“So am I,” Jessica admits. “But I wasn’t about to say that to her.”
“It might have been amusing,” I grin.
“I value my life too much, thanks.” Jessica chops the last of the onion and pushes it away, scowling as her eyes water. “In saying that, I really like Hayley, and she’s become a really good friend. I don’t know how, but, somehow, she has.”
“That’s the thing with Hayley,” I say sagely. “One day she appears, and then it’s like she’s always been there. Not only that, but you grow fond of her, despite how damn rude she is.”
“Talking from experience?” Jessica teases.
“Lots of experience,” I say, rolling my eyes.
Jessica giggles and sweeps the onion into a pot. She turns away to carry it over to the stove, and I turn my head to watch the sway of her hips. She’s dressed in jeans and a too-large shirt that I think belongs to me, which is incredibly sexy.
I shake my mind out of the gutter. Now isn’t the time. Jessica turns and catches my eyes.
“You watching me?” she asks, smiling.
“Of course,” I grin.
She reaches up and tucks her hair behind her ear, her smile turning soft in that way it sometimes does. There’s such warmth in her eyes that I feel it emanating through my entire body.
“I love you.”
The words hang in the air between us. It takes me a moment of surprise to realize that I’m the one who said the words. I blink wildly as the smile drops from her face and she gapes instead.
Oh, shit, I didn’t mean to say that.
I’ve still been trying to figure out my feelings. I knew they were deepening. But I haven’t been able to voice them. Jessica has been really good about it, and avoids saying the words to me, not wanting to pressure me. She always tells me how much I mean to her, though, saying that she never wants to regret not saying it again.
I almost want to take the words back. But they feel right, and a weight lifts off my chest, as though the verbalization of the words I haven’t been able to say has freed something within me. My mouth opens and closes several times, but nothing comes out. On the stove, the onions start to hiss as they cook, but neither of us pay them much mind.
I know Jessica wants to ask, but she’s too afraid to break the silence. Am I serious? Did I mean it? Knowing the answers to those questions could change out entire relationship again. Are we ready for that?
I look into her blue eyes. And I know the answer.
“I love you,” I repeat, this time fully conscious of doing so. I step forward and reach out to cup her face in my hands.
“I love you, too,” Jessica says, and her eyes are filling with tears even as a smile spreads across her face. “But…”
“Don’t,” I interrupt. “Don’t try to analyze it or question it. I think I’ve felt this way
for a long time.” I pause. “I don’t think I ever stopped loving you, not really. Part of you was always with me, no matter how far I tried to run from you. You just never let me go.”
“Is that a good thing?” Jessica asks with a teary chuckle.
“Yeah, let’s say it is,” I say.
She smiles. I move to kiss her again, but, suddenly, she pulls back. Confused, I watch as she draws in a deep breath.
“I was doing some thinking,” she says quietly. “I don’t want you to think I’m just doing this because you said you loved me… I went and got the paperwork and everything the other day.”
“Paperwork?” I ask, frowning. “What for?”
“I…” She looks up, setting her shoulders. “I want Owen to take your last name.”
I stare at her. There’s an odd ringing in my ears. I’m not sure I just heard what I think I heard.
“I think it would be a good idea,” she continues when I don’t say anything. “I mean, he’s your son too. I chose his first name. I raised him, and, maybe…” She falters. “If he had your name, it’ll maybe fix some of what I did to both of you.”