Every Time We Fall in Love 3

  "I am pretty starved," she said, rubbing her hand over her stomach. "I can't go that long without food or Mom says I get grumpy."

  "Just like Suzanne," Drake drawled. "It's a seriously bad idea to ever let her blood sugar get too low."

  Suzanne rolled her eyes, then said to Amelia, "Bet you didn't figure you'd have a couple of uncles like these guys to deal with."

  "I think they're both awesome! All of you are."

  "Right back at you, Amelia," Alec said with a grin. "Welcome to the family."

  And as Harry picked up her backpack and took her upstairs to one of the guest bedrooms, with Aldwin pressed so close to her that she could barely walk in a straight line, she beamed the whole way.

  Already a Sullivan through and through.


  Molly had forgotten how dark and how quiet this part of the city could be in the middle of the night. Her memories of living in New York City were always bright and colorful, especially after she'd met Harry. For the first time in her life, she had truly felt alive.

  All because she'd fallen head over heels in love.

  The first time she'd met Harry, she'd been in the university library, down deep in the special collections stacks where the most valuable books were stored. Books so old you needed a special pass and gloves to protect the pages. She was trying to get a book about Boldt Castle on the top shelf, but couldn't reach it. That was when Harry had walked into the room, moved behind her, and pulled it out.

  Even at eighteen, he'd already been so rugged and strong. It fit perfectly that he'd been studying the medieval period, and it had been a thrill to find someone as excited about history as she was. They came at history from different angles--he focused primarily on battles, whereas she was interested in what love and family had looked like in the past--but that had only made it more exciting as they not only learned from each other, but also sparked new ideas during their discussions.

  It was always so amazing when they were together. Harry was not only the sexiest man, he was also utterly devoted to his family in a way that she'd never known anyone could be. Just looking at him had made her smile, and when he touched her...

  Though she hadn't seen him in nearly sixteen years, just thinking of his touch made her heart race.

  She shook her head to clear away a vivid picture of Harry levered over her, taking her places she hadn't known she could go--higher, sweeter, brighter than anything she'd ever felt before. But once the image took hold, it was nearly impossible to shake away. Especially when every man she'd been with after him had seemed like nothing more than a cut-rate consolation prize.

  At eighteen, he'd seemed like her knight in shining armor. Literally, even, when he jousted at historical reenactments. She couldn't believe how lucky she was to find him--her, a girl who had never really known love, ending up with a guy who believed so strongly in family. She'd dreamed of her happily-ever-after, of never being lonely again, of finally mattering to someone and trusting they would never let her down.

  But nothing was ever that simple, was it?

  Right from the start, Harry frequently had to cancel their dates. His family needed him constantly, especially his father. Molly loved how important family was to him, and because she didn't want to admit to herself that it hurt to always come last, she told herself it was no big deal. Throughout her life, her parents had moved from one remote village to another while working to set up freshwater systems. Molly had traveled with them until she'd been old enough to attend boarding school in first grade.

  Just as she knew how important her parents' work was, she couldn't let herself be upset with Harry for canceling on her when she knew how badly his family needed him. Especially given how he always tried so hard to carve out time for her from his busy schedule. In addition to his classes, he frequently needed to head to a parent-teacher meeting with one of Suzanne's or Drake's high school teachers, or rush off to a bar to make sure his brother Alec made it home safely, or spend weekends and school breaks helping his father in the Adirondacks.

  Harry had never talked that much about what his father was going through, but due to William Sullivan's massive fame as a painter, Molly at least knew the bare bones of the story--Harry's father had lost his wife when the kids were very young and had never gotten over it.

  And now...

  Now Harry thought he was Amelia's father.

  For the past four and a half hours of the drive from Alexandria Bay, she'd gone through every deep-breathing meditation technique she knew to get her hands to stop shaking on the steering wheel. Unfortunately, the tremors were still moving through her. In fact, by now full-body shivers were racking her frame, making her teeth chatter.

  Hearing Harry's voice over the phone earlier that night had been the biggest surprise of her life. Until he'd shocked her a thousand times more by accusing her of keeping his daughter from him for fifteen years.

  God, no, she would never have done that.



  Freshman year, Columbia University...

  Harry had promised to make Molly's birthday a night she would never forget. They'd been dating for five months, and for Molly, every night they spent together was already incredibly special, even if they were simply bent over their laptops working on papers. As long as she was with Harry, she was happy.

  He'd told her he was taking her to some of his favorite places in the city, places he said he wanted to share with her. She'd been looking forward to the evening for weeks and had barely been able to concentrate in her classes that day.

  Molly's parents hadn't remembered her birthday. She hadn't gotten a phone call, or a letter, or even a card. She wasn't surprised, as they'd forgotten more birthdays than they'd remembered over the years.

  But Harry wouldn't let her down.

  She spent an hour on her hair, her makeup. Earlier that week, she'd splashed out on new lingerie. As she was at Columbia on a scholarship, it was money she didn't have, but it would be worth it just to see the heat leap into Harry's eyes when he stripped her out of it.

