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Every Time We Fall in Love 7


  Kelsin shook her hand. "It's great to meet you, Amelia. Your dad is a superstar."

  "I know." Amelia looked as though she might burst with joy over being related to Harry.

  Kelsin shook Molly's hand next, holding on a little too long, while staring into her eyes with enough intensity that she wondered if she reminded him of someone. His mother maybe?

  "Are you new to the department, Molly?" Kelsin asked. "I'm sure I would remember if we had met before."

  "No, I'm not. I used to be a student here, though, about a million years ago."

  Kelsin gave her a charming smile. "It couldn't have been that long," he said in a smooth voice.

  "What do you need, Kelsin?" Harry's voice boomed into their conversation, which was when Molly realized he had come to stand next to her. Really close. And he was glowering.

  It was a look very few people ever saw on Harry Sullivan.

  Kelsin looked between the two of them, then at Amelia. Finally, he must have pieced Mom + Dad = Teenager together.

  He lifted his hands slightly as he took a step back. "I just got a text from Dean McIntyre saying that you're going on a leave of absence. Are you sure you're okay with me taking over your classes?"

  "It's fine," Harry growled, rather than thanking his assistant for the help.

  "Cool." Kelsin took another step toward the door. "Then I'll get out of your hair and email if I have any questions."

  "Fine," Harry said again and closed the door behind him with a bang.

  The door had barely shut when Amelia said, "Mom, he was totally flirting with you!"

  "He wasn't."

  "He was." Harry didn't look at all happy about it either.

  "Guys flirt with her all the time," Amelia told him.

  Molly nearly groaned at how obvious Amelia was being. She'd have to nip this matchmaking idea in the bud, pronto.

  Harry slung his leather bag over his shoulder, then yanked open his door so hard it nearly came off the hinges. "I'm done here. We can head back to my place to pack up."

  Okay, so Harry did seem a tad jealous. But Molly knew he was probably only reacting to someone flirting with her because they'd once been together. Jealousy was surely nothing more than some remembered instinct.

  Harry had always been a little on the possessive side, she thought with a little shiver. In the best kind of way...

  God, she really needed to stop thinking back to those nights when they'd barely make it inside her dorm room before he'd rip off her clothes and take her. But, oh, it was so hard to push away such sweetly sinful memories. And only getting harder with every second they spent together.

  How was she going to handle having Harry in her house?

  Molly honestly had no idea.

  CHAPTER NINE

  While Harry packed, Amelia and Molly made sandwiches for the road. From his bedroom upstairs, Harry could hear Amelia praising Aldwin for being a good boy. No doubt the dog was making out like a bandit with the lunch meat. Aldwin knew a soft touch when he saw one. Two soft touches--Molly loved animals as much as their daughter.

  First thing that morning, Harry had sent a text to Drake, Suzanne, Alec, and his father to let them know that he'd fill them in on everything shortly. He hadn't told any of them last night about Molly's doubts over his paternity, which meant they didn't yet know about the second DNA test. Thankfully, they'd understood from his short text that he needed some time alone with Amelia and Molly without his phone going off like crazy. But when he heard Suzanne's ringtone coming from his pocket, he knew the timer on his sister's patience was up. Honestly, she'd made it a good hour longer than he'd expected.

  "Amelia is doing great," he said as soon as he picked up, easily anticipating her first question.

  "Oh good. She's adorable, and I want to talk to her before we hang up. Now, how are you? And is Molly there?"

  "Yes, Molly's here. And I'm good." Amelia's laughter and Aldwin's answering bark made him smile. "Best I've ever been, actually."

  "I'm so glad," Suzanne said. "I was worried about how things would go between you and Molly last night after we left. Alec said you weren't mad at her for some reason, but I've got to confess that I don't understand how you couldn't be."

  This was a conversation he'd better get used to having. Not only with his family, but also with friends who would want to know how on earth neither he nor Molly had known he was Amelia's father.

