Chapter Thirty One
The banging on the door wakes me up. I sit up and look at the clock through blood shot eyes. 7:30 am. No way am I getting up right now.
“Go away!” I call. “It’s too early!”
I am seriously going to kill my brother. I throw the covers back and storm over to the door, yanking it open.
“Jason, I swear to God…” I stop mid-sentence, my mouth falling open. Tom Wallace quirks an eyebrow at me. My hands fly to my hair. Oh God. I slam the door closed.
“I thought you were through hiding from me,” he calls through the door.
“What are you doing here?” I ask, frantically trying to calm my bed head hair. Curls refuse to take kindly to finger combing.
“I wanted to talk to you. Will you open the door?”
Why me? Why does this always happen to me?
I open the door and try to pretend my face isn’t beet red. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to slam the door in your face. You just startled me and…”
“You bolted,” he smiles. “I’m used to that so I figured if I talked to you up here you couldn’t go very far if you tried to run.”
“How did you get up here?” I ask. No way would dad let him up.
“Jase let me up. The black eye impressed him, I think. I get the feeling he’s a little afraid of Cameron.”
Yeah, Devon scares the bejeezes out of Jason, but in about ten minutes, I’m figuring he is gonna be more scared of me. What was he thinking letting Tom up here before I’m even awake? Oh, he’s so gonna get it.
“I wanted to come by and make sure you were all right. You flew out of the car so fast last night I didn’t get a chance to ask.”
“How’s your hand?”
“You’re not very talkative in the mornings are you?” He leans against the doorframe. I step further back. He looks at me like I’m something good to eat and I want to hide.
“So, I was thinking, maybe we could give the whole date thing another go, somewhere without Cameron.”
“Uh…” Date? He still wants to go out with me? After everything that happened last night, I figured he’d wash his hands of me for sure.
“Look, I know you’re still pretty hung up on Cameron. That’s fine. I know what I’m getting into. But, I thought it might be fun just to hang for a while and see where it goes. I really like you, Alex, and I’m willing to try if you are.”
“I don’t know….” I need Saidie. What to do?
“There’s a romantic comedy playing or we could watch that scary Christmas flick they released early for Halloween,” he suggests. “It’d match your pajamas.”
My pajamas? Oh no! My face flames even brighter. I’m wearing my reindeer flannel pajamas. How much more embarrassing can this get?
“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” he chuckles. “You look absolutely adorable when you blush.”
So not fair.
“What d’ya say? Can I pick you up at around six or so? We can grab a bite to eat and head over to the movies.”
Do it, Bess.
Morgan? Morgan is listening? Ohhhh….
Don’t be mad, he pleads. I know how you feel about Devon, but I don’t think it’s going to work out. Devon won’t let it. You know that. Tom’s a good guy and he likes you. Just try, okay? Give him a chance.
Fine, but Morgan if you ever listen in on something like this again, I promise I will beat you to within an inch of your life! Do you understand me?
Like I believe that. Morgan is nosier than Emma.
“Six sounds great,” I tell him cautiously.
He beams at me and winces. His eye must hurt when he smiles too big, I realize. “Does it hurt a lot?”
“Nah. Besides, it was worth it. It gave me a reason to come over this morning. I planned on using it to guilt you into going to the movies if you said no.”
“What?” I laugh.
“I had my battle plan mapped out. My pops told me to resort to blackmail or guilt if I had to. I’m glad I didn’t.”
“My grandpa,” he says. “The old man likes you.”
I frown. Do I know his grandpa?
“He and Mr. Earls play chess all day over at Nell’s diner.”
Oh, I do know his grandpa! Jason and I have gotten in the habit of stopping in there for a burger when Emma’s not home. Those two old coots are constantly arguing that one or the other cheated. I’m usually their referee when in there. Who knew Mr. Moore was his grandpa?
“Your grampa is a hilarious,” I grin.
