Chapter 11 - Part 2

“If you want to blame it on the alcohol and call it a mistake, that’s fine.” He shrugged.

 

Her heart inflated as she stared into his beautiful, expressive eyes. He was giving her an out. 

 

“Tell me what you’re thinking,” he prompted softly, his eyes searching hers for something to indicate what was going on in her head.

 

She let out an emotional breath before opening her eyes again. “This is complicated.”

 

He inclined his head. “It is.”

 

His fingers loosely held her hand.

 

“Karsyn…” she murmured.

 

He nodded, but he still continued to hold her hand. “I’m not proud of the way he found out, but I won’t apologize for what happened between us.”

 

There were so many reasons why this couldn’t work, but none of them mattered when she was standing in front of him, gazing into his eyes. 

 

“What if this doesn’t work?” she whispered.

 

“Jess the eternal optimist.”

 

“I’m being realistic,” she protested. “I don’t have a great track record, and come to think of it, neither do you.” Just thinking back to his casual friend who had warming his bed the night she had arrived unexpectedly on his doorstep was proof enough.

 

“It depends on the person.” His gaze held hers, leaving her a little breathless with its intensity. Why was he being evasive? Why couldn’t he just say what he meant?

 

“And it feels so right.” His thumb brushed her hand lightly, but it still tingled and something inside her fluttered. 

 

“What about Karsyn?” Surely this would cause trouble between the two of them, and that wasn’t something she wanted.

 

He rubbed his brow. “He probably isn’t going to handle this well if what just happened is anything to go by.” He tightened his hand around hers like he was trying to secure his hold on her with the mention of his brother.

 

“Is this really worth it?” She bit her lip, feeling undecided that it was. The last thing she wanted to do was hurt Karsyn. She loved him, but for the first time she was questioning exactly from where those feelings stemmed. If she truly loved him in the way a woman loved a man, how could there be room for anyone else? She didn’t want to take a closer look in case the whole illusion crumbled under the scrutiny.

 

And what about the other evening when she had been all in and he hadn’t? Was that how it was always going to be? Her always wanting more than he was capable of giving?

 

“I can’t decide that for you.” He released her hand. “Maybe you need to take some time to figure out if this is something you want.”

 

Jessica smoothed the shirt, feeling vulnerable. “Do you know what you want?” She swallowed, her throat feeling suddenly dry.

 

“I know I want to figure out if this is really something.” He paused. “I’ve got to go into work. Maybe take the day off to think about what you want.”

 

It was probably better to go into the office and keep herself busy, but maybe having some time to figure things out was what she needed.

 

“Sure,” she mumbled. He gave her a slight nod and released her hand before he left.

 

She let out a heavy breath, trying to get a hold of her emotions. Deciding she might feel a little better if she had a shower, she headed to the bedroom to get some clothes.

 

While she got ready, she refused to allow herself to think about Myles and their night together, but it was difficult not to when she found slight bruising on her hips where he had held her roughly. She swallowed, remembering how she had groaned at his possessiveness. All she could remember was his breathing and the echoing of her heart beating rapidly as he had taken her.

 

She bowed her head beneath the stream of water, caught in the memory and unable to think of anything other than how much she wanted to experience it again. This time in the moment, without the missing parts. How could she feel anything other than disgust and shame? But technically she hadn’t done anything wrong. Like Myles had stated to Karsyn, they hadn’t been together in nearly two years.

 

It led her down a path she wasn’t sure she wanted to face. If she truly loved Karsyn the way she had believed, there wouldn’t have been room for anyone else. What exactly did that mean? She was so confused, and nothing was making much sense.

 

She was nursing a cup of coffee when Myles entered the kitchen. She shifted slightly, feeling a weirdness that hadn’t been there before. There had been an undercurrent of something between them before last night. Had last night been inevitable? Had it just been a matter of time before it happened?

 

From the night beneath the stars while they had looked up to the sparkling sky, something had stirred to life.

 

He reached for some painkillers and swallowed two. Her eyes drifted to sweep over his back, remembering how it had felt to scrape her nails across his muscles. Swallowing hard, she pulled her attention back to study the contents of her cup.

 

“I’ll be home at about six,” he mentioned, and she nodded, still unable to look at him directly.

 

She wasn’t completely comfortable with her thoughts when she looked at him. The way his hands had gripped her in the throes of passion… She swallowed trying to shake the memory loose.

 

His footsteps passed her, and she held her breath. Only when he was gone did she exhale as her hands cupped her coffee.

 

The ball was firmly in her court. She was the one who would decide if they went any further or dismissed it. But could she do that? If she was stronger, there would be no hesitation—she would turn Myles down and try to help him repair the rift with his brother. That was the right thing to do. Deep down inside she knew that, so why was she so torn if the choice was so easy? 

 

It wasn’t. No matter how much she tried to rationalize the decision, she couldn’t dismiss how she felt about him. She had loved him like a friend for so long, and what she felt for him now was new but addictive. Would she be able to turn him down?

 

Feeling restless, she stood up and emptied the contents of her coffee in the sink.

 

The doorbell rang and she hesitated, confused as to who it would be. When it rang again, more insistently this time, she hurried to the door. Her hand curled around the handle.

 

“Open up, Jess.” Her actions froze. It was the unmistakable sound of Karsyn’s voice.

 

She didn’t open the door. Instead, she wanted to pretend she wasn’t there. She didn’t feel she could face him, but then she remembered he probably had his own key and if he wanted to come in he would.

 

“I know you’re in there,” he said. “Let me in, Jess.” He waited for her to answer but she didn’t. “If you don’t open up I’ll let myself in.”

 

She released the door handle and backed a couple of feet from the door.

 

“I just want to talk.” 

 

Her curiosity got the best of her and she opened the door. Karsyn stood there, restlessly shifting. 

 

“Why did you come back?” She pulled him inside and closed the door, not wanting anyone to see him there.

 

“We need to talk,” he said. His voice was calm, but she could sense the suppressed anger just below the surface. 

 

She frowned and crossed her arms. “I believe you said everything you needed to.”

 

He shook his head and shoved his hands into the front pockets of his jeans.

 

“I didn’t get to talk to you.”

 

“If you want to yell, I don’t want to listen.” Her stomach was so knotted up she couldn’t take any more confrontational yelling.

 

“Talk. I promise not to raise my voice.” 

 

She studied him and decided the least she could do was hear him out—but if he got angry, she would show him the door.

 

There was a part of her that wanted to soothe him, but there was another part that wanted to slap him for the horrible things he had said. 

 

“I’m surprised you came back after your brother told you to leave.” His jaw was already swollen where Myles had hit him. She wanted to feel sympathy for him, but he deserved it. 

 

“I waited until I saw him leave.”

 

He had been the most important person in her life for so long, and she couldn’t tell him to leave before she gave him a chance to say what he had to.

 

“I don’t think we have anything to talk about.” She couldn’t stop herself from saying the words.

 

“We do.” He raked his hand through his hair. It was a telltale sign he was nervous, and that stopped her from pushing him further. She kept her arms folded as some form of protection as she waited.

 

“So talk,” she prompted him, having mixed feelings about his presence.