The Forgotten Claim - The Claim: Book 1

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Chapter 17 - Olivia (Part 2)

Lowering her gaze, she raked her teeth over her bottom lip as she fiddled with her fingers in her lap. “The way I see it, the only thing holding me back from accepting anything is that I keep telling myself lies to protect me and I’m using Chloe as an excuse. The issue is in my head and I’m resisting anything that can change the image I have created of you. And yet,” she hesitated, swallowing back the lump that grew in her throat, “the more time I spend with you, the more I see the real you and they don’t match. I can’t keep holding onto a lie. It’s not fair to me, you, or Chloe even.”

She sighed, looking out the window and watching the traffic and pedestrians pass by. “Whether things work out between us is irrelevant, but now that Chloe knows about you, I can’t keep her from you. She’s getting older, asking more questions… She deserves to get to know you. I’m the one who’s not ready to let go of the past. Not ready to let her grow and be independent. She’ll be starting JK in September.”

She chewed on her lip. Where had the time gone? It seemed like only yesterday she was bringing home this tiny little person from the hospital who was more precious than she ever could have imagined. She wasn’t ready for Chloe to start junior kindergarten. She wanted to hold onto her baby longer. Why did she have to grow up so fast?

His gaze softened as he reached across the table for her hand. She stared at it for a second before holding her breath and accepted it. He held it on the table, stroking her knuckles with his thumbs. “You’re right that she’s growing up too fast. You’re lucky that you got to be there in her life. I missed it. I’m still missing out on it. But I’m glad you’ll let me be a part of her life if she wants that.”

“She does,” she admitted, hanging her head. “She’s so curious now. I don’t want to discourage her from asking questions because they make me uncomfortable. That’s why I want to spend more time with you one-on-one. I feel…” She scrunched up her nose, trying to make sense of her emotions and put them into words. “I feel so disconnected. Ever since we met…”

“Disconnected? How? Since when? A few weeks ago or five years ago?”

She nodded. “Five years ago. Everything changed. Everything. I didn’t feel like the same person when I woke up that morning. And I couldn’t go back to living my life the way I had.”

He was nodding his head in silent understanding. Pain etched across his features.

She tried to shrug it off. “I’m sure you can imagine what it was like, so I don’t really need to say more about it.”

“Tell me anyway,” he said. “I think you need to let it out in order to let go. And I deserve to bear the brunt of it.”

“Do you, though? I mean, it’s not your fault that you got amnesia. Things would be different now if the accident never happened, right? I can’t keep blaming you for something you had no control over.”

He gave her hand a reassuring squeeze. “I know, but I could have told others about you before it happened. I don’t know why I didn’t. That’s the part that kills me the most, Olivia. All of this could have been avoided if I had told someone.”

She sighed, squirming in her seat. “Well, we only spent one day and night together. That was it. How were we to know it would have become something more? It was too early in the relationship.”

“I knew it was meant to be something more,” he said softly when the waiter returned with their drinks.

He asked if they would like to order any entrees or desserts but they both declined for now.

A small pitcher of cream and jar of sugar was placed between them with little silver spoons, but neither one of them reached for them.

“How do you know when you don’t remember?” she asked, returning to their conversation before the interruption.

“I told you. You’re my soulmate. That’s how I know. I never would have given you up. And that’s what infuriates me. I should have told someone. Soulmates are very important to us. We would die for our soulmates.”

Her breath caught in her throat. Was he crazy? “What?”

“It’s true,” he said. “I would die if it meant you could live.”

“Let’s not get too extreme here.” The ball of butterflies tumbled within her.

“That’s how deep my feelings go. I can’t deny that and you should know it.”

His eyes bore into hers—deep, exotic pools of spine-tingling wonder.

Breaking eye contact, she took a deep breath as she looked down at her chai latte. “You have mentioned soulmates before…” she uttered tentatively. “Is that part of your religion or something?”

“You could say that.”

She shook her head. “Don’t be so direct one minute and dance around the subject the next.”

His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. “Very well, yes. Soulmates are part of my culture and religion. I will tell you more about that another time. For now, you only need to know that you are all I see. No one will come before you and no one will come after you. If you were to die tomorrow, a part of me would die with you. My life would be forever changed. I will love no other. My soul is linked with yours in this life and the next. Does this sound familiar to you the moment you woke up and I wasn’t beside you five years ago?”

When he put it that way, as crazy as it sounded, he was right. Nothing was the same after that night. And nothing she did eliminated the pain that encased her heart.

She nodded, uttering a breathless, “Yes,” as he leaned forward and brought the back of her hand briefly to his lips.

“So you see, Olivia,” he whispered. “I understand you better than you think.”

They continued to chat, sipping at their steaming hot drinks with one hand reaching across the table and holding the other.

For the first time since reconnecting with Cameron, Olivia felt comfortable and at ease with him. Her inhibitions melted away and even with the occasional sexual innuendo, he managed to smooth it all over with a brush of his thumb over her knuckles and the crinkle in the corners of his eyes as he flashed her that smile that made her heart dance.

It was like that day five years ago. They talked and flirted, ordered food to eat, and continued to chat for hours until Olivia realized it was getting late and she had to go pick up Chloe.

She didn’t want to part, but she had a responsibility to her daughter that took priority over her own pleasure.

They would meet again soon. She had no doubt about it.

And she couldn’t wait to see him again.

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