Say You'll Stay (Return to Me #1)

Say You'll Stay (Return to Me #1)

Corinne Michaels

To the love that let me go so I could find the one worth holding on to.

And to my father, who showed me the kind of man I don’t want in my life. You may not have thought I was good enough for you, but it was you who wasn’t good enough for me.

“The rain will stop, the night will end, and the hurt will fade. Hope is never so lost that it can’t be found.”

—Mandy Hale

“W HY DON’T YOU HEAD HOME, Presley? I can close up,” Angie offers from behind the counter.

We run a small cupcake shop in Media, Pennsylvania. It’s been a long few days with our two bakers being sick. I’ve worked almost forty hours in three days, and I’m beyond tired. Angie doesn’t bake, but she runs the business side of things, which means I’ve had to fill in both spots by myself.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” She laughs. “Now go before I call Todd and make him drag you out.”

“You’re lucky I love you.”

She kisses my cheek. “I love you more, even if you drive me nuts with your need for perfection.”

Angelina, or Angie as we all call her, is my sister-in-law and former college roommate. My husband is her brother, who I fell in love with when he was there for me during a dark time in my life. Of course, at first she didn’t love the idea of us dating, but she came around when she saw how well we fit together.

“I’ll see you in the morning.” I grab my coat and head to my car before I find a reason to stick around.

I call my house, but the boys don’t answer. I picture Logan with his headphones on, playing some mindless game, and Cayden refuses to move for anything. It’s a daily adventure with those two. It’s hard to believe they’ll both be in middle school next year. It feels like they were infants only yesterday.

The machine beeps, and I pray one of them or my husband hears it. “Hey boys, I’m on my way home. I hope your homework is done. I’d like to maybe go out for dinner? Love you! Oh, and Todd . . . don’t forget to call your mother, she’s called eight times this week.”

I turn out of the lot and head to where I’m sure chaos is in full effect. We own a beautiful row home about ten minutes from the bakery. His parents moved to Florida to escape the cold winters, and there was no way in hell I was moving back to Tennessee after college. I’d have to be dragged there in cuffs. So, my in-laws sold it to us after we got married. We gutted it, and now it’s everything I could want. The remodel ended up costing more than buying a new place, but we wanted to live here.

Once I park, I check myself quickly. My face is covered in various baking products, and thanks to the bowl of flour I sent flying earlier today, my dark brown hair is sprinkled with white powder. Typical day.

“Hello?” I call out as I enter the house. Papers are thrown around, shoes are left where they landed, and coats are dropped right where the boys walked in. I swear, getting anyone to hang something up is like pulling teeth. “Boys! Clean this mess!” I yell, but no one responds.

I walk toward the family room where, exactly as I assumed, they’re playing a game with their headphones on. I lift one side off each of their ears. “Hey!”

“Mom!” they both grumble. “We’re playing a game.”

“I see that. How about you play clean the hallway? I think that sounds like a fun game.” I smile and kiss them each on the cheek, which grants me another protest. “Aww, don’t you want your Mommy—”

“Stop!” They pause the game and jump up. “You love to embarrass us,” Logan complains.

“It’s my mission in life.” I shrug. “Where’s your dad?”

“We haven’t seen him since we got home. I guess he’s upstairs.”

“Go clean up, and then we’ll talk about how school was.” I point to the door as they drag their feet.

Mama always said boys are easier. Maybe having only one is, but twins are a whole new world of fun. They use the other to bargain for what they want. Todd and I are always on our toes. That being said, I have no doubt that being a parent is the most rewarding job in the world.

“Babe?” I call toward the bedroom.

No answer.

“Todd! I’m home.”

He’s probably in his office or on the phone. We have a relationship that all our friends envy. No matter what obstacles we face, we have each other. He’s truly the most loving and caring man I’ve ever met. He’s never strayed or been anything but supportive. When I said that Angie and I wanted to open the store, he didn’t blink. We took out loans, and he stood behind me. I know that I can always count on him. He loves me more than I deserve.

I climb the stairs but don’t see him in the office or the boys’ room.

“Babe, are you here?” I ask again with no response. “Todd?” I look around the bedroom, but he’s not here.

I walk toward the bathroom. “Hun, are you in here? You can at least answer me.” I laugh and open the door.

My body goes still.

My heart shatters.

My world crumbles.

“No!” I scream, rushing toward him. His body hangs limp on a rope tied to the beam in the ceiling. His lips are blue, eyes bloodshot, and there’s not a sound coming from him. “God, no!” I grab his legs, trying to hold him up as my body shakes. I need to get him down. Fear grips me as I use all my strength to keep him from hanging.

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