I could use a glass of dark red wine. Then a long nap. One that lasts forever and takes me somewhere far away from the hell my life’s become.

“Drink,” he commands me when the waitress leaves and I smirk at him.

“If you thought I wasn’t going to drink, you’re just as much of a fool as I am.” Some spiteful side of me wants to deny the wine, just because he told me to drink it. But fuck that. It’s the only good thing I have going for me.

I take a sip and time passes with neither of us saying anything. The first breath is tense, but the next comes easier. With every second that passes, the hate and anger wane, leaving only raw ugly feelings to fester inside of me. When that happens, I don’t want to think. That’s my harsh reality. I’d rather get lost in him when I don’t have the anger to hide behind anymore.

“What changed?” he asks casually, breaking the silence.

“I don’t trust you,” I reply, and my answer slips out just as easily. An anxiousness wells up inside of me. I didn’t mean to say it out loud. He doesn’t know about the message in the book. That’s really what changed although without it, I can’t even say for sure what it says. The table jostles as I plant my elbow and rest my forehead in my hand while I refuse to look at him. I can’t look him in the eyes; I can’t take this shit. A moment passes and another.

“Is there anything you do trust about me?” he asks, not bothering to question why it is I don’t trust him. Maybe he has his own reasons.

Peeking past my hand and then lowering it altogether, I answer honestly again, only this time it’s a conscious decision. “I don’t think you’d hurt me. Not physically… which is truly ironic considering how we met.”

Only after I answer do I look into his eyes. And I see turmoil raging within them.

“I would never hurt you. Not in any way if I can help it.”

“And what if you can’t?” I ask him with the sorrow that’s buried its way into my every thought finally showing. “What if there’s no way for me to come out of this undamaged?”

“That’s what you’re afraid of? That’s what you don’t trust?” he questions.

I hadn’t expected to be so transparent with him. I don’t even think I was cognizant of what I’d said until the words were spoken. I could blame it on the lack of sleep or the wine. But a part of me wants him to take it all away. A part of me thinks he can make me believe he’ll fix my problems. I don’t even care that he can’t. I just want to believe that he can for a moment. Just a single moment of peace. That part of me is so tired of fighting. I hate that part of me.

“I’m scared in general, Mr. Cross.” Emotions tickle up my throat, but with a short clearing of my throat, they’re gone. “I’ve found myself deeper and deeper in a hole that I don’t know I’ll be able to get out of.” My eyes feel heavy, as does the weight against my chest.

I don’t know how I’m still sitting upright at this point. That’s the truth.

“The debt? Is that what you mean by the hole?” he asks although the look in his eyes tells me he knows that’s not what I’m talking about. I shake my head, no, confirming his assumption.

“It’s because of the break-in?” he asks and I don’t answer, swallowing down the half truth and hating that it’s all I’m willing to give him. “Bethany?” he presses and I finally speak, “Yes.”

It’s a lie though. Things changed before it. “Do you have my book?” I ask him the second I think of The Coverless Book. Seeing the underlined words in my mind and needing to read the hidden message. Clearing my throat again, I ask, “Did they find it?”

I don’t know where to go from here until I know what my sister left for me.

I don’t know what to think of Jase until I see what my sister said. That’s what hurts the most.

Leaning back into his chair, he lets out a long exhale, staring into my eyes and not answering. His thumb rubs circles over the pad of his pointer finger and he leaves me waiting.

“Jase, please,” I plead with him, seeking sympathy and mercy. “I just want the book back.”

He leaves me without an answer still, but only for a moment.

Wordlessly, he raises his hand and I expect the waitress to come, but instead Seth walks forward. I hadn’t seen him before this, not since last night when he brought me a duffle bag of the things I asked him to bring. With my head buried in the hotel pillow, he opened the door and left my bags for me. I barely even got to see him before he left, muttering a thank you into the pillow as the door was already closing.

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