Dad arrived and sat down. “She’s a good girl, Travis. I’m happy for you, son.”
“She is,” I said trying not to let the sadness show on my face.
Abby was busy cleaning in the kitchen, and it seemed I spent every second fighting the urge to join her. It may have been a family holiday, but I wanted to spend every spare moment with her that I could.
A half hour later, grinding noises alerted me to the fact that the dishwasher had been started. Abby walked by to wave quickly before making her way to the stairs. I jumped up and took her hand.
“It’s early, Pidge. You’re not going to bed, are ya?”
“It’s been a long day. I’m tired.”
“We were getting ready to watch a movie. Why don’t you come back down and hang out?”
She looked up the stairs and then down to me. “Okay.”
I led her by the hand to the couch, and we sat together as the opening credits rolled.
“Shut off that light, Taylor,” Dad ordered.
I reached behind Abby, resting my arm on the back of the couch. I fought wrapping both my arms around her. I was wary about her reaction, and I didn’t want to take advantage of the situation when she was doing me a favor.
Halfway through the movie, the front door flew open, and Thomas rounded the corner, bags in hand.
“Happy Thanksgiving!” he said, setting his luggage on the floor.
Dad stood up and hugged him, and everyone but me stood to greet him.
“You’re not going to say hi to Thomas?” Abby whispered.
I watched my dad and brothers hug and laugh. “I got one night with you. I’m not going to waste a second of it.”
“Hi there, Abby. It’s good to see you again.” Thomas smiled.
I touched Abby’s knee. She looked down, and then back to me. Noticing her expression, I took my hand off her leg and interlocked my fingers in my lap.
“Uh-oh. Trouble in paradise?” Thomas asked.
“Shut up, Tommy,” I grumbled.
The mood in the room shifted, and all eyes fell on Abby, waiting for an explanation. She smiled nervously, and then took my hand into both of hers.
“We’re just tired,” she said, smiling. “We’ve been working all evening on the food.” Her cheek pressed into my shoulder.
I looked down at our hands and then squeezed, wishing there was some way I could say then how much I appreciated what she’d done.
“Speaking of tired, I’m exhausted.” Abby breathed. “I’m gonna head to bed, baby.” She looked to everyone else. “Good night, guys.”
“Night, sis,” Dad said.
My brothers all said good night, and watched Abby make her way up the stairs.
“I’m gonna turn in, too,” I said.
“I bet you are,” Trenton teased.
“Lucky bastard,” Tyler grumbled.
“Hey. We’re not going to talk about your sister like that,” Dad warned.
Ignoring my brothers, I jogged up the stairs, catching the bedroom door just before it closed. Realizing she might want to get dressed, and wouldn’t be comfortable doing it in front of me anymore, I froze. “Did you want me to wait in the hall while you dressed for bed?”
“I’m going to hop in the shower. I’ll just get dressed in the bathroom.”
I rubbed the back of my neck. “All right. I’ll make a pallet, then.”
Her big eyes were solid steel as she nodded, her wall obviously impenetrable. She picked out a few things from her bag before making her way to the bathroom.
Digging in the closet for sheets and a blanket, I spread out the linens on the floor beside the bed, thankful we’d at least have some time alone to talk. Abby emerged from the bathroom, and I dropped a pillow on the floor at the head of the pallet, and then took my turn in the shower.
I wasted no time, quickly scrubbing the soap all over my body, letting the water rinse away the suds as soon as they lathered. Within ten minutes, I was already dried off and dressed, walking back into the bedroom.
Abby lay in bed when I returned, the sheets as high on her chest as she could get them. The pallet wasn’t nearly as inviting as a bed with Abby snuggled up inside. I realized my last night with her was going to be spent awake, listening to her breathe just inches away, unable to touch her.
I turned off the light, and situated myself on the floor. “This is our last night together, isn’t it?”
“I don’t wanna fight, Trav. Just go to sleep.”
I turned over to face her, propping up my head with my hand. Abby turned over, too, and our eyes met.
