Her Irksome Admirer (Love and Lust #2)

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Zara watched with pure joy blooming in her chest, as Nathaniel picked Amy up, swinging her around and throwing her up in the air for good measure. She pushed the cart down the aisle in the grocery store they were at and added a few more items that she knew they would require.

It had been five months now after the incident with the guy that Danielle had sent after her.

Her heart skipped a beat for a moment when she remembered the event that had taken place then.

She no longer shuddered when she thought about it, given that Peter had successfully taken his own life while in prison for assault. Danielle, however, hadn’t been so lucky. She still lived with the weight of what she had done. Zara knew because Finn had told Nathaniel.

She looked back at Nathaniel who stood with his side to her, his complete focus on Amy, as he untied the laces of her shoes to help her try on the bright pink pair of unicorn-themed shoes that lay at his feet.

She was giggling her head off, laughing when he alternately blew raspberries in her neck.

“Nathaniel, do we have any celery left?” she asked, looking back at him.

He turned his head, his chocolate brown eyes landing on her face. He smiled and she melted.

“I think Susan needs a packet or two. Matt asked me to get it if we could.”

Zara nodded her head and went ahead, letting him help Amy try it.

She looked down at her finger where her ring sat.

Smiling to herself, she twisted her palm, admiring it.

Nathaniel had given it to her the week after he had proposed in the shower. It had been an amazing surprise and he had gone full out, with music, candles, champagne, followed by a night of lovemaking. Susan and Matt had helped him organize everything and had even kept her away until he had successfully gotten everything under control.

She felt exquisitely happy when she thought about it now.

Her phone buzzed and she picked it out of her pocket.

It was her mom.

“Hey mom, did you reach?”

“Hi, darling, I’m right outside the store. Susan said I might find you here,” Zara could hear her mother’s smile. She almost laughed.

“I’m in the fourth aisle at the left. You’ll probably see Nathaniel before you see me,” she lifted a box of Quaker oats and put it in the cart. She’d added blueberries to it and some strawberries too.

“I’ll be there in a minute. Daniel’s with me. I decided to pick up a few extra things I’d need for dinner tonight,” Rachel said.

“Okay, I’ll see you both,”

She waited for her mom to hang up before she did. Then she moved on ahead to pick up a bottle of wine. Turning her cart, she went through the aisle that had a man and a boy standing in it. The boy seemed to be in a dilemma about choosing the kind of cereal he wanted and the man, whom Zara assumed to be his father seemed to be losing patience.

She had barely reached them when his harsh voice reached her ears and she went still, her entire body freezing.

Suddenly, he turned around, a black scowl on his face, one that she remembered being afraid of when she was a little girl.

He made eye contact with her and then looked away, grabbing the boy’s hand and pulling him away from the shelf. Then instantly, he stiffened, his head snapping back to look at her.

In her chest, Zara felt her heart stop altogether.

Her father said her name, “Zara?” He sounded shocked.

She couldn’t move, couldn’t think.

All those feelings of repressed anger and insufficiency surfaced again. In her chest, a sharp pain began to bloom, crushing out the joy she had felt just moments ago.

Through the storm of thoughts playing havoc in her head, she heard a soft musical voice drawing closer. A low, deep laugh followed it.

Zara continued staring at her father.

He looked old. He looked like he was wasting away.

“Zara, darling, here you are. I was asking Daniel’s opinion about having red lobster for dinner and he said that-“ her mother came up in front of her and looked in the direction she was staring at.

She saw her father’s gaze quickly shift to her mother, his eyes widening even more.

Zara’s knees felt weak and she wanted to sit down. A giggle at her back made her turn around and she saw Nathaniel walking toward her, his eyes trained on her father. In his arms, Amy held the pink unicorn-themed shoes that they had been trying out and was smiling, looking at Zara.

“Look, Zara, these are my new shoes! Do you like them?” she reached out to her with her other hand and squirmed in Nathaniel’s arms, trying to come to her.

The storm of thoughts in her head disappeared like they had never been there, vanishing in an instant.

She smiled and took Amy in her arms, cradling her to her side.

“Rachel,” her father’s voice was hoarse this time, shock evident in his tone.

Next to her, she saw Daniel pull her mother into him, his arm curved around her shoulder, his jaw hard.

Nathaniel leaned in and kissed her forehead taking her hand in his, “Did we get the celery, sweetheart? Amy’s developed a craving for frozen yogurt,” his voice was light.

Zara watched her mother’s gaze turn toward Amy and then she reached out and took her in her arms. Amy happily acquiesced, kissing her grandmother’s cheek. “Hi Gammy, look at my new shoes!” she held them high up, swinging them in front of her face.

“They’re beautiful, Jellybean, let’s go get us some ice-cream. Chocolate?” she kissed Amy’s nose, making her laugh.

Then she looked at Zara, “Come on, darling, I need to get us some food,” she patted Daniel’s arm on her shoulder. Zara watched as he leaned in and squeezed her tighter to him.

They all turned around and headed over to the billing counter.

Zara looked at her family as they made their way to the front. Nathaniel squeezed her hand, making her look at him.

“Hey, how are you doing?”

She shrugged and smiled, “I feel sad I guess, but I don’t hate him anymore.”

Next to her, her mother touched her arm, leaning in to kiss her cheek. “We’re happy, Zara.” She looked at her ring. “And that’s all that matters.”

Zara hugged her mother to her side, a part of her feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off her chest.

“I love you, mom.”

“Not as much as I love you.” She kissed her cheek again.

Zara looked up at Nathaniel.

Yes, she had gotten her happy ending. And she knew this was just the start.

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