Fix Her Up

Page 56

His first night on the air was in a matter of days, yet the muddy clothes he’d worn to the Tough Mudder were stuck to his unwashed skin, a bristling beard overtaking his cheeks. Getting up to take a shower or make himself a sandwich sounded more difficult than training to be a fucking astronaut. Nothing could get him off the couch when he ached head to toe. Inside and out.

He kept his face buried in the softness anyway, wondering if he could die from carbon dioxide poisoning this way. Worth a shot.

Out of nowhere, the memory of Georgie crying slammed into his consciousness again and he let loose a bellow into the pillow, forcing himself to remember every nuance as penance. How she’d shrunk into herself, going from confident to unsure right in front of his eyes. How she’d trembled and cupped her elbows. Almost immediately, the mental torture became too much, so his hand dropped to the floor, searching for a bottle of whiskey with something left inside of it.

“Come on.” He barely recognized the hollow voice emerging from his own mouth. “Come on.”

Travis’s hand closed around the neck of a bottle and he sat up, wincing as his brain performed a somersault. Please, God, let there be enough whiskey in this bottle to numb the memory of hurting Georgie. Because fuck, he’d hurt her so bad.

Travis unscrewed the top of the bottle, but when he tipped it toward his lips, he stared down into the golden contents instead. Was this where he was at? Drinking himself into a stupor over losing a woman? That’s exactly what his father had done. Or what he’d used as an excuse to drink himself into an oblivion anyway. Maybe he and Mark Ford weren’t so different after all. Travis started to lift the bottle again and paused.

A voice drifted out of the darkness. One he knew as well as his own. It was Georgie’s. Words she’d spoken the last time he’d been in this state.

You’re only him if you lie down and play the victim. You’re better than this.

“I’m not better. I lost you,” he rasped into the silent living room.

Sweet man. Strong man.

His head tipped back on a miserable groan. The alcohol in his hand was so close, but he couldn’t bring himself to drink it with Georgie’s voice in his head. In his heart.

“Christ, I love you, Georgette Castle.” He set down the bottle, filling his hands with his pounding head instead. “I’m in love with you.”

No answer. Of course not. She wasn’t really there to hear him realizing, far too late, that he’d started falling in love with her the day she’d barged into his apartment throwing food.

No, she wasn’t there. At least not in a physical way. But in every other way that counted, she took up every corner and surface in his house. A League of Their Own sat in its case on Travis’s television stand. Her Tupperware was still tucked in his cabinets. Her voice echoed off the walls. Exactly as it should be. Their things were meant to be in the same house. Their lives were meant to be twisted up and twined together forever. For so long, committing to forever had been unrealistic. A surefire path to bitterness and failure.

Well, he’d been wrong. This. This was failure. Having the very thing he needed more than breath and squandering it. Georgie had been the one person in his life to remain committed to him for better or worse, even when he was too young and oblivious to realize it. She’d loved him all along. Now that he wanted—needed—forever with Georgie, it wasn’t an option.

You’re only him if you lie down and play the victim.

“I heard you, baby girl,” he croaked. “But you hate me now. You should.”

The man Georgie deserved wouldn’t wallow in self-pity, though, would he? No, he’d get his ass up and find a way to make her understand. A way to make her forgive. Was he that man?

Because if he won Georgie back, it would be with the intention of giving her everything she wanted in this life. A home, a future. Children.

Travis closed his eyes, imagining himself as a father for the first time in his life. He went back to the night of their dinner in Old Westbury and replaced Kelvin with himself. Squatting beside a little girl with Georgie’s eyes and smile, clapping as Georgie juggled. He thought of finger paintings drying over the sink, just as Georgie had described weeks ago, only now it was a vision of heaven instead of hell. Because he could see himself there. With her. With the lives they created. He was a good man capable of more than he’d ever known. Georgie thought so and he would damn well believe her.

