Read Just a Little Promise Online

Authors: Tracie Puckett

Tags: #Young Adult, #Romance, #Contemporary

Just a Little Promise (8 page)

“The whole time?”
I asked, wrapping my coat tighter. The cold wind trumped the warmth of the fire, so it worried me that he’d spent so long in these elements.

“I didn’t sleep here, if that’s what you’re asking,” he said. “I slept at home. I came
back first thing this morning.

I nodded. “It’s cold—”

“It’s… the only place I can….” He dropped his head. “I don’t trust myself around him. I had to walk away, Julie.”

“He never meant to hurt me, Luke,” I said
, for what it was worth
. “I provoked him. I

hit him first, actually. He just didn’t want to believe what I was telling him. He wanted me to stop talking, but… I didn’t. It was my fault

“It’s never your fault when someone else hurts you, Julie,” he said. “
And I’m going to take care of it.
I just… have to ge
t my head on straight before I do. I have to get rid of all this
rage… and that means letting go of
everything I’ve been holding on to. Because… the way I feel about you, kid… it conquers everything else. Nothing else is that big. Not me, not Charlie, not my father… and not my past. You are the most important
thing in my life
. And loving you means
you, so I’m going to make this right—”

“You know what I want, Luke?” I asked. “I want you to forgive him. If you can let
of what he did to you, you can let go of what he did to me.
It wasn’t intentional. Lonnie’s
a good guy at heart
, you know that
. He has an amazing wife, an incredible son, and
world of love to give to the people who
take the time to understand him.
” I took his hands and squeezed them tight. “
I want to be in your life, Luke. And I want that life to include Lonnie and Grace. They’re your family. They’re the only family you have left.
So, p
lease… put this anger behind you. Stop running. Bec
ause eventually, you’re gonna
get old. And do you really want to reach the end of your life and reflect… and realize that you spent so many years running from the people who loved you the most?”

Luke didn’t say anything, but
he nodded.

“Luke,” I said, sliding in closer to him. “You can’t control what Lonnie does any more than you can control the weather. He’s your father. He’s bound to
ou off sometimes—if not more so
than I do.” He smiled. We both knew it was true. I had a way of pushing Luke’s buttons.
If anything, I’d become a master at pissing him off; t
hat’s what brought us out to this field
all those
months ago
in the first place
“Take a breath. Let it go. Make things right with him.”

A few silent moments passed before another sound came from
either of
us. This time, it was Luke.

“Jules,” he said, shaking his head. “Promise me something.”


“That you’ll never stop.”

“Never stop what

He took a deep breath and
slowly exhaled.
“Loving me the way you do.”

I nodded as a tear slipped from my eye.

“I’ll always love you, Luke,” I said. “I promise.”

Monday December 24, 7pm

We stood outside the door of Lonnie and Grace’s house. Luke’s hand was entwined with mine, and even now I could feel his palms
sweating through
my gloves.

The Christmas lights on their house sparkled and blinked with the change of each carol
they played
, and the snow fell almost rhythmically with each change of the lights.

the first time we’re going to be in
the same
room together for this long
… God, I don’t know
how long
,” Luke said, still staring at the doorbell.

Grace and Lonnie had extended an invitation to me, Charlie, and Matt to join them at their annual Christmas celebration. Behind the door, Charlie and Matt (who’d brought Kara) were inside, celebrating the holidays with their friends. No doubt Bruno was there. But I’d waited
at the house
to see if Luke would
show up and tag
along, though he wasn’t invited.

He wanted to take th
first step. He wanted to make amends. Not for my sake, but for his. He was nervous, and rightfully so.

“You don’t have to do this if you’re not ready,” I said, squeezing his fingers tighter.

He nodded, but
let go of my hand. He extended
his arm toward the d
oorbell and took a brief pause
. His finger hovered in the air just an inch from the button, but he never pushed it.

“Julie,” he turned back to me.

“It’s okay,” I said. “We’ll just go back home. I’ll
a pizza and we can just put this whole
behind us

“No,” he said. “I want to go in… I just… first…
thank you

I smiled and nodded. “You don’t have to thank me, Luke. I didn’t do anything.”

“You’re giving me my life back,” he said.
“And not just my old life, but a better one.
One with my dad… one with you.
And I don’t deserve

“Stop,” I said. “You do. You deserve it more than anyone I know.”

Once again, he reached for the bell.

“Luke,” I said, before he rang it. He turned back to me with a questionable glance. “Before we go in
there… I just want to say


“I love you,” I said. “You need to know that

“I do

“But really,” I said. “I haven’t had a chance to just say that to you. Either you’re fighting to stay alive, or brooding, or running… every time I’ve been able to tel
l you that… I can’t just
say it
without looking for some kind of response or end result.
There’s always something attached to it. Like,
Luke, I love you, don’t die
. Or
Luke, I love you, please don’t kill Lonnie
. Or
Luke, I love you, please forgive your dad

“Julie,” he said, lifting his hand to brush a snowflake off my cheek. “I love you too.”

He lowered his lips to
finally filling my mouth with the taste and warmth I’d so long hoped for. An internal combustion of fireworks exploded in my body, heating every surface, every vein, and
every nerve.

I was so hopelessly, irrevocably in love with him. And for the first time since we’d met, I didn’t have to question how he felt.

He was here
right in front of me. I was wrapped in his arms, a willing
of his tender embrace,
and enjoying every second of our rhythmic kiss.

When he pulled away, he brushed my face yet again, this time just to feel the warmth of my cheeks beneath his fingers.

“Promise me something,” I whispered.


“That you’ll never stop.”

A small smi
rk lifted the corner of his lip
. “Never stop what?”

“Kissing me the way you do,” I said, trying to restrain a smile.

A low groan escaped
his throat, and I couldn’t help but flash him a daring smile.

,” he said, shaking his head. “I will hold you, love you, kiss you, and protect you… forever. I promise.”

And with that, our lips fell together again. Luke held me close against his tight body. Even through the layers, I could feel the heat radiating from his body. We were lost in a kiss that felt far too right, and completely unbreakable
… until the front door swung open and Lonnie stood at the threshold.

Luke and I pulled away, both staring forward at Lonnie.

“Lonnie,” I said, trying to keep my tone formal despite his overly eccentric Christmas sweater.
I wanted to laugh, God I wanted to. But Luke nudged me with his elbow and I straightened up.
“I hope
okay that I brought a date?”

Luke’s father eyed
, and the two men stared at each other for a few long seconds, both expressionless.

When Luke raised his hand to invite a handshake from his father, Lonnie shook his head.

“No,” he said, taking a step
onto the porch

They stood a foot away from each other, both of them staring. Luke gnawed on his bottom lip; Lonnie breathed heavily. And without a moment’s notice, they fell into each other’s arms. Lonnie wrapped his son
in a hug big enough, warm enough,
assuring enough to last until the end of time. The two men held on to each other for so long I couldn’t keep track of the minutes.

“Welcome home, Lucas,” Lonnie
finally said through heavy sobs as he wiped his face with the sleeve of his

arm, the two men walked into the house to join Grace, Bruno, Charlie, Matt, Kara, and the rest of the party.

I turned and looked out at the snow, watching as it picked up.
I reached up and held the key around my neck—which I’d made into a necklace—and closed my eyes.
I wished Derek a silent Merry Christmas, wherever he was. And then I turned into the house, to be with the people I loved… re
fusing to waste a single breath from that moment on.

For the first time in a long time, my heart was right at home.

Dear Reader,

If you enjoyed reading
Just a Little
and have a moment to spare, I would greatly appreciate a review on the site where you purchased the book.

Thank you!


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