Chapter 2 - Part 2

“You’re a good man, Charlie Warren, and you deserve someone who can love you the way you should be loved.”

 

His features were closed off. “Give it time and you will.” His voice was tight.

 

She wanted to be able to do just that, but it didn’t work like that. “It’s been nearly two years.” And it hadn’t changed how she felt about him. She had earnestly tried hard to make it work with him but some things couldn’t be forced.

 

“We can make it work.” There was that familiar determined look in his eye.

 

She shook her head. “I love you, but not in the way you need me to.”

 

He faltered as he took in her words, and she waited for him to respond.

 

“I can make you happy. Just give me a chance,” he pleaded, taking her hand into his. The warmth of his hands seeped into hers and she felt the pull to give in and let him take care of her, but it was time to be honest and do the right thing, even if it was hard.

 

Nothing good in life came easy, and she had to remember that.

 

She felt the dread creep up inside as she shook her head, gently watching his features fall. She withdrew her hand slowly.

 

“I could have made you happy.” The sadness in his beautiful eyes brought her guilt to the surface, but she had to stay strong. Giving in would only make things worse. She had to remind herself that if she had faced the truth before, instead of being a coward, things would have turned out very differently—for one thing, she wouldn’t be in the situation she was in now.

 

“You shouldn’t settle. You deserve someone who will put you first, and as much as I want to be that person… I’m not.”

 

He stared at her, clearly trying to grapple with the array of emotions pulling him in different directions.

 

“Is this about Karsyn?” he asked, studying her closely, like he was trying to read what she wasn’t saying. “Do you still have feelings for him?”

 

She shook her head. “No.” But that was a lie. She would always have feelings for him.

 

The silence between the two of them stretched on.

 

“Karsyn is too fucked up to love anyone,” he said angrily. He wasn’t wrong, but that did nothing to change how she felt.

 

Not all love was meant to be returned. Falling in love wasn’t based on the person’s ability to return it.

 

“He hurt you before and he’ll do it again. Can’t you see that?” He was getting angrier and nothing she was going to say was going to change that. She couldn’t blame him for reacting the way he was, but she wished he would realize that no matter what he said or did, nothing was going to sway her from her decision.

 

“Like I said, this has nothing to do with him,” she said, determined to end it. 

 

What she did or didn’t feel for Karsyn didn’t change the fact that she didn’t love Charlie. It was that simple. She lifted her chin slightly, with more determination to do the right thing, no matter how awful it made her feel.

 

“Then I think you deserve him.” He gave one last glare before he stalked out of the room and out the front door, slamming it so hard the sound vibrated through the house.

 

For a while she stood staring at the door, feeling like a piece of her world had just fallen away. Gone was the stability and security that had held her together for the last two years. Her hands shook and she gripped them together. 

 

“That went well,” Myles drawled from the kitchen doorway.

 

“Tell me about it.” She felt deflated and sat down on the sofa, very aware that she was still only dressed in a towel.

 

“What happened?” he asked, watching her curiously from where he stood.

 

As far as he had known, she had been blissfully happy. No one had known the truth or seen this coming.

 

She shrugged. “It wasn’t his fault. It was mine.”

 

“He’s right, though.”

 

“About what?” she questioned.

 

“Karsyn is too fucked up to love anyone.” His expression was serious. He had heard that… “If you’re looking for a happily ever after, the odds are stacked against you. Charlie is the safer bet.”

 

When she refused to say anything, he cocked his head to the side. 

 

“He hasn’t been the same.” He sighed.

 

“It changed all of us,” she replied quietly. It had been so devastating, leaving. Everything had changed, and all of them had been unable to put themselves back together.

 

She studied him. There had been an optimistic light in his eyes that had been missing since it had happened. They had all lost far more than perhaps they wanted to admit.

 

She had lost Karsyn and the ability to look at herself in the mirror without experiencing the type of debilitating regret that made her feel like she was drowning.

 

Karsyn had been capable of loving her like she was the most important person in his life, but that had been before. She wasn’t naive enough to believe they could go back to that, but she had to live her life being true to her feelings even it meant she was facing a future that scared her.

 

“How is he…Karsyn?” she asked. Memories of the last time she had seen him had been so painful, it was easier to shut them out than replay them.

 

Myles studied her for a few moments like he was debating how to answer her question.

 

“The same.”

 

It saddened her that he hadn’t found a way to deal with his grief—but then, she hadn’t, either. 

 

“Have you tried to talk to him?” she ventured. 

 

They had always been so close. At one time, she would have been able to talk him around, but not anymore. She was still living in the tight grip of aching pain that never eased. How could she try to give him hope when she didn’t have any herself?

 

“There’s nothing I can say that’s going to change anything.”

 

She sighed, leaning back in the sofa. “It’s so hard.”

 

There were times she replayed the exact moment she had discovered the news that had altered everything irrevocably. Even now, just thinking about it took her breath away and brought to her an anguishing pain.

 

“How have you been?” he asked.

 

She gave him a side look and could feel the emotion building up in her throat. “Things suck.”

 

He gave her a sad smile and walked over to the sofa to sit beside her. He put an arm around her, and she shifted to lean her head against his shoulder. “Big time,” he added before he squeezed her, and she fought the urge to cry.

 

She felt the burning at her eyelids and the clogging in her throat. She let out a heavy breath, taking solace that she wasn’t the only one who was still reeling years later. 

 

“Have you tried speaking to Dylan?” he asked softly after a few minutes of sitting in silence.

 

“No.” It was something she had considered, but she hadn’t been ready and she wasn’t sure she was now. “Does doing that help you?”

 

He sighed. “Sometimes.” He rubbed his brow.

 

She put her arm around his waist and hugged him close.

 

“I don’t know what I’m going to do.” There was so much still to figure out but she didn’t have the energy to deal with anything head on. 

 

She had no place to stay, and she doubted she still had a job at Charlie’s company as an admin clerk, which meant she would have to start over from scratch. 

 

“You can stay here,” Myles offered. “Like I said, there’s always a room here for you.”

 

She looked up at him. “I don’t want to cramp your style. I bet your friend last night wasn’t happy to have me show up on your doorstep in the middle of the night.”

 

He held her tight. “That’s casual. You’re family.”

 

Family. She had spent so much time with him that it had felt like she had been one of them. She hadn’t only been there for the good times, but also for the bad times—times that had nearly torn them all apart.

 

“Are you sure?” she asked softly.

 

“Sometimes it gets a bit lonely, so I could do with some company for a while.” 

 

His words brought renewed regret to the surface. Lonely. 

 

It wasn’t like she couldn’t stay with her parents, but having her mother hovering around would make a bad situation more difficult. She could always stay with her friend Hannah, but for how long? She had no idea how long it was going to take to get back on her feet.

 

“Do you ever wonder what things would be like if it hadn’t happened?” She spoke softly, breathing in the familiarity of him.

 

He stilled.

 

“Every day,” he breathed. She held him closer, trying to ease the pain she could feel in the tension of his body.

 

She swallowed the tightness in her throat, and he rested his chin on her head while they lost themselves in the memories of their past.