Such a huge wave of contentment—and responsibility—crashed into Travis’s chest that he had to struggle through several breaths. And then he was off the couch, stumbling toward the bathroom, wrestling with his clothes and wrenching on the shower faucet. As he cleaned himself off as fast as he possibly could with a monster hangover, the vision grew stronger.

Someday he would swear to Georgie he’d seen the future in that shower.

She would tell him he’d still been drunk, but she’d smile and get misty-eyed.

No, forget that part. His Georgie would never cry again. Not the sad kind of tears, anyway. She would cry when he finished the fireplace. On their wedding day. When their children were born. When those same children graduated from college. Good tears. He’d give her good tears for the rest of her life. He was capable of it. He was this man—not some man who’d come before. If she believed in him once, she could do it again. This time it would be different, because he believed in himself. That he could make her happy. Forever.

First he had to win her back.

But it wouldn’t be easy.

Travis was clearly the last person Bethany expected to find on her doorstep.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” She propped a shoulder against the doorjamb and hauled in a long sip of white wine. “My sister isn’t here. Even if she was, I would rather exfoliate with sandpaper than let you see her for even a second.”

Keep it together. Keep. It. Together. Don’t beg to know where Georgie is. What she’s doing. If she’s okay. That wasn’t his purpose there. And he didn’t have the right to know yet. In lieu of words, he took a key out of his pocket, extending it toward Bethany to take.

“What is that?”

“It’s the key to my house. The one I grew up in.” Voice rusty from disuse, he didn’t bother trying to make himself sound normal. It was taking all of his effort to stand there and not ask for news about Georgie. Something. Anything. “Flip it however you want and keep the profit. It’s yours. Free and clear.”

Bethany straightened slowly. “You’re giving me the house? Why?”

“It’s important to her. You succeeding. All of you succeeding. She’s good in that way. She’s so fucking good, you know?”

“The best.”

Travis took a necessary moment to breathe. “And I need her—I need her to know—the past is over. I’m done living there.” Not wanting to give her room to refuse, he put the key in Bethany’s free hand, closing her fingers around it. “But I’m going to ask for something in return. Because I’m fucking desperate.”

“You’d have to be to ask me for help. I’m only giving you the time of day because . . .” The barest hint of sympathy crept into her expression. “You really do look like hell,” she grumbled into her wineglass. “Why am I not enjoying this as much as I should?”

“You know I’m in love with her. That’s why.” Saying it out loud seemed to make it that much more true. Voicing the truth written on his soul felt so incredible, he couldn’t wait to say it over and over again for the rest of his life. To Georgie. To anyone who would listen. Unless, of course, Georgie wouldn’t take him back, in which case he’d be saying it to the business end of a pillow for the foreseeable future. “I love that girl in every way it’s possible to love someone. And maybe a few ways that don’t even have a name. I’m just asking you to help me prove it to her.”

Bethany blinked away the moisture in her eyes. “You did a number on her.”

The pain that ripped through him was so intense, Travis had to prop a hand on the house for support. “If she decides she’ll be happier without me, so be it.” He swallowed a fistful of nails. “Maybe that’s true. But I’m not losing her lying down.”

He could feel Georgie’s sister studying him. Couldn’t lift his head to confirm it, though. “What do I have to do?”

Hope sparked to life. Just enough to make his neck work, so he could look at Bethany. “Please. I have things I need to say to Georgie. Just get her to listen.”

“Tell me your plan and I’ll think about it.”

When Travis finished, she swirled her wine in her glass and tossed it back. “Fine. I’ll help. But afterward, her decision is final. You have to respect it.” Just before shutting the door, she tossed up the key and caught it. “Thanks for the house.”

Travis walked down the porch, zero spring in his step. No, it was way too early for that.

At least now he had a plan.

The promise of that alone would be enough to make it one more day, when he would fight for his damn life. Their life together.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

From the neck down, Georgie looked like dynamite. Everything above that?

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