Never Tied Down (The Never Duet #2)(10)

By: Anie Michaels

Another “reporter” came on screen and started commenting on something trivial, and all I could do was remind myself to breathe. My teeth were clenched and I could feel the muscles in my jaw start to ache, and my face was definitely heating up. My mind raced as every thought and emotion made itself apparent all at once. That was not the way I wanted to see Riot for the first time in months. Silly as it might seem, I hadn’t imagined him moving on. Hadn’t even considered the fact that he would be dating someone new. I guess, on some subconscious level, I assumed he was just as wrecked as I was and still nursing his wounds.

Silly me.

Then I was angry at the pair of them. The nerve they had, parading their romance around, practically rubbing my nose in it. Well, I guess not really. They had no way to know I would see a news report about their little date night, but still. My mind flashed back to the music video shoot and the way they’d looked as Riot had lain on top of her, kissing her, running his hand along her body. Had they been seeing each other the entire time I was with him? Suddenly, I felt like a complete idiot.

“Are you all right?” Ella asked hesitantly.

“Not even a little bit,” I instantly replied.

“Oh, Kalli. I’m sorry.” She reached forward with the remote and switched off the television. Mattie squawked and Ella went back to sitting on the floor in front of the bouncy chair to continue feeding her. “That Lexi girl looked horrible.”

I turned to look at Ella. “She looked amazing. But, thanks,” I said, mustering a tiny smile. Lexi really had looked great. She was thin, young, and had an amazing body. Plus, she had a team of people to make her beautiful every day. I couldn’t compete with that. Not that I was in competition with her. I sighed.

“Have you talked to him at all since….” Her voice trailed off and I could tell she didn’t want to speak the words.

“No,” I squeaked, shaking my head and looking down at my hands in my lap.

“Maybe,” she offered slowly and gently, “you should call him or something. You never really got any closure with him, Kal. There was just so much going on and too much for you to deal with.” She paused, perhaps waiting for me to say something, but when I didn’t, she continued. “Perhaps if you spoke with him, talked about things, you’d start to feel better.”

“Talking to Riot won’t bring Marcus back,” I whispered.

“No, it won’t. But sweetie, nothing will.” She looked away and fed Mattie a few more bites. Her baby squeals of happiness were a stark contrast to the actual mood in the room. “Do you mind if I ask what you’re afraid will happen if you see him, or talk to him even?”

I shrugged, then let out a large sigh. “It’s hard to explain, Ella. When I think of Riot, all I can think about is how if I could have just let him go, if I hadn’t been so wrapped up in everything with him, Marcus might still be alive.”

“Honey, what happened to Marcus is not your fault. It’s no one’s fault. It was an accident. A terrible, horrible, sad, and tragic accident. But it’s not your fault.”

“There is a tiny part of me that can understand that. A tiny fraction of my mind knows what happened to him could have happened when I was with him, could have happened at any time. But still, I can’t shake the majority of my thoughts that say if I were home he never would have even been at the park. He wouldn’t have run from Nancy. He would still be here. We’d have stayed home and played Monopoly or video games. He’d still be alive, Riot and I would still be apart, but everyone would be fine.”

“But that’s not what happened, Kalli. You’re still here, though, and it’s perfectly all right for you to be happy, or at least try to find happiness. You don’t have to punish yourself forever. Marcus wouldn’t want that.”

My first thought was that Ella wouldn’t know what Marcus would want; she’d never met him. But I knew that was a harsh thought, and I also knew the only reason she’d never met him was because I kept him from everyone. So I let that thought simmer in my mind. Ella was just trying to help and I knew what she was saying was true, but moving past Marcus’ death was definitely something easier said than done.

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