Home > Conviction (Salvation #4)

Conviction (Salvation #4)
Author: Corinne Michaels

To my mother, you always believed in me even when I didn’t.

Your love, friendship, support, and courage made me the woman I am today.

Without you, none of this would be possible.

 

 

Time isn’t something I ever thought much about.

It ebbs and flows, but it never changes. I can’t make it stop—no matter how much I want to. There’s no way to rewind the clock or halt it. In this moment, all I want is to make the world stop and go back to when I was happy and ready to tackle the world. Just two short minutes ago, there was no worry about how my day would go. I was going away with the man I love, the one who healed me. But time isn’t my friend. It slaps me in the face and laughs as I stand here wondering how the hell any of this is happening. I don’t want to move forward, and I sure as hell don’t want to slow it down.

“Aaron?”

He stands before me—alive. The man who I would’ve sold my soul to have back again a year ago is here. I take a hesitant step forward. I’m aware of the people around me, but my mind can’t focus on anything else but him.

“Hi, baby,” he rasps.

“Oh, my God. You’re alive?” I ask and step closer. His dark brown eyes glimmer with hope and happiness.

“I’m here,” he says, and I rush forward. My arms wrap around his neck while the tears fall. He’s alive and here. In my arms, I hold my lost husband as he rubs my back. My heart races as I fully start to process what’s happening. Aaron holds the back of my head as I sob into his chest. “I missed you so much,” he murmurs and rocks.

“You’re alive.” My heart stutters while I struggle to catch my breath. I hold him closer and squeeze just to be sure.

He winces, and I step back. Aaron comes forward with a smile, and I place my hand on his face. He has bruises on the side of his cheek and neck, his hair is long, but it’s really him. The man I loved for so long and the father of my daughter is home. It’s unbelievable.

“I-I thought . . .” I choke on the words, as my breathing grows shallow. “You’re . . . I don’t know what—”

My mind spins as the last year of grief, sadness, and devastation crashes around me. He was alive and we didn’t know. We didn’t look. Or maybe it’s just a dream?

“Shh.” He takes my hand in his. “It’s okay now. I’m here, we’re going to be fine, baby. I’m home.”

The words filter through me and my gaze shifts as I notice movement to the right.

Liam. Oh my God . . . Liam.

I look over to the side where he stands with his head bowed. My heart thumps out of sync. Tears well in my eyes as the enormity of this moment comes down around me. Liam still doesn’t look at me. The pain lances through me as I beseech with my eyes for him to turn and look at me.

Please, just see me, I beg him, but he doesn’t lift his eyes.

My feet move toward him, but he still doesn’t move.

“Liam, please,” I plead with tears falling.

His eyes lift, and while his face is stoic, his eyes give it away. He’s hurting.

“Natalie?” Aaron’s voice breaks through the small moment I was having with Liam.

I turn around and try to get a hold of myself. Jackson and Mark stand to the side, watching the mess unfold. There’s so much confusion rolling around within me. I don’t know what to do, where to turn, or how any of this is happening. I was packing my car to go to Corolla. I was going to spend time with the man I love. The man I was building a future with. And now my husband is here.

I step back and my body begins to shake. This is too much. No one can endure this and come out on the other side. I’m losing it. Shock rolls through me like waves on the sand. “I can’t breathe,” I say aloud.

Mark takes a step toward me. “Lee, it’s okay.”

I laugh sarcastically. “No. None of this is okay. None of this makes any sense!” I scream as my heart implodes. “I can’t! I mean, this isn’t real.”

I feel someone close in behind me and Mark shakes his head. “It is real.”

Turning around, Aaron is right there. “I’m here, Lee. I’m home.” He sounds so hopeful as if this is everything I could want. Of course I had wanted this for so long. He was my world and now he’s back, but what does all this mean? Liam is the man I love. How am I going to do this now?

Aaron’s hand reaches out then he touches my arm. My body locks as Liam watches with sadness in his eyes. I look at Aaron, and the past comes down upon me. This isn’t my husband I dreamt of. This isn’t the man I loved with every part of me. This is the man that a few months ago I found out had an affair. The same man who almost had a baby with someone else. His hands feel foreign, and as he goes to embrace me, my hand rises and I stop him. I’m no better than he is in this moment. “Please, just, I need . . .” I trail off.

Liam is here, watching me go into another man’s arms. Five minutes ago, I was relieved Aaron’s alive and Liam saw the joy in my face. I’m killing him. I see it.

“No!” I yell and step back. “Please, don’t touch me.” My hand flies to my mouth as shock locks my body in place.

Aaron’s hand drops and his breath hitches. “You’re my wife, Lee. I know you’re confused and this is a lot to take, but I’m here, baby.”

I move toward Liam, his blue eyes meet mine as I rush toward him. I take his hands in mine, but he releases them. My heart shatters as he steps back.

“Don’t pull away from me,” I demand.

“I think you need some time,” his voice cracks. “You need to talk.”

“I don’t know what I need,” I acknowledge.

“Lee,” he says and looks at Aaron, but then he returns his gaze to me.

I see it in his eyes, the resolution forming and masking over this pain. “You’re going to walk away from me, aren’t you?” Tears fall relentlessly as I wait for his answer.

Liam’s hand lifts, and he tenderly cups my cheek. “I’m not walking away. I need a minute.”

Aaron clears his throat. “I missed a lot more than you filled me in on. I guess I understand why you’ve been so quiet now.”

The loss of Liam’s touch registers immediately.

Anger boils within as the hurt and betrayal at Aaron’s hand over the last few months comes flooding forward. “You should stop,” I demand.

“My wife?” he yells and steps forward. “You’ve been fucking my wife?”

“You were dead!” I scream, and my legs give out. I fall to the hard ground as the gravel scrapes my skin. Liam’s arms are around me in an instant.

“Get your hands off of her! You son of a bitch!” Aaron continues to raise his voice warning Liam. “I’ll kill you!”

I look up, and Jackson and Mark are holding on to Aaron, dragging him to the back of the house.

I turn into Liam’s embrace allowing his strong arms to hold me close. “Take me to Corolla. I’ll grab Aara, and we can go,” I plead. “Please, take me away.”

“Lee,” he says with regret laced in his voice. “I can’t. I wish we could, but we can’t.”

“No,” I reply defiantly. “You and I had plans.”

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