“I love you.”
She watched me for a moment. “You promised.”
“I promised this wasn’t a stunt to get back together. It wasn’t.” I reached up a hand to touch hers. “But if it meant being with you again, I can’t say I wouldn’t consider it.”
“I care about you. I don’t want you to hurt, but I should have followed my gut in the first place. It would’ve never worked.”
“You did love me, though, right?”
She pressed her lips together. “I still do.”
Every emotion washed over me in waves, so strong that I couldn’t tell one from the other. “Can I ask you for a favor?”
“I’m sort of in the middle of the last thing you asked me to do,” she said with a smirk.
“If this is really it . . . if you’re really done with me . . . will you let me hold you tonight?”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, Trav.”
My hand gripped tight over hers. “Please? I can’t sleep knowing you’re just a foot away, and I’m never gonna get the chance again.”
Abby stared at me for a few seconds, and then frowned. “I’m not having sex with you.”
“That’s not what I’m asking.”
Abby’s eyes darted around the floor for a bit as she contemplated her answer. Finally shutting her eyes tight, she scooted from the edge of the bed, and turned down the covers.
I crawled into the bed beside her, hastily pulling her tight into my arms. It felt so incredible that coupled with the tension in the room, I struggled not to break down.
“I’m going to miss this,” I said.
I kissed her hair and pulled her closer, burying my face into her neck. She rested her hand on my back, and I sucked in another breath, trying to breathe her in, to let that moment of time burn into my brain.
“I . . . I don’t think I can do this, Travis,” she said, trying to wriggle free.
I didn’t mean to restrain her, but if holding on meant avoiding that deep burning pain I’d felt for days on end, it just made sense to hang on.
“I can’t do this,” she said again.
I knew what she meant. Being together like that was heartbreaking, but I didn’t want it to end.
“Then don’t,” I said against her skin. “Give me another chance.”
After one last attempt to break free, Abby covered her face with both hands and cried in my arms. I looked up at her, tears burning my eyes.
I pulled one hand gently away and kissed her palm. Abby took a staggered breath as I looked at her lips, and then back to her eyes. “I’ll never love anyone the way I love you, Pigeon.”
She sniffed and touched my face, offering an apologetic expression. “I can’t.”
“I know,” I said, my voice breaking. “I never once convinced myself that I was good enough for you.”
Abby’s face crumpled and she shook her head. “It’s not just you, Trav. We’re not good for each other.”
I shook my head, wanting to disagree, but she was half right. She deserved better, what she’d wanted all along. Who the fuck was I to take that from her?
With that recognition, I took a deep breath, and then rested my head against her chest.
I AWOKE, HEARING COMMOTION DOWNSTAIRS.
“Ow!” Abby yelped from the kitchen.
I jogged down the stairs, pulling a T-shirt over my head.
“You okay, Pidge?” The cold floor sent shock waves through my body, starting with my feet. “Shit! The floor’s fucking freezing!” I jumped on one foot, and then the other, causing Abby to stifle a giggle.
It was still early, probably five or six, and everyone else was asleep. Abby bent over to push the turkey into the oven, and my morning tendency to protrude through my shorts had even more of a reason to do so.
“You can go back to bed. I just had to put the turkey in,” she said.
“Are you coming?”
“Lead the way,” I said, sweeping my hand toward the stairs.
I yanked my shirt off as we both shoved our legs under the covers, pulling the blanket up to our necks. I tightened my arms around her as we shivered, waiting for our body heat to warm the small space between our skin and the covers.
I looked out the windows, seeing large snowflakes fall from the gray sky. I kissed Abby’s hair, and she seemed to melt against me. In that embrace, it felt like nothing had changed.
“Look, Pidge. It’s snowing.”
She turned to face the window. “It kind of feels like Christmas,” she said, lightly pressing her cheek against my skin. A sigh from my throat prompted her to look at me. “What?”
“You won’t be here for Christmas.”
“I’m here, now.”
