Chapter Twenty-Nine – It's Always Been You
by Claire Ashgrove
As Mitch folded Candy into his embrace, a glimmer of gold in the warm light caught his attention. He squinted at the curio cabinet he’d given Marie. Back then, he’d been afraid his father would find out and dish out another serving of disapproval. Now, he hated that he’d been afraid, and later unable, to tell the woman who’d been more of a mother than his own what she meant to him.
He eased Candy out of his arms and rose to his feet. Crossing to the cabinet, he stuffed a hand in his pocket, glad he’d given in to the impulsive urge to bring the angel Candy had made so long ago with him. In case he seriously needed to grovel. In case she clung to doubts about the place she’d always held in his heart.
He opened the cabinet and gently plucked out the angel he’d given Marie. “I miss her, you know,” he murmured.
“No. I don’t know.” Though her voice lacked censure, her honesty stung.
Mitch pulled in a deep breath. “My father never told me about her death, you know. I hate that I never got to say goodbye. I hate that I wasn’t there for her…for you.”
He turned to find her watching him. A flicker of pain passed over her face before she attempted a smile. It trembled at the corners of her mouth. “I survived… I understand—”
With a shake of his head, he turned to stand in front of her and fished the angel out of his pocket. Keeping his fingers closed around it, he levered himself to both knees in front of her. “No, it’s not okay. Hold out your hand.”
Puzzlement creased her brow, but she extended her hand palm up, fingers open.
“I brought this with me in case you made me beg. If you’d spent just a little more time in my office, you’d have seen it sitting right next to the fax machine. There to remind me of you, what you gave to me, the peace you brought.” He uncurled his fingers and gently pressed the angel into her palm. “It’s always been you, Candy. Will you add this to the collection? Can we make it ours?”
A soft gasp escaped her lips as he pulled his hand away and revealed the childhood trinket. Her eyes lifted to his, tears giving them a bright sheen. Mitch’s heart rolled over, the enormity of feeling swelling behind his ribs making it difficult to speak. God, if he didn’t watch himself, he’d end up in tears too.
He blinked anyway, just to make sure. A chuckle slipped free. “I don’t have anything with me to do this the right way. I figured I’d be lucky if you heard me out.” He laid his palm over hers, trapping the memento between them. “You’re my angel, and I want to build a life with you. Say yes, Candy?” Holding onto her gaze, he willed her to understand the pain, the regret…all the fulfillment she alone could give him.
As tears trickled down her cheeks, Candy nodded, and the vise around Mitch’s lungs let go. He hauled her onto the floor in front of him, wrapping her tight in his embrace, barely making out her whispered, “yes” before claiming her in a hungry kiss.
He’d missed her. Ached for her. Now that she was in his arms, the past no longer a mountain between them, he was certain in a thousand lifetimes he’d never get enough of her sweet flavor. Not even forever could satisfy his need.