Nine

Layton walks beside me, the kids trailing not far behind. Our

destination is unknown and as I've come accustomed to, I don't even ask.

"What are you thinking?" Layton asks in a soft whisper. I shake my head.

"Come on Jane, something's on your mind." He says.

I glance back at the boys, making sure they won't be able to hear what

I'm about to say.

"Why are we here?" I ask.

"I'm here so see my father-,"

"No," I say. "Why are we here? Zane and I. Why do you need us?"

"Jane,"

"Don't lie to me." I say loudly.

He swallows. "I won't." He motions to Zane and Michael. "Why don't you

boys play a game of tag?" He suggests, motioning to the small park ahead

of us.

The kids run to the park while Layton sits beside me on a wooden bench.

His fingers twiddle in his lap as he stares out into the park. "You

won't understand," He says softly.

Unable to bring words to my mouth, I say nothing. He meets my eyes and

takes a long breath. "That day I met you in the woods," he says. "that

wasn't an accident."

"What?" I mutter, surprising myself that I can form any words at all.

"I knew that I would find you there," he continues.

"What do you mean?"

"My father told me you-,"

"Your father?" I shout.

"Jane let me finish!" He shouts back. I shut my mouth. "My father told

me you and your brother would be there,"

"But how?" I mutter.

He bites his lip. "Five years ago your parents flew to California for a

family emergency, yes?"

I stutter. "Y-yes. But how do you-,"

Layton swallows. Whatever he's about to say he obviously doesn't want

to say it. "That was the first day I met your parent's." He says. "At my

mother's funeral."

"You met my parents?" I ask, tears clouding my eyesight.

He nods slowly. "Twenty-five years ago, Jane, our parents knew each

other very well. So well they decided to join together to build a

company that would eventually become very successful. A company that

would one day be ours, should we wish to become its successors."

"Layton,"

"Jane, I'm telling the truth." He insists.

"Then how come I've never heard of this before?" I cry. "This makes

absolutely no sense! My parents would have told me!"

"Maybe, but-,"

"If this was such a successful company why did I grow up in rags?" I

shout. "If our parents were such good friends why haven't I heard even

the mention of your name? What happened?" I cry.

Layton puts his hand on my shoulder. "I don't know all the answers."

"But you knew about this and didn't tell me!"

"It's not like that," He mutters. "He, he told me not to,"

"Who told you not to tell me?" I yell, removing his hand from my

shoulder. "Your father?"

His eyes search mine. "Yes," He says quietly.

"But I thought our families were friends?" I say.

"They were."

"Than what happened?" I demand.

He takes a long breath and looks deep into my eyes. "When you were born

your father loved you so much." He says softly, a genuine smile resting

on his lips. "He showed more love to you in the first months of your

life than my father has in twenty-one years. My father cared more about

the company than my family and I. He always has and always will." He

says silently. "When he found your father spending more time with you

than he was working for the business, all was gone. Any loyalty they had as

friends disappeared, or at least for my father it did.

"Your father realized his family was more important than any amount of

financial success he could find. Leaving it all to my family, your

parents took you and the small amount of money they had and moved far

away."

At hearing this many tears trickle down my cheeks at the thought of such

love.

My parent's gave up everything for Zane and me.

"My father was so enraged at your parents that he wished to never see

them again," Layton continues. "Yet my mom was so fond of your mother

they kept in contact. It wasn't until my mom's death that my father

talked to your parent's again. They flew into town with what little

money they had to pay their respects, leaving you and Zane with a

neighbor I'm sure." He smiles. "I remember their kindness." He says.

"For a long time I wished they had been my parent's..." He trails off.

"That is when I ran away with Michael."

I nod, overcome with so much emotion. "Did you run away to find me?" I

ask quietly.

He shakes his head. "Not at first. Like I told you before, I was so sick

of all the schools and colleges I had before me. Jane, I'm not meant to

sit at a desk!" He cries. "I didn't want to take my dad's place as CEO

and I still don't!" He puts a hand to his head. "I found you because my

father proposed a way out of all of that."

I squint my eyes. "What are you talking about?" I ask.

"He had hired men to catch Michael and me. To take us back so I could

resume school and follow in his footsteps. I knew you were still alive."

He says, somewhat in a hopeful matter. Somewhat sadly. "I knew you were

still alive." He repeats. "Somewhere out there you were well and good

to..., well," He bites his lip. "To take over a company that was

technically yours anyways."

I shut my eyes. "You think I'm going to take you're place."

He now takes both my hands in his. "I used to." He says. "But I

didn't know you lived the way you did. I didn't think I would find you

fighting for survival in the woods just like I have for all these years.

I thought for sure you'd be..., well,"

"What? More educated? Civilized?"

"Jane, no! That's not what I mean at all!"

"It doesn't matter," I say.

His shoulders fall. "Of course it does." He whispers. "When I met you, I

didn't know what to think. I certainly wasn't expecting to meet someone

so much like myself."

I raise a brow. "No. I wouldn't have used you like you're doing to me."

His mouth opens to object. "And don't try telling me that you're not. We

both know its just a matter of days before you bring me to your father

and he turns me into some kind lawyer. "

He shakes his head furiously. "I won't let that happen to you."

I tilt my head. Yeah right.

"Maybe I would have weeks ago. Maybe before I got to know you and your

brother I would have let take my place. But not now."

His hand traces the tears on my cheek. "Not now." He repeats.

I stare at him for a long time. Words coming into my head but not making

it out my mouth. Finally something finds a voice. "Why?"

"Because," he says. "I've fallen in love with you."

He stares me in the eyes. "I've fallen in love with the way you laugh

and the way you smile." He says softly. "I've fallen in love with the

way you care for Zane and the way you love life. I love the fact that

you treat Michael as your own child and even when it's been difficult

you have continued to trust me." He chokes on his words. "Jane, I love

loving you."

To say "I love you too seems" so in adequate as a reply to that sentiment.

Instead I say nothing as the silence between us turns into our hearts'

humming. They hum a song I'll never share. They hum a song that voices

could never find the right words or tune to sing to.

I pull him close and bury my head in his chest. I can feel his heart

beating rapidly and I'm sure he can feel my tears as they sink into his

t-shirt . "What are we going to do?" I cry.

He leans down to meet my eyes. "Leave that to me." He whispers. "I'll

take care of everything."

I shake my head.

"What?" He asks.

I wipe my tears. "Do you trust me?"

He tilts his head with a curious smile. "Strangely I think I do." He says.

"Than I think I have a plan."

"Really?" He says with a grin.

I nod my head and stare endlessly into his eyes wondering when I

first knew. Giving him a gentle kiss, I seal it with reassurance. "I

love you too." I whisper.

He smiles. "God, I thought you'd never say it."

And then we kiss again.