  "After we broke up, she was absolutely certain she couldn't be pregnant," he explained. "And from the details she gave me, I can understand why she thought that. It wasn't until she dated someone else that she realized she was, in fact, pregnant. So of course she assumed the other guy was Amelia's father. Even her doctor agreed that the dates lined up. It never occurred to anyone back then that the early months of her pregnancy were anything but normal--or that I could be Amelia's father. Remember how Aunt Mary didn't know she was pregnant with the twins at first? The same thing happened with Molly."

  "But if all that's true," Suzanne said slowly, "then are you absolutely sure the other guy isn't the father? I know Amelia did that online DNA test, but--"

  "We did another test this morning with Alec's doctor friend in Brooklyn," Harry cut in. "He confirmed that I'm Amelia's dad."

  "Thank God." Suzanne gave a loud sigh of relief. "I always really liked Molly, but one day she was there, and the next she wasn't. Remind me, why did you guys break up?"

  "It's a long story." One it wouldn't help to dredge up. Especially now that his father was in such a good place. "Suffice it to say, the timing wasn't right for things to work out between us back then."

  "But could you work it out now? Especially now that you know you're both Amelia's parents?"

  This wasn't the first time Suzanne had read his thoughts. His sister's brain worked so fast and went so deep, that mind-reading actually didn't seem that far outside the realm of possibility. Still, he told her what he'd been reminding himself. "One thing at a time, Suz. I've just given notice to the dean in the history department that I'm taking a leave of absence. I'm packing right now to head to Alexandria Bay this afternoon. They've invited me to stay with them."

  If she was at all stunned by this turn of events, she didn't let on. "Of course you should go to Alexandria Bay to be with them. And staying in their house is perfect. Not only because you and Amelia will really get a chance to know each other that way, but because this will also give you and Molly some good time together to see if you want to rekindle things."

  "I wish it was that easy," he admitted, given that Suzanne had already guessed his intentions, even over the phone. "But given how bad Molly feels about everything, I'm not sure it will be. She's thrilled that I'm Amelia's father," he clarified, "and she's an incredible mother, but she's twisting herself up in knots with guilt over not figuring out Amelia's paternity before now, even though it's not her fault." Every time he thought about the way she'd looked when she'd been crying and apologizing in the kitchen, his heart felt like it was going to break.

  "It's not your fault either, Harry." His sister knew him well enough to read between the lines of what he hadn't yet said.

  "I'm not blameless. Not in the least."

  "That still doesn't mean you should beat yourself up for a past you can't go back and change. We've seen Dad do that his whole life. I couldn't stand to see you do that too. None of us could."

  Despite the emotions roiling through him, he couldn't deny that what Suzanne was saying made sense. Harry and his siblings knew better than anyone that you couldn't go back and change the past--and just how much continually mourning the past and the mistakes you made could destroy the present. The last thing he wanted to do was to let past hurts and resentments harm his new, growing bond with Amelia.

  What if he and Molly could start fresh too?

  "I know it's probably hard to see the forest for the trees right now," Suzanne added, "but at least think about what I'm saying. Otherwise, we're all going to worry about you."

  "I wi
ll," he promised. "Yesterday was pretty crazy--and you guys came through for me and Amelia big time--but everything's good now. You don't have to worry about me anymore."

  "You always say that, Harry, but everyone needs help. Especially with something as huge as learning you're the father of a teenage daughter. You've always taken such good care of us, always helped us when we needed it. Now we're going to do the same for you. And Amelia. And Molly too. Because whether or not you end up getting romantically involved with her again, she's still going to be an important part of our lives from here on out."

  Suzanne's offer of support was an almost perfect echo of what Alec had said, only his sister was making it clear that his siblings intended to support all three of them.

  "Now, go find Amelia for me," Suzanne said. "I want to talk with her before you hit the road."

  Harry headed downstairs to the kitchen, where Amelia was doing some sort of dance in the middle of the room that included a very bemused-looking Aldwin on his hind legs. Molly was laughing so hard she was clutching her stomach.

  "Amelia, your Aunt Suzanne is on the phone. She wants to say hi."

  Amelia stopped dancing with Aldwin, then grabbed the phone from Harry's hand. "Aunt Suzanne!" Amelia nodded vigorously at whatever Harry's sister said. "It's the best news ever, right? And now he's coming to stay with us for a while too!"

