There were a hundred thoughts rushing through my head as I washed all our sex off my body, but she was the only one I cared about. Hearing those three little words the other night was one of the best things to ever happen to me in such a long time.
I shut the water off and stepped out of the shower. Mia telling me she loved me was enough for me to go out after work and start looking for something perfect for her. I wiped some water off my legs, threw the towel over my shoulder, and walked into our bedroom naked to open up my dresser.
The black box was buried deep within my clothes where Mia would never find it. I drew my fingers against the leather and took a deep breath. She was young, and I didn’t want to rush it with her. But I had never felt this sure about anything in my entire life.
“Michael,” Mia called from somewhere in the house. I shut the drawer, my heart pounding just thinking about how long I would have to wait until I knew she was ready for something like… that. I wanted to at least repair my relationship with Melissa before I asked Mia to--
“I don’t think you should come in,” Mia said, her voice unsure. I wiped the last of the water off my chest and raised a brow, tying the towel around my waist and walking into the hall. I swear if Mason was here, trying to stir up trouble, I--
I stopped mid-thought and stared down the stairs at the woman who had ruined my entire life. Linda stood there with the most menacing smirk I had ever seen, walked right up the stairs toward me, and drew her fingers over my chest. “Michael, you’re home.”
Immediately, I stepped away from her and glanced down the stairs to make sure Mia was okay. Mia glanced between us, her expression faltering and turning into a mix of hurt, betrayal, and anger. It hurt me to see her so… so sad.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” I asked. But of course, she was here. She had to ruin every good thing in my life. Everything was going great, better than it ever had. Mia’s mother was recovering. Melissa had come over once this week. Mia was finally able to focus on school again… and now Linda was fucking back to screw with my life. “I didn’t invite you into my house.”
“Mia did,” she said, stepping closer to me.
Mia crossed her arms over her chest. “No, I didn’t.”
“Get out,” I said again, being careful not to touch her. God knew she’d try to turn this back on me and say I was harassing her or something.
She swung her purse around like a madwoman and laughed. “Oh, Michael, what’s wrong? I just wanted to visit my husband while he’s in a good mood. Melissa told me that you had a new girlfriend.”
My nostrils flared. I should’ve never fucking married her. Linda was too unstable.
She glanced down at Mia. “Is this her? You’re fucking a girl young enough to be your own daughter?” She tilted her head, and I swallowed hard--hating how bad it sounded. “Is it because she has a nice body? Is that the only reason you went after her? She’s young and impressionable? Easy to manipulate.”
I flared my nostrils. She was trying to rile me up and it was fucking working.
Mia shifted uncomfortably under her gaze and crossed her arms over her body. Everything Linda said out loud wasn’t true. Sure, it started as physical attraction, but that’s not why I was dating Mia and it wasn’t why I loved her either.
“Get out of my house,” I said.
“Our house, Michael,” she said. “Don’t you remember when we used to live here together? And now you have a young whore living here in place of me.” She tilted her head, and I could just smell the booze on her.
I clenched my hands into fists. Control yourself, Michael. She’s fucking with you.
She stepped closer to me, and I stepped back. “Take one more fucking step, Linda, and I’m calling the police.”
“Call the police for what?” she asked, testing me. “Sleeping with an underage girl?”
“I’m twenty-two,” Mia said, grasping the railing. “Old enough to make my own decisions.”
Linda just hummed amusingly. “Sure, that’s what we’ll call you.”
“If you come close to me or Mia again, I will get a restraining order against you.” And I meant it this time. I could deal with her craziness, but I wasn’t going to put Mia’s life in danger. “Leave.”
Linda narrowed her eyes at me, then walked down the stairs, out the damn door, and to her car. I shut the door behind her and growled under my breath. She was a fucking bitch who’d do anything to ruin my life like she had ruined hers. She had to try to bring me down with her.
“Michael,” Mia whispered as soon as the door closed. Something about her was off as she wouldn’t look me in the eye. “Michael, you know I love you. I don’t want to get in the way of… anything.”
“Don’t think you’re the problem, Mia, because you’re not.”
“I don’t want her to hurt you. You’re respected in this town and even in the city. If people find out that we’re dating they’re going to look at you differently. And…” A look of fear crossed her face. “What if she says something about us that isn’t true? What if she says that we’ve been together since I was in high school.”
I swallowed hard. Linda would spread those rumors. I knew her too well to know that she would keep those promises and spread lies around town. But I didn’t want Mia to worry about this. Linda was my problem and I would deal with her.
“It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks,” I said, pulling her closer to me. There was hesitation in her stature, but she eventually relaxed in my arms and wrapped her arms around me. “The truth matters, Mia, and you and I know that best.”