“Yup, and he told me I’d be a bigger fool than Cameron if I let you get away. Said if I had to sit on you to hold you still, to do it.”
“He did not!”
“Uh-huh and I thought there for a second I might have to resort to it.”
No way, Bess. This is good.
You are so going to die a thousand deaths, Morgan Chandler.
You’d have to catch me first.
“Well, I’m gonna go.” Tom pulls my attention back to him. “I would stay for breakfast, but I think I’ve pushed you far enough for one day or am I wrong in thinking you’ll hide out up here until I’m gone?”
“Uh…no…you’re not wrong.”
He leans forward and kisses me on the forehead. “See ya tonight.”
I close the door and fall into bed.
I actually agreed to go out with Tom Wallace. Again. Oye…I need to talk to Saidie.
I roll over looking for my phone and see the note. It’s lying on the floor. I recognize the handwriting at once. Devon. I pick it up and just look at it, afraid to open it. What could it say? My heart can’t take much more. But what if it says what I want to hear?
I sit up in bed and open it. Thick, heavy parchment paper slides out. Unfolding it, I begin to read.
I am sorry I cannot talk to you in person, but I could not leave things as they were, though. I want you to understand.
Kissing you was Not a mistake. It was just a poor choice of words on my part. I made you cry, and that was not my intention. That kiss is something that I will treasure for eternity. It was amazing and beautiful. You are amazing and beautiful, the most beautiful creature I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. You shine like the sun on a cold winters day and chase away some of the biting darkness that lives within me. Your smile makes me smile. You are everything to me.
But I will not let my feelings for you keep me from doing what I came here to do – to keep you safe.
There are things about me, about my past that you do not know and I hope you never will. It is for this reason I cannot give into both of our desires and claim you for my own. It is too dangerous. I’m too dangerous. In all my years I have never denied myself anything, but I will deny myself in this. You are too important to me to give in and do as I wish. Your safety comes first. I love you too much to risk your life.
I wanted you to understand my reasons even though I cannot fully explain them to you. I do not want to hurt you, but I must keep you safe. Please, Cara, please say you will still be my friend. If I lost you, I do not know what I would do. I know I am asking a lot, but please, bellisima, I need you. I cannot bear the thought of never seeing you smile at me again or threaten to throttle me when I irritate you.
I am so sorry, my Cara, my beloved. Forgive me for doing this.
Devon C. Cameron
I let the note fall from my numb fingers. He loves me? I feel the wetness of my tears as they forge wet trails down my cheeks. How can he ask me to give him up when he says he loves me? Why would he? My heart stutters and shatters all over again. Pain grips me. He loves me, but he wouldn’t...why?
Stupid, stupid, boy! He has no right to tell me this and then expect me to go on as if nothing happened. I fell in love with him that first day when he dismissed me so easily. He’d gotten under my skin and stayed there. And now he’s telling me he loves me too, but that we can’t be together? How is that remotely fair?
He wants to be my friend? My friend? I want so much more from him, but he won’t give it to me. He means it too. He will never let himself do what he wants. Can I be his friend after everything that has happened between us? My fingers find their way to my lips. I can still feel his bruising kiss this morning. I honestly don’t know, but the thought of losing him nearly kills me. I need him probably as much as he needs me. How can I take that from him, from me?
God, it hurts so much. A sob breaks free and I curl up in my bed, burying my face in my pillow so no one will hear. I’m alone and the pain very nearly cripples me. Memories of being alone in a dark room, of having my hands tied so that I can’t hurt myself or anyone else tears through me and I start to panic. I can feel the weight of the restraints on my wrists. The fear and pain from that part of my life almost mirrors the pain I’m feeling now. Together, they are my undoing.
Warmth floods me. The smell of spring leaves invade my senses. Morgan surrounds me with thoughts and feelings of home, of pack. He is here and I’m not alone. The memories of solitary confinement recede and I can breathe again. I can get through this. I have to. For all of us.
Please, God, let me get through this.