I try to be quiet since Ethan is sleeping next to me, but I whimper through the pain. I don’t want him to see me like this. Not when we have spent the last few hours making love to each other. From the couch, to the floor, to the kitchen counter, we took our time making up for lost years. Seeing me like this now will only bring up the past for him.
“Hey.” He turns to face me. His voice is low and hoarse.
“Go back to sleep,” I whisper, wiping away my tears. Slowly, I try to move away from him so he can’t see what I’m doing.
Ignoring my request, he sits up on the bed and grabs my leg. “Where does it hurt?”
I don’t want to admit to any pain, but swallow back my instinctive denial and lower my head. “Around my ankle and my shin.”
His strong hands rub my ankle in a circular motion. We don’t speak as the minutes pass and he works vigorously on my leg. His thumb kneads the muscles and the pain slowly drifts away. When he leans down and kisses the scar he has been tracing with his fingers, I cover my face and cry harder. That marred skin is a permanent reminder of all that has happened. All I have to do is look down and a wave of dreadful memories drown me.
“I'm so sorry, Les,” he whispers, kissing my scar again.
I pull my foot away from his grasp. “I’m okay,” I say in an attempt to convince us both. “I promise.”
“Does this happen often?”
“It hasn't happened in a few months.”
“Come here.” He leans back on the bed and pats his chest for me to lay on. His oversized T-shirt hangs off my shoulder and I curl around him. Our faces are mere inches from each other. In his arms I feel safe. He brushes back my hair and kisses the tip of my nose.
“I'm so sorry for the pain I have caused you. You're the last person I ever wanted to hurt.”
“I know,” I whisper, and kiss his bare chest. His strong arms drape over my body and shield me from the pain.
A few minutes pass and my mind is racing. “Can I ask you a question?” I say and sink deeper into his arms.
“Anything.” He kisses the top of my head. His fingertips rub gently along my skin.
“Whatever happened with the cops after the whole Jerry thing?” I wait silently for his response.
“Nothing?” I look up at him and he shrugs. “Your uncle was the sheriff.” I can’t hide the shock in my voice.
“Yes, my uncle was the sheriff who was thrilled to not have to deal with Jerry’s blackmails anymore.” Ethan chuckled.
“They just looked the other way?” I can’t hide my surprised reaction.
“No. There were a few detectives on the case that Jerry took care of on the side. They wanted a full-blown investigation. I wouldn’t say a word to anyone, and the only story they had was yours. My uncle closed the case and said it was self-defense. Since Jerry isn’t able to say what happened, it was a done deal.”
I nod and force everything out of my mind.
“What made you think of that?” He moves his hand from my back and uses it to brush at my hair.
“I guess the nightmare brought it all back.” I sniffle back and exhale slowly. “My father kept me in the dark for so long I had no clue what happened. I grew depressed as the weeks passed, and when my father offered me a ticket to UCLA I never looked back. I guess I was curious to know if you ever got in any trouble.”
“It’s all over now. We are finally safe.”
Ethan is the boy who climbed into my bedroom every night.
He's everything I love.
Laced with everything I despise.
He's every happy memory.
And every shattered dream.
He's my everything.
But he broke every part of me.
I'm supposed to hate him.
But I can't.
I don't know how.
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