The door is open and as I near her room, I take a deep breath and let it out slowly.

This is it.

I square my shoulders and enter, my eyes immediately seeking and finding Trista as she stands on tiptoe in her closet, pulling a box off the shelf above where the clothes hang. I rake my gaze quickly down her, my body tightening as I take her in long, tanned legs in cutoff shorts, as well as a thin t-shirt that’s raggedy and seen better days. Her hair is in a high ponytail, and she grunts as she manages to grip the edge of the box and pull it down.

When Trista turns, she’s not surprised to see me standing there. I’m assuming she heard her mom and Corinne leaving, but I can imagine her continuing with her packing to keep herself busy. I’m assuming she’s as nervous as I am.

“Welcome back,” she says softly.

“Am I?” I say in challenge, preferring to cut to the heart of the matter. “Am I welcome?”

She sets the box on the dresser near the closet, and then tucks her hands in her pockets. She’s standing on one side of the bed and I’m on the other, but it feels like miles apart.

“Kynan told me everything about you, Michelle, and Jayce,” she says, also apparently preferring to get to it. “It explained a lot to me.”

I nod. Kynan had told me he spilled the beans, and I don’t begrudge him that. I was thrilled Trista had sought me out so quickly after our fight wanting to know the truth of everything. I hate I wasn’t here to give it to her, but I’m thankful Kynan was and could put her mind hopefully at ease a bit until I returned.

“Trista,” I say as I start to round the bed to move closer to her. I stop just a few feet away and disclose my heart to her. “I swear to fucking God I changed my mind. I wasn’t going to send that stuff to Jayce.”

“I believe you,” she says, and I hear the truth in her words. She’s not blowing smoke up my ass. But she’s also not just accepting it either. “When did you change your mind?”

It’s probably not going to set well with her, but I tell her the truth. “Not until you brought me the cake. I put the stuff in the shred bin that day.”

“So for almost three weeks that we were together, you were planning to give that stuff to Jayce?” she presses as she crosses her arms over her chest, and I wince internally. This is not going well.

I nod my head, refusing to let my gaze waver from hers. “Yes.”

Her eyes turn so sad, and my stomach twists over the pain I’ve caused her. I know all about how that pain feels. It kills me I was no better than Michelle and Jayce in causing it to someone else.

Trista’s gaze falls away, and she stares at the bed blankly.

“But—” I say to catch her attention.

Her head lifts. Those beautiful eyes come back to me with a wariness I have to wipe away and I need to do it quickly.

“From the very day you and I first met, I knew what I was doing was wrong. I warred with my own conscience, and I’m ashamed to say the good part of me lost those battles time and time again. But Trista… I just didn’t know you well enough at that point to open myself to the potential for more. It started out as casual sex, and we were both trying to stay closed off from each other. But every day I was with you, it became more and more difficult for me to keep my eye on my revenge. Until one day… I realized the way you made me happy couldn’t compare to whatever fulfilling that vendetta was going to do for me. And I wanted more from you. I still want more from you. I am so ready to build something with you. I never thought I’d have that again. Never dared to think I’d dream so big as to fall in love again and consider a future with a family. I just need you to—”

“You’re in love with me?” she butts in, and I go still as she takes a step toward me.

I swallow past the lump in my throat, but I nod. “I’m pretty fucking sure I am. I mean… I’ve not actually felt this before, but it’s so damn powerful I can’t ignore it. I think I’ve actually been waiting for you.”

Trista lets out a quavering breath and takes one more step toward me. “Jerico—”

“Trista—” I say at the same time as I take a step to her. We are only inches apart now. “I am so goddamned sorry I hurt you, and I’m begging for another chance. We can start over or go full steam ahead, or whatever… but please don’t cut me out. Let me make this right.”

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