  Harry joined Molly at the kitchen island, where she was cleaning up after having made sandwiches.

  "Everyone at school is freaking out and can't wait to meet my dad," Amelia said into the phone. "I've told them about all of you too, so hopefully you can come up soon. Actually..." She bit her lip, looking slightly uncertain. "I'm going to be in The Sound of Music on Friday. I'm Louisa, the one who's always reading a book. I know it's a long way to come--"

  Though Harry couldn't make out what his sister said, her reply was obvious when Amelia's grin threatened to split her face.

  "Seriously? That would be amazing if you were able to come! Especially because Friday is also my mom's birthday, so you could be there for that too."

  Molly shot Harry a look, one that grew more and more panicked as Amelia continued speaking. Of course he remembered Friday was Molly's birthday. How could he forget when it was also the anniversary of his mother's death?

  "We don't have a ton of room at our house," Amelia went on, "especially now that Dad's going to be in the guest room, but we could find sleeping bags." She paused to let Suzanne respond, then said, "Yeah, there's a hotel close to our house. That will totally work."

  As Amelia and Suzanne chatted, it became clear that their conversation wasn't going to end anytime soon. Harry said to Molly, "Are you okay with my family coming on Friday? Suzanne just said she wanted to chat with Amelia. I didn't realize she was going to round up the whole gang for a road trip to Alexandria Bay."

  "I think it's amazing that your family are all so thrilled to be a part of Amelia's life. She's a part of your family now, a big family too, which is what I know she's always wanted. I would never get in the way of that."

  "But you're still concerned about something, aren't you?"

  She bit her lip, looking so much like Amelia when she felt uncertain. "I'm nervous," she admitted. "What if your family aren't as forgiving as you've been? If they are angry, it's no less than I deserve."

  "Molly." He wanted to reach for her, wanted to take her hands in his, and he might have if Aldwin hadn't shoved his head beneath his hand just then. "I've told Suzanne what happened--what she needs to know, at least. She doesn't judge you or blame you. And after everyone else is filled in, no one else is going to judge you or blame you either."

  "I do," she said softly.

  He knew exactly how she felt, because he felt the same way about himself. But Suzanne was right--the two of them beating themselves up wasn't going to help anyone. Least of all Amelia.

  "We could argue all day about who has more blame to shoulder, but that won't help Amelia, will it?"

  "No," she said after a few beats. "I suppose it won't."

  "So then, what do you say you and I make a fresh start?"

  She looked stunned by his suggestion. "Do you really think that's possible?"

  "I hope so." Unable to keep his distance, he moved closer. "The more I think about it, the more I wonder if the best thing we can do is look forward, rather than staying focused on the past."

  Molly cocked her head. "Isn't that pretty much the exact opposite of what a history professor should say? Aren't we supposed to learn from the past so we don't make the same mistakes again?"

  "Of course we should learn from our mistakes. But you and I both know that history is rarely clear-cut or straightforward. It can be easy to paint things in black and white, right and wrong. But people are rarely totally good or bad. Mostly, we're all just trying to make the best decisions we can, with the information we have at hand. We don't always get it right." Harry shook his head. "I know I certainly haven't. Which is why I hope you'll give me a second chance. At the very least, to celebrate your birthday with you on Friday...and to get it right this time."

  Now she looked even more stunned. "I know what a big day it is for your family, Harry. Especially your father."

  "He's doing a lot better this year." Harry silently prayed his father's outlook would keep improving. "And since it sounds like my family is coming for Amelia's show, there will be plenty of people there to support him if he needs it."

  Before she could respond, Aldwin shoved his head even harder against Harry's hand.

  "I'm sorry," Harry said, "Aldwin has obviously waited until the last second to ask to go out, so I need to take him. But though I know all of this has happened really quickly and unexpectedly, I hope you'll think about what I've said."

  *

  A fresh start.

  Only someone as selfless and giving and wonderful as Harry could suggest that.

  Molly wanted to leap at his offer.

  She also wanted to leap into his arms and never let go.

  But could she?