I pulled my mouth into a half smile, and then leaned down to kiss her lips. Abby pulled back and shook her head.
“Trav . . .”
I held on tight and lowered my chin. “I’ve got less than twenty-four hours with you, Pidge. I’m gonna kiss you. I’m gonna kiss you a lot today. All day. Every chance I get. If you want me to stop, just say the word, but until you do, I’m going to make every second of my last day with you count.”
“Travis—” Abby began, but after a few seconds of thought, her line of sight lowered from my eyes to my lips.
Not wanting to hesitate, I immediately bent down to kiss her. She kissed me back, and although I’d just meant for it to be short and sweet, my lips parted, making her body react. Her tongue slipped into my mouth, and every part of me that was warm-blooded male screamed for me to go full steam ahead. I pulled her against me, and Abby let her leg fall to one side, welcoming my hips to fit tightly between her thighs.
Within moments, she was naked beneath me, and it took just two quick motions for me to remove my clothes. Pressing my mouth against hers, hard, I gripped the iron vines of the headboard with both hands, and in one quick movement, pushed myself inside her. My body instantly felt hot, and I couldn’t stop moving or rocking against her, unable to control myself. I moaned into Abby’s mouth when she arched her back to move her hips against mine. At one point she flattened her feet on the bed so she could raise up to let me slip inside of her fully.
With one hand on the iron, and the other on the nape of Abby’s neck, I rocked into her over and over, everything that had happened between us, all the pain I’d felt, forgotten. The light from the window poured in as beads of sweat began to form on our skin, making it a little easier to slide back and forth.
I was just about to finish when Abby’s legs began to quiver, and her nails dug into my back. I held my breath and thrust into her one last time, groaning with the intense spasms throughout my body.
Abby relaxed against the mattress, her hairline damp, and her limbs limp.
I breathed as if I’d just finished a marathon, sweat dripping from the hair above my ear and down the side of my face.
Abby’s eyes lit up when she heard voices murmuring downstairs. I turned on my side, scanning her face with pure adoration.
“You said you were just going to kiss me.” She looked at me the way she used to, making it easy to pretend.
“Why don’t we just stay in bed all day?”
“I came here to cook, remember?”
“No, you came here to help me cook, and I don’t report for duty for another eight hours.”
She touched my face, her expression preparing me for what she might say. “Travis, I think we—”
“Don’t say it, okay? I don’t want to think about it until I have to.” I stood up and pulled on my boxers, walking over to Abby’s bag. I tossed her clothes to the bed, and then yanked my T-shirt over my head. “I want to remember this as a good day.”
It seemed not long after we awoke, it was lunchtime. The day raced by, far too fucking fast. I dreaded every minute, cursing the clock as it approached the evening.
Admittedly, I was all over Abby. It didn’t even matter that she was putting on a show, I refused to even consider the truth while she was next to me.
When we sat down for dinner, Dad insisted that I carve the turkey, and Abby smiled with pride as I stood up to do the honors.
The Maddox clan annihilated Abby’s hard work, and showered her with compliments.
“Did I make enough?” She laughed.
Dad smiled, pulling his fork through his lips to get it clean for dessert. “You made plenty, Abby. We just wanted to tide ourselves over until next year . . . unless you’d like to do this all over again at Christmas. You’re a Maddox, now. I expect you at every holiday, and not to cook.”
With Dad’s words, the truth seeped in, and my smile faded.
“Don’t tell her that, Dad,” Trenton said. “She’s gotta cook. I haven’t had a meal like this since I was five!” He shoveled half a slice of pecan pie into his mouth, humming with satisfaction.
While my brothers cleared the table and washed the dishes, I sat with Abby on the couch, trying not to hold her too tight. Dad had already turned in, his belly full, making him too tired to attempt to stay awake.
I pulled Abby’s legs onto my lap, and slipped off her shoes, massaging the soles of her feet with my thumbs. She loved that, and I knew it. I might have been trying to subtly remind her about how good we were together, even though I knew deep down that it was time for her to move on.