"Just tell me, Willow," I said.
The way she was reacting worried me. It was clear that Dalton was someone she didn't want to talk about. Why? If I didn't think she would jump out of the car and run away I would have pulled over and demanded she speak. Instead, I kept driving glancing over watching her wring her hands together.
Letting out a frustrated sigh I hit the steering wheel sending a loud thud echoing throughout the truck. "What the fuck Willow? Why are you still hiding shit from me? Are you married? Do you have kids? What?"
"Pull over," she said lowly.
I shook my head, "Why? So you can run again? You can forget that."
Willow looked over at me, "I won't run, but I need some air. Please, Maddox."
I sighed, "fine." I drove a little further pulling into a little roadside rest stop. Willow didn't wait for me as she opened the door getting out. I shook my head killing the truck and getting out following behind her to the little weathered picnic table close by.
She had sat down and had her head rested in her hands looking down. "Is it that bad?" She looked up and I saw the tears in her eyes.
"It's a long story," she said looking back down.
I nodded crossing my arms in front of me, "well we have all night so talk."
She shook her head, "Maddox." Looking up at me she let out a breath, "my dad was never really around. I grew up keeping myself locked in our apartment while he went out and did whatever. I never really thought too much of it. I lost myself in my homework or books, anything to not dwell on being alone. Once I was old enough I went out and got a job to try and help out with the household bills. I knew money was a huge issue, I just didn't know why."
Shifting she looked past me at the cars going by on the road. "Once I graduated high school I started to look for more. More what? I didn't know I just wanted more." She sighed looking back down, "and that's when I met him."
I remained quiet waiting as she continued talking, "I always ate my lunches at this little sandwich shop down the road from where I worked." She shook her head, “and one day this stranger walked up and asked if he could sit with me. I didn’t think anything of it. The place usually stayed packed and I’d shared my tables before. Only this time it was different.”
As Willow’s cheeks turned red I could feel my jealousy rise. “We spent the entire lunch talking and the very next day he showed up again. It became a routine, we met for lunch almost every day and whoever got there first bought the others sandwich.” She looked up at me, “we talked about everything. I told him everything and I thought he was telling me everything.”
Willow put her head back down in her hands, “after a while of lunch meetings he asked me out. It was innocent enough, he took me to a nice restaurant, we went to a couple of antique shops afterward. I've never really dated much and all I saw was the positives."
I sighed, I really didn't want to hear about how she found some perfect guy. What had happened had her dad run him off? Or was he still there, waiting for her. Is that why she had been so willing to go back home?
Hearing me sigh she looked up, "it didn't take long before I started to notice red flags but I kept pushing them away. It was little things at first. He would go missing at weird times, he would turn his phone off, and he just knew stuff sometimes, things that I knew I hadn't told him." She shook her head, "one night he started asking me questions about my dad, really personal questions."
"Did he know about your dad's gambling," I asked looking over at her.
She shook her head, "I didn't want to tell him. I mean that's embarrassing. A lot of nights he called really late wanting me to meet him. He had this apartment across town, I had always thought it was weird. It looked, unlived in, there was hardly anything personal there." She looked up at me, "I never thought anything of it. I was so stupid. One night I couldn't get ahold of him. It was a coworkers birthday and she had invited me to go out to eat with them so I decided to go."
Willow shook her head looking up, "I saw him that night. Him, his wife, and their kids. I had been devastated. I had been shocked. I guess I should have seen it coming. I should have read the flags but I didn't."
I reached out grabbing her hand, "you couldn't have known Willow."
She laughed, "that's not even the worst of it Maddox." As I frowned she squeezed my hand. "The next night he wanted to meet me I ignored him. I didn't answer him and I made sure to avoid the sandwich shop. Things with my dad had gotten really bad. Our bills were really behind and I didn't know how much longer I could keep everything going. I decided to meet with Dalton and I stupidly thought I could blackmail him into giving me some money."
"What," I said looking up at her. That wasn't the Willow I knew.
"I know," she said whispering, "it was stupid. I don't know shit about blackmailing people. When I met him at his place he immediately tried to mess around and I stopped him telling him that I knew everything. I threatened to tell his wife about us. He just flipped, like I had never seen that side of him."
Willow started crying, "he laughed at me. He told me I was a stupid little girl then he forced himself on me."
I stood up moving to go sit beside her as she lost it. Pulling her into my lap I wrapped my arms around her, "I'm sorry Willow."
