Part 2 - Chapter 23 - Who Am I?

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"What did you tell your parents about the two of us going away together?" I asked Hailee as I drove her away from Oxnard. We left early on Sunday morning, before her parents got up, because we had a lot of miles to cover.

She shrugged. "I told them we were going to visit a friend, and I'll be gone a couple of days. It's the truth. I just didn't supply them with all the details."

Yeah, like maybe how she could get herself killed. "They didn't have a problem with that?"

"They like you and trust you," she said. "Besides, I'm old enough to do what I want."

I kept my eyes on the road but sensed her looking at me. "You know I hate this."

"You mean you hate my company?"

I scoffed. "C'mon, you know what I mean."

Glancing over, I found her smiling. "You care about my safety." She started playing with her hair. "Have you considered that I worry about you too? Maybe it's why I'm insisting on coming with you?"

Sure, I assumed she worried about me, but I was a man who wanted to keep her safe and no stranger to violence. I couldn't let Hailee put herself in danger for me. Maybe that made me a chauvinist, but I didn't care.

"What did you pack in that huge bag of yours?" I asked. The thing had been really heavy when I heaved it into the back of the car.

"Jeans, capris, shorts, tops, toiletries, a bathing suit in case I can squeeze in a few laps somewhere, and the guayabera shirt to pull over it, the one I wore to the club yesterday." She took a breath. "A little black cocktail dress in case we go out someplace nice, sneakers, black heels to go with the dress, and a pair of sandals."

"Is that all?"

"Don't mock me, I like to be prepared."

"Showing up at Trent's place with all those clothes, he's going to think you're moving in with him. Not that he would mind."

Hailee grabbed my rear-view mirror and twisted it toward her."Poor Trent. I hope therapy can cure him."

"Hey," I protested.

She rubbed a spot on her chin. "Oh, crap, I'm getting a zit."

I chuckled. "It's not the end of the world. It certainly won't change the way I feel about you."

She pushed the mirror back into place. "Oh? How do you feel about me, Sing?"

I had walked right into that one. My mouth went dry. "I think you know."

"Tell me anyway."

If I revealed to her the true depth of my feelings would it scare her away? Then again, what difference would it make if she was going to marry Brett. I swallowed. "I go empty inside whenever I'm not with you."

She said nothing. When I glanced over at her, I caught her studying me. Intently. Why did she always do that?

"Your turn," I said. "How do you feel about me?"

"Don't you know? Haven't you figured it out?"

I shook my head. "No, I don't know. I don't get you at all. I get signals from you while at the same time you tell me you're getting engaged to Brett. You have my heart twisted in knots."

She peered straight out through the windshield and started playing with her hair. She mumbled, "My love for you makes me question who I really am and what I want from life."

My spirit soared at hearing those words.

"I'm so lost," she said, "and I'm scared."

I extended an arm across the console inviting her to take my hand. She did.

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