  Or would the past haunt them no matter their intentions not to let it?

  Especially with Friday looming only a few days away. Not only her birthday, but also the anniversary of the day when Harry had lost his mother. She couldn't imagine how the day was going to play out, other than to know how happy and joyful Amelia would be over the Sullivans coming to see her high school musical.

  From the backyard, Harry turned and caught Molly's eye. She couldn't look away, couldn't stop herself from drinking him in. And now, despite her worries about the future, she couldn't hold back a smile.

  Just as it always had, simply having him close again was enough to make her heart sing.

  *

  Suzanne Sullivan passed around the plate of cheese and crackers she'd put together for the family meeting. She wasn't much of a cook, and Roman was with a client, so it was the best everyone was going to get. After leaving Harry's house last night, Suzanne, Drake, Alec, and her father had agreed to reconvene at her place this afternoon to discuss Harry's situation--and to decide how to help him, if necessary.

  She had just finished relaying the details of her phone call with Harry, when her father said, "Someone remind me, when did Harry and Molly break up?"

  "I was a sophomore in high school." Drake hesitated slightly. "The last time she ever called, she sounded upset. I think Harry was supposed to get together with her. But he was at the lake." Drake looked uncomfortable as he said, "I'm pretty sure it was the anniversary of Mom's death."

  Suzanne frowned as the pieces started falling into place. "Amelia just told me Molly's birthday is this Friday. The same day that Mom died."

  Alec cursed, even as Drake shook his head and said, "You guys don't think that's why they broke up, do you? Because Harry wasn't able to be there for her?"

  "It must be." William Sullivan looked gutted. "The year you were a sophomore in high school, Drake, was particularly rough for me. I have no doubt it's my fault that they broke up."<
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  "Dad, wait--" Suzanne began, but William held up a hand to stop her protests.

  "Things are still pretty hazy when I look back, but the one thing I do remember with perfect clarity was that Harry was constantly there for me. I must have known he was giving up his own life for my sake, but I was too busy feeling sorry for myself to care. Even though I'd heard him talk about Molly, even though I knew she was important to him, I cared more about myself than about my son."

  "Look," Alec said to their father, "I'm not going to absolve you of any of that. But the truth is that you weren't the only one leaning hard on him back then. I was out spending every night at the bars, and he was always coming to get me before I did something really stupid."

  Drake nodded. "He was also making sure Suz and I got through high school with good enough grades to get into the universities we wanted."

  "Even if he had wanted to make it work with Molly back then," Suzanne said, "how could he?" Her chest hurt thinking about how they'd all taken Harry for granted. "I always wondered why he hasn't yet found anyone."

  "He must still have been in love with Molly, all this time," Drake said.

  "But he was too busy babysitting us," Alec agreed.

  "I've got to make it up to him." Their father stood. "I've got to show him that I don't need to lean on him anymore. And that I'm not going to keep falling apart over your mother."

  Suzanne hated seeing her father like this, even if she couldn't argue with what he'd said. "All of us being in Alexandria Bay to support Amelia will be a good start."

  "Not good enough." William headed for the door. "I need to buy supplies."

  "Supplies?" Drake looked at Suzanne and Alec, then back at William. "For what? A new building project?"

  "For a new painting." And then he was out the door and gone.

  "Painting?" Suzanne couldn't believe her ears. "Is he serious?"

  "He hasn't mentioned anything to me about wanting to paint again," Drake said. "So either this new idea of his is going to be brilliant...or it's going to totally backfire."

  "And when it does," Alec said, "Harry's going to feel like he needs to pick up the pieces. Again."

  "No." Suzanne was determined. "We can't let that happen. The three of us are officially on Dad duty now. Drake, you figure out what art store Dad's heading to and take the first shift. I'll meet up with him tonight, and then Alec, you've got tomorrow morning. We'll keep rotating through until Friday, at which point we'll all work to keep an eye on him in Alexandria Bay." Her voice softened. "Dad never meant to hurt any of us. Whatever his plan is now, I truly believe he does want to make amends. Even though I know Harry would never hold a grudge or expect anyone to make reparations."