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Ross 03 Leave Me Breathless(53)

By:Cherrie Lynn

By the time he knocked, she’d gotten up and slipped into a T-shirt and boxers. The sound, though expected, sent her heart slamming in her chest. She let him in without looking at him, knowing if she did, she might be well and truly screwed. In more ways than one.

“Are you okay?” he asked, shutting the door as she sat on the bed and glanced at the clock. It was almost two. She wondered if he’d had a chance to sober up much yet; somehow, it seemed like it.

“I’m fine.”

“You’ve been crying.”

“So I have.”

He cursed under his breath, rubbing a hand over his head. “Baby, I know what you said is true. Nothing I can say will make what you saw look any better.” He took a seat at the little desk along the wall opposite her, straddling the chair backward, putting himself in her line of sight. Close enough to touch, but he didn’t, and she appreciated that. “Really, you don’t have any reason to believe me. But you don’t have any reason to believe her, either. She’s the one who put her own spin on that scenario. Not me.”

“I was just lying here thinking about that,” she said. “How either one of you has as much reason to lie as the other.”

“I have more to lose,” he said softly. “I admit that. I have way more to lose.”

“That doesn’t really speak in your favor.”

“I know. But it’s the truth.”

“Seth…I’m so sorry about your grandmother. I haven’t been able to talk to you to tell you and…I’m sorry about that scene tonight. Whatever was going on, it wasn’t right of me to do that. I never thought I’d be reduced to…that.”

“You weren’t the only one who was reduced. When I saw you…”

“I know.”

“I’m going to fix this, Macy. I don’t care if we have to start all over again. I’ll put the work in to rebuild it all.” A weak smile flickered across his features, at odds with the passionate way he spoke. “It’s what I do, you know. I get rusted-out old heaps of junk back on the road, I turn scars into art. Maybe I get once-broken cowgirls back on the horse. I’ll do the same for us, if you’ll let me.”

She wanted so much to believe him, to put all her trust back in him. Silence descended, one she didn’t know how to fill, or even if she should. Her anger had burnt itself out, leaving her empty. Tired but with no hope of any rest.

Some things even he couldn’t fix. But if he kept saying things like that, she might be inclined to let him try and…it wasn’t for the best.

“I think we’re no good for each other, Seth. I’ve said it before, but I think we both know how this will end. We’re from different worlds. I saw tonight how much yours can hurt me.”

He gripped the chair back so hard his knuckles paled. “But you’ve also seen how good we are together. How well we bridge the gap when it’s just us, and that’s all that matters, isn’t it? Because in the end, that’s all it’ll be. Just you and me.”

“It’s looking more and more like it would always be you and me and Raina.”

A helpless look crossed his face, and that was when she realized something. He really was helpless when it came to Raina, and honestly, what could he do? A restraining order? What a joke. How the hell did you get rid of someone who simply wouldn’t let go?

“I need some time,” she said. “That’s all I can give you right now.” Another silence fell. “You have a room?” she asked finally.

“Yeah. I guess you’re saying I should get to it?”

“I’m exhausted, and this was a bad idea.”

He made a move to stand but didn’t quite make it. Renewed agitation hit him, and he sat again, rubbing his face hard with his hands. “Shit, Macy, I can’t walk out the door if I think it’ll be the last time. Always wondering if there’s something else I could’ve said to—” He broke off, seeming to get a grip on the emotion strangling his voice, his hand scrubbing his chest as if trying to assuage some phantom ache there. “The fact you even came here to see me… And then for you to see what you did…fuck. I can’t live with myself. I just want to rip off my fucking skin, I feel so foul. I should’ve dumped her ass off me the minute I realized who she was but I just needed…to hurt somebody. The way I hurt. Since I lost Nana, since I pushed you away.”

At least he admitted it. “Did it make you feel better?”

“Hell no. Worse. It was wrong. I know that. I told her what she and I had was never love; it was ugly. That’s how we were to each other all the time. It was like we took out our anger at the world on each other. She was an easy target at the right moment.”

“Sounds meant to be.” There was no mistaking the bitterness in her voice, and she didn’t even try to suppress it.

“I also told her I don’t want that in my life anymore. I’m done with it all. I want what I have with you. I want the way we laugh together. I could never see us turning into anything like that.”

“We did, though, Seth. That night in Fort Worth…that wasn’t right. After we were done and you said I would only leave you, you made me feel pretty foul myself. You turned your back on me when I tried to be there for you. You threw a bunch of accusations in my face and found a reason to run.”

“I did. And I won’t ever do it again. Because as scared as I was of having someone like you—and I was pretty damned scared—I see now that I’m far more freaked out about not having you.”

Maybe she was stronger than she thought. While she did want to believe him—God, more than anything, she wanted to—not only about what had happened with Raina but about how things would be from now on, she kept firm guard around her heart. She hadn’t exactly been forthcoming with him either.

“I need to explain something about me.”

His brows dipped lower over his eyes, a crease appearing between them. “Okay.”

“I really was miserable on Valentine’s night. I mean…yeah. You called that one, I was in the dumps, and not just about differences between me and my friends. I was lonely. I had been for a while, but that night was, like, the culmination.”

“I knew that from the moment I saw you. I made up my mind to do something about it.”

A few more hot tears slipped out, but she forced a smile for him. “Well, you did. But the thing is…you told me once I didn’t seem like a girl who was looking for commitment, but I am. I’m ready to have what my friends have, and more. I want marriage, and I want kids. I’m not saying I want it all tomorrow, or even next year or the year after that. I only have to know…that I’m with someone who can see those things in his future too. If you can’t, then I’ll ask that you not waste my time.”

He blew out a breath, not looking at her but at her hands resting in her lap. She’d just about twisted her own fingers into knots during that speech. “Wow.”

“I know that was blunt, but now’s a good time to get it all out there, right? I think we started out with some preconceived notions about each other. If we know from the start we’ll never give each other what we need, why go on? Relationships that drag on for years and finally break up because of indecision on the part of one or the other…I don’t want that. That seems like such a waste to me.”

“Marriages do the same thing. The vows aren’t the finish line. How many married couples do you know who are miserable, and you look at them and think, ‘Damn, just get divorced already’? Because I know quite a few. I think you’re limiting yourself. Even if I can’t see those things in my future now, maybe I will after a year. Or two. Maybe something will happen in your life, and you won’t see those things anymore. People evolve.”

“I guess I’m not that cynical yet. I’m still convinced when it happens to me, it’ll be happily ever after.”

“Well…sure, you deserve that.”

Silence again, so heavy with unspoken words. Like he said, she deserved it; maybe everyone did, but could he give it to her? Could she give up everything she’d ever dreamed of and believed in to be with him? To be a couple of feathers floating in the wind together with no foreseeable destination…

She looked at him, allowing herself to stare for probably the first time since he came in. Grief etched heavy lines around his mouth. He looked older, a little gaunt, and his all-black attire only lent to the shadows under his eyes. She missed his devil-may-care grin. She missed everything about him.

“You should get to your room and try to sleep,” she said softly. “Don’t think about me right now. We’ll both step back. You’re still grieving.”

Staring at the floor, he nodded and stood. He didn’t look in her eyes as he leaned over and brushed a kiss across her forehead, lingering an endless moment before pulling away. “Without you, I’m grieving over two instead of one.”

As she watched him walk out the door, it was all she could do not to run after him.

Chapter Twenty-Three

“Do you think I’m doing the right thing?”