The Soul Mate Page 31

When she did, there was no way I could hold back a moment longer.

“I have to talk to you.”

She led me inside, and before she’d even begun to pour the coffee I was admitting to the entire sordid tale. The way I’d looked for Bren after our one-night stand, the imagined pregnancy, the trip I’d planned. Even things most men might not admit to their mothers, I told her, if only so that she might unearth some small detail I’d overlooked so I could make things right.

“Wow, this girl really seems like something,” my mother said when I was finally finished.

“She’s not just something—she’s everything.”

Mom smiled sadly. “That was a lot for one person to take in in one sitting. I didn’t know I was almost a grandma, after all.”

I nodded. “I just don’t understand why she’d make an appointment with Marlene Thomas instead of me and then not tell me about it.”

My mother raised her eyebrows. “That’s the part you can’t figure out?”

“Well, yeah.” I shrugged. “Is there something else?”

“Are you serious?” She took a long sip of her coffee, surveying me over the top of her mug. “Sometimes you really are your father’s son, you know that?”

“I’m guessing that’s not a compliment given the impending divorce, huh?”

My mother smiled. “Your father is kind and smart and funny in all the best ways. But when it comes to women…well, frankly, when he told me what he did for a living, I couldn’t believe it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, first of all, mister, isn’t it obvious why she didn’t come to you or tell you?” She pursed her lips, then began ticking off items on her fingers. “A thirty-year-old woman with irregular periods. What do you think she went to the doctor for?”

I blinked. “I don’t…”

“Then they shouldn’t have let you graduate from medical school,” she said with a warm smile that took the edge off. “I’ve been married to a doctor long enough to tell you what that girl was doing and I don’t even have a degree.”

“You think it was a fertility thing?” I asked, flipping through the conversation with Bren in my mind as a cold ball of dread formed in my stomach. For the first time since I’d ran into her at my office, logic trumped emotion.

“Well, if you had a patient with her background, what kind of tests would you run?”

The truth of her words sank into my skin and I sat back, thinking hard. “But, okay, even if she went for a fertility test, why wouldn’t she have come to me?”

“The man whose baby she thought she was carrying not a week before? Hardly the natural choice, don’t you think? You told her you were disappointed about not having a baby. Do you think she wanted to make you the person who told her she might never have a baby?”

My breath caught in my chest and, slowly, I shook my head. “I guess I never thought of it that way.”

“That’s the way it is.” My mother set her coffee down on the table between us, then rested back against the sofa cushions. “So, sweetheart, it makes complete sense why she went to Dr. Thomas.”

“But that’s not the part I should be wondering about?”

She shook her head.

“Care to enlighten me, oh wise one?” I asked.

She folded her hands together. After letting out one long breath, she said, “Haven’t you wondered what’s going on in this girl’s head that every time you get close to her, she freaks out and runs away?”

“Well, she told me she got weird about intimacy.”

“Yes, but why? What do you know about her past? Any boyfriends who left her? If her parents’ relationship was bad?”

“Shit.” Icy realization crept down my spine. The most important relationship a woman had was with her father. Bren had lost hers at a young age, before she’d matured into a successful adult and long before she was ready. I couldn’t even imagine what it felt like to lose a parent, especially during those angsty teenage years.

Mom continued on. “I imagine you told her about my cancer and the divorce, but she never reciprocated at all?”

I blinked, trying to focus in on my mother’s words in a way that might force them to make sense. “She lost her father,” I finally uttered.

Mom nodded. “She has a fear of abandonment. My suggestion is to go to her. The longer you let her stew in her thoughts, the more she’s going to convince herself she did the right thing by leaving you. Whatever is making her run isn’t going away anytime soon. In order to open her warm, loving center, you’re going to need to peel away her fear layer by layer. If she’s worth it, you have to try.”

I nodded. “I will. Thanks, Mom.”

She rose from the couch, giving my shoulder a soft pat. “Anytime. You actually caught me on my way out.”

I hugged my mother goodbye and set off for my place, the desperate need to see Bren almost making me pull a U-turn and go straight to her place. But I needed a moment to think, to come up with a plan—figure out the right words to say. I wasn’t about to let us end like this. I’d spent my whole life searching for my one perfect mate, and I’d finally found her. I just had to make her see it.

When I pulled to a stop in front of my place, Bren’s car was already parked outside. The sky outside was turning an ominous shade of gray and a rumble of thunder vibrated in the distance.

“Bren,” I breathed. “I didn’t expect to find you here.”

She shoved a strand of golden hair behind her ear. “Sorry, I had a lot on my mind and when I got in my car, I just drove. I ended up here.” She let out a massive sigh, her eyes just as dark and stormy as the sky overhead.

“It’s fine. I was thinking we should talk too.”

A crack of thunder made Bren flinch.

“Come on.” I tugged her toward the house.

Once inside we toed off our shoes and I lead her into the living room. “Something to drink?” I asked as we passed the kitchen. Bren shook her head, stopping in front of the windows.

For a moment we just stared at each other, neither one wanting to break the charged silence.

“You were right,” we said the words in unison, then met eyes, both of us afraid to laugh.

I hesitated, waiting for Bren to speak, and then she offered me a small smile and began.

“There are certain things about me that I don’t like to share with people. But now… with you . . . ” She shook her head.

I smiled but didn’t speak. I wanted her to be open to telling me whatever she had on her mind.

“I told you about my dad on the plane, but I guess I left out the parts about how it affected me.”

My stomach dropped, but I stayed quiet as she rushed to continue.

“He was diagnosed when I was twelve, and for three years I watched my mother at his bedside day and night.”

She paused, but I still said nothing, waiting for her to give me some signal that it was all right for me to talk. For now, this was her time and it was long overdue, so I nodded encouragingly, despite the urge to drag her into my arms and comfort her.

“So, for those three years, it was like I was losing both of my parents at once, you know? My mother’s attention was elsewhere, my father was slowly losing the ability to do the things we used to do together like go fishing or fix cars. Then, when he died…” Her voice broke, and I waited as she cleared her throat and started again.

“When he died, it was like both my parents had gone. Even now, so many years later, my mom can barely function without him. And while I was in the cheetah enclosure, I was thinking about that sort of loss, you know? When cheetahs’ companions die, they languish and die, too. And ever since my father died, I’ve been afraid that that is sort of the fate of people who fall in love. You get left behind eventually and it’s not like I can ask you not to die, you know?”

A slow tear trickled down her cheek and I took a step forward, then grasped her hand and squeezed it.

She let me hold her hand, and continued. “I know it must have seemed crazy to you with things going so well and me just slipping away all the time. It’s just that I can feel myself falling for you and I can’t bear to lose you, you know? And as we get closer, it’s only going to get worse and when you leave…” Another tear slid down her cheek and she wiped it away hastily.

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