  Mere minutes before he would be arriving to pick her up, she slipped on her prettiest dress, a sky blue that he said matched her eyes, the soft jersey fabric skimming her curves and floating around her legs with every step she took in her inexpensive but lovely heeled sandals.

  She'd never felt more beautiful, or been so full of anticipation.

  Seven p.m. came, and she smiled as she looked out the window of her tiny dorm room at the street below. Harry would be ringing the bell any moment now. Who knew, maybe they wouldn't even make it out of her room. Not for a while, anyway, until she'd pulled him close and showed him just how happy she was to celebrate her birthday with him.

  Fifteen minutes passed. Then thirty. And still, Harry hadn't arrived. He wasn't responding to her texts or picking up her calls either.

  Had something happened to him?

  Her heart was in her throat as she called his family home, where he still lived with Suzanne and Drake so that he could watch over his younger siblings. She'd been to the house several times over the past months and knew his sister and youngest brother. She'd met Alec once, but had never met their father, as he was always at his lake home.

  She prayed Harry was okay. She knew he'd never forget her birthday. Hopefully, it was just that she'd gotten their meeting time, or place, wrong.

  Drake picked up their home phone. "Is Harry there?" she asked. "We were supposed to meet tonight--" She left off that it was for her birthday. "--but he's really late, and I'm starting to worry."

  "He didn't tell you?"

  "Tell me what?"

  "Harry went to Summer Lake to see Dad."

  In Drake's voice, she could hear sadness over his father's problems--but also pity for her. Almost as though he'd guessed that she'd been waiting for Harry in her prettiest dress and heels, watching out the window, wanting so badly to believe in him, to count on him.

  Wanting so badly to come first, for once. On
her birthday.

  "Oh." She didn't know what else to say. Not when any other words might come out as a sob.

  "There's no cell reception out there," Drake said, "but if you want to try to reach Harry, I can give you my dad's landline."

  Her hands shook as she dialed William Sullivan's number. The phone rang so many times she wasn't sure anyone would pick up. Finally, she heard Harry's voice. "Sullivan residence."

  "Harry." Her voice was breathless, and suddenly she didn't know what to say. "It's Molly."

  "Where did you get this number?"

  "Drake gave it to me." She hated the way the words shook, but nothing about this night had gone the way she'd imagined it would. A dream that was quickly turning into a nightmare. "He said you went to see your dad."

  "Things are bad here." When Harry didn't apologize for missing her birthday, she realized she'd been wrong. He must have forgotten.

  "What happened?" Somehow, she managed to keep the conversation going, if only because Harry sounded so desolate. As though he'd finally reached the end of his tether.

  "I got a call from my father's business partner. When he didn't show up to work, she got worried and called me. I found him passed out drunk on the kitchen floor."

  "Oh, Harry, I'm so sorry."

  "My mother died today." He cursed, something she'd never heard him do before. "Not actually today--it's the anniversary of her death. My dad swore he wasn't going to fall apart this year. He promised me he was getting over it. I should have known better, should have known he's never going to get over losing her."

  It was not only the most Harry had ever said to her about his father, it was also the only time she'd ever felt him falter under the pressure of shouldering so much responsibility for his family's happiness. Before tonight, he'd always seemed so strong, so capable, as though what he did for everyone was no big deal.

  "Why didn't you tell me what day it was?" Molly asked.

  "What good would it have done?"

  It would have brought us closer. It would have shown that you trusted me with your heart the way I've trusted mine with you.

  Harry was the only one to whom she'd admitted feeling abandoned by her parents. Only to find out he'd stayed locked up so tight that even as he'd told her of his plans for her birthday, he hadn't thought she should know the significance of the date.

  Despite her own hurt feelings, everything inside her ached for him, for his father, for his siblings. Though she wasn't very close to her parents, she couldn't imagine how difficult it would be to lose one of them.

  "If I had known," she said softly, "I would have been there for you. And I wouldn't have let you plan a birthday celebration for me tonight."

  Another curse came through the phone line as he obviously realized he'd forgotten all about their celebration.

  "It's okay--" she began.

  "No, it isn't. I love you, Molly, you know how much I love you, and I'm giving you as much as I can, but..."


  The word ricocheted through her head, her heart, as the rest of whatever he'd been about to say fell away.

  All Molly's life, she'd been a but to the people who said they loved her. Deep inside her heart, she knew this was the moment it was over. Harry would never truly be hers. She would never get the fairy tale. Nothing could possibly be more clear than I love you, but...

  Even then, though, she couldn't stand to let him go. Couldn't give up on her dreams of a love that could transcend anything.

  "I understand that your family needs you," she said, trying to sound reasonable. Trying to act as though she wasn't desperate not to lose him. "I could never live with myself if I kept you from them. You were right to go help your father tonight."

  "It's not just for tonight." Another blow landed on her heart. "I'm going to have to stay here at the lake with him until he's back on his feet. I've got to keep an eye on him and also step in to help run his construction company."

