Page 29


He nods at me, and I force a smile before disappearing after Blade.
I find him on the jetty, staring out at the water. I approach him from behind, and see that he’s tense. His fists are clenched and he looks as if he wants to punch someone.
“What’s the problem?” I ask. “You just made Jack even more suspicious.”
He spins around, and his eyes are so hard I flinch. “You’re my problem.”
“I didn’t . . .” I take a calming breath. “I didn’t do anything to you.”
He steps closer. “Yeah, you fuckin’ did. You exist.”
I flinch. “If you hate me so much, go. You don’t have to be here, Blade. No one is asking you to pretend. Just fucking leave.”
He steps closer again. “It killed me, you know.”
“This morning, when he told me that story. It fuckin’ killed me.”
I swallow. “Don’t,” I whisper.
“I couldn’t begin to grasp the pain you’ve lived through even if I wanted to . . .
“Don’t,” I cry, louder this time. He stops talking and stares at me, clearly confused. “I don’t want you to be nice to me because of that. I want you to be nice because you want to, so please, stop.”
His body jerks and he stares right into my eyes. “You never told me.”
“Would it have changed anything?” I laugh, but it’s broken.
“No, but I mightn’t have . . .”
“What?” I yell, losing it. “Fucked me? Made me care for you? Left me with nothing? What, Blade? What wouldn’t you have done?”
His jaw ticks and he stares at his feet. “I wouldn’t have been such a prick.”
“Oh no you don’t,” I cry. “You don’t get to turn back the clock and wish you weren’t an asshole to me because you feel sorry for me. You made your bed, you fucking lie in it.”
“Jesus, Aria,” he barks. “I fucked up. I didn’t know back then.”
“It shouldn’t have mattered,” I say, my voice shaky. “You chose to hurt me and it shouldn’t have been any different just because I had a bad past. You made that choice, Blade.”
“Yeah,” he yells, making my body tremble. “And I’ve regretted it ever since.”
I swallow and blink back my tears. “What?”
“You heard me,” he says, stepping closer. He curls his fingers around my jaw and my world stops. “I fucked up walking away from you; I shouldn’t have done it. I felt it, and it scared the fucking shit out of me. I ran when I should have stayed and now it’s too late. I can’t have you. Even if I fuckin’ wanted you, I couldn’t have you. So I’m angry, and I’m taking it out on you, but fuck, Aria, don’t think that I don’t regret what happened that weekend.”
I swallow and step closer to him. “You’re right,” I whisper. “You did fuck up, and it is too late now.”
His fist launches out and hits the pole behind me. “Fuck!” he yells.
I drop my head and force back my tears. Hearing him admit this means that there was a chance. There was a chance, and now it’s gone. I can never have him, no matter how much I want him.
“We need distance,” he says, his voice low. “I can’t be around you, Aria. If I am, I’ll do something that will fuck this up for everyone. You have to know that me making this choice is for the best. I need to move on.”
Move on. From me.
My heart cracks wide open.
It cracks wide open because I know he’s right. We can’t do this and the more we’re testing this fine rope between us, the more likely it is to break. My mom deserves this happiness more than I do. Tears leak out and flow down my cheeks. Blade curses and reaches out, stroking one away with his thumb.
“I’m sorry,” he murmurs. “I know the way I’ve behaved is jacked, but I can’t keep standin’ here watching you and knowing I can’t have you. I don’t know what you changed in me, but it was somethin’. I gotta step back.”
He leans down and takes my chin in his hand and tilts my head back. When our eyes meet, he leans down and he kisses me. He lets me kiss him back. We start slowly at first, just a touch of the lips. When I step closer to him, he opens his mouth and our tongues mingle. God, I’ve missed this. I’ve missed his mouth. I forgot just how amazing it feels. His hand goes to my waist and he pulls me closer, kissing me so deep I forget how to breathe.
Then, just as soon as it began, it’s over. He pulls back and stares down at me. “I’m sorry, Tulip.”
And with that, he turns and walks off.
My heart, it hurts. I slide down until I’m sitting and then I put my head in my hands and cry.
Life can be such an ugly bitch sometimes.
I don’t know how long I’m sitting, but it must be a while because soon the wood creaks and I turn to see Ripley coming towards me. I quickly swipe my tears away, but he’s not fooled. He gives me a warm look and sits down beside me. He’s close, but not close enough that we’re touching.
“You’re her, aren’t you?”
“The girl he met when he was away a year ago.”
I flinch. He sighs.
“I saw him kiss you before. I was coming to get you and I saw it. After the way you two have been around each other, I put two and two together. Am I right?”