“Come on, Goose,” I rasp. “Come on, please. Where are you?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch the chopper searchlight graze the very edge of something red and my heart lurches.
“Chris.” I shove past two other officers, pointing in the direction I saw something. “There. Go back.”
As soon as he turns around, the light on the front of the boat lands on what I saw.
It’s a red kayak. And it’s flipped over.
“No. No.” I don’t even give myself time to process that numbing fact before I shoot forward, attempting to dive out of the boat and into the water. Something holds me back, though. Chris. The other officers with us. They wrestle me back, but I fight them like an animal. I have to get to her. She’s not gone. She can’t be gone. I could have told her I loved her. We would be home right now cooking in the kitchen. She loves that kitchen and we haven’t had enough time to use it yet. What the hell have I done? I lost her. I killed her.
“Hey.” Chris’s fist belts me across the face and sound rushes back in with a vengeance, attacking my ears. “Stay with us, man.”
I’m just coherent enough to notice someone has taken the wheel from Chris. Turning my attention back to the water, I see we’re circling the capsized kayak from a distance, rain splattering off the hull like crazy. Thousands of droplets being sprayed in every direction are why I don’t see her at first. She’s blocked by the darkness, the fall of rain and splash of the river. And I don’t believe my eyes at first, because my heart has splintered with loss. But when I see an oar lift out of the water and wave up and down, I come back to life.
I try to shout her name, but it comes out in nothing but a choked whisper. Once again, I’m held back from jumping into the water. I allow it this time, though, because everything moves at once where before there was just fear and darkness. Radios crackle, cheers go up around us, even the rain seems to let up. Most importantly, the boat is moving in her direction and she’s alive. She’s alive and I’m falling to the side of the boat on my knees, leaning over to scoop her up into my arms.
“Come here. Come here, sugar. I’ve got you.” Her waterlogged clothes weigh her down, but nothing can keep me from her. As soon as I’ve got my arms wrapped around her shivering body, she’s up into the boat, clinging to me in a way that makes me want to yell and rage and thank God. I want to go on holding her forever, but the tremors wracking her are so intense, I can hear her teeth chattering at my neck. Alarm gets me by the jugular. She’s safe right now, but she might not be out of the woods and I’m not losing her again, so I move. I move, stripping the wet clothes off her and getting rid of my own, until we’re left in nothing but our pants and her bra, modesty be damned when she needs me. “You’re cold. Jesus, you’re so cold. You shouldn’t have done this. Why did you do this?”
Chris puts a blanket around Addison, and I yank her into me, closing my eyes when she moans over my body heat and struggles closer. “Elijah.”
My heart twists. “I’m here. I’m never going anywhere.” I can’t get her near enough, but I try, her trembling like an ice pick to my chest. “I thought I’d already lost you. I thought you were gone.”
She shakes her head back and forth in the crook of my neck. “You shouldn’t be holding me like this anymore.”
“I’ll hold you every day for the rest of my life,” I say, my voice hoarse. “Or it won’t be worth living, Addison. Don’t tell me I shouldn’t hold you.”
I’m so caught up in the horror of the last hour, it takes me a few beats to realize what’s going on here. She thinks I can’t hold her because she believes I’m back with my ex-fiancée. That I still love Naomi. A truth she’s been holding for months and I let it happen. The utter horror of this woman who makes my world turn thinking I love someone else is too outrageous to believe—and I won’t allow another minute to pass with her under this misconception. With her not knowing she’s the one who gives my life worth—always has been and always will be.
“Look at me.”
She stays close, but lifts her chin and I see she still isn’t hopeful. Still. And even though I’m the idiot who landed us in this mess, I can’t tone down my outrage. Not when the woman I intend to spend my life with has doubts about me.