  "What about your classes?" But both of them knew she wasn't just asking about school. She was also asking, What about us?

  "I'll have to take an incomplete and make up the work for the last few weeks of school. This summer, probably." Most students wouldn't be able to do this, but Harry was so bright that his professors would likely bend over backward to help him finish his first-year courses.

  "I'll help you any way I can," she offered. "I can even come to the lake tonight. I'll ask around the dorm and see if I can borrow someone's car."

  "Molly." The way he said her name sent chills through her. It was almost worse than hearing I love you, but... "You deserve better."

  She didn't think it was possible for her heart to keep breaking. But every new sentence out of Harry's mouth proved her wrong, made her feel as though she would shatter into a million pieces.

  She wanted to throw her phone out the window. Wanted to crawl into bed and pull her pillow over her head. Wanted to rewind back to earlier when she'd felt so happy, so hopeful.

  But for once she knew she couldn't hide from the truth.

  "What are you saying?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper. "Are you breaking up with me?"

  "I can't ask you to keep waiting for me, for my life to stop being so crazy." His words fell like hammers on her brain. "You should have broken up with me a long time ago."

  Other girls would probably have given up on him after being stood up at least a half-dozen times. But she'd been so desperate for love that even now he had to be the one to end it, because she would have turned herself inside out to keep holding on to him. She would have kept convincing herself that having part of a little was better than having nothing at all.

  And yet, even when he was holding up a mirror and forcing her to see the truth, even after he'd told her he couldn't give her what she needed, that there wasn't any of him left for her--she still might have begged. Until she heard the crashing sound that echoed across the phone line, one so loud that it made her gasp.


  "It's my father. I need to go." The line went dead.


  The next day, Molly had been hit with the world's worst cramps. It had been a relief to have a reason to crawl into bed and curl up into a ball. To tell herself that getting her period was why she was overly emotional and couldn't stop crying. She'd be fine without Harry--she'd been alone before and she could do it again.

  Only, as one day dragged into the next, then one week finally crawled into two, she couldn't deny that she'd never felt more alone. All because Harry had shown her how good it could be when she wasn't alone.

  So when some girls who also lived on her dormitory floor asked her to go out with them, and knowing that if she stayed in she'd only torment herself with more memories of Harry, she'd agreed.

  Molly had thought her life had changed forever the night Harry dumped her. But yet again, she'd been wrong, because it was at a party full of strangers--two weeks after she and Harry split up--that everything had actually changed.

  The night she'd conceived her daughter with a stranger who hadn't wanted anything at all to do with them.


  Present day...

  Molly sighed for what had to be the hundredth time as she drove the residential streets that led to Harry's home. She wasn't at all surprised that he'd fulfilled his promise as a brilliant academic and scholar. Harry was one of the smartest people she'd ever met, though he hadn't ever bragged or lorded it over anyone.

  She was proud of the life she'd built for herself and Amelia. She'd saved every last penny to buy their tiny bungalow just off Alexandria Bay's main street and had filled their home with bright colors on the walls and fabrics and rugs. Still, how could her daughter not compare their little house to the elegant brownstones in Harry's neighborhood without finding it wanting?

  She hated to think how heartbroken Amelia was going to be when Molly told her Harry wasn't her father. All during the drive, she had been kicking herself for not having sat down with her before now to ex
plain things. When her daughter was younger, it had been easy for Molly to justify sweeping information about Amelia's father under the rug. After all, what young child wanted to hear that she'd been born after a one-night stand with a guy who turned out to be a total jerk? Molly prayed fifteen was old enough for Amelia to finally hear the truth without it hurting her.

  As for how Harry would react after he heard Molly's story? After he realized that he and Amelia couldn't possibly be related despite a piece of paper that somehow said otherwise?

  Molly was afraid he'd be devastated. Because how could anyone in their right mind not want Amelia to be theirs? She was the perfect kid. As perfect as any teenager with raging hormones could be, in any case. Thankfully, she didn't have any of that world-weariness that plenty of girls her age exhibited. Amelia didn't spend hours slapping on makeup or trying to convince Molly to let her wear inappropriate clothes that would make her look older.

  Molly pulled up in front of Harry's house, her heart racing. As she got out of the car, she refused to check her hair, which she'd thrown into a ponytail during the drive, or the dark jeans and loose green sweater she'd been wearing at work when he'd called. Why would she, when this was as far from a social call as it got?

  Harry's house was dark, apart from the porch light and another light deeper in. Without yet having been inside his home, she could guess the room where he'd likely be waiting for her. His study, where he'd be surrounded by leather-bound books, and probably with a full suit of armor in the corner. Exactly the life he'd dreamed of having back when they were in college.

  The life she had dreamed of sharing with him.

  Her legs shook as she walked up the stairs, and she felt lightheaded by the time she knocked on his door. Molly had always had a terrible fear that if she and Harry were ever in the same room again, she'd take one look at him and either launch herself into his arms...or fall completely apart. She was about to find out which it would be.

  She heard footsteps and then the lock turning.