The Man I Want to Be (Under Covers)(8)

By: Christina Elle

“Just seems odd,” Rose continued. “And uncharacteristic from what I’ve seen. He’s so self-assured. I didn’t take him for a man who would hurt another person that way. He had to know how his not returning would affect you.”

He didn’t care that he’d hurt her. Because he must not have loved her the way she’d loved him.

“It does seem strange,” Celia said in a soft, mousy voice. As she twisted the clasp of her pearl necklace, she looked at Kenna like her next statement was going to hurt Kenna’s feelings. When it came to Bear, her feelings had already been demolished. The frail woman couldn’t do any more damage. “Didn’t he try to contact you? When Edward was in the service, he told me he wrote every day, but I only received twenty letters. The postal service can be such a terrible thing when you’re impatiently waiting for communication.”

Kenna attempted a smile. “After bugging him and his superiors with a barrage of emails and voice messages, I finally got a really short Dear Kenna email.” She paused, thinking back to when she’d gotten it. How excited she’d been. How she couldn’t wait to hear about his adventures overseas. Little did she know how fast her elation would fade. The words he’d written haunted her even now. “He told me things weren’t going to work out the way we’d planned. That I deserved better and should move on with my life without him. No explanation or reason why. I wrote him about four hundred emails back. Left a million more voice messages. Never got anything else in return.”

She’d reread that email a thousand times, dissecting every word for any sliver of meaning. She’d spent months wracking her brain trying to understand what would’ve caused his change of heart. Another woman, PTSD, or the worst of all, he didn’t love Kenna anymore. But the simple fact had been, no matter the reason, he didn’t want her. So she tried to accept that and move on.

It proved harder than she ever imagined.

Nearly impossible, in fact.

She’d dated, tried to open herself up again. But it was a lost cause. She’d only had one heart, and he’d taken it with him and never brought it back.

“There has to be a reason why,” Sam jumped in indignantly. “I mean, it’s Tyke. He’s a big teddy bear. All mean and crotchety on the outside, but soft and squishy on the inside. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. I’m sure of it.”

Kenna stood, ready to exit the no-longer-relaxing steam room. “Well, he did. And at this point, I don’t care why. It was so long ago it doesn’t matter.” At least that’s what she’d been telling herself over and over. What did Queen Elsa say? Conceal, don’t feel. That was Kenna’s motto. She could conceal the shit out of her feelings. Her heart might be on the brink of ripping apart, but damn it, she was going to hold it together for the sake of Sammie and Cassandra. This was their week. They deserved happiness.

Kenna took two steps toward the door but stopped and turned. “And don’t any of you get any slick ideas about asking him why.” She zeroed in on her aunt first. “Especially you.”

“What?” Estelle lifted her meaty shoulders and palms to the ceiling like she was all innocence.

“Don’t meddle. He left. That’s it. I don’t care anymore. We’re done.”

“But what if he—” Sam started.

“And you.” Kenna spun to point at her childhood friend. “You have a wedding to enjoy. I don’t want you getting down because of me. This is supposed to be a fun week. Stop worrying and start enjoying yourself.”

She cut off whatever argument was on its way by swinging the door open and stepping into the chilly air-conditioned hallway. Swiping an extra towel from the side cabinet, she dabbed sweat from her face as she walked toward her massage appointment.

Hopefully her masseuse was well versed in working out mangled heart muscles.

The week from hell. That’s what this was going to be. Everything Tyke had locked away for the last decade, all the guilt he thought he’d finally come to terms with, was going to be put on display at this damn wedding. He wasn’t ready.

Maybe if he could apologize to her. Find the right place. The right time. Explain why he never came back. She’d understand. Then he could finally swallow this guilt he’d been carrying around like an extra organ.

How about twelve years ago? That would’ve been the perfect time to come clean, huh, dickhead?

Sure, it would’ve. If he hadn’t been so ashamed of himself in the first place.

Goddamn, she looked good. Too good. Seeing her again filled Tyke with a need to reach out and touch her. Stroke her face. Pull her to him. Feel her against his body.