10 Years Later

10 Years Later by J. Sterling

Book: 10 Years Later by J. Sterling Read Free Book Online
Authors: J. Sterling
spilled as I nodded. “He was the best man I ever knew.”
    “I know.”
    “I can’t believe you were there.” I didn’t remember Dalton being there, and I would have remembered that because even in my zombie-like state . . . well, it was Dalton. “And I can’t believe you remember my speech.”
    “It sort of changed my life, so—”
    He looked away, and when he said nothing else for a moment, my curiosity forced me to prod him.
    “But why?” I asked, wanting to make sense of it all. “Why did what I said about my dad mean so much to you?”
    Dalton’s face tightened and he blinked rapidly, staring at his hands in his lap. “Because I grew up in a shitty house, Cammie. When you were up there saying those things, I couldn’t relate at all. I didn’t feel an ounce of what you felt for my own dad, but I wanted to.” His voice cracked on that last part, and he lifted his gaze to mine. “I mean, I hoped that someday I’d have my own family, and I wanted my kids to feel about me the way you felt about your dad. I wanted to be someone’s hero. I wanted someone to love me the way you loved him.”
    I couldn’t fight the tears at all by this point and I finally stopped trying. I couldn’t believe that I had affected Dalton’s life choices to that extent. It was more than a little overwhelming.
    Dalton reached out and touched my cheek. “Seeing you at the funeral damn near killed me that day. It hurt me to see you in so much pain. You had no idea, but I wanted to protect you from that moment on. I did a really shitty job of it, obviously, because I couldn’t even protect myself back then.”
    He wanted to protect me?
    “Aside from that,” he said, “your speech inspired me. You inspired me. I never had anyone to look up to, but I wanted to be the kind of man that others did. You gave me that hope.”
    “But you always were,” I insisted.
    He frowned and shook his head. “What do you mean?”
    “Everyone looked up to you in high school. I don’t think you saw yourself how we all saw you. You’ve always had this energy about you that was so charming, so captivating. People wanted to be around you, and they trusted you, Dalton. If you said something, people believed it.” I frowned at him, a little shocked that he didn’t know this already. To me, it was so obvious.
    He shrugged, as if unsure. “What about you?”
    “What about me?”
    He slanted a glance at me. “Did you want to be around me?”
    “Are you kidding me? I’d been in love with you since English class our freshman year.” When he leaned away from me as if I’d just struck him with something, I asked timidly, “Did I say something wrong?”
    “No. I just had no idea how you felt about me.”
    Now it was my turn to feel sucker-punched. “What?” I choked out. “How is that even possible?”
    “You always acted so nonchalant when it came to us. I kissed you every chance I got, but—”
    Amazed that he’d thought that, I blurted, “I always figured you never really liked me. I assumed you didn’t want to be a couple or anything serious like that, but I liked you so much that I didn’t care. I was taking whatever you’d give me because you were the only thing that made me feel. I went numb after my dad died. It wasn’t until you that I could feel anything at all.”
    “Do you remember the day in the darkroom?” he asked.
    “Which time?” I said with a laugh.
    “The day I asked you if you wanted to define what we were? Do you remember that? When you asked me what we were doing?”
    I nodded as the memory came flooding back. “I do.”
    “You said that you didn’t know and that we didn’t have to,” he huffed out, clearly exasperated.
    “Oh my God, I lied! I was totally lying. Of course I wanted to define us, but I was too scared to tell you that,” I admitted.
    “I didn’t know you were lying!” he all but shouted.
    “Of course I lied. I’m a girl,” I said with a shrug. “I was just trying to play it

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