I shake my head rapidly. “I don’t want you to be sorry for that. That experience… and then later with Walsh… it gave me back my dignity, believe it or not. And I don’t say that to hurt you, but I need you to know it served a very good purpose for me.”
“And led you to Walsh,” he says somewhat bitterly.
“I’m not telling you these details to hurt you, but rather to explain my history with Walsh,” I tell him gently. He nods, and I go on. “During that encounter, my breasts were bared and Walsh saw my scars.”
“The ones you got from that car accident?” he asks, because that’s what I’ve told anyone in my life who have ever seen them.
I shake my head. “They weren’t from a car accident. I was attacked and almost raped when I was sixteen. It was in a fancy hotel bathroom where a high school party was going on. As I was fighting them off—”
“Them?” he croaks in horror.
“There were two of them,” I explain. “And I was fighting them so hard, a huge glass vase got knocked over and a long sharp piece went through my breast. The boys freaked out and ran. Micah and my dad were out of town, so I called Walsh.”
“That’s how he recognized you in the club?” he guesses.
“Yes, but that’s not what’s important about that story. Walsh carried me out of that glass, got me an ambulance, and rode to the hospital with me. He was by my side as they stitched me up. I didn’t want to involve the police, and Walsh respected my decision not to do so.”
“But why?” he asks with his eyebrows drawn deeply together.
“Because I was drunk. Because I shouldn’t have been there. Because I wasn’t raped, and because those boys went to my school, and I didn’t want it to be public. There were many reasons taken all together; I just didn’t want to deal with it that way.”
Vince nods with what looks like understanding.
“Walsh kept my secret all these years,” I tell him. “He promised not to tell Micah or my dad. He stood by my side and was the only one who knew of my trauma, although later, I told Elena. But more than that, Walsh exacted vengeance for me. He promised to keep my secret in exchange for their names, and while Walsh thought I gave their names up reluctantly, the truth is I gave them to him without a second thought. I knew he would hurt them, and Vince… he really, really hurt them.”
“He was your champion,” he murmurs in understanding.
“Even before that. For much of my life, he did things that made him my champion. Same as Micah, in a big brother sort of way, but Walsh and I have a bond that most people don’t share because of that one incident.”
“Add sex into the mixture, and it was easy to fall in love with him,” he says dejectedly.
“No,” I correct him. “It wasn’t easy to fall in love with him. I told you… our sexual chemistry is almost surreal. But at first, that’s all it was. That’s all I ever thought it would be, and I took it. I took what he offered, and we kept another secret. We didn’t tell Micah about this because a few years back, Micah had told Walsh I was off limits to him. Walsh was respecting those limits.”
“And Micah found out?”
“Yes, and he told Walsh to stay out of my life, and so he did,” I tell him with a tinge of remaining bitterness in my voice at Walsh’s betrayal. “He chose Micah.”
“That was a douche thing to do if he loved you,” Vince points out, striking quickly to make sure I don’t forget the way Walsh hurt me.
“It devastated me, Vince,” I tell him truthfully. “The pain of that is still fresh to me even now. It’s why when you came to me, it wasn’t hard for me to accept your offer to come back to L.A. I was depressed and couldn’t see any happiness for me. I latched on to you and your promises for a fresh start, really hoping you and I could perhaps make something of the tatters.”
“And I meant every word I said to you,” he affirms. “There weren’t ulterior motives.”
“I know that,” I assure him.
“I guess what I don’t understand,” Vince says, “both of us hurt you, but Jorie… you clearly love Walsh. You don’t love me like the way you love him. It seems to me your decision should be easy.”
I shake my head. “It’s not. My trust is a little bruised. And Walsh was married before, and it was all about the great sex. I’m not sure I can trust that what we have is more than that.”
Vince just does that slow blink thing where I know I said something stupid.