Chapter 6 - Part 2

He frowned as his eyes swept her from head to toe. “You look like you’ve lost a lot of weight.”


She shrugged, not wanting to talk about it.


“I thought Charlie was taking good care of you.” He folded his arms and gave her a stern look. 


“He was… He did everything right.” She didn’t want to go into all the details about it, but she didn’t want Joe to think Charlie hadn’t done his best to make her happy. He had. 


“But?” he prompted. “I thought it was a match made in heaven.”


She shook her head. “Some things just aren’t meant to be.”


“Well I’m glad you’re back, and Myles tells me you’re staying with him. That’s good—he needs some company.”


“Really? He didn’t look short of company the other night.”


Joe’s face brightened up and he smirked. 


“What?” she asked innocently.


He smiled at her like he was enjoying a joke she didn’t know. “Nothing.”


There was some silence that followed.


“I’m glad you’re here,” he said. “It’s nice to have you back.”


“Well, it’s nice to be back.” She smiled, even though she wasn’t sure that statement was true. It was hard, and it was only going to get more difficult. She had to build up the courage to tell the brothers the secret she had keeping for far too long.


“You seen Karsyn yet?” He arched an eyebrow at her.


What was it with people and wanting to know about the eldest Shaw brother?


“Yes. I saw him.”


He studied her but she refused to elaborate on the short encounter. Whatever happened between them wasn’t something she wanted to share.


“Karsyn has a way of blowing things up and Myles is always the one left to clean it up.”


She remained silent, not sure where he was headed.


“Don’t let Karsyn ruin things.”


She nodded slowly. “I’m not leaving again.”


There was no surety, though, that once Myles discovered what she had withheld that he wouldn’t shut her out. She nervously shifted, very aware she was withholding a secret that could ruin everything.


Joe studied her for a few more moments before he nodded. “Well, it’s nice to have you here. And I’m glad there’s someone to sort through this mess.” He indicated the piles of papers that she hadn’t disturbed.


“Hopefully it won’t take me long once I get a system up and going.” 


He murmured a good luck over his shoulder and left her to it. The only time she stopped was for lunch, when Myles showed up in the office with a sandwich. She ate half and then turned her attention back to the paperwork.


Her eyes were tired and she yawned by the time Myles entered the room in early evening.


“How’s it going?” he asked, dropping into the empty chair across from her.


“If I close my eyes all I can see are papers and more papers. I think I might be running from an invoice in my dreams tonight.”


He smiled. “It can’t be that bad.”


“You wanna swap?” She arched an eyebrow.


“No,” he responded quickly, shaking his head. “I’ll leave it in your responsible hands. You ready to call it a day?”


“Is it that late already?” She searched for her phone on the table to check the time.


“It’s nearly seven.”


She rubbed the back of her neck and arched her back. Her muscles felt stiff from sitting in the same position for so long. “I lost track of time.”


“Come on. Let’s go. This mess will still be waiting for you tomorrow. It isn’t going anywhere.”


She was so tired, too tired to wrestle with the guilt or even think about the sadness that had entered her life two years ago and had yet to leave. It was a numbing tiredness that gave her a momentary relief from the hell she had been dealing with for far too long.


Leaning her head against the window, she watched the streetlights as Myles drove them back to his place. Her eyelids felt so heavy.


Someone shook her gently at first, then more insistently.


“What?” she murmured, not wanting to surface from the warm darkness.


“Come on, Jess,” Myles murmured, helping her out of the car. He tucked her into his side and she closed her eyes, leaning her head against his shoulder.


She tried to put one foot in front of the other but she couldn’t control her actions and stumbled. “So tired.” 


Myles sighed and then lifted her off her feet effortlessly. “I think I may have worked you too hard today.”


She nodded, snuggling deeper into the warmth of his embrace.


He carried her to her room before laying her down on the bed. He helped her out of her shoes, then pulled the comforter over her, but she was already nearly asleep. He stood at the foot of the bed watching her for a few minutes before switching off the light and closing the door.


Sometime in the middle of the night, she woke up feeling hungry. It was two in the morning, so she decided to get some water. The last thing she remembered was the car ride home, and there were some faint memories of Myles carrying her to her bed. She downed half the glass before discarding the rest of the water in the sink.


She hadn’t felt this tired in ages. Working hard and keeping her mind busy had helped her get some decent sleep. She let out a deep breath before returning to bed and slipping under the covers.


For a while she lay staring at the ceiling, but instead of allowing the dark thoughts to enter her mind, she concentrated on the work that would be there for her tomorrow. She kept her mind fixated on the best system to file the invoices instead of wresting with things she couldn’t change or things she wasn’t ready to face yet.


But it didn’t help when her surroundings were alive with memories—memories so vivid that, if she let herself believe it, she could see Dylan leaning in the doorway, teasing her for her lack of painting skills, and her threatening to paint him with a paint brush full of paint she held in her hand ready to splatter all over him to prove she could… She wanted to hold on tight to the past and never let it go. But the memory began to dissipate, and all she was left with was an empty doorway and so much sadness in her heart it was difficult to breathe through the sting of tears.


She sat up and pulled her knees to her chest. For a while, she rocked until her emotions began to settle down and it was easier to breathe. 


She checked the time and knew she needed to get more sleep, otherwise she was going to be grumpy and ratty. Especially with as much work as she still had to do, she would need all the energy she could muster.


Lying on her side, she settled down to attempt to get some sleep with her hands tucked under the pillow. 


It took a while before the tiredness set in and she felt her eyelids grow heavy.


“It’s okay, Jess.”


The voice was so familiar. It was Dylan. 


The heavy mist began to part and a light shone through, illuminating the figure in front of her. It was him, and relief flooded through her.


“Dylan,” she whispered, not quite believing what her eyes were telling her. “Is it really you?”


He nodded. “It’s okay,” he murmured again.


She shook her head. “It’s not.” It would never be okay. She opened and closed her eyes, not quite believing what she was seeing, but he didn’t disappear.


He gave her that familiar smile that always made her feel right in the world, but this time it didn’t make her feel that way. She still held on to so much guilt it was impossible to just let it go.


“I’m sorry, so sorry.” Her voice was hoarse and she tried to reach out to him. 


If she could just touch him, the pain would subside. She would feel whole again. If she could just touch him… But she couldn’t. No matter how much she tried, she couldn’t reach him. Her hand was outstretched, her fingers just inches away from him. He eluded her here, the same way he eluded her in life.


Just as one day he had been there, and then the next day he had been gone. In an instant, everything had changed.


“It’s okay.” His voice vibrated through her. “I don’t want you to hold on to the pain.” There was understanding in his green eyes. The heaviness of sadness seeped into her heart.


When his voice sounded farther away as he spoke, she panicked. “Please don’t leave me.” She hadn’t yet righted her wrongs. 


He smiled, which lifted her heart for a fraction of a second before the panic overwhelmed her. The mist started to thicken and he began to disappear.


“Don’t leave me again,” she whimpered. The loss and pain felt as fresh as the day he had left. She fell to her knees as a sob tore through her. “Please don’t leave me.”


But no amount of begging changed anything, and a few moments later there was no sign of him.


“Let it go.” Those were his parting words that drifted to her.


She put her hands to her mouth to stop herself from calling out to him again, but she couldn’t help whispering, “Please don’t leave me.”