I shake my head and squeeze my eyes closed again. “Don’t be sorry—it’s not your fault. I have to just . . . get over it. I will. I can’t . . . I can’t be with you anymore that way, Stanton. I know you’ll be hurting from Jenny . . . But—”
“That’s not what I meant! Slow down, please. Listen to me.”
But if I stop to listen, I’ll never get it all out. He’ll never understand. And I meant what I said—I don’t want to lose him.
“We’ll be friends again. This won’t come between us. We can go back—”
I never finish the words. His mouth covers mine, cutting them off, swallowing them whole. He grasps my face, pulling me to him—touching me like he never has before. With desperation, like he’ll die if he has to let me go.
His desire for me is a palpable, throbbing ache between us—and I submerge myself in it, willing to drown. His fingertips are hot on my skin, scorching enough to scar. And I hope they do. I yearn for remembrance. Proof that I was here, that this is what we felt. That even for a moment . . . we were real.
He turns us and we fall to the bed, the feel of his strength, his rigid length pressing down on me, a welcome weight. I writhe beneath him and Stanton tears at my clothes like they’re the enemy.
It’s not a smart thing to do; it’ll hurt in the morning. But I won’t say no. This . . . this I get to have.
The pant of his breath, the scrape of his teeth, the sound of his moans, the pressure of his wet, perfect kisses. These are the moments—the memories—I’ll hold on to and cherish.
Because they’ll be the last.
Everyone always talks about how quiet and peaceful the country is. But that’s not totally accurate. The cacophony begins at dusk—grasshoppers, mosquitoes, crickets, and scurrying vermin, louder than you’d ever think possible. And at dawn, there’s the baying of animals, the machine-gun clicking of cicadas, the thumping of hooves, and the deafening sonata of chirping birds.
It’s the birds that pull me from sleep—the deep slumber of a man who’s at peace with a choice he’s made.
Even before my eyes crack open, I know she’s gone.
I feel it in the empty space beside me, the missing scent of shampoo and gardenia and Sofia. I bolt upright, squinting, and look around.
Jeans on the desk? Nowhere in sight.
Red dress from the floor? Vanished.
How the hell could I fall asleep without talking to her first? Without telling her—
I jump into a pair of jeans and run shirtless and barefoot down the stairs. I jog into the house—hoping.
But when I get there, the only person in the kitchen is Brent, sipping a cup of coffee and eating one of my mother’s blueberry muffins.
“Where is she?” I growl—pissed at myself, but all too willing to take it out on him.
He swallows the mouthful of muffin, regarding me with distant, assessing eyes. “She called the hotel about four this morning. Asked for a ride to the airport. Jake wouldn’t let her go alone and changed his ticket to fly back with her.”
My chest goes hollow. I’ve fucked up so badly.
But then I remember— “Sofia doesn’t fly.”
Brent’s gaze warms just a little—with pity. “Then I guess she really wanted to get out of Dodge—because she flew today.”
I collapse in the chair, wheels already turning, figuring out ways to track her down—tie her down if necessary. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“She asked us not to. Said she needed to pull herself together. She promised that by the time we get back, everything will be back to normal.” He pauses, then adds, “I’m sorry, Stanton.”
I bang the table. “I don’t want things back to goddamn normal! I love her, Brent!”
He scratches the new growth of brown stubble on his chin. “I’m not Dr. Phil or anything—but you probably should’ve mentioned that to her.”
There comes a time in every man’s life when he takes a good, long look at himself and admits he’s been an asshole. A self-centered prick.
I don’t know if it’s the same for women, but if you’ve got a dick, it’s inevitable. Because even good men, brave men, world leaders, renowned scientists, theologians, and Rhodes scholars have a greedy, selfish space inside them. A childish, needy black hole that will never be satiated. Look at me, listen to me, it says. It wants what it can’t have, as well as all the things it can. It wants to eat all the fucking cakes. It knows the world doesn’t revolve around us, but that doesn’t stop it from trying to defy the laws of physics and make it that way.