I’ve done the rage, the depression, the therapy. It’s been fourteen years, I’m in a rock band, have thousands of fans, and I have a son whom I love more than life itself. He grew up knowing that and he’s happy. I’ve accepted that what happened to me was not my fault. Am I a bit more wary of men? Yes. Perhaps a little more standoffish than I should be? Yes. But these are things that I own; they are my flaws, not yours. So stop beating yourself up for something you didn’t do. I’m ready to move on and leave the past in the past. I want us to have a future Caleb, together where we’re a real family. Do you?”

He closed his eyes and let those words wash over him. She wanted a future with him, she wanted a real family. He felt the bed shift and then her hand was on his cheek and he opened his eyes and looked down at her smiling face. She was now close enough for him to feel the heat coming off her body. She was always so warm, so soft. He’d forgotten how comforting her presence was, how safe and loved he felt around her – how warm she made him.

He’d loved her since he was six and she’d offered unknowing comfort to an angry boy. He didn’t know when that love had changed in tenor or in intensity, but it had. In the last decade of them playing house his feelings for her had changed to something deeper. Her words came back to him then: her and her son or me and mine.

“You,” he said hoarsely, turning his face so he could kiss her palm. “I choose you and Jackson.” He pulled her in closer to him, wrapping his arms around her waist and just holding her, letting her warmth reach into the parts of him he’d thought had frozen over. “I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long – I just, I want to do the right thing, Calli. That boy needs my help, but I’ll find another way because I can’t lose you. I love you.”

She pulled away just enough to look up at him. “I love you too, Caleb. We’ll figure something out. We’ve always worked best together.” She reached up and kissed him. It was so soft he barely felt it, just a slight brush of her lips against his. Her kiss was light and tender and full of promises of love and support. It was their first kiss and it was perfect.

Part 1: ChoicesPart 3: Redemption

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