She buried her head in my chest, "I loved him Maddox. Even when he was forcing himself on me I tried to make it ok. I had tried to tell myself he was trying to show me he didn't want to lose me." She sighed, "when he was done he got up and threw my clothes at me telling me I was nothing but a stupid whore. He worked for Franklin and it was his job to get information out of me. It wasn't long after that I walked in on Franklin with a gun to my dad's head. I had given them everything they needed to know that my dad wasn't going to pay them back."
"It's not your fault Willow. Your dad knew what he was doing and there is no way you could have known that this guy was just trying to use you."
"He still reaches out to me, he tries to apologize, I just keep blocking him. A few weeks later he will try again with a new number. He tells me it was a mistake, that he loves me and he wants to be with me. He claims he will leave his wife. That he can get Franklin to leave me alone. "
"And you believe him?"
She shook his head, "I don't believe anyone anymore. Why do you think I ran from you. You are too perfect, somethings going to come around and fuck everything up."
Running my hand down her back I kissed her forehead, "baby I'm not perfect. Nobody is perfect. I could tell you things that would make you look at me differently. I won't lie to you, if anything I will tell you how I feel when I need to keep my fucking mouth shut."
She shook her head, "you don't understand, if it wouldn't have been for the fact that he told me about Franklin I would still be there with him. I was that disillusioned."
"Do you still love him?"
"No," Willow said looking up at me. "I don't think I really ever did. I think I just liked the attention. Then I met you, and you get on my fucking nerves, and you are so rude, and so demanding. But your also so protective and caring. You've always been real with me, even when I didn't want you to be."
"Nothing you can say will make me change my feelings about you. I had somebody do some research on Franklin and he came up. I'm sorry to bring him up." Tilting her chin up I kissed her lips, "next time he calls you, you give me the phone."
She wrapped her arms around me, "why are you so good to me."
I shook my head, "I love you Willow. Since we are telling truths I want to tell you something that could change the way you look at me and my family."
Willow looked up frowning, "there is nothing you could say that would change the way I feel about you Maddox. I mean have you been married before? Do you have kids I don't know about?" Her face fell, "you don't have one on the way do you."
I shook my head, "only if you're pregnant." When she looked back up at me I took her hand. "It's not really about me but it's something you need to know because it affects me and it could affect us."
"What?" Willow asked.
I sighed, it was harder than I thought it would be to even get started. I wanted to get everything out in the air. I didn't want any secrets between us anymore. It was true, she could be pregnant for all I knew, I hadn't been using protection. Shit, I'd never even asked her if she was on any kind of pill. I had just assumed, something I never did.
"Maddox, it's ok. It can't be any worse than my crap."
"It's hard to explain," I said, "and you might have questions along the way. Just let me talk and get everything out then you can ask me anything you want."
When Willow nodded I let out a breath. "My dad has known my mom since she was born. You've met my dad's sister Maggie, but you haven't met my Aunt Julie. To be honest I've never met my Aunt Julie. Aunt Julie is actually my mom's mother." Willow's mouth fell open so I just kept going. "My dad's sisters are actually adopted, but when mom and dad first, I don't know hooked up, they didn't' know that."
I looked down at her, "Julie sent mom to live with him and I don't really know how it started and I don't want to know but it did. It wasn't till mom got pregnant with Presley and I that they were told they weren't blood-related. They had tried to stay apart but it didn't work."
Willow was silent, a little too silent and I wondered if maybe I should have kept that to myself. Looking down I was surprised when Willow took my face in my hands, "I really don't know what to say Maddox but it doesn't change the way I feel about you. I mean I know your mom and dad and they were made for each other. I mean I know that she grew up with him being her uncle and I can't imagine how that even started to turn from niece and uncle to lovers but if they would have never gotten together I wouldn't have you."
I leaned in kissing her, "it's not something I've ever told anyone about before. I've always seen it as our dirty little secret but I love them and they love each other. As wrong as they were, they have so much right to them. It's something I struggle with, how do you explain that to someone? I know all the stories and it's still hard for me."
Willow hugged me, "I guess we are both fucked up."
Kissing her head I felt as if a weight had been lifted off of my shoulder but I also felt as if another one had been added. When I took care of Franklin I would be taking care of Dalton too. I didn't think he had a change of heart and wanted to make things work with her. He was using her again. Willow was mine and I'd be damned if I let